The National Museum of Ireland has welcomed an important donation by Mr Pat McSweeney of a 1919 Rolls Royce Silver Ghost, nicknamed the 'Moon Car'.The vehicle in question is a restored 1919 Rolls Royce ‘Silver Ghost’ luxury sedan and gained its nickname because of its use at night in Cork by an IRA unit Involved in the War of Independence and Civil War.
The vehicle came into Irish Republican Army (IRA) possession at some point prior to 1924. It was closely associated with the mid-Cork IRA (organised as the Cork No. 1 Brigade), which was among the most innovative and audacious IRA units of the revolutionary period.
The Moon Car was involved in the Cobh attack of 21 March 1924, a major event in Anglo-Irish relations, which, it can be argued, marked a symbolic end to the Civil War.
On 21 March, 1924, a yellow Rolls Royce arrived in Cobh with two Lewis machine guns and five men dressed in National Army uniforms [See the Cork Examiner, 31 March 1924; the Freeman’s Journal 24 March 1924).
They opened fire on a British harbour launch carrying unarmed soldiers, sailors, and civilians from the garrison on British-controlled Spike Island. The gunfire killed one soldier and wounded 17 more, along with five civilians.
Speeding away, the vehicle stopped briefly to fire on the Royal Navy warship, HMS Scythe, which was spared any damage. The attack was, in fact, carried out by senior officers of the Cork No. 1 Brigade, who intended to spark violence between the Free State and British forces, and thus deepen the crisis within the National Army. [Paul McMahon, British Spies and Irish Rebels: British Intelligence and Ireland, 1916-1945 (London, 2008), pp. 202-203].
The Rolls Royce Silver Ghost is a highly prized car model known to collectors around the world. The 1919 make is even more sought after, as this was the first year Rolls Royce resumed producing the cars, following wartime hiatus. It is extremely rare.
The ‘Moon Car’ was presented to Ms Lynn Scarff – Director of the National Museum of Ireland. Ms Scarff noted that the NMI was honoured to receive this important donation, which will greatly add to the National Collection and be retained securely for future generations to engage with at the National Museum of Ireland.
Listen to Dr. Audrey Whitty, Head of learning and collections at the National Museum of Ireland discuss the Moon car with Sean Moncrief.