Noel Lemass, Captain of the 3rd Battalion, Dublin Brigade IRA, had a short but eventful life. He fought in the Imperial Hotel during the Easter Rising of 1916 and was wounded while taking dispatches to the GPO. He later played an active role in the War of Independence (1919-1921) and joined the occupation of the Four Courts after taking the anti-Treaty side in the Civil War.
In July 1923, two months after the Civil War had ended, Noel was kidnapped in broad daylight by Free State soldiers. Three months later, on 13th October, his mutilated body was found on the Featherbed Mountain twenty yards from the Glencree Road, in an area known locally as ‘The Shoots’. It was likely that he was killed elsewhere and dumped at this spot.
There are many amusing anecdotes of his military career in the Witness Statements. One of my favourites is from Andrew McDonnell (BMH WS 1768) who was an officer with the Irish Volunteers and then the IRA in Dublin from 1915 to 1924. He said Noel Lemass had the:
the distinction of being the only man in the Dublin Brigade ever to commandeer a tram. Always looking for action, and willing to go anywhere to take part in a scrap, I mentioned to him once about an attack coming off, on the Naval Base, Dun Laoghaire. This was something that appealed to him, and it was arranged that she should be in Dun Laoghaire, about 10.30pm, on a fixed night. He was then attached to the 3rd Battalion. The day arrived, and Noel made frantic efforts to contact me – could we wait for him until 11 p.m. as a dinner dance, or some such, would delay him? 11 p.m. it would be, but not later. We were at the spot, on time. No sign of Noel. A tram came along, very quickly, and off stepped noel, complete in dinner jacket, coat and white scarf …
Lemass revealed to McDonnell that he had:
boarded the tram somewhere about Mount Street, going upstairs. As it got further out, passengers got fewer and fewer, until Noel was along on top, and, to this mind, progress was very slow. Slipping down the stairs, on to the driving platform, he told the driver to keep going, and fast. He did and Noel arrived on time, with the help of the conductor, who happened to be Jack Luby of the Dalkey Section.
One can only imagine the sight of Lemass, alighting of a near empty tram, decked out in dinner jacket and white scarf and ready to join an IRA attack on a British Naval Base in Dun Laoghaire.