Japanese Attack on Ennistymon!

By Martin Gleeson

A World War II story is told about the popular Co. Clare town of Ennistymon. This lovely tourist spot, the birthplace of the poet Brian Merriman, had only two houses with wirelesses (radios) during the Second World War.

It was from these two houses that the citizens of Ennistymon kept abreast of the happenings of the outside world. Both houses were generous in allowing neighbours in during the evenings to hear the latest war news.

Pearl Harbour

On December 7th, 1941, ‘a day that will live in infamy’, the Japanese Navy Air Service attacked the US naval base in Pearl Harbour, west of Honolulu, Hawaii.

That evening in Ennistymon, a person listening to one of the two radios in the town found that the signal was weak and he understood that the Japanese had attacked Bellharbour.

This is a picturesque village on Ballyvaughan Bay about fifteen miles north of Ennistymon. The news of an attack on Bellharbour spread like wildfire.

People were very alarmed because they felt that because Ennistymon was a large town, it would be the next point of attack by Japanese land forces.


The inhabitants helped the owner of a lorry to move blocks, rocks and rubble to dump them on the road where the attack was expected.

They gathered an array of weapons, a few shot guns, rakes, spades and pitchforks. The men watched all night, bravely facing an expected Japanese onslaught.

False alarm

The following morning, the owner of the other radio was walking through the town and came to the barricade. When he asked what was going on, he was told about the expected Japanese assault, due to the story having been broadcast on the radio about Bellharbour.

He told them: “I also listened to the radio last night. The Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour, not Bellharbour. Pearl Harbour is in Honolulu, Hawaii. That is the North Pacific Ocean. It is thousands of miles from Co. Clare!” 

To say that the people of Ennistymon were embarrassed and then relieved, was an understatement.