Restored Collins car unveiled

 

THE NEWLY restored armoured car that carried Michael Collins’s mortally wounded body from Béal na mBláth has been described as a “silent witness” to the turbulent foundation of the State by Taoiseach Enda Kenny.

The specially armoured Rolls Royce, known as Sliabh na mBan, was unveiled at the Curragh Camp in Co Kildare at the weekend following the annual ceremony paying tribute to deceased members of the Defence Forces’ Cavalry Corps.

“Sliabh na mBan is the most historic and evocative vehicle in the State,” Mr Kenny said.

“It may well be an inanimate object yet it speaks to us. It shouts: ‘Resistance, endurance, integrity, struggle and victory’.”

The 91-year-old vehicle formed part of Collins’s convoy which was ambushed in west Cork on August 22nd, 1922, after venturing into anti-Treaty heartland during the Civil War. Collins, then commander-in-chief of the National Army, returned fire. After Collins received a bullet wound to the head, his body was taken into the Sliabh na mBan and the convoy escaped with no further casualties.

“It is a matter of tragic irony that Collins, who refused to take shelter in the Sliabh na mBan, was evacuated from the ambush site in this very car, having been mortally wounded moments earlier. And thus, in the loss of one of our greatest patriots and leaders, Sliabh na mBan was a silent witness,” Mr Kenny said.

“Sliabh na mBan, therefore, takes us right back to the turbulent foundations of our nation and reminds us, in no small way, of the price that was paid for that independence.” Originally destined for service with the British army in Mesopotamia, Sliabh na mBan was diverted to Ireland during the War of Independence.

Along with 12 other armoured Rolls Royce cars, it was later procured by the National Army from the departing British forces, although it came under the control of anti-Treaty forces for a brief period during the Civil War.

By 1936, the Rolls Royce squadron was superseded by Landsverk 180 cars. However, the Sliabh na mBan and others were returned to service in late 1939, by which stage imported armoured vehicles were almost impossible to procure due to the conflict in Europe. The vehicles were later retired in the Curragh Camp.

In April 1954, most of the armoured Rolls Royces were auctioned off, fetching values of between £27 and £60, but the Sliabh na mBan was saved from the scrap heap and was worked on in the Curragh Camp’s workshop, known as “Tin Town”.

Helping to care for the car were three generations of the Lynch family: Paddy Lynch, a driver in the National Army who drove Collins when he was posted to Dublin during the Civil War, his son Pat and Pat’s son Pádraig. Restoration expert James Black, from Lisburn, Co Antrim, was also praised by the chief of staff of the Defence Forces, Lieut Gen Seán McCann.