TALES OF THE
TALES OF THE
William Blackwood and Sons
Edinburgh and London
ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
MAY 2 9 1990
BOSTON COLLEGE LIBRARt
CHESTNUT Kill, MA Q7\&t
TWF, INFORMER ....
ON THHl RUN .....
TTTR LANDING OF ARMS .
thh; red cross ....
THh; R.M. . . .
THE STRANGER WITHIN THE GATES .
MR BRIGGS' ISLAND ...
THE REWARD OF LOYALTY
THE mayor's conscience
A BRUTAL MURDER
A FAMHiY AFFAIR ....
THE AMERICAN NURSE . . . .
FATHER JOHN . . . . .
thh; bog cemetery . . . .
A JEW IN GAELIC CLOTHING .
THF. GREAT ROUND UP .
TALES OF THE E.I.C.
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
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
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
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-
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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-
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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-
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
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-
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
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
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
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
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-
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
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,
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.
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.
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
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
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-
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-
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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-
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-
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
One evening, on his return from an ambus-
cade, Patrick found a wire from Sheila, saying
that her patient had suddenly died in Switzer-
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-
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
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
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
[^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
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-
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
The few Volunteers now left threw down
their arms, put up their hands, and the fight
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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-
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
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
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
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-
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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-
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
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
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
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,
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-
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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-
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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'
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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-
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 ?
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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-
car, and in this, after obtaining the necessary
pohce permit through Blake, they drove straight
down to the west, and took up their quarters
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
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
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
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
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
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
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-
^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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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
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-
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-
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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-
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
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-
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
The sailors and pohce now beat the island
towards the west end, and after a hard scramble
over the sand-hills captured the remaining
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
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
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
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
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
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
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-
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,
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-
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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-
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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-
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
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-
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 !
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
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-
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
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
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
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
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,
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
Blake knew that at last he was on the right
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-
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
260 TALES OF THE R.I.C.
gun at their heads to join the Union steadily
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
.^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
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.
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-
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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-
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
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.
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-
But nothing surprised and dismayed Irish
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
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
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
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 !
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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-
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-
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
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
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.