O’Brien Coin Guide: Ballykinlar Internment Camp Tokens (1920-21)


Introduction

These items are unusual insofar as they fall into several categories, i.e. coin tokens, unofficial notes. Either way, they are ‘para-numismatic’ items and are also collected by those interested in militaria, republican memorabilia and banknotes. They were produced for use in the Ballykinlar Internment Camp in Co Down towards the end of the Irish War of Independence.

The Abercorn Barracks, sometimes referred to as Ballykinlar Barracks or Ballykinler Barracks, is a military installation in Ballykinler, Co Down. The barracks, which were named after James Hamilton, 1st Duke of Abercorn (who was twice Lord Lieutenant of Ireland), were built in 1901.

Ballykinlar Extended Camp, Co Down

Extended Camp, Ballykinlar, Co Down

  • During the Great War (1914-18) the 36th Ulster Division did much of its training at Ballykinlar
  • It was pressed into service as an internment camp during the Irish War of Independence (1919-21)
  • After the Partition of Ireland, the newly formed Government of Northern Ireland continued to use the base for internment purposes

The Irish War of Independence 1919-21

The guerrilla warfare that developed in Ireland from 1919 was largely unplanned. It was influenced more by local developments and personalities than by any central direction and varied in intensity from region to region. Described as ‘part-time and episodic’, it was fought with greatest intensity in Dublin City and Munster, while other parts of the country saw very little conflict.

  • As the IRA and the British army changed and developed their military tactics, amid a growing level of ambushes, raids, atrocities and reprisals, it gradually became apparent that outright victory for either side was unattainable
  • Both sides also realized that they were losing the ‘PR war’ and that a truce had to be called in order to find a way to stop the violence which had clearly descended into savagery on both sides
  • Finally, with the military conflict in stalemate, a truce was agreed on 9th July 1921, and came into effect on 11th July

Bloody Sunday 1920

The events surrounding Bloody Sunday were some of the most important of the Irish War of Independence 1919-21 and, together, they mark a turning point for protagonists on both sides. In total, 31 people were killed – fourteen British spies, fourteen Irish civilians and three Irish republican prisoners. Five others were also wounded.

  • The day began with a dawn rid by an IRA hit squad known as “The Twelve Apostles” who were specifically recruited and directed by Michael Collins to assassinate the ‘Cairo Gang’, a team of undercover agents working and living in Dublin.
    • Twelve were British Army officers recently posted to Dublin
    • One was a member of the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC)
    • One was a civilian informant
  • Later that afternoon, RIC officers, supported by members of the Auxiliary Division, opened fire on the crowd at a Gaelic football match in Croke Park, killing fourteen civilians, including one Gaelic football player (Michael Hogan, of Tipperary).
  • That evening, three IRA suspects (two high-ranking IRA officers, Dick McKee and Peadar Clancy, together with Conor Clune) in Dublin Castle were beaten and killed by their captors, allegedly while trying to escape.
    • Attacks on RIC barracks at Bray, Cabinteely, Enniskerry and Dundrum were carried out by the 6th Battalion, under specific order of the Dublin Brigade IRA in an effort to draw reinforcements from the city and relieve pressure on the Dublin city Battalions.
      • The attacks continued until the early hours of Monday 22nd

Overall, while its events cost relatively few lives, Bloody Sunday was considered a great victory for the IRA, as Collins’s operation severely damaged British intelligence while the later reprisals did no real damage to the guerrillas but greatly increased support for the IRA at home and abroad.

  • Of the 35 people on Collins’ hit list, only about a third had been killed
    • Nevertheless the action terrified and crippled British intelligence in Ireland
    • It caused many other ‘undercover’ agents and informers to flee for Dublin Castle
    • It also caused consternation within the British administration in Ireland
      • Only one Squad member was captured (Frank Teeling)
      • He managed to quickly escape from gaol before he could be interrogated
  • Collins justified the killings in this way:

“My one intention was the destruction of the undesirables who continued to make miserable the lives of ordinary decent citizens. I have proof enough to assure myself of the atrocities which this gang of spies and informers have committed. If I had a second motive it was no more than a feeling such as I would have for a dangerous reptile. By their destruction the very air is made sweeter. For myself, my conscience is clear. There is no crime in detecting in wartime the spy and the informer. They have destroyed without trial. I have paid them back in their own coin.”

  • The behaviour of the Auxiliaries and the Black and Tans during the Irish War of Independence helped turn the Irish public against the Crown. Some British politicians and the King made no secret of their horror at the behaviour of Crown forces. The killings of men, women and children, both spectators and football players, made international headlines, damaging British credibility
    • The Times which during the war was a pro-Unionist publication, ridiculed Dublin Castle’s version of events, as did a British Labour Party delegation visiting Ireland at the time
      • The Croke Park Massacre on the afternoon of Bloody Sunday is usually blamed on the Auxiliaries but eyewitness reports make it clear that “the RIC did most of the shooting at Croke Park”

Ballykinlar Internment Camp 1920-21

In the aftermath of Bloody Sunday, 21 November 1920, the British authorities arrested hundreds of republicans and opened several internment camps throughout Ireland.

  • The first internment camp to be opened was at Ballykinlar, in Co Down
  • The volume of arrests was so great that additional camps had to be established at Gormanstown, Co Dublin, Bere Island and Spike Island, Co Cork, and at The Curragh, Co Kildare.

Opened in December 1920, Ballykinlar Camp was situated on the Co. Down coast at the mouth of Dundrum Bay, about three miles from Dundrum village between Downpatrick and Newcastle.

Over the following year almost 2,000 men were interned at Ballykinlar. It gained a reputation for brutality: three prisoners were shot dead + five died from maltreatment

Over the following year almost 2,000 men were interned at Ballykinlar. It gained a reputation for brutality: three prisoners were shot dead + five died from maltreatment

  • Tadgh Barry, shot and died 15th November 1921
  • James Sloan, shot and died 17th January 1921
  • Joseph Tormey, shot and died 17th January 1921
  • Maurice Galvin, died June 1921
  • Séan (Jack) O’Sullivan, died May 1921
  • Patrick O’Toole, died February 1921
  • Maurice Quinn, died 6th July 1921
  • ?

The IRA Officer Commanding Ballykinlar was a 1916 veteran, Patrick Colgan, from Maynooth, Co Kildare.

  • Colgan arrived in Ballykinlar in mid-December 1920
  • He organized the camp along ‘prisoner-of-war’ lines and was appointed camp commandant
    • The internees thus had a certain autonomy over their own internal affairs
    • One of the manifestations of this was the issue of tokens for use as currency inside the camp
    • The tokens are written in Irish, which translates as: “Irish imprisoned in Ballykinlar”
      • While incarcerated there the internees passed the time producing arts and crafts
      • They also published their own magazine called “Barbed Wire”
      • They also organised their own theatre companies, classes and societies
      • The camp was referred to by its inmates as “the university” and this should be a lesson to anyone contemplating internment camps for terror groups today, i.e. their organisations emerge stronger, unified and even more determined regardless of the odds against them succeeding in their aims

Three days later after the signing of the Anglo-Irish Treaty, on 9th December 1921, all republican prisoners were released from Ballykinlar. Three special trains brought the men to Dublin, from where the internees made their own way to their home counties.

Ballykinlar Internment Camp Tokens

There are 6 denominations known (one penny, threepence, sixpence, one shilling, five shillings and one pound) and each have variations for use in Camp No. 2 – the second of the two main compounds built and extended to hold IRA prisoners during the aftermath of the 1916 Rising in Dublin and, later, those involved in the Irish war of Independence 1919-21.

  • The tokens were first issued circa. 1920
  • They were in use within the camp until the release of the prisoners on 9th December 1921
  • There are seven denominations, i.e. 1d, 3d, 6d, 1/-, 5/-, 10/- and £1

Camp “No. 1”

I have not seen any tokens referring to Camp No. 1 (yet)

Camp “No. 2”

  • One Penny. Circular cardboard token (Camp No. 2)
Ballykinlar Camp, One Penny. Circular cardboard token (Camp No. 2)

Ballykinlar Camp, One Penny. Circular cardboard token (Camp No. 2)

  • Obverse: “1d” in yellow ink with a black border (centred), with “Campa s dó” split on either side within scrolled devices, with the inscription “Gaedhil fe ghlas” above, in black ink on a white background and another inscription below “i mBaile Choinnleora” in black ink on a white background.
  • Reverse: “O’Loughlin, Murphy & Boland Limited, Upper Dorset St. Dublin” inscribed in dark green ink across a whitte central background, with a red scroll device on either side, and the inscription “Printers” on the top third, in black ink on a solid red background “Wholesale stationers and general merchants” on the bottom third, in black ink on a solid red background

  • Threepence. Circular cardboard token (Camp No. 2)
Ballykinlar Camp, Threepence. Circular cardboard token (Camp No. 2)

Ballykinlar Camp, Threepence. Circular cardboard token (Camp No. 2)

  • Obverse: “3d” in centre, with “Campa s dó” split on either side, white on a hashured dark green background, with the inscription “Gaedhil fe ghlas” above (top third) in dark green ink, with a stylised Celtic “bird” device below (red background) and another inscription “i mBaile Choinnleora” below (bottom third) also in dark green ink, with a scroll device below (red shading).
  • Reverse:
    •      watch this space ! 

  • Sixpence. Circular cardboard token (Camp No. 2)
Ballykinlar Camp, Sixpence. Circular cardboard token (Camp No. 2)

Ballykinlar Camp, Sixpence. Circular cardboard token (Camp No. 2)

  • Obverse: “6d” in centre, with “Campa s dó” split on either side within truncated oval border, with the inscription “Gaedhil fe ghlas” above, in black ink on a solid yellow background (top quarter) and another inscription below “i mBaile Choinnleora” in black ink on a solid yellow background (bottom quarter).
  • Reverse: “O’Loughlin, Murphy & Boland Limited, Upper Dorset St. Dublin” inscribed in dark green ink across a whitte central background, with a red scroll device on either side, and the inscription “Printers” on the top third, in black ink on a solid red background “Wholesale stationers and general merchants” on the bottom third, in black ink on a solid red background. This reverse design is similar to the 1d token.

  • One shilling. Circular cardboard token (Camp No. 2)
  •      watch this space ! 
  • Obverse: ?
  • Reverse: ?

  • Five shillings. Circular cardboard token (Camp No. 2)
Ballykinlar Camp, Five shillings. Circular cardboard token (Camp No. 2)

Ballykinlar Camp, Five shillings. Circular cardboard token (Camp No. 2)

  • Obverse: “5/-” in centre, with “Campa s dó” scrolled across, with the inscription “Gaedhil fe ghlas” inside an outer circle in red ink (top half) and another inscription “i mBaile Choinnleora” inside the same outer circle (bottom half)
  • Reverse: “O’Loughlin, Murphy & Boland Limited, Upper Dorset St. Dublin” inscribed in dark green ink within a green central scroll device, and the inscription in red ink “printers, wholesale stationers” on top half and the inscription in red ink “and general merchants” on the bottom half, both within a double outer circle (in dark green ink)

  • Ten shillings. Circular cardboard token (Camp No. 2)
  •      watch this space ! 
  • Obverse: ?
  • Reverse: ?

  • One Pound. Circular cardboard token (Camp No. 2)
Ballykinlar Camp. One Pound circular cardboard token (Camp No. 2)

Ballykinlar Camp. One Pound circular cardboard token (Camp No. 2)

  • Obverse: “£1.0.0” in white text ‘reversed’ on a black backround, centred, with “Punt” inscribed above and below. with the inscription “Gaedhil fe ghlas” in red ink (top half) and another inscription “i mBaile Choinnleora” in black ink (bottom half). The inscription “(Campa s dó)” below this
  • Reverse: “O’Loughlin, Murphy & Boland Limited, Dublin” inscribed in black ink within a double outer circle, and the inscription in green ink on a yellow circular background “printers, wholesale stationers and general merchants” in centre and the address “Upper Dorset St.” below

In addition to the better known ’round, cardboard’ Ballykinlar tokens (above) are a series of much cruder vouchers or tokens issued at an earlier date. Some of these have been preserved in an old autograph book, now kept at Kilmainham Gaol in Dublin.

Ballykinlar saved & displayed in an autograph book - they refer to Prisoner No. 130.

Ballykinlar saved & displayed in an autograph book – they refer to Prisoner No. 130.

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