Today, robberies of banks and building societies have unfortunately,
become common place. They no longer warrant front page
newspaper headlines and reports of these familiar events are often
confined to small paragraphs on the inside pages. Such was not
always the case. The bank robbery which took place in Taghmon in
the gentler days of 1934 was a highly unusual occurrence. It was
nationally reported and made the front pages of all the major
newspapers of the day. The robbery, the hunt for the perpetrators and
their eventual capture continued to make national news for many
THE VILLAGE IN 1934
Taghmon was, by the 1930's, a sizeable village of some several
hundred inhabitants. Though not prosperous, its agricultural
hinterland suffering the effects of the economic war with Britain, it
did, nonetheless, manage to support a branch of the National Bank.
Village merchants deposited their takings there, although the savings
of local farmers and landowners were reduced as the economic war
began to bite and agricultural prices fell.
The National Bank was situated on the Foulksmills Road, at the edge
of the village, where the fine old building still stands to this day. The
manager in 1934 was a Mr. Love, who lived with his wife and children
in the bank building itself. The bank's cashier, Mr. Conry lived in
lodgings in the central square of the village, some 200 yards from the
Friday was, traditionally, the bank's busiest day. In the morning
farmers and other employers withdrew cash to pay their workers. In
the afternoon merchants lodged their takings, swollen by housewives
shopping for the weekend groceries. On Friday morning, 2 Feb. 1934,
the amount of cash at the bank was further inflated by lodgements
which had taken place after the fair, which had been held in the village
on the previous day.
Armed with this knowledge, three men raided the bank on that
Friday and succeeded in stealing £796 - a sizeable sum of money in
The raid took place in the early hours of the morning when the three
men, armed with firearms, gained entrance to the bank building,
having forced open a window in the dining room. They immediately
went to Mr. Love's bedroom where they demanded the key to the safe,
only to be told that the safe could only be opened if the manger's key
was used in conjunction with the cashier's key. While one of the
raiders was left guarding Mrs. Love, the other two forced Mr. Love,
attired in pyjamas and overcoat, to go to the lodgings of the cashier,
Mr. Conry, to fetch the other key. They knocked loudly on the front
door. Mr. Love was ordered to stand at the edge of the footpath, while
the two raiders, to avoid being seen, stood against the wall of the
house. Mr. Conry, looked out of the upstairs window, saw Mr. Love
and came downstairs to open the hall door. On seeing the raiders, he
attempted to close the door, but one of them jammed his boot in the
doorway and threatened to shoot through the door if it was shut. The
manager and cashier, the latter dressed only in pyjamas and dressing
gown, were marched back to the bank. The safe was opened, the
money was taken and the raiders fled.
THE INVESTIGATION BEGINS
Patrick Sweeney, in whose house Mr. Conry lodged, decided to
investigate the strange happening surrounding Mr. Conry's
disappearance from his lodgings. He went to the bank, but seeing
nobody there he went straight to the Garda station and informed the
Gardai of what had happened.
Sergeant McNamee and Garda Stack headed straight for the bank,
but on their way they were met by the bank manager and cashier who
recounted their story. Garda headquarters in Wexford was informed.
Chief Supt. Lynch, accompanied by detectives and other Gardai,
travelled to Taghmon to assist in the investigation. A search of the
village and surroundings area began immediately. Within hours, a
mask and the tracks of a motor vehicle were found in a lane way
outside the village. The tracks were those of Goodrich tyres, all badly
Left to Right:
(unknown); Mr Conry; (unknown); (unknown); Mr. Love;
Harry Compton (a Wexford dectective)
Taghmon in 1934 - the era of the robbery at The National Bank
(the reg. no. of the car is HI 1678)
News of the crime quickly spread throughout Co. Wexford.
Newspapers carried the story as headline news with graphic details of
VITAL CLUES LEAD TO BORRIS
Within days, Frank Doyle, a garage proprietor from New Ross,
informed the Gardai that he had recently sold some old Goodrich tyres
to the owner of an old Saloon Glyno car. The owner was a John
Doyle of Carrig-On-Bannow. Gardai, immediately went to Carrig-
On-Bannow to interview Mr. Doyle, only to find that he had been
evicted by his landlord for non-payment of rent. Further investigation
revealed that the name, John Doyle, was actually an alias. The car
was, in fact, owned by James Kiely of Kilcloney, Borris, Co. Carlow,
who had been living in the area under the name of John Doyle.
The following day, 13 February, Inspector O'Neill from Wexford
went to the home of James Kiely, accompanied by two detectives and
several Gardai. In a search of the house and out-houses, a Saloon
Glyno car was discovered in a shed. The tyres bore a strong
resemblance to the tracks found in the lane way near Taghmon. In
the house a half-sovereign was also found. On it was a red substance
which compared closely to the sealing wax used at the bank in
THREE MEN ARE ARRESTED
James Kiely was taken to Borris Garda station for questioning. On
the following day he was taken to Wexford, where he was charged
with the robbery. It was decided that a new search of the Kiely
homestead, led by Supt. O'Brien of Borris, would be initiated.
At 4.00 PM on Sunday, 18 February, Supt. O'Brien knocked on the
door of the house. He heard a scuffling noise, but the door was not
opened. He then burst down the door and found old Mrs. Kiely
settling herself down on a seat in front of the fire. He removed her
forcibly from the seat. Her grand children, who were present at the
time, began to cry. Suddenly, he heard a man's muffled voice coming
from behind the fireplace. He pulled away the seat beside the fire and
some timbers around the fireplace came away with it, revealing a small
chamber behind it. 'Come out with your hands up!' he shouted. 'I'm
not coming out', a voice replied. The man was invited to come out a
second time, but once again, he refused. Supt. O'Brien then reached
in, caught hold of a hand and pulled the man out. The Supertindent
then entered the dug-out where he found a quantity of firearms and
some coins. The man identified himself as John Kiely, brother of
James. He was arrested and charged in connection with the bank raid.
A further search of the house resulted in the discovery of a large
quantity of silver coins. On top of a wardrobe part of a Mills bomb
and a live detonator were found.
During interrogation, the third member of the robbery gang was
identified as a neighbour of the Kielys', James Treacy.
The trial commenced at Wexford Circuit Court on 6 June 1934. In
his defence, John Kiely claimed that he had been living in Rochdale,
Lancashire since the middle of January 1934. Therefore, he could not
be implicated in the crime. He became aware of the bank raid only
when his wife wrote to him in the middle of February and informed
him of the incident. James Kiely, in evidence, also disclaimed any
involvement in the crime. He told the defence solicitor, Mr. Barry, that
he did not know where the two stones of silver, discovered in the
house, had come from. He did not know that it was there and it was
not his. He claimed that a half-sovereign found in the house had been
given to him as part payment for a heifer, which he had sold to a
butcher some time previously. He was unable to provide an
explanation to the prosecuting solicitor as to how tracks from his car
were found in a lane way near Taghmon. He told the prosecution that
the secret chamber, behind the fireplace in his home, had been
constructed in 1919, when he was a member of the IRA, and that the
firearms and ammunition, found in the house, dated from that period
The prosecution provided a telling witness, one Richard Coburn, a
native of Bagnelstown, but now resident in Rochdale. Coburn stated
that on 13 February, 1934, James Kiely, with whom he had been
friendly in Ireland, arrived at his lodgings in Rochdale. He asked
Coburn to 'do him a turn'. He explained that there had been a bank
robbery in Co. Wexford and that he was implicated in it. He had
decided, therefore, to come to England. He asked to be allowed to
stay the night, which he did. In the morning he gave £2 (Irish) to
This evidence contradicted Kiely's earlier evidence that he had
arrived in Rochdale during the middle of the previous month.
Another prosecution witness, Frank Doyle, the garage proprietor
from New Ross, identified James Kiely as the man who had purchased
tyres for the Glyno Saloon prior to the bank robbery.
The jury retired and after two nights deliberation they found the
three accused guilty on all counts. The judge sentenced John Kiely to
seven years in prison, and his brother James, to five years
imprisonment. In sentencing James Treacy, the judge said that he
would take into account the fact that he was only twenty years of age
and that he had been very co-operative with the Gardai during the
enquiries into the crime. He was sentenced to twelve months
imprisonment with hard labour.
In the court of criminal appeal at the Four Courts on Tuesday 31
July 1934, the three men appealed their sentences on the following
- The verdict of the jury was against the weight of evidence and was
- The jury was not properly directed on the evidence.
- The evidence was influenced by the prosecution.
- The sentence was harsh and unwarranted.
The Chief Justice of the court concluded that the jury was instructed
sufficiently as to the amount of weight they should place on the
evidence. In this case, apart from Treacy's evidence, there was a
complete body of evidence built up to establish the guilt of the accused.
The appeal was, thus, dismissed.
A FURTHER ARREST
On Tuesday, 20 November, 1934, Ellen Doyle, sister of John and
James Kiely, pleaded guilty to having passed, on various dates, bank
notes, knowing them to have been stolen. The defence solicitor stated
that she had raised a considerable sum of money to cover the cost of
her brothers' defence. She had negotiated a loan from the National
Bank in New Ross. When they requested repayment she had gone to
the bank with bank notes later identified as having being stolen during
the robbery at the Taghmon branch of the same bank. Judge Devitt
sentenced her to fifteen months imprisonment with hard labour,
backdated to the date of her arrest, September 18 1934.
Thus ended the saga of Taghmon's bank robbery. It remained, for
many years, a lively topic of conversation in the village and the county.
Viewed from the vantage point of the 1990's it seems hard to believe
that the occurrence could generate such excitement and publicity.
These were however, more tranquil times. The pace of life was
slower. The epidemic of the 1970/80's bank robberies was all in the
future. The robbery and its aftermath became the 'High Noon' and the
'OK Corral' of those times and it took many years for the exciting
memories of that February day in 1934 to wane and fade away.
The Free Press, Wexford
The People Newspaper, Wexford
The Enniscorthy Guardian, Enniscorthy
Mr. Willie Sidney, Taghmon.
The National Archives, Dublin
- He was a lodger in the house of Mr. & Mrs. Patrick Sweeney. Willie
Sidney, a nephew, occupies the house today and his reminiscences of the
robbery were very helpful in the preparation of this article.
- This lane way was on the Foulksmills road, about 400 metres distant from
the village, and is known as 'The Building Lane'. (Willie Sidney)