Westmeath and 1920

A road-block on the bridge of Athlone, circa 1920/1921. A British flag can be seen flying above Athlone Castle which was then part of the nearby army barracks. (Aidan Heavey Public Library, Athlone)

Over the next few months, we will follow the story of Westmeath during 1920, discussing a range of topics and placing the county within the context of what was happening nationally.

The historian Michael Hopkinson wrote in his book The Irish War of Independence that Westmeath conformed to ‘the pattern in the Irish Midlands of intermittent and extremely small-scale military action.’ It is an accurate statement but it still leaves the question as to what happened in Westmeath during the conflict.

Westmeath witnessed an upsurge in military and political activity during 1920, particularly in the second half of the year. Through highlighting those events, we can examine a wide range of local topics such as: the IRA; the RIC; Cumann na mBan; the British army; the military barracks; reprisals; social and economic developments; and elections. We will also provide case studies of particular events and profile individuals of different backgrounds and allegiances, allowing us to explore the complexities of the period.

We hope to create a hub, which will provide readers with a detailed and informative source on Westmeath during 1920. The blog will encompass the entire county but, in our next post, we will begin by discussing the long history of Custume Barracks in Athlone and explaining how it would come to play a role in the events of 1920.

Content Last Updated/Reviewed: 08/09/2020