When a robbery turned into a revolver duel in Blackrock

Amid a string of thefts around Christmas in 1923, one lucky homeowner was left with a bullet hole in his hat

It was late in the evening when JJ Byrne heard a strange noise in his garden. To him, it sounded like someone was on the way in or out of the house.

Approaching the front door of Newtown House - a large 19th century home that still stands in Blackrock, county Dublin - he spotted a man stooping low underneath the window, and a second man at his back.

Startled by the two strangers on his porch, Byrne "rushed for his revolver, and on returning found the men were walking away," according to a report in The Irish Times, just over a week later on December 29th, 1923.

“Going outside, he shouted at them to stop, but they quickened their pace. Mr Byrne again called on them to halt.”


The two men broke into a run and then turned suddenly, both pulling out revolvers and firing at Byrne. By a stroke of luck, he escaped fatal injury when one of the bullets missed his head while piercing a hole in his hat.

“Flashing his electric torch in their direction, Mr Byrne discharged five shots from his revolver,” reads the report, adding, “one of the men staggered, but continued to run.”

The would-be intruders made off in different directions - one towards nearby Seapoint Station and the other in the direction of the main road.

Mr Byrne ran back into the house and phoned Blackrock Police Station. Coincidentally, the assistant commissioner of the Dublin metropolitan police, Mr Barrett, was carrying out an inspection of the station when the call came in.

Barrett “started at once for the scene with a small police force”. By the time they arrived at 11.06pm, the shooting had stopped and they discovered Mr Byrne unharmed, though a “little the worse of his strange experience”.

A search of the grounds of Newtown House threw up no clues, nor did police have any luck at Seapoint station. The men were traced as far as Westland Row station - the modern-day Dublin Pearse station.

Christmas thefts

The shootout, which happened on December 20th, was assumed to be a robbery gone awry - it was one of a number of raids mentioned in the report, amid an apparent spike in pre-Christmas thefts.

On the same night, also in Blackrock, a van driver working for Messrs Clery was stopped by a man wearing a mask and brandishing a revolver. “Keeping his revolver pointed at the driver, the masked man examined the van,” according to the report.

“Having finished his inspection, he remarked curtly: ‘I thought it was a Ford; you may go.’ The driver proceeded on his way.”

Earlier that evening, between 6 and 7pm, a woman named Ms Brady who lived at number 19 Wicklow Street was boarding the tram at Nassau Street, when her handbag was snatched. The thief made away with about £50 in notes, disappearing into the crowd.

Meanwhile, a horse-drawn delivery van belonging to stores at 11 and 12 Merrion row was “approached by a strange man in Ailesbury road” as the driver made his grocery delivery rounds.

“The stranger presented a revolver, ordered the driver away, and, jumping on the van, drove towards the city.”

The van was later found abandoned at Merrion row - its stocks pilfered of “a considerable quantity of groceries” and a barrel of apples.