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Full text of "Tales of the R.I.C"



OF iTi 





''i'fi 




TALES OF THE 

R.I.C. 



TALES OF THE 

R. I.e. 



William Blackwood and Sons 

Edinburgh and London 

1921 



ALL RIGHTS RESERVED 






MAY 2 9 1990 
BOSTON COLLEGE LIBRARt 

CHESTNUT Kill, MA Q7\&t 



CONTENTS. 







PAGE 


I. 


TWF, INFORMER .... 


1 


n. 


ON THHl RUN ..... 


. 20 


m. 


TTTR LANDING OF ARMS . 


. 37 


IV. 


thh; red cross .... 


54 


V. 


THh; R.M. . . . 


. 69 


VI. 


AN OUTLAW 


79 


vn. 


THE STRANGER WITHIN THE GATES . 


. 97 


vin. 


MR BRIGGS' ISLAND ... 


. 108 


IX. 


THE REWARD OF LOYALTY 


. 120 


X. 


POTEEN 


. 137 


XI. 


THE mayor's conscience 


. 152 


xn. 


A BRUTAL MURDER 


. 166 


xni. 


SEAL ISLAND 


. 176 


XIV. 


A FAMHiY AFFAIR .... 


191 


XV. 


THE AMERICAN NURSE . . . . 


208 


XVI. 


FATHER JOHN . . . . . 


223 


XV 11. 


thh; bog cemetery . . . . 


236 


xvm. 


A JEW IN GAELIC CLOTHING . 


253 


XIX. 


MOUNTAIN WARFARE 


262 


XX. 


THF. GREAT ROUND UP . 


281 


XXI. 


THE TRUCE 


300 



TALES OF THE E.I.C. 



THE INFORMER. 

In many parts of the west of Ireland one 
finds small mountain farms of from five to 
twenty acres, generally consisting of twenty- 
five per cent rock, twenty-five per cent heather, 
and the remainder of indifferent grass-land. 
On such a farm a peasant will rear a large 
family, and how it is done is one of the 
mysteries of Ireland ; but done it is, and 
often. 

Patsey Mulligan was one of a family of 
ten, brought up on one of these farms until 
he was seventeen, when his father told him 
that it was time he thought of keeping him- 
self, and, incidentally, of earning some money 
for his mother. Patsey quite agreed with his 
father, but soon found that it was much easier 
to talk of getting work in such a poor district 
as Cloonalla than to get it. 

In the end Patsey made up his mind that 
the only thing to do was to go to England 



2 TALES OF THE H.I.C. 

in search of work, and one cold winter's morn- 
ing he set off from his home, in company 
with three other lads from the same townland, 
to walk the fifteen miles across the mountains 
and bogs to the nearest railway station at 
Ballybor. Arriving in England, they made 
their way to a town in Yorkshire, where one 
of them had a brother working in a coal-mine, 
and within three days of leaving his home in 
Ireland Patsey found himself a Yorkshire 
miner. 

Hardly had he settled down to his work 
in the coal-mine when the war broke out, 
followed by a rush of young miners to enhst, 
amongst others Patsey Mulligan ; and before 
he reahsed what he was doing, he was a full 
private in a famous Yorkshire regiment. Pat- 
sey had, however, enUsted in the name of 
Murphy, hoping to keep his people in ignor- 
ance of the fact, knowing it would break his 
mother's heart if she knew he was fighting. 

Patsey thoroughly enjoyed the training, and 
within seven months of enhsting embarked 
for France ; and after a few weeks' pleasant 
life in billets, gradually moved north until 
finally the battalion took over trenches in 
the famous salient of Ypres — a great contrast 
to Patsey' s home in the west of Ireland. 

There happened to be in the battalion a 
young Irish subaltern by name Anthony Blake, 
and when Blake told his Company Sergeant- 
Major to find him a servant — an Irishman if 
possible — Patsey at once volunteered for the 
job, and between the two young Irishmen 



THE INFORMER. 3 

there soon sprang up a friendship through 
the common bond of danger and discomfort. 

After some time Patsey learnt through one 
of the boys with whom he had first crossed 
to England that his mother was dangerously 
ill, and that she had repeatedly written to 
Patsey to come home and see her before she 
died, but had naturally received no answer. 
In his trouble he appealed to Blake, and that 
night found him waiting at Popperinghe Station 
for the leave train with a return-warrant to 
Ballybor in his pocket. 

On his arrival at Ballybor he set out on 
his long fifteen-mile tramp to his home at 
CloonaUa, and late on a summer's evening 
the family of Mulligan were startled by a 
British soldier in full marching order walking 
into their home. 

Before his mother died she made Patsey 
promise that he would not go back to France, 
and that he would stay at home and help his 
father to mind the other children. It is hard 
for a son to refuse his dying mother, and 
doubly so for an Irish boy. 

When his mother's funeral was over, Patsey 
buried his uniform and equipment in a bog- 
hole at night ; but his rifle he hid in the 
thatch of an outhouse, and it was given out 
in the neighbourhood that he had been dis- 
charged from the Army as medically unfit. 

After the usual time Patsey was posted as 
a deserter in his battalion ; Blake found a 
new servant and forgot all about his late 
one, while Patsey settled down to work with 

a2 



4 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

his father, and the memory of Blake and the 
British Army faded from his mind. 

Though wounded three times, Blake was 
one of the lucky men to return home to Ire- 
land at the end of the war, and at once set 
about looking for a job. The son of a country 
doctor in the south of Ireland, at the out- 
break of war he had just left school, and had 
not had time to settle on a career. 

But if in England it was hard for ex-officers 
to get employment, in Ireland it was doubly 
so ; and Blake soon found that it was next 
to impossible for a man who had worn the 
King's uniform to get any work or appoint- 
ment. The power of Sinn Fein was beginning 
to be felt in the land, and though many people 
would have gladly employed men returned 
from the front, they dared not. 

At last, when he had quite given up hope, 
he received by post an offer to join the newly- 
formed Auxiliary Division of the Royal Irish 
Constabulary, and, gladly jumping at such an 
offer, was soon in training at the depot in 
Dublin. After a tour of duty in the south, 
the authorities offered him a cadetship in the 
R.I.C., and in the course of two months Blake 
found himself the District Inspector at Bally- 
bor. 

At this time the R.I.C, after about as bad 
a hammering as any force ever received, were 
beginning to get their tails up again ; and 
whereas previously no policeman dared show 
his face outside his barracks after dark, they 
were now occasionally sending out strong 



THE INFORMER. 5 

patrols at night-time, to the great concern of 
the local Sinn Feiners, who for a considerable 
time had had things all their own way in 
the south and west. 

The police district of Ballybor is, like many 
others in the west of Ireland, large, consisting 
chiefly of mountains, bogs, lakes, and a few 
small scattered villages, some of them hidden 
away in the mountains — an ideal district in 
peace time for a D.I. who is fond of shooting 
and fishing, but in war time a hard district 
to control with the small force of police at a 
D.I.'s disposal. 

Previous to Blake's arrival all the barracks 
in the district had been vacated with the 
exception of Ballybor and " Grouse Lodge," 
a small barrack at the foot of the mountains 
in the Cloonalla district ; and as each barrack 
was vacated, it was blown up or burnt by the 
local Volunteers. 

In all former rebellions in Ireland the Gov- 
ernment have found that to get information 
it was only necessary to pay money. Some- 
times it did not cost much, other times they 
had to pay generously, but always money 
produced information ; and at the beginning 
of the Sinn Fein trouble the Government 
naturally assumed that money would produce 
the informers as before. But this time they 
were wrong, and it was only — when the Gov- 
ernment were at their wits' end — by a lucky 
chance of finding important papers on a man, 
who was shot at night during a mihtary raid 
on a Dublin hotel, that at last they received 



6 TALES OF THE E.I.C. 

the information which enabled them to grapple 
successfully with Sinn Fein. 

There is no doubt that the originators of 
Sinn Fein had read their country's history 
carefully, and were determined that this time 
there should be no informers ; and to this 
end they organised a " Reign of Terror " 
throughout Ireland such as few countries have 
ever seen at any time in history. Their chief 
obstacle was the R.I.C., and once this force 
was reduced to a state of inactivity — they 
thought they had broken it for good and all 
— their task appeared comparatively easy. 
Every man, woman, and child in the south 
and west of Ireland knew that if they gave 
any information to the police they would be 
shot, and shot they were. 

When Blake took over his duties at Bally- 
bor, he found that the pohce had no source 
of information whatsoever, with the result 
that each attack on a barrack and every am- 
bush of a patrol came as a surprise to them. 
So great was the " Reign of Terror " in the 
Ballybor district that no person dare speak 
to a policeman, and the shopkeepers were 
afraid to serve one, even with the necessities 
of life. 

Blake quickly realised that if he was ever 
to get the upper hand in his district, he must 
discover some source of getting information, 
and find it quickly, before the whole popula- 
tion were driven to join forces against him. 

One of Sinn Fein's principles has been that 
the fewer who know the fewer can tell, and, 



THE INFORMER. 7 

as a rule, there has only been one man in a 
district — usually the local captain of the Volun- 
teers — who has information of coming events ; 
and Blake knew that his only chance of re- 
liable news lay with this man, and with him 
alone. 

About the only information which his men 
could give him of his area was that a young 
man, who lived in the townland of Cloonalla, 
named Patsey Mulligan, was the captain of 
the local Volunteers, and that his house was 
close to the barracks at Grouse Lodge ; so 
he determined to go out to Grouse Lodge 
Barracks and stay there until he had either 
come to terms with Patsey Mulligan, or saw 
that it was hopeless. 

On a fine winter's morning Blake set out 
from the barracks at Bally b or in the Crossley 
tender with an escort of six police, the most 
he dared take with him for fear of weakening 
the Ballybor garrison. It was market-day in 
the little town, and all along the road to 
Grouse Lodge they met the country people 
coming in — some in horse-carts, others in ass- 
carts, and the poorer ones on foot — but not 
one of them would speak to or even look at 
the police, the people on foot even getting off 
the road into the fields directly they caught 
sight of the police-car approaching. 

On learning from one of the constables that 
Mulligan's house was not on the main road to 
Grouse Lodge Barracks, but on a bjrroad, 
Blake ordered the driver to go by this road, 
and when he came to Mulligan's house to 



8 TALES OF THE R.LC. 

stop the car and pretend that something 
required adjusting in his engine. Affcer a 
time the driver stopped outside an ordinary 
thatched cottage on the side of the road, 
and, as Blake had expected, the inhabitants 
came to the door to see who it was. 

The first to appear was a young man, and 
as the constable whispered to Blake that he 
was Patsey Mulligan, Blake nearly shouted 
for joy, for he saw that the man was none 
other than " Murphy," his former servant in 
France, and a deserter from his Majesty's 
Army in the field ! 

At once, before Patsey could get a good 
look at him and possibly recognise him, Blake 
ordered the driver to go on to the barracks 
as fast as the bad road would allow them. 

The question now was how to get hold of 
Mulligan alone, and this was settled by the 
information which a constable at Grouse Lodge 
was able to give. It appeared that this plucky 
constable had for some time past been in the 
habit of slipping out of the barracks by the 
back entrance at night in plain clothes and 
returning before daybreak. He had discovered 
that Mulligan was in the habit of meeting a 
girl nearly every night at a certain lonely 
spot about a mile from his house ; and from 
overhearing their conversation, had found out 
that Patsey wanted to marry this girl, but 
that she had refused to marry him until he 
had enough money to take her out of the 
country and to buy a small farm in America. 

On questioning this constable, Blake was 



THE INFORMER. 9 

able to get a detailed account of Mulligan's 
movements since the time of his desertion. 
It appeared that for a considerable time after 
he came back he hardly left his home at all, 
contenting himself by working on his father's 
farm, and it was not until the Sinn Fein 
Volunteers were started in the district and 
MuUigan was elected captain that he appeared 
in pubHc. 

About the same time there was a report 
in the neighbourhood that Patsey Mulligan 
was courting a girl called Bridgie O'Hara, 
who lived in the Cloonalla district ; also that 
another man in the same townland with money 
was doing his best to make her marry him. 

Bridgie had two brothers in the Royal Irish 
Constabulary, and as the Sinn Fein movement 
grew stronger and the resistance of the Govern- 
ment weaker, the Volunteers started to boy- 
cott the O'Hara family. So savage had the 
boycott become lately that not a soul dared 
speak to them, and it was only by going to 
a town several miles away that they were 
able to obtain food. 

As soon as it was dark that night Blake 
and the constable, both in plain clothes, sHpped 
out at the back of the barracks and made 
their way to Mulligan's try sting-place. As 
usual. Mulligan and Bridgie met, and when 
they parted Blake and the constable followed 
MulHgan until the girl was well out of hearing, 
when they called on him to halt, at the same 
time covering him with their automatics. 

Mulligan at once stopped and put up his 



10 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

hands, but did not speak, and while Blake 
continued to cover him, the constable searched 
him for arms. Blake then ordered Mulligan 
to walk in front of him until they came to a 
mountain track which was off the road ; leav- 
ing the constable on guard, he ordered Mulligan 
to walk up the track in front of him. 

After they had gone about a hundred yards, 
Blake stopped and asked Mulligan if he knew 
that he was liable to be arrested and shot for 
desertion from the British Army, and waited 
to see the effect of his words, as the whole 
success of his plan depended on this. 

By now Mulligan had recognised Blake's 
voice, and knowing well what would happen 
to him if he fell into the hands of the military, 
fell on his knees and begged Blake to spare 
him. Blake at once explained his terms, 
which the boy eagerly accepted, thankful to 
get off at any price, though not counting the 
cost and danger of what he was doing. 

Blake's terms were that Mulligan should 
give him information well beforehand of every 
contemplated outrage in the district, and, in 
return, promised him, on behalf of the British 
Government, a free pardon, £500, and a pas- 
sage for himself and Bridgie to any country 
he wished to go to, but not until the Sinn 
Fein movement was crushed in the district. 

As it happened, only the evening before, 
Bridgie had told Patsey that she could not 
stand the boycott any longer, and that if he 
could not take her away to America at once 
she would marry Mike Connelly ; hence the 



THE INFORMER. 11 

promise of the £500 seemed to poor Patsey 
like a gift from heaven. 

It was arranged, in order that no suspicion 
should be drawn down on him, that Mulligan 
should leave his letter at night-time when 
going to meet Bridgie O'Hara under a certain 
large stone a few feet from where they were, 
near the point where the track and road met. 
As there was nothing more to settle, Blake 
told Mulligan to go home at once, while he 
and the constable made their way back to 
the barracks, and the following day Blake 
returned to Bally b or. 

At this time Blake found that several of 
his men showed a strong disinclination to 
leave the barracks, and remembering how 
hard it used to be sometimes during the war 
to get men who had been stuck in trenches 
for months to go " over the top," he decided 
to organise strong daylight patrols so that 
each man should leave his barracks for a 
certain number of hours every day. In addi- 
tion to patrols round Ballybor, he sent out 
a strong patrol on certain days to work its 
way across country — always by a different 
route — ^to Grouse Lodge Barracks, where the 
patrol spent the night, returning to BaUybor 
across country the following day. 

Taking advantage of mistakes made in other 
parts of the country, he sent no patrols on the 
main routes, but made them all go across 
country, only using the roads for short dis- 
tances when they were open, and when it was 
practically impossible to be ambushed. 



12 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

For some time there came no information 
from Mulligan, and when at last a note was 
brought from him from Grouse Lodge, it only 
contained the laconic news that the price for 
shooting a poHceman had gone up from £60 
to £100 ; and though no further message came 
from MuUigan for another ten days, as no 
outrages had been committed during this time, 
Blake had no reason to think that he was not 
fulfilling his part of the bargain. 

Early one morning a bicycle patrol arrived 
at Ballybor Barracks from Grouse Lodge, and 
the constable who had been with Blake the 
night he met Mulligan handed him a note to 
the effect that two car-loads of arms were to 
arrive in the Cloonalla district that night for 
the purpose of an attack on Grouse Lodge 
Barracks the following night. Mulligan gave 
the route the cars would take, but did not 
state at what hour they might be expected. 

On looking at an Ordnance map, Blake 
noticed that the cars would have to pass 
through a small wood, and that the road 
took a sharp bend where it entered the wood. 
Taking a leaf out of the Sinn Feiners' book, 
he determined to ambush the cars at the bend, 
and to try and seize cars and arms. 

The difficulty was to know what to do with 
the cars once they had gained possession of 
them. The Volunteers would no doubt collect 
in the Cloonalla district to take over the arms, 
hence it would be dangerous to attempt to 
take them to Grouse Lodge Barracks, which 
was much the nearer barrack to the proposed 



THE INFORMER. 13 

scene of the ambush ; so in the end he settled, 
if he came off victorious, to take the cars by- 
byroads to Ballybor and risk being attacked 
in the town at night. A few days before this 
Blake had received his first batch of " Black 
and Tans," bringing his force up to a respect- 
able number, so felt quite justified in making 
the attempt. 

As soon as it was dark that night, Blake 
with five of his men left Grouse Lodge, and 
made their way by the starlight across country 
to the wood. The men brought axes with 
them, and soon had the road blocked with 
two small fir-trees, after which they took cover 
on each side of the road and waited. 

At ten the moon rose and the night still 
remained fine, but it was not until after two 
that they heard the cars approaching. The 
leading car came round the bend at a good 
pace, pulling up just clear of the barricade, 
while the second car, faihng to see the obstacle 
on the road, was unable to pull up in time, 
and ran into the back of the leading car. 

|Blake at once stood up and called on the 
men — ^there were two in each car — to put up 
their hands ; but for answer they opened fire 
with automatics in the direction of Blake's 
voice, whereupon the police fired a volley at 
the cars, and three of the men were seen to 
collapse, after which the fourth put up his 
hands. 

They found that two of the men were dead, 
while the third was shot through the chest. 
After removing all papers and arms from the 



14 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

dead men, they hid their bodies in the wood, 
removed the trees from the road, and started 
of! to Ballybor, where they arrived without 
mishap, and soon had the two cars safely in 
the barrack-yard. 

On investigation they found that the cars 
contained thirty carbines and rifles, several 
thousand rounds of ammunition, and two boxes 
of home-made bombs. 

This capture had a great effect on the police 
morale in the district, and, in fact, marked 
the turning-point in the Sinn Fein campaign 
in that area, while the two captured cars 
made a welcome addition to the police trans- 
port. 

Shortly afterwards Blake received a warn- 
ing from Mulligan to expect an attack on a 
named night on the barracks in Ballybor, and 
that an attempt would be made to blow up 
the gable-end of the barracks. The night 
before the expected attack Blake brought all 
the men that could be spared with safety 
from Grouse Lodge, and made his preparations 
for defence. 

The attack opened with heavy rifle-fire from 
all the surrounding houses, which drove the 
unfortunate inhabitants of Ballybor in terror 
from the town, and after an hour a deter- 
mined rush was made under heavy covering 
fire to ram the barrack door ; but the fire 
of the police forced them to drop the ram 
and run for shelter. Only one attempt was 
made to blow up the gable, the police allowing 
the attackers to start laying the gelignite, and 



THE INFORMER. 15 

then dropping a Mills bomb from the window 
above, where a projecting V-shaped steel shutter 
had been put up, with deadly effect. 

After this the attackers kept up an inter- 
mittent rifle-fire for another two hours, and 
towards daybreak withdrew, leaving the police 
victorious ; and although several men had 
been seen to fall during the attempt to ram 
the door, by the time it was light their bodies 
had been removed. 

A subsequent attack on Grouse Lodge Bar- 
racks was also successfully beaten off without 
any police casualties ; but an attempt Blake 
made to capture an important Volunteer staff- 
officer in the Cloonalla district one night failed 
— ^the bird had flown a quarter of an hour 
before the patrol surrounded the house where 
he had been staying. 

This attempt to seize the staff-officer con- 
vinced the Volunteers that there was a traitor 
in the district, and a Volunteer intelligence 
officer was sent down forthwith from Dublin 
to investigate. 

Blake now felt that he was really beginning 
to break the Sinn Fein in his district, and 
decided to take the offensive to the full extent 
of his power. Not only did he have the town 
and country patrolled night and day, but he 
also sent out parties of " Black and Tans " 
to search houses in the country for suspected 
stores of arms, and also to try and obtain 
information by all means in their power. 

Though at this time the people were begin- 
ning to get restive under the Sinn Fein tyranny. 



16 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

yet so great was the terror that not a single 
person in the whole district dared to give the 
poUce one word of information of his own will ; 
and though the information from Mulligan was 
of vital importance as regards attacks and 
movements by the Volunteers, yet Blake was 
still in complete ignorance of the names of 
the most dangerous Sinn Feiners. 

Blake felt that he was winning, but he 
knew that there would be no peace or rest 
in his district until he had arrested the leaders : 
the others would then be like sheep without 
a shepherd. To this end an interview with 
MuUigan was necessary, in order to get from 
him the names of these leaders. 

This time Blake waylaid Mulligan as he was 
going to meet Bridgie O'Hara, and at once 
saw that the boy's nerve was fast breaking. 
Mulligan gave him the names and addresses 
he wanted readily enough, and then implored 
Blake to have him arrested at once and taken 
to a place of safety, as he was in terror of his 
Hfe. 

He told Blake that the Volunteers were 
already suspicious of him, and that an intelli- 
gence officer had been specially sent down from 
Dubhn to watch him and report on the leakage 
of information, and that he could not stick it 
any longer. Blake, knowing that once Mulli- 
gan was removed, he would not get any in- 
formation at all, managed after a long argument 
to persuade him to carry on a little longer, 
by promising to arrest him when the other 
leaders were taken. 



THE INFORMER. 17 

After parting from Blake the unhappy Mul- 
ligan met his girl, who by this time was half- 
mad from the misery of the boycott of her 
family. In despair she told him she had made 
up her mind to marry Connelly, and they 
would sail for America as soon as they could 
get passports. 

Patsey, at the end of his tether and racked 
with terror, implored her to wait a little longer, 
sa3dng that very soon he would have £500, 
and directly he got the money he would take 
her away. 

The girl went home in the seventh heaven 
of dehght, forgot all about the promises of 
silence she had made to Patsey, and told her 
mother, who, of course, told her husband, and 
it was not many days before the good news 
was common property in the district. A few 
days afterwards the intelligence officer returned 
to his H.Q.'s — ^his mission was fulfilled. 

Having got the ringleaders' names, Blake 
at once set about his plans for arresting them, 
realising that not until they were safe under 
lock and key could he truthfully say that he 
had won ; but it is one thing to arrest two 
or three men, and quite a different story to 
arrest thirty or forty, as, if not all arrested 
at the same time, the majority would get 
warning and disappear on the run. 

Once again Blake met Mulligan at night, 
and arranged with him to call a meeting of 
the ringleaders the following Sunday at early 
Mass outside a wayside chapel in the Cloonalla 
district, when he proposed to arrest them, and 



18 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

promised Mulligan he would be separated from 
the others at once and conveyed to England 
on a destroyer. At first Mulligan refused, 
being now demented with the fear of assassina- 
tion, but when promised the payment of the 
£500 on his arrival in England, he consented. 

Blake arranged that on the following Sunday 
morning as many men as could be spared 
should be sent from Grouse Lodge and Bally- 
bor Barracks to meet near the Cloonalla chapel 
at the same time, when he hoped to surround 
the crowd and make the arrests without any 
difficulty. 

On a typical soft Irish morning Blake and 
his men set out early from Ballybor Barracks 
on their drive to the chapel, full of hope that 
the day's work would clinch his victory, and 
that then he would apply for leave, as the 
strain of the last few months was beginning 
to tell on him, and he needed a rest badly. 

When the Crossley was within haK a mile 
of the chapel and still out of view from there, 
Blake stopped the car, got out his men, and 
proceeded to surround the chapel, while Blake 
himself advanced alone towards the chapel 
gates. When he drew near he could see that 
the road in front of the gates was a mass of 
country people, who did not move until Blake 
got close to them, when they divided, forming 
a lane towards the gates. 

And to his last day Blake will never forget 
the sight which met his eyes as he advanced 
through the people in a deathly silence. Lashed 
to one of the pillars of the chapel gates was 



THE INFORMER. 19 

the body of the unfortunate Patsey Mulligan 
with two bullet-holes through his forehead, 
and pinned on his chest a sheet of white paper 
bearing the single word Traitor, while at his 
feet lay poor Bridgie O'Hara, her body heaving 
with sobs, and her long dark hair, which had 
been cut off, lying on the ground beside her. 



20 



II. 

ON THE RUN. 

Paddy Flanagan stood in the doorway of his 
small shop in the main street of the mean and 
dirty httle village of Ballyfrack, watching the 
rain coming down in torrents, while he listened 
with one ear to his wife arguing with a country- 
woman in the shop behind him over the price 
of eggs, and with his other ear for the high- 
pitched sound of a powerful car. 

Presently the woman in the shop, having 
sold her eggs and bought provisions, wrapped 
her shawl over her head and started to make 
her way home. As Paddy moved aside to let 
the woman out, his ear caught the dreaded 
sound he was expecting, growing louder every 
second, and culminating in a shower-bath of 
mud as two Crossley tenders, full of Auxiliary 
Cadets, dashed past the shop and disappeared 
as suddenly as they had come. 

Hardly had the noise of the engines died 
away than Paddy's quick ear caught the sound 
of cars approaching again, and two Ford 
cars — the first carrying a huge coffin and 
the second apparently mourners — drew up 



ON THE RUN. 21 

at the small hotel almost opposite Paddy's 
shop. 

Some two years previously Flanagan had 
become a rabid Sinn Feiner — he had previously 
been as rabid a Nationalist — ^with a keen eye 
to business. For a long time it looked as 
though Sinn Fein was the only horse in the 
race, and the dream of an Irish RepubHc 
seemed more than Hkely to become a reality ; 
lately, however, the British Government had 
been sitting up and taking a quite unnecessary 
interest in Ireland. 

First, the British Government had formed 
the Auxihary Division — " those cursed pups of 
Cromwell," as Paddy described them to his 
friends, while Mrs Paddy used to say that the 
Government had recruited them from all the 
prisons and asylums in England ; then, to 
crown all, the Government had had the audacity 
to put several counties within easy reach of 
Balljrfrack under martial law. 

So far Paddy had carried on the war for 
freedom with words only, but a week before 
this story starts he had found to his great 
alarm that he would be called upon for deeds. 
On a dark Sunday night, just as the Flanagans 
were preparing to go to bed, there came two 
short sharp knocks at the shop door, followed 
by a long one. 

Now Paddy had always had a great dread 
of night work, and swore that come what 
might he would not open his door to any 
man, be he policeman or Sinn Feiner : for a 
minute there was a tense silence in the stuffy 



22 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

dark shop, save for the heavy breathing of 
Mrs Flanagan, broken suddenly by a blow which 
threatened to break in the street door, and a 
loud voice called out to Flanagan to open in 
the name of the Irish R-epublican Army. 

" God save us," said Mrs Flanagan, and 
dived under the bed ; and Paddy would have 
liked to follow his wife, but he had heard of 
the unpleasant results which always followed 
a refusal to open to the I.R.A. Before another 
blow could be struck on the door he had it 
open, and at once three dark figures sHpped 
into the shop, the last one closing the door. 

And in the darkness of the shop Paddy 
Flanagan listened to his fate : it seemed that 
in the adjoining county, where martial law had 
recently been proclaimed, the military were 
making life quite unbearable for the Volun- 
teers, and the Auxiliaries had openly declared 
that they would shoot John O'Hara — the chief 
assassin of policemen in that county — at sight. 

Before Flanagan could realise the horror of 
the situation, two of the men had disappeared 
into the night, and he found himself face to 
face with the notorious John O'Hara, with 
instructions to pass him on without fail to the 
port of Ballybor (some eighty miles), where 
O'Hara would be smuggled on board a vessel 
bound for England. 

It was some considerable time before Flana- 
gan could induce his wife to come out from 
under the bed and produce a meal for O'Hara. 
Before they went to sleep his wife reminded 
Flanagan — quite unnecessarily — of the fate 



ON THE RUN. 23 

which the Auxiliaries and " Black and Tans " 
had assigned to any one who gave shelter or 
help to John O'Hara. 

For days past Paddy had been racking his 
brains, spurred on by the laments of his wife, 
how to get rid of O'Hara, and every day the 
danger seemed to grow greater, until at last 
Paddy could stand it no longer. 

The outstanding feature in a western peas- 
ant's character is always curiosity, and the 
longer Paddy stood in the doorway of his shop 
gazing at the coffin on the car, the greater his 
curiosity became. He had never seen so big 
a coffin ; if there was a man inside he must 
be the " devil of a fellow and all," but perhaps 
it might be a woman — until at last the coffin 
drew him as a magnet draws a needle. 

A close inspection of the two cars told him 
nothing, so there only remained to go inside 
in the hope of meeting the occupants. Inside 
the hotel he found the mourners seated round 
the fire in a back room, drinking porter and 
discussing the disappearance of John O'Hara, 
and after ordering a drink he drew a chair up 
to the fire and joined in the general con- 
versation. 

Paddy soon found out that the coffin con- 
tained the body of a policeman who had been 
murdered in a recent ambush in the adjoining 
county, and his relatives were bringing his 
body home, a village close to Ballybor. Pro- 
bably the name of the town gave Paddy the 
idea, but in a flash he saw his way clear to 
get rid of O'Hara, and that at once — if a dead 



24 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

policeman could be taken in the coffin to 
Ballybor, why not the Hve John O'Hara ? 

For the next two hours Paddy phed the 
relations of the dead poUceman with porter, 
whisky, and poteen, and by that time had 
learnt all he wanted to know : they had per- 
mits to the police for the two cars to travel 
to Ballybor, they were all strong and noisy 
patriots (in spite of the murdered poUceman 
outside), and were as ready as the next man 
to turn an honest penny. 

Now Flanagan, being no fool, knew that no 
sane man — drunk or sober — would take upon 
himself the responsibility of John O'Hara un- 
less he was forced to, and bearing this in mind 
during the negotiations which followed, he 
used the threat of the magic letters " I.R.A." 
freely — pretending that he himself was a mem- 
ber of the dreaded Inner Circle. In the end, 
after much drink and a lot of hagghng, it was 
settled that the cars should be taken into the 
hotel yard for the night. 

Then, during the night, the poUceman' s body 
was to be removed to a hay-loft and buried 
secretly the foUowing night, under arrange- 
ments to be made by Flanagan, in a bog out- 
side the viUage, where several unfortunate 
Volunteers, who had fallen in an attack on 
the local poUce barracks, were buried. Mean- 
while the hotel boots, who was a carpenter 
by trade, would make ventilation holes in the 
coffin, and the " funeral " party would set off 
for Ballybor before daybreak. 

The last part of the negotiations resembled 



ON THE RUN. 25 

the selling of a horse at a fair, and the price 
he had to pay sobered Flanagan and nearly 
turned his hair white, — ^not one yard would 
they go with O'Hara until they got £100 ; but 
by now Flanagan was desperate, and if they 
had demanded £200 he would have paid it. 

At last all the details were settled, and 
Flanagan went home to warn O'Hara of his 
coming journey in the coffin : the thought 
that in a few hours he would be free of the 
man for good and all made life worth living 
again. 

But his joy was short-Uved. On entering 
the kitchen he found four long-haired young 
men making a hearty meal — more victims of 
British tyranny, all on the run for the murder 
of poUcemen — and his heart sank at the thought 
that there would probably be more to follow : 
in fact his house was being used as a clearing- 
house for all the " wanted " men of the adjoin- 
ing county. 

Flanagan woke up O'Hara, told him of the 
arrangements which had been made to get him 
to Ballybor, and added that four more men 
had just turned up, and that it failed him to 
know how to pass them on. O'Hara thought 
for a moment, and replied, " Sure it's easily 
known how — ^why wouldn't they do for the 
mourners ? " 

As soon as O'Hara was ready, and the 
young men could be persuaded to stop eating, 
the party set out for the hotel in order to 
get away before the mourners woke up. O'Hara 
took command, found out that one of his com- 



26 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

panions could drive a Ford, but that none of 
them had any idea of how to get to Ballybor, 
and told Flanagan that the driver of the coffin- 
car would have to go with them as a guide. 

On arrival at the hotel Flanagan roused the 
boots, O'Hara gave his instructions about the 
driver, and they then proceeded to the bed- 
rooms of the poteen-logged mourners, who 
offered no protest while O'Hara removed their 
topcoats and hats for his companions, Flanagan 
seizing the opportunity of transferring his £100 
from the sleeping chief mourner's trousers 
pocket to his own again. 

By the light of a guttering candle O'Hara 
was packed into the coffin, and in the dark- 
ness of a raw early morning the two cars 
pulled out of the hotel yard, and disappeared 
down the road which leads to Ballybor. Flana- 
gan, with a sigh of relief, wiped his forehead, 
and prayed that he might never see O'Hara 
in this world again, and went home feeling 
ten years younger, but determined not to be 
at home when the mourners got busy and 
came for an explanation. 

On the morning O'Hara left Ballyfrack in 
the coffin, Blake had motored to the town of 
Dunallen to see his County Inspector. On his 
way back, about fourteen miles from Ballybor, 
the road leads over a narrow bridge and up a 
steep hill with a sharp blind turn at the top. 

As Blake swung his car, all out, round this 
corner, he saw about fifty yards in front two 
Ford cars standing in the road, the leading 



ON THE RUN. 27 

car with a huge coffin tied across the body of 
the car, and round the other car a group of 
young men. PuUing up his car, he sounded 
his horn, as he had not room to pass, but with 
no effect. 

Blake, who was in mufti, had with him an 
orderly in plain clothes, and being in a hurry 
told him to go and tell the driver to go on. 
As the orderly returned, both cars started up 
and went on. Once started, they went as fast 
as Blake could wish, and for some miles the 
three cars kept close together until they reached 
a village about ten miles from Ballybor. 

Here the main road to Ballybor appears to 
carry straight on through the village, but this 
only leads into a cul-de-sac — ^what looks Hke 
a side road on the left of the main street being 
the Ballybor turning. The two strange cars 
passed the turning, while Blake, once round 
the corner, made for home at full speed. 

He thought no more of the cars, but after 
they had gone about a mile the orderly asked 
him if he had ever seen such a big coffin before. 
Blake repHed that he had not noticed the size 
of the coffin, and they both relapsed into 
silence again, Blake concentrating his atten- 
tion on getting back to Ballybor before dark. 

Meanwhile the orderly was thinking the 
matter out, and came to the conclusion that 
the coffin party was not above suspicion. At 
this time, when the railway strike was on in 
the west, it was not unusual to see a coffin 
on a car ; but, unless the coffin party be- 
longed to the village, they must be strangers 

B 



28 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

to the district, or they would not have run 
into the cul-de-sac. 

When about three miles from Ballybor they 
had a puncture, and just as Blake finished 
changing wheels, the cars of the coffin party 
drew up about fifty yards behind, and three 
men advanced towards them. Blake, who was 
still quite unsuspicious, thought that the men 
were going to ask him to let them pass, and at 
once started up his car and got in. 

The orderly, whose suspicions were now 
turned to certainties, drew his revolver, covered 
the advancing men, and called on them to 
halt ; whereupon the three men opened fire, 
and the orderly replied. 

Blake yelled to him to jump in, and as the 
man swung himself into the seat beside him, 
he let the car go, while the men on the road 
continued to fire. Luckily the light was by 
now nearly gone, and beyond a broken wind- 
screen they got away with a good start. 

It now developed into a race, Blake striving 
to reach the barracks for reinforcements to 
stop the funeral party before they could get 
clear of Ballybor, and the others to reach the 
first turning they came to off the main road. 

Blake switched on his lights and drove for 
his life, down hill as fast as the car would go 
and round corners on two wheels, with the 
result that in rounding one blind corner they 
nearly ran into a party of Auxiliary Cadets, 
whose Crossley had broken down. The Cadets 
naturally opened fire without asking any ques- 
tions — a car going that pace in the dusk on 



ON THE RUN. 29 

a country road in the west of Ireland nowa- 
days is asking for it — and again Blake and his 
orderly narrowly escaped being shot. 

Blake clapped on his brakes, yelled out 
" E/.I.C." ; the orderly held his hands high 
above his head, and the Auxiliaries gave them 
the benefit of the doubt. Luckily the leader 
of the Cadets recognised Blake, the situation 
was quickly explained, and they took cover 
on both sides of the road at the corner. 

Hardly were they in position when the 
coffin-car rounded the corner, and the Cadets 
opened fire ; but so great was the impetus of 
the car, and so bad the brakes, that it crashed 
into the rear of Blake's car, the coffin pitched 
on to the road, burst open, and out rolled a 
huge wild-looking man. 

The second car must have closed up with 
the leading one as the darkness came on, for 
no sooner had the first car crashed than the 
second one ran into it, overturned, and pinned 
the big man to the road ; whereupon Blake 
shouted hands up, but the men started to run 
back, and the Cadets at once opened fire. 

Three of them fell, but the fourth managed 
to get round the corner, and Blake sent two 
Cadets after him. The driver of the coffin-car 
had fallen clear, and, to avoid the Cadets' 
bullets, ran round the Crossley, straight into 
the driver's arms. 

As soon as the firing ceased, Blake made for 
the big man ; the Cadets lifted the car, and 
flashed a torch on his face. 

Only that morning Blake had been reading 



30 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

a full account of O'Hara, and had studied an 
excellent photograph of him, and as the electric 
light shone on the man's face, he realised the 
importance of the capture — the most-wanted 
man in the west. 

The Cadets rendered first aid to the three 
wounded men, while Blake handcuffed O'Hara 
and placed him in the back of his own car, 
telling his orderly to watch him closely, and 
to keep him covered with his revolver. In 
the meantime the two Cadets had returned, 
having failed to capture the fourth man. 

Blake was now most anxious to get O'Hara 
safely in the Ballybor Barracks, but nothing 
would induce the Crossley to start. At last, 
after an hour's delay, they got the engine 
going, and the whole party got under way, the 
Cadets taking the three wounded prisoners in 
the tender, and Blake, in his own car with 
his orderly, guarding O'Hara. 

The distance to Ballybor was short, but the 
delay had made Blake very uneasy, knowing 
that the local Volunteers would surely try and 
rescue O'Hara if they got word of his capture. 
Ahead of them was a thick wood on both sides 
of the road, and once past this the betting was 
in their favour. 

They started without Ughts, but when they 
reached the outskirts of the wood the darkness 
was so intense that the Crossley driver switched 
on his lights and tried to rush the place. Blake 
was forced to follow his example, or get left 
hopelessly behind. 

Faster and faster went the tender, bumping 



ON THE RUN. 31 

and skidding over the wet bog road, the lamps 
throwing a brilliant ring of white light in front 
of the car, the rest inky dark. When they 
had passed more than half-way through the 
wood, and Blake was beginning to think that 
they were safe, the Crossley suddenly began 
to pull up with a screech of brakes, drowned 
by a volley of shots from both sides of the 
wood. 

The driver kept his head, switched off his 
Hghts, and the dreadful fight started in the 
black darkness of the wood. Blake turned his 
lights off and started to back his car, but in 
the darkness and excitement ran her into the 
ditch at the side of the road, where she over- 
turned. 

He shot clear of the car, and on regaining 
the road reaUsed that at present it was useless 
to try and get away with his prisoner, so he 
shouted to his orderly to guard O'Hara until 
the fight was over, and went forward to help 
the Auxiharies. 

Blake found them Ipng down on each side 
of the road, firing at the flashes of the am- 
bushers' guns, while the leader and driver were 
struggUng to remove the barricade of timber 
and big stones across the road under a hail 
of bullets and shot. By this time a Cadet 
had got a Lewis gun into action, and at once 
sprayed the edge of the wood on each side of 
the road with a magazine. Promptly the 
ambushers' fire died down, and after two more 
heavy bursts of fire from the Lewis gun their 
fire ceased. The Cadets quickly switched on 



32 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

the lights of the Crossley, and started to clear 
away the barricade. 

Blake suddenly thought of O'Hara, and ran 
back to his car to find that he had completely 
vanished, the orderly lying pinned to the 
ground by the overturned car, unconscious. 

The only chance now of recapturing O'Hara 
was to push on to Ballybor as fast as possible, 
collect all the police available, and search the 
country round the scene of the ambush. With- 
out a motor it would be impossible for the 
fugitive to get far during the next few hours. 

But again the Crossley jibbed, and again a 
priceless hour or more was wasted before the 
barricade could be removed and the car in- 
duced to start. Nearly another hour was spent 
in reaching the barracks, getting out the men, 
and starting on the hunt. 

Until long after dawn they beat the country 
within a large radius of the fatal wood, using 
powerful acetylene lamps, but to no avail : 
neither in the open country nor in any village 
could they find any sign or get any tidings of 
the missing prisoner. 

As soon as the light was good, Blake climbed 
a tree on some high ground which overlooked 
the country, and searched in vain with a power- 
ful pair of Zeiss glasses. At last, thoroughly 
exhausted, the poHce returned to Ballybor, 
beaten. 

When Blake's car upset in the wood, O'Hara 
had the good luck to fall clear, and to roll 
into the ditch at the side of the road. Here 



ON THE RUN. 33 

he lay still for several minutes until he saw 
what move the orderly would make. When 
the shooting slackened for a few seconds he 
could distinctly hear the groans of the orderly 
pinned under the car, and at once realised 
that if he could only crawl into the wood he 
might be free again. 

With great difficulty he managed to drag 
himself out of the ditch and over the bank, 
only to find another and deeper ditch on the 
far side. Along this ditch he made his way 
until he judged that he must be close to the 
attackers ; then he wriggled into the wood, 
and lay down to await further developments. 

O'Hara was now afraid to go nearer to the 
ambushers, lest they should mistake him for a 
Cadet ; but before he could make up his mind 
what to do the firing died down, and he could 
hear the attackers retiring through the wood. 
Realising that his only hope lay with these 
men, he got up and rushed after them, being 
mistaken in the darkness and confusion for 
one of themselves. 

Once clear of the wood, O'Hara found him- 
self close to one of the attackers, and while 
they ran explained to him who he was, and 
learnt that the ambush had been organised in 
a village close to by the man who had escaped 
from the two Cadets. 

On reaching this village the handcuffs were 
soon filed off O'Hara's wrists, two bicycles 
provided, and in a few minutes he was on his 
way to Ballybor with a guide who took him 
along a byroad. It was essential if he was to 



34 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

catch the steamer the next day that he should 
hide that night in Ballybor, and the chances 
were that the pohce would never think of 
O'Hara hiding in the town, practically within 
the shadow of the police barracks. 

Owing to the delay in starting the Crossley, 
O'Hara and his guide were actually in Ballybor 
before the police : as they neared the turning 
to the barracks they could see the lights of 
the Crossley behind them. Passing through 
the town they made their way to the quay, 
where it was arranged that O'Hara should 
spend the night with a Volunteer called Devine, 
from whose house it was hoped that he would 
be able to pass on to the steamer next day 
in the company of the stoker. 

At this time the police, except in strong 
force, did not leave the barracks at night, and 
it was thought quite safe for O'Hara to remain 
in Devine' s house. After a change of clothes 
and some food, he retired to bed, hoping that 
his troubles were nearly over. 

Early the next morning Devine woke O'Hara 
up with the bad news that a picket of Cadets 
guarded the approach to the steamer, and 
that the game was up. On looking out of 
the window O'Hara could see a sentry with 
fixed bayonet on each side of the gangway, 
while others were resting in the small weighing- 
house on the quay-side. 

O'Hara, who a second before had been con- 
fident of escape, was in despair, and collapsed 
on the bed. After a few minutes he pulled 
himseK together, and on looking at Devine 



ON THE RUN. 35 

was at once struck by the sinister expression 
on the man's face. 

Remembering that there was a price of 
£1000 on his head, and from Devine's expres- 
sion there was no doubt that he also was 
thinking of this reward, without a second's 
hesitation O'Hara covered him with a big Colt 
automatic, and told him that if a way was 
not found to get him on to the steamer he 
would shoot him. Devine, knowing O'Hara' s 
reputation, and preferring his life to £1000, 
at once suggested a plan. 

The town of BaUybor lies about five miles 
up a river, and all outward-bound steamers 
drop the pilot in the bay at the mouth of the 
river, where he is rowed to the little fishing 
village of Dooncarra. The steamer was due 
to sail at high tide that afternoon, and Devine 
suggested that they should bicycle to Doon- 
carra, where there ought to be no difficulty 
in getting O'Hara aboard by the pilot-boat, as 
both the police barracks and coastguard station 
there had been burnt some time ago. 

After some breakfast they started off, bicy- 
cled boldly past the picket on the quay, and 
reached Dooncarra without any mishap, where 
Devine arranged for O'Hara to stay in a fisher- 
man's house until the pilot-boat left at dusk. 

O'Hara had never been to sea before, and 
was ill before he ever reached the steamer. 
As soon as he got aboard, a stoker, who had 
been warned by Devine to expect O'Hara on 
the pilot's boat, took charge of him, and at 
once put him into a bunk. 

b2 



36 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

That night the steamer ran into an Atlantic 
storm, and by the time they had made the 
north coast of Ireland, O'Hara was beyond 
caring whether he lived or died. 

Blake reported O'Hara' s escape to the au- 
thorities in Dublin, who were most anxious to 
secure the man, knowing he had been the ring- 
leader in the worst atrocities committed in the 
south recently. They at once came to the 
conclusion that O'Hara was trying to get away 
by boat from Ballybor to Liverpool and then 
on to America, hence the picket of Cadets on 
the quay ; but to make doubly sure they 
ordered an ocean-going destroyer to search the 
steamer from Ballybor at sea. 

After rounding the north of Ireland the 
steamer ran into smooth water, and O'Hara 
came on deck for a breath of fresh air. After 
a time he became interested in a queer-looking 
long grey steamer which was approaching them 
from the south, and very soon the queer boat 
came within hailing distance, and orders were 
megaphoned for the steamer to heave to. 

O'Hara was greatly interested in watching 
the progress of the destroyer boat, and it was 
not until a sergeant of the R.I.C. in plain 
clothes, who had known O'Hara in the south, 
covered him with a Webly and commanded 
him to put up his hands, that he realised that 
this interesting show was all for his benefit. 



37 



III. 

THE LANDING OF ARMS. 

It was the busy hour of the evening in Stephen 
Foy's pubHc-house in the small western town 
of Ballybor, and Larry O'Halloran, the bar- 
man, never ceased drawing corks and measuring 
out " half ones " of whisky for the endless flow 
of customers. 

Larry was a good example of a new type of 
Irishman which the Sinn Fein movement has 
produced — a type regarded with sorrow and 
amazement by the older generation, and at 
present unknown in England. Whatever faults 
an Irishman possessed, he always had the sav- 
ing virtues of wit and cheerfulness. 

Probably the British have been the last 
nation in the world to recognise the great 
value of clever propaganda, but there is no 
doubt that the originators of the Sinn Fein 
movement knew the great influence of judicious 
propaganda — they had efhcient instructors in 
the Boches — and wisely started at the begin- 
ning, that is, with the children at school, and 
the result is sadly apparent in the south and 
west of Ireland to-day in the hatred of the 



38 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

British Empire among the young people ; and 
so obsessed are they with this hatred that they 
have neglected to learn the good manners of 
their elders. 

While Larry's hands never ceased serving 
out drink, his brain — ^trained from childhood 
to one end only — never ceased running on one 
subject, how and when to obtain arms to 
defeat the British. Only the previous evening 
Larry had achieved the ambition of his young 
life, when he was elected captain by a large 
majority of the Volunteers in place of Patsey 
MulHgan, who had been tried by court-martial 
and executed for treachery to the Irish Repub- 
lican Army. 

Larry, in spite of his long hair and dreamy 
Celtic eyes, was no fool, and knew quite well 
that a battalion of Volunteers without arms 
was about as much use for fighting as a mob 
of old women with umbrellas, and that if ever 
they were to fight the British with any chance 
of success, they must have arms, and not only 
rifles, but machine-guns. 

Previous to this, by a system of raids at 
night, every known shot-gun in the district 
had been collected by the Volunteers ; but 
Larry realised that to send a Volunteer, armed 
with a single-barrel shot-gun, to fight a British 
infantryman armed with a magazine rifle, was 
only a good example of the old saying of send- 
ing a boy on a man's errand. 

While Larry was racking his brains how to 
obtain arms, a youth, obviously an American, 
walked in, accompanied by a strange country- 



THE LANDING OF ARMS. 39 

man, and proceeded to a small private room 
at the back of the house. But though Larry's 
thoughts were far away, trying to get Mausers 
in Germany, his eyes were busy in the pubUc- 
house, and as the couple disappeared into the 
room, he saw at once that the countryman's 
walk was the walk of a soldier. 

Larry knew the boy, Micky Fee, well. His 
father was a wealthy Irish- American, who, 
amongst other business, owned an arms factory 
in the States, and had refused the request of 
the Inner Brotherhood repeatedly to send arms 
to Ireland for the Volunteers. 

It was possible both to oversee and to over- 
hear what went on in the inner room. Larry 
saw the couple sitting there in close conversa- 
tion, and in a few minutes realised that the 
strange countryman was in reahty a British 
Secret Service agent, and that Micky, who had 
drink taken, was giving the man all the in- 
formation of the local Volunteers he could. 

It did not take Larry long to determine what 
course to take with the Secret Service agent, 
and he had decided on the same fate for Micky 
Fee, when he suddenly reahsed that his prayers 
had been answered. His quick brain began to 
work out how many rifles, machine-guns, auto- 
matics, and bombs Fee's father would value 
the life of his only child at ; the more he 
thought of it, the higher he made the figures. 

Micky had been on a visit to his grand- 
parents in Ballybor for some months past, and 
had taken an active interest in the Volunteers. 
About 2 A.M. the next morning there came a 



40 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

loud knock at the grandparents' house. When 
the old man opened the door he found himself 
looking into the muzzles of a ring of guns, and 
in a few minutes Master Micky left for an un- 
known destination. 

About a fortnight later Michael Fee and his 
wife received the shock of their lives when 
they opened their letters at breakfast one 
morning. Among Fee's was one bearing the 
Ballybor postmark, which stated briefly that 
his son had been tried by a court-martial of 
the I.R.A. on a charge of giving information 
to the enemy and condemned to death, and 
that the sentence would be duly carried out 
unless Michael Fee presented so many rifles, 
pistols, machine-guns, bombs, and ammuni- 
tion to the I.R.A. 

The letter also stated that Mr Fee's answer 
was to be sent to a named Sinn Fein agent in 
New York within seven days of the receipt of 
the letter, who would give him a time-limit for 
handing over the arms, and would also tell 
him where the arms were to be landed. A 
P.S. was added suggesting that Fee should 
bring the arms to Ireland in a yacht, and that 
he would be able to take his son back to the 
States in her. 

For many months the Irish papers had been 
full of accounts of men taken from their beds 
in the dead of night and executed outside their 
homes by armed and masked men ; also of 
the bodies of missing men being found in a 
field, days after they had disappeared, riddled 
with bullets. Some of the Irish newspapers 



THE LANDING OF ARMS. 41 

tried to throw the blame for these murders on 
the forces of the Crown by saying that the 
men wore " trench coats," but never adding 
that practically every young man in Ireland 
nowadays wears a so-called trench-coat. 

Fee knew that many of these murders were 
" executions " of men who had given informa- 
tion to the police, and the thought that one 
morning at breakfast he or his wife might 
open an Irish paper to read an account of the 
finding of their son's body riddled with bullets, 
caused him to break out into a cold sweat. 
Being a good business man, Fee made up his 
mind at once, and that evening found him in 
New York making arrangements with the Sinn 
Fein agent for the immediate shipment of the 
arms to Ireland. 

It's one thing to talk of smuggling arms into 
Ireland, but quite another story to accompHsh 
it. To the Irish peasant, who has never been 
outside his own country, it looks as easy as 
falling off a log ; but then he has no idea of 
the power of the British Navy, and the British 
Government does not take the trouble to in- 
form an Irish peasant that it has the finest 
navy in the world — he is supposed to know 
this, or to find it out for himself. 

When Fee asked the agent for his sugges- 
tions, the agent trotted out the usual stock 
dodges — packing rifles in piano-frames, S.A.A. 
in bags of flour, and more equaUy futile plans, 
and he quickly reaHsed that the man was a 
fool, so left him and retired to his room in the 
hotel to think out a plan for himself. 



42 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

For a long time he could think of nothing 
but the picture of his son's body lying in a 
vivid green field in his native land : he could 
even see the clothes Micky was wearing, and 
the dirty white handkerchief (he was quite 
sure it would be dirty) over his eyes. For 
hours his mind dwelt on this picture, but in 
the end he gained control over himself, and 
before he turned in his brain had evolved a 
sound plan of action, and with an Irishman's 
sanguine temperament he fell asleep, thinking 
that his boy was as good as at home already. 

The following morning Fee went to a big 
yacht agent, but found that he had only a 
steam yacht for charter. He explained that 
he wanted a motor yacht big enough to cross 
the Atlantic, and the man referred him to a 
firm of builders who had a yacht of this de- 
scription, which he beheved was on the verge 
of completion. 

Fee next made his way to the yard of these 
builders, where he found the yacht he was 
looking for, which had been built for a rich 
American who had recently died. He soon 
came to terms, and arranged with the builders 
for the addition of large extra oil-tanks, in 
order that the yacht would be able to make 
the double journey to Ireland and back with- 
out having to take in oil there. 

As soon as the yacht was ready for sea, 
Fee had large man-holes fitted to the extra 
oil-tanks, packed the arms inside them, and 
then filled up with oil. Within four weeks of 
the receipt of Larry O'Halloran's letter, Mr 



THE LANDING OF ARMS. 43 

and Mrs Fee sailed on their new motor yacht, 
the Colleen, for a pleasure trip to their native 
land of Ireland. 

The place chosen for the landing of the arms 
is one of the most beautiful places in the 
British Isles, and one of the least known. If 
you picture the wildest Norwegian fjord, and 
add square miles of mountain, cHffs, moors, 
bogs, lakes, and rivers, you may get some idea 
of the scenery. 

Before leaving America Fee cabled to his 
parents in Ballybor that he expected to be in 
Ireland on a certain date, knowing that the 
information would reach Larry through friends 
in the Post Office, and that he would take the 
necessary steps to meet the yacht at Errinane 
on that date, with the result that Larry passed 
the information on to the Volunteers in the 
Errinane district, and in a short time every 
coastguard station and police barracks within 
a twelve-mile radius of the landing-place was 
burnt. 

On a fine September day the M.Y. Colleen 
sighted the west coast of Ireland, and shortly 
afterwards made her way up the wonderful 
natural harbour which leads to the Httle fishing 
village of Errinane, where she dropped anchor 
and came to rest after her long voyage across 
the Atlantic. In a few minutes a boat left the 
quay, and Larry stepped aboard the yacht, 
and after explaining to the Fees that he had 
arrived in the district two days previously 
with their son Micky, insisted that the arms 



44 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

should be landed that night ; but Fee refused, 
on the grounds that the British Navy was 
bound to know of the yacht's arrival, and that 
if they attempted to land the arms that night 
they might be caught by a destroyer. 

A hot argument ensued — Larry, now that 
at last the arms were almost within his grasp, 
being mad keen to get them ashore at once. 
However, the argument was cut short by a 
shout from the deck that a destroyer was 
coming up the harbour, and Fee had great 
difficulty to induce Larry to leave the yacht. 

The destroyer came to an anchor within 
fifty yards of the Colleen, and Fee could see 
two machine-guns on the bridge trained to 
sweep the yacht's deck. Before the rattle of 
the anchor-chain had died away a boat was 
lowered, and in a few minutes a party of blue- 
jackets, headed by a lieutenant, came aboard 
the yacht. 

Fee explained to this officer that he was an 
Irishman living in America, and that he had 
come over on a visit to his parents. The 
officer examined the yacht's papers, and then 
gave orders to his men, who proceeded to 
search the yacht thoroughly : mattresses were 
opened, all panelhng taken down by ship- 
carpenters, floors lifted, luggage searched, and 
even the oil-tanks sounded, while the taps 
were turned on to see if they contained oil. 

After three hours' searching the sailors left 
the yacht, and within half an hour the destroyer 
put to sea. Hardly had she disappeared when 
Larry came aboard again, and as it was nearly 



THE LANDING OF ARMS. 45 

dark by now, he tried to insist on starting to 
land the arms, and again Fee refused. 

The yacht settled down for the night, but 
soon after midnight a powerful searchlight was 
flashed on to her, and' again the bluejackets 
came aboard and searched the yacht from top 
to bottom. Eventually they left, the search- 
light was turned off, and the destroyer could 
be heard putting out to sea. 

Larry's original plan had been to land the 
arms on the north side of the bay, and to 
hide them in some caves in the mountains, 
where French arms had been hidden during 
the rebelUon of 1798, then to await a favour- 
able opportunity to remove them to Ballybor. 
However, the night the destroyer left the local 
fishermen filled their boats with herrings, which 
Larry found had all been bought by the big 
shopkeeper in Errinane, who intended sending 
them to Ballybor Station the next morning in 
his three Ford trucks. Not daring to land the 
arms during the day, Larry commandeered the 
lorries, and as soon as it was dark landed the 
arms openly at Errinane quay, packed them 
in the largest fish-boxes he could find, and 
loaded the boxes on to the lorries, putting 
boxes of herrings on top. The arms once 
landed, he restored Micky to his parents on 
the yacht, and within haK an hour the re- 
united Fee family were on their way back to 
America. 

Not long after the yacht had started, the 
lorries left Errinane on the long run through 
the mountains to Ballybor. When about fifteen 



46 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

miles from Errinane, Larry halted his convoy 
in a mountain pass, in order to let one of the 
drivers repair a tyre. 

Hardly had they stopped when the lights 
of two cars were seen behind them, descending 
the road into the pass from the direction of 
Errinane. Larry knew at once that they could 
only be police cars, and must have been sent 
to Errinane on the suspicion that arms had 
been landed from the yacht. 

He at once got his lorries on the move, 
going in the last one himself, and in a few 
minutes could hear the hoot of the oncoming 
cars close behind. Ahead of them lay miles 
of narrow bog road, and as long as he kept 
the rear lorry in the middle of the road, 
the police cars would not be able to stop 
them. 

Soon he could hear shouts of halt, followed 
shortly afterwards by a volley of rifle bullets, 
but Larry and the driver were well protected 
by the boxes on the lorry. So they continued 
for about two miles, the poHce firing volley 
after volley at the lorry. 

So far so good ; but though Larry knew he 
could keep the poHce from overhauling them 
for several miles, yet he knew that in the end 
the pohce must defeat him, unless he could 
find some means of stopping them, and the 
only way to do this was by sacrificing the rear 
lorry. This he made up his mind to do, as the 
lorry only carried the bombs ; but the diffi- 
culty was to stop the police altogether. 

The idea which saved them came from the 



THE LANDING OF ARMS. 47 

driver, who knew every yard of the road, and 
reminded Larry that half a mile ahead of them 
there was an arched bridge over a mountain 
river, the very place to block the road. 

Larry chmbed out on the boxes, and with 
great difficulty extracted a bomb ; returning 
to the driving seat, they waited until the 
lorry was on the bridge, when they stopped 
the engine and started, to run for the lorry in 
front. When they had gone about twenty 
yards, Larry stopped, flung the bomb at the 
lorry on the bridge, and ran hke a hare. 

Luckily there was a steep rise beyond the 
bridge, and just as they reached the slow- 
moving lorry a flame of fire shot up from the 
bridge followed by a deafening explosion. They 
learnt afterwards that the bridge was completely 
wrecked, the leading police car badly damaged, 
and that the pohce took three hours to return 
to Errinane, having to back their cars for 
several miles before they could turn. 

The original plan was to hide the arms in 
a saw-mill in Ballybor, owned by a notorious 
loyahst, which fact would divert all suspicion 
from the mill ; but Larry knew that after the 
encounter with the poHce the hue-and-cry 
would be up, and that the Auxiharies would 
search every rat-hole in Ballybor before many 
hours were past. 

On reaching Ballybor in the early hours they 
proceeded to the mill, which was situated on 
the bank of the river, and at once unloaded ; 
but instead of hiding the arms there Larry 
ordered the men to carry them straight to the 



48 TALES OF THE R.LC. 

water's edge, and then sent them to collect 
boats and also fishing tackle. 

Within an hour six boats containing the arms 
went down the river, and half an hour after- 
wards the town was surrounded and searched 
through and through by Auxiliary Cadets who 
had concentrated on the place from three 
different points — ^their only bag being the un- 
fortunate lorry drivers. 

Some three miles below Ballybor there stand 
on the bank of the river the ruins of a fine 
old Franciscan Abbey, in the vaults of which 
the arms were safely hidden. Afterwards Larry 
and his men spent the morning fishing for sea- 
trout towards the estuary, returning to Bally- 
bor in the afternoon, hungry and worn-out, to 
fall into the hands of the Auxiliaries, who 
commandeered their fish and then let them 
go home. 

After the murder of Patsey MulHgan the 
district of Ballybor was comparatively free 
from outrages for several months, and Blake, 
the D.I., began to think that his troubles 
were over ; but very shortly after Larry had 
successfully run his cargo of American arms 
Blake was undeceived, and in a short time 
the district became one of the worst in the 
west. 

Success made Larry bolder, and further suc- 
cess made him rash. Being miles from a road, 
the old abbey was a most inconvenient place 
to keep the arms, and he determined to bring 
them to the mill in Ballybor. 



THE LANDING OF ARMS. 49 

Bennett, the owner, had a house alongside 
the mill, and another house some miles out in 
the country, where he was in the habit of 
going from Saturday until Monday morning, 
when the mill house used to be locked up. 

Larry arranged another fishing expedition on 
a Saturday afternoon, and when it was dark 
they transferred the arms from the abbey to 
the mill, hiding them under piles of sawdust 
in the cellars below the saw-benches. It was 
then decided to make an assault on the Bally- 
bor pohce barracks the following night, and 
to wipe out the poHce for good and aU. 

But this time his luck was out. On Sunday 
afternoon Bennett suddenly made up his mind 
to return to Ballybor, and motored there in 
the afternoon with his eldest son. After tea 
his son took a walk over the mill, and to his 
surprise found a brand-new American repeat- 
ing-rifle in the clerk's office : his father went 
at once to the pohce barracks to inform Blake 
of the discovery, who arranged to make a raid 
on the mill as soon as it was dark. 

Blake had settled to take the arms, if found 
in the mill, straight off to the nearest mihtary 
barracks, and to this end left the barracks 
with a strong force in two Crossleys. They 
went for some distance towards Grouse Lodge 
Barracks, turned off at a cross-roads, and made 
their way back to Ballybor, arriving at the 
mill by the time it was dark. 

Leaving the cars about a hundred yards 
from the mill, Blake walked on to the entrance 
with a sergeant and a constable, and as they 



50 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

drew near, to their surprise they saw that the 
mill was lit up. Telling his men to wait, Blake 
advanced to the door, which led into the 
machinery buildings, and on peeping in saw 
that the place was full of masked men in a 
queue, being served out with rifles from the 
clerk's office. 

Blake saw that he must act quickly, but 
that by the time he could bring up his men 
all the masked men would be armed, so he 
determined on a ruse. In a loud voice he 
shouted out, " God save us, here are the Black 
and Tans ; run, boys, for your Uves," and at 
the same time opened fire. 

The magic words " Black and Tan " have 
the same effect on an Irish crowd as the name 
of Cromwell had during a previous period of 
Irish history, and a wild stampede ensued in 
the mill, the final touch being added by some 
one switching off the electric fights. As soon 
as Blake saw the effects of his words he dashed 
in to try and secure a prisoner, and managed 
to seize a man near the entrance, and hold 
him until his men, alarmed by the shots, 
arrived hurriedly on the scene. 

By the aid of electric torches the pofice 
quickly collected the arms which the Volun- 
teers had thrown away in their panic, and a 
constable having gone to fetch the cars, they 
were stowed in, and in a short time were on 
their long journey to the mifitary barracks. 

Larry stampeded with the rest of the men 
in the mill, but once outside he pulled himself 
together, and determined to make an effort to 



THE LANDING OF ARMS. 51 

regain his beloved arms. Guessing that the 
police would be fully occupied removing the 
arms, he made his way back along the dark 
streets to the mill, and saw the cars drive off. 

Part of the preparations for assaulting the 
barracks had been to block all roads along 
which help could come to the barracks ; and, 
as Larry expected, after some time the cars 
returned to the barracks, being unable to pro- 
ceed in any direction owing to deep trenches 
cut across the roads. 

As soon as Larry had seen the cars return, 
he collected three of his best men, comman- 
deered a car in the name of the I.R.A. — at 
this time in many parts of Ireland a harmless 
citizen stood an excellent chance of having his 
car taken by the mihtary on a Monday, by 
the poHce on Tuesday, by the Auxiliaries on 
Wednesday, and by the I.R.A. for the rest of 
the week — and drove straight to the Cloonalla 
district, through which he knew that Blake 
would have to pass the next day on his way 
to the nearest military barracks. They took 
shovels with them, and soon had the trench 
across the road filled in, and made their way 
to the house of a local Volunteer. 

That night Larry w^orked like a man pos- 
sessed, and by daybreak had an ambuscade 
prepared for Blake at a point where the road, 
following the shore of a large lake, runs under 
an overhanging rock, and then turns sharp to 
the west. Beyond the bend they cut the usual 
trench, and above on the rock erected loop- 
holed walls of stone and sods, and here they 



52 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

waited, armed with every shot-gun, pistol, and 
home-made bomb which the district could 
produce. 

That night Blake spent an anxious time in 
his small barrack-room, his ears straining for 
the sound of the first shot of the expected 
attack, and his brain striving to work out the 
problem of how to get the arms into safe 
keeping. After a time he tried to attend to 
some routine work, but soon gave it up as 
hopeless. 

Leaning back in his chair he Ht a cigarette. 
At that moment his eye was arrested by a 
large photograph of the notorious John O'Hara 
over the fireplace, and he began to think of 
how the man had tricked him by getting away 
by sea, while the police were hunting the 
countryside for him. From O'Hara's photo- 
graph his eye wandered to a brightly-printed 
card hanging on the wall, with a drawing of 
a steamer on the top. 

For some time he read the letterpress of the 
card without having any idea of what it meant ; 
then in a flash he realised that the problem 
was solved. At high tide the next morning 
the s.s. Cockatoo would sail from the port of 
Ballybor for Liverpool, and if O'Hara had 
tricked him by the sea, then he could trick 
Larry O'Halloran by the same means. 

The following morning, a quarter of an hour 
before the Cockatoo was due to sail, two Cross- 
leys dashed on to the quay, and before the 
usual crowd of quay loafers knew what was 
happening, they were outside the yard gate. 



THE LANDING OF ARMS. 53 

and a strong guard of police with rifles at the 
ready had surrounded the gangway to the 
steamer. In a few minutes more the arms 
were all aboard the boat, stacked in an empty 
passenger saloon, guarded by police, and two 
minutes after Blake had given the captain his 
instructions, the Cockatoo was on her way 
down the river for England. 



54 



IV. 

THE RED CROSS. 

An Englishman who has Uved in Ireland for 
any length of time, knows that rivalry in 
religion and politics not only divides parts of 
Ireland, but even causes divisions in famiHes. 
At one time recently things had reached such 
a state of passion that an Irish soldier or 
pohceman who visited his home in the south 
or west was liable to find the door of his home 
shut in his face, and even to lose his Hfe. 

In a small town in the west of Ireland — ^in 
England you would call the place a village — 
there lived some years ago a shopkeeper named 
John Dempsey, a steady hard-working man, 
who left politics alone and attended to his own 
business. In due course Dempsey married and 
had three children — two boys, Patrick and 
William, and a daughter. Sheila. 

The children were educated at the national 
school, and as soon as their minds were cap- 
able of understanding anything, the wicked and 
stupid policy of hatred of and revenge on 
England was drummed into their ears week by 
week, month by month, and year by year. 



THE RED CROSS. 55 

until the English appeared to their childish 
imaginations to be the greatest monsters of 
brutaUty in the world. 

After the late war started, not before, the 
British newspapers and magazines impressed 
upon us the thoroughness of the German pre- 
parations for this war, and amongst other 
things, of how the present generation had had 
instilled into their minds from early childhood 
a hatred of the British by every schoolmaster 
and learned professor in Germany. For years 
past this German method has been carried on 
in Ireland, Irish national school teachers pre- 
paring the present generation of young men 
and women for the present Sinn Fein move- 
ment. 

You have in England a saying that a Uttle 
knowledge is a dangerous thing, which apphes 
very well to many national school teachers in 
the west and south of Ireland, who, though 
they can tell you of every wrong which Eng- 
land has inflicted on Ireland during the last 
three hundred years, yet know nothing of the 
greatness and power for good of the British 
Empire ; nor do they reahse the vast benefits 
which Ireland reaps as a partner of the Empire. 

As time went on John Dempsey made and 
saved much money on porter, eggs, and other 
things, and as the boys appeared to be clever 
and anxious to get on in the world, he decided 
that they should complete their education in 
DubHn, Patrick eventually to become a doctor, 
and WiUiam to enter the priesthood ; but as 
soon as the father announced his intentions, 



56 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

Sheila, who had never been separated from 
her brothers, implored that she might go with 
them and become a hospital nurse. 

In the end the old man gave way and the 
three children went to Dublin, where Patrick 
duly qualified as a doctor. Sheila became a 
nurse in one of the hospitals there, but William 
did not become a priest. 

When the brothers and sister first went to 
Dublin, Sinn Fein was rapidly becoming the 
great party of the Celts in Ireland, and every 
young man and woman was pressed hard to 
join. Patrick and Sheila joined eagerly, but 
William refused, and the idea of becoming a 
priest being now distasteful to him, he joined 
the R.I.C, to the bitter resentment of his 
brother and sister, who refused even to see him. 

During the summer of 1919 the two brothers 
and sister met again at home. Sheila on her 
summer hohdays, Patrick waiting for an ap- 
pointment, and William, who was now stationed 
at the neighbouring town of Ballybor, on leave. 
At first the other two resented the presence of 
William, and there were bitter and passionate 
political arguments at every meal ; but after 
a time their natural kindliness prevailed, and 
the three became nearly as great pals as for- 
merly, but the shadow of William's uniform 
seemed always to come between them. 

Sheila was the first to go back. A letter 
from her matron came one morning asking if 
she would care to go abroad, to take entire 
charge of a patient who had been ordered to 
live in Switzerland by the doctors. She did 



THE RED CROSS. 57 

not wait to answer, but returned to Dublin 
that day, lest she should be too late. 

Patrick and WilUam were at this time typical 
of the two parties into which the people of the 
greater part of Ireland were divided — in plain 
language, Patrick was a rebel and William a 
loyalist ! And though the loyalist party was 
very small in comparison to the other, yet it 
would never have been so small if proper sup- 
port from the Government had been forth- 
coming at the right time, but would have grown 
larger and larger as the outrages increased, and 
the decent elements of the population ranged 
themselves on the side of law and order. 

During his time in DubHn, Patrick, young 
and enthusiastic, had become deeply involved 
in the Sinn Fein movement, and when one day 
he found himself bound hand and foot to a 
policy of outrage and murder, he made strong 
efforts to regain his freedom, but was quickly 
made to realise that he now belonged, body 
and soul, to Sinn Fein. 

No sooner had Sheila gone than the two 
brothers began to quarrel — ^to end in hot and 
bitter words at supper one night, when Wilham 
left the table and returned at once to Ballybor. 
A few days afterwards Patrick received an 
order from Dublin to report at once to the 
Sinn Fein H.Q.'s there, and though he would 
have liked to refuse, he dared not. 

On arrival in DubHn, Patrick duly reported 
at H.Q.'s, and there learnt that he had been 
chosen for a most unpleasant job. About this 
time, after their signal initial successes, the 



58 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

I.R.A. were endeavouring to organise a force 
which would entirely wipe out the police, or at 
any rate reduce them to complete impotence. 

To this end the General Staff of the I.R.A. 
were determined to leave no stone unturned 
to achieve success in the ambuscades of patrols 
and attacks on barracks. During the pre- 
Hminary attacks the rebels had lost heavily 
through lack of medical care, and it was now 
determined that a doctor should attend all 
ambuscades and attacks. 

Funds were plentiful, and in a few days 
Patrick found himseK set up as a practising 
doctor in a large house in Dublin, and it was 
arranged that, when an attack was to take 
place in a certain district, he should receive a 
wire calling him to hold a consultation in a 
district close by. They suppHed him with a 
good car, there were no restrictions on the 
movements of doctors, so that the busy young 
Dublin doctor, hurrying to the sick-bed of a 
country patient, excited no suspicion. 

The plan was quite simple, and worked 
smoothly. An ambuscade would be arranged 
at H.Q.'s in Dublin to take place at a certain 
point where it was known that a poUce patrol 
passed. The day before Patrick would receive 
his wire, and early the next morning would 
leave Dublin for the scene of operations. When 
within a short distance of the attack he would 
stop his car, and remain there until the fight 
was over, attend to the wounded, and after- 
wards return to Dubhn. 

On two occasions he was surprised by relief 



THE BED CROSS. 59 

parties of military, but each time he was able 
to explain his presence — ^that it was a mere 
chance that he happened to be passing, and 
that his professional instincts were at once 
aroused by the sight of the wounded men. 

In the case of an attack on police barracks 
the procedure was somewhat different. Some 
days before Patrick would receive his usual 
wire — never from the place where the attack 
was to take place, but from a neighbouring 
town — and at the same time would receive 
instructions in DubHn of the time and place 
of the attack. 

On arriving at the place of attack he would 
put up at the best hotel, giving out that he 
had come to attend a consultation in the town, 
from which the wire had been sent. After a 
talk with the local Volunteer captain, a house 
would be decided on as a temporary hospital, 
to which the wounded would be taken, and 
after the attack Patrick would simply dis- 
appear. 

At first the danger and excitement appealed 
to his high-strung temperament, but soon the 
novelty wore off, and he saw that there could 
only be one end for him — exposure and pro- 
fessional ruin, if not a long term of imprison- 
ment. In vain he asked to be allowed to 
resume his profession, but he might as well 
have begged for mercy from the Inquisition 
of old. 

One evening, on his return from an ambus- 
cade, Patrick found a wire from Sheila, saying 
that her patient had suddenly died in Switzer- 

c 



60 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

land, and that she was crossing to DubUn that 
night. The next morning she arrived, radiant 
with health, and eager for news. 

Under her patient's will Sheila received a 
legacy of about £2000 and a car, which was 
stored in a Dublin garage, and now she was 
free to devote herself to the cause of Ireland's 
freedom. On hearing of Patrick's occupation, 
she at once determined to join him, 

Patrick was devoted to his sister, and tried 
hard to put the idea out of her head, but in 
the end had to give way. That very day she 
made him take her to H.Q.'s, where she offered 
the services of herself and car to the I.R.A. 

Owing to an insufficient number of rifles for 
ambuscades and attacks on a large scale all 
over the country, the General Staff had decided 
to collect rifles in Dubhn and send them down 
to the scenes of attacks in cars. Sheila's offer 
coincided with this decision, and to Patrick's 
horror he and Sheila received orders to attend 
attacks, and also to carry the rifles and am- 
munition. 

The car was found to be a large touring car, 
to which a false bottom was fitted to take 
rifles, whilst further false bottoms under the 
seats gave sufficient room to hide revolvers, 
and a dummy space which was packed with 
S.A.A. Sheila had large red crosses painted 
on the lamps and wind-screen, and the camou- 
flage was complete. 

For months the brother and sister — Patrick 
looking a typical young doctor, and Sheila 
dressed as a hospital nurse — carried arms and 



THE RED CROSS. 61 

first aid to ambuscades throughout the south 
and west, and not the sHghtest suspicion ap- 
pears to have been aroused in the minds of 
the authorities. Sheila thoroughly enjoyed the 
excitement, and soon became known as the 
Florence Nightingale of the I.R.A. 

One day there came a wire from home that 
their mother was dangerously ill, and begging 
them to go to her at once. Patrick knew that 
if they asked leave to go, their taskmasters 
would refuse, and so decided to take " French 
leave." 

WilHam had also been sent for, and again 
the two brothers and sister met. After a few 
days their mother took a turn for the better, 
but Patrick, who dreaded returning to DubUn, 
insisted on staying, in spite of Sheila's urgings 
to get back to their work. 

Soon after their mother was out of danger 
Sheila received an invitation to a dance at a 
large farmhouse about two miles away, and 
drove there in the car, resplendent in a Paris 
evening dress. Patrick and William refused to 
go, the former making the excuse that he did 
not Uke to leave his mother, the latter because 
he knew that the presence of a pohceman would 
break up the dance. 

That evening, after it was dark, WilHam 
walked across the fields to see an old school 
friend, one of the few men in the district who 
would speak to him at all, and then only at 
night in his own house. When William left, 
this man warned him that Knockbrack Wood 
would not be a healthy place for the next few 



62 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

days, but when pressed for an explanation 
would say no more. 

When William reached home he learnt from 
his father that during his absence a stranger 
had called for Patrick, and that soon after- 
wards the two had left hurriedly to fetch 
Sheila, Patrick saying that he would have to 
return to Dubhn that night by car. 

Old Dempsey seemed much upset, and after 
the warning received that night Wilham's sus- 
picions were aroused. As soon as supper was 
over he retired to bed, or rather to wait in 
his room until the house was quiet, when he 
meant to bicycle back to Ballybor. 

William had not been in his room more than 
ten minutes when he heard Sheila's car drive 
up, and the front door open and shut. Then 
he heard Sheila come upstairs to her bedroom, 
followed by Patrick and strange footsteps, and 
then the closing of Patrick's door. 

The bedrooms of the two brothers were 
separated by a thin partition, and WilUam 
managed to overhear enough of their con- 
versation to make out that there was to be 
an ambuscade in Knockbrack Wood on Wed- 
nesday night (this being Monday), and that 
Patrick was returning at once to Dubhn. 

WiUiam lay as still as a mouse, hoping that 
Patrick and Sheila would not reahse that he 
was in the house, and in their hurry forget 
about him. He could tell from the tone of 
his brother's voice that he was not for it, but 
further conversation was cut short by Sheila 
calling out that she was ready to start. 



THE RED CROSS. 63 

Shortly afterwards William heard the three 
leaving the house and the car go off in the 
direction of DubUn. He waited for a few 
minutes to give the stranger time to get well 
away, then got out his bicycle, and with his 
revolver ready in his right hand, started off 
for Ballybor. 

While Wilham was riding for dear Hfe to 
Ballybor, Sheila and Patrick were tearing across 
Ireland to fetch the arms for the ambuscade. 
They reached Dublin without any trouble, had 
a short rest and a meal, collected the arms from 
the secret hiding-place, and then started off on 
the return journey by a different route. 

By previous arrangement they were met out- 
side the town after dark by the local Volunteer 
captain and a party of men, who took over the 
arms from them, when they drove on home. 
Owing to the fact that they had left and re- 
turned at night, no one in the town had any 
idea that they had been away. 

For some weeks past the police had been 
bringing tremendous pressure to bear on the 
rebels throughout the south and west, which 
pressure corresponded with the appointment of 
a new Inspector-General of the R.I.C. So 
strong was the pressure growing that the rebel 
staff were afraid of a collapse, and when their 
secret service learnt that the I.G. would be 
motoring to Ballybor on this particular Wed- 
nesday night, they determined to ambush him 
in Knockbrack Wood, and to kill him at all 
costs. 
[^Knockbrack Wood Hes along both sides of 



64 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

a main road for a distance of about a mile 
and a half, and in the middle the road makes 
a sharp bend to avoid a huge granite rock 
which towers above the trees and makes this 
corner quite bhnd. On the far side of this 
bend from the direction of Ballybor the road 
rises suddenly, so that a car going towards 
that place would be likely to approach the 
bend at a good pace, and be unable to avoid 
an obstacle or trench just round the corner. 

Here it was settled to make the attempt on 
the I.G.'s Ufe, and on the Wednesday the local 
Volunteers, under the direction of staff officers 
from Dublin, started to make the preparations. 
By dark all was complete, except to cut a 
trench across the road, and a large party of 
Volunteers had taken up positions on each side 
of the road at the bend. 

It was expected that the I.G.'s car would be 
wrecked, or at any rate brought to a stand- 
still, just beneath the big rock, on the top of 
which there was a bombing post, with orders 
to drop a flare as soon as the car was below, 
to enable the riflemen to aim in the dark, and 
to follow up the flare with a shower of bombs. 

Patrick and Sheila waited until it was nearly 
dark, when they motored to Knockbrack Wood, 
leaving the car up a narrow lane in the wood, 
about a hundred yards from the big rock on 
the Ballybor side. They then retired to a safe 
distance to await events. 

After several hours of waiting they left the 
wood and walked up and down the road to 
Ballybor, as by this time they were half frozen 



THE RED CROSS. 65 

with cold. Shortly afterwards they were joined 
by the Volunteer captain, and as it would soon 
be daylight, Patrick suggested to him that the 
men should be sent home. 

The Volunteer captain was a stupid fellow, 
and further, he resented any suggestion as to 
what he should do from Patrick ; and the 
three of them — Sheila, Patrick, and the cap- 
tain — began a heated argument in the middle 
of the road : the captain argued that an order 
was an order, and that he would keep his men 
there until the next night if necessary, or even 
longer. 

Patrick saw the mistake he had made, 
shrugged his shoulders, and started to return 
to the car with Sheila. 

Now their whole attention had been centred 
on the direction from which the I.G.'s car was 
expected to come, and the last thing they 
expected was a counter-attack from the direc- 
tion of Ballybor ; but as Patrick and Sheila 
turned to leave the Volunteer captain, they 
found themselves covered by a party of R.I.C., 
with Blake at their head, and at the same time 
heavy firing burst out in the wood on both 
sides of the road. 

Patrick and Sheila had no alternative but 
to put up their hands, but the Volunteer cap- 
tain tried to escape, and was promptly shot 
by a constable. Blake asked what they were 
doing at such an hour on the highroad, and 
Patrick was starting his usual story of how 
he and his sister were on their way from DubUn 
to attend an urgent case in the country, but 



66 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

when he caught sight of his brother WiUiam 
standing behind Blake, he faltered and re- 
mained dumb. 

Before Blake could ask any more questions 
they had to jump to one side to avoid a Cross- 
ley full of AuxiHaries, which dashed past, and 
stopped a few yards beyond them, the Cadets 
at once jumping out and taking up positions 
on each side of the car with Lewis guns trained 
to sweep the road as far as the big rock. 
Blake, after ordering William and a constable 
to take Patrick and Sheila down the Ballybor 
road out of the line of fire until he could deal 
with them, took command of the AuxiHaries, 
and waited for the action to develop. 

By this time it was daylight, and the police, 
who had worked round the flanks of the am- 
bushers, began to make it pretty hot for the 
men in the trenches. Now it is one thing to 
shoot an unfortunate policeman perched up in 
a stationary lorry in the middle of the road, 
and quite a different story when the policeman 
starts to shoot you in the back from behind 
a tree, and very soon the Volunteers broke 
from their trenches and started to stream down 
the Ballybor road. 

There was a momentary lull in the firing, 
broken by two hurricane bursts of fire from 
the Cadets' Lewis guns, and the Volunteers fell 
in little heaps on the grey limestone road ; the 
remainder hesitated, and then ran for their 
trenches, to be met by a hail of bullets from 
the police, who had taken up positions com- 
manding the trenches while the Volunteers 



THE RED CROSS. 67 

were trjdng to escape by the road. Again 
they tried to escape along the road, and again 
the Lewis guns spat out a magazine of bullets 
whilst a man could count five, the noise of 
the guns being intensified by the dead wall of 
trees. 

The few Volunteers now left threw down 
their arms, put up their hands, and the fight 
was over. 

In the meantime WilHam had taken his 
brother and sister down the Ballybor road 
until they came to the lane where the car 
was, and here he told them to wait. After a 
few minutes Sheila asked him to send the 
constable out of hearing, as she wished to 
talk to him. 

After the constable had retired up the lane 
there was a terrible silence for several minutes. 
Patrick and Sheila both reahsed too late that 
William must have been in the house when 
they started on their journey to Dubhn for 
the arms, and that he must have gone straight 
to Ballybor to warn the police of the impend- 
ing ambuscade. They knew that, even if they 
were not sentenced to death, they could not 
escape a long term of imprisonment, and that 
they had been betrayed by their own brother, 
but would not — or could not — ^reaHse that 
William had only done his duty. 

Suddenly Sheila burst into a passionate de- 
nouncement of WiUiam's treachery to his 
country and his own flesh and blood, to be 
stopped by Patrick with great difficulty, who, 
controlling his rising passion and terror by a 

c2 



68 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

great effort, implored William for their mother's 
sake to let them escape while there was yet 
time. At any rate to let Sheila go — surely 
the British Government did not wage war on 
women. 

Poor William was torn between love for his 
brother and sister and his duty to his King. 
In those short moments he went through the 
agony of hell, knowing well that if he refused 
to let them escape he would carry for the 
rest of his life the brand of Cain ; on the 
other hand, if he let them go he would not 
only be betrapng his King, but also he would 
ruin his own career, and probably Blake's as 
well. 

To Wilham's great credit be it said, his 
sense of duty prevailed, and he refused to let 
them go ; and to his great relief the unhappy 
scene was cut short by the sudden appearance 
of Blake. 

Shortly afterwards the constable returned, 
and reported to Blake that he had found a 
Red Cross car up the lane. Blake gave orders 
for the car to be brought on to the highroad, 
and after collecting his men, started for Bally- 
bor with Patrick and Sheila prisoners in their 
own car. 



69 



V. 

THE R.M. 

Since the period of Charles Lever, no book of 
Irish Hfe has equalled ' Some Experiences of 
an Irish R.M.' in successfully portraying the 
character or " chat " of the true western 
peasant ; but, at the same time, this book 
only shows the social side of a Resident Magis- 
trate's life, and hardly does justice to his work 
in the wild parts of the south and west. 

And of recent years the life led by Resident 
Magistrates has become more and more dan- 
gerous as the country became more and more 
unsettled. A D.I. can always take an escort 
with him, also he can go where and when he 
pleases ; but an R.M. has to drive alone about 
the country, and, moreover, every one knows 
that at a certain hour on a certain day the 
R.M. will drive to a certain Petty Sessions 
Court, and after the Court is over he must 
drive home, though possibly by a different 
road. It is one thing to face death with half 
a score of rifles at your back, and quite a 
different tale unarmed and alone. 

Soon after Blake came to Ballybor, the 



70 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

R.M. stationed there retired on pension, and 
in his place there came a young man, Anthony 
Mayne, who had served with distinction in an 
Irish regiment during the war. Being un- 
married, Majnie took up his quarters in a small 
hotel close to the poUce barracks, and in a 
short time struck up a friendship with Blake. 

In addition to attending at Ballybor Petty 
Sessions once a week, Majme had to go to 
several other small towns twice a month. The 
district was very large, chiefly wild mountain- 
ous country, and some of the places were 
many miles from Ballybor, one place in par- 
ticular, Ball5a'ick, being over thirty miles away 
on the shores of the Atlantic. 

The first Court which Mayne attended hap- 
pened to be at Balljrrick, probably one of the 
wildest and most thinly populated districts in 
Ireland. Soon after leaving Ballybor the road 
crossed a railway Hne by a level crossing close 
to the sea, and then ran for many miles be- 
tween the sea and a chain of mountains to the 
small seaside town of Balljrrick. 

Mayne found that the people of this district 
were a race of small men ; they looked as 
though the terrific Atlantic gales had stunted 
them in the same way as the trees are stunted 
on this coast, and, moreover, their faces were 
not pleasing. During his first Court here the 
nature of the cases showed plainly that the chief 
amusement of the peasants was to beat and 
batter each other on all opportunities, especially 
on dark nights after a fair, and the distillation 
of illicit whisky their chief occupation. 



THE KM. 71 

In Ireland the penalty for harbouring, keep- 
ing, or conceaHng a still or illicit spirits is 
£100, which can be mitigated to £6, luckily 
no lower ; and from time immemorial the 
custom of the shopkeeper class of magistrate 
has always been to reduce every fine to the 
minimum, with the natural result that the 
peasants have come to regard the £6 fine as 
the legal penalty for the bad luck of being 
caught by the pohce. £6 is a mere fraction 
of the profits of a successful brew of poteen, 
and is looked upon in the fight of a tax paid 
to the Government. 

In one case a man was caught red-handed 
by the police with fourteen barrels of treacle, 
200 gallons of wash, a complete still, and 
enough poteen to stock a fair-sized pubfic- 
house. The man brought the £6 into Court 
with him, being certain he would be convicted 
and fined the usual amount. 

But Mayne, the only magistrate on the bench, 
took a very serious view of the case, knowing 
the amount of crime and misery caused by this 
abominable drink, and fined the man £50. 

Such a sentence had never been heard in 
Ballyrick Court-house within the memory of 
man ; even the police received a shock, and 
a noise resembhng a swarm of angry bees arose 
to defy the shouts of the police for silence and 
order. That evening, when Mayne returned to 
Ballybor, he was followed by a poHce car for 
many miles, but the peasants had not had 
time to organise their revenge. 

About this time the magistrates of the dis- 



72 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

trict received letters from the I.R.A. calling 
upon them to resign their Commissions of the 
Peace, and giving them a time limit. The 
shopkeeper and farmer class, being threatened 
with that savage scourge in Ireland, a boycott, 
had no alternative but to resign, which they 
did at once with great promptness and una- 
nimity. In most cases the gentry hung on to 
their commissions, but refrained from appear- 
ing on the Bench at a time when their presence 
might have made all the difference. 

Very soon the Sinn Fein Courts in the Bally- 
bor district were in full swing ; the country 
people received orders not to appear at a 
Petty Sessions Court, and in a very short time 
every Petty Sessions clerk found himself com- 
pletely idle. However, as a matter of form, 
Mayne attended every Court regularly, though 
the only people present were the police, the 
clerk, and himself, and their only work to say 
good-day to each other. 

By now all the magistrates in the district 
had either resigned or feared to attend, and 
if only the R.M. could be frightened out of 
the country or removed, all Petty Sessions 
Courts would be closed, and the King's Writ 
would cease to run in the country both figu- 
ratively and in reality. With this end in view, 
the Volunteers began to send threatening 
letters to Mayne, and on two occasions he was 
fired at when motoring back from holding 
Courts in outlying towns. 

However, Mayne was made of the right stuff, 
and determined that as long as he was alive 



THE R.M. 73 

the usual Courts should be held throughout his 
district, no matter whether the people brought 
their cases to the King's Courts or to the Sinn 
Fein Courts, which were generally held the day 
before a Petty Sessions Court was due in a 
town ; and in order to provide cases he ar- 
ranged with Blake to carry out a poteen raid 
on a large scale in the Ball3n?ick district, and 
that the cases should be tried at the next 
Court there. Blake duly carried out the raid, 
which was most successful, and the defendants 
were summoned to appear in Court, with the 
threat of arrest held over their heads if they 
did not turn up. 

On the day of the Balljn^ick Court Majme 
set out, alone as usual, on his long drive about 
9.45 A.M., and on reaching the level crossing 
found the gates closed, though no train was 
due to pass for several hours. After sounding 
his horn in vain, he went to open them him- 
self, only to find that both gates were heavily 
padlocked. 

He then made his way to the crossing- 
keeper's house, which was about fifty yards 
up the line. The man's wife, who was the 
only occupant of the house, told him that the 
gates had been locked that morning by the 
Volunteers, after the police cars had passed 
through, and the keys taken away. Deter- 
mined not to be beaten, Mayne now got a 
heavy stone, and had actually succeeded in 
smashing the padlock on the near gate, when 
he was shot in the head from behind, and at 
once collapsed on the road. 



74 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

During the late war extraordinary cases 
were known of men shot through the head, 
even through the brain, Hving for hours after- 
wards, though generally unable to speak ; and 
Mayne, though paralysed, was quite conscious 
when his murderers came up to where he was 
lying. 

For some time the murderers argued whether 
they should finish him off, or remove him as 
he was. In the end they put him into his 
own car, unlocked the far gate, and drove off 
in the direction of Ball3rrick. 

After proceeding about a mile they came to 
a lane, which led up to a lonely farm close to 
the sea. After driving up to the farm they 
threw Mayne — still ahve and conscious — on to 
a manure heap at the back of the farmhouse, 
and then drove off. It was afterwards found 
that they then took the car to a high cHff 
and ran it over the edge, to be broken up on 
the rocks below in the sea. 

Mayne spent the rest of that day lying on 
the manure heap, and so terrorised were the 
inhabitants of the farm that not one of them 
dared go near him. To give poor Mayne even 
a cup of cold water would have meant certain 
death to the giver. 

Late that evening the murderers returned, 
expecting to find Mayne dead by now ; but 
he was still alive, though in a pitiable state. 
Again they argued among themselves whether 
they would finish him off or not, and again 
for some unknown reason they decided not to. 
And these are the men who, according to an 



THE R.M. 75 

English paper (thank God ! not an Irish one), 
are "entitled to the treatment which, in civ- 
ilised countries, is given to prisoners of war." 

After some time an ass was harnessed to a 
cart, into which they threw Mayne's body, 
and then proceeded to the seashore below the 
farm. Here, after another discussion, they 
buried him — still aHve, though quite paralysed 
— ^up to his neck in the sand, at a place where 
they thought the incoming tide would just 
reach him and slowly drown him during the 
night-time. It was now several hours since 
Mayne had been shot, and one can only hope 
that, though he was still alive, his senses had 
become numbed. 

The following morning these fiends returned 
again to find that they had miscalculated the 
height of the tide, which had only reached the 
level of poor Mayne's chin, and that he was 
still alive, though probably by now quite mad. 
They then dug him up, and this time made no 
mistake, but buried him where the tide was 
bound to drown him. And the next fiood tide 
put an end to a torture the Hke of which Lenin 
and Trotsky could hardly exceed for sheer 
maUgnant devilry. 

Blake and a strong escort of pohce had 
motored out to Ballyrick ahead of Mayne, in 
case there might be an ambush on the road. 
The Court was due to begin at twelve, and 
when by two there was no sign of the R.M., 
Blake left for Ballybor, making inquiries on 
the way, but could get no tidings of him any- 
where. 



76 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

On arriving in Ballybor, Blake wired for a 
force of Auxiliaries, who arrived that night, 
and at once started with Blake and a strong 
force of R.I.C. to hunt the countryside for 
Mayne ; but nowadays in Ireland, so danger- 
ous is it for any civilian to be seen speaking 
to a policeman, that it is always quite im- 
possible to obtain any direct information. 
People who had seen Mayne set out on his last 
ill-fated drive denied that they even knew him 
by sight. 

For three days and three nights they scoured 
the countryside from Ballybor to Ballyrick, 
and from BaU3rrick back again to Ballybor, 
but no clue or tidings of Mayne could they 
get. From the time Mayne left Ballybor, 
R.M. and car seemed to have disappeared as 
though the earth had opened and swallowed 
them. 

As there was no evidence of foul play, the 
police hoped that the E.M. had been kidnapped 
and hidden away in the mountains to the east 
of Balljrrick. So they posted notices through- 
out the district to the effect that, if the R.M. 
was returned in two days all would be well, 
but if not 

At the end of the two days' grace a man, 
who said he kept the railway crossing on the 
road to Ballyrick, arrived on a bicycle at the 
barracks ashen with fear, and asked to see 
Blake. On hearing the man's story, Blake 
went out to the level crossing and there found 
poor Mayne' s body in a rough wooden box, 
lying on the side of the Hne. The cause of 



THE R.M. 77 

death appeared obvious ; but they were greatly 
puzzled to find the clothes soaked with sea- 
water and full of sand, and to hear from the 
doctor who examined the body that death was 
due to — drowning. 

The level-crossing man was detained at the 
barracks, and every means was taken to ex- 
tract information from him ; but he denied 
all knowledge of the murder, and proved an 
alibi to Blake's satisfaction. 

The poHce spent the next fortnight search- 
ing in vain for Mayne's murderers, and it is 
probable that, but for a curious trait in the 
peasant's character, they would never have 
solved the mystery. 

Late one evening, about three weeks after 
the murder, a tjrpical Ballyrick peasant arrived 
at the barracks in Ballybor and asked to see 
the D.I., and refused to state his business 
except to the D.I. Luckily the police decided 
to admit the man, and he was led off to Blake's 
office. 

When he was brought in Blake was up to 
his eyes in official correspondence, with the 
prospect of an all-night sitting before him ; 
but hoping that the man might have news of 
Mayne, he ordered the police to leave the man 
alone with him, and then waited for him to 
tell his news. 

If a western peasant has a favour to ask or 
a confession to make, he will talk of every- 
thing and everybody except the object of his 
visit, possibly for an hour and probably for 
two, and will generally not come to the point 



78 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

until he is preparing to leave. The length of 
time required to extract the necessary informa- 
tion depends entirely on the skill of the inter- 
viewer. 

Blake's visitor was no exception to this rule, 
and many an Englishman, cleverer than Blake, 
would have made the mistake of hurrying his 
man, which is always fatal ; and even Blake's 
patience was nearly exhausted before he made 
his confession. 

Whether the man's confession was genuine, 
or whether he hoped to save his skin by turn- 
ing informer is not quite clear ; but at any 
rate he confessed to Blake that he and five 
other men had murdered Majme at the level 
crossing, gave the full details of one of the 
worst atrocities which has ever been com- 
mitted in Ireland, and stated as his only reason 
for confessing that he had not been able to 
sleep since the murder. 



79 



VI. 

AN OUTLAW. 

Probably the great majority of the British 
pubHc had no idea of the extraordinary situa- 
tion in the south and west of Ireland during 
1920, and most hkely never will have. In the 
summer of that sinister year, when the Sinn 
Fein tyranny was at its height, an Enghsh 
newspaper sent a lady journalist over to this 
unfortunate country to find out what really 
was the matter with us, and, if possible, to 
give the world yet another solution of the 
Irish Question. 

In her first letter, this lady, quite unneces- 
sarily, told her milHons of readers that she 
had never been in Ireland before, proceeded 
to relate the peculiarities of the people of 
Dublin and Belfast, and finished with a vivid 
description of the peaceful and happy condi- 
tion of the country, in spite of the interested 
rumours put about to the contrary. 

At the time when this lady journaHst was 
discovering peaceful and happy Ireland, the 
power of Sinn Fein was rapidly passing from 
the hands of the hot-air merchants to the 



80 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

direct-action ruffians ; in other words, Arthur 
Griffiths became a mere cipher, and Michael 
CoUins the dictator of the south and west. 
And very soon CoUins had several imitators. 

Born in 1889 in the highlands of ^ Ballyrick, 
Denis Joyce, after working for a few years as 
gillie and general boy at a shooting-lodge near 
Errinane, drifted to Dublin as a labourer, and 
at once came under the influence of Connolly, 
the prince of Irish Bolsheviks. Taken prisoner 
during the Easter rebellion of 1916, he was 
eventually released with other small fry, and 
in return devoted himself to the extermination 
of the British Empire in general, and Irish 
policemen in particular. 

During the spring and summer of 1920, 
Joyce and his numerous bodyguard, like an 
Irish chieftain of old, lived like fighting-cocks. 
Hailed as the conquerors of the British Army 
(they had shot several unarmed soldiers) wher- 
ever they went, not only did they live free, 
gratis, and for nothing, but the country people 
literally fought for the honour of entertain- 
ing these heroes. A great pity that the 
lady journalist could not have been present 
at one of these banquets. What " copy " 
she could have sent to her editor, and the 
certified net sale would have soared to the 
skies. 

But though Joyce and his merry men had 
a great time, they did not neglect their duty ; 
and on every occasion, when conditions were 
all in their favour, they shot down poHce 
patrols from behind walls, and murdered un- 



AN OUTLAW. 81 

fortunate policemen when visiting their wives 
and famihes. 

However, every dog has his day, and in the 
autumn of 1920, when the British Army and 
the Auxihary Cadets started to take a hand 
in the game, Joyce found himself changed from 
a popular hero into a hunted outlaw, with the 
usual result that, where formerly he had found 
an open door and a smiUng welcome, he now 
was met by a closed door and a scowl ; and 
when seeking board and lodging, it became 
necessary to persuade the unwilling hosts with 
a six-shooter. 

The poHce and military now commenced 
paying calls at night ; and a farmer, Hving 
in the depth of the country, hearing a knock 
at his door during the long winter's nights, 
had always the pleasing excitement of not 
knowing if he was to have the honour of enter- 
taining some badly-wanted gunmen, a patrol 
of the R.I.C, a party of Auxihary Cadets, a 
mihtary search-party, or merely a posse of 
local robbers, any of whom might take a 
sudden dislike to the unfortunate farmer, with 
unpleasant results. 

In the winter of 1920, Joyce, who would 
have made an excellent soldier, made the bad 
mistake of mixing up love with war ; in other 
words, he became greatly enamoured of a girl 
Hving in the south, and in order to be within 
reach of her, confined his attentions to that 
district for a considerable time, instead of 
moving about the country with his usual 
rapidity ; and the Auxiliaries, getting an ink- 



82 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

ling of the situation from a former lover of 
the girl, made a great effort to sm^round and 
capture him. 

Though he received repeated warnings of the 
activity of the Cadets, Joyce put off his depar- 
ture, until a day came when word was brought 
that the place was surrounded by forces of the 
Crown, who would close in on the little town 
that evening. 

Joyce at once went to tell Molly, whose 
father kept a small hotel in the town, and 
the girl's quick wit soon thought out a plan 
of escape for her lover. Five commercial 
travellers staying in the hotel, and at the time 
out touring neighbouring villages, had left 
their heavy cases of samples at the hotel, 
and their railway passes in the safe keeping 
of the hotel proprietor. 

That afternoon the train to the west carried 
Joyce and four of his bodyguard disguised as 
bagmen ; the remainder were left to shift for 
themselves, and that evening, when the Cadets 
searched the town from attic to cellar, they 
found that the principal bird had flown. 

Joyce knew that it would not be safe to 
travel by train as far as Ballybor, and as soon 
as he thought that they had cleared the Aux- 
iliary cordon, determined to alight at the next 
stop and continue the journey by car. Just 
as they were on the point of leaving the train, 
however, they noticed several Cadets waiting 
by the station exit, so did not get out. 

Two stations farther on they left the train, 
and being now outside the net, quickly com- 



AN OUTLAW. 83 

mandeered a Ford from the local garage and 
set out for the Ballyrick country, where Joyce 
had decided to hide and rest for a while. 
Keeping to byroads, they made their way 
westwards at a good rate until it was nearly 
daylight, when, after hiding the car in a wood, 
they proceeded to search for board and lodging. 

Shortly they came across a good farmhouse, 
and, after the usual display of pistols, were 
admitted reluctantly, made a hearty meal, 
and retired to bed after ordering their host 
to have five good bicycles and another meal 
ready for them as soon as it was dark. 

It has been mentioned that Joyce had worked 
as a boy at a shooting-lodge near Errinane, 
and he now conceived the brilliant idea of 
taking a rest-cure there until such time as the 
police took less interest in him. This lodge, 
Drumcar by name, belonged to a Connaught 
squire who had married an Enghshwoman, 
and except for a short time in the summer 
was only occupied by a caretaker. Situated 
in one of the wildest parts of the west, a mile 
from the road, hidden by woods of oak and 
birch, and overlooking the bay on which Erri- 
nane stands, it was probably the last place in 
Ireland where the police would think of looking 
for an active gunman, and the chances were 
that not a single Auxiliary even knew that 
such a place existed. 

The gunmen arrived at Drumcar soon after 
dawn, and after rousing the terrified care- 
taker, who lived with his son and daughter 
in a cottage in the grounds, they settled down 



84 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

to a life of peace and comfort. The girl at- 
tended on them, while the old man brought 
food from Errinane in a donkey cart, and a 
good supply of poteen from a mountain farm 
near the mouth of the bay. 

The lodge was well supplied with turf, con- 
tained an excellent Hbrary of novels, and Joyce 
and his men waxed fat with good living and 
soft lying ; but it is a case of once on the 
run, always on the run, until the inevitable 
end comes, or the gunman is lucky enough to 
escape to the States. 

Now, it is a well-known truth in the west 
that a " mountainy " man will always, when 
sick unto death, home-sick, or in dire distress, 
make for his beloved mountains, no matter 
what far end of the world he may have drifted 
to ; and when in due course Blake learnt 
through official channels that Joyce had escaped 
from the southern town, he at once began to 
keep a sharp look-out for him in the Ball5rrick 
country. 

But when a fortnight passed and there was 
no sign of Joyce, nor yet any report of his 
presence in that part of the country, Blake 
turned up the man's official record, from which 
he learnt two interesting facts : first, that 
Joyce had worked at Drumcar ; and, secondly, 
that he had a married sister in Bunrattey, a 
district on the southern border of Blake's 
country. 

Blake now turned his attention to the sister's 
house, and when this proved a blank, he deter- 
mined to try Drumcar Lodge as a last resource ; 



AN OUTLAW. 85 

but at the time of the landing of arms at 
Errinane, every poHce barrack and coastguard 
station within a radius of many miles had been 
burnt, so that it was impossible to get any 
news of the place without going there, the 
nearest barrack in Blake's district being fifty 
miles away. 

A " travelling circus " of Auxiliaries hap- 
pened to be passing through Ballybor, and the 
leader undertook to investigate the lodge and 
let Blake know if they found any trace of 
Joyce. Blake advised them to surround the 
lodge in the daytime, as, owing to the wild 
and mountainous nature of the country, a 
night attack would be impossible. 

On the whole, the gunmen treated old 
Faherty, the caretaker, and his children well, 
especially the son. Patsy, in the hope that he 
would join them ; but, luckily for himself, 
the lad had a wholesome dread of firearms. 
After he had been at the lodge some days, in 
spite of feeling quite secure, Joyce, with the 
instinct of the hunted, began to look about 
for a bolt-hole in case of need ; though in the 
midst of the wilds the lodge had serious draw- 
backs, being situated on the side of a slope, 
so that any one leaving the lodge would at 
once come under observation from several 
points, and, moreover, an arm of the sea cut 
off all escape to the north. 

In fact, escape seemed very doubtful, until 
by chance Patsy mentioned that in a boat- 
house, hidden by trees, on the shore of the 
bay, there was a large motor-launch, which 



86 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

he had learnt to drive the previous summer. 
The next time the old man went to Errinane 
for provisions, he brought back with him 
twenty gallons of petrol (duly entered up in 
his absent master's account), and Joyce felt 
easier in his mind. 

On a pouring wet afternoon the five gun- 
men were playing nap in front of a comfort- 
able turf fire in the drawing-room, while old 
Faherty's daughter brewed poteen punch for 
them, and Patsy was reading a novel in an 
arm-chair, when a long-haired boy dashed in 
with the news that a large party of Auxihary 
Cadets had rushed through Errinane, taken 
two countrymen they had met on the road as 
guides, and were surrounding the lodge from 
all sides except the sea. Joyce had launched 
the motor-boat only the previous day, and 
within a few minutes they were under way, 
heading for the mouth of the bay with the 
throttle full open. Seeing the launch in the 
bay below them as they reached the front of 
the lodge, the Cadets opened fire, but before 
they could get on to their target the launch 
vanished in the thick mist of rain. 

As pursuit was out of the question, the 
Auxiliaries drove straight to Errinane Post 
Office, only to find the wires cut. They then 
went on to the nearest town, and wired to the 
naval authorities at Queenstown, hoping that 
they might be able to get in touch with a 
destroyer off the west coast by wireless, and 
so capture Joyce at sea. 

Joyce knew that the hue-and-cry would be 



AN OUTLAW. 87 

up, and that it would be fatal to land any- 
where on the coast near Errinane ; and as the 
sea was calm, he made up his mind to cut 
across a big bay to the north and make for 
Buntarriv, a narrow passage between an island 
and the mainland, which would lead them to 
Trabawn Bay, on the shores of which lay his 
own country. 

The launch left the sHp at Drumcar at 
1 P.M., and Joyce made out that at eight miles 
an hour they ought to reach Buntarriv Sound 
at four o'clock and Trabawn Bay in another 
hour, which should give them plenty of time 
to land before darkness set in. Unfortunately, 
when out in the open Atlantic, the engine 
stopped, and Patsy, who was thoroughly fright- 
ened by now, would only sit down and cry. 
Two of the gunmen knew something of motors, 
and after nearly two hours discovered that the 
carburetter was choked with dirt, and it was 
nearly six o'clock before the Sound was within 
sight : another quarter of an hour and they 
would have been too late. As it was, a de- 
stroyer opened fire on them just as they were 
entering the Sound, and they were only saved 
by the f aiUng hght. 

Knowing that the destroyer could not follow 
them, and afraid of wrecking the launch in 
the dark, they anchored and waited for the 
moon to rise, and eventually landed on the 
shore of Trabawn Bay. Joyce was at last in 
his own country, and before day broke the 
gunmen were safely lodged in different moun- 
tain farms close to Joyce's home, and the next 



88 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

day Patsy was handed over to the local Volun- 
teers to be returned to Drumcar. The follow- 
ing day they took the launch to a bay sur- 
rounded by high cliffs, where no human being 
except an odd herd ever went, and beached 
her at the height of the tide on the sandy 
shore, where they left her for future use. 

After a few days at home Joyce began to 
get restless, and resolved to visit his married 
sister in the Bunrattey district ; but the local 
Volunteers could only supply them with two 
bicycles, and the distance was too far to walk 
— ^forty-two miles as the crow flies. However, 
he learnt from a postman that a police patrol 
visited Ballyscaddan, a small village about 
sixteen miles east of Ball3rrick, daily, and were 
in the habit of leaving their bicycles outside 
a public-house which they frequented. 

The gunmen spent the night in Ballyscaddan, 
and about eleven o'clock a patrol of six R.I.C. 
arrived in the village, left their bicycles out- 
side the public-house, and went inside to re- 
fresh themselves. The gunmen, who were 
waiting in the next house, quickly cut the 
tyres of one bicycle to ribbons, and rode off 
on the remaining five, leaving the unfortunate 
villagers to bear the brunt of the infuriated 
policemen's wrath. That night Joyce and his 
four men slept in his sister's house in Bun- 
rattey. 

Besides his courage, the only redeeming 
feature about Joyce appears to have been his 
love for this sister. As usual, she was de- 
lighted to see him, but by now the other 



AN OUTLAW. 89 

inhabitants would have as soon welcomed the 
devil himseK as Joyce, knowing that his pro- 
gress through the country was blazed by 
reprisals. 

Gone were the days when he used to hold 
audience daily in his sister's house like a king, 
and men came many miles simply to see the 
famous Denis Joyce. Now the country people 
would avoid him on the road, and not a single 
person came to see him. 

His sister warned him repeatedly that it 
was dangerous to stay any length of time with 
her ; but Joyce seems to have lost heart, or 
perhaps his Celtic soul had a premonition of 
coming disaster. At any rate he refused to 
go, and spent most of this time sitting by the 
kitchen fire brooding. 

Blake soon learnt of Joyce's escape by sea 
from Drumcar, and feeling sure that sooner 
or later he would visit his sister before start- 
ing operations in the south again, concentrated 
his attention on that district. To this end, he 
kept his men well away, and at the same 
time asked for the help of the Auxiliary " trav- 
eUing circus," among whom were three Cadets 
who knew Joyce well by sight. 

One of these Cadets, whose personal appear- 
ance favoured the disguise, was dressed up as 
a priest, and sent out on a bicycle to spy out 
the land. After two days he returned with 
the good news that he had passed the famous 
gunman on the road in Bunrattey, and at 
once Blake made preparations to surround the 
place that night. 



90 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

He knew that success entirely depended on 
maintaining complete secrecy until the house 
was surrounded, and that if even a whisper 
of what was in the air got abroad all chances 
of capturing Joyce were gone. Tired of seeing 
operations ruined by well-advertised Crossleys, 
bristHng with rifles, tearing along the main 
roads, he determined to try and catch his man 
by cunning. 

Directly he received the news that Joyce 
was at Bunrattey, he left Ballybor Barracks 
with four Crossleys, two of R-.I.C., and two of 
Auxiharies, in the opposite direction to which 
Bunrattey lay, until they came to a small 
village about ten miles to the north, where 
there was a large flour-mill. Surrounding the 
mill, the pohce carried out a perfunctory search 
and left just before dark, taking with them 
two of the miller's lorries, one empty, and the 
other loaded with flour sacks and two large 
tarpauhns, cutting the wires as soon as they 
were clear of the village. 

Making their way eastwards until they 
reached a long stretch of desolate bog-road, 
they halted with one tender about a quarter 
of a mile behind and another the same dis- 
tance ahead. They then proceeded to transfer 
half the flour sacks to the empty lorry, built 
them up with a hollow in the middle so that 
both lorries appeared to be fully loaded, filled 
the hollows with police, and then threw a 
tarpauhn over each. 

The two lorries then set off to make a large 
detour in order to approach Bunrattey from 



AN OUTLAW. 91 

the south (the opposite direction to Ballybor), 
and Blake made out that they ought to arrive 
there about midnight. The four Crossleys 
waited and followed at a time which should 
bring them to Bunrattey a quarter of an hour 
after the arrival of the lorries. 

Joyce's sister's house stood back from the 
main road about eighty yards, was one-storied, 
very strongly built, and had a tremendous 
thatch of straw ; to the front there were four 
small windows, heavily shuttered, and a stout 
oak door, and at the back only a door of the 
same kind. At a distance of about thirty 
yards from the house a low stone wall ran 
round the sides and back, enclosing a small 
cabbage garden and the haggard, which gave 
excellent cover for the police. 

The lorries stopped within 400 yards of the 
house, and the police quickly and silently sur- 
rounded it without raising the alarm. They 
then waited for the arrival of the Crossleys, 
when the Auxiliaries and the remainder of the 
police formed a second cordon outside the 
first one. 

The leading lorry was now brought into the 
lane which led up to the house, and left there 
with the acetylene lamps shining full on the 
front door and windows, and at the same 
time the lamps of the second lorry were taken 
to the back of the house and mounted on the 
wall, so that any one attempting to leave the 
house by the doors or windows would be in 
the full glare of the powerful lamps. 

Approaching the house from a gable-end, 

D 



92 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

Blake crawled along the front until he reached 
the door, on which he hammered with the 
butt of his revolver, and called on the inmates 
to surrender, telhng them that they were sur- 
rounded and that resistance only meant death. 
Receiving no answer, he called out that if 
they did not come out at once with their 
hands up, he would open fire on the house, 
and for reply there came a volley of bullets 
through the lower part of the door. He then 
crawled back to cover, and ordered his men 
to open fire on the front door with a machine- 
gun. 

The concentrated fire of a machine-gun will 
cut a hole through a nine-inch brick wall in 
a very short time, and in a few minutes the 
oak door was in splinters. While the machine- 
gun kept up a continuous fire at the height of 
a man's chest, four poHcemen endeavoured to 
get into the house by crawHng up to the door, 
but when a few feet away two were shot, and 
the remaining two only escaped by rolhng to 
one side. 

All that the police had to do now, provided 
that Joyce was in the house — and the resist- 
ance offered made this a certainty — was to 
wait until daylight, when the certain capture 
of the gunmen would only be a question of 
time. But by now Blake was excited, and 
remembering how O'Hara had slipped through 
his hands, he determined to burn the rats out 
and finish the show. After getting a tin of 
petrol from one of the cars, he again crawled 
up to the gable-end, set a light to the tin, and 



AN OUTLAW. 93 

flung it on to the thatch, which at once took 
fire, burning fiercely. 

Only a few days previously this part of the 
thatch had been renewed, and as the weather 
had been fine it was bone-dry. But after a 
few minutes the fire reached the old and wet 
thatch, and as there was a gentle breeze blow- 
ing from the front, very soon the back of the 
house was completely hidden by a cloud of 
smoke. 

Realising the mistake he had made, Blake 
ordered his men to keep up a continuous fire 
on the back door, and at the same time rushed 
the machine-gun round to that side ; but so 
bhnding was the smoke by now that it was 
impossible to know where the back door was. 

Hearing shouts from the front, on going 
there he found a young woman standing in 
the doorway with her hands up, who told 
him that all the men in the house were wounded 
and unable to move. On entering they found 
three of Joyce's bodyguard and his brother- 
in-law lying in pools of blood on the kitchen 
floor, but not a sign of Joyce or the fourth 
man. 

There was still a chance that the missing 
two might be found wounded outside the back 
door, which was ajar, but the smoke was still 
so dense that no one could approach. After 
a time the smoke abated, and they found the 
fourth man dead a few yards from the house, 
but not a sign of Joyce. 

Again working on the theory that the gun- 
man would make for his home in the Ballyrick 



94 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

mountains, which lay to the westward at the 
back of the house, Blake divided his forces 
into two, sending each out on a flank in order 
to get well ahead of the fugitive, and then 
form a fan-shaped net and beat backwards 
towards the house. Four miles away to the 
west was the Owenmore river, which ran north- 
wards through Ballybor, and across the river 
were two bridges, each about four miles from 
where they were. 

The two forces crossed by different bridges, 
each dropping three men at the bridges, then 
went on about three miles, and at daybreak 
started to beat the country back to the bridges. 
Here they arrived, worn out, at 10 a.m., and 
not a sign had any one seen or heard of 
Joyce. 

Sure that Joyce had crossed the river, the 
police started to beat back again over the 
ground they had just covered ; but by 4 p.m. 
the men were done in, and Blake had to call 
them off and return to Ballybor. 

That night he got out a large-scale Ordnance 
map of the Bunrattey district, put himseK in 
Joyce's place, and tried to think out his Une 
of escape, presuming that the fugitive had 
avoided the bridges and swum the river at the 
nearest point from his sister's house. On 
crossing the river he would soon come to a 
thick wood on the slope of a hill, through 
which the railway line to Ballybor ran, and 
here he decided that Joyce must be hiding. 

Early the next morning Blake set out with 
a strong force, and approaching Derryallen 



AN OUTLAW. 95 

Wood from all four sides at once, spent the 
rest of the day beating the wood through and 
through, but without any result, and they 
came to the conclusion that by now Joyce 
must have got clear. 

A week afterwards, when Blake was return- 
ing in the dusk from Grouse Lodge Barracks, 
a man stopped the car on an open stretch of 
road about a mile outside Ballybor. The man 
turned out to be the loyal guard of the goods 
train, and he told Blake that for several days 
past he had seen the engine-driver drop a 
parcel as the train passed through Derryallen 
Wood, and always at the same place, into a 
patch of briers on the side of the Hne. 

Blake's interest in Joyce awoke afresh, but 
he felt sure that no living being had escaped 
them on the day when they searched the wood, 
and they had not been able to find any trace 
of a hiding-place. However, it would be in- 
teresting to know what the engine - driver 
dropped when passing through the wood, and 
by whom it was picked up. 

The main road from Ballybor to Castleport 
ran parallel with the railway, skirting the east 
side of Derryallen ; and here, on a pitch-dark 
winter's night, in torrents of rain, two Cross- 
leys stopped for a couple of minutes while 
Blake and a party of R.I.C. and Cadets dropped 
out, and then drove on again. 

With great difficulty the party found their 
way in the dark to the railway line, where 
they remained hidden in some laurels until it 
began to grow light, when they were able to 



96 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

conceal themselves within easy reach of the 
patch of briers. 

After hours of weary waiting the goods train 
passed down, and the engine-driver dropped 
the parcel into the briers. At once the police 
forgot hunger and cold in their eagerness to 
see who would pick up the parcel, but again 
they were doomed to hours of weary waiting. 

At last, when the men had nearly reached 
the limit of their endurance and Hght was 
almost gone, they saw a most miserable-looking 
wild-eyed man crawhng painfully towards the 
patch of briers. When he was within five 
yards of the parcel Blake called on him to 
surrender, and every man covered him with 
his rifle. 

Game to the end, though unable to stand on 
account of a bullet-wound in one leg, Joyce 
drew his pistol and glared defiance at the 
poHce ; but as he raised himself to fire, a 
fifteen-stone Cadet, who had crept up silently 
behind him, flung himself on the famous gun- 
man's back, and the long chase was over. 

Joyce refused to show Blake his hiding- 
place, but afterwards they learnt from the 
owner of the wood that there was a pave in 
the middle of the wood which had been used 
by robbers over a hundred years ago, the 
entrance of which was completely covered by 
thick heather. 



97 



VII. 

THE STRANGER WITHIN THE GATES. 

After the loss of the American arms the dis- 
trict of Ballybor remained quiet for some con- 
siderable time, so that the hard-working farmers 
in the country and respectable shopkeepers in 
the town began to hope at last that the trouble 
was over, and that they might be free to carry 
on their work in peace. Unfortunately, a 
quiet and peaceful district is anathema to the 
Sinn Fein G.H.Q., and before long a Volunteer 
flying column received orders to operate in the 
Ballybor district, with a view to stirring up 
trouble and bringing the county into line with 
the south. 

By this time the large moderate element of 
Sinn Fein, in other words, practically every 
man who had a stake in the country — sub- 
stantial farmers with haggards to burn, and 
prosperous shopkeepers with shops to burn — 
reahsed that they had backed a losing horse, 
and were prepared to do any mortal thing for 
peace, except help the police. Unfortunately, 
the farmers' sons and shop-boys, who, in the 
usual course of events, but for the war, would 



98 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

have been in the States by now, took quite a 
different view. £20 in the £ rates, burnt hag- 
gards, and ruined businesses meant nothing to 
boys who paid no rates nor owned shops or 
farms. 

Up to the winter of 1919 the rebels moved 
about the country in motors, how, when, and 
where they Hked. Even during the time when 
every gallon of petrol was being kept for the 
armies in France, and the Loyalists were only 
allowed six gallons a month (on paper), De 
Valera and his staff burnt petrol as freely as 
a Connaught peasant will drink poteen. In 
connection with this, it would be interesting 
to know into whose petrol tanks the many 
thousands of gallons of petrol which was washed 
up on the western shores of Ireland from 
torpedoed vessels passed, and the system of 
collection and distribution. 

After this winter, when the use of cars for 
illegal purposes became more and more re- 
stricted as the car-permit regulations became 
stricter and more rigidly enforced, the Volun- 
teers began to make great use of bicycles, and 
their flying columns consisted of cycHsts only. 
Orders were issued from G.H.Q. that every 
Volunteer must be able to ride a bicycle, and 
local commandants were instructed to see that 
every man in their command had one. 

During the Mons retreat the cyclists were 
invaluable, both for fighting small rearguard 
actions and also for keeping in contact with 
the enemy. During the present war in Ireland, 
the explanation of the mysteries of how men 



STRANGER WITHIN THE GATES. 99 

can shoot policemen from behind a wall and 
then disappear into thin air, and of how a 
column of gunmen can shoot up a train in 
Kerry on Monday and ambush a police lorry 
in Clare on Tuesday, is to be found in the 
inteUigent use of the humble push-bike. And 
until the authorities round up every push-bike 
in Ireland, these mysteries will continue. 

As soon as G.H.Q. determined that the 
Ballybor district must be brought into line 
with the south, a small party of gunmen, 
operating at the time many miles to the south, 
received their orders, and late that night a 
silent and ghostly party of cycHsts rode into 
the Ballybor district. At a certain cross-roads 
they were met by guides, and long before day- 
break the gunmen were billeted in ones and 
twos throughout the townland of Cloonalla. 

The following night a meeting of the local 
Volunteers was held in the National School, 
and the leader of the gunmen insisted that a 
poHce ambush or an attack on the Grouse 
Lodge Barracks should take place within the 
next few nights. The general opinion being 
against an attack on the barracks — the field 
of fire was too good, and the Black and Tans 
too handy with their rifles — it was settled (by 
the gunmen) that the police should be am- 
bushed at a favourable spot where the main 
road from Ballybor to Castleport passed through 
a wooded demesne. 

The next morning Father Tom, the parish 
priest, was besieged by the young Volunteers' 
fathers, men who had homes and haggards to 

d2 



100 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

burn, one and all imploring his reverence to 
prevent an ambush in the parish, and to save 
them from the wrath of the Auxiliaries. Some 
of them, when asked, confessed that the gun- 
men were staying in their houses, but that 
their sons had brought them there without 
leave, and that they were powerless to get 
rid of them. 

From the beginning of the movement Father 
Tom, who was young for a parish priest and 
an ardent Sinn Feiner in theory, had been 
one of the leaders in the district, and even 
when burning houses and haggards began to 
follow murderous ambuscades in far-away Co. 
Cork as surely as day follows night, he still 
felt a thrill of pride for his countrymen who 
were giving their all for freedom, and became 
a fiercer Sinn Feiner than ever ; but an am- 
bush (and the sequel) in his own beloved 
parish was a very different thing, and a 
calamity to be avoided at all costs (his house 
stood high, and would give a splendid view 
at night of burning houses and haggards), and 
there was obviously no time to lose. 

The next day was Sunday, and at mass 
Father Tom, who was a fine preacher, thun- 
dered forth from the altar. A vivid imagina- 
tion stimulated his eloquence to such a pitch 
that he reduced most of the older members of 
his fiock to tears. 

He told them that it had come to his ears 
that certain men in the parish were harbour- 
ing strangers within their gates, and that these 
strangers had been trying to incite young and 



STRANGER WITHIN THE GATES. 101 

innocent boys to murder policemen. He then 
described the result of an ambush — how houses 
were burnt to the ground and women and 
Httle children were turned out on the road 
on a winter's night (he did not mention the 
men, knowing that by then they would be up 
in the mountains), and how innocent men were 
shot in their beds before the eyes of their 
wives ; but he said nothing about the widows 
and orphans of the murdered policemen. Fin- 
ally, he warned his flock against the strangers, 
who would fade away before the wrath of the 
soldiers and AuxiHaries fell on the parish, and 
commanded that they should be instantly 
turned out under the direst penalties. And 
with a last curse on the strangers he left the 
chapel. 

If Father Tom had thundered from the altar 
against ambushes many, many months before, 
instead of openly encouraging the Volunteers, 
the result might have been very different ; 
but a leader of men who gives an order to-day 
and a counter-order to-morrow is rarely obeyed. 
That night it was learnt that a party of mili- 
tary would proceed from Castleport to Bally- 
bor on Wednesday night, and it was settled 
to ambush them at the spot chosen in the 
demesne, the gunmen promising that a car- 
load of arms and bombs would arrive in time 
for the ambush, and also a doctor. 

In the Cloonalla district there Uved, nowa- 
days a rara avis in the west of Ireland, a 
Protestant farmer of the old yeoman type so 
well known in England, and a staunch Loyahst. 



102 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

To his house there came on that Sunday night 
two of the leading farmers, who told him the 
whole story of the proposed ambush, and 
begged him to warn the pohce. 

The chapel of Cloonalla stands in the centre 
of the parish, close to a cross-roads, and on 
that Wednesday morning the inhabitants woke 
up to find a kilted sentry on guard at the 
cross-roads, and before most of them could 
get out of bed, two companies of Highlanders, 
guided by Blake, were hard at work searching 
every house for strangers. 

Blake had brought with him two old regular 
R.I.C. sergeants, men who had been stationed 
in the district for years, and who knew every 
man, young and old ; but the gunmen had 
been in trouble before, and were not to be 
caught so easily. 

They were all young men and clean shaved, 
and before the police and Highlanders entered 
any of their billets, one and all were dressed 
as women with shawls over their heads ; and 
in one house, where two of them had been 
billeted, the Highlanders found a young woman 
sitting on a stool by the fire, nursing a baby 
under her shawl, while another pretty shawled 
girl was preparing breakfast for the young 
mother. A big Highlander could not resist 
giving her a glad eye, Httle knowing that 
" she " was a notorious gunman, and wanted 
to the tune of a thousand pounds for the 
brutal murder of a D.I. as he was leaving 
church. 

The only result of the raid was the finding 



STRANGER WITHIN THE GATES. 103 

of an old shot-gun in the bed of the local 
blacksmith, a man who had always defied the 
local Volunteers, and kept a gun for poaching 
only, and who was taken off to Ballybor Bar- 
racks amidst the jeers of everybody. How- 
ever, in a few days they reahsed how useful 
and necessary a person a smith is in a country 
district, and before the week was out the 
whole townland was clamouring for the smith's 
release. 

However, the raid had good results ; the 
Volunteers refused point-blank to carry out 
the ambush on Wednesday night, though the 
gunmen stayed until that day, making every 
endeavour to bring it off. Finding it was 
useless, they disappeared that night as silently 
as they had come, promising to return shortly 
in greater numbers. 

The whole district heaved a sigh of reUef 
when it was known that there were no longer 
any strangers within the gates, and settled 
down to farm and lead the hfe God meant 
them to hve, and hoped against hope that 
they might never see a cursed stranger again, 
be he gunman or Auxiliary. Blake let it be 
known that it was a case of no ambush, no 
Auxiharies, and every farmer in the district 
was quite content to keep his side of the 
bargain. 

But peace was not yet to be the portion 
of Cloonalla. Within three weeks of the first 
gunman leaving, a party of twenty arrived on 
a wild winter's night, and, as on the former 
occasion, as silently dispersed to their allotted 



104 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

billets. This time the leader of the gunmen 
did not ask the local Volunteers to help, but 
ordered them to carry out the ambush in the 
wooded demesne on the main road from Castle- 
port to Ballybor, as previously arranged. 

The gunmen did not appear during the day- 
time at all, and had been nearly a week in 
the district before Father Tom heard of their 
arrival. Unfortunately, the priest was very 
ill with influenza at the time, and before he 
could take any action the damage was done. 

As usual, the scene of the ambush was laid 
with great cleverness. Between the two en- 
trance-gates of the demesne on the main road 
there was a sharp rise in the form of an S 
bend, with a thick thorn hedge on each side 
of the middle of this bend. Where the rise 
was steepest, there was a lane leading to the 
keeper's house, about fifty yards from the 
road, and at the entrance of this lane the gun- 
men laid a mine in the main road to be fired 
by an electric wire running towards the keeper's 
house. After laying the mine they forced the 
road contractor of that part of the road to 
cart broken stones and lay them right across 
the road over the mine, so that all traces of 
the mine were hidden. 

The day after the mine had been laid word 
came to Cloonalla that the police had arrested 
three men in Ballybor during the previous 
night, and that it was thought that the pris- 
oners would be sent to Castleport that night 
in a Crossley under a strong poHce escort. 
As'^soon as it was dark, the gunmen, after 



STRANGER WITHIN THE GATES. 105 

parking their bicycles in a wood of the demesne, 
collected all the Volunteers they could induce 
or force to accompany them, and made their 
way across country to the scene of the ambush. 

The night was unusually fine with a full 
moon, and two hours after the Volunteers and 
gunmen had taken up their positions, the 
pecuHar note of a Crossley engine could be 
distinctly heard approaching at a great pace 
from the BaUybor direction. The gunman 
who had laid the mine was a first-class elec- 
trician, and as the car tore past the lane there 
was a bhnding flash, followed by a terrific 
roar, and the car seemed to jump clean off the 
road and then collapse in a burning heap on 
the road. 

With the roar of the mine the ambushers 
opened a heavy fire on the car, but receiving 
no reply they quickly ceased fire, waiting to 
see what would happen next. But the mine 
had done its work only too weU, and the only 
sounds which could be heard were the groans 
of dying men amid the burning ruins of the 
car. After some minutes two pohcemen rolled 
out of the end of the car and lay on the high- 
road, one man with both his legs paralysed, 
crying piteously for water, and the second 
with part of his head blown away by a flat- 
nosed bullet, crjdng for a priest. 

Up to this point the leader of the gunmen 
had taken charge of all the proceedings, and 
when the Volunteers were collected on the road 
like a flock of sheep they still waited for 
orders. However, after five minutes, as no 



106 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

order was given, they began to look for their 
leader, suddenly to reahse that every gunman 
had faded away. 

At once every Volunteer started to make 
his way home as fast as he could, and within 
two minutes the only occupants of the road 
were the two dying policemen, lying like two 
black logs in the white moonlight. Presently 
a terror-stricken keeper crept out of his house, 
and as soon as his scattered wits could take 
in the situation, he got out his bicycle and 
rode into Ballybor for help. 

Long before day broke columns of soldiers, 
R.I.C, and AuxiHaries concentrated on and 
met at that horrible scene on the road between 
the two demesne gates, and shortly afterwards 
broke hke a tornado on the townland of Cloon- 
alla, and Father Tom, from his bedroom win- 
dow, saw his worst fears realised. When day- 
light came the parish was at last clear of all 
strangers and avengers, but at a terrible price. 

A quick-witted poUceman remembered that 
the only Hmestone road in Cloonalla was the 
road from Ballybor to Castleport, so that it 
was easy to tell in a house by an inspection 
of boots if any man of that household had 
been present at the ambush, and that night 
the fathers suffered for the sins of their sons, 
and the sons paid the full price of the gun- 
men's crime. 

Like good soldiers, the gunmen carefully 
thought out their line of retreat before the 
ambush took place. They found that a broad 
river ran through the demesne parallel to and 



STRANGER WITHIN THE GATES. 107 

about 400 yards from the main road, that the 
nearest bridges above and below were five 
miles away, and that across the river ran a 
range of wild and desolate country. In a 
wood on the bank of the river they found 
fishing-boats, used for netting salmon during 
the summer-time, and before the ambush the 
leader sent two of his men to collect all these 
boats at a certain part of the river, and to 
remain there in readiness to take the remainder 
and their bicycles across. As soon as the 
ambush was over they collected their bicycles, 
crossed the river, and were soon riding through 
a little-known pass in the mountains on their 
way to carry on their devil's work in a part 
of the country many miles removed from the 
scene of the CloonaUa ambush. 



108 



VIII. 

MR BRIGGS' ISLAND. 

Several years before the late war there lived 
in the suburbs of London a prosperous stock- 
broker, by name Benjamin Briggs, a lonely 
bachelor, an ardent fisherman, and a man of 
simple and kindly nature. Every year Mr 
Briggs spent his entire summer holidays fish- 
ing in Scotland or Wales, and it was not until 
after hearing a friend at his club recounting 
the wonderful fishing that he had had in 
Ireland that he turned his attention to that 
country. 

One afternoon, when passing through Euston 
Station, a famous poster of Connemara caught 
Mr Briggs' eye, and the following summer he 
made a complete tour of that dehghtful country 
of mountains, moors, and rivers. So charmed 
was he with the scenery and the perfect man- 
ners of the peasants that he determined to see 
more of the country, and on a fine summer's 
afternoon found himself in the little town of 
Ballybor, reputed to be one of the best fishing 
centres in Ireland. 

During a walk through the town before 



MR BRIGGS' ISLAND. 109 

dinner, he happened to see a large notice in 
an auctioneer's window, offering for sale, at 
what seemed to Mr Briggs a very low figure, 
a fishing-lodge on an island in the middle of 
a large lake, famous for its salmon, trout, and 
pike-fishing, and distant about six miles from 
the town of Ballybor. The notice also stated 
that the auctioneer would be glad to give full 
particulars, and that the lucky buyer could 
obtain immediate possession. 

Now many of us have cherished a secret 
longing to possess an island, no doubt an after- 
math from reading ' Robinson Crusoe ' when 
very young, possibly in the sea if one has a 
weakness for that element, or, if not, in the 
middle of some large lake full of salmon and 
trout. From childhood Mr Briggs had had 
two great longings — ^first, to be a successful 
fisherman, and secondly, to possess an island, 
to which he could eventually retire and fish 
all day and every day. 

The following morning, after an interview 
with the auctioneer, he drove out to the lake 
on an outside car, was duly met by the care- 
taker, Pat Lyden, with a boat, fell in love at 
sight with a comfortable little six-roomed lodge 
built on the shore of a small green island far 
out in the lake and commanding glorious views 
of mountains and water, and on his return to 
Ballybor he wasted no time in completing the 
purchase. The following day he moved to the 
island, and spent a happy fortnight fishing 
with Pat Lyden before returning to England. 

From the outbreak of war until 1920 Mr 



110 TALES OF THE R.LC. 

Briggs was unable to visit Ireland, but during 
the summer of that year he decided to retire, 
and after disposing of his business and suburban 
home, set out for Ballybor, meaning to spend 
the rest of the year fishing on Lake Moyra. 
On a dull morning he landed at Kingstown, 
as enthusiastic as a schoolboy on his first 
sporting trip, and longing to see his beloved 
island once more. 

Mr Briggs only read one newspaper, — a 
paper once famous throughout the world for 
its impartial and patriotic news and complete 
freedom from party taint, — and he had not 
the remotest idea that the Ireland of 1914 
and the Ireland of 1920 were two very different 
countries. But so simple was the little man's 
nature that he did not realise the state of the 
country until he reached a small junction about 
sixteen miles from Ballybor, and where he had 
to change. 

Here he had some time to wait, and while 
walking up and down the platform a long- 
haired wild-eyed stranger sidled up to him 
and asked if he was Mr Briggs ; and on learn- 
ing that he was, the stranger advised him to 
return to England at once, as the air on Lough 
Moyra was very unhealthy at present. This 
greatly disturbed Mr Briggs, but he deter- 
mined to take no notice of the mysterious 
warning, and, taking his seat in the train, 
began to read his papers again. 

Shortly before the train was due to start 
a small party of British soldiers, under a 
N.C.O., marched on to the platform, and pro- 



MR BRIGGS' ISLAND. Ill 

ceeded to take their seats in a third-class 
carriage. At once the engine-driver, fireman, 
and guard packed up their kits and prepared 
to leave the station. The stationmaster did 
his best to induce them to take the train on 
to Ballybor, but not one yard would they go 
as long as a British soldier remained in the 
train ; and in the end they marched out of 
the station, amid the laughter of the soldiers, 
who continued to keep their seats. The civilian 
passengers now left the train, and Mr Briggs 
found himself dumped with all his kit on the 
platform. 

For some time he sat there, feeling sure that 
in the end the train would start, but after 
two hours he gave it up, and wired to a garage 
in Ballybor for a car to be sent to the junction. 
After a further wait of three hours a car turned 
up, and late that evening Mr Briggs arrived at 
the hotel at Ballybor, weary and quite be- 
wildered. He seemed to have wandered into 
a South American republic instead of into the 
old and pleasant Ireland. 

After breakfast the next morning he deter- 
mined to call on his old friend the D.I. before 
leaving for the lake, but he hardly recognised 
the police barracks, which had been trans- 
formed from a homely whitewashed house into 
a sandbagged and steel-shuttered fort. Here 
he found that his old friend had retired on 
pension, and in his stead reigned a young and 
soldier-like D.I., with a row of orders and war 
ribbons on his breast. Mr Briggs introduced 
himself, but found that neither the D.I. nor 



112 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

the Head Constable had ever heard of either 
Mr Briggs or his island, but they told him 
that only the previous day a pohce lorry had 
been ambushed on the road to the lake, and 
advised him to return to England. 

However, having got so far, Mr Briggs deter- 
mined to see his island, come what might ; 
and after a lot of difficulty, and at a very 
high price, a driver was at last found with 
sufficient courage to drive him out to the place 
where Lyden was to meet him. 

Lyden was a typical western peasant, and 
on former visits Mr Briggs had asked no better 
amusement than to listen to his quaint re- 
marks and stories for hours on end whilst 
fishing ; but, like the rest of the people, he 
now seemed a different being. During the row 
out to the island he did not utter a dozen 
words, and long before they landed on the 
little stone quay Mr Briggs had ceased to ask 
the man any questions. After his long absence 
the island appeared more enchanting than 
ever, and from the kitchen chimney he could 
see the blue turf smoke rising in the still 
summer's air, reminding him of Mrs Lyden's 
good cooking. 

On approaching the house he was startled 
to hear loud talking and laughter in the dining- 
room, and on entering found the room full of 
strangers, eating a hearty meal. At the head 
of the table sat a soldierly-looking man, who 
wished Mr Briggs good-day, and asked who 
the devil he might be. 

On first hearing the voices, Mr Briggs had 



MR BRIGGS' ISLAND. 113 

jumped to the natural conclusion that a fish- 
ing party had landed and asked Mrs Lyden 
to give them something to eat, and he was 
prepared to welcome them as became a host ; 
but to be asked who the devil he might be, in 
his own house, was the last straw of the night- 
mare, and transformed him from a mild Eng- 
Ush gentleman into a foaming fury. However, 
the only effect on the strangers of Mr Briggs' 
rage was to move them to greater mirth, and 
as he rushed out of the room he heard one 
man saying that they must have sent them a 
lunatic this time. 

In the kitchen he found Mrs Lyden in tears, 
and explanations soon followed. For some 
time past the island had been used as a Sinn 
Fein internment camp, and his unbidden guests 
consisted of a British colonel, two subalterns, 
a D.I., and a magistrate from a neighbouring 
county, who had given trouble to the Volun- 
teers by insisting on holding Petty Sessions 
Courts in opposition to the newly-estabhshed 
Sinn Fein Courts. 

Reahsing that he was a prisoner in his own 
house, he returned to the dining-room, ex- 
plained this extraordinary situation to his 
fellow-prisoners, and then joined them at their 
meal. When he had finished he went for a 
stroll with the colonel, who explained matters 
more fully to him. Most of the prisoners had 
been on the island for some time, and so far 
had found no chance of attempting to escape. 
The colonel himself had been captured whilst 
salmon-fishing on a river in the south, and 



114 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

then brought bhndfolded at night in a car to 
Lough MojYSb, 

On inspecting the boat-house, Mr Briggs 
found that all his boats had gone, even the 
one Lyden had rowed him out in, which the 
colonel told him had been brought over from 
another island, where their guards lived, and 
that the guards must have returned in her ; 
further, that they were visited every second 
day by these guards, who brought them food, 
for which they had to pay a stiff price. 

The colonel had unearthed two packs of 
patience cards, and the three soldiers, with 
the D.I. for a fourth, played bridge from after 
breakfast until they went to bed. In the 
sitting-room there was a small library of Mr 
Briggs' favourite books, and these kept the 
rest of the party from drowning themselves 
in the lake. 

Two days after his arrival, and just as he 
was thinking about retiring for the night, 
Lyden came in to say that an officer wished 
to speak to Mr Briggs outside, and on following 
Lyden he found a man dressed in a wonderful 
green uniform waiting at the front door. The 
officer informed Mr Briggs that he had come 
to take him to a republican court, which was 
to be held that night on the mainland, and 
where the case of the Republic v. Briggs would 
be heard. Mr Briggs had never heard of such 
a thing as a republican court, but could get 
no further information from the gentleman in 
green, and shortly afterwards the party set 
out in a boat for the mainland. 



MR BRIGGS' ISLAND. 115 

By the time they landed it was quite dark, 
and after a walk of about twenty minutes they 
arrived at a large building, which Mr Briggs 
recognised as Cloonalla chapel, and here the 
officer handed him over to a local pubhcan, 
who told him to follow him into the chapel. 
Inside there was a large crowd of country 
people, while at one end was a raised table, 
at which were seated the three judges — two 
in civilian attire, and the third in the clothes 
of a priest. 

After his eyes had got accustomed to the 
poor light of the few oil-lamps, Mr Briggs 
recognised in the presiding judge the parish 
priest of a neighbouring parish, and in the 
other two judges a butcher and a good-for- 
nothing painter from Ballybor. At the time 
of his entry a river j&shing-rights case was 
before the court, with a Ballybor solicitor act- 
ing for the defendant, while another well- 
known sohcitor from the same town acted as 
" Republican Prosecutor." 

After a time the case of the Republic v. 
Briggs came on for hearing, and Mr Briggs 
learnt, to his great astonishment, that they 
proposed to take his island and fishing rights 
on Lough Moyra from him compulsorily for 
the sum of £200, to be paid in Dail Eireann 
Bonds, whatever they might be, and that he 
was to be deported to England as soon as 
convenient. At the end of the case the pre- 
siding judge asked Mr Briggs if he had any 
objection, but he wisely refused to say any- 
thing, and shortly afterwards was handed over 



116 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

to the green officer, who took him back to the 
island. 

A few days after, as Mr Briggs was sitting 
disconsolately on a rock at the north end of 
the island, gazing across the lake and wonder- 
ing if he would ever fish there again, he heard 
the distant hum of a motor-engine, and in a 
short time saw a 'plane approaching the island 
from the south-east. Wild with excitement, 
he dashed into the house, calHng the colonel 
to come out at once. The colonel got up 
from the card-table, and on seeing the 'plane 
quickly collected all the sheets and blankets 
he could find, and hurriedly spread them out 
in the form of rough letters, speUing the word 
" Help " on the grass in front of the house, 
and then ran down to the end of the quay, 
where he waved a sheet frantically over his 
head. 

For what seemed an age to the prisoners, 
the 'plane took no notice of the colonel's sig- 
nals ; then, to their great joy, the pilot cut 
off his engine, dropped to about 800 feet, and 
flew low over the island, turned, flew over the 
island again, and then made off at full speed 
in a southerly direction. That night none of 
the prisoners slept a wink, expecting every 
minute to hear the sounds of their deliverers' 
approach. 

On the return of the 'plane to the aerodrome 
a cipher message was at once despatched to 
Blake, with instructions to investigate the 
trouble on the island ; but, as usual, the 
message was delayed in the post office, and 



I 



MR BRIGGS' ISLAND. 117 

received too late to take any action that even- 
ing. On inquiry, Blake found that, though 
formerly two police boats were kept on the 
lake for the purpose of raiding poteen-makers 
on the islands, some time ago these boats had 
been burnt, and there was no means of getting 
out to the islands. 

Early the next morning the police borrowed 
a motor-launch lying in the river at Ballybor, 
and with difficulty mounted it on a com- 
mandeered lorry. Taking a strong police force 
with them, Blake and Jones then set out for 
the lake, deciding to launch the boat at a 
bay close to Cloonalla chapel. Here the road 
ran about fifty yards from the lake, but by 
the aid of rollers they soon got the launch off 
the lorry and afloat. 

Leaving a guard over the cars and lorry, the 
police then set out for the islands, and all 
went well until they reached the neck of the 
bay, which was only about 200 yards wide. 
Here they came under heavy rifle-fire from 
the north shore, the attackers being hidden 
amongst bushes and the ruins of an old cottage. 

Unfortunately one of the first shots cut the 
magneto wire, and the launch at once started 
to drift helplessly in the wind towards the 
attackers. While Blake repaired the wire, 
Jones swept the attackers with a Lewis gun, 
which quickly smothered their fire, and the 
wire being soon repaired, the launch got under 
way again, and made for the open lake at 
full speed. 

Blake had never been on Lough Moyrsi 



118 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

before, but had brought with him a sergeant 
who had often taken part in poteen raids on 
the islands in former days. On looking at an 
Ordnance map he found that there were two 
large islands — one with only a fishing-lodge 
marked on it, and the other with seven houses 
shown — and on the sergeant's advice they 
made for the latter, on the assumption that 
something must have gone wrong with their 
boats, and that the people might be short of 
food. 

When within about 400 yards of the island 
they again came under rifle-fire, and reaHsing 
that they had called at the wrong house, and 
that it would be impossible to effect a landing 
except at a heavy loss, they changed their 
course and made for the second island ; but 
before they got half-way a boat put out from 
the first island, and made off in the direction 
of the far shore. 

The launch was fairly fast, and in a very 
short time they were within 600 yards of the 
boat, when Blake fired a single shot as a signal 
to it to stop. In reply the boat opened fire 
on the launch, but one short burst of Lewis- 
gun fire quickly brought them to their' senses, 
and the occupants put up their hands. 

After disarming these men Blake took their 
boat in tow, and this time succeeded in reach- 
ing Mr Briggs' island safely, where he was 
astonished to meet the prisoners on the quay, 
and more especially the D.I., who had been 
missing for some time, and of whom all hope 
had been given up. The whole party then set 



MR BRIGGS' ISLAND. 119 

off for the mainland, found that the guard 
had successfully beaten off an attack on the 
cars, and eventually all returned safely to 
Ballybor with only two constables slightly 
wounded. 

Two days afterwards Mr Briggs embarked 
on the s.s. Cockatoo, bound for England, where 
he will probably remain until the war in 
Ireland is over. 



120 



IX. 

THE REWARD OF LOYALTY. 

For some time after the death of Anthony 
Mayne, the murdered R.M., Petty Sessions 
Courts ceased to be held in Ballybor, and 
the Sinn Fein Courts reigned supreme. At 
length Mayne' s successor arrived, and endeav- 
oured to start the Courts in his district again, 
but found that not only were the country 
people too terrorised to bring any cases before 
a British Court, but that most of the magis- 
trates had resigned, and none of the few re- 
maining ones would face the bench. 

However, Fitzmaurice, the new R.M., stuck 
to it, and in the end a retired officer, Hving 
just outside Ballybor, became a magistrate for 
the county ; and suddenly, to the intense 
excitement of the whole town, it was given 
out that some countryman had had the au- 
dacity to defy the edict of Dail Eireann, and 
to summon a neighbour to appear before the 
British magistrates. 

The court-house at Ballybor is a most 
curious-looking edifice of an unknown style 
of architecture, shabby and dismal outside 



THE REWARD OF LOYALTY. 121 

and like a vault inside. On the day that the 
Court reopened the place was packed to the 
doors, and when the clerk stood up to an- 
nounce the Court open, and ending with the 
words, " God save the King ! " the silence 
could be felt. 

It was what is known in the west of Ireland 
as a " saft day " — a day of heavy drizzUng 
rain and a mild west wind off the Atlantic, 
and after a time the crowded court-house of 
countrjmien in soaked home-spuns and women 
with reeking shawls over their heads literally 
began to steam, and the strong acrid smell 
of turf smoke from the drying clothes became 
overpowering. At first all eyes were fixed on 
the two magistrates sitting on the raised dais 
at one end of the court-house, and many, re- 
membering poor Mayne's end, wondered how 
long the two had to live. The R.M., they 
knew, was well paid by the British Govern- 
ment, but the second magistrate's unpaid 
loyalty must surely be a form of madness, or 
most Hkely he received secret pay from the 
Government. 

After the disposal of cases brought by the 
poHce for various offences, the only civil case 
on the list — ^in reality the beginning of a trial 
of strength between Sinn Fein and the British 
Government — came on for hearing, and in due 
course the magistrates gave a decision in favour 
of the complainant, a herd by name Mickey 
Coleman. 

Taking advantage of the suspension of the 
law, a neighbour, Ned Foley, had thought to 



122 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

get free grazing, and day after day had deliber- 
ately driven his cattle on to Coleman's land. 
Coleman, having remonstrated repeatedly with 
Foley in vain, consulted a Ballybor solicitor, 
who advised him to bring Foley into a Sinn 
Fein Court, where, he assured him, he would 
get full justice. This Coleman refused to do, 
and after consulting a second solicitor, brought 
the case before the Ballybor Petty Sessions 
Court. 

Coleman appears to have been a man of 
great determination and courage, as he had 
been repeatedly warned by the Volunteers that 
if he persisted in taking Foley into a British 
Court they would make his Ufe a hell on earth ; 
and as he left the court after winning his case, 
a note was slipped into his hand to the effect 
that the I.R.A. neither forgets nor forgives. 

Coleman had started life as a farm labourer, 
eventually becoming herd to a Loyalist called 
Vyvian Carew, whose ancestors came over to 
Ireland in the time of Queen EUzabeth, and 
who Hved alone in a large house about eight 
miles from Ballybor, where he farmed his own 
demesne of four hundred Irish acres. 

Carew belonged to a class of Irishman fast 
dying out in the west, and considering that it 
has always been the policy of every Liberal 
Government to throw them to the wolves, it 
is almost beyond belief that any are left in 
the country. A type of man any country can 
ill afford to lose, and all countries ought to be 
proud and glad to gain. After serving through- 
out the late war in the British Army, Carew 



THE REWARD OF LOYALTY. 123 

had returned home, hoping to hve in peace 
and quiet for the rest of his days, but had soon 
been undeceived. Though working himself as 
hard as any small farmer, and farming his land 
far better than any other man in the district, 
it was decided by men who coveted his acres 
that he possessed too many, and the usual 
steps in the west were taken to make him 
give up three of his four hundred acres, and if 
possible force him to sell out all. 

Coleman started with a heavy heart for his 
cottage in Rossbane, Carew's demesne, and 
from the moment he left the court-house until 
he lifted the latch of his door found himself 
treated as a leper by townsfolk and country 
people alike. Probably some of the people 
would have been willing to speak to him, and 
most likely many admired his pluck, but a 
man who comes under the curse of the I.R.A. 
is to be avoided at any costs. No man can 
tell when that sinister curse, which is often a 
matter of life and death to a peasant, may be 
extended to an unwary sympathiser. 

In the evening, when going round the cattle, 
he met his master, who, on being shown the 
threatening note, at once wanted Coleman to 
bring his family up to the big house ; but he 
refused, knowing that if he did his cottage 
would probably be burnt and his own few 
cattle either stolen or maimed. 

Soon after eleven that night there came a 
loud knock at the door, and Coleman, who 
had been sitting by the fire expecting a visit, 
rose up to meet his fate, but was caught by 

E 



124 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

his terrified wife, who clung to him with the 
strength of despair. At last Coleman suc- 
ceeded in opening the door, and to their utter 
astonishment in walked a British officer, dressed 
in khaki topcoat, steel helmet, and with a belt 
and holster. The officer explained that he 
came from Castleport, that he had a large party 
of soldiers on the road outside, and that he 
was going to scour the countryside for rebels 
that night. Lastly, he said that he had been 
told Coleman was well disposed, and would he 
help him by giving information ? 

Coleman, who at the sight of a British 
officer in a steel helmet, when he expected a 
Volunteer with a black mask, had been over- 
come with joy, at the mention of that sinister 
word " information " regained his senses, and 
answered that he had none to give ; that he 
was only a poor herd striving to do his work 
and keep a wife and a long weak family, and 
that he had nothing to do with politics. 

The officer said nothing, but sat down by 
the fire on a stool and started to play with the 
children ; presently he returned to the charge 
again, and asked the herd where the Foleys 
lived, and if they were Volunteers. The men- 
tion of the name of Foley confirmed Coleman 
in his growing suspicion, and he replied that 
he knew the Foleys for quiet decent boys, and 
he believed that they had nothing at all to do 
with politics. 

Shortly afterwards the officer wished them 
good-night, leaving Coleman and his wife a 
prey to conflicting emotions. If he really was 



THE REWARD OF LOYALTY. 125 

a British officer, then at any rate they were 
safe for that night, but if not, then probably 
some terrible outrage was brewing. Only a 
week before the Volunteers had set fire, while 
the inmates were in bed, to the house of a 
farmer, who had bought the farm a few days 
previously at a public a-uction, contrary to the 
orders of the I.R.A. ; and though the inmates 
just managed to escape in their night attire, 
their two horses and a cow were burnt to 
death, and their charred bodies could still be 
seen lying amid the ruins from the main road 
— a warning to all who thought of disobeying 
the LR.A. 

After the time it would take to walk to the 
Foleys' house and back there came a second 
knock, and the officer entered again, pushing 
one of the young Foleys in front of him with 
his hands up. " Here's the young blighter," 
said the officer to Coleman, " and if you will 
give the necessary information about him, I'll 
have him shot by my men outside at once." 

But Coleman, whose suspicion by now was a 
certainty, refused to be drawn, and replied 
that he knew nothing against the Foleys, and 
that they were quiet respectable neighbours. 

For some time the officer tried his best to 
get Coleman to give evidence against Foley, 
but at last, finding it was useless, left, taking 
his prisoner with him. 

By now the Colemans were too unhappy to 
go to bed, and sat round the fire in silence. 
After an hour there came a third knock, and 
again the officer appeared ; but this time 



126 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

Coleman could see quite a different expression 
on his face, and in a brutal voice, not taking 
the trouble to hide his brogue, he bade the 
unfortunate herd " get ui^ out of that and 
come outside." 

Coleman followed his tormentor outside, and 
there found a mob of young men and boys 
waiting for him, who proceeded to kick him 
along the road for a mile, when he could go 
no farther, and fell on the road. They then 
tied his hands and ankles, and left him in the 
middle of the road for a police car to run over 
him. And here he lay all night in the rain. 

The next day was market-day in Ballybor, 
and many of the country people started early 
in their carts for the tov/n, and though none 
drove over the herd, yet one and all passed 
by on the other side. 

Luckily, when the herd was nearly gone 
from cold and exposure, the good Samaritan 
appeared in the shape of Carew driving to 
Ballybor, and in a short time he had Coleman 
back at Rossbane in front of a big turf fire ; 
and after placing him in charge of the cook, 
brought the herd's family to a cottage in the 
yard, and then drove into Ballybor to see 
Blake. But the D.I. had his hands too full 
to be able to give protection to individuals. 

At this time, next to Sinn Fein, the Trans- 
port Union was the strongest party in the 
west, and being composed of landless men, its 
main object was to gain land for its members 
by all and every means in its power, with the 
result that their attention was concentrated 



THE REWARD OF LOYALTY. 127 

on outing all men with four hundred acres or 
more in their possession, and next would come 
the men with three hundred acres, and so on 
down the scale. 

The farmer with forty acres or thereabouts 
— ^the best class of small farmer in the west, 
and if let alone the most law-abiding, as they 
are numerous and possess something worth 
holding on to — soon realised where this would 
lead to, and tried to apply the brakes. They 
would have succeeded but for their younger 
sons, who, in the ordinary course of events, 
would have found good employment in the 
States, but under present circumstances have 
to remain at home helping to make small 
fortunes for their parents. It is this class of 
young men who, with the shop boys, form the 
rank and file of the I.R.A., and in the case of 
the farmers' sons it is the western peasants' 
usual characteristic of " land hunger " which 
forms the chief driving power. 

At one period it looked as though Sinn 
Fein and the Transport Union would come 
to loggerheads ; but Sinn Fein proved too 
strong, and the two became partners to all 
intents and purposes. 

A few days after he had returned from his 
fruitless visit to Blake, Carew received a letter 
from the secretary of the local branch of the 
Transport Union calling upon him to dismiss 
Coleman, and that if he did not comply at 
once the Union would call out all his men. 
Carew ignored the letter and the threat. 

The Owenmore river runs through Rossbane, 



128 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

roughly dividing it into two equal parts, and 
after a fortnight Carew received a letter from 
the I.R.A. calling upon him to attend a Sinn 
Fein Court the following Sunday night at Cloon- 
alla Chapel, and saying that the part of his 
demesne separated from the house by the river 
was to be taken from him, and if he wished 
to claim " compensation " he must attend the 
"Court." And again Carew ignored the letter. 

A week afterwards all his farm hands and 
servants, with the exception of the cook, Katey 
Brogan, simply vanished, and Carew found 
himself with only Katey and Coleman to keep 
going a large house and a four-hundred-acre 
farm. Nothing daunted, he took the Colema^ns 
into the house, made Mrs Coleman cook and 
Katey housemaid, whilst Coleman and he deter- 
mined to carry on with the farming as best 
they could. 

A few days after a little girl brought a 
message that Katey' s father was very ill, and 
that her mother wished her to go home at 
once ; so Katey left immediately, and the 
following day Carew rode over to see if he 
could help the Brogans, knowing that they 
were miserably poor. 

The Brogans lived in a two-roomed hovel 
on the verge of a bog, and on entering a ter- 
rible sight met Carew' s eyes. The old man lay 
dead in one bed, Katey dead in the second 
bed with a large bullet-hole through her fore- 
head, and the old mother crooning over the 
fire ashes, stark mad. 

He then tried to find out what had happened 



THE REWARD OF LOYALTY. 129 

from two neighbouring cottages, but in each 
case the door was slammed in his face with a 
curse of fear. After wandering about for over 
an hour he met a small boy, who told him the 
details of the worst murder the country had 
yet seen. 

It appeared that Katey must have written 
to the poUce in Ballybor with reference to the 
treatment of the Colemans, and that the letter 
had fallen into the hands of Sinn Fein agents 
in the post office. 

Using old Brogan's illness to decoy Katey 
home, the murderers waited until midnight, 
when they knocked at the door. At the time 
Katey was sitting by the fire making broth 
for her father, and at once opened the door, 
to be confronted by eight armed men wearing 
white masks and black hats, one of whom said, 
" Come with us." Apparently Katey refused, 
whereupon they seized her, bound her wrists, 
and dragged her screaming and struggling to 
a field some hundred yards from her home. 

Here they tried her by court-martial, con- 
victed her, and no time was lost by the assassins 
in carrying out the death sentence. They then 
flung her bod}^ outside the cottage, where it 
was found by her mother, whose cries brought 
old Brogan out of his bed, and between them 
they managed to carry their murdered daughter 
in. The shock was too much for the old man, 
and he died shortly after he returned to bed, 
which finally turned the old woman's brain. 

Then followed weeks of misery. Every night 
Carew's cattle were driven, his gates taken off 



130 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

their hinges and flung into the river, trees were 
cut down, fences smashed, and the showing of 
a Hght at any window was the signal for a 
volley of shots. Life in the trenches on the 
Western Front was often fearful enough, but 
to realise the life Carew and his herd led at 
this time one must remember that they had 
to carry on week in week out, with no rest 
billets ever to retire to, apart from the fact 
that at any moment sudden death in some 
horrible mutilating form might be their lot. 

The first fair at which Carew tried to sell 
cattle warned him of the futility of attending 
any more. Sinn Fein " policemen," with green, 
white, and yellow brassards on their arms, 
took care that no buyers came near him, while 
all the corner boys in Ballybor amused them- 
selves by driving his cattle backwards and for- 
wards through the fair until they could hardly 
move. Directly Carew would make for one 
set of tormentors, a fresh lot would appear 
behind his back and take up the chase. 

After starting Coleman on his way home 
with the weary cattle, he went to the grocer 
he had dealt with for years, meaning to lay 
in a good stock of provisions. On entering the 
shop the owner took Carew into a private 
room, and explained that if he sold one penny- 
worth of food to him his shop would be burnt 
over his head that night, and that all the 
shopkeepers had received the same orders from 
the I.R.A. Carew then went straight to the 
police barracks, where the police soon bought 
all that he required. 



THE REWARD OF LOYALTY. 131 

It was nearly dark when Carew drew near 
to his entrance gate, and as his horse started 
to walk four men darted out from the shadow 
of the demesne wall, two seizing the horse, 
while the rest, covering him with shot-guns, 
ordered him to get out. 

Carew had no alternative but to comply, 
whereupon his captors led him down a lane 
towards the river, where they were joined by 
a crowd of men and boys. On reaching the 
river a violent argument started, one section 
being for drowning him out of face, while an- 
other wished to give him a chance of his life 
if he would swear to give up his land. In the 
end they compromised, and two tall men took 
Carew by the arms and waded out into the 
river with him until they were over their 
waists. 

The leader then called out to Carew that if 
he would not agree to surrender all his lands 
and promise to leave the country they would 
drov/n him there and then. In order to gain 
time Carew pretended to be greatly frightened, 
and started a whining altercation with the 
leader on the bank. As he expected, his 
would-be executioners soon joined in heatedly, 
so much so that shortly one let go of his arm, 
and throwing the other off his balance with 
a quick wrench, Carew dived, and swimming 
down and across the river under water was 
soon in safety on the far bank. As soon as 
the crowd realised that their prisoner had 
escaped, they opened fire on the river at once, 
hitting one of the men in the water, where- 

e2 



132 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

upon the wounded man's friends turned on 
another faction and a free fight ensued. 

Once across the river, Carew ran as hard 
as he could for the house of a friendly farmer 
living on the main road on the east side of 
the river, borrowed a bicycle from the man, 
and set off for Ballybor. 

By great good luck, as Carew reached the 
barracks in Ballybor, he found Blake on the 
point of setting out on a night expedition with 
a Crossley load of police. On hearing his story 
Blake at once agreed to return with him, in 
the hope that they might be in time to save 
Rossbane. 

In order to surprise the Volunteers, Blake 
went by the road on the east side of the river, 
and on reaching Carew' s demesne hid the car 
inside in the shadow of some trees. Carew 
then swam the river, brought back a boat, 
and ferried the police across in three parties. 

The farm buildings and main yard of Ross- 
bane lie between the house and the river, and 
on entering the yard the police found Coleman 
lying insensible and surrounded by his weeping 
wife and children. Learning from the woman 
that the Volunteers were on the point of setting 
fire to the house, the police, led by Blake and 
Carew, who was armed with rifle and revolver, 
and by now in a white heat of fury, made for 
the house in two parties, one under Carew for 
the front entrance, and the other under Blake 
for the back. 

The last thing the Volunteers expected was 
a brutal assault by the police, and after eating 



THE REWARD OF LOYALTY. 133 

and drinking all they could find and looting 
what happened to take their fancy, they had 
just sprayed petrol over the hall and set it on 
fire when the police entered. 

It is not often that the R.I.C. have the 
pleasure of coming to grips with the elusive 
I.R.A., but when they do they put paid in 
capital letters to the accounts of their mur- 
dered comrades, men shot in cold blood in 
their homes, or dragged unarmed out of trains 
and butchered like cattle. 

The R.I.C. are probably one of the finest 
fighting forces to be found in a continent 
where, at the present day, practically every 
man is trained to arms, and most people have 
seen the fight cornered rats will put up. 

The main hall of Rossbane was in the centre 
of the house, and after setting fire to it the 
Volunteers had started to leave, some by the 
front door and others through the kitchen, 
with the result that they ran into the arms of 
the police, who did not waste time with futile 
shouts of " hands up," but proceeded at once 
to business. 

At first they fought in darkness ; but soon 
the flames gathered strength, and their glow 
silhouetted the forms of the Volunteers, giving 
the police as good targets as man could wish for. 

In a short time the Volunteers broke ; some 
rushed upstairs never to be seen alive again, 
while others fled into the drawing-room which 
opened off the hall, only to find escape cut off 
by heavy barred shutters. By now the centre 
of the house was burning fiercely, and all the 



134 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

police had to do to complete the rout was to 
wait outside the two exits and let the flames 
act the part of ferrets. Ten minutes more 
saw the end, and with it the few Volunteers 
who escaped with their hves, handcuffed to- 
gether in a miserable group in the big yard, 
covered by two Black and Tans. And when 
the captain of the Kossbane Company of the 
I.R.A. revised his company roll, his pen must 
have been busy with " gone to America " after 
many names. 

Dawn broke on a sight worthy of modern 
Russia, on the smouldering ruins of the fine 
old house, on the wretched groups of singed 
and blackened Volunteers, and on the group 
of still weeping Colemans huddled in a corner 
of the yard as far from the fire of the Volun- 
teers as they could get. 

Carew, still undaunted, though wounded in 
a leg and shoulder and soaked to the skin for 
hours, wished to stay on in the cottage in the 
yard ; but as soon as the fight was over, Blake 
had sent half his force back to Ballybor in the 
Crossley to bring out more transport, and the 
argument was settled by the arrival of two 
Crossleys and three Fords, in which Blake 
returned to barracks, taking Carew and the 
Colemans with him as well as the prisoners. 
It was impossible to leave any police at Ross- 
bane ; the wounded had to be attended to, 
and Blake rightly guessed that the Volunteers 
had had a dose that night which would keep 
them quiet for some time to come. 

Carew' s wounds were only slight, and the 



THE REWARD OF LOYALTY. 135 

following day he was determined to return to 
Rossbane. Poor Coleman had no option but 
to go with his master, having no money, a 
family to provide for, and knowing full well 
that he might as well ask for the crown of 
England as seek employment elsewhere in the 
west, while emigration to the States was out 
of the question. 

Blake was now in an awkward dilemma. 
Unable to give Carew protection, he feared 
that if he returned the chances were that both 
he and the herd would be murdered. How- 
ever, Carew was determined to go, so Blake 
gave out on the quiet that if anything hap- 
pened to either of them the Auxiliaries would 
be called in, and let him go. 

For some time Carew lived in peace. The 
fight at the burning of Rossbane had put the 
fear of God into the local Volunteers, and most 
of them would as soon have faced a Lewis 
gun as face Carew in a fighting mad temper, 
while the threat of the Auxiliaries stayed the 
hands of the " shoot him from behind a wall 
brigade." 

At length Carew went up to Dublin to find 
out about the payment of his malicious injury 
claim for the burning of Rossbane, and on his 
return was met at Ballybor Station by Blake 
with the news that some I.R.A. flying column 
had beaten Coleman to death and burnt all 
the outbuildings at Rossbane, not leaving a 
wall standing. 

Carew wished now to put up a wooden hut 
at Rossbane and endeavour to carry on alone ; 



136 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

but Blake refused to let him go, and in the 
end he was persuaded, greatly against his will, 
to sell his lands by public auction. 

The auction took place in Ballybor, the lands 
being divided into lots of a suitable size to 
suit small farmers ; but the auctioneers did 
not receive a single bid — the I.R.A. saw to 
that. 

Carew now determined to leave his lands 
waste, his home in ruins, and as soon as he 
received the money for his malicious injury 
claim, to go to British East Africa, there to 
await the return of better days in Ireland, 
when he intends to return and rebuild the 
home of his fathers. Will they ever come ? 



137 



X. 

POTEEN. 

There are very few industries in the west of 
Ireland, and of these by far the most lucrative 
is the distillation of illicit whisky, or, as it is 
generally called by the peasants, poteen. 

The average countryman would far rather 
make a fiver by sticking a stranger with a 
horse than £100 by hard honest work. Add 
an element of danger, and he is quite con- 
tent. The making of poteen combines much 
profit with little labour and a good element of 
danger, in that the distiller may be caught by 
the police and heavily fined. 

The beginning of poteen is lost in the mist 
of past ages, and the end will probably syn- 
chronise with the end of Ireland ; the amount 
made varies with the demand, and the demand 
fluctuates with the price and supply of whisky. 

During 1919, when whisky became weak, 
dear, and scarce, and the police for a time 
practically ceased to function, the call for 
poteen became so great that the demand far 
exceeded the supply, and for many months 
the whisky sold in the majority of public- 



138 TALES OF THE R.LC. 

houses throughout the west was made up of 
a mixture of three-quarters poteen and a 
quarter whisky. 

At the beginning of the last century all 
poteen was made from malt in the same way 
as whisky is made, until some thoughtful man 
argued that if they could make beer from 
sugar in England, we could surely make poteen 
from the same material in Ireland ; and as 
any one buying malt or growing barley was 
liable to attract the eye of the R.I.C., all 
poteen ceased to be made from malt, and the 
far simpler method of distilling from " treacle " 
continues to this day. Treacle is largely im- 
ported in barrels to Ireland, ostensibly for the 
purpose of fattening cattle and pigs. 

In the early part of 1919 a young Welsh- 
man, David Evans, was demobilised with a 
good gratuity, and being a keen fisherman, 
determined he would have one good summer's 
salmon-fishing in Scotland before settling down 
to work. But Evans was not the only man 
looking out for salmon-fishing in Scotland, and 
he soon realised that that country was out of 
the question. 

During the war Evans had served at one 
time in the same division with Blake, and 
thinking that the latter might know of some 
good salmon-fishing at a moderate rent, he 
wrote to him. By return of post came an 
answer from Blake, saying that, owing to the 
bad state of the country, very few EngHsh- 
men had taken fishings in Ireland that season, 
and that there was a very good stretch of the 



POTEEN. 139 

Owenmore river, about ten miles above Bally- 
bor, to let at a moderate rent. 

Evans at once wired asking Blake to take 
the fishing for him, and ten days afterwards 
took up his quarters at Carra Lodge, a small 
fishing lodge on the bank of the river. 

Ireland has probably benefited more than 
any other country in Europe b}^ the war, and 
not least by the submarine scourge, which not 
only raised the prices of cattle and pigs beyond 
the dreams of avarice, but also increased the 
number of salmon in Irish rivers to an extent 
unknown within the memory of man. Before 
the war salmon and sea-trout in many western 
rivers were rapidly becoming exterminated 
through the great increase of drift-nets at sea ; 
but directly the first German submarine was 
reported to have been seen off the west coast 
not a fisherman would leave land, with the 
result that the fish had free ingress to their 
native rivers, and the numbers of spawraing 
fish were greatly increased. 

Evans had great sport, thoroughly enjoyed 
himseK, and found the peasants quite the most 
charming and amusing people he had ever 
met. No matter what sort of house he entered, 
he was received Hke a prince and bid ten 
thousand welcomes ; a carefully dusted chair 
would be placed by the fireside for " his hon- 
our," and a large jar of poteen produced from 
under the bed. 

Towards the end of his time at Carra Lodge, 
Evans came to the conclusion that, if he could 
only discover some way of making a decent 



140 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

income, he would settle down in the west of 
Ireland ; but the question of how to make 
money puzzled him greatly. Farming did not 
appeal to him, and beyond that there did not 
appear to be any other industry open to an 
enterprising young man, and any profession 
was ruled out owing to the long period of 
training required. 

Before the war Evans had worked for a 
short time in a distillery, and had a good idea 
of how to make whisky and of malting ; but 
to start a distillery in the Ballybor district 
was out of the question, owing to the small- 
ness of his capital. But if he could not make 
whisky, he could make poteen with a very 
small outlay. 

On making inquiries, he found that the 
possibihties of the idea were enormous ; the 
outlay was small, the returns great, but the 
risks were also great. Yet if detection could 
be avoided, the returns would only be limited 
by the amount of treacle and malt available. 

At this period the country people were full 
of money, and as whisky was almost unattain- 
able, they were prepared to pay a very high 
price for poteen, and the distilleries were 
rapidly making fortunes. Still there was con- 
siderable danger attached to the trade. The 
police, though hardly ever seen outside their 
barracks except in large numbers, occasion- 
ally carried out extensive poteen raids, and as 
it was nearly an impossibility to find a house 
without poteen in it, they never returned 
empty-handed. 



POTEEN. 141 

Having decided to go into the poteen trade, 
the next question was where to make it. To 
start distilHng in a small wa}^ in a small house 
merely meant certain discovery after making 
small profits, and Evans knew that once he 
was caught red-handed by the police the game 
would be up. 

During bad times in any country, when the 
honest but timid men go to the wall, the un- 
scrupulous but bold men come into their own, 
and often make a fortune by means which in 
quieter times would be out of the question. 
Evans belonged to the latter class. 

Towards the end of 1919 the peasants started 
to burn unoccupied country-houses throughout 
the south and west. Doubtless they were 
often burnt by wild young men without rhyme 
or reason, but also probably with the idea of 
making it impossible for the owners to return 
to their homes, and so force them to sell their 
demesne lands to the very people who had 
burnt their houses. 

A few miles from Carra Lodge, at the foot 
of the mountains, stood one of the largest 
houses in Connaught, Ardcumber House, the 
family seat of one of the oldest Elizabethan 
families in Ireland, and probably the finest 
sporting demesne in the west. The great 
house, full of Sheraton and Chippendale furni- 
ture, commanded wonderful views of moun- 
tains and moors ; while in front runs the 
Owenmore river, famous for its salmon fishing, 
through a valley which in winter time can 
show more snipe, duck, geese, and wild game 



142 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

of all sorts than any other valley of its size in 
the British Isles. 

One would have thought that the above 
sporting attractions would have satisfied any 
man ; but the owner was one of those queer 
Irishmen who preferred any country to his 
own, and divided his time between London and 
Continental watering-places, leaving the man- 
agement of his estates to an agent, who lived 
in Ballybor. 

When reading the ' Field ' one evening, 
Evans came across an advertisement of Ard- 
cumber House to let to a careful tenant at a 
nominal rent. Realising that the agent feared 
the house would be burnt if left empty, he 
drove into Ballybor the following day, took 
Blake with him to interview the agent, and 
drove home with a lease of Ardcumber House 
in his pocket, at a rent which the sale of game 
and salmon would cover twice over. 

The best of the fishing being now over, 
Evans crossed to England, nominally to collect 
his kit, in reality to have a large still made, 
which he had packed in large cases, labelled 
furniture, and brought over by long sea to 
Ballybor. At the same time he arranged with 
a sugar agent in England to ship treacle in 
paraffin barrels to Ballyrick and Ballybor as 
he required it. 

When at home in Wales he induced a cousin, 
John Evans, to join him, and the two set 
out for Ireland. In Dublin they purchased a 
Ford truck, which they had fitted up as a 
shooting waggonette with a hood like a box- 



POTEEN. 143 

car, and in this, after obtaining the necessary 
pohce permit through Blake, they drove straight 
down to the west, and took up their quarters 
at Ardcumber. 

They found the house in charge of an old 
woman, who lived in one of the gate lodges, 
and arranged with her to cook for them and 
look after the few rooms they used, allowing 
her to go home every evening at six o'clock. 

At the top of the house they found six large 
rooms shut of! from the rest of the house by 
a heavy door at the head of the stairs. Here 
they erected the still, using a fireplace as a 
flue ; in a second room they erected wooden 
fomenting vessels, and in a third stored the 
treacle and poteen. In order to obtain a supply 
of water they fitted a pipe to the main water- 
supply tank, which was in the roof above the 
attics. 

They now settled down to a regular routine 
of shooting by day and distilling for a greater 
part of the night, living entirely to themselves. 
Once a week they drove into Ballybor in the 
Ford to obtain provisions. 

Whenever they learnt that a consignment 
of treacle had reached Ballybor or Ballj^ick, 
they at once removed it in the Ford, stored 
it in the stables, which they kept carefully 
locked, and carried the treacle in large pails 
at night-time to the fermenting vessels in the 
attics. 

At this time, so occupied were the police 
with looking after themselves, and the country 
people with keeping clear of the R.I.C. and the 



144 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

Volunteers, that nobody gave a thought to 
the " two queer foreigners above in the big 
house " who were mad on shooting. 

As soon as they had accumulated a good 
supply of poteen (the Irish peasant has no 
fancy ideas about allowing poteen to mature, 
and will as soon drink it hot from the still as 
not), they began to think of how to dispose of 
it without calling unnecessary attention to 
themselves. In the end they decided not to 
try distributing the poteen themselves, but to 
find a reliable agent who had a good know- 
ledge of the locality. 

Even when he was very poor indeed the 
western peasant always insisted on having the 
best of tea, or perhaps it would be more cor- 
rect to say that he insisted on paying a high 
price. At one time, so great were the profits 
on tea, that merchants used to send carts 
through the country districts selling nothing 
but tea, called by the country people " tay 
carts." 

David Evans found out that the principal 
tea merchant for the Ballybor district — in fact, 
for many miles round — was a grocer called 
Terence O'Dowd, who kept a large shop in 
Ballybor, and had a branch in Ballyrick. 
Hearing that O'Dowd was fond of coursing, 
Evans called at his shop, and after buying a 
quantity of provisions, invited the man to 
bring his hounds out to Ardcumber the follow- 
ing Sunday for some coursing. 

After the coursing they took O'Dowd into 
their confidence, showed him the distillery 



POTEEN. 145 

and arranged that he should act as their agent. 
This part was simple, but the difficulty was 
how, when, and where to deliver the goods to 
O'Dowd. If the " tay carts " came to Ard- 
cumber, or the distillery Ford went to O'Dowd's 
continually, suspicion would be aroused. After 
a long discussion they decided on a plan of 
action. 

Once a week, when Evans drove into Bally- 
bor for provisions, he was to fill up the Ford 
with poteen and leave the car in a shed in 
O'Dowd's yard, where the poteen could be 
transferred to O'Dowd's cellars and the car 
loaded up with empties. O'Dowd wanted to 
use earthenware jars, but Evans decided on 
two-gallon petrol tins as being less likely to 
excite suspicion. 

For a considerable time the plan worked 
well. Evans took a full load weekly to O'Dowd's, 
whose tea carts distributed the poteen far and 
wide throughout the district. 

One morning Blake, who had spent a busy 
night raiding in the district for arms and 
poteen stills, called in at Ardcumber on his 
way home and had breakfast with the Evans. 
During the conversation he mentioned casually 
that the country was flooded with poteen, 
and that they had failed to find out where 
it was being made, but that they suspected 
it was being delivered in tea carts from Bally- 
bor. 

^4' As soon as Blake had gone David drove off 
into Ballybor, settled up his accounts with 
O'Dowd, who was onlv too thankful to be rid 



146 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

of the job in time, and before he left for home 
had arranged with an egg merchant called 
Michael Flanagan, who sent lorries out to all 
the villages for miles around collecting eggs, 
to take over the agency, the petrol tins to be 
hidden in the straw of the empty egg-crates. 

The police appear to have had no suspicion 
of Evans, and the probabilities are that the 
Ardcumber distillery would have worked on 
indefinitely but for interference from a quite 
unsuspected quarter. The Sinn Fein leaders 
of the district began to grow uneasy at the 
effects of the apparently unlimited supply of 
poteen on the discipline of the Volunteers, 
and determined to put down the industry. 

Any men who were now found with stills in 
their possession by the Sinn Fein police were 
paraded before the congregation outside the 
chapels after Mass on Sunday morning, the 
stills broken up with hammers, the owners 
heavily fined, and then let go with a warning 
of much severer penalties if they were found 
guilty of the same offence again. 

Afterwards Evans and Flanagan received 
summonses to appear on a named date before 
a Sinn Fein Court. Flanagan went and was 
heavily fined, but Evans took no notice of the 
summons. 

Flanagan was now, of course, afraid to act 
as agent, and the question again arose of how 
they were to get the poteen to the different 
buyers. While matters were in this state 
Flanagan sent a warning to Evans that the 
Volunteers would raid Ardcumber on a certain 



POTEEN. 147 

night, and that the results would be very un- 
pleasant for them. 

The situation was now serious. It was im- 
possible for two men to defend such a large 
house, and once inside, the Volunteers, apart 
from the fact that they would probably shoot 
them, would certainly break up the distillery, 
and the rapid increase of their bank balances 
would cease. 

That evening they received a letter stating 
that they had been banished from Ireland by 
an order of the Sinn Fein Court, and giving 
them two days in which to leave the country. 
The same night, after dark, a volley of shots 
was fired through the window of every room 
showing a light, and the following morning 
they had to cook their own breakfast, as the 
old woman did not turn up. 

But David Evans was not beaten yet. After 
breakfast he motored into Ballybor, where he 
waited until it was dark. He then went to 
the barracks, and told Blake that the Volun- 
teers had threatened to raid Ardcumber the 
following night for arms, and suggested that 
the police should ambush the Volunteers in 
the grounds. 

Blake, only too glad to help a friend, and 
eager to get the Volunteers together in the 
open, consented, and before Evans left the 
two had thought out a very pretty trap. 

It has been mentioned that Ardcumber stood 
at the foot of a range of mountains, which 
isolated the Ballybor country on the east, and 
across them for many miles there was only 



148 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

one track, which led down to the back of the 
demesne, and which was never used except 
by country people bringing turf in creels on 
donkeys from the mountain bogs during the 
day-time. 

Blake proposed to start out the following 
afternoon with a good force, cross the moun- 
tains by the main road, which ran through 
a pass due east of Ballybor, and return by the 
mountain track, reaching Ardcumber demesne 
soon after dark. Here David Evans was to 
meet them and guide them to the scene of the 
ambush. The district between the demesne 
and the mountains was thinly populated, and 
at that hour no one would be abroad for fear 
of the Black and Tans. The attackers would 
be certain to come from the opposite direction, 
and would not be likely to arrive before the 
moon rose at 11 p.m. 

The police, with a party of Cadets and two 
Lewis guns, were in position by 9 p.m. in a 
shrubbery on each side of the avenue, about 
a hundred yards from the house. At 11.30 p.m. 
the Volunteers, sure of their prey, marched up 
the avenue in column of route, singing the 
" Soldiers' Song." When they were within 
forty yards Blake called on them to halt, lay 
down their arms, and put up their hands. 

The column halted at once, and for a second 
appeared to waver, but an officer gave the 
order to deploy. Before the column could 
break up both Lewis guns opened fire. 

Unfortunately at this moment a dark cloud 
obscured the moon and heavy rain began to 



POTEEN. 149 

fall, with the result that, after the first short 
burst of fire, the Volunteers were invisible ; 
and though the police started in pursuit, they 
failed to overtake the flying rebels, and had 
to concentrate on the house. 

After collecting and rendering first-aid to 
the wounded — ^there were none killed — the 
police brought their cars up to the house, and 
shortly afterwards returned to Ballybor. 

The Evanses were now fairly safe from the 
Volunteers, but again the question of dis- 
tributing the poteen arose, and this time it 
looked as though they would have to do it 
themselves. They tried to induce Flanagan 
to come on again ; but the egg merchant was 
by now thoroughly frightened, and thankful 
to get off with a heavy fine. O'Dowd, being a 
police suspect, was out of the question, but 
there still remained His Majesty's mails. 

The story of how the Evanses had played 
the police off against the Volunteers was soon 
the talk of the countryside for many a mile, 
and so queer and uncertain is the Irish peas- 
ant's mentality that, where one would have 
expected them to be furious and determined to 
be avenged, on the contrary their great sense 
of humour was immensely tickled at the idea 
of the police defending the Ardcumber dis- 
tillery, and the Evanses became popular heroes. 

After the Volunteer attack, Blake, being 
afraid that they might make another attempt 
to capture the arms in Ardcumber House, 
offered David a party of Black and Tans for 
protection, but this offer was refused. 



150 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

For some time His Majesty's mail cars 
carried the Ardcmnber poteen punctually and 
efficiently — in fact, far better than either 
O'Dowd or Flanagan ^%ad done. Petrol tins 
were still used to put the poteen in, and Evans 
would leave the full tins at a garage twice a 
week, where the mail cars got their petrol 
from, and if a mail car carried a few extra 
tins of petrol, who thought anything about it ? 

Unfortunately the mail contract for that 
district ran out a few months afterwards, and 
this time was given to a man from the north, 
an Orangeman, and once again Evans had to 
find a fresh way of sending round the country 
his now famous poteen. 

But so popular had the Evanses become 
that, instead of having to seek agents, they 
received offers to deliver the poteen from the 
manager of a creamery in the Cloonalla dis- 
trict, and also from the manager of a Co- 
operative Society in a village distant about 
four miles from Ardcumber. Evans closed 
with both offers, and the cousins redoubled 
their efforts to turn out all the poteen they 
possibly could, knowing that an end must 
come sooner or later. 

Two months afterwards the Auxiliaries dis- 
covered that the creamery was being used as 
a Sinn Fein prison, and, as a result, raided 
the place one night and burnt it to the ground. 
Incidentally, they found several full petrol tins 
in the manager's office, filled up their petrol 
tanks with them, and could not make out 
why the cars would not start. 



POTEEN. 151 

It is both possible and probable that, except 
for some unforeseen accident, the Evanses 
might have gone on making and selling poteen 
for an indefinite time — in fact, as long as the 
country remained in the present state of chaos. 
The distillation of poteen always has and always 
will appeal to the western peasant, and the 
story of how the Evanses called in the police 
to defend their still against the attack of the 
Volunteers will be told over the firesides of 
many a cottage for generations to come — long 
after Sinn Fein is dead and buried. 

But at last their good luck deserted them. 
One night while working at the still, John 
carelessly knocked over an oil-lamp, and in a 
moment the old dry woodwork of the attic 
was in flames. Before morning the grand old 
house, with its great collection of priceless 
furniture, was a smouldering ruin, nothing but 
the bare blackened walls standing, and so it 
is likely to remain for all time. 

The Evanses, having made a considerable 
sum of money by now, said good-bye to Blake, 
and returned to their native land. 



152 



XI. 

THE MAYOR'S CONSCIENCE. 

In the spring of 1920 Blake suddenly received 
orders to proceed to a town in the south of 
Ireland on special duty, and on applying for 
leave was granted a fortnight, which he deter- 
mined to spend in Dublin. In due course his 
relief arrived, and after handing over he found 
himself free from all responsibility for the first 
time for many months. 

At this period the Government and the 
Irish railwaymen were enacting a comic opera 
worthy of Gilbert and Sullivan at their best, 
the Government paying the railway companies 
a huge subsidy, the greater part of which found 
its way into the railwaymen' s pockets in the 
form of enormous wages, while the men re- 
fused to carry any armed forces of the Crown ; 
and the public, who, of course, indirectly paid 
the subsidy, looked on helplessly. 

In order to get a passenger train Blake had 
to motor thirty-two miles to a station in the 
next county, where, as yet, no armed forces 
had tried to travel. While waiting here a green 
country boy asked him some trivial question, 



THE MAYOR'S CONSCIENCE. 153 

and with little difficulty Blake led him on to 
tell his whole history. 

In spite of a Sinn Fein edict to the contrary, 
man}^ young men, who could find no work in 
Ireland, or who wished to avoid service in the 
I.R.A., were at this time contriving to emigrate 
to the States by crossing to England and sail- 
ing from Southampton. In order to defeat 
this, Sinn Fein agents were in the habit of 
frequenting the termini in Dublin for the pur- 
pose of getting in touch with these would-be 
emigrants and forcing them to return home. 

This youth, who came from the Ballyrick 
district, and had never been in a train in his 
life, told Blake that a brother in the States 
had sent him his passage, and that he was 
due to sail from Southampton in a few days' 
time, but had to go to the American Consul in 
Dublin in order that his passport might be 
vised, and asked Blake where the consul's 
office was. 

Blake warned him not to tell any one he 
met on his journey that he was going to 
America, or he would surely fall into the 
hands of the Sinn Fein police, and thought no 
more about the matter. 

When the train reached a junction after 
about an hour and a half's run, there was con- 
siderable delay while a large party of Auxiliary 
Cadets searched the train, and eventually 
arrested a police sergeant, whom they removed 
after a desperate struggle to a waiting motor. 
Blake was reading at the time, and did not 
think anything was wrong until he saw the 



154 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

sergeant being dragged out of the station. 
It then occurred to him that, though he thought 
he knew every Cadet in the west by sight, 
yet he failed to recognise any of the search- 
party. However, it was useless to interfere, 
as he was alone and unarmed. 

Blake staj^ed at a hotel near Stephen's 
Green, and for the first part of the night, so 
silent and empty were the streets, that Dubhn 
might have been a city of the dead. However, 
about 2 A.M., a miniature battle broke out in 
some near quarter, and for hours rifle-fire and 
the explosions of bombs continued, varied at 
times by bursts of machine-gun fire. 

The following morning after breakfast he 
set out to see a high official in the Castle, a 
friend of his father's, and also to report at the 
R.I.C. Headquarters there. While walking 
along Grafton Street shots suddenly rang out 
at each end, and at once the crowd tried to 
escape down several by-streets, only to be held 
up by the Cadets at every point ; and it was 
not until two hours afterwards, when the Cadets 
had satisfied themselves that the men they 
wanted were not there, that Blake was free 
to proceed to the Castle. 

The streets appeared much the same as 
usual, but the Castle was greatly changed from 
peace times. The entrance gates were heavily 
barred ; barbed wire, steel shutters, and sand- 
bags in evidence everywhere. Outside, a strong 
party of Dublin Metropolitan Police and Mili- 
tary Foot Police. Inside, a strong guard of 
infantry in steel helmets, while a tank and 



THE MAYOR'S CONSCIENCE. 155 

two armoured cars were standing by ready to 
go into action. 

As nobody was allowed to enter the Castle 
without a pass, Blake had to get a friend from 
the headquarters of the R.I.C. to identify him 
before he could gain admission, and he learnt 
from his friend that the party of Auxiliaries 
he had seen the previous day arresting the 
police sergeant at the junction were in reality 
a fl3^ng column of Volunteers, who had man- 
aged to smuggle the Cadets' uniforms into the 
country from England. 

Blake found that most of the officials in the 
Castle were virtually prisoners there, and in 
order to keep their figures down had improvised 
a gravel tennis-court and also a squash racket- 
court. 

When training at the depot in Dublin, Blake 
had made the acquaintance of a Colonel Ma- 
honey, who had retired and lived near Kings- 
town with his only daughter, and his chief 
object in going to Dublin was to see Miss 
Mahoney again. After leaving the Castle he 
met her by appointment, and after they had 
lunched and been to a picture-house, they left 
by tram to be back in time for tea with the 
Colonel. After the tram started Blake found 
that he had an hour to spare, and got out at 
Ballsbridge to see a friend, while Miss Mahoney 
went on alone. 

On reaching the Mahoneys' house Blake 
learnt that, when Miss Mahoney got out at 
Kingstown, she had been followed by four 
young men, who had demanded the name of 



156 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

the man she had travelled in the tram with, and 
on her refusing to disclose Blake's name, they 
had knocked her down with the butts of their 
revolvers, and left her there partially stunned. 

The following day, when on her way to 
meet Blake again in Dublin, her tram was 
held up by Auxiliaries, and all the men on 
it carefully searched for arms ; but before the 
Cadets boarded the tram. Miss Mahoney saw 
several young men pass their revolvers to girls 
sitting next to them, with the result that the 
Auxiliaries found no arms. On leaving the 
tram at the end of Kildare Street, the pockets 
of her coat feeling unusually heavy, she put 
her hands into them and found a revolver in 
each. At the same moment two men over- 
took her and demanded their arms. 

When he had been in Dublin four days 
Blake had to go to Broadstone Station to 
inquire about a kit-bag which had been lost 
on the journey to Dublin. He reached the 
station about a quarter of an hour before the 
departure of the train for the west, and pass- 
ing a group of young men on the platform, 
recognised amongst them the youth who had 
asked him where to find the American consul. 

There were no police within sight, and it 
was useless to interfere single-handed, but 
without doubt the talkative youth had fallen 
into the hands of the Sinn Fein Police, who 
were returning him to his home minus his 
passage-money : the group consisted of four 
dejected-looking youths and three rough-look- 
ing men, obviously in charge of the others. 



THE MAYOR'S CONSCIENCE. 157 

When his leave was up Blake left for the 
south by an express train, changing at a junc- 
tion after about two hours' run. Here, just 
as the train was on the point of starting, an 
armed party of the Royal Fencibles under a 
subaltern marched on to the platform and took 
their seats in several different third-class car- 
riages, the officer getting into Blake's carriage. 
There was a considerable delay, and Blake 
expected that, as usual, the guard and driver 
would refuse to carry armed soldiers, but to his 
surprise the train started without any incident. 

After an hour's run, the train pulled up 
with a sudden jerk in a cutting just outside 
a station, and as the subaltern put his head 
out of the window to ascertain the cause, the 
train was raked from end to end by heavy 
rifle-fire, and the young subaltern collapsed on 
top of Blake, his head shattered by a dum- 
dum bullet. 

Blake threw himself flat on the floor of the 
carriage until the fire from the top of the 
cutting slackened owing to a Lewis gun opening 
fire from one of the carriages near the engine. 
Taking the dead boy's revolver, he then jumped 
on to the line, and made his way towards the 
forward carriages, where the soldiers had opened 
fire with their rifles. 

Here he found a gallant Lewis gunner, badly 
wounded in an arm and leg, firing his gun as 
fast as he could mount the magazines, and so 
preventing the Volunteers from leaving their 
cover at the top of the bank and attacking at 
close quarters. 



158 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

So hot was the Lewis gunner's fire that after 
five minutes the Volunteers broke off the action 
and simply vanished. Blake then turned his 
attention to the wounded civilians, and though 
he had grown indifferent to dreadful sights 
through years of war, the awful condition of 
the dead and wounded in that train made him 
physically sick. 

The majority of the wounds were from flat- 
nosed bullets, with the most terrible results. 
In one carriage lay a young woman in a pool 
of blood, her chest literally blown away by 
one of these devilish bullets. In another, a 
middle-aged man was screaming like a mad 
wild animal, his arm and shoulder shattered, 
and at his feet lay an old countrywoman, the 
top of her head blown off. 

Very few of the soldiers had been wounded, 
and under Blake's command they at once 
started off in pursuit, only to catch a glimpse 
of the Volunteers disappearing down a road 
on bicycles. 

After a long delay the train went on, and in 
order to try and forget the awful scenes he 
had just witnessed, Blake endeavoured to read 
two EngHsh papers. The first paper, in a long 
leading article, caUed for a policy of concilia- 
tion in Ireland, while the second (a threepenny 
edition of the first) recounted at great length 
a speech made the previous day by a famous 
legal politician calling loudly upon the Govern- 
ment to withdraw all troops from Ireland, and 
demanding that the R.I.C. and Auxiliary Cadets 
should be severely dealt with for their brutal 



THE MAYOR'S CONSCIENCE. 159 

reprisals on innocent people, but never a word 
about the savage attacks on these same R.I.C. 
and Cadets by these " innocent people," or a 
single thought for the widows and orphans of 
the murdered policemen. In disgust he threw 
both papers out of the carriage windows, and 
consigned all politicians to the bottomless pit. 

On arriving at Esker, Blake found that his 
chief duty was to act as liaison officer between 
the military and police, and that he would be 
attached to the staff of the G.O.C. of the 
district. 

He quickly realised that the bad reports of 
the state of the south had not been exaggerated, 
and that it was in a far worse state than the 
west. Ambushes of police and military, attacks 
on trains, shootings of unarmed soldiers and 
police in the streets at all hours of the day and 
night, the finding of dead men riddled with 
bullets in every kind of place, from an open 
field to an empty house, and the robbery of 
mails occurred daily with monotonous regu- 
larity ; and so accustomed had people of all 
classes become to this saturnalia of crime, that 
they thought no more about the murder of a 
human being than the usual man thinks of 
kilHng a rat. 

Blake's principal work consisted of investi- 
gating these crimes in company with poUce 
and soldiers, and afterwards in making out a 
report for the General. In addition, he ac- 
companied the General when making tours 
through the district. 

One morning they received news of a t^rible 



160 TALES OF THE R.I.a 

ambush of Cadets, and on arriving at the scene 
of the ambush Blake found the dead bodies of 
the Cadets still lying on the road. All their 
equipment and personal effects had been stolen, 
and their faces smashed in with an axe. Pro- 
bably in several cases this barbarous mutila- 
tion had been committed before the unfor- 
tunate Cadets were dead. 

Two days afterwards the bodies of the mur- 
dered Cadets passed through Esker en route 
for England. All shops were closed, and great 
crowds collected in the streets. Blake was 
greatly struck by the different attitudes of 
sections of the crowd, some taking their hats 
off with every mark of reverence and sympathy 
when the coffins passed, while others kept their 
hats on until ordered by the officers to uncover, 
and many showed plainly by their faces that 
they were in full sympathy with the murderers. 

Conditions in the south were now rapidly 
drifting into a war of extermination, and every 
morning brought fresh reports of men shot the 
previous night, either in bed before the eyes of 
their relations, or else against a wall outside 
their homes. 

One evening word came to headquarters 
through the secret service that a baker in an 
outlying village was to be shot that night. 
It appeared that the baker, a moderate Sinn 
Feiner, had been chosen by the Inner Circle 
to take part in one of their nightly " execu- 
tions," and had refused. So the edict had gone 
forth that if the baker would not commit 
murder, he should be murdered himself. 



THE MAYOR'S CONSCIENCE. 161 

The General at once sent Blake with a party 
of soldiers to try and save the baker's life, 
but, missing their way in the dark, they arrived 
a few minutes too late. They found the un- 
fortunate man lying on his bed shot through 
the head, while the only occupant of the house, 
the murdered man's sister, sat white-faced by 
the bedside moaning and wringing her hands. 

They could get nothing out of the sister, 
except that a party of armed and masked men, 
in " trench coats " as ever, had suddenly burst 
into the house and insisted that her brother 
should accompany them for some unknown 
purpose, and that he had refused. For a time 
they argued with him, until another man 
rushed into the house, calling out to them to 
be quick as the soldiers were near. Whereupon 
they shot the baker as he lay in bed, with the 
sister looking on, and then left the house 
hurriedly. 

There seemed nothing to be done, and Blake 
was on the point of leaving when his eye 
caught a piece of white paper under the bed, 
which turned out to be the baker's death- 
warrant for treason, signed by the CM. A. of 
the I.R.A. 

On his return Blake handed the death- 
warrant to the Intelligence people, who re- 
turned it shortly, saying that they could make 
nothing of it. After showing it to the General, 
Blake put the warrant away, and thought no 
more about it. 

Some weeks afterwards, owing to the shoot- 
ing of soldiers and police in the streets after 



162 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

dark, the curfew was advanced an hour. As 
a result, the number of curfew prisoners greatly 
increased — so much so on the first night that 
there was no room in the usual detention 
quarters, and the officer of the guard was 
obliged to use an empty office for the over- 
flow. 

While the General was working in his office 
after dinner, the officer of the guard brought 
a note from the Mayor of the town, who, he 
explained, had been found on the streets after 
curfew hour by a patrol, and was now a prisoner 
in the office below. The note requested a 
personal interview with the G.O.C., and stated 
that the matter was of the highest importance. 
The General passed the note to Blake, who was 
puzzled by the familiarity of the writing, but 
unable to remember where he had seen it 
before. 

After some hesitation the General decided to 
see the Mayor, who was brought in by the 
officer of the guard, and left alone with the 
General and Blake. After beating about the 
bush for some time, the Mayor asked that he 
might be kept under arrest and, if possible, 
deported by sea to England, as he was in great 
danger of assassination, but would give no 
reason for the danger, only stating that he had 
received threatening letters. 

The General explained that under no cir- 
cumstances would he allow the Mayor to be 
detained under arrest or deported, unless he 
could show sufficient reasons. The Mayor 
replied that he considered the threatening 



THE MAYOR'S CONSCIENCE. 163 

letters an ample justification for his request ; 
he had not brought the letters with him, but 
that if allowed to go home with a guard he 
would fetch them. But the General, being 
determined to get all the information he could 
out of the man, and knowing that once he had 
granted his request it would be impossible to 
get anything out of him, refused. 

By now Blake had identified the Mayor's 
handwriting with the writing on the baker's 
death-warrant, and getting out the latter, 
placed the two papers in front of the General, 
who at once taxed the Mayor with being the 
head of the Inner Circle in Esker. This he 
denied, but on being confronted with the two 
papers, broke down and made a complete con- 
fession. 

It appeared that for a long time past he had 
been the leader of Sinn Fein in that district, 
and though himself a moderate man, he had 
been unable to control the wild men, who had 
forced him, as head of the Inner Circle, to sign 
the death-warrants of the men condemned to 
be " executed," or, in other words, the men 
they wished out of the way. After a time, 
being a very religious man, his conscience had 
rebelled against wholesale murder, and he had 
refused to sign any more death-warrants. 

Whereupon the wild men, being afraid that 
the Mayor might give them away, had signed 
his death-warrant themselves, and that very 
morning he had received by post a warning to 
prepare for death. 

The General was now quite satisfied to order 
f2 



164 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

his arrest and deportation forthwith ; but the 
Mayor asked that he should be allowed to go 
home to say good-bye to his family, and that 
he might be arrested in his own house at some 
early hour in the morning. It was now nearly 
midnight, and the General, after granting his 
request, arranged that a patrol should arrest 
him at 4 a.m. 

At 4 A.M. to the minute Blake drove up to 
the Mayor's house in a lorry with an officer 
and fifteen men, but at once saw that some- 
thing was wrong. Instead of the house being 
in complete darkness, most of the windows 
were lit up, and the loud wails of women could 
be heard in an upstairs room. 

Leaving the officer to post sentries at the 
front and back of the house, Blake knocked 
at the door, which was opened after some 
delay by a woman, who, on seeing a police 
officer, tried to slam the door in his face. 
Blake, however, managed to slip into the hall, 
and asked the woman what was "v^rong, but 
she ran upstairs, calHng out to some one above 
that the police had returned. 

On the first landing the woman was joined 
by another woman and a man, and after a 
lot of trouble Blake at last got out of them 
that an hour previously a party of tall men 
in black mackintoshes, with soft hats pulled 
over their eyes, had gained admittance to the 
house, and made their way straight to the 
Mayor's bedroom, where they found him kneel- 
ing down by his bed praying. After pushing 
the Mayor's wife out of the room they shot 



THE MAYOR'S CONSCIENCE. 165 

him, threw his body on the bed, and rushed 
out of the house. 

Blake asked to be shown the Mayor's body, 
and the man led him to a bedroom at the 
back and opened the door. After making cer- 
tain that the dead man was the Mayor, Blake 
left and drove straight back to the General. 

That day the town was seething with excite- 
ment, and it was openly stated by many men that 
the Mayor had been murdered by the police. 

Shortly afterwards a pubhc inquiry was held, 
and it was clearly proved that every police- 
man in the town could be satisfactorily ac- 
counted for during the night of the murder, 
and, moreover, that every round of rifle and 
revolver ammunition could also be accounted 
for. However, this did not suit the Sinn 
Feiners, and a verdict of " guilty " was brought 
in against the authorities, though there can 
be no possible doubt in any unbiassed mind 
that the Mayor of Esker was murdered either 
by, or by the orders of, the Inner Circle. 

When he went home, after his interview 
with the G.O.C., the natural assumption was 
that he had been giving information, and the 
Inner Circle determined that he should give 
no more. Whether they knew that he was 
to be arrested and deported at 4 a.m., and 
deliberately forestalled the arrest, or whether 
they merely knew that he was at headquarters, 
and were waiting to murder him on the first 
favourable opportunity, is not clear, and does 
not affect the question of the guilt of the 
murder. 



166 



XII. 

A BRUTAL MURDER. 

The childlike trust which so many English- 
men have in their institutions is a source of 
never-ending wonder to Irishmen, more espe- 
cially the Enghshman's bhnd faith in the in- 
tegrity of the Post Office in both countries. 
Long after Sinn Fein had made the Irish Post 
Office its chief source of information, the Gov- 
ernment and public continued happily and 
blindly to confide their confidential correspond- 
ence to the tender mercies of the King's 
enemies, and at the same time expressed their 
bewildered astonishment at the uncanny amount 
of information that the Sinn Fein Secret 
Service was able to obtain. 

It is highly doubtful if Blake would ever 
have even thought of obtaining information 
from the mail bags, if a young subaltern, who 
commanded a platoon of the Blankshires tem- 
porarily stationed in the Ballybor Police Bar- 
racks, had not made the suggestion one night 
at dinner, and had even offered to carry out 
the operation himself if Blake had any official 
qualms. At first Blake refused, knowing that 



A BRUTAL MURDER. 167 

the authorities did not approve of tampering 
with the pubhc's private letters ; but being 
desperately hard up for certain information he 
gave in, and it was arranged that Jones, the 
subaltern, should carry out the search. 

A cross-country letter in the west of Ireland 
will often take nowadays any time from three 
to five days to arrive at a town only twenty 
miles away, and of the chief reasons of this 
delay one is that the mails often lie for twelve 
to twenty-four hours in a head post office 
before being sent out to rural sub-offices for 
distribution, or in a railway van at some 
junction awaiting a connection. This was well 
known to Blake, who had often to complain 
of delay in delivery of official letters, and also 
of letters from the " Castle " being frequently 
opened in the post. 

Examining the mails in the Ballybor Post 
Office was out of the question, owing to the 
almost unbelievable fact that the staff, from 
the postmaster to the charwoman who washed 
out the tiled floors of the post office every 
morning, were Sinn Feiners, one and all, so 
that there only remained to search the mails 
in the train. 

At this period the western railways were 
slowly dying from a creeping paralysis caused 
by the engine-drivers and guards refusing to 
carry the armed forces of the Crown, quite 
obhvious of the fact that it was only possible 
to pay the railwaymen's enormous wages 
through the Government subsidy. For a time 
some lines shut down, but a goods train man- 



168 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

aged to reach Bally b or six days a week with 
mails and the bare necessities of life for the 
inhabitants — chiefly porter barrels. By good 
luck the guard on this train chanced to be a 
Loyalist — probably the only one on the line — 
and it was arranged with him that the mails 
should be searched by Jones while the mail 
van waited in a siding for several hours at a 
junction about sixteen miles from Ballybor. 

Disguised as harvestmen, Jones and his 
servant were dropped at night from a Crossley 
close to the junction and admitted to the 
mail van by the guard ; they at once set to 
work with electric torches, the batman open- 
ing the letters, whilst Jones read and made a 
note of any useful information, and when they 
had finished returned in the car to Ballybor 
Barracks. 

On returning to the baiTacks, Blake and 
Jones went carefully through the information, 
and found that one letter addressed to a noted 
Sinn Feiner, Mr Pat Hegarty, who lived near 
a village called Lissamore, about eight miles 
away, gave sufficient evidence on which to 
hang Mr Hegarty. The writer stated that on 
the 3rd inst. Hegarty was to expect the arrival 
of an officer of the I.R.A. in uniform, who 
would come from the direction of Castleport 
on a bicycle about 10 p.m. Hegarty was to keep 
this officer in his house, place the new supply 
of American arms at his disposal for ambushes, 
and the officer would not leave the district until 
Blake had been either killed or kidnapped. 

Some months previous to this Blake had 



A BRUTAL MURDER. 169 

been in the south on special duty, and during 
his absence, MacNot, the D.I. who reheved 
him temporarily, had called a truce with the 
Volunteers as long as all appeared well on 
paper, with the result that the Volunteers had 
been able to make full preparations for a 
second effort to wipe out the police in the 
district. Soon after his return to Ballybor 
Blake heard strong rumours of a second land- 
ing of American arms during his absence — 
this time, at night at Ballybor quay — and the 
letter confirmed the rumours. 

On the night mentioned in the letter, Blake 
and Jones, accompanied by a police sergeant 
and two constables, left Ballybor Barracks in 
a car after dark in the opposite direction to 
that in which the village of Lissamore lay, and 
after going about three miles turned off at a 
b3rroad and proceeded by unfrequented roads, 
until they reached a small wood about half a 
mile from Hegarty's house on the Castleport 
road ; here they blocked the road with the 
car, and waited for their victim. 

There was bright starlight, and punctually 
at 9.45 they saw a cycHst approaching from 
the direction of Castleport ; but so dark was 
it in the wood that the cyclist only avoided 
running into the car by throwing himself off, 
to be quickly seized by two stalwart policemen 
before he could let go of his handle-bars, 
gagged and well tied up. They then took him 
into the wood, removed his uniform, dressed 
him in an old police uniform, and finally de- 
posited him at the bottom of the car. 



170 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

Jones then put on the Volunteer officer's 
uniform, took his bicycle, and rode on to 
Hegarty's house, while the police backed the 
car up a bohereen and waited there. Before 
starting out they had arranged that Jones 
should camouflage his EngUsh voice by a 
Yankee twang, as a brogue was quite beyond 
his powers. 

On arriving at Hegarty's house, Jones leant 
his bicycle against the wall, and gave three 
mysterious knocks at the door. For quite two 
minutes there was no answer, and just as he 
was preparing to knock again, the door opened 
about three inches, and a girl's voice asked in 
a whisper who was there, and what he wanted 
at that time of night. 

Now, unfortunately, the letter had not given 
the name of the I.R.A. officer, so Jones, being 
afraid to give a name lest the Hegartys might 
know the officer's real name, muttered that he 
was a republican officer, and had come to see 
Pat Hegarty. The door at once closed, and 
he could hear the girl open and close a door 
at the back of the house, and for fully ten 
minutes nothing further occurred. 

This was not part of the play which Jones 
and Blake had carefully rehearsed in the bar- 
racks that afternoon, and Jones was quite 
nonplussed what to do next. Being young 
and impetuous, he was just on the point of 
ruining the whole show by breaking in the 
door, when it opened and the girl's voice told 
him to come in. 

The room was pitch dark, and for a second 



A BRUTAL MURDER. 171 

Jones hesitated ; but the girl laid her hand 
on his sleeve, and led him through to a lighted 
room at the back, where he found Hegarty 
with his wife and son about to sit down to 
supper. Hegarty bade him welcome, and the 
meal started. 

After they had eaten for some time in silence, 
Hegarty asked him several questions about 
where he had been recently, and of prominent 
Volunteers in other parts of the country. Jones 
made the best answers he could, not forgetting 
to keep up his American accent, and men- 
tioned casually that he had only recently come 
over from the States, where his parents had 
been living for some years. 

For a time there was silence again, but 
Jones could feel that the eyes of Maria Hegarty 
were on him all the time ; and presently she 
began to ask most awkward questions about 
places and people in the States, and Jones 
was hard put to it to avoid suspicion. Luckily 
Maria mentioned that her friends lived in the 
Eastern States, so that it was easy for Jones's 
people to hve far away in the west, and the 
situation was saved. 

Supper over, the women cleared the table 
and retired, while Hegarty produced a large 
jar of poteen and tumblers, and the three men 
settled themselves round the fire to drink and 
talk. For the next two hours Jones extracted 
all the information he could out of the Hegartys, 
who, though shy at first, warmed up after 
several glasses of poteen, and Jones learnt 
from young Hegarty that the arms were kept 



172 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

under the floors of a disused Protestant school- 
house in the rectory grounds at Cloonalla, the 
rector of which was a notorious Loyahst, and 
would have died sooner than conceal arms 
knowingly for the rebels. 

At this point Jones, who had never tasted 
poteen before, suddenly realised that he was 
nearly drunk, and that before he became quite 
drunk it would be wiser to lie down on a bed. 
On inquiry, he found that he was to sleep 
with young Hegarty, the idea of which so 
staggered him that he felt soberer at once, 
and determined to try and hold out. 

Suddenly there came a violent knocking at 
the front door, followed by what sounded hke 
the bang of a rifle-butt on the back door. 
At once the Hegartys put out the light, and 
started to hustle Jones up a ladder to a loft 
above the kitchen. 

But by now the poteen had quite got to 
Jones's head ; and when the police went into 
the kitchen, they found old Hegarty and his 
son still struggling to get an I.R.A. oflicer up 
the ladder. The Hegartys now let go of Jones, 
who promptly closed with Blake, and a tre- 
mendous struggle started in the kitchen. 

In a few minutes Jones was overcome, and 
lay on the floor with a heavy constable sitting 
on his chest. Blake then ordered the Hegartys 
to light the lamp, and afterwards to stand 
against the wall with their hands over their 
heads, and the constables to take Jones out- 
side and shoot him. But he had not reckoned 
on Maria, who burst into the kitchen and with 



A BRUTAL MURDER. 173 

piercing screams endeavoured to throw her 
arms round Jones's neck. Maria was a strong 
girl and desperate, and it took Jones and the 
two constables all they knew to shake her off 
and struggle out of the house. 

Luckily Maria did not attempt to leave the 
house, and ten seconds after the back door 
had closed, six revolver shots rang out in 
quick succession, followed by the sound of a 
heavy body falling on wet ground. After tell- 
ing Maria and her mother to go to their bed- 
room, Blake took Hegarty and his son into 
the back-yard, and showed them the body of 
the unfortunate Volunteer officer thrown by 
the police on the manure-heap. During the 
next half -hour he had little difficulty in getting 
all the information he required about local 
Volunteers (he made no mention of the arms), 
and after warning them not to move the 
corpse, the police left the house. 

Maria appears to have been greatly taken 
with Jones's youthful beauty, and nearly 
ruined the whole show again by insisting on 
her father and brother going out to bring in 
the corpse and lay it out in the kitchen. 
Luckily the Hegartys were too much afraid, 
and Jones told Blake afterwards that the 
agony of lying with his face buried in Hquid 
manure was nothing to the agony he suffered 
listening to the Hegartys arguing whether his 
corpse should be left lying on the manure- 
heap to be eaten by dogs, or brought into the 
kitchen and laid out as a " dacent son of ould 
Ireland " should be. 



174 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

While this argument was still raging a car 
stopped at the front door, and again the poUce 
rushed into the house, out at the back door, 
dragged the corpse off the manure-heax^, through 
the house, and flung it on top of the real 
Volunteer officer in the back of the car. After 
telUng the Hegartys that they would throw 
the body into the lake, the police drove off at 
a furious rate in the direction of Ballybor. 

On returning to barracks, Jones at once 
rushed off to have a hot bath, while Blake 
went to his office to find his two clerks snowed 
up with paper, correspondence which had 
arrived by the goods mail while they had been 
out. After they had some food, Jones was all 
for raiding the rector of Cloonalla at once ; 
but Blake made the fatal mistake of attending 
to the correspondence then, and putting oS 
the raid to the following night. 

The next night they set out with a strong 
force of police for the Cloonalla Rectory, but 
found, though there were evident signs that 
their information had been correct, that the 
arms had been removed ; the rector was most 
indignant, and they returned defeated. 

A few nights afterwards, when at dinner, 
Blake showed Jones the following paragraph 
in an Irish paper. 

" A Brutal Murder. 

" On the night of the 3rd inst., about midnight, 
armed men in uniform, some of them wearing trench- 
coats, raided the house of Mr Patrick Hegarty, a 



A BRUTAL MURDER. 175 

respectable farmer, who has never been known to 
take any active part in politics. Inside these men 
found a young man alleged to have been wearing 
the uniform of an officer in the I.E. A. 

" This unfortunate young man, without trial of any 
kind, was at once dragged outside the house, riddled 
with bullets, and his body thrown on a manure-heap 
in a most callous and brutal manner. 

" After brutally ill-treating Mr Hegarty and his 
family, the murderers left, to return again, saying that 
they would take the body away and throw it into 
the lake. Though the lake has been carefully dragged, 
no sign of this unhappy youth's body has yet been 
found." 



176 



XIII. 

SEAL ISLAND. 

Sergeant 0' Bryan was as fine a type of the 
R.I.C. as you would meet in half a dozen 
baronies : of magnificent physique, great cour- 
age, full of tact, and with the perfect manners 
of a true Irishman. 

At the end of 1918 O'Bryan found himself 
sergeant in charge of Cloghleagh Barracks, a 
comfortable thatched house close to the shores 
of Lough Moyra, and distant about four miles 
from Ballybor. 

While at Cloghleagh his principal work con- 
sisted of trying to put down the making of 
poteen, which was carried on extensively by 
the inhabitants of two small islands at the 
south end of the lake ; otherwise the sergeant 
was on the best of terms with all the people 
of the district, who often appealed to him for 
advice and help. And as O'Bryan was a keen 
fisherman, he often managed to combine busi- 
ness with sport while out in the police boat. 

Soon after Blake became D.I. at Ballybor, 
orders were received from the County In- 
spector to evacuate Cloghleagh Barracks, and 



SEAL ISLAND. 177 

for O'Bryan and his men to proceed to Bally- 
bor Barracks. As the country round Clogh- 
leagh had as yet shown no hostihty towards 
the pohce, and as it was hard to get a house 
in any town, O'Bryan asked and obtained 
leave for his young wife and family to remain 
on at Cloghleagh Barracks ; and here, not 
long after the sergeant had gone, the youngest 
O'Bryan was born. 

Two days afterwards, on a wet winter's 
evening, there came a knock at the barracks 
door, and when Mrs O'Bryan asked who was 
there, a man's voice bade her open in the 
name of the I.R.A. Obeying, she found two 
masked men, who covered her with revolvers, 
and told her they would give her five minutes 
to clear out of the barracks before they set 
it on fire. 

Mrs O'Bryan had seven children, the eldest 
about ten years and the youngest two days 
old, most of whom were in bed by this time. 
As fast as she could she roused and dressed 
the children ; but the five minutes soon passed, 
and the men entered and bundled the whole 
family, some of the children only half clothed, 
out into the wet and cold of a winter's night. 

Outside Mrs O'Bryan found a large party of 
Ballybor shop-boys, some of them wearing 
black masks, led by four strange gunmen. 
This party had arrived in Cloghleagh about an 
hour before, and had at once proceeded to 
picket all roads leading to and from the bar- 
racks, and every unfortunate countryman or 
woman they met making their way along the 



178 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

roads was at once seized by the pickets, taken 
to the barrack-yard, and there placed face 
inwards against the wall with their hands on 
top of their heads. 

As soon as the 0' Bryan family had been 
hustled into the road, the gunmen threw 
parafhn and petrol on the thatch of the bar- 
racks, set it alight, and in a very short time 
the building was a charred ruin. They then 
mounted their bicycles and rode off into the 
night, leaving the unfortunate O'Bryans to 
shift for themselves. 

Leaving her family huddled under a hedge, 
the mother tried to get into two neighbouring 
houses ; but the blighting curse of the I.R.A. 
was on her and hers, and not a house would 
even open its door, let alone take them in. 
In the end she saw that it was hopeless, and 
returning to her children, did her best to keep 
them warm with her own body and the few 
blankets she had managed to bring out of the 
barracks. And here they spent the night like 
the beasts of the fields. 

Next morning some countryman, b^ver 
than the rest, brought word to the Ballybor 
Barracks of the burning at Cloghleagh, and 
Sergeant 0' Bryan arrived on the scene to find 
his wife and family perished and starving. 
Such is the mercy of the I.R.A. for the httle 
children of the R.I.C. 

0' Bryan took his family back to Ballybor 
Barracks, where they were fed and warmed ; 
but in Ireland nowadays a police barracks is 
no place for little children and women, and 



SEAL ISLAND. 179 

before night they must leave. In vain the 
sergeant tried to find lodgings ; he might as 
well have tried to swim the Atlantic. Every 
door was slammed in his face directly he made 
his appeal. But the good Samaritan is not yet 
extinct in Ireland, and at last the sergeant 
found a refuge for his family in the empty 
gardener's lodge of Ballybor House. 

While being turned out of Cloghleagh Bar- 
racks, Mrs 0' Bryan had recognised two of the 
incendiaries, who had taken their masks off, 
as two prominent Sinn Fein shop-boys of 
Ballybor, afterwards telUng her husband their 
names — Martin Walsh and Peter Lynch — and 
the sergeant never forgot them. 

On a glorious June day Blake was leaning 
over the parapet of the lower bridge crossing 
the Owenmore river in Ballybor, watching the 
fishermen hauling in a net full of silvery grilse, 
and wishing that he could accept an invitation 
to fish at Ardcumber. After a time his eye 
wandered to a fleet of boats below the bridge, 
some anchored, while others were attached to 
mooring buoys. From force of habit he started 
to count them, and on finding that there were 
no less than thirty-seven, he began to make 
out their total carrying capacity, which roughly 
came to the high figure of three hundred. 

On the following Sunday he happened to be 
crossing the same bridge at about ten in the 
morning, and stopped to look at three boats, 
packed with young men, a few carrying fishing- 
rods, starting off down the river. Tlie fishing- 
rods were there right enough, but something 



180 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

seemed wrong ; the men looked too purpose- 
ful, and, moreover, eight or nine young men 
in a boat with a couple of rods is an unusual 
sight. 

Blake watched the boats disappearing fast 
down the river, and wondered what would be 
the right word to substitute for fishing. After 
a while he realised that there was not a boat 
left on the river, and, further, that if all the 
boats had carried as many passengers as the 
three he had just seen start, over three hun- 
dred young men from Ballybor had gone 
a-fishing that Sunday morning, the majority 
of whom, if not all of them, were shop-boys, 
the most dangerous element in the town. 

The barracks commanded a good view of 
the reach of the river where the boats were 
usually moored, and next Sunday at an early 
hour Blake told off Sergeant 0' Bryan with a 
pair of field-glasses to report how many boats 
and how many men went out a-fishing. At 
eleven o'clock the sergeant reported that, as 
usual, all the thirty-seven boats had started, 
carrying two hundred and fifty young men, 
and that among them he had recognised most 
of the prominent Sinn Fein shop-boys of the 
town. But he did not add that he had seen 
Walsh and Lynch. 

Five miles below Ballybor the Owenmore 
river, from being roughly two hundred yards 
wide, suddenly becomes an inland sea, with a 
width of over three miles and a length of a 
mile. Between this inland water and the open 
sea runs a long narrow range of sand-hills. 



SEAL ISLAND. 181 

commonly known as Seal Island, nearly three 
miles long and with an average width of four 
hundred yards. 

Blake came to the conclusion that the fish- 
ing expeditions every Sunday must be con- 
nected with this lonely island ; but except for 
drilhng — and sand-dunes did not seem a suit- 
able place for a parade — he could think of 
nothing to which this island would lend itself. 
Moreover, he knew that if he tried to find out 
what was going on by observing from the main- 
land, he would be spotted and the alarm 
given, and that if he tried to approach the 
island in a boat from the seaside the fishermen 
from Dooncarra would give him away. 

In the end it was settled to wait until the 
following Sunday, when Sergeant O' Bryan 
made his way across country before dayhght 
and hid himself in the tower of an old abbey 
on the shore of the inland sea, from which the 
greater part of Seal Island was visible. On 
the Sunday night he returned to barracks, and 
reported that the " fishermen " had all landed 
at the little pier on the south side of the 
island, left a small guard over the boats, and 
made their way into the sand-hills, where they 
were hidden from his view. Some time after- 
wards, muffled intermittent rifle-fire started, 
and continued at intervals for several hours, 
after which the " fishermen " returned to their 
boats, and rowed back leisurely to Ballybor 
on the flood tide. 

JBut before Blake could tackle the mystery 
of Seal Island, he had to turn his attention 



182 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

to a flying column of the I.R.A. which was 
reported to be making its way towards Bally- 
bor. On the Sunday evening when O' Bryan 
returned from the old abbey, word was brought 
in by a Loyalist that the flying column had 
been seen that day in the Ballyrick mountains, 
and had taken up its quarters in the empty 
house of Mr Padraig O'Faherty, member of 
Dail Eireann for the Ballybor country, who 
had been for some time past an unwiUing 
guest of the British Government somewhere 
in England. 

Padraig O'Faherty's house was (advisably 
was) situated in the middle of a desolate 
valley in the mountains twenty miles from 
Ballyrick and the same distance from Bally- 
bor, and could only be approached by a bog 
road, which winds through mountains and 
moors without passing a single human habita- 
tion for the last eight miles. Moreover, there 
was not a tree within fifteen miles of the house, 
so that any attempt at surprise, or even attack, 
during the daytime was out of the question. 
At the first sight of a Crossley — and they had 
a three-mile view of the road both ways from 
the house — the flying column would simply 
dissolve into the mountains, probably to re- 
appear the next day attacking a police barrack 
fifty miles the other side of Ballybor. A good 
example of the kind of problem the R.I.C. 
has to solve daily in the wild parts of the west. 

That night Blake left Ballybor with an 
advance-guard of police on bicycles, and mak- 
ing a detour of the town, timed himself to 



SEAL ISLAND. 183 

arrive at O'Faherty's house just before day- 
light, having arranged that Jones should follow 
in the Crossleys with his platoon of Blankshires 
and as many police as could be spared. 

Arriving too soon, they hid their bicycles 
in some high heather near the road, and as 
soon as it was light enough took up positions 
at different points round the house, so that 
every avenue of escape would be swept by 
their rifle-fire, and waited for the main body 
to arrive. 

As the sky became light, smoke could be 
seen rising from some of the chimneys, a 
suspicious sign at that hour of the morning, 
and shortly afterwards four young men ap- 
peared at the door, yawning and stretching 
themselves. After examining the valley in 
every direction with field-glasses, they pro- 
ceeded to bring about forty bicycles out of a 
stable and park them in mihtary formation 
outside, after which they re-entered the house. 

During the next hour nothing happened, 
and just as Blake had given up all hope of the 
main body arriving and was thinking of try- 
ing to rush the house with his small force, a 
large party of men started to leave the house 
and make for the bicycles, and Blake was 
forced to give the order to open fire. 

Several men were seen to drop at once, 
while the rest rushed back into the house, 
carrying their wounded with them, and in a 
minute heavy fire was opened from every 
window in the house on the police positions, 
the firing of a single shot by a policeman 



184 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

being the signal for a hail of bullets in that 
direction. 

Blake was now getting very anxious at the 
non-arrival of Jones's party, fearing that in- 
stead of capturing the flying column, the 
Volunteers might capture the police ; and in 
order to deceive them, ordered his men to 
withhold their fire unless the Volunteers tried 
to rush them. At last Jones turned up, having 
been delayed repeatedly by punctures, and 
completed a strong cordon round the house. 

Blake now attempted to draw the cordon 
closer, but every time the police and soldiers 
tried to advance by short rushes under heavy 
covering fire, the Volunteers opened such accu- 
rate fire from every window, including machine- 
gun fire from one of the upper rooms, that he 
had to desist. Eventually the soldiers silenced 
the machine-gun with their Lewis guns. 

After getting to within three hundred yards 
of the house, Blake found that, owing to the 
formation of the ground, it would be impos- 
sible to advance any nearer without very 
heavy losses, and refused to allow Jones to 
make an assault with his men until all other 
means of reducing the place had failed. 

The day was now wearing on, and for several 
hours the situation had remained a complete 
deadlock. The Volunteers were obviously 
marking time until darkness set in, when 
they would stand a good chance of slipping 
through the cordon ; and Blake fully realised 
that if he did not win during daylight, he 
would surely lose in the dark. 



SEAL ISLAND. 185 

Blake and Jones lay in the heather close 
together, arguing as to whether they should 
try to assault the house or not. Jones was 
keen to try, while Blake feared a failure with 
heavy losses. The day was by now blazing 
hot, with a steady south wind, and Jones, after 
lighting a cigarette, carelessly threw the match 
away ahght, and in a second the dry heather 
took fire, and was only extinguished with 
great difficulty. But the fire had given Blake 
the idea he had been hunting for so long. 

Collecting all the matches that the men 
possessed, Jones made his way round to the 
south side of the house, and distributed them 
amongst all the men there, who, at a given 
signal, set fire to the heather in front of them, 
and as soon as the house was enveloped in a 
cloud of smoke, the whole force charged for 
the house. As soon as they got within range, 
the police hurled Mills' bombs through every 
window, and the soldiers then dashed in with 
fixed bayonets, but the bombs had done the 
work. 

They found that the Volunteers had suffered 
heavily, hardly a man escaping a bomb splinter 
or a Lewis-gun bullet, and the question was 
how to remove so many wounded. In the 
house they found bed and bedding for fully 
forty men, and a great supply of fresh and 
tinned food ; also rifles (chiefly Mauser), Ameri- 
can shot-guns, automatics, revolvers, a quan- 
tity of ammunition, and a good stock of home- 
made bombs in a kind of cellar. 

Not having enough transport, Blake sent 



186 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

off a fast car to ask for help from the County 
Inspector. Before leaving, Blake blew up Mr 
Padraig OTaherty's house with the Volun- 
teers' bombs, and the party returned to Bally- 
bor before dark, victorious, but worn out. 

As soon as they had had some sleep, Blake 
and Jones started to work out their plans for 
a surprise attack on Seal Island the following 
Sunday, and found that they had a difficult 
task before them. 

Except at the east and west ends of the 
island, where the two channels of the river 
cut through the ridge of sand-hills, all ap- 
proaches were visible for a long distance, and 
any idea of surprise out of the question. On 
the other hand, if an attempt was made to 
cross the channels, the Volunteers would have 
ample time to reach their boats at the pier 
in the middle of the south shore and so escape, 
while at a low tide it was possible to walk 
across at one point to the mainland. 

In the end they gave it up, and went to 
consult the C.I., who decided to call in the 
assistance of the Navy. 

On Sunday morning Sergeant 0' Bryan duly 
reported that the boats had gone down the 
river, as usual with full crews. The previous 
night a destroyer had crept into the bay with 
all lights covered, and after landing a large 
party of bluejackets on Seal Island, had left 
again. 

After allowing sufficient time for the Volun- 
teers to land and get to work, Blake followed 
in a commandeered motor-launch, and at the 



SEAL ISLAND. 187 

same time Jones left the barracks with his 
platoon in two Crossleys, each with a Lewis 
gun, one party making for the western mouth 
of the river, and the other for the eastern, 
where they proceeded to take up positions 
covering all escape across the channels. 

About three hundred yards from the pier 
on Seal Island, Blake and his men landed on 
a small round green island called Gannet 
Island, and took up positions covering the 
boats lying alongside the pier. Directly they 
landed, a small group of men were seen to 
leave the pier and disappear into the sand- 
dunes. Meanwhile the launch, with a machine- 
gun mounted in the bows, proceeded to patrol 
along the south shore of the island over the 
shallow water. 

After a short time heavy firing broke out 
in the sand-hills and then died down, to break 
out again as a large body of Volunteers streamed 
towards the pier ; but before they could reach 
their boats, Blake's men on Gannet Island 
opened fire on them, and the launch sprayed 
them well with its machine-gun. The Volun- 
teers seemed nonplussed and at a loss what 
to do ; but the bluejackets, advancing in open 
order with fixed bayonets from the sand-hills, 
quickly decided them, and they made for the 
east end of the island, disappearing into a 
hollow followed by the bluejackets. 

Again heavy firing broke out from the 
direction of the hollow, and continued at 
intervals for over an hour. Fearing that 
something was wrong, Blake then embarked 

G 



188 TALES OF THE KLC. 

his men on the launch, and after landing at 
the pier, proceeded in the direction of the 
firing, to find the Volunteers holding a large 
house which so far the sailors had failed to 
take. 

The house came as a surprise to the police, 
none of whom had ever set foot on the island 
before, and there seemed every prospect of 
another deadlock. The house was old, well 
built, and commanded a fine field of fire in 
every direction. 

But sailors are handy men, and after a con- 
sultation with Blake, the lieutenant in com- 
mand decided to signal to his destroyer, which 
had anchored in the bay again, to open fire 
with her guns on the house. After trying in 
vain to get a direct view of the house, the 
destroyer opened indirect fire, a sailor on a 
high sand-hill signalling the result of each shot. 
Unfortunately the house was so sheltered by 
the sides of the hollow that nothing short of 
a howitzer could have reached it. 

But the sailors were not beaten. After 
putting farther out to sea, the destroyer tried 
again, and this time at the third shot got 
home with a direct hit, and in a few minutes 
it was seen that the house was on fire. 

Sailors and police now held their fire, and 
waited for the exciting moment when the 
Volunteers would be forced by the fiames to 
bolt. A quarter of an hour, half an hour 
passed, but not a Volunteer bolted from the 
now fiercely burning house. At last the roof 
fell in with a crash and shower of sparks, and 



SEAL ISLAND. 189 

every man gripped his rifle, thinking that at 
last the rebels would be smoked out ; but 
nothing happened. They had either vanished 
into thin air or were roasted alive. Still the 
sailors and police waited on, thinking that in 
the end somebody must come out. Without 
any warning one gable-end of the house sud- 
denly fell outwards, and simultaneously firing 
broke out from the east channel of the river, 
about Rve hundred yards away. 

The spell was now broken, and every man 
dashed in the direction of the firing. When 
they reached high ground they could see many 
of the Volunteers swimming across the channel, 
while those who could not swim were running 
towards the north side of the island. 

The haK-platoon of the Blankshires, with 
Sergeant 0' Bryan as a guide, had taken up 
their position in the sand-hills on the mainland 
commanding the passage across the east chan- 
nel, and had only been interested spectators 
of parts of the battle up to the time the gable 
fell, when, to their astonishment, they sud- 
denly saw the Volunteers streaming out of the 
sand-hills and dashing into the river in front 
of them. 

Foremost among the swimmers Sergeant 
O' Bryan saw, to his great joy, the heads of 
Walsh and Lynch, their foot-long hair floating 
like manes behind them, and knew that his 
enemies had been delivered into his hands. 
By the time the swimmers reached the main- 
land, and found themselves covered by the 
rifles and Lewis gun of the soldiers, they had 



190 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

had enough, and put up their hands of their 
own accord. 

The sailors and pohce now beat the island 
towards the west end, and after a hard scramble 
over the sand-hills captured the remaining 
Volunteers. 

A careful search of the place where the 
Volunteers had suddenly appeared out of the 
ground showed that there was an underground 
passage running from the house to within a 
short distance of the shore, probably used in 
former days for smuggling purposes. 

A further search explained the reason of the 
Volunteers' Sunday visits to the island. In 
a valley of the sand-hills they found an up- 
to-date rifle-range, and afterwards learnt that 
it had been built during the early part of the 
war, and frequently used for firing musketry 
courses by units of the New Armies training in 
Ireland. 



191 



XIV. 

A FAMILY AFFAIR. 

The mac Nessa, Prince of Murrisk, claimed 
descent from one of the Nine Hostages ; and 
though proud of his hneage, he was still prouder 
of the boast that, up to comparatively recent 
times, not one of his ancestors had died in his bed. 
A violent death in some form or other, chiefly 
the "middoge," accounting for one and all. 

Murrisk Abbey is a modern house, as old 
places go in Ireland, but in the grounds there 
are the ruins of a very old castle, built in the 
days when the O'Fogartys ruled a countryside 
as far as a horse could gallop in any direction 
during the hours of daylight. Here the mac 
Nessa had spent most of his life, hunting, 
shooting, fishing, and farming, and incidentally 
bringing up a family of two sons and four 
daughters. 

Both the sons, Cormac and Dominic, had 
served during the war in the British Army. 
Dominic willingly and eagerly, and Cormac, 
the elder, only because he feared his father, 
who was a staunch Loyalist. 

The spring of 1919 found the two brothers 



192 TALES OF THE RJ.C. 

at home. Cormac for good and all as he 
believed, and Dominic until he could decide 
how and where to make a living. 

In England there is nowadays a large class 
whose one and only object in life appears to 
be to take sides with any and every enemy 
of their country, be he Boer, Boche, Bolshevik, 
or Sinn Feiner. This party never ceases to 
aid and abet these enemies by every means 
in their power, short of endangering their own 
skins, and at the same time never let an oppor- 
tunity pass of accusing our soldiers and poHce 
(in Ireland) of every abominable crime which 
man has been known to commit. During the 
war this class of Englishmen greatly puzzled 
and irritated the French, as they have every 
nation that has ever admired the British as a 
race. A French interpreter once said to a 
British officer, " Many of your race are noble, 
the rest are swine." 

In Ireland, by some lucky chance, we have 
escaped this detestable and despicable breed 
of man, to whom a sincere rebel is infinitely 
preferable, but at the same time we have a 
class of men and women who are first cousins 
to them. In many good Irish famihes, noted 
for generations past for their unswerving 
loyalty, there is often one member who is an 
out-and-out rebel. Luckily he or she has 
generally less brains than the rest of the 
family, and is looked upon as a harmless 
lunatic, and one of the crosses which have 
to be borne in the world. 

A plausible reason often advanced for this 



A FAMILY AFFAIR. 193 

sporadic appearance of a rebel in a loyal 
family is the complete lack of conversation 
at the dinner-table, once sport has been ex- 
hausted, when all members of a family see 
eye to eye in politics ; and as a " mutual 
admiration society " quickly palls on many 
young men and women, one member expresses 
contrary political opinions to the others out 
of pure cussedness, and the anger and recrim- 
inations of the rest quickly turn the bored 
jibber into a red-hot rebel. 

Not many weeks after the brothers had re- 
turned home from the war, Cormac, who had 
spent many hours of his youth reading books 
and pamphlets on the wrongs England had 
inflicted on Ireland instead of hunting and 
shooting, and had even appeared at breakfast 
once in a weird ginger-coloured kilt, raised the 
red flag of Sinn Fein one evening at the dinner- 
table. Probably he did it from sheer boredom, 
hoping to draw his father into a wordy argu- 
ment and so pass the time. The result, how- 
ever, had a far-reaching effect on the lives of 
both Cormac and Dominic. 

The mac Nessa was a big man and Cormac 
was not, and but for the intervention of 
Dominic, the elder son would probably have 
had an unpleasant and painful eviction from 
the dinner-table. However, the old chieftain 
controlled himself with a great effort, but as 
soon as the servants had withdrawn he ordered 
Cormac to leave the house the following morn- 
ing for good and all, and in a sullen rage 
Cormac stalked out of the room. 



194 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

Leaving word with the butler to pack his 
kit, Cormac made his way to the house of the 
parish priest, about two and a half miles from 
the abbey, where, being a Roman Catholic, 
he hoped to receive sympathy. 

If there is one Church in the world which 
might be expected to range itself whole- 
heartedly on the side of law and order it is 
the Church of Rome, whose very existence 
depends on obedience, and it must have been 
a source of wonder to many English people 
why, at the very beginning of the Sinn Fein 
movement, this Church did not at once come 
into the open and denounce Sinn Fein from the 
altar in plain and unmistakable terms. Any 
thinking priest must know that under a semi-Bol- 
shevik republic the power of the Roman CathoHc 
Church would be gone, and gone for ever. 

Cormac found the old priest kind and gentle 
as ever, but firm in his refusal to listen to any 
Sinn Fein views, and in a fresh rage he left 
to make his way to the curate's lodging in a 
neighbouring farmhouse, and here he was re- 
ceived with open arms. 

The curate quickly perceived what a valu- 
able recruit Cormac might make, and before 
he left to spend his last night at the abbey, 
took advantage of the boy's excited mood to 
make him swear to join the I.R.A. 

After a very early breakfast, Cormac left 
his home on the fifteen-mile drive to Ballybor, 
where he caught the mail train for Dublin, 
his heart full of hatred of his family, and his 
mind set on revenge. 



A FAMILY AFFAIR. 195 

A week of dirty Dublin lodgings convinced 
Cormac that he had made a fool of himself, 
and putting his pride in his pocket, he wrote 
to his father asking to be allowed to return 
home. By return of post came a typewritten 
post-card from the mac Nessa to the effect 
that while he lived no rebel should ever darken 
his door. 

That evening two strangers called at his 
rooms, and after making certain of his identity, 
explained that a message had been received 
at the Sinn Fein headquarters in Dublin from 
Father Michael of Murrisk that Cormac was 
prepared to join in the Sinn Fein movement, and 
offering him a high-sounding position. Cormac' s 
vanity was flattered, and he accepted at once. 

Knowing that Cormac' s name would carry 
great weight with many half-hearted supporters 
and waverers, the Sinn Fein leaders employed 
him solely on propaganda work, sending him 
to every part of the country, not excepting the 
north, to speak at meetings, and always taking 
good care that his name appeared in large 
letters on the posters, and kind friends were 
not wanting to send the mac Nessa cuttings 
of his son's speeches from every Irish and 
English paper in which they appeared. 

During his travels Cormac at different times 
met in trains and hotels many friends of his 
own class, who one and all, to their great 
credit, refused to speak to him, and this treat- 
ment embittered him still more against all 
Loyalists, more especially against his father 
and brother. 

g2 



196 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

After one trip to a town in the south, where 
he had tried to enter a club, and had been 
ejected by the hall porter, he offered himself 
on his return to Dublin for " active service," 
and was at once sent to the Ballybor district 
to organise outrages, the Sinn Fein leaders 
knowing that the name of O'Fogarty was one 
to conjure with in that country even in these 
days. 

In the meantime Dominic had been asked 
by the authorities to join the newly-formed 
Auxiliary Division of the R.I.C, in order that 
his knowledge of the Ballybor country might 
be utilised, and after a short training in Dublin 
found himself quartered in Ballybor with a 
platoon of Cadets. 

By a coincidence the two brothers arrived 
in Ballybor within a week of each other, 
Cormac an avowed Sinn Feiner, and Dominic 
an officer in the Auxiliaries, who were about 
to take on the rebels at their own breed of 
warfare. 

Every kind of news travels fast in country 
districts in Ireland, and within twelve hours 
of the brothers' arrival it is doubtful if you 
could have found, even in the mountains of 
Ballyrick, a child who did not know of the 
O'Fogarty s' return. Moreover, there is noth- 
ing an Irishman loves more than a fight, and 
one between two brothers of the best-known 
family in three counties, with armed men at 
their back, was something worth looking for- 
ward to, even in these days of murder and 
outrage. And at local race-meetings in the 



A FAMILY AFFAIR. 197 

west bets were freely taken on the issue of 
the fight between Cormac and Dominic 0' Fog- 
arty. 

All thought of King or Republic was now 
completely forgotten in Ballybor, and for 
many miles around the countryside was divided 
into two camps. Most of the Volunteers, all 
nominally, were for Cormac, whilst all Loyal- 
ists and a good many Volunteers secretly sup- 
ported Dominic, with the result that, so keen 
were both sides to outmanoeuvre each other, 
the police obtained far more information than 
they had for a long time past. 

Dominic made up his mind to take the 
offensive straight away, and learning from one 
of his Volunteer sympathisers that his brother, 
when in Ballybor, always slept in the house 
of a man called Ryan, made arrangements to 
raid the place, and at any rate to put Cormac 
out of action for some time to come. 

However, Cormac learning of his brother's 
kindly intention, thought that it would be an 
excellent opportunity to raid Murrisk for arms 
on that particular night, and incidentally to 
get some of his own back from his father. 
Leaving Ballybor as soon as it was dark with 
a dozen men, they bicycled to Murrisk, and 
after parking their machines in a wood near 
the main road, proceeded to knock up the 
house. The butler opened the door, but did 
not recognise Cormac in a mask, though his 
Avalk seemed vaguely familiar to him. 

The mac Nessa was no coward, and on 
entering the inner hall, the raiders found them- 



198 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

selves covered by the old man with a double- 
barrelled shot-gun. Cormac had expected that 
his father would show fight, and knowing where 
the electric Hght switch was in the hall, had 
arranged with his men that when he turned 
the light off they should throw themselves 
flat on the floor. 

As the light went out the mac Nessa fired 
both barrels, which went harmlessly over the 
raiders' heads, and before he could reload they 
had him down and tied up. Cormac then 
turned on the light, and by now, half-mad 
with rage and excitement, would have gone 
for his father ; but his men kept him back, 
and when they had secured all the arms in 
the house under Cormac' s directions, they 
hustled him away. 

In the meantime Dominic with a party of 
Cadets had raided Ryan's house, but, of course, 
drew blank. 

Early the next morning a mounted messenger 
brought word to the barracks in Ballybor that 
Cormac and a party of armed and masked 
men had raided Murrisk during the night and 
removed all arms and ammunition. That 
afternoon Dominic put up large notices all 
over Ballybor to the effect that if he caught 
Cormac in the town he would horsewhip him 
in the market-place. 

Both the town and countryside were in a 
wild state of excitement after the Murrisk 
raid, Cormac' s supporters acclaiming his vic- 
tory, while Dominic's could only reply, " Wait 
and see." And so keen were Dominic's party 



A FAMILY AFFAIR. 199 

to help their man, that information of every 
possible kind and description literally poured 
into the barracks by every post. 

Like children, as ever, the people quickly 
forgot that they were either Loyalists or rebels, 
the blood-feud between the two brothers being 
far more interesting and exciting ; and it is 
probable that, if only sufficient arms had been 
forthcoming on both sides, the brothers' feud 
would have developed into a pitched battle, 
and if the police had interfered both parties 
would then have joined forces and turned on 
the common enemy. 

After leaving Murrisk, Cormac, knowing that 
Ballybor would now be too hot for him, made 
for some caves in the Slievenamoe Mountains 
to the east of the town, and here he remained. 
Some time before these caves had been fitted 
up like dug-outs in France, while the food 
supply gave no difficulty, every house at the 
foot of the mountains having to supply rations 
on requisition for any gunmen using these 
caves. Here Cormac had plenty of time on 
his hands, and thought out a clever plan to 
put Dominic out of action. 

Shortly before Cormac raided Murrisk, a 
new and simple manager had arrived at one 
of the Ballybor banks. The arrival of a new 
bank manager in an Irish provincial town is 
always the signal for all in financial difficulties 
to get busy and try their luck with the fresh 
arrival, and amongst the new manager's first 
visitors came the Urban Council, who by sheer 
bluff managed to get their akeady big over- 



200 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

draft increased by some thousand pounds. A 
fresh election being within sight, they then 
proceeded to borrow a derehct steam-roller 
from the County Council, who had practically 
ceased to function, and to spend the money 
steam-rolling the streets of Ballybor. In this 
way they hoped to catch the votes of the 
labourers by the payment of high wages, and 
of the shopkeepers and owners of cars by im- 
proved streets. 

Being in a great hurry to get on with the 
good work, they forgot that the streets had 
never been steam-rolled before, and that the 
gas- and water-pipes were very near the sur- 
face, with the result that for every yard of 
street the roller passed over one or more gas- 
or water-pipes burst, and the town soon smelt 
like the inside of a gas-works. 

The consequent proceedings give a verj^ fair 
idea of the Celtic capacity for pubhc affairs, 
and of how the country would be run under 
" Home Eule," or any other kind of rule ex- 
cept the " Union." 

Instead of stopping the steam-rolling until 
all mains and pipes had been relaid at a suffi- 
cient depth to resist the rolling, they solemnly 
proceeded to roll, burst, and mend from one 
end of the main street to the other, to the huge 
delight of all the local plumbers, who also had 
votes. 

Luckily the money was exhausted by the 
time the main street was finished, and though 
the greater part of the surface was excellent, 
the ridges made by digging up the pipes at 



A FAMILY AFFAIR. 201 

intervals would break the axle of an unsus- 
pecting stranger's car, to the great benefit of 
the local garages. 

The police barracks at Ballybor are situated 
in a " cul-de-sac " off the main street, at the 
corners of which stand the principal hotel 
and a bank, and all cars going to or from the 
barracks must pass this corner. 

Word was brought to Cormac in his moun- 
tain dug-out that his brother left Ballybor 
Barracks early every morning with a Crossley 
full of Cadets, and that they spent the whole 
day and often most of the night searching the 
surrounding country for him. Before leaving 
Ballybor he had witnessed the steam-rolling 
comic opera, and bicycling by night to Bally- 
bor, he lay up during the day, got in touch 
with a plumber, borrowed his tools and barrow, 
and late that afternoon (in the plumber's 
clothes, and slouch hat pulled well over his 
face) started to dig up the road between the 
bank and the hotel. 

Human nature always seems to regard the 
digging up of a street in the light of a huge 
joke, and during his work Cormac was not 
only chaffed by the bank manager and the 
hotel loafers, but by the police themselves. 
When it was dusk he was joined by a Volun- 
teer with a charge of gelignite, which had 
been raided from a Government ship off the 
south-east coast and brought to the west by 
car, and the two proceeded to lay a contact- 
mine in the centre of the road. They then 
filled in the earth, returned the tools and 



202 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

barrow to the plumber, and bicycled back to 
the mountams. 

While Cormac was busy laying his mine, 
Dominic and Blake were poring over an Ord- 
nance-map in the barracks not sixty yards 
away. Having come to the conclusion that it 
was quite useless to search the countryside 
piecemeal, and hearing a rumour of what was 
going on in the mountains through one of the 
forced food contractors having made a bitter 
complaint to a passing police patrol, they were 
now planning to surround the southern half 
of the Slievenamoe Mountains, and organising 
a great drive, and the next two days were 
spent working out the details. 

About 9 A.M. a mineral-water lorry, in order 
to turn, backed up the cul-de-sac, and the 
mine being well and truly laid, disappeared in 
a sheet of flame, wrecking the bank and hotel. 
Hardly had the sound of the explosion died 
away, and before the police left the barracks 
to investigate, every young man in Ballybor 
of the shopkeeper class had his bicycle out 
and was off as hard as he could pedal. A 
Volunteer greatly resembles a mountain hare : 
directly the hunt is up he makes at top speed 
for high ground, and the harder you press 
both the faster they leg it up the mountains. 
Blake and Dominic managed to control their 
men, and no reprisals followed, the only arrest 
being the unfortunate plumber who had lent 
his outfit to Cormac, and whose bicycle had 
been " borrowed " by an agitated shop-boy. 

At the present time a big drive in the west 



A FAMILY AFFAIR. 203 

presents great difficulties. Very few, often 
none, of the R.I.C. or Auxiliaries know any- 
thing of the many wild and mountainous parts 
in their districts, and the soldiers are invariably 
complete strangers. 

To reconnoitre the ground beforehand is out 
of the question, and it is difficult to induce 
reliable guides to act. 

The part of the mountains Blake and Dominic 
had selected to drive lay about nine miles due 
east of Ballybor, divided by a deep pass from 
the remainder of the range to the north, and 
ending in a wild rocky valley intersected by 
the Owenmore river to the south, and the total 
area to be covered was about eighteen square 
miles of mountains, glens, cliffs, and bogs. It 
was not possible to start operations before 
3 A.M. (the month being August), and they 
would have to stop soon after 11 p.m. (summer 
time), which gave them roughly twenty hours 
to beat the eighteen square miles. 

Taking the total number of troops at their 
disposal, Blake divided them into groups of 
six, giving them nearly a hundred groups. 
Then Dominic picked out from a contoured 
Ordnance-map the same number of points 
surrounding the mountains, from all of which 
there was a good view and field of fire, and it 
was arranged that as many groups as possible 
should have either a Vickers machine-gun or 
a Lewis gun. 

The actual drive was to be carried out by 
the police. The Cadets under Dominic were to 
start from the north end in a crescent forma- 



204 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

tion and advance towards the highest point, 
which lay nearly in the centre of the area, 
while the R.I.C. under Blake were to advance 
from the south. 

Dominic knew every yard of the mountains, 
having shot grouse there with his brother 
since boyhood, but the difficulty was to pro- 
cure a guide for Blake's party, none of whom 
had ever set foot on the mountains. With 
much persuasion, however, Dominic at last 
induced a man, who had been one of the 
mac Nessa's game- watchers on the mountains 
for years, to act as guide. This man had to 
be promised a large sum of money, and to 
save him from the revenge of Sinn Fein, it was 
arranged that directly after the drive he should 
be safely got away to enlist in the British 
Army under an assumed name, and, if he 
wished, be sent straight off to India. 

AU officers and N.C.O.'s w^ere given maps 
showing the position of every group marked, 
and it was arranged that the police should be 
in position at 3 a.m. and the troops half an 
hour later. A few days before the date fixed 
for the drive Dominic and his Auxiliaries dis- 
appeared from Ballybor, and it was given out 
that they had gone to Co. Cork. 

Sharp at 3 a.m., on a perfect August day, the 
drive began. Dominic and the Cadets had to 
start from the shores of a large lake lying in 
a cup at the top of the pass, and climb a 
thousand feet before reaching the first valley 
in the mountains. At the top they halted for 
a breather and to admire the wonderful view. 



A FAMILY AFFAIR. 205 

To the east the summer sun was fast rising, all 
around them stretched miles of heather-clad 
hills, and away to the north-west lay the sea, 
a pearly grey-blue in the fast growing light. 

After a rest Dominic got his men into forma- 
tion, spreading them out as far as possible 
without losing touch, while he kept a small 
party in the rear to go to any threatened 
point where the gunmen might try to break 
through the cordon. The Cadets had brought 
their signallers with them, equipped with a 
heliograph and flags, who remained with the 
reserve party. 

On reaching higher ground Dominic could 
see with his glasses the small groups of soldiers 
taking up their positions, while far away in 
the plain to the eastward the Owenmore river 
wound like a blue thread through the dark 
bogland. A Cadet on his left nearly walked 
on a pack of grouse, which swung right-handed, 
passing within twenty yards of Dominic, and 
reminding him vividly of other days. 

Very soon the Cadets began to feel the heat 
of the sun, and the hard going began to tell 
on several of them. Sitting in a Crossley is 
bad training for walking a grouse mountain. 

After going about a mile and a half a party 
of men were seen in front making eastward at 
full speed down a valley, the end of which 
Dominic knew was held by a group of soldiers 
with a machine-gun. Halting his men, he then 
brought his right wing well round so as to cut 
off the gunmen's retreat to the west should 
they attempt to break back. 



206 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

The fleeing gunmen were soon lost sight of in 
dead ground, but presently the sound of firing 
was heard from the far end of the valley, and 
after a time the gunmen were seen retreating 
across the Cadets' front, and making as hard as 
they could for the west side of the mountains. 

At this point Blake's men came in sight 
from the south, and quickly getting in touch 
with the Cadets' right wing, completed the 
cordon. The gunmen, seeing that they were 
surrounded and all retreat cut off, split up into 
two parties, took up positions on two kopjes, 
and waited for the attack. 

As a frontal attack would have entailed 
heavy loss, and seeing that there was another 
kopje on Blake's side which would command 
and enfilade the gunmen's positions, Dominic 
ordered the Cadets to pin the gunmen down 
by their fire, and at the same time sent a 
signaller to Blake telling him to occupy the 
commanding kopje. This Blake did, and also 
sent to the nearest group of soldiers for a 
machine-gun. 

The fight lasted for two hours, and though 
the gunmen were always subject to a hot fire, 
and several times a man was seen to spring 
into the air and collapse in the heather, yet 
they stuck it gamely until the machine-gun 
was brought up and opened a heavy fire on 
both kopjes ; the remaining gunmen then 
stood up and put up their hands. 

On the two kopjes the poHce found twelve 
dead gunmen and twenty - eight prisoners, 
eighteen of whom were wounded. And amongst 



A FAMILY AFFAIR. 207 

the dead Dominic found Cormac, shot through 
the heart. 

After arranging for the burial of the dead 
(with the exception of Cormac, who was carried 
down the mountain- side on a stretcher) and 
the removal of the prisoners, Dominic took a 
party of Cadets to search some caves which 
he knew of about half a mile to the south- 
west. Here, as he expected, he found that the 
gunmen had been living in comparative com- 
fort. One cave had been used as a living-room 
and contained chairs and tables, while two 
smaller inner ones were fitted up with bunks 
in tiers hke a Boche dug-out, and had heather 
for bedding. 

Towards evening the worn-out Cadets got 
back to their Crossleys on the pass road which 
ran along the north shore of the lake ; and 
after leaving a party with a searchlight mounted 
on a tender to stop any stray gunmen escaping 
during the night on bicycles by the road to 
the east, Dominic started for Murrisk in a 
Crossley with his brother's body. 

Many an evening the two brothers had 
driven home together over the same road 
after a happy day's grouse-shooting, never 
dreaming that their last journey together 
would be to bring Cormac's body to the home 
of their ancestors. 

The mac Nessa met the party in the great 
hall of Murrisk, and his ancestors looking down 
from the walls must surely have thought that 
they were back again in their own times of 
everlasting war and sudden death. 



208 



XV. 

THE AMERICAN NURSE. 

In the early 'eighties there hved in the Cloon- 
alla district a small farmer named Peter Walsh, 
who was what is generally called in the west 
a bad farmer, which is simply the Irish way 
of saying that he was lazy and good-for- 
nothing, and for several years Walsh had been 
in the clutches of the Cloonalla gombeen man, 
the local big shopkeeper. 

The ways of the gombeen man are quite 
simple and usually most successful, the success 
largely depending on a run of bad potato 
crops, as generally after two successive failures 
the majority of the farmers in a poor moun- 
tainous district have no money at all. They 
are thus forced to go to the gombeen wallah, 
who advances them so much money, according 
to the size of their farm and their capacity for 
drink, as a mortgage on the farm at a high 
rate of interest. But instead of paying them 
money he gives credit for goods, and there is 
a verbal agreement that he will not foreclose 
as long as the farmer deals solely with him 
and makes no bones about the prices he is 
charged. Formerly this was the terrible mill- 



THE AMERICAN NURSE. 209 

stone which used to hang for hfe round the 
necks of many western peasants. 

However, Walsh's millstone troubled him 
not one bit, and he " staggered " along for 
several years until there came a sequence of 
three bad and indifferent crops, which finished 
him completely. Seeing that Walsh was not 
going to make any effort, the gombeen man 
closed on the farm, and Peter, the wife, and 
their one child, Bridget, aged three years, left 
Ireland for America, illogically cursing the 
British Government for their own sins and 
those of the gombeen devil. 

Now the gombeen man had no use for 
Peter's farm himself, so he proceeded to make 
Peter's brother, Michael, drunk one Saturday 
night in his shop, and made the farm over to 
him with the former conditions, not forgetting 
to double the mortgage. 

In due course Michael died without kith or 
kin saving Bridget, now a hospital nurse in 
New York, who one day received a letter from 
a Ballybor solicitor informing her of her uncle's 
death, and that she was the sole heiress to 
his two farms in Cloonalla, and asking for 
instructions. 

From her youth upwards Nurse Bridget had 
heard nothing but abuse of the so-called Eng- 
lish t3rranny in Ireland — in fact, up to the time 
when she went to be trained as a hospital 
nurse, her only knowledge of England and 
Ireland was the thousand and one supposed 
wrongs which Ireland had suffered at the hands 
of England since the days of Cromwell, and 



210 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

her one ambition in life was to see the down- 
fall of the British Empire, and with that the 
freedom of her fatherland. In America, the 
Irish children find plenty of mentors of hate 
of England, both among their own people and 
the Germans. 

In time, when Bridget began to earn some 
money as a nurse, she joined every Irish anti- 
British society, secret and otherwise, she could, 
and at the time of her leaving the States to 
take over her uncle's farms possessed more 
wonderful and weird badges and medallions 
than she could conveniently wear at once : 
incidentally the societies relieved her of most 
of her earnings " to provide powder and shot 
for ould Ireland." 

On the Hner, Bridget met many of her race, 
mostly men and women who had worked hard 
for some years in the States and saved enough 
money to return to Ireland, where they hoped 
to buy a small farm or shop and never to 
wander any more. One and all were longing 
to be in Ireland once again, and not one ever 
mentioned a word of the " brutal English 
tyranny " until Bridget started the subject. 

Bridget landed at Queenstown, made her 
way to Cork, and set out on the long and 
tedious cross-country railway journey to the 
west. At the best of times the journey is a 
slow one, but during 1920 it became much 
worse owing to the great uncertainty of any 
train reaching its destination. Trains were 
even known to stand in a station for days on 
end while the driver, the stoker, the guard, 



THE AMERICAN NURSE. 211 

and the station employees argued and re-argued 
what they would do and what they would not do. 

Twice during the journey Bridget had 
ghmpses of the brutal British soldiery when 
two mihtary parties wished to travel on the 
train, and the driver and guard refused to 
start until the armed assassins of the British 
Government left. At first Bridget was slightly 
confused ; no doubt the soldiers were terrible 
blackguards, but at the time they seemed to 
be quiet and inoffensive, and she remembered 
frequently having seen American soldiers in 
the trains in the States, and the drivers and 
guards there made no objection. 

However, a fellow-passenger explained to 
her that the soldiers used the Irish railways 
to go from one part of the country to another 
in order to murder the unfortunate soldiers 
of the Republican Army, and that the guard 
and driver, as became good citizens and soldiers 
of the Irish Republic, were quite right to refuse 
to aid and abet the British by carrying them 
on the train. 

At a junction some thirty miles from Bally- 
bor she changed into a composite train carry- 
ing passengers and goods, and soon after 
leaving the junction the train pulled up sud- 
denly in a cutting, and there was loud shouting 
and firing. Bridget was greatly alarmed and 
excited, thinking that she would now see the 
British troops commit some of the terrible 
crimes she had heard so much about in the 
States — she had heard nothing of the crimes 
of the I.R.A. 



212 TALES OF THE E.I.a 

It takes a long time in the west of Ireland 
to do an3rfching, and it was quite twenty 
minutes before Bridget realised that this was 
a hold-up by the I.R.A., and that all the 
passengers were to get out and line up at the 
top of the cutting. The confusion then became 
terrific, half the passengers going up one side 
of the cutting, and the remainder up the other. 

Wild-looking masked bandits then started 
shouting to the people to come down and go 
to the other side, whereupon a general post 
ensued. 

Finally, the whole lot was collected together, 
searched, and at last allowed to take their 
seats in the train again ; but the performance 
was not by any means over yet. Next, the 
waggons were all broken open, the contents 
thrown on the line, and then returned except 
Belfast merchandise, which was made into a 
heap — coffins, cases of jam and tea, boxes of 
linen, &c. — sprinkled with petrol, and then set 
on fire. 

Bridget arrived at Ballybor on a summer's 
evening, and at once set out for Cloonalla. 
Ballybor appeared a mean and dirty little 
town to her American eyes, and she hoped for 
better things at Cloonalla — a good hotel and 
decent stores. After an hour and a half's 
drive the carman pulled up outside Cloonalla 
Chapel, and asked his fare where she wanted 
to go to. Not realising where she was, Bridget 
rephed, to Cloonalla, the best hotel in Cloon- 
alla, only to learn to her astonishment that 
the place boasted only one shop and no hotel 



THE AMERICAN NURSE. 213 

of any kind. And in the end she was thankful 
to accept the hospitaHty of a farmer's wife, 
and share a stuffy bed with the woman's 
daughter. 

Bridget received a shock when she saw her 
uncle's house — she said that they wouldn't put 
a pig in it in America — and the idea she had 
had of settling down there quickly vanished. 
However, she determined to stay on awhile 
in Ireland, and help to the best of her ability 
the famous soldiers of the I.R.A. (she had not 
realised yet that the bandits who had held 
up the train were the famous soldiers) of 
whom she had heard so much in America. 

On visiting the solicitor in Ballybor, she 
found that her uncle had left her a few hundred 
pounds, and this she gave to the man Hanley, 
with whom she lodged, to buy cattle with to 
stock her farm. 

As soon as Bridget had settled down she 
found ample scope for her poUtical ambitions 
both in Cloonalla and Ballybor, where most 
of the young people of her own age found 
talking sedition far easier and more amusing 
than hard work ; and as everybody seemed to 
have money to burn, she had a great time — 
poHtical meetings, drilling, picnics, and dances. 
And after joining the Cumann na Ban she 
volunteered for active service with the local 
company of the I.R.A. , little knowing what 
was before her. 

At .first the game was amusing enough, 
teaching the young men the rudiments of first 
aid, and lecturing to the girls and youths of 



214 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

Cloonalla in the school-house in the evening, 
followed by dancing until the early hours of 
the morning ; and probably Bridget would 
have gone no further than this but for the 
unfortunate arrival of two professional gun- 
men in Cloonalla, who had been sent from 
Dublin to carry out the usual series of outrages 
and then to vanish before the storm burst. 

The gunmen came with a list of local un- 
desirables (from the I.R.A. point of view) to 
be removed — many of the names had probably 
been given out of private spite through the 
means of anonymous letters, a very favourite 
practice in Ireland — and at once proceeded to 
work, or rather to see that the Cloonalla Volun- 
teers did the dirty work. 

The following week seemed to Bridget hke 
a horrible nightmare, starting with the murder 
of ex-soldiers, who paid the full penalty of 
being so stupid as to beheve that the British 
Government would protect its friends and 
supporters in Ireland, and culminating in the 
revolting crime of the murder of a Protestant 
clergyman, who was seventy-nine years of age. 

Early in the morning, before the household 
was up, the old man heard a loud knocking 
at the hall door, and on coming downstairs 
found the usual party of armed and masked 
men, who ordered him to follow them. He 
did so, and had no sooner reached the road 
than they shot him dead, — to be found by his 
old wife — ^the servants dared not leave the 
house — flying in the middle of the road in a 
pool of blood. 



THE AMERICAN NURSE. 215 

That night the gunmen vanished, and with 
them the orgy of crime ceased for a time at 
any rate. There is no doubt that these revolt- 
ing and apparently purposeless murders are 
instigated by the I.R.A., but nevertheless they 
are carried out by the peasants in most cases, 
and they will have to bear the stigma now and 
always. Under a determined leader they appear 
to take kindly to " political murder." 

Bridget was physically and mentally sick 
with horror, and made up her mind to return 
to the States as soon as she could dispose of 
her farms, and to this end bicycled into Bally- 
bor to arrange with an auctioneer to sell the 
farms for her by public auction at the earliest 
possible date. The following day the auctioneer 
inspected the farms, and declared that she 
ought to get at least a thousand pounds for 
her interest in each farm, and fixed a near 
date for the auction, though he was very 
doubtful if the I.R.A. would permit it, and 
advised her to try and obtain their consent. 
But the last thing in the world Bridget wanted 
was to have any further dealings with the 
I.R.A., and the auctioneer left promising to 
do his best. 

That night after the Hanleys and Bridget 
had gone to bed the}^ received a visit from 
the captain of the Cloonalla Volunteers, who 
wanted to know if it was true that Bridget 
was going to try and sell her farms by pubhc 
auction. Bridget told him that it was quite 
true, and that she was going to return to 
America. Whereupon he told her that the 



216 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

I.R.A. would not allow this, and that if she 
wanted to dispose of her land a Sinn Fein 
Court would value it, and the Republican 
Government would then take it over and pay 
her in Dail Eireann Bonds (to be redeemed at 
their face value when Ireland is free and the 
Repubhc established), and after telling her to 
stop the auction he left. 

In a few days Bridget received an order to 
attend a Sinn Fein Arbitration Court in Cloon- 
alla Chapel at night, where the judges valued 
her farms at one hundred pounds each (loud 
applause in Court by the men who hoped to 
get the farms), and ordered her to hand over 
the land the following day to the Cloonalla 
Volunteer captain, who had every intention of 
keeping the farms himself. 

Bridget protested loudly that she was a 
citizen of the United States, that the farms 
were hers, and that if this was a free country 
like America she was entitled to get the full 
market value for them, which she had been 
told was quite two thousand pounds ; and 
lastly, that she had proved herself a good 
patriot, and burst into tears. 

All of no avail — ^the judges gave her three 
days to get rid of her cattle and hand over 
the land, at the end of which time if she had 
not complied she was to be deported, and her 
farms and cattle confiscated. 

Bridget returned to the Hanleys' house to 
find her boxes packed and dumped in the 
road, together with her bicycle, and the door 
of the house locked, and this in the middle of 



THE AMERICAN NURSE. 217 

the night. After trying in vain to gain admit- 
tance she sat down on one of her boxes and 
started to cry. 

Towards dawn she again made a piteous 
appeal to the Hanleys to be allowed to stay 
in their house for the rest of the night, and 
that she would leave the following day ; and 
for answer Mrs Hanley cursed her, and warned 
her that if she was not gone before daylight 
her hair would be cut off, and " God only 
knew what else would happen to her." In a 
bhnd terror she mounted her bicycle and rode 
madly into Ballybor, where she had to wait 
some hours in the streets before she could 
gain admittance to a lodging-house. 

Bridget was made of the right stuff, and 
with the daylight and the contact with friendly 
human beings her courage returned, and she 
went to see the auctioneer once more, but re- 
ceived cold comfort. The man had been 
warned not to hold the auction, but was will- 
ing to, provided he had police protection (he 
saw his trade slipping away if he did not), 
and suggested that she should go and see 
the D.I. 

Blake listened patiently to her tale of woe 
— he already knew the part she had played 
with the Cloonalla Volunteers, but liked the 
girl's looks and her pluck, and at the end 
promised her protection for the auction, but 
warned her that he could not protect her 
afterwards, and advised her to get out of the 
country as soon as she could. 

Bridget then hired a car and drove out to 



218 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

Cloonalla to try and collect her belongings. 
The boxes were still there by the roadside, 
but empty. And on going on to her farms she 
found that the fences and gates were smashed 
and her cattle gone. She tried in vain to get 
information of them, but found that not a 
man, woman, or child would tell her any- 
thing. 

Returning to Ballybor, she again saw Blake, 
who promised to send out police to try and 
find her cattle. The following day the police 
went out to Cloonalla, rounded up the first 
score of men they met, made them build up 
the fences, mend the gates, and lastly, gave 
them two hours to return Bridget's cattle. 

The I.R.A. now turned the full blast of that 
potent weapon, the boycott, on to the un- 
fortunate Bridget. Not a soul would or rather 
dare speak to her — at any rate in public. Little 
children meeting her in the streets or country 
roads ran away, fearing lest she might cast 
an evil eye on them. Shopkeepers were for- 
bidden to supply any goods to her, and the 
lodging-house people would have put her out 
on the streets but for the interference of the 
D.L By this time Blake was determined to 
see her through, and when the auctioneer 
attempted to rat, made him think better of 
it and stick to his agreement with Bridget. 

The day of the auction arrived, and with it 
the biggest crowd Cloonalla had ever seen. 
In fact, so dense was the throng that when 
Blake drew up with the auctioneer and Brid- 
get, he was afraid to let his men near the 



THE AMERICAN NURSE. 219 

crowd lest they might be rushed. Standmg 
up in a Crossley, he ordered the people through 
a megaphone to form three sides of a square 
facing the road, and, as soon as they had 
complied with his order, he told the auctioneer 
to get out and carry on with his work on the 
fourth side of the square. This he did, and, 
after describing the value and virtues of the 
farms in the usual flowery language of his 
kind, asked for a bid. 

There followed a deadly silence of fully two 
minutes. Again the auctioneer called for a 
bid, and yet a third time — not a man in the 
huge crowd dared open his mouth. Land- 
hunger is the predominant trait in a western 
peasant's character, and many men in that 
crowd would have risked their souls for Brid- 
get's farms ; but so great was the power, or 
rather the fear of the I.R.A., that not a single 
man dared speak. 

Seeing that it was useless to go on with the 
farce, Blake ordered the auctioneer to return 
to the car. At once the crowd broke with an 
angry roar, and made an ugly rush towards 
the road, but a volley of blank in the air quickly 
stopped them, and they turned to scatter in 
the opposite direction, while the police party 
returned to Ballybor. 

That night, when she went to bed in the 
lodging-house, Bridget locked her door and 
piled all the furniture she could against it. 
About 2 A.M. some one knocked loudly at her 
door and bade her open, but she lay still and 
gave no answer. She could then hear the 

H 



220 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

raiders entering the other rooms of the house, 
and the screams of inmates, followed by the 
curses of the raiders. 

The girl lay shaking in bed, knowing that 
it was only a question of time before they 
came again, and when they did it gave her 
almost a sense of relief. This time they did 
not knock, and she could hear whispering, 
followed by 'a man wearing rubber soles running 
down the passage, and then a crash as he 
hurled himself against her door. 

The door was rotten and gave, but the furni- 
ture still held it up, and the other men then 
put their shoulders against it, and finally it 
gave way altogether, and the whole lot pitched 
into her room in a heap on the floor. 

As Bridget screamed, the men flashed their 
electric torches on to her, and by the Ught 
she could see that they all wore painted white 
masks, which completely covered their faces 
except the eyes and mouth. One great brute 
then seized her by the hair, and dragged her 
screaming down the stairs and into the street, 
where the others held her while the big man 
shaved her hair off with a razor. They then 
lashed her wrists and ankles, gagged her, and 
flung her in her nightdress into a waiting Ford, 
which disappeared into the night. 

A police patrol, guided by the screams, 
arrived on the scene just as the Ford was 
disappearing in the direction of Castleport. 
Sending a constable back to the barracks for 
a car and more men, the sergeant in charge 
searched the lodging-house, only to raise a 



THE AMERICAN NURSE. 221 

fresh alarm among the terrified inmates, most 
of whom were under their beds. 

In a few minutes the car arrived, and the 
poHce raced off after the Ford as fast as the 
Crossley would travel. 

For some time the poHce had had a strong 
suspicion that a creamery about half-way be- 
tween Ballybor and Castleport had been fre- 
quently used by the I.R.A. as a detention 
prison, and as they drew near the place they 
saw lights disappear from the windows. 

After surrounding the building, the sergeant 
knocked at the door and received no answer. 
Being afraid to delay lest they might be at- 
tacked, he told his men to take one of the 
two thick iron-bound planks carried under the 
body of the Crossley, and used for crossing 
trenches on the roads, and to use it as a 
battering-ram on the door. At the second 
blow the door splintered, and a third made 
a hole large enough for the pohce to pass in. 

The sergeant now advanced into the build- 
ing, revolver in one hand and torch in the 
other, and had nearly reached the back when 
shots and shouts were heard, and at the same 
time he saw a man disappearing through a 
door ahead of him and fired. 

On reaching the door he was met by his 
own men, who said that three men had tried 
to escape that way, and that they had shot 
two, the third escaping. 

They then searched the building, and found 
Bridget lying in a kind of coal-cellar, half- 
dead from fright and exposure, and, wrapping 



222 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

her in a policeman's greatcoat, took her back 
to the lodging-house, leaving a guard there 
for the rest of the night. 

The next day Bridget fled to England, to 
return to America from Southampton. Noth- 
ing in this world would have induced her to 
spend another night in Ireland. 

She left the sale of her farms in the hands 
of the auctioneer, who, to his great surprise, 
some time afterwards found a buyer at a low 
figure in a man who came from the north. 

The police saw the northerner into his new 
home, and left him there. The following 
morning the man staggered into the Ballybor 
Barracks, and when he had sufficiently re- 
covered, he told Blake that soon after he had 
gone to sleep he was awakened by volumes of 
smoke, and on getting out of bed found that 
the house was on fire. Seizing his clothes, he 
just managed to get out before the blazing 
roof fell in. 

Outside he was met by a roaring crowd, 
who beat him nearly to death with sticks, and 
while he lay on the ground he could hear the 
screams of his horses and cattle being burnt 
to death in the blazing outbuildings. The 
crowd then left him for dead, well pleased 
with their night's work. After some hours he 
recovered and managed to crawl into Ballybor. 



223 



XVI. 

FATHER JOHN. 

The tiny village of Annagh lies on the eastern 
slope of the Slievenamoe Mountains, about 
fifteen miles due east of Ballybor, and con- 
sists of one dirty street with, roughly, forty- 
nine miserable tumble-down hovels and one 
grand slated two-storied house, as usual the 
shop and abode of the village gombeen man, 
who also kept the Post Office — not because 
he was the most honest man in the village, but 
because there was nobody else able to do so. 

A good many years ago, on a bitter winter's 
night, a tinker, answering to the name of 
Bernie M'Andrew, drove his ass-cart into the 
village of Annagh, and called at the only shop 
to know if there were any kettles or cans to 
be mended. The night was so cold and wet 
that the old shopkeeper, in the kindness of his 
heart, bade the shivering tinker put up his 
ass and spend the night. The tinker stayed 
and never left. 

M' Andrew's stock-in-trade, when he arrived 
at Annagh on that winter's night, consisted 
of half a barrel of salt herrings, a kettle, the 
usual tinker's soldering outfit, a policeman's 



224 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

discarded tunic, and the rags he stood up in. 
Within a year M 'Andrew had buried the old 
shopkeeper, who had hved alone for years and 
was beloved by all, and reigned in his place. 

Being an ambitious tinker, M'Andrew started 
a gombeen business with the old man's savings, 
which he found by chance in the secret drawer 
of an old desk, and in a very short time became 
the best hated and most feared man in the 
district. 

At first M'Andrew supported Sinn Fein 
enthusiastically, but when he saw law and 
order beginning to disappear, being now a 
man of property, he became alarmed, and 
tried to run with the hare and the hounds. 

M 'Andrew's great opponent was the young 
parish priest. Father John, who, after serving 
as a chaplain with the British Army in France 
with great distinction — he had been decorated 
for bravery in the field by both the British 
and the French — ^returned to Ireland, having 
seen enough bloodshed for his lifetime. 

Father John was a grand man both physic- 
ally and morally and in the right sense of the 
words, and if only the majority of young Irish 
priests were up to the standard of Father John 
there would be little trouble in Ireland to-day. 

When he became the parish priest of Annagh, 
Father John saw at once that M'Andrew was 
fast reducing the great majority of his parish- 
ioners, who were poor men with poorer moun- 
tain land, to a state of slavery, and realised 
that it only wanted two bad years in succes- 
sion to put the whole parish under the gombeen 
man's thumb. 



FATHER JOHN. 225 

At first he tried to keep the farmers away 
from M' Andrew's shop ; but this they resented, 
as it entailed a journey of many miles to the 
nearest town, and then they had to pay nearly 
as much as to M' Andrew. Next he denounced 
M' Andrew and his evil practices from the 
altar, warning the people of the consequences ; 
but in spite of all the priest could do or say 
the gombeen man flourished. 

From the very first Father John opposed 
the Sinn Fein movement both by word and 
deed, and when the first Sinn Fein organisers 
appeared in his parish he quickly hunted them 
away ; but before he knew what was happening 
practically every young man in the parish had 
been enrolled, whether he liked it or not, as 
a soldier in the I.K.A. M'Andrew was quick 
to seize his chance of revenge, telling the 
people that the priest was a secret agent of 
the British Government — hadn't he served in 
the British Army and taken the pay of the 
British Government, an enemy of the people ? 
— and that he was doing his best to stand 
between them and liberty. In a week Father 
John was practically an outlaw in his own 
parish, and M'Andrew became the popular hero. 

Though he still ofiiciated in the chapel, Sinn 
Fein saw to it that he was paid no dues. For 
nearly two years this state of affairs con- 
tinued, and it would have been impossible for 
the priest to live if the older and more sober 
members of his flock had not come to his house 
secretly in the dead of night and paid hiMi 
their dues. 

One day, when feeling ran very high. Father 



226 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

John opened his daily paper to see his own 
death reported, and a long obituary notice, 
probably the handiwork of M' Andrew. 

It was a situation common in Ireland — the 
peasants blind to the virtues of their truest 
friend, and making a popular idol of their 
worst enemy : it is a sad thing that many 
Irishmen will always insist in believing what 
they wish to believe. 

Father John was by nature a kindly and 
genial man, a lover of sport, of a good horse, 
and of the society of men, and those two years 
must have been a perfect hell on earth for him. 
Not that any one was ever openly rude to 
him ; they just sent him to Coventry and kept 
him there, hoping to break his heart, and that 
by refusing to pay him any dues they would 
gradually freeze him out, and in his place would 
come one of those fire-eating young priests 
who would lead them to victory and freedom. 

The summer of 1920 was wet and cold, with 
frosty nights during every month except July. 
Now, if your potatoes grow in boggy land, and 
there comes heavy rain followed by a night's 
frost, not once but several times, you will have 
no potatoes, and probably very little crop of 
any kind. And if your hving depends on the 
potato crop, you stand a good chance of starv- 
ing, unless the gombeen man will come to your 
assistance. 

By November the whole parish of Annagh 
practically belonged to M'Andrew, who held 
a mortgage on nearly every acre of tenanted 
land, and proceeded to bully the people to his 
heart's content. 



FATHER JOHN. 227 

On a Sunday morning in December, at about 
10 o'clock, the hour when the village usually 
began to come to life, the inhabitants were 
startled by the screams of a woman, and when 
they rushed to their doors saw M^ Andrew's 
servant running out of the village towards 
Father John's house. M'Andrew had been 
murdered during the night without a sound, 
and the servant had no idea of what had 
happened until she went to his room to see 
why he had not got up. All M'Andrew' s books 
had been burnt, and afterwards the murderers 
must have cursed the day they did not set a 
light to the house as well. 

On the next day the village woke up to find 
a company of Auxiliaries billeted in M 'An- 
drew's house and the yard full of their cars — 
a case of out of the frying-pan into the fire. 

For some time past the police had known 
that men on the run were hiding in the moun- 
tains near Annagh ; but though the area came 
within Blake's district, it was impossible to 
keep any control over it, owing to the fact 
that the Owenmore river and the Slievenamoe 
Mountains lay between it and Ballybor. 

The Auxiliaries spent the day fortifying 
M'Andrew' s house, and that night started opera- 
tions, and the inhabitants soon realised that 
the British Empire was not yet an "also ran." 

Just as it was getting dark the Auxiliaries 
in Crossleys would suddenly burst out of 
M 'Andrew's yard, travel perhaps Rye or ten 
miles at racing speed, and then surround and 
round up a village or district, so that the 

h2 



228 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

numerous gunmen who had come from the 
south for a rest cure found it impossible to 
get any sleep at all. 

The local Volunteers at once sent an S.O.S. 
to DubHn, and received the comforting answer 
that a flying column would arrive shortly in 
the district and deal effectively with the 
Auxiliaries. In the meanwhile they were to 
harass the enemy by every means in their 
power and carry on a warfare of attrition — 
in other words, if they found one or two Cadets 
alone — ^if unarmed so much the better — ^they 
were to murder them. 

At first the local Volunteers were very much 
afraid of the Auxiliaries, Sinn Fein propaganda 
having taught them to expect nothing but 
murder, rape, and looting from the " scum of 
English prisons and asylums " ; but after a 
few days had passed and nothing dreadful 
happened to man or woman, they took heart 
once more and started their usual warfare. 

The Auxiliaries were commanded by a Major 
Jones, and on the Sunday following their 
arrival in Annagh Jones left alone in a Ford 
at an early hour to see Blake in Ballybor. 
The road crosses the mountains through a 
narrow pass, and near the top of the pass there 
is a small chapel, a school, a pub, and a few 
scattered cottages. 

On his return Jones passed this chapel as 
the people were coming out from Mass, blew 
his horn, and slowed up. After passing through 
the crowd he noticed a group of youths stand- 
ing on the right side of the road, and opened his 
throttle wide, thereby probably saving his life. 



FATHER JOHN. 229 

When the car was within ten yards of the 
group every man drew a pistol, and it seemed 
to Jones as though he was flying through a 
shower of bullets. However, though the car 
was riddled, and had any one been sitting in 
the other three seats they would all have 
been killed, Jones found himself uninjured, 
and the old " tin Lizzie," responding well to 
the throttle, flew down the hill at twice the 
pace Henry Ford ever meant her to travel at. 

That evening Father John called on Jones 
and apologised for the outrage, and Jones at 
once fell under the charm of the priest. Pro- 
bably his astonishment at Father John's visit 
had something to do with it, but in the days 
to come, when Father John supported his 
words by deeds, Jones learnt that his first 
impression had been a correct one. 

Returning in the early hours of the morning 
from a raiding expedition to the south of 
Annagh, the Auxiharies were surprised to see 
a tall priest standing in the middle of the 
road and holding up his hand. Fearing a trap 
— there was a blind corner just behind where 
the priest was standing — ^they stopped about 
two hundred yards off and beckoned to the 
priest to advance. 

They were still more surprised to find that 
the tall priest was Father John, who, having 
received information after they had started 
that the Volunteers were going to lay trees 
across the road at this corner in the hope of 
smashing up the AuxiHary cars, had spent the 
whole night walking up and down the road in 
order that he might warn them of their danger. 



230 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

Father John drove back to Armagh with 
the Cadets, and by the time they reached the 
village every Cadet swore that the priest was 
the finest man they had yet met in Ireland, 
and they didn't believe there was a finer one. 

From that on Father John accompanied the 
Auxiharies on many a stunt, and there is no 
doubt that he gave them every help in his 
power and all information which reached him ; 
but though he would travel anywhere with 
them, he would never accept hospitahty from 
them, nor would he enter M' Andrew's house. 

About six miles from Annagh, in a hollow 
of the mountains, is the tiny village of Glen- 
muck, completely isolated from the rest of the 
world, and so situated that its presence was 
quite hidden until you literally walked on top 
of it. None of the inhabitants, who lived 
chiefly by making poteen in the winter time 
and going to England as harvesters in the 
summer, possessed a cart, for the very good 
reason that the nearest so-called third-class 
road was five miles away, and only a goat 
track passed within a mile of the place. 

Here in due course arrived the flying column 
of the I.R.A., seventy strong, every man 
mounted on a bicycle and armed with a British 
service rifle and as many pistols as he could 
find room for. They were also the proud 
possessors of a Lewis gun. 

As usual, the gunmen were billeted so many 
in each farm, and after being badly harassed 
for some time in the south, Glenmuck seemed 
like Paradise to them. The nights were spent 
in dancing, card-playing, and drinking poteen. 



FATHER JOHN. 231 

Somewhere about noon the gunmen got up, 
and after breakfast visited each other in their 
different billets after the fashion of our troops 
in France, walking about openly with their 
rifles slung over their shoulders. The Lewis 
gun team passed their days teaching the boys 
and girls of the village the mechanism of the 
Lewis gun. 

The leader's idea was to give his men much- 
needed rest and amusement for a few days, 
and then to try and ambush the Auxiliaries ; 
and probably they could have spent quite a 
long time resting here without the Auxiliaries 
having the slightest suspicion of their near 
presence. But war seems to be made up so 
largely of " ifs," and the " if " in this case 
proved to be Father John. 

When out riding on his rounds one morning, 
the priest noticed that most of the young 
people of his parish appeared to be gravitating 
in their best clothes towards Glenmuck, and 
suspecting a poteen orgy, he sternly com- 
manded a young damsel to tell him why she 
was going to Glenmuck, and the girl told him. 
Father John rode straight back to Annagh, 
to be just in time to stop Jones from starting 
off on a raid in the opposite direction. 

Jones first sent off a Cadet on a motor 
bicycle to Blake at Ballybor, sending him a 
verbal outline of his plan of attack on Glen- 
muck, and asking him to co-operate with the 
Auxiliaries from the other side of the moun- 
tains. He then turned out every Cadet in the 
place, left M' Andrew's house empty to take 
care of itself, and made off at full speed in 



232 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

the direction of Glenmuck with the priest 
acting as guide. 

They reached the nearest point to Glenmuck 
on the road at noon, and after leaving a small 
guard over the Crossleys, the rest of the com- 
pany set out in open order across the mountain 
for the flying column's lair. 

The gunmen had had great luck in the south 
for a long time, and their luck still held. A 
youth, making his way across country to get 
a sight of the wonderful gunmen, happened to 
look behind him when on top of a rise, and 
saw about a mile away the oncoming Auxil- 
iaries. Being a sharp youth he realised who 
they were, and ran for the village as fast as 
his young legs would carry him, and by chance 
ran straight into the leader when he entered 
the outskirts of the place. 

Reaching the hill above the village the 
Auxiliaries made a last desperate rush down 
the slope, in the hope of catching the gunmen 
scattered in the different cottages, and so 
mopping them up before they could get to- 
gether ; but by this time the flj^ng column 
had taken up positions on the top of the far 
slope above the village, and as the Cadets 
reached the cottages they came under heavy 
machine-gun fire. 

Quickly realising what had happened, Jones 
ordered one platoon to make a frontal attack 
on the gunmen's position, while he sent a 
second and third platoon to try to work round 
their flanks ; the fourth platoon he kept with 
him under cover in the village. 

Then followed a very pretty fight for an 



FATHER JOHN. 233 

hour, by which time the gunmen, Hke the 
Boers of old, thought it was time to move 
on and take up a position on the next ridge. 

Jones knew that if he could only keep in 
close touch with the flying column it was only 
a question of time before Blake, who would 
be guided by the heavy firing, would attack 
them in the rear, and that they would then 
stand a good chance of bagging the whole lot. 
The fight gradually worked across the moun- 
tains, the gunmen retreating from ridge to 
ridge, while the Cadets stuck to them like grim 
death, always striving to pin them down, and 
when they retreated to drive them in the 
direction from which Blake ought to appear. 

Late in the afternoon heavy shooting suddenly 
broke out behind the gunmen, and the Cadets 
redoubled their efforts to close with them. 

By this time the opposing forces had worked 
their way down the western slopes of the 
mountains almost as far as the high upland 
bogs, and directly the gunmen realised that 
they were likely to be surrounded, they broke 
and fled down a valley, closely pursued by 
police and Cadets. Unfortunately the light 
was getting bad, and the gunmen's luck still 
held good. When they had gone about a 
mile, they came across a big party of country 
people with whom they mixed, and when the 
pohce came up with them it was impossible to tell 
gunmen from peasants — probably the former 
were busily engaged cutting turf while the latter 
looked on. Their arms were passed to the women, 
who hid the rifles in the heather and secreted 
the pistols and ammunition on their persons. 



234 TALES OF THE H.I.C. 

During the whole long fight Father John 
attended to wounded Cadet and gunman alike, 
always to be seen where the fight was hottest ; 
and though his calling was conspicuous from 
his clothes and white collar, yet on several 
occasions the gunmen deliberately fired on him 
when attending to a wounded Cadet. 

After the battle of Glenmuck the flying 
column was seen no more in that district, and for 
weeks the local Volunteers gave Jones no trouble. 

Time after time Jones had received informa- 
tion that certain young men in and about 
Annagh carried arms, but whenever they were 
surprised in a shop or pub no arms could be 
found on them, and it was noticed that they 
always moved about in the company of cer- 
tain girls. 

Soon after the battle of Glenmuck the belles 
of the district received the shock of their lives 
when shopping in a town some miles away 
with these young men. About noon four 
Crossley loads of Cadets suddenly dashed into 
the town with two women searchers dressed 
in dark-blue uniforms, and that day the first 
real haul of revolvers and automatics was 
made. As usual, the men passed their arms 
to the girls directly they saw the Auxiliaries 
arrive, but this time no notice was taken of 
the men, while the girls, who on former occa- 
sions had stood looking on and jeering at the 
Cadets, found themselves quickly rounded up, 
and the women searchers soon did the rest. 

After this the moral effect of the women 
searchers was so great that not a girl in the 
district dare carry arms or even despatches. 



FATHER JOHN. 235 

The girls were not sure whether the searchers 
were women or young Cadets dressed up as 
women, and this uncertainty greatly increased 
their alarm. 

About six weeks later Jones found out that 
a much-wanted Dublin gunman, called Foy, 
who had murdered at least two British officers 
in cold blood, was hidden in the district, and 
was being fed by his mother and sister, who 
lived about two miles from Annagh. Time 
after time the Cadets tried to surprise Mrs 
Foy or her daughter carrying food to Foy's 
hiding-place, but always in vain. 

Foy's presence soon began to be felt in the 
district. Two Cadets, returning off leave in 
mufti and unarmed, were taken out of the 
train and murdered just outside the station, 
their bodies being left there for all who passed 
to see, and no man dared to touch the bodies 
until the police arrived. Next the Cadets were 
ambushed twice in one week, both times un- 
successfully. 

Father John, who had hoped that at last 
his parish had returned to the paths of peace, 
was furious, and denounced from the altar all 
men and women who shielded murderers. 
Finally, after the murder of the two Cadets, 
he refused Holy Communion to Mrs Foy and 
her daughter, which is a very serious step 
for a priest to take. 

And when remonstrated with, he repHed 
that, sooner than not denounce and punish 
murderers and those who aided and abetted 
them, he would throw off his coat and become an 
Auxiliary. More power to you. Father John ! 



236 



XVII. 

THE BOG CEMETERY. 

After many months of the Sinn Fein Terror, 
the town of BaUybor became a place of shadows 
and whispers. At night-time men saw shadows, 
real and unreal, moving and stationary, at 
every corner of the streets and in every lane ; 
and dm-ing the day-time, when men met in 
the streets, they would only speak in low 
whispers to each other, and always keeping 
one eye over their shoulder. 

Pubhc opinion withered and died. Sinn 
Fein had no use for it — men became com- 
pletely detached, mere spectators of the un- 
checked and uncondemned orgy of crime ; 
like the younger generation in England, who 
waste a large part of their lives in picture- 
houses, gazing at films of vice and crime. 
And if a man had been murdered in the main 
street at Ballybor in the middle of the day, 
not a hand would have been raised to save 
the victim — ^the inhabitants would simply have 
regarded the incident in the hght of a film, 
and then gone home to their dinners. 

The oft-heard remark when a policeman has 



THE BOG CEMETERY. 237 

been murdered, " that it served him right for 
joining the R.I.C.," epitomises the attitude of 
the majority of the Irish pubhc towards so- 
called " pohtical murder." As a rule, an Irish- 
man, on being asked if there was any news in 
the paper, would reply, " No, only the usual 
columns of murders and outrages." 

Walter Drake, as his name implies, was 
descended from an Elizabethan soldier who 
had settled in the west of Ireland and built 
a large house about two miles from Ballybor, 
and here for many generations the Drakes had 
lived, hunted, and farmed. 

Walter Drake had at an early age entered 
the army through Sandhurst, but retired after 
six years' service on the death of his father, 
and since then had lived at the Manor, spending 
a large part of his time helping his poorer 
neighbours in every way in his power : a 
quiet man of a retiring nature, a popular 
magistrate, and a good neighbour, but a deter- 
mined Loyalist. Called up again in August 
1914, he had served throughout the war with 
distinction in his old regiment, to return once 
more to his home. 

Had Drake hved in any civihsed country in 
the world, he would most assuredly have died 
in his bed when his time came, esteemed by 
all as a just, kindly, and honourable man ; 
but, as in war, the best seem to be always 
taken, so it has been in Ireland. His only 
crimes appear to have been that he continued 
to act as a magistrate after receiving an order 
from the I.R.A. to resign his commission of 



238 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

the peace, and devoting himseK to helping ex- 
soldiers in the town to get their pensions and 
trying to get grants of land for such as were 
worthy. The granting of land to ex-soldiers 
was bitterly opposed by the Transport Union, 
who wanted every acre for their own landless 
members. And probably being a personal 
friend of Blake's and beloved by the police 
force, would constitute another crime in the 
eyes of the I.R.A. 

On a certain Monday night the constable 
on duty at Ballybor Barracks reported that a 
great light could be seen in the sky, and 
thought there must be a big fire not far from 
the town. Going to the top of the barracks, 
Blake at once saw that a large house must be 
on fire, and judging from the direction the 
chances were that it was the Manor. Taking 
a dozen men in a Crossley, he at once went 
off there, to find the grand old house burning 
fiercely, and by the light of the fire he could 
make out a pathetic group of figures on the 
tennis-ground in front of the house. 

The first person whom Blake met was the 
old butler, who told a tale now familiar in 
many parts of Ireland to-day. The household 
had retired at their usual hour of eleven, after 
which the butler had carefully closed up the 
house and gone to the servants' hall to smoke 
a pipe before turning in. Soon afterwards he 
heard a loud knocking at the front door, fol- 
lowed by a volley of shots, some of which must 
have been fired through the windows, as he 
could hear the sound of falling glass. 



THE BOG CEMETERY. 239 

The old man went and opened the front 
door, to be met by a ring of rifles, shot-guns, 
pistols, and electric torches, behind which he 
could make out the usual mob of masked 
rufflans. A strange voice then demanded 
Major Drake ; and when the butler told them 
that the Major had gone to Dublin by the 
mail that day, a man handed him a letter 
telling him that in ten minutes' time they 
were going to burn the house to the ground, 
and that he had better warn the inmates if 
he didn't want them roasted alive. 

The butler at once took the letter to Miss 
Drake, who read the following pleasant com- 
munication addressed to her brother : — 

" Major Drake, — Owing to your aggressively 
anti-Irish attitude, we have received orders to 
burn your house to the ground. You will be 
given ten minutes to collect your clothes. By 
order.— I.R.A." 

The girl hurriedly slipped on a dressing- 
gown, and went down to the hall to find it 
full of the brutes sprawling in chairs and 
smoking. The leader came forward to speak 
to her, and she begged him to have mercy on 
her mother, who was old and in feeble health, 
and who would surely be killed by the shock 
of having her house burnt and being turned 
out into the night ; and implored the man 
to take anjrbhing he wanted, offering him all 
the money she had and her mother's jewellery. 
For answer the man pulled out his watch, and 
said that she had exactly ten minutes to get 



240 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

her old English mother out of the house, no 
more and no less. 

Seeing that it was useless to argue with the 
brute, Miss Drake called the butler and her 
mother's maid, woke up the old lady, dressed 
her the best way they could, and as the house- 
hold passed out through the central hall, they 
saw men sprinkling the furniture and carpets 
with petrol. Hardly had they reached the 
lawn when the men rushed out past them. 
There was a violent explosion (petrol-tins 
bursting), and the house seemed to burst into 
flames in an instant. And here they remained 
on the tennis-ground, helpless and hopeless, 
their only crime Loyalty, until Blake found 
them there, silently crying. 

Seeing that the house was gone, that, in 
fact, it was impossible to save anything, Blake 
put the Drakes into the Crossley, with the old 
butler and the servants, and drove them to 
a hotel in the town. 

Drake had been seen motoring through 
Ballybor to the station on the Monday, and 
by that evening there was a whisper in the 
town that something had happened to him, 
but what the something was the whisper did 
not mention. During Tuesday rumour lay 
dormant. On Wednesday, however, rumour 
awoke and rapidly made up for lost time, and 
by that evening it was freely whispered through- 
out the town that Drake had joined the I.R.A. ; 
that he had bolted to Canada to ^escape from 
the I.R.A., only to be taken out jof the train 
on his way to Dublin by a flying column of 



THE BOG CEMETERY. 241 

gunmen, tried by a court-martial, condemned, 
and executed ; that he had gone to Dubhn 
to join the Auxiharies ; and lastly, that he 
had gone to London to get married. 

On Wednesday morning Miss Drake, whose 
poor old mother lay in a state of collapse at 
the hotel, came to Blake in great distress, and 
implored him to find her brother. She was 
sure something must have happened to him, 
as she had wired twice, and then, getting no 
reply, had wired to the secretary of his club, 
where he had intended staying, and from whom 
an answer had just come to say Major Drake 
had not arrived. 

Blake promised to do all he could, and 
started off at once to the station to make 
inquiries. Having found out that Drake actu- 
ally did leave Ballybor by the mail train on 
Monday, he next sent an urgent cipher message 
to the authorities in Dublin, hoping they would 
be able to trace him there. Blake then set out 
for Knockshinnagh, the next station on the 
line to Dublin, about a mile from the small 
town of the same name, and situated in the 
midst of a vast bog, which stretches towards 
the foot of the mountains to the east and 
west, and runs nearly as far as Ballybor. 
Here, acting on the assumption that the 
rumour of Drake having left the mail train at 
this station was correct, Blake carefully inter- 
rogated the station-master and the three por- 
ters. One and all denied having seen Drake 
on the day in question — one porter, who had 
been there years, adding inconsequently that 



242 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

he did not even know him by sight, and thereby 
making Blake sure that he was on the right 
track at last. 

That night Blake again visited the station- 
master at his house in the station after mid- 
night ; and pretending that he knew for cer- 
tain that Drake had left the train at Knock- 
shinnagh, warned the man of the serious con- 
sequences of refusing to give information. 
1 A.M. is an unpleasant hour to interview armed 
men, and thinking that the police were un- 
comfortably near and the I.R.A. in the dim 
distance, the station-master made a full con- 
fession. 

A few minutes before the limited mail 
arrived at Knockshinnagh on Monday, three 
armed and masked men had driven up in a 
Ford car, and directly the train pulled up had 
made straight for the carriage in which Drake 
was travelling. At once they seized him, and 
dragged him, struggling, out of the carriage to 
the car, and then drove off rapidly in the 
direction of Ballybor. Before the train pulled 
out, a stranger in a third-class carriage warned 
the station-master, in the name of the I.R.A., 
to give no information to any one. As no 
further information could be got from the 
station-master, Blake returned to the barracks, 
and set out again for Knockshinnagh after 
breakfast, to endeavour to trace the Ford 
from there. 

The road from Knockshinnagh to Ballybor 
runs practically the whole way through a vast 
bog, which is drained by the Owenmore river, 



THE BOG CEMETERY. 243 

with a deep fringe of water-meadows on each 
bank. At intervals side roads connect up the 
villages on the higher ground near the moun- 
tains with the main road. 

The pohce had covered nearly three miles 
of the road without getting any news of Drake 
or the Ford, when a sharp-eyed sergeant 
noticed the narrow tracks of a Ford turning 
up one of these side roads to the east. The 
car had turned the corner sharply, leaving a 
deep track of two wheels in the soft ground 
on the edge of the road. 

Turning down this side road, they proceeded 
slowly without seeing any further car-tracks 
until they came to a long low cottage, stand- 
ing back about fifteen yards from the road. 
Here they found tracks which showed that the 
car had pulled up at the door of the cottage, 
turned, and returned towards the main road. 

Leaving his men outside, Blake entered with 
a sergeant, in time to see the owner bolting 
out of the back door, only to be caught by the 
sergeant and brought back. The man said 
his name was Moran, and protested his loyalty 
loudly before Blake could ask him a question. 

In Ireland if you want information badly, 
often the best way to obtain it is to bluff 
your opponent into believing that you akeady 
know part of it, leaving him to guess as to 
how much you know. Blake took this line of 
attack with Moran, and asked him the names 
of the four men who had called at his cottage 
on the previous Monday in a car. But Moran 
knew the game as well as Blake, and denied 



244 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

that any car had been to his house lately, or 
indeed at any time, whereby Blake knew that 
the man Hed, and had something to conceal. 

He then threatened Moran that if he did 
not tell all he knew he would arrest him and 
keep him until he did, and at the same time 
took him outside and pointed out the old 
tracks of a car in front of the cottage. This 
had the desired effect, and at long last Blake 
thought their search was at an end. 

Moran, it appeared, was the caretaker of 
an I.R.A. cemetery, or rather an old disused 
cemetery, where formerly unbaptised children 
were buried, and which now was used to bury 
Volunteers who had " gone to America." On 
the Monday in question three armed and 
masked men had driven up to his house with 
a prisoner, and after trying him by " court- 
martial " in the cottage, had taken him to 
the cemetery, and made Moran help them to 
dig a grave, while the unfortunate prisoner 
looked on. They blindfolded and shot him, 
and finally forced Moran to put the body in 
the grave and fill it in. They then left. 

Though hard pressed, Moran denied any 
knowledge of the identity of the masked men 
or their victim ; and when told to describe 
the murdered man, gave a description which 
might have applied to hundreds of men. 

Blake then ordered Moran to show him the 
cemetery, but when thus driven into a corner 
he took on the courage of a cornered rat, and 
though they tried for an hour not one inch 
would he go. Seeing that the man was desper- 



THE BOG CEMETERY. 245 

ate and would have died sooner than show them 
the cemetery, Blake returned to the barracks. 

That night, as soon as it was dark, a strong 
pohce force rounded up the six leading Volun- 
teers in Ballybor, and took them out to 
Moran's house in two Crossleys, arriving as 
the full moon was showing over the top of the 
mountains. 

At the first knock on the door Moran came 
out, his face contracted with fear, which turned 
to rehef on seeing the uniforms of the police ; 
but when he saw the six Volunteers he nearly 
collapsed. Blake now ordered Moran to lead 
them to the cemetery, and so great was the 
man's terror that he started off across the bog 
without a word. 

After walking over a mile in the moonlight, 
they came to a low ridge of limestone mounds 
running through the bog and parallel to the 
mountains. Here in a hollow was the old grave- 
yard, which looked like a disused sheep-pen, 
such as the country people use for the rounding- 
up of mountain sheep when the different 
owners pick out their own sheep and lambs 
to brand them. The cemetery was surrounded 
by a stone wall, broken down in many places, 
and inside was a tangled mass of elder and 
thorn bushes. 

After posting sentries round the graveyard, 
Blake made Moran point out the latest grave, 
and after the trembling man had shown them 
a mound between two bushes, he ordered two 
of the Volunteers to start opening the grave 
with spades brought by the police. Presently 



246 TALES OF THE H.I.C. 

one of the spades met something in a sack, 
and on opening the sack they found the body 
of a short dark man — obviously a peasant — 
whereas Drake had been a tall fair man. On 
examination they found wounds in the body 
and left leg. 

For a moment Blake was quite nonplussed 
— ^he had been so sure that the body would be 
Drake's. He was certain that the station- 
master had spoken the truth, and there seemed 
no reason to doubt Moran's evidence, though 
why he should be in such a state of terror 
was not plain. Further, it was now five days 
since Drake was supposed to have been mur- 
dered, and the body they had just dug up 
had obviously been in the ground two days 
at the most, probably only one. 

A careful examination of the cemetery 
showed that there was no other recent grave. 

Blake's thoughts were interrupted by one 
of the Volunteers, a man called Brogan, ask- 
ing with his tongue in his cheek and an im- 
pudent sneer : "Is yer honour satisfied now, 
and will we be after burying this poor fellow 
decently agin ? " 

Taking no notice of Brogan' s question, Blake 
told a sergeant to make the Volunteers carry 
the dead man to the Crossleys, and to wait 
for him there. After they had gone he made 
Moran go down on his knees and swear on his 
oath that the body they had dug up was the 
man who had been executed on the previous 
Monday ; but Moran could only swear that 
he had been so frightened at the time that 
he had not taken any notice of the prisoner, 



THE BOG CEMETERY. 247 

but that to the best of his behef the body was 
the one he had buried. Moran then broke 
down, and had to be half-carried, half-led to 
his cottage, where they left him, and returned 
to Ballybor with the Volunteers and the corpse 
for a miUtary investigation. 

The failure to find Drake's body in the bog 
cemetery forced Blake to follow up the other 
rumours regarding his sudden disappearance, 
but every rumour and clue failed them, and 
it looked as though Drake's fate was to be 
added to the long list of unsolved Irish crimes. 

Two days after the police had visited the 
cemetery, Blake received information that arms 
for a police ambush had been brought into 
Murrisk townland, and also that poteen was 
being freely made and drunk there. 

Having arranged with a company of Auxil- 
iaries stationed in Annagh to co-operate with 
him, Blake left the barracks with two Crossley 
loads of pohce and a Ford an hour before 
dawn one morning, and as the day broke the 
Auxiliaries and police started to close in a 
cordon on the village and outlying farms where 
they suspected the arms were hidden. 

The first signs of life were two women run- 
ning across a bog, and when followed one of 
them was seen by Blake with his glasses to 
throw a still into a bog-hole, while the other 
one took two large jars from under her shawl 
and smashed them together into pieces. The 
women were quickly rounded up, and on being 
taken to the nearest house, the police found 
six fully-dressed men well tucked up in two 
beds, and the remains of a huge fire in the 



248 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

kitchen, while the whole house reeked of 
poteen — good circumstantial evidence that the 
party of eight had spent the night running a 
still. 

After a long and fruitless search for arms, 
Blake found himself close to Murrisk Abbey ; 
so, after sending the Auxiliaries back to An- 
nagh, he went to pay the mac Nessa a visit. 

The old man was delighted to see him, and 
insisted that he should stay to dinner, and the 
pohce should have drink and food. 

Blake and the mac Nessa dined alone, and 
over the port the old man started to tell Blake 
tales of his youth. After his second glass and 
the long day in the cold, Blake began to feel 
drowsy, and his thoughts wandered to Drake 
and the grave in the bog cemetery, only to 
wake up with a start, hearing the old man say 
something about a grave, followed by, " Is yer 
honour satisfied now ? " 

Apologising for his deafness, he asked the 
mac Nessa to begin again, and the old man 
told a rambling story of a butler of his young 
days called Faherty, whose chief recreation 
was shooting rabbits in the park during the 
summer evenings. Close to the park lived a 
pompous retired shopkeeper called Malone, 
who had a very fine red setter, which was 
always wandering in the park, like Faherty, 
after rabbits. 

On several occasions Faherty and Malone 
had had words over the setter, and the climax 
was reached when Malone arrived at the Abbey 
one evening, purple with rage, and insisting 
on seeing the mac Nessa, burst into his study. 



THE BOG CEMETERY. 249 

accused Faherty of having shot his setter, and 
added that he knew that the dog was buried 
in a shrubbery at the back of the house. The 
mac Nessa at once called for Faherty ; the 
three proceeded straight to the shrubbery with 
a spade, and Faherty was made to open the 
grave which they found there. After digging 
down a short way he came on the body of a 
cur dog, to Malone's great astonishment and 
disappointment, and Faherty asked in a voice 
of triumph, " Is yer honour satisfied now ? " 

After Malone had gone home, the mac Nessa 
asked Faherty for an explanation, and the 
butler told his master how he had shot Malone's 
setter by mistake in the dusk, and then buried 
him in the shrubbery. The following day he 
heard that Malone suspected him, and had 
heard of the funeral in the shrubbery, so the 
next night he shot a cur dog, and buried him 
on top of the setter. 

On the way back to the barracks Blake could 
not help thinking of the similarity of the re- 
marks of Faherty and Brogan when the bodies 
of the cur dog and the dark peasant were dug 
up, and that night he dreamt that he was 
opening an endless row of graves, and never 
knew whether he would dig up a cur dog or 
a dark peasant, and all the time he was hoping 
to find Drake's body. At last he came to a 
grave where he was positive he would find 
Drake, and started to dig hke mad, only to 
wake up and find his own red setter on his bed. 

Blake now determined to renew his efforts 
to find Drake. He ordered the Head Con- 
stable to round up the same six Volunteers, 



250 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

and as soon as this was done set off once more 
for the bog cemetery. Making their way to 
Moran's house, they learnt from his wife that 
the previous evening her husband had been 
removed by masked men with shovel hats and 
wearing black mackintoshes. The wife, notic- 
ing the black mackintoshes, accused the police. 

Borrowing a couple of spades, the police 
then went to the graveyard, and as soon as 
the dark man's grave could be found, Blake 
ordered the Volunteers to open it again, and 
at the same time watched Brogan's face care- 
fully. On the way out to the cemetery, Brogan 
had been laughing and sneering as on the 
former occasion, but directly he heard Blake's 
order he went as white as a sheet, and began 
to tremble, and a look of terror leapt into 
his eyes. 

Blake knew that at last he was on the right 
track. 

None of the Volunteers moved, waiting for 
Brogan to give a lead, and Blake had to 
repeat his order, calling on Brogan by name 
to start digging. Pulling himself together 
with a great effort, the Volunteer commenced 
slowly to throw the earth out of the grave, 
the sweat, though it was a cold day, pouring 
down his face. 

The lower Brogan dug the slower he dug, 
until at last, when he had excavated about 
two feet of soil, he suddenly fainted and col- 
lapsed into the shallow grave. 

The poHce were by now strung up to the 
highest pitch of excitement, and a huge ser- 



THE BOG CEMETERY. 251 

geant, who had been a great favourite with 
Drake, suddenly gave a hoarse shout, and, 
jumping into the grave threw Brogan out, 
and started digging hke a madman, while the 
rest began to fidget with the triggers of their 
rifles and look ominously at the uneasy Volun- 
teers. 

Suddenly the sergeant's spade met a soft 
resistance, and in a few seconds he had un- 
covered and opened a sack, to find, as Blake 
expected, the body of poor Drake with a huge 
expanding bullet hole through his forehead. 

The next five minutes will always be to 
Blake a nightmare : the police went stark 
mad, — when highly-disciplined troops break 
they are far worse to handle than any un- 
disciphned crowd, — and with a howl of rage 
made for the cowering Volunteers, ignoring 
Blake's shouts ; and to this day Blake has 
no idea of how he kept his men from taking 
revenge on the Volunteers. 

Probably he would have failed but for the 
lucky chance of noticing that Brogan, who 
had come to, was trying to escape. The diver- 
sion of chasing Brogan brought the police back 
to their senses, and by the time he had been 
captured and brought back, discipline was 
completely restored. 

Before they left the cemetery, Brogan made 
a complete confession of all he knew about 
the tragedy. He told Blake that information 
had been given to the G.H.Q. of the I.R.A. 
in Dubhn that Drake was on the point of 
taking command of a company of Auxiliaries 

I 



252 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

who were to be stationed in his own house, 
the idea being to use Drake's local knowledge, 
which Blake knew to be quite untrue. On the 
Sunday two gunmen arrived from Dublin with 
orders to shoot Drake and burn his house. 
Finding out that Drake intended to go to 
Dublin the following day by the mail train, 
they commandeered a Ford in Ballybor, taking 
Brogan with them as a guide, and took him 
out of the train at Knockshinnagh ; and after 
the murder they returned to Ballybor, super- 
intended the burning of Drake's house, and then 
disappeared into the night on stolen bicycles. 

Shortly afterwards Brogan heard a rumour 
that Drake had been murdered and buried in 
the bog cemetery, and he became very un- 
easy. That night he and three of the Volunteers 
received orders to take part in a police ambush 
on the far side of the Slievenamoe Mountains, 
which order they obeyed, going in a Ford. 

In the ambush a strange gunman — none of 
the local Volunteers knew who he was or where 
he came from — was killed, and when some 
argument arose as to how to dispose of his 
body, Brogan at once volunteered to take the 
body back with him and bury it in the bog 
cemetery, his intention being to bury the gun- 
man on top of Drake, so that if by chance 
the police opened the grave they would find 
the body of the gunman and be put off the 
scent. After the first visit of the police the 
Volunteers had removed Moran to a Sinn Fein 
detention prison, fearing that he might break 
down and give information. 



253 



XVIII. 

A JEW IN GAELIC CLOTHING. 

" Beware of false prophets, which come to 
you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they 
are ravening wolves." — St Matt. vii. 15. 

Probably very few people in England have the 
remotest idea to what extent anarchy was rife 
throughout the south and west of Ireland, even 
in parts of loyal Ulster, during the year 1920. 

Most of the Irish members of Parliament, 
seventy-three to be exact, swore allegiance to 
Dail Eireann. Of these, seven lived abroad, 
and the remainder spent most of their time in 
prison. 

At the beginning of the year Sinn Fein 
captured practically every County Council, 
Rural Council, and Poor Law Guardian's Board 
in twenty-seven counties ; nearly all these 
Boards defied the Local Government Board, 
and took their orders from Dail Eireann direct. 

Next came the burning of County and Civil 
Courts, police barracks and Petty Sessions 
Courts, followed by murderous attacks on 
police and LoyaUsts throughout the south and 
west, though chiefly in the south at first. 



254 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

In many parts Loyalists were forced under 
the jurisdiction of Sinn Fein Land, Arbitra- 
tion, and Civil Courts. Solicitors had their 
choice of practising in these Courts or not 
practising at all, and a solicitor must Hve as 
well as another man. 

The police had no power outside their bar- 
racks, and in many districts a policeman was 
never seen for weeks on end, whole districts 
being policed by civilian Volunteers. 

A large national loan was raised openly in 
defiance of the British Government, its avowed 
purpose being to carry on war against Eng- 
land and to break up the British Army. Sinn 
Fein banks and insurance societies were floated, 
the money obtained being used for the same 
purposes. Sinn Fein laws were passed and 
enforced, and a large army organised and built 
up, drilled and armed. 

At this time the British Prime Minister re- 
peatedly assured the country that there never 
could and never would be an Irish RepubUc ; 
while Lloyd George talked De Valera acted, 
and the Republic came into being while Lloyd 
George was still talking. 

During the summer of 1919 a very ordinary 
and at first uninteresting strike of shop assist- 
ants took place in Ballybor for higher wages 
and shorter hours, and the shopkeepers man- 
aged to carry on with the aid of their famihes, 
and few of the public suffered any incon- 
venience from the strike. 

Good relations still existed between master 
and employee in nearly every shop in the 



A JEW IN GAELIC CLOTHING. 255 

town, and the shopkeepers were just on the 
point of an amicable settlement with their 
assistants when a Transport Union agitator, 
or, as he called himseH, a Gaelic organiser, 
appeared on the scene, and in a few horn's the 
whole situation was changed. The local secre- 
tary of the Transport Union, to which the 
shop assistants belonged, at once broke off all 
negotiations with the shopkeepers, and before 
night several acts of sabotage had been com- 
mitted in the town. 

The next morning saw the strike begin afresh 
in deadly earnest. Every street was picketed 
by strikers, who refused to allow any one, 
townspeople or country people, to purchase 
any foodstuffs until the shopkeepers had given 
in to their impossible demands. Doubtless the 
idea was that the starving people would bring 
such pressure to bear on the shopkeepers that 
they would be forced to give in and grant 
practically any terms to the shop assistants. 
In a word, the old game of blackmail. 

Several unfortunate old country-women, who 
had managed to evade the pickets and to pur- 
chase provisions, were caught on their way 
home by the strikers and their purchases 
trodden into the mud of the streets. One old 
clergyman, who lived several miles from Bally- 
bor in an isolated district, managed not only 
to dodge the pickets and buy much-needed 
food, but to get two miles on his way home. 
However, a picket of shop-boys, mounted on 
bicycles, overtook him, threw all his provisions 
into a bog-hole, beat him severely, turned his 



256 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

pony loose in the bog, and left him by the 
roadside. 

At first the shopkeepers were bewildered and 
at a complete loss to understand the sudden 
change in the attitude of their assistants, but 
on hearing Paidraig O'Kelly, the so-called 
Gaelic organiser, make his first public speech, 
they knew at once what they were up against. 

In 1914, before the war broke out, all think- 
ing Irishmen knew that the coming and grow- 
ing danger in Ireland was the Transport Union, 
formed originally for the perfectly legitimate 
object of raising the status and wages of the 
working classes (quite apart from the small 
farmer class) by combined action. But in a very 
short time this Union became the instrument 
of Bolshevism in Ireland under the able com- 
mand of James Connelly, a disciple of Lenin's 
long before the latter had risen to power. 

And so thoroughly and well had Connelly 
made out his plans for the future that in every 
town and village the complete machinery of 
Soviet Government had been prepared, ready 
to start working the instant the revolution 
should break out. Men had been appointed to 
every public office, and the houses of the well- 
to-do allotted to the different Commissioners 
and officers of each local Soviet. 

Luckily for Ireland, the rebellion of 1916 
saw the end of James Connelly, probably the 
most dangerous and one of the cleverest men 
of modern times in Ireland. 

With the death of Connelly and the dis- 
appearance of Larkin to America, the Trans- 



A JEW IN GAELIC CLOTHING. 257 

port Uiiion fell into the hands of less able 
men, but still carried on successfully with 
agrarian agitation, though marking time as 
regards revolution. 

After the war the Union found itself up 
against Sinn Fein, and for a time it looked as 
though the two parties would come to blows 
and so nullify each other's efforts. Unfortu- 
nately both parties saw that their only chance 
of success was to co-operate ; doubtless the 
Transport Union thought that if the rebellion 
was successful their chance would come in the 
general confusion, and that they would be 
able to get their Soviet Government working 
before the Sinn Feiners could get going. 

During 1919 and 1920 Sinn Fein and the 
Transport Union nearly came to blows on 
several occasions in the west over agrarian 
trouble. The Transport Union wanted to take 
advantage of the absence of law and order to 
hunt every landlord and big farmer out of 
the country and divide their lands amongst 
the landless members of the Union, while Sinn 
Fein policy was to wait until the Repubhc had 
been set up, when, so they declared, there 
would be an equitable division made. 

The Ballybor strike collapsed as suddenly as 
it had started with the disappearance of Paid- 
raig O'Kelly. The previous day a public meet- 
ing on the town fair green had been held by 
the Transport Union, and all the young men 
and girls of the town and countryside had 
attended. At first the local firebrands ad- 
dressed the meeting with their usual grievance, 



258 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

and then 0' Kelly spoke for a full hour. At 
first he confined himself to the strike, and 
carried his audience with him when he painted 
a vivid picture of the different fives led by the 
shopkeepers and their " slaves," how the former 
and their families lived on the fat of the land, 
the latter in the gutter. 

The crowd had now had all they wanted 
and were prepared to go home to tea, but 
0' Kelly had a good deal more to tell them. 
Suddenly and without any warning he began 
to unfold the doctrine of Lenin, to show them 
how the world and all the good things in it 
ought really to belong to them, and that these 
good things would never be theirs until the 
ruling classes were forced to disgorge them, 
and that the only way to make the swine 
disgorge was to kill them one and all — gentry, 
business men, and shopkeepers. 

The man could reaUy speak, and held his 
audience spellbound while he unfolded the 
Irish Eldorado of the future ; but through all 
his speech ran the one idea to kill, always to 
kill those in a higher station of life than his 
listeners. To finish with he called upon them 
to start with the pofice, to shoot them like 
the dogs they were, and when they were gone 
the rest would be easy. 

Sergeant M'Grath had been detailed to at- 
tend the meeting to take down in shorthand 
any speeches which might require explaining 
afterwards, but until 0' Kelly started to preach 
the doctrine of Lenin he had not opened his 
notebook. 



A JEW IN GAELIC CLOTHING. 259 

The sergeant had served in most parts of 
Ireland, but 0' Kelly's speech and brogue 
puzzled him : the man spoke like an EngUsh- 
man trying to imitate the Irish brogue, but 
with a thickness of speech which the sergeant 
could not place. Nor could he place the shape 
of O' Kelly's head, a round bullet-shaped one 
with a high narrow forehead and coarse black 
hair. 

He duly reported O'Kelly's speech to the 
D.I., who endeavoured to find out where the 
man came from, but failed to get any definite 
information. One rumour said that O'Kelly 
came from Cork, another from America, and 
yet a third that he was a native of Castleport. 
So the only thing to do was to arrest the man 
and then try to identify him ; but O'Kelly 
had completely disappeared. 

Nothing further appears to have been heard 
of O'Kelly in Ireland during 1919, but the 
following year an itinerant lecturer on bee- 
keeping turned up in Co. Donegal, who bore a 
strong resemblance to Lenin's disciple. This 
man's practice was to give a short lecture on 
bees in school-houses, and then to launch forth 
into pure Bolshevism — a complete waste of 
time on the average Donegal peasant. Next 
he was heard of in Belfast, where he was 
lucky to escape a violent death at the hands 
of some infuriated shipyard workers. 

In May 1920 the Transport Union in Bally- 
bor began suddenly to give Blake a lot of 
trouble — cases of men being dragged out of 
their beds at night and forced with a loaded 

i2 



260 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

gun at their heads to join the Union steadily 
increased. 

Several landlords who employed a good 
many men were threatened that, if they did 
not pay a higher wage than the maximum 
laid down by law, all their men would be 
called out and that they would in addition 
be boycotted. And any who refused at once 
had their hayricks burnt and their cattle 
injured. 

Rumours came to Blake's ears of a man 
making extraordinary speeches at night in the 
different country school-houses throughout the 
district to audiences of young men and girls, 
speeches which apparently combined Sinn Fein 
aims with red revolution. 

During 1920 Sergeant M'Grath had been 
sent to Grouse Lodge as sergeant-in-charge, 
and thinking that he recognised O' Kelly in 
the revolutionary lecturer who was touring the 
district, he kept a careful watch on the Cloon- 
alla school-house, and within a week had sur- 
prised and captured the man, who turned out 
to be O'Kelly. 

O' Kelly was brought up before the R.M. in 
Ballybor Barracks, charged with inciting the 
people to murder the police during the strike 
of 1919, and pleaded not guilty. 

The R.M., who looked upon the man as a 
harmless lunatic (he had not heard him harangu- 
ing a crowd), offered to let him go provided he 
entered into a recognisance to be of good be- 
haviour and could find two sureties in fairly 
substantial sums. O'Kelly replied that he 



I 



A JEW IN GAELIC CLOTHING. 261 

dared not enter into a recognisance to be of 
good behaviour, and further, that if he was 
released he would continue to preach revolu- 
tion. Whereupon the R.M. gave him three 
months and left the barracks. 

Blake then saw 0' Kelly alone, and endeav- 
oured to find out who and what he was. It 
was obvious that the man was not an Irish- 
man, nor did he appear to be English. 0' Kelly 
refused to give him any information regarding 
himself. 

While this interview was going on an Auxil- 
iary, whose home was in Scotland, and who 
commanded a section of Cadets on temporary 
duty in Ballybor, looked in to see Blake and 
found him with O'Kelly. 

^ After O'Kelly had left the room the Auxiliary 
told Blake that he knew the man well, and 
had often seen him in Glasgow, where, previous 
to 1919, the man had lived for two years work- 
ing as a Jewish Bolshevik agent, and that he 
had suddenly disappeared from Glasgow when 
the police began to get unpleasantly attentive. 



262 



XIX. 

MOUNTAIN WARFARE. 

The movements of the flying columns of the 
I.R.A. — gangs of armed ruffians, usually num- 
bering about forty, but sometimes more, some- 
times less, and led by men with miUtary 
experience (ex-soldiers and even ex-officers, to 
their everlasting shame) — have always corre- 
sponded accurately to the amount of police 
and military pressure brought to bear on them, 
which pressure has continually fluctuated in 
agreement to the whims and brain-waves of 
the politicians in power. 

Figuratively speaking, these same politicians 
have kept the pohce and military with one 
hand tied behind their back, and sometimes 
when the screams of the mob politicians in the 
House have been loudest, have very nearly 
tied up both their hands. If a chart had been 
kept during (the Irish war showing the relative 
intensity of the politicians' screams and the 
activities of the I.R.A., the reading of it would 
be highly interesting and instructive. 
llfExtra pressure, more rigid enforcement of 
existing restrictions on movement, and in- 



MOUNTAIN WARFARE. 263 

creased military activity have always resulted 
in a general stampede of flying columns to the 
mountains of the west, where the gunmen could 
rest in comparative safety, and swagger about 
among the simple and ignorant mountain-folk 
to their hearts' content. 

Here they would stay until the politicians, 
frightened by inspired questions injthe House, 
would practically confine the military and 
police to barracks. The gunmen would then, 
with great reluctance, leave the safety of the 
mountains, and return to the southern front, 
to carry on once more the good work of political 
murder. 

And so the game of seesaw went on. Every 
time that the Crown forces saw victory in sight 
the pohticians would drag them back again to 
start all afresh. The wonder is that the Crown 
forces stuck it so long with every hand against 
them, and their worst abuse coming from a 
cowardly section of their own countrymen in 
England. 

Early in 1921 the Crown forces in the south 
of Ireland suddenly gave forth signs that a 
determined effort was to be made to deal 
effectively, once and for all, with the gangs of 
armed murderers and robbers roaming the 
country, masquerading as soldiers of the Irish 
Repubhc ; and again the flying columns fled 
in haste to their mountain retreats in the west, 
a part of the country where the majority of 
the inhabitants have always done their best 
to keep out of the trouble, with a few isolated 
exceptions. 



264 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

This time they stayed longer ; in fact, each 
time it became harder to induce the gunmen 
to forsake the peace of the mountains for the 
war in the south. After a time they started to 
vary the monotony by carrying out punitive 
expeditions against the poHce and the un- 
fortunate Loyahsts in the surrounding low- 
lands, but always to fly back to the mountains 
at the first sight of a force of poHce or soldiers. 

Ex-soldiers were the chief game at this 
period. A district would be chosen where 
there were no troops and few pohce. A Hst 
of all ex-soldiers living in this district would 
be made out, and guides provided by the local 
I.R.A. commandant. Each ex-soldier would 
be visited in turn during a night, given his 
choice of active service with the I.R.A. or a 
sudden death. Those who remained loyal to 
the King would be led out and butchered like 
sheep, though possibly the murderers would 
not take the trouble to remove their victims, 
but would fire a volley into them as they lay 
in bed, and leave them there. Truly a brave 
army ! 

Transport presented no difiiculty to the gun- 
men. The British Government took practically 
no steps to control the movements of motors, 
motor bicycles, or push-bicycles, except the 
motor-permit farce, which greatly inconveni- 
enced Loyalists only. All they had to do was 
to commandeer as many cars or bicycles as 
they wanted, where, when, and how they Hked. 

However, this was not all the work which 
the Sinn Fein leaders intended their flying 



MOUNTAIN WARFARE. 265 

columns to carry out, and in order to induce 
the gunmen to return to duty the usual noisy 
peace squeal was started in England, so that 
conditions might be made pleasanter for the 
gunmen in the south. The murdering of ex- 
soldiers and helpless Loyalists could be easily 
carried out by local Volunteers under a well- 
seasoned murderer — an excellent method of 
initiating raw recruits into the methods of the 
Sinn Fein idea of warfare. The British Gov- 
ernment, always great judges of Irish character, 
thought that the Sinn Fein leaders were com- 
ing to their senses at last, took off the pressure, 
and the gunmen duly returned to duty. 

At length there came a time when these 
columns really got the wind up, stampeded to 
the western mountains, and this time refused 
point-blank to return to duty. 

In the late spring of 1921 Blake was suddenly 
called over to England on private business in 
London, and afterwards went down to the 
country to spend a few days with the parents 
of a man with whom he had served in France. 

The day after his arrival Blake's host told 
him that a Black and Tan, a native of the 
place, had been murdered in Ireland a few days 
previously, and was to be buried that day in 
the parish graveyard, and asked Blake if he 
would accompany him to the funeral. 

When passing through Dublin on his way 

to England, Blake had seen in the Castle the 

account of how this unfortunate Black and 

Si^ill/Tan had met his death — shot in the back when 



266 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

walking in the streets of a small western town 
with a girl ; and not content with that, the 
murderers had fired a volley at him as he lay 
wounded on the ground, and even fired several 
shots after the girl as she fled shrieking up 
the street. So terrified were the townspeople 
that, though there were many in the streets at 
the time, not one dared to even approach the 
dying constable, and it was not until a full 
hour afterwards that a passing poHce patrol 
found him lying dead in a great pool of blood. 
Incidentally, the murderers had by then put 
sixteen miles behind them by means of stolen 
bicycles. 

Blake accepted, expecting to see a large 
funeral to do honour to the murdered pofice- 
man, but to his great surprise and indignation 
found that only the near relations of the mur- 
dered man were present. ^.§ 

Returning from the funeral, Blake happened 
to see the local pohce inspector in the main 
street of the httle town, and at once tackled 
him about the funeral, wanting to know why 
the local police had not been present as a last 
mark of respect to a man who had died for his 
country. 

The inspector seemed greatly surprised and 
rather taken aback, and replied that he could 
hardly be expected to turn his men out to 
attend the funeral of a murderer. 

For a moment Blake saw red, and but for 
a natural horror of making a scene in a pubHc 
place, would probably have knocked the in- 
spector down. Then, thinking that there must 



MOUNTAIN WARFARE. 267 

be a bad blunder somewhere, he asked whom 
the Black and Tan had murdered, and how he 
had met his death. The inspector admitted 
that the Black and Tan had been murdered, 
he believed, and then opened out on the crimes 
and atrocities which the Black and Tans had 
committed in Ireland — murder, rape, and high- 
way robbery, — in fact, the usual list of atroci- 
ties which is generally to be read in the Sinn 
Fein propaganda pamphlets. 

Blake waited patiently until the inspector 
had given him a harrowing picture of the con- 
dition of the south and west of Ireland : heart- 
rending accounts of homeless and starving 
women and children, old and young men and 
boys hunted like wild beasts in the mountains 
and living on berries and roots ; shops burnt 
to the ground and looted by Black and Tans 
in mufti ; and of men and boys shot by 
Auxiliaries in the dead of night before the 
eyes of their relations. 

He then asked the inspector who had given 
him this information, adding that he would 
like to see the proof of it, and at the same 
time telling him that he was a D.I. in the R.I.C. 

The inspector invited Blake to go to the 
poHce station with him, and here, as Blake 
had expected, he was shown the usual lying 
propaganda and pamphlets of Sinn Fein, which 
have been distributed by the million through- 
out England, Scotland, Wales, and the U.S.A. 
An extract from one pamphlet is worth re- 
peating : — 

" Famine is about to add thousands of inno- 



268 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

cent victims to the hundreds of thousands 
already in need of the bare necessities that 
keep body and soul together. In every Irish 
village and town sickness, pestilence, and death 
invade the humble homes, striking swiftly and 
surely the mothers and children incapable of 
resistance through months of struggle against 
cold and hunger. . . . Children of tender years, 
ragged and wretched, trudge daily through the 
cold to a school now used for a relief station 
to obtain the one meal a day on which they 
live — a piece of bread and a warm drink." 

Seeing from his ribbons that the man had 
served in the war, Blake asked him if he would 
take the word of a brother officer against that 
of a Sinn Fein rebel. The inspector seemed to 
think this a good joke, and replied : "A 
brother officer every time." " WeU, then," 
said Blake, "as an ex-British officer, I give 
you my word of honour that all those pamph- 
lets you have just shown me are a pack of hes 
circulated by Irish rebels to ruin your country." 

Still the inspector was only half convinced, 
and in spite of all Blake could say he saw when 
he at last left that the man's belief in the 
printed pamphlets of Sinn Fein was stiU un- 
shaken. Such is the tremendous effect of print, 
whether newspapers or pamphlets, on the 
modern mind, and the firm belief in the old 
sajring that there can be no smoke without 
a fire. 

That afternoon Blake was carried off by his 
hostess to a drawing-room lecture at a big 
country-house. His hostess was not quite sure 



MOUNTAIN WARFARE. 269 

what the lecture was about, but beheved it had 
somethmg to do with Russia. After tea the 
lecturer arose, and before he uttered a word, 
Blake had a premonition of what was coming. 
A tall thin man, with pronounced Celtic pecu- 
liarities and a mane of long, lank, black hair, 
Blake had seen his prototype thousands of 
times in the west of Ireland. 

Throwing back his great mane with a jerk 
of his head, the lecturer started on an im- 
passioned recital of the atrocities committed 
in Ireland by the British Army of Occupation, 
practically the same collection of lies and 
wicked quarter truths which Blake had heard 
from the police inspector that morning. 

Blake watched the faces of the audience 
closely, mostly women of the upper and middle 
classes, and could see that the lecturer's ready 
tongue was making a deep impression on them. 
There was no yawning or fidgeting, and the 
audience, many of them with the parted hps 
of rapt attention, kept their eyes riveted on the 
quite interesting face of the wild man of the 
west, camouflaged by a London tailor to har- 
monise with an English drawing-room. 

Blake let the man have a fair innings, and 
then while he was drinking a glass of water 
(Blake felt like asking him if he would not 
prefer poteen) stood up and said quietly, 
" Ladies and gentlemen, so far this lecture has 
been nothing but a pack of lies from beginning 
to end. The lecturer is a Sinn Fein rebel 
camouflaged as an Irish gentleman, and I am 
a D.L of the Royal Irish Constabular}^ Dur- 



270 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

ing the war I fought for your country, and the 
lecturer probably assisted the Boches in every 
underhand and mean way he could. You can 
judge for yourselves which of us is most pro- 
bably telUng the truth, and nothing but the 
truth." 

The wild man turned with a wicked snarl, 
all signs of the veneer gone, and his face re- 
minded Blake of a cornered gunman he had 
had to deal with once during a raid on a 
Dublin lodging-house ; and there would pro- 
bably have been an ugly and unseemly scene, 
but the owner of the house intervened, and 
gently but firmly led the wild man out of the 
room, while Blake and his friends left the 
house at once. 

On his return Blake found a cipher wire 
from his County Inspector recalling him at 
once, and going by car to London managed 
to catch the Irish mail from Euston. All the 
sleepers were engaged, but by good luck he 
found himself in possession of a first-class 
compartment. 

While idly smoking a cigarette and meditat- 
ing on the extraordinary amount of Sinn Fein 
propaganda he had met with in the course of 
one short day in England, he noticed a well- 
dressed slight girl pass and repass the glass 
door of his compartment several times. As the 
mail pulled out of the station this girl pulled 
open the sliding-door from the corridor and 
sat down opposite Blake, remarking that it 
was a grand evening, and thereby unconsciously 
informing him that she was Irish. 



MOUNTAIN WARFARE. 271 

Suddenly realising that he was smoking, he 
asked the girl, who he could see was unusually 
pretty and quite young, if she had any objec- 
tion, and, as he had expected, she readily 
entered into conversation. 

After a time she remarked, with a pretty 
engaging smile, that she saw he had nothing 
to read, and getting down her suit-case, handed 
Blake a handful of the identical pamphlets he 
had already seen that morning in the Enghsh 
country pohce station. In addition, there was 
one fresh one on '' The Irish Issue," by William 
J. M. A. Maloney, M.D., captain in the British 
Army, August 1914-August 1916. 

Blake then saw that his original suspicion 
was correct, and that he had to deal with that 
most dangerous of all spies, Sinn Fein or any 
other breed — a pretty girl. 

f "* By the time Rugby was passed he had heard 
the simple life-history in a rural part of Eng- 
land of the girl, ending with the information 
that she was going to Dublin for three months, 
and that she was very much in dread after all 
the dreadful happenings there she had read of 
in the papers, and she had never been in 
Ireland before (all this in a very fine rich 
DubHn brogue). And Blake began to think 
that he must really possess that most priceless 
of assets, to look a much bigger fool than 
you are. 

After the stop at Crewe the girl again at- 
tacked him about Dublin, asking if he lived in 
lodgings there, and, if so, was there a room 
to let in the same house. A few days previ- 



272 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

ously Michael Collins' s flat in a certain Dublin 
street had been raided with satisfactory results 
to the raiders, and Blake gave her this address, 
assuring her that she would here find quarters 
entirely suitable to her requirements. The girl 
took the hint, and the rest of the journey to 
Holyhead was spent in silence. 

On the mail-boat Blake saw the girl once 
more, sitting with a youthful officer of the 
Dublin garrison, and carrying on an animated 
conversation with their heads touching. 

On arriving at Ballybor Barracks Blake 
found further orders awaiting him from the 
County Inspector to proceed at once to Castle- 
port with all the men and cars he could spare. 

The wildest rumours were afloat amongst his 
men : that the I.R.A. were going to take the 
field openly (this notable achievement was 
reserved for the Truce) ; that a large force of 
Americans had landed from a yacht at Erri- 
nane with stacks of arms, and that they were 
raising and arming the mountain men of that 
district greatly against their wish and inclina- 
tion, and that De Valera had been landed on 
the west coast from a submarine, was hiding 
in the mountains of Ball3rrick, and was at long 
last going to take the field himself. 

Collecting every man he could spare and 
taking all the transport except one Crossley, 
Blake set off with a strong convoy of poHce 
for Castleport. The men were in great heart, 
and eagerly looking forward to a good square 
fight in the open with the hitherto elusive 
soldiers of the I.R.A. 



MOUNTAIN WARFARE. 273 

At Castleport they found the barracks packed 
with poHce, drawn in from all the outlying 
districts ; even two large houses adjacent to 
the barracks had had to be commandeered to 
hold all the men. 

The County Inspector explained the situa- 
tion, which was quite simple. A large force 
of I.R.A. flying columns, estimated at over a 
thousand strong, were reported to have refused 
to return to the south, and had taken up per- 
manent quarters in the Maryburgh Peninsula, 
north-west of Errinane, and were playing old 
puck generally throughout that part of the 
west. At first these flying columns had been 
distributed all through the mountains, some in 
the Balljn^ick country, more in the Slievenamoe 
Mountains, and a large party to the south of 
Castleport ; but owing to the unpleasant atten- 
tions of AuxiHary flying columns they had gradu- 
ally retired towards the Maryburgh Peninsula, 
where so far they had been left unmolested. 

The gunmen on the Slievenamoe Mountains 
had had a bad fright from the very efficient 
company of Auxiliaries quartered at Annagh. 
Father John had done all in his power to get 
rid of these unv/elcome guests in his parish, 
but showing a fine turn of speed they just 
managed to escape, actually dashing through 
BaUybor in the middle of the night in a convoy 
of commandeered Fords a few days before 
Blake's return. 

For some time the gunmen had been in the 
habit of commandeering their rations at night 
from Castleport, and during these nights the 



274 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

town would be completely isolated. The first 
intimation of anything being wrong which the 
townspeople had was the return one night 
of several white-faced crying girls, who told 
their parents that they had just by chance 
met Pat So-and-So, and that he had asked 
them to go for a stroll, and hardly had they 
got outside the town when armed men had 
seized poor Pateen and ordered the girls to go 
home at once. Incidentally the poor Pateens 
were kept as a labour platoon by the gunmen, 
and made to do all the dirty work of digging 
trenches, breaking down bridges, &c., which 
occurred during the operations to follow. A 
different butcher, baker, and grocer would be 
visited each time, just to show that there was 
no question of favouritism with the I.R.A. 

While this requisitioning was proceeding 
every road leading into Castleport was held 
by strong pickets of gunmen, who, as soon as 
the ration party returned, would make for the 
Maryburgh Mountains on bicycles, the ration 
party travelling on a commandeered lorry. 

Directly the County Inspector got wind of 
this proceeding, he made an attempt to sur- 
prise the gunmen one night, but their local 
information was too good, and he failed. Then, 
hearing that this big muster of gunmen was 
hiding in the Maryburgh Peninsula, he collected 
all the forces he could, and prepared to kill, 
capture, or drive them into the Atlantic. 

Soon after Blake's arrival at Castleport, 
apparently reliable information came in that 
a landing of arms had been carried out early 



MOUNTAIN WARFARE. 275 

that morning at Errinane, and that these arms 
were to be taken as soon as it was dark to the 
Maryburgh Peninsula. The County Inspector 
at once detailed Blake and Black, the Castle- 
port D.I., to take a large force of police and 
attempt to seize the arms before they could 
be taken out of Errinane. 

Errinane lies about twenty-one miles to the 
south of Castleport, on a narrow inland bay. 
The road runs the whole way through wild 
mountainous country, though at no point does 
the road run very close to the mountains. 

On the way out Blake carefully looked out 
for any points where an ambush might be 
carried out, and noticed that there were two 
bad spots : one where the road skirted the 
edge of a wood with a rocky hill close on the 
other side ; the second, about eight miles from 
Castleport, where the road twisted through a 
ravine with steep rocky sides dotted with 
bushes, and at one place crossed a narrow high 
bridge — an ideal place for an ambush. Blake 
was so much impressed with this place that 
he stopped the cars and made his men search 
carefully the sides of the ravine, but not a sign 
of any preparations for an ambush could they 
find. Nor were there any trenches on the road. 

After picketing Errinane, Blake searched 
every house, shop, store, and barn in the 
village, but not a sign of arms could be found, 
nor was any yacht to be seen in the harbour. ;;: 

It was late when they started back for 
Castleport, and Blake, who was suspicious of 
an ambush at the bridge in the ravine, which 



276 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

was the nearest point on the road to the Mary- 
burgh country, ordered Black to go ahead 
with two Crossleys, and to search the ravine 
thoroughly, and then to wait until the rest of 
the force caught him up. 

Blake's party was delayed by two punctures, 
and when they got near to the ravine heavy 
firing suddenly broke out ahead of them. 
When within half a mile of the bridge, they 
saw a party of men running away from a 
culvert in a dip of the road ahead of them. 

Luckily, Blake was in the leading car, and 
ordered the driver to pull up about a hundred 
yards short of the culvert, which, sure enough, 
went up before they had been waiting two 
minutes. 

The firing ahead had now grown heavier, 
and every now and then the dull thud of a 
bursting Mills bomb could be heard above the 
racket of musketry. Realising that Black must 
be hard pressed, Blake divided his force into 
two, ordered each party to deploy on one side of 
the road and attempt to outflank the ravines. 

When within three hundred yards of the 
bridge both parties came under heavy enfilade 
machine-gun fire — machine-guns which made a 
noise none had ever heard before, and were 
probably American Thompson guns, — and they 
were forced to take the best cover they could 
find in the open bog. 

The machine-gun fire at once died down, 
only to break out again every time the poHce 
attempted to advance by short rushes. By 
painful degrees they managed to get within 



MOUNTAIN WARFARE. 277 

eighty yards of the bridge, where the formation 
of the ground protected them from that hor- 
rible enfilade hail of bullets, and gathering 
themselves together they charged at the re- 
verse slope of the ravine. 

At once the firing ceased, and when at last 
they had torn their way through briars and 
gorse to reach the top, all that they found was 
small piles of empty cartridges and two ordi- 
nary tweed caps — not a sign of a gunman which- 
ever way they looked. 

They then turned their attention to their 
comrades on the road, and here a heartrending 
sight met their eyes. At first it appeared as 
though all the occupants of the two cars were 
either dead or wounded, but as they descended 
towards the bridge a small party of poHce 
crawled from underneath it, soaked to the 
skin. They found Black lying against the front 
wheel of the leading car with four bullet wounds 
in his body and his head smashed in by a 
dum-dum bullet — stone-dead. 

Blake found out from the survivors that 
Black had disregarded his orders, and had not 
pulled up until the cars had passed the bridge, 
when a hail of bullets swept the cars from the 
top of both banks of the ravine. Black was 
wounded by the first volley, was hit twice 
while getting out of the car to lead his men 
to the attack, and in the head as his foot 
touched the ground. 

The sun had by now gone down, and collect- 
ing all his wounded and dead, Blake pushed 
off for Castleport as fast as he could. 



278 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

Beyond a blown-up culvert haK a mile from 
the ravine, which the cars crossed without 
difficulty on their own planks, they met with 
no further trouble. 

. AThen followed three feverish days of planning 
and preparing for the great drive, which it was 
hoped would put a thousand gunmen out of 
action for good and all ; unless indeed a new 
Chief Secretary should come to Ireland, per- 
haps this time from Australia or possibly from 
India, or even a Jew, who would celebrate his 
arrival in this unfortunate country by opening 
wide the gates of the internment camps. 

;»f?vThe area to be driven was roughly three 
hundred and sixty square miles, which will 
give some idea of the magnitude of the task 
which a handful of pohce had to tackle with 
the aid of a battalion of infantry and a com- 
pany of Auxiharies. And when it is added 
that the entire peninsula consisted of moun- 
tains (five of them well over two thousand 
feet, and unclimbable in many places), bogs, 
lakes, and rivers, with only one decent road 
which ran round the coast and at the base, it 
will be granted that the task was nearly an 
impossible one. 

.^Also the few scattered inhabitants would be 
certain to be found to act as unwiUing scouts 
for the gunmen. Moreover, once the weather 
turned wet, which may happen in the course 
of a few hours on the west coast, a thick mist 
would cover the mountains, and all the gun- 
men had to do then was to walk out of the 
trap and make their way inland. 



MOUNTAIN WARFARE. 279 

The plan of attack was as follows. The 
Castleport-Errinane road crossed the twenty- 
mile neck of the peninsula, and before dawn 
one day ten columns, each of eighty men, 
formed up a mile apart. 

As soon as it was light enough to see, these 
columns started, marching in columns of route 
for the first two miles ; they then deployed 
into open order, got in touch with each other, 
and then started to drive the country out of 
face for the remaining eighteen miles. Fre- 
quently the line had to halt while a column 
would hunt a mountain in its line of advance, 
or a detour round a lake had to be made. 

For the first four miles there was no sign of 
the gunmen — the column only met flocks of 
mountain sheep, and no sign of a human 
being ; but, when ten miles from the west end 
of the peninsula, the troops on both flanks 
came under fire — evidently an attempt to stop 
them working round behind the gunmen. 

The troops in the centre now tried to advance, 
but were also held up by heavy fire before 
they had gone half a mile ; but at their third 
attempt the flanks met with no opposition, 
and the whole line was able to continue the 
advance. From now on the gunmen offered a 
determined resistance at every ridge, but always 
retired before their positions could be turned. 

At last, close on nightfall, the Crown forces 
came to the strongest position of all — a long 
ridge in the centre with small hills at each 
end, extending to the north and south coasts 
of the peninsula. 



280 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

As there was no time left for a turning 
movement, a direct assault was tried, only to 
fail twice. It was then decided to wait until 
the full moon had risen, when it would be 
possible to make a turning movement along 
the coast. 

Unfortunately the sky became cloudy, and 
during the whole night the Crown forces were 
unable to move ; but as soon as the dayhght 
came another assault met with no opposition. 

Once on top of the ridge they could see the 
remainder of the peninsula to the west coast, 
and not a sign of a gunman anywhere ; nor 
when they searched every valley and even 
some sandhills on the coast could they find so 
much as a single gunman. 

The following day word was brought into 
the barracks at Castleport that a column of 
gunmen, thousands strong, had been seen 
marching in column of route into the Bally- 
rick Mountains from the coast ; but how they 
could have got there from the Maryburgh 
Peninsula did not transpire for some time. 

Later it was learnt that when the Crown 
forces gave up the attack on the final ridge to 
wait for the moon, the gunmen waited until 
it was dark, when they made their way to the 
coast. Here they had collected every fishing- 
boat to be found. The sea being calm, the 
whole force managed during the night to cross 
the bay to the north, a distance of fifteen miles, 
landed on the Ballyrick coast soon after dawn, 
and at once set off for the Ballyrick Mountains. 



281 



XX. 

THE GREAT ROUND UP. 

At the beginning of the Irish war, when the 
I.R.A., to use its own words, " took the field 
against the British Army," its activities were 
purely local and sporadic. Some unfortunate 
police patrols of half a dozen men, often less, 
walking along the King's highway, interfering 
with none except evil-doers, would be suddenly 
fired at with shot-guns, sometimes loaded with 
jagged slugs and pieces of metal, from a safe 
cover behind a stone wall with carefully- 
prepared loopholes. 

These poHce patrols never had a dog's 
chance, and should have been discontinued 
long before they actually were. 

At first the murderers did not trouble to 
make sure that they had a perfectly safe line 
of retreat behind them when the location of 
these cowardly ambushes was chosen, but after 
a few failures they made no mistake in future, 
the line of retreat, either through a thick wood 
or down the reverse slope of a hill, being 
always the first consideration. 

Married police living in houses or rooms in 
the town of their station afforded an easy and 
safe target for the venom of these hooHgan 
shop-boys and farmers' sons. At first the poHce 



282 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

used to go home unarmed, and used to be shot 
down in the back while passing along an ill- 
lighted street or lane, or the assassins would 
knock at the door of the policeman's home, 
and if he came to the door would fire at him 
and then run away. 

Occasionally, in districts where the standard 
of bravery was very high, all the Volunteers 
would collect in a small town after dark — 
always after dark — and carry out an attack 
on the local police barracks. They knew per- 
fectly well that it was impossible for the police 
to leave their barracks owing to the smallness 
of their numbers, and that as long as they kept 
well under cover (which they did) they were 
just as safe as they would be in their own 
beds at home. 

These so-called attacks on poHce barracks 
simply consisted in gangs of hooligans first 
taking careful cover in houses adjacent to the 
barracks, and then firing off as many rounds as 
they possessed. They always ceased fire long 
before daybreak, in order that they might be 
home in good time before it was possible for 
the poHce to leave barracks or a relief party 
to arrive on the scene. 

At this period of the war, raiding the houses 
of the Loyalists for arms, and ijicidentally for 
money and valuables, not forgetting drink, 
was a much safer and more remunerative 
night's amusement than shooting policemen or 
attacking barracks, though the price then was 
£60 for every poHceman murdered. 
0A party of twenty to thirty Volunteers, 
usually boys from fifteen to twenty years of 



THE GREAT ROUND UP. 283 

age, would meet at a fixed rendezvous some 
time after dark with all the arms they could 
raise. They would then don black cloth masks, 
turn up their coat collars, pull their hats down, 
and sally forth to spend the night robbing, 
murdering, and terrorising the unfortunate 
Loyalists of the district. 

Imagine the feelings of a respectable old man 
living in a lonely house, who had probably 
never harmed any one during his lifetime, and 
whose only crime consisted in being loyal or 
refusing to subscribe to the funds of the I.R.A., 
in many cases a form of common robbery. 

Night after night he lies in bed expecting to 
hear a loud knock at the door, and at last it 
comes. He opens the door to find a dozen shot- 
guns, old rifles, and pistols pointed at him. 
Some brute then demands his arms ; the old 
man says he has none. They push him aside 
and force their way in. The old man is made 
to sit down while two young hounds keep 
prodding him in the back of the neck with the 
muzzles of their pistols, to remind him what 
they could do if they liked. The remainder 
ransack the house from top to bottom, take 
away any money or valuables they can find, 
and consume any drink there may be. If they 
cannot find any money or valuables, they 
threaten him with death until he disgorges. 
And lonely women suffered in like fashion. 

The demand for arms used to be merely a 
bhnd for committing robbery. The location 
of every firearm in a district was weU known 
from the beginning of the war. 

K 



284 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

If the reader happens to be an English 
country gentleman, let him think what it 
would be like never to know the night or hour 
when he would be raided by a gang of farm 
labourers or village loafers, armed and masked, 
from the nearest village. He might retire to 
bed to be waked up by loud knocking on his 
front door. If he did not open quickly a 
rifle shot would be fired through the lock, and 
if the door did not open then, it quickly would 
to the blows of hatchets which would follow. 
A wild gang of drunken brutes would burst 
into his nice house, smash desks, sideboards, 
and cupboards, searching for loot. Lucky man 
if he escaped with the loss of arms, money, 
and valuables, and not of home and life as well. 

If the reader is an ex-soldier, let him imagine 
what his feelings would be like if in the middle 
of the night he was pulled out of his bed by 
these same ruffians, and given his choice be- 
tween joining Trotsky's Own Light Infantry, 
or whatever the local Red force may call itself, 
or being shot out of face. Being true to his 
country, he refuses to have anything to do 
with Bolshevism, and is shot before the eyes 
of his agonised wife. 

Remember that the loyal country gentle- 
men and ex-soldiers of Ireland have sacrificed 
their blood and treasure on the altar of Empire 
as well as their English cousins, and hence are 
entitled to as much protection. 

But no, when it comes to a matter of politics 
and votes they are thrown to the wolves, to 
the eternal shame of England. The sacrifice 
of the southern Loyalists will form one of the 



THE GREAT ROUND UP. 285 

most disgraceful chapters in the history of 
England. 

Robberies on a more extensive scale fol- 
lowed : bank managers taking large sums of 
money to out-of-the-way villages on the occa- 
sion of a fair, in order to facilitate payments 
by buyers to farmers, were held up and robbed. 
Mail-cars carrying pension money for the old 
and poor were held up and robbed ; hkewise 
post offices, banks, railway stations, and large 
shops — and most of this money used to for- 
ward the cause of armed rebellion. In fact, 
the Government were largely being fought 
with their own money, or, rather, that of the 
helpless British taxpayer. 

But this form of warfare, though most un- 
pleasant for the unfortunate Irish Loyalist, 
and probably disturbing to the few people in 
England who knew anything about what was 
happening in Ireland, would never have led 
to anything provided the British Government 
had taken the necessary steps quickly to pre- 
serve law and order and punish evil-doers. 
But no, as ever in Ireland, they would do 
nothing, except procrastinate, until it was too 
late. 

Instead of strengthening the R.I.C. and 
sending more troops into the country, they 
merely evacuated outlying police barracks, 
which were promptly burnt amidst scenes of 
triumph by the local Volunteers, and hailed 
by all rebels as the first outward sign of the 
retreat of the English from Ireland. 

If the police released by the evacuation of 
these barracks had been used to form flying 



286 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

columns to quiet the worst districts, there 
might have been some sense in this manoeuvre ; 
unfortunately, the men were all wanted to 
make up the wastage in the occupied barracks 
caused by the large number of resignations of 
young constables in the R.I.C. at this time. 

Looking back, these constables who resigned 
appear to have been mean deserters of their 
comrades, but after-events have to a certain 
degree justified their action. They were cer- 
tain that, no matter how often the British 
Government swore to see its loyal servants 
through, in the end it would let them down, 
and the pity is that they were right. True, 
there was a day when an Englishman's word 
was as good as his bond, but that day appears 
to be quite out of date. Or perhaps it does 
not apply to politicians ! 

Doubtless greatly surprised at their initial 
success, the chiefs of the I.R.A. now deter- 
mined on a much more ambitious form of war- 
fare — namely, the formation of flying columns 
to harry and murder the Crown forces through- 
out Ireland, not excepting Ulster ; at the same 
time they started a tremendous campaign of 
propaganda in England and the States. 

The idea of breaking up the British Empire 
by means of a number of small flying columns 
of corner-boys in Ireland, and green pamphlets 
at John Bull's breakfast-table, appears laugh- 
able ; but Sinn Fein has shown itseK a won- 
derfully astute judge of the mentality of the 
present-day pohtician in England. 

The summer of 1920 saw the greater part of 
the south and west in the hands of the Republic, 



THE GREAT ROUND UP. 287 

who not only boasted an army in the field, 
but ran thek own police, law-courts, and Local 
Government Board. It was not an uncommon 
occurrence for a man to be first arrested by 
the R.I.C. for some offence, and then by the 
I.R.A. ; sometimes there used to be quite an 
exciting race between these two forces to see 
who could catch the culprit first. 

The first flying columns were made up of 
determined and hard-up corner-boys collected 
from every district in the south and west, 
and were sent out under specially qualified 
leaders to murder as many police and soldiers 
as they could, no matter whether they were 
armed or unarmed, asleep or awake. The price 
for the murder of a policeman rose gradually 
to £60, and eventually to £100. 

With a terrorised population and a Govern- 
ment which refused to function, these columns 
had everything in their favour, and carried 
on their campaign of murder and assassina- 
tion practically unhindered at first. 

Their chief channels of information were the 
post-office and young girls. The larger pro- 
portion of post-office officials were openly dis- 
loyal, postmasters even being caught red- 
handed decoding important police and mihtary 
wires for the information of the I.R.A. And 
young girls not only obtained information by 
walking out with policemen and soldiers, but 
also carried the gunmen's arms to and from a 
murder or ambush. 

It used to be no uncommon sight in Dublin 
to see a tram-car held up by Auxiliaries and 
searched with no result. Before the Auxiliaries 



288 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

had boarded the tram^-,the gunmen would 
openly pass their pistols to girls sitting beside 
them. Any one giving information would 
never have left that tram ahve, nor would it 
have done any good, as the Auxiharies were 
powerless (until near the end of the war) to 
search women. 

As regards transport, they had only to take 
it where, when, and how they hked — motors, 
motor bicycles, lorries, and push-bicycles by 
the thousand in every part of the country. 
Think how different the result might have 
been if the Government had taken up all this 
transport and reduced the I.R.A. to their flat 
feet. And, of course, they used the trains 
freely, and without payment, both to carry 
arms and men. 

Young girls, especially if pretty, make far 
the most dangerous spies in the world ; and 
though they have always been used during a 
war on a small scale by every country, yet 
this is probably the first occasion on which 
a nation has conscripted girls of from twelve 
to twenty-five years wholesale for this vicious 
and contaminating work. 

Even httle children were taught the art of 
eavesdropping, and, of course, ii they did not 
hear every word, readily filled in the blanks 
from their imagination. Many a man in Ire- 
land during the last two years has lost his hfe 
through the medium of a httle child. The 
Markievicz woman ought to appear on the Day 
of Judgment with the record millstone round 
her neck. 

Despatches were carried in dozens of ways 



THE GREAT ROUND UP. 289 

— boys on bicycles, men on motor bicycles, 
who also acted as scouts for ambushes, in the 
sample cases of bagmen (a common method 
also at one time of sending arms and ammu- 
nition about the country), by the post, and by 
railway guards — in fact, by every method which 
came to hand. 

The I.R.A. obtained much valuable informa- 
tion through opening letters in the post, but 
their really important and often vital informa- 
tion came to them through a bad leakage in 
the Castle. 

Any shortage of recruits was quickly made 
good by a drastic form of the old pressgang. 
An unwilling recruit would be dragged out of 
bed in the middle of the night, placed against 
a wall, and given a minute to decide for King 
George or the Irish Republic. King George 
meant a bullet in the brain, probably a dum- 
dum of the worst description ; the Irish Re- 
public meant active service with a flying 
column at some near future date. 

Money was obtained in just as simple a way. 
A levy of, say, a pound a cow or a pound a 
beast would be laid on a district. A farmer 
had six cows or one horse, two asses, and three 
head of cattle. In either case he would pay 
£6 to the funds of the I.R.A. Any arguing 
there was would be solely on the side of the 
collector, who would have the butt-end of a 
large pistol protruding from his pocket. Such 
a simple and ejffective method of collecting a 
tax ! No troublesome forms of beastly red 
tape, and no large staff of fat and lazy clerks 
to pay ! Just a truculent-looking blackguard 



290 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

with a very large pistol, not necessarily loaded, 
and the money pours in. Cases of non-payment 
of this form of taxation have never been heard 
of, nor is there any means of dodging it. Cattle 
are not easy to hide. 

Rations were obtained by the simple pro- 
cess of requisition. In some cases they used to 
go through the farce of giving a receipt for the 
stolen goods in the name of the I.R.A. ! 

With the police unable to function, banks 
and post-offices offered an easy prey to these 
ruffians. The meanest form of robbery was 
the taking of money to pay old-age pensions 
from mail-cars on their way to outlying dis- 
tricts. 

A special murder gang was formed, which 
went about the country to murder any man — 
poHceman, R.M., or civilian — who was par- 
ticularly active in trying or helping to restore 
law and order in the country — that is, any 
man who was too tough a nut for the locals 
to crack. And, of course, in many cases 
private feuds and spites came under this head- 
ing. As has been mentioned, the price for a 
poHceman was £100. People would be heard 
discussing this openly, and wondering if the 
price would go up or down, in the same way 
as they might discuss Dunlop's or Guinness' s 
shares. 

But the most effective weapon of Sinn Fein 
has been their propaganda campaign in America 
and England, coupled with the treasonable and 
treacherous aid from certain politicians and the 
effective silence of the daily press, with one 
great and notable exception. 



THE GREAT ROUND UP. 291 

The following letter, which fell into the hands 
of the Crown forces in Ireland, speaks for 
itself : — 

Dail Eireann (Department of Finance), 
Mansion House, Dublin, 21st March 1921. 

To Director of Propaganda. 

A Chara, — The enclosed copy of notes from Ireland 
will probably be of some interest to you. I have 
previously sent some copies of these and other things 
from the Unionist Alliance people. 

Many figm^es have been given in the papers recently 
with regard to E.I.C. resignations, dismissals, recruit- 
ment. All these questions have been asked on instruc- 
tions from me, and I think you might be able to make 
very good use of some of them. For instance, in the 
10th March ' Hansard ' (pages 688 and 689) are given 
the figures which appeared in the ' Independent ' some 
days ago. In a few days' time we shall get total strength 
and total numbers recruited over certain periods. 

I have got an arrangement made in London whereby 
the ' Independent ' correspondents will always quote 
the figures pretty fully for our benefit. 
Do Chara, 

Michael Collins. 

Sinn Fein first learnt the art of propaganda 
from those pastmasters the Boches ; but if 
ever the latter think of trying their luck with 
another " Der Tag," they will find that Sinn 
Fein can teach them now more than ever they 
taught Sinn Fein. The Celtic mind seems to 
be peculiarly adapted and susceptible to propa- 
ganda consisting largely of half and three- 
quarter lies. 

But nothing surprised and dismayed Irish 
k2 



292 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

Loyalists more than the suppression of reports 
of murders and outrages in Ireland in the great 
majority of Enghsh papers, though later on 
these same papers filled columns with any 
murder or atrocity alleged to have been com- 
mitted by police or Auxiharies. Moreover, 
from their tone, it soon became obvious that 
some papers were strongly pro-Sinn Fein. 

To an Irishman the English Radical has 
always been one of the greatest wonders and 
mysteries of this world ; and often he cannot 
help asking why God has sent him into this 
world. Of course, there is no doubt that all 
are here for some purpose, good or bad, but 
of what use is the Radical to England ? 

Is he the wee drop of poison in the whole 
which is to bring about the downfall of the 
Empire as a punishment for the sins of its 
leaders ? At any rate, he has always been a 
puzzle and enigma to Irish and French alike, 
and they have no use for a man whose chief 
idea of patriotism appears to be to take any 
and every side against his own country. 

There is no possible doubt that the Govern- 
ment were forced or frightened, by the howls 
of the Radicals, incited by Sinn Fein propa- 
ganda, to order that reprisals by the Crown 
forces in Ireland should cease, whereby the 
Crown forces' most effective weapon was taken 
from them, though it was still left in the hands 
of the murder gang. 

Fierce were the denouncements by the Radi- 
cals in the House of the unfortunate Irish 
police ; but one waited in vain for a like de- 
nouncement of the murder gang (men who 



THE GREAT ROUND UP. 293 

have committed as bad atrocities as the world 
has seen) by these same unctuous gentlemen. 
Ye h3rpocrites ! 

Much has been said and written (chiefly 
propaganda) about the wickedness of reprisals, 
but it is better first to examine the situation 
before condemning them. 

It must be clearly understood that the whole 
power of the murder gang lay in reprisals : 
they took reprisals against every one who was 
against them by murder, arson, and intimida- 
tion. The Crown forces had only the law, 
which was paralysed. No one dared give 
evidence ; it was death to do so. 

Under these circumstances the Crown forces, 
principally the R.I.C., took counter-reprisals ; 
this was the only possible method by which 
they could save their own lives and the lives 
and property of the Loyahsts, who looked to 
them for protection. 

For many weary months unhappy Ireland 
was rent and torn by this form of warfare, 
and it became obvious to most that if one side 
did not win pretty soon the country would 
be ruined. Twice the Crown forces wriggled 
their hands free, and on both occasions had 
the I.R.A. on the verge of collapse : one stout 
blow would have finished the show. And each 
time the I.R.A. were saved by the screams of 
their Enghsh allies. Each time the Govern- 
ment quickly took fright, quickly tied the 
Crown forces' right hands, and even threatened 
to tie up their legs if they set the Enghsh 
Radicals on the howl again. And once more 
the I.R.A. plucked up courage, and the old 



294 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

weary game of ambush and murder started 
afresh. 

At long last the Government took a sudden 
notion to make a desperate effort to finish off 
the gunmen before the gunmen finished them. 

After the failure to round up the big force 
of gunmen in the Maryburgh Peninsula, Blake 
returned at once to Ballybor with all his men, 
arriving to find a cipher wire from the County 
Inspector to tell him that the gunmen had 
turned up in the Balljrrick Mountains, and that 
as soon as the Crown forces could be regrouped 
another effort would be made to come to grips 
with these slippery customers. 

No sooner had Blake started to deal with a 
fearful accumulation of official correspondence 
than the head constable told him that Con- 
stable John M'Hugh, who came from the east 
centre of Ireland and had not been long in 
the force, wished to see him — adding that 
M'Hugh's father had been murdered, and that 
the constable was most anxious to go home, 
but that the police at his home had wired 
that it was not safe for the man to go. 

Blake saw M'Hugh at once, and found him 
in a pitiable state of grief, the first great 
sorrow of his young life — but had to refuse his 
request, though the boy pleaded hard, with 
the tears running down his cheeks. M'Hugh's 
case is a good example of the murder gang's 
reprisals on those who will not fall in with 
their views. 

Old M'Hugh was a widower living with his 
two sons near a large town on the east coast. 
Unfortunately John was an unwilling witness 



THE GREAT ROUND UP. 295 

of the first murders of British officers in Ire- 
land during the present rebeUion, and in order 
to save the Hves of his sons old M'Hugh got 
them into the R.I.C. as soon as he could. 

On several occasions old M'Hugh was threat- 
ened by the I.R.A. that if he did not make his 
sons resign they would do for him : every 
time he refused, and told his sons nothing 
about being threatened. Finally, the usual 
pack of masked fiends went to the old man's 
cottage in the dead of night, and murdered 
him by the refined process of dragging him out 
of bed and kicking him on the head until they 
smashed his skull in — a deed hard to beat for 
pure brutal savagery. 

The following day Blake received a long 
visit from the County Inspector, who gave 
him the out fine of the new plan of campaign, 
and instructions for the part Blake and his 
men were to take. 

The country of the Ball3rrick Mountains is 
a square-shaped peninsula of, roughly, fourteen 
hundred square miles, consisting of vast flats 
of bogs on the north, west, and east, inter- 
cepted by hills, while the south part consists 
of nothing but mountains. One main road 
runs through the centre, east and west, and 
another skirts the coast for three-quarters of 
the north coast, then turns inland, crosses the 
other road at about the centre of the peninsula 
at the village of Ballyscadden, then continues due 
south until it reaches the coast. In the whole 
peninsula there are only half a dozen smaU 
villages, all not less than sixteen miles apart. 

To drive this huge country would require at 



296 TALES OF THE E.I.C. 

least twenty times as many troops as were 
available, and A.S.C. train to keep them sup- 
plied with rations ; there remained the possi- 
bility of starving the gunmen into surrender. 

All the villages were to be occupied by 
military, and every road picketed and blocked 
with barbed wire ; at the same time the miU- 
tary were to endeavour to form a cordon 
across the neck of the peninsula, a distance of 
thirty-five miles. 

The poHce, who were to do the actual hunt- 
ing, were divided into flying columns, with all 
available transport. The Navy was to be 
responsible for the numerous islands on the 
west and south coasts, and were to open fire 
on any parties of gunmen who came within 
the range of their vision and guns. 

Aeroplanes were to work continuously over 
the country during daylight, and on locating 
the enemy, were to drop their messages at the 
police headquarters at Ballyscadden. 

It was expected that at the first sign of 
danger the gunmen would make for the moun- 
tains in the south, when the area of operations 
would be greatly restricted. 

When all preparations were completed a 
start was to be made as soon as there seemed 
a reasonable prospect of fine weather. Finally, 
at Blake's suggestion, they tried to collect 
every flock of mountain sheep and confine 
them to the flat country to the north, but 
after the first day many of the sheep returned 
to their own mountains in spite of the efforts 
of the shepherds. 

Blake's part was to keep all his available 



THE GREAT ROUND UP. 297 

men at headquarters, ready to dash off at a 
moment's notice on receipt of information of 
the location of any party of gunmen. 

Owing to a bad westerly storm operations 
had to be postponed for a few days, during 
which time the gunmen were left undisturbed. 

As had been expected, they drew a blank 
in the flat country, though it was reported by 
the first 'plane up that a large party of cyclists 
had been spotted making their way south from 
Ballyscadden some time before the police occu- 
pied that village. 

The weather then turned very fine, and as 
there was a full moon, it was decided to sit 
tight for a few days in order to see whether 
starvation would force the gunmen to attempt 
a break through. 

For two days the aeroplanes had nothing 
to report except the movements of small 
parties of not more than six men, and always 
in the mountains to the south. On the third 
a 'plane dropped the exciting news that a big 
column, estimated at several hundred men, 
was marching south-west with an advance of 
scouts to a depth of two miles. 

Blake at once turned out his men, and made 
off south at full speed. At the same time a 
column left Castleport to make its way up the 
coast road and intercept the gunmen before 
they could debouch from the mountains — 
their orders being to advance up a valley 
from the coast to a shooting-lodge, which w^as 
situated at the junction of three valleys, two 
of which lead north-east and south-west round 
the foot of Falcon Mountain. Here they were 



298 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

to wait while Blake endeavoured to drive the gun- 
men down the north-east valley towards them. 

For twenty-four hours Blake kept up a run- 
ning fight with the gunmen in the mountains, 
always trying to head them towards the valley 
which leads to the foot of Falcon Mountain, 
and at last, when his men could hardly move, 
had the satisfaction of seeing the gunmen 
making for the valley. 

The police followed slowly and painfully, to 
find not a sign of a human being at the shoot- 
ing-lodge. The men flung themselves down 
in the heather, beat to the world, and some 
of them even burst into tears of rage. 

The explanation came afterwards. The 
Castleport party received orders to proceed up 
the valley from the sea, and intercept the gun- 
men at a shooting-lodge. Unfortunately there 
were two lodges — one on the shore of a lake 
about half-way up the valley from the sea, 
and the second and right one at the junction 
of the three valleys. Naturally the Castleport 
party, none of whom had been in these moun- 
tains before, stopped at the first lodge they 
came to on the shore of the lake. 

A thick mist came up off the sea that night, 
and the gunmen, who had taken refuge on 
the upper rocky slopes of Falcon Mountain, 
slipped through the cordon in the mist in twos 
and threes, commandeered bicycles, and so 
made good their escape. 

Some time afterwards, being again very hard 
pressed, large parties of gunmen took up their 
quarters in the Ballyrick Mountains, and lay 
low. Gradually their numbers increased, until 



THE GREAT ROUND UP. 299 

it was reported that the mountains carried as 
many gunmen as sheep. 

At this time the Government appeared to 
have at last reahsed that the only way to 
restore order in Ireland was to oppose force by 
superior force. Many people could have given 
them this information months previously. 

A report went through Ireland that the 
Government was massing artillery at Holy- 
head to mow down the I.R.A. with their brutal 
high explosives and shrapnel. In reality what 
happened was that all batteries in England 
were turned into mounted infantry, only about 
twenty-five men being left with a battery, and 
concentrated at Holyhead, preparatory to cross- 
ing to Ireland. 

To Blake's joy, the Ballyrick country was 
chosen as the first scene of what was fondly 
supposed would be the end of the rebellion. 

Quickly 20,000 troops were massed across 
the neck of the Ballyrick Peninsula with every 
available Auxiliary and a large force of R.I.C., 
while a naval force was standing by off the 
coast ready to land sailors and marines. AU 
that was wanted was a good weather forecast 
to start in, and put an end to this great mob 
of gunmen — ^the curse of modern Ireland. 

The good weather forecast came along all 
right, and on the morrow they were to get a 
move on and put an end to this miserable 
breed of cowardly warfare. 

But on the morrow, instead of the Advance, 
they heard the Stand Fast sounded, and to 
their dismay learnt that a truce had been 
proclaimed — a truce with murderers, forsooth ! 



300 



XXI. 

THE TRUCE. 

Blake had been educated at a big English 
pubHc school, where he had learnt that the 
kejniote to an Englishman's life is straightness. 
Further, in the British Army he had found 
that all good Britishers try their level best to 
run straight. 

Early in 1921 there had been a strong 
rumour in the R.I.C. that the British Govern- 
ment had come to secret terms with Sinn 
Fein, and that after a period of window- 
dressing a truce would be declared ; then 
would follow a lot of talk, and the terms of 
settlement would emerge. It was even re- 
ported that a conference had been held in 
Norway of representatives of the British Gov- 
ernment and Sinn Fein, and also a representa- 
tive from each of the Dominions, and a settle- 
ment arrived at. 

At the time the Prime Minister fired off one 
of his loudest and most daring defiances at 
Sinn Fein : that he would never give in nor 
would he ever treat with the murder gang in 
Ireland, that the Crown forces in that country 



THE TRUCE. 301 

would be supported by all the resources of the 
Empire, and so on ad nauseam. And this, as 
Blake heard a cynic remark, was a sign that 
the sinister rumour was most likely true. 

Blake had dismissed the idea with a laugh, 
but when the truce bomb burst his mind at 
once flew back to the secret settlement rumour, 
now months old, and he began to suspect with 
a horrible fear that they had been sold, and 
badly sold. 

Naturally the first effects on the police were 
bad. The older men who had been let down 
before laughed and cried to each other, " Sold 
again ! " but the younger ones, who had yet 
to learn the ways of pohticians, took the matter 
to heart, and started to brood over it. 

There were several questions to which they 
badly wanted an answer ; the chief being, if 
there was to be this complete surrender, why 
had it not been made long ago, when the lives 
of many of their relations and pals in the Army 
and R.I.C. might have been saved, not to 
mention the lives of many Loyalists ? These 
valuable lives had been freely given in order 
that Ireland should be freed from the murder- 
ous plague of gunmen, in the same way as 
during the late war the lives of the Empire's 
best were sacrificed in order that we should 
be freed from the murderous plague of the 
Boches. 

Further, they wanted to know what terms 
had been made with regard to their comrades 
who had fallen into the hands of the I.R.A. 

The Loyalists were staggered, knowing that 



302 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

their worst fears would now be realised ; to 
be handed over to the murder gang, which was 
the reward the cynics in the Dublin clubs had 
always prophesied, would be England's return 
for the efforts of the Loyalists during the war. 
However, they could say nothing and do noth- 
ing, but simply make the best of their fate. 

The neutrals, most of whom had changed 
their flag as often as the British Government 
had changed its mind, now, of course, openly 
threw in their lot with Sinn Fein. 

The townspeople and farmers openly rejoiced 
at the prospect of even a temporary peace, 
though in their hearts many of them knew 
that there could be no real peace in Ireland 
until the gunmen had been wiped out or re- 
duced to a state of impotence by disarming 
them. However, the future could take care of 
itself as far as they were concerned. 

For the first few days of the Truce the Sinn 
Feiners appeared to be doubtful whether their 
wonderful good luck could be really true, and 
consequently lay low. Then men and boys 
who had been on the run for many moons re- 
turned to Ballybor, and gave an exhibition of 
" See the Conquering Hero Comes " in the 
streets daily ; among them men wanted badly 
for atrocious murders, who now snapped their 
fingers openly in the faces of the police. A 
policeman could not walk the streets of Bally- 
bor without meeting these swaggering fellows, 
who openly laughed and jeered at them when 
they passed. 

However, a considerable number did not 



THE TRUCE. 303 

return, and on their relations inquiring about 
their whereabouts from the I.R.A. Haison offi- 
cer, they were told they never would come 
back. 

Gradually, being sure they were indeed safe, 
and that in truth they had the British Govern- 
ment on the run instead of being on the run 
themselves, they grew bolder and more insolent. 

One brute went up to the sentry outside 
the police barracks and deliberately spat on 
him, hoping no doubt that the constable would 
lose his temper and break the truce. The con- 
stable stepped into the barracks and returned 
at once with the Sinn Fein flag, with which 
he carefully wiped the offending stains off his 
face and tunic under the nose of the astonished 
gunman. He then proceeded to stand on the 
flag in the mud, and asked the gunman, " What 
about it?" For some seconds the gunman 
stood irresolute, then turned and walked off, 
looking a complete ass, followed by the loud 
laughter of the police. 

From now the Republicans proceeded to take 
over the government of the district, the police 
standing by helpless, bound hand and foot by 
the strict order that on no account were they 
to disturb the peace atmosphere. How the 
Boches must be laughing at us ! 

In every parish Bepublican Courts were ad- 
vertised to be held in the local papers, and 
were held without let or hindrance, the adver- 
tisements stating that " Summons, &c., can be 

had on application to , Clerk of the Court." 

And why not ? Had not the I.R.A. beaten 



304 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

Lloyd George to his knees, and was not the 
British Government on the run ? 

To give the comical touch necessary in 
Ireland, the R.M. continued to receive instruc- 
tions from the Castle to attend the various 
Petty Sessions Courts in every district and 
deal out the British version of the law. 
Probably the first time (and please God the 
last) that any part of Great Britain and Ireland 
has been governed by two sets of laws at the 
same time. 

With regard to this disgraceful state of 
affairs one particular case will give a good 
illustration of how low British law has fallen 
in the west of Ireland. 

A very decent man called O'Brien, who had 
been a herd to the Congested Districts Board, 
bought a farm from the Board with three other 
men, the farm being divided into four. 

This did not suit the landless members of 
the Transport Union in the district, whose 
idea was that they should have the land with- 
out paying for it. They told O'Brien to get 
out, but he refused ; they then proceeded to 
smash the fences and drive and injure his 
cattle. O'Brien built up the fences and put 
his cattle back. 

They next proceeded to beat O'Brien, who 
afterwards went into Ballybor but returned 
without taking any action, as they told him 
there that there was now no law in the coun- 
try. That night they beat him again ; the 
process consisted of first holding him while a 
powerful man closed his eyes with repeated 



THE TRUCE. 305 

blows of his fists, and then they hammered him 
to their heart's content and left him in the 
road for dead. 

Hours afterwards O'Brien crawled home on 
his hands and knees — he was practically blinded, 
and appears to have found his way home by 
instinct, — and some days afterwards, when he 
had recovered a little, he went to the police 
in Ballybor. 

A magistrate happened to be at the barracks 
at the time, and insisted that steps should be 
taken to protect O'Brien and punish the sav- 
ages who had beaten him, though the pohce 
told him that they were afraid that it was 
quite useless to try. 

However, the magistrate took O'Brien's in- 
formation, the case came on week after week 
at the Ballybor Petty Sessions, always to be 
adjourned at the request of the police, waiting 
instruction from the Castle. At last O'Brien, 
in despair, took his case to the local Sinn Fein 
Court ; and here the chief offender was fined 
£27 and the others large sums, and they were 
warned that if they interfered with O'Brien 
again they would be dealt with very severely. 

And this is a good example of how British 
law protects a decent citizen in Ireland at the 
present time ; but one forgets that the peace 
atmosphere must not be disturbed at all costs ! 
But is there any wonder that the people are 
fast leaving the King's Courts for those of Sinn 
Fein, and of their own free will now ? 

Republican Local Government inspectors ap- 
peared in every district, and quicldy ousted 



306 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

the King's inspectors ; held courts of inquiry 
on unfortunate road surveyors who had refused 
to take the oath of allegiance to Dail Eireann, 
and tried to sack loyal dispensary doctors. 

The chief amusement of the local gunmen 
on leave, and of their friends, male and female, 
was now to spend their time joy-riding through 
the countryside, flying Sinn Fein flags on their 
commandeered lorries and singing the " Sol- 
dier's Song " whenever they passed any police 
or a barracks. 

One expedition of this kind went out to 
Ball5n?ick on a Sunday and returned to Bally- 
bor about midnight. Blake happened to be 
passing down the main street at the time, 
and encountered a party of drunken bank 
clerks trying to see how much row they could 
make. 

Blake remonstrated with them, and told 
them that if they did not go home quietly 
he would have them arrested. One clerk at 
once started to sing the " Soldier's Song " at 
the top of his voice, and another shouted at 
Blake in an insolent voice, " What about the 

truce, Mr B , D.I. ? " Blake saw red— he 

had borne and suffered much for many days, — 
and he gave the bank clerk a full drive on the 
chin which sent him flying. The whole party 
then swiftly retreated in silence. 

The following day Blake paid a visit to the 
bank, and said to the clerk he had ousted the 
previous night, " Look here, Mr Bank Clerk, 
don't think I hit you last night because you 



THE TRUCE. 307 

were drunk. There's a fine open yard at the 
back of the barracks, and if you will come 
round now, we can fight it out." Abject 
apologies from Mr Bank Clerk, and Blake left 
the bank. 

One morning a woman arrived at the bar- 
racks in a state of great distress and asked to 
see the D.I. She told Blake that she Hved in 
a small house in Cloonalla, which she rented 
from another woman in the village. Twice her 
landlady had tried in a British court to evict 
her, and had failed. The landlady then applied 
to the local I.R.A., who promptly turned the 
unfortunate woman with all her furniture and 
belongings into the street, and there she re- 
mained. When she remonstrated with them 
they showed her a warrant signed by the 
village Sinn Fein magistrate and left her. 

Blake at once applied to the County In- 
spector for instructions, who applied to the 
higher authorities. Back came the answer, 
" See circular so-and-so," which on being turned 
up stated that all breaches of the Truce should 
be at once reported. Meanwhile the woman 
remained homeless : neighbours in an Irish 
village nowadays fight shy of an I.R.A. victim, 
and circulars are not substitutes for roofs. 

Again Blake tried to get leave to take action, 
and this time the answer was to forward four 
copies of the case to the police adviser in 
Scotland. In despair he put his pride in his 
pocket and applied to the I.R.A. liaison officer 
of the district for help. 



308 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

And the next day the Uaison officer arrived 
in Ballybor — an ex-soldier and a well-known 
murderer. Blake felt that he could hardly 
stand this final insult to an honourable uni- 
form ; but duty is duty, and a truce must be 
kept. 

The Haison officer went out in a car to Cloon- 
alla, and ordered the local braves to put the 
woman and her furniture back in her house, 
which they flatly refused to do. And that was 
the end of the matter. 

After some weeks' rest the chiefs of the I.R.A. 
issued an order calling all men to the colours, 
whether they liked it or not. 

It has been mentioned that the country 
round Ballybor was famous for its excellent 
shooting, grouse, snipe, woodcock, duck, and 
geese chiefly ; and in the days before the re- 
bellion many Englishmen must have spent 
happy times shooting and fishing in the many 
shooting-lodges dotted about on the moun- 
tains and moors to the east and west of Bally- 
bor. 

Now all these lodges are occupied by in- 
structors of the I.R.A., who take so many of 
the young men and boys of the district in 
relays for an eight days' intensive training 
course — drilling, musketry, instruction in the 
use of Lewis and Thompson machine-guns, 
bombing, and twenty-five-mile route-marches 
in full fighting order, the latter most un- 
popular. 

Not only have all old members of the I.R.A. 



THE THUCE. 309 

to attend these courses, but every young man 
and boy, who had previously refused to join up, 
have to go ; and there is no refusing to go now. 

You may miss your garden-boy or shop- 
assistant, to meet him in the course of the week 
taking part in a route-march ; or if you are 
foohshly inquisitive, you may see him at dawn 
advancing across your demesne in company 
with other boys, or firing his musketry course. 

Blake watched two lorry-loads of these re- 
cruits setting off on a Monday morning from 
the main street of Ballybor under his very 
nose, Sinn Fein flags flying ; and they sang 
the " Soldier's Song " for his special benefit. 

About two miles from Ballybor there Uves 
a retired officer in a nice house with a good 
demesne, a man who served the Empire well 
and truly for many years. When the war was 
over he retired, fondly hoping to spend the 
remainder of his days in peace and comfort in 
his old family home. 

But not so : he happened to be the owner 
of a demesne which the Transport Union had 
promised to its members. So they tried re- 
peatedly to stampede him out of the country, 
but that failed. Now his place is occupied 
by what the I.R.A. call a week-end camp for 
the drilling and instruction of the Ballybor 
shop-boys. They use his cooking utensils, burn 
his turf, and make the night hideous with their 
yells and oaths, so that the officer and his 
family find it impossible to get any rest. More- 
over, they, the I.R.A., do not appear to be 



310 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

strong in sanitary sections. And they told 
him that if he took any action they would 
burn his place to the ground. 

What action could he take ? There is no 
law in the country except the law of the pistol. 
The police are now bound hand and foot. They 
report these outrages to the Castle, and what 
happens ? Nothing. The Government are far 
too busy hunting for that elusive formula 
which is to turn this Irish hell into a paradise, 
to worry about a stupid old retired officer. 
He has no vote in England, nor can he ever 
affect their poHtical careers. 

And why all these feverish military prepara- 
tions ? Either to invade Ulster when the time 
of a settlement and peace comes, or, if the 
Truce is broken, to massacre the R.I.C. and the 
Loyalists. 

About this time a constable, transferred from 
the south-west to Ballybor, brought with him 
a story — he swore it was true — ^which will take 
a queer lot of formulae to explain away. Not 
long ago the I.R.A. ran a cargo of arms on the 
coast where he was stationed, openly, with the 
poHce looking on. The police at once reported 
the affair, and were told that it did not matter 
as the arms would never be used. 

Presumably the authorities meant that these 
arms would not be used against the Crown 
forces ; but what about loyal Ulster, and those 
most unfortunate of people to-day in Europe, 
outside of Russia, the southern Irish Loyahsts ? 

Apparently the I.R.A. chiefs are believers 
in games for their men, as witness the follow- 



THE TRUCE. 311 

ing advertisement which appeared in the Bally- 
bor shop windows : — 

GEEAT FOOTBALL MATCH. 



NORTH BALLYRICK FLYING 
COLUMN, I.R.A. 

V, 

BALLYBOR PATRICKITES. 



PAY YOUR SHILLmG AND SEE 
HOW WE ENJOY THE TRUCE. 

The Transport Union unwittingly suppHed 
the comical element of the situation when 
they started a great row with the I.R.A. 
people in Ballybor. It appeared that the 
I.R.A. had been in the habit of not paying the 
Union rate of wages to the stalwarts of the 
Transport Union for digging trenches across 
roads and breaking down bridges during the 
war, and now they were furious because the 
I.R.A. refused to pay up the difference, and 
threatened them with all sorts of horrible 
things. And the I.R.A. laughed at them. 

People in England have not the remotest 
conception of the terrible Frankenstein mon- 
ster which De Valera & Co. have reared up 
and armed in Ireland, a hideous monster of 
murderous and armed gunmen, fearing neither 



312 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

God nor man, which in the summer of 1921 
was on the point of being exterminated by- 
British bayonets to make this beautiful island 
of Ireland once more a clean and wholesome 
land, where men might dwell in peace. 

That chance has gone. Will it ever occur 
again ? And if it does will the British Govern- 
ment seize their opportunity like men and rid 
Ireland of this terrible menace ? Or will they 
again be found wanting, groping after some 
wretched formula ? 

Do people reahse why De Valera acts the 
part of the coy fly in hesitating to enter Mr 
Lloyd George's talking parlour ? The sinister 
reason is that if he once gives up his claim to 
an Irish Republic he seals his own doom. The 
day he enters into a conference with the 
British Government on these conditions, the 
Irish RepubHcan Brotherhood signs his death 
warrant, and well he knows it. 

But if, for argument's sake, a so-called 
settlement is arrived at, what becomes of De 
Valera' s Frankenstein monster ? 

Will it beat its automatics into reaping- 
hooks and convert its machine-guns into potato- 
sprayers ? Possibly in the minds of Enghsh 
Radicals, but nowhere else. 

And when the Welshman and the Mexican 
have fooled the Enghsh and the southern Irish 
with a formula, do they think that any formula 
ever phrased would fool Ulster ? 

On the day that an Irish Repubhc is set up 
(Dominion Home Rule is only another name 
for it), Sinn Fein, its raison d'etre accomplished, 



THE TRUCE. 313 

dies ; but out of its corpse will arise two 
parties, or rather armies (for all men in Ireland 
are armed to-day except the Loyalists), one 
consisting of the farmer shopkeeper class, while 
the other will be the Citizen Army of the 
Bolshevist Labour Party. 

The rank and file of the I.R.A. consists of 
farmers' sons, young townsmen, shop assist- 
ants, and the like ; they expect either a fat 
pension for life or twenty acres of land. Both 
have been freely promised to them, and both 
are equally impossible. 

And these disgruntled gunmen, all armed, 
will take sides according to their sympathies, 
and before many months are past these forces 
will be at each other's throats. And the 
national air of Ireland will be the " Red Flag." 

Like Kerensky in Russia, De Valera will dis- 
appear in the welter of revolution. 

The R.I.C. will have vanished — they have 
already been told that when the " Cease fire " 
sounds, they mil be given a month to clear 
out of Ireland, lock, stock, and barrel. 

The surrender to Sinn Fein by the British 
Government is a good example of the evil 
which can be brought about by that modern 
plague, skilful and unscrupulous propaganda. 

The sooner the good elements in England 
wake up and combine to insist that the neces- 
sary action is taken in Ireland to enforce law 
and order, the better it will be for both coun- 
tries and the Empire. 

The English people have been fooled by a 
press which carefully suppressed all news of 



314 TALES OF THE R.I.C. 

the true state of affairs in Ireland, and then 
gave lying and distorted accounts. 

It is futile to say that the remedy for false 
reports Hes with the law. All honest men 
know that a clever lawyer in a court of law 
can make a half or three-quarter black he 
appear a whole truth white as driven snow, 
as easily as a smart and up-to-date accountant 
can juggle with a balance-sheet to show + or 
— half a miUion as the necessity arises. 

The day will come in Ireland when men will 
pray to God for a sight of the good old green 
uniform of the R.I.C. And it will be too late. 



fKlNTED BV WILLIAM BLACKWOOD ANP SOXa. 



BOSTON COLLEGE 




9031 00017034