More Recollections of “The Troubles”

I joined the old I.R.A in England in 1917 or 18 – I couldn’t be sure of the year. I was sworn in by an Englishman, the son of Irish parents, in a room in Birmingham. Of course the I.R.A. were banned in England and I was searched once by the Police and they got a note in my pocket to attend a meeting but they couldn’t make it out. Later they came looking for me and one night when I was out I was arrested and brought into the barracks in Birmingham. They questioned me about the I.R.A. and I told them I wasn’t a member, which I was, but if I said I was they wouldn’t let me go.

I came home from England about six months before the truce and joined the I.R.A. here. Some of them followed De Valera and some Cosgrave and that caused the split. Before the split the I.R.A. were active and I remember making a cave in Englishtown to hold some of the leaders. There were two men in Englishtown who were supposed to be hidden there – Tom Concannon and Malachy Keaveney. Keaveney was from Stonetown where Malachy Egan is now.

I knew Jeremiah Mee from Knickanes personally. He joined the R.I.C. and was involved in the mutiny in the Barracks in Listowel and acted as spokesperson for the Station Party. A Colonel Smith was on inspection and he told the R.I.C. to go out at night and to shoot at sight. The R.I.C. resented the fact that the Black and Tans were being joined up with them and the military were being associated with them in the barracks. Mee said something like, “ By your accent you’re an Englishman but in your ignorance are you aware that you’re talking to Irishmen?” He took off his coat and threw it on the table and said, “That’s English” and then the bayonet and said, “That’s English too and to hell with England”. Mee was a real gentleman type – so I thought anyway, and everyone liked him. He always had that couple of tales to tell and at a dancehall when he’d start talking everyone would be quiet to hear what he had to say. It would be something important and he had a great sense of humour.

Black and Tans

We were in the church one Sunday and we could see some of the people looking out the door and when we went out there were ten or eleven Black and Tans there and they lined us all up outside and there was an R.I.C. man and I saw him walking over and he said something like, “If there’s to be a war let it be a bloody war”. Then they cleared out. That type of thing didn’t happen too often. They’d be afraid to come unless they were in big numbers and often they’d come unknown to you in the middle of the night.They burned Ballinastack Hall one night – I remember it well. We were coming from a dance over beyond Curragh, myself and John Finnegan from Cloonlara and we were singing Sinn Féin songs all the way home and we met a man named Fahy, Ned’s uncle, and he told us he had seen the Tans. We asked him where they were and he said that they were at a dance and added, “Ye’re dancing days are over”.  I can tell you the singing stopped when we seen the hall on fire. When we were at Ardeevin school we heard a motor car running near the school and we went hell for leather back the fields. We were living in Cloonlara at the time and Jack Kelly came and stayed at our house till daybreak.

All the bridges around here were blown up. I was at the blowing up of Boyounagh bridge. We suspected that the Tans were coming so we blew it up and I was at the burning of the barracks in Dunmore. We heard that the British were going to come and stay in it and we thought it better to burn it.

When the Tans were in Dunmore you couldn’t go near it. It was a frightening experience to be held up by them. Many of them were young fellows and it was believed that many of them were in jail in England and were let loose to come over here to Ireland. They got their freedom to join the Irish Constabulary – ‘The Finest force in the world’. I saw the poster up myself in England and they were offered £1 a day.

The Tans joined forces with the R.I.C. and that caused a lot of resentment and a lot of the R.I.C. resigned. That was what started the mutiny in Listowel Barracks when Gerry Mee led the revolt. Jeremiah used to come to our house to hear my father playing the fiddle. That was when the dances were in the houses. We used to do our drilling – even after the truce – up at Rattigans in Creggaun and over at the back of Mulryans in Mountkelly where Auty Walsh lived. Pat Jeffers was Captain of our column. Michael Geraghty was on the staff and Martin Ryan, Kilsallagh, was O.C.. Pat Treacy was Captain before Pat Jeffers. God rest all that’s dead and gone. We had no uniforms but we had guns. The I.R.A. had a review in Ballymoe after the truce and everyone had to bring their guns. They took up all the guns there and I never saw them after that.

Author: William Timothy, Stonepark – Glan to Glan 1978