Monthly Archives: February 2017

Black and Tans. Chapter 4 .IRA Pep talk

  1. Jim London. (JIM LSJ) ex soldier wants to be hangman. socialist. ———–


2. Vinny Conlan (Vinny Cochrane) actor. brainy. inquisitive. ———-


3. Gerry  Nagle (G Nagle) insurance company salesman. conman.


4. William Hendricks. (Wesley Hendricks) builder. cousin killed in Easter Rising. ——–


5. Peter Lynne (Pearse Lynne) teacher——–


6. Jonathan Wynn (Jonathon Roberts) painter and decorator. granny died in famine. hates blacks. ———————


7. Pascal Harrington (Causkey)  labourer


8. Alex East (Alex Asgari) labourer. Pal murdered by UPA. ————


9. Damian Walsh (D W) farmer————————–


10. Roger Tooth (Roger Tooth) travelling salesman robber


11. Robert Johnson  (J Roberts univ) chemist


12. Laurence Dale. (aMpleforth ex soldier teacher) ex soldier


13. Sean Tussock (Zhangir T) coal importer’s son


14.  Niall Tussock (Nurzhan) coal importer’s son


15. Henry Tussock (uncle Hal) coal importer


16. Gabriel Tussock (coal importer)


17. Charles Williams (Will Charles) solicitor’s clerk. Irish lang enthusiast——-


18. Benedict Thompson (B Thompson) solicitor’s clerk. GAA——-


19. Kenneth Adams. ( A K ) farmer. religious reactionary——-


20. Michael English (Magnus) labourer. tags along. feeble. becomes informer


21. Seamus Simons (Simon I F ) barman————————-


22. Henry Brannock ( Henry W B) labourer.



The IRA were gathered in a cow byre on a hill that towered behind Clountreem town. There were no cattle inside the byre but there had been till recently. All the better to allay the suspicions of the RIC.  Two  IRA men with rifles stood guard on the hillock outside – in case the police came. It was raining softly. One IRA sentry wore a beige trenchcoat and grey trilby. His black trousers were very worn but his  black boots were almost new. The other IRA sentry wore a mid green duffle coat and had a grey cloth cap on his head. Eyes narrowed against the breeze he drew on a cigarette and scanned the horizon.

Inside the cow byre the IRA commandant got to his feet. He was Peter Lynne – a 40 year old man of plump proportions. He wore a cap over his balding pate and the black greying hair was swept back over his head. Lynne had a round and reddish face. His teeth had a few gaps in them and he was a man of very changeable temperament. There were open windows in the cow byre – no glass. These apertures afforded enough light to allow the men to see. It was warm for January despite the sheeting rain.

All the others sat on rough and ancient wooden benches. Inside the IRA commandant said

”Men, we are here for training as you know. Weather is showery. Before we get down to drill and musketry we will have an orientation session. Remind ourselves why we are fighting and what we are fighting for. We are fighting to rid our land of the English invaders. Drive them into the sea. Till not one English soldier is left in Ireland – alive that is.


We will set up a republic. No police and no taxes. As principal of the national school I taught most of ye. I did not hide the facts about the economic exploitation of our people. 

The English are an immoral race. The invented divorce. They founded the Church of England on the syphlitic mickey of Henry VIII. Church of Ireland is a carbon copy of it. These Protestants here are not really Irish. They are invaders too. They look down on us. They rule us and they fool us through the press. They own the newspapers. They exploit us. They own the land and banks. We shall take back our land from the English and the Protestants. English and so-called Irish Protestants are one and the same – Sassenach. The Prods are a garrison community. I am not saying to kill all these black Prods. But they must return the farms they stole from us 300 years ago. They stole all the holy places. The cathedrals are ours not theirs. They believe in heresy. So we shall drive out the occupier and the blasphemer. Each Prod deserves one bullet.

A few Catholics are hirelings too. They have taken the King’s shilling. Those who have sold out their nation shall get their just deserts. All nations are agreed on the fate of traitors. Be on your guard. We must be vigilant for Catholics who betray their own people. They may call themselves nationalists but they are not. This is a war. Make no mistake. There are two sides – the English side and the Irish side. There can be no middle ground. There can be no compromise. One side will be totally destroyed. Let it not be Ireland. 

We will bring back our glorious language. We shall not speak English any more. Irish is the finest language in the world. We have more words than any other language

We will take the Isle of Man. We will liberate Scotland and Wales. We will drive the Saxons out of England and back to Germany. The English are Anglo Saxons from Germany. Ireland used to rule England before the barbarians came. The English in that late war were stupid enough to fight their cousins the German. Isn’t King George half German? Fighting his cousin Kaiser Bill, do you see? The English are a funny race – very stupid. They only won that war by the gallantry of the Irishmen in their army.

We are the most intelligent and civilised people on earth. We are the best musicians, poets and story tellers. Our smiths produce the most intricate artwork. Our culture is cherished the world over. We kept the lamp of civilisation burning in the dark ages. We are an isle of saints and scholars. We brought Christianity to the benighted English. We saved them from Napoleon. What thanks did we get? We are oppressed and ripped off.

The English choose a lion as their symbol. Yes, they are lions because lions only attack when it is several of them against a defenceless victim. Lions are also very greedy. The lion’s share. We shall beat the English because they have no courage.

We, the Irish are super soldiers. The Irish Brigade fought many glorious battles.  The Irish Brigade in the Spanish Army made Spain a super power in the 17th century. The Irish Brigade in the French Army meant that France was  a Great Nation. When there was an Irish Brigade in the Austrian Army they ruled the middle of Europe. We have produced a president of France – MacMahon. 

The Duke of Wellington won the Battle of Waterloo. It was an Irish victory. The English have the cheek to claim it. The Brits are a lot of chancers and frauds. We turned against Napoleon because he turned against the Holy Catholic Church. The English are called Anglo-Saxons or Angles. Why are they angles? Because they are crooked. Never trust the word of an Englishman. They are congenital liars. You all know Arthur Griffith – founder of Sinn Fein. He pointed out how the Englishman and the Jew are confederates in their schemes. 

The Irish in America won the civil war for the North. 

The Irish Brigade in the Boer Army fought in the Boer War. Our men saved the Boers singled handedly for two years. But some treacherous Irishmen joined the English Army and the Boers lost . We support the Boer commandos in South Africa. In honour of them we use the rank commandant as they did. We all admired President Kruger [Lynne pronounced it ‘Kroojer’].

The Irish Brigade in the Germany Army in this Great War won most of Germany’s victories. Sadly there were not enough Irishmen there to win the whole war for our gallant ally the Kaiser.

Ireland has an empire – a mighty empire. We rule the United States and Australia. President Wilson is an Irishman and we have invited him to Ireland. In Australia we defeated the Aborigines. Our men liberated Argentina and Chile. Remember Bernardo O’Higgins. An Irishwoman ruled Paraguay. Our priests have brought Catholicism and civilisation to the benighted peoples of Africa, India and China. Our engineers and doctors have done so much for those people. There is a place near Australia called New Ireland. This is yet more proof of what we have done for the benighted races. 

The English are an inferior breed. They are very ignorant. Yet they are arrogant shits too. I admit they have a low cunning. They get others to do their fighting for them. Never forget the British are crooks and conmen.

We invented the submarine. William Holland. We invented writing.

Englishwomen are whores. The English are immoral. We do not want their syphlitic race here. One in four Englishmen is born out of marriage. They want to bring their disgusting ways here. Their men are sodomites. Their culture is vile. They are scum. The smutty seaside postcard – vulgarity. Music hall jingoism. Penny dreadful novels.  The English have no self respect – look at Gilbert and Sullivan. It took an Irishman called Sullivan to show the English how ridiculous they are. They are a rude and unlettered race. The English are degenerates and alcoholics. They have introduced alcohol into Ireland. They tried to get us drunk to enfeeble us and enslave us. Ireland sober is Ireland free. Some republican men have got drunk and then sold out to the English. They turned informer for the price of a pint. Thirty pieces of silver. Remember the rebel song the Boys of Wexford – ”We bravely fought and conquered at Ross and Wexford Town/ And if we failed to keep them twas drink that brought us down/ We had no drink beside us on Tuberneering’s day/ Depending on the long bright pike and well it worked that way.”

The Protestants own the breweries and the distilleries. Jamesons, Bushmills, Guinness, Beamish, Cork Dry Gin, Murphy’s – all Prod owned. Remember the tax on alcohol. Every time you buy a pint you are paying tax to King George. Every penny you pay is a bullet in the gun of an English soldier. If you must drink then drink poteen made at home. Do not buy it when it is taxed by the enemy. 

We shall have Brehon Law again. That is the supreme form of justice studied by legal scholars across the globe.

There may be traitors n the village. There are boot lickers of the baronial class. So watch out for those who would sell their own mother. Look out for Judas. The RIC, Irishmen in the English Army or Navy. Judges even civil servants. Sold their birthright for a mess of potage. We shall have revenge on them. But a few of them are on our side – they do good by stealth and help us. 

There are many informers so be careful what you say. Do not go saying anything about the Volunteers to anyone – even your wife. She might blurt it out.

”Commandant – how do we know an informer?” asked one of the men.

”Informers are Protestants. They are Catholic ex soldiers, they are alcoholics. That is how you know them”

Never forget the English are barbarians. They have murdered our youth, raped our women, tortured our old men and bayoneted babies.  The Englishman is a coward and a brute. He only fight when he has a 10 to 1 advantage and artillery to boot. We have thrashed the British savages before and we shall do it again. We used to raid Great Britain for slaves. They were slaves in the slave markets of Rome. We had a literature while the Briton was a hairy ape;

The English and the Jews plotted the Great War. In 1908 the Freemasons met with the Jews and they conspired to start a war in 1914. The English are run by a Masonic cabal. Churchill and Lord Rothschild are the wire pullers of wars. They provoked the Germans into attacking Russia and Belgium. It was all part of a nefarious plot of their to conquer Germany. The English then slaughtered Belgian civilians. They blamed it on the Germans.

Vinny Conlan, one of the volunteers had listened intently. He was 25 and prematurely greying. He was slender and pale though with rosy cheeks. A gap in between his two front teeth distinguished him. He was a scruffy and manly type. He raised his hand,

”Commandant Lynne” Conlan addressed Peter Lynne most formally ”You said that Protestants are not Irish but then you mentioned the Duke of Wellington as an Irishman. He was a Protestant.”

”Ah no I never said that” Lynne looked a little embarrassed that his contradiction had been exposed. He wished he was in school where he could cane a boy for having the impertinence to ask a pertinent question ”I never said that Prods are not Irish. We accept them as Irish. Tis they say they are not Irish. There are some Prods are good and we accept them. We are not sectarian.”

”I see Commandant Lynne. That clears that up for me.”

Vinny Conlan wanted to point out that many Irishmen fought for the Confederacy in the American Civil War but thought it unwise.

”Remember we have beaten the English many times before. We shall do so again. In South Africa the English crushed the Boer people’s freedom. The Boer cause was our cause. We salute Kruger. The English wanted to take the land off the Boers and give it to the niggers of South Africa. That was disgraceful. There were some Englishmen like Cecil Rhodes saying that educated black men should have the vote. That was an outrage. The nigger is half devil and half child.   We are not niggers or Chinamen. Yet the British treat us  like them Confucians or blackies. The English are a mongrel race. They let blackies, Indians and Chinamen into their country. They are now half breeds. They miscegnate with these lower races. Go to any English port and you will see children of mixed blood. The English whores consort with the dark races. We deserve freedom.  We are white men and Christians. The English may be foul but they are white. We do not wish to take their independence away from them. If the English had been conquered by the Germans that would have been different. The English are Saxons – the Germans are their kinsman only the Englishman is too stupid to know it. As Arthur Griffith said we are like the Hungarians. We can become absolutely independent and revive our language. Our language is infinitely superior to English. The English took our tongue away and so they tried to rob us of our identity.  But still we speak English better than the English amadans do. The stars of English literature are Irish from Sheridan, to Goldsmith to Wilde. All true Irishmen. I know most of ye cannot speak Irish but we shall soon remedy that.”

The Gaelgoir raised his hand ”Commandant Lynne – when freedom comes shall we have Irish as the sole official language of the republic and suppress English? We should make it illegal to speak English”

”I am not sure about that? Ban it totally? Maybe. Perhaps encourage people to switch back to our native language. English will die a death. Anyway French is going to dominate the 20th century” said Lynne.

The Gaelgoir scowled. He clearly thought this answer was maladroit.

”Now the training officer will introduce himself and tell ye a few words. ” said Lynne.

Jim London stood up. He was 25 and had very thin dark brown hair. His eyes were small and far back in his skull. His cheekbones were prominent and he looked almost oriental. His complexion was darkly reddish. There was a barely suppressed violence to his manner. Jim London was heavily muscled and spare: he stood 6 foot tall. He wore a broad black brimmer.

”Good morning comrades” he said in a Cork accent. ”I am Captain Jim London the training officer. I am from Macroom as some of ye know. I was a butcher’s boy there. Then I went off to join the Irish Guards in London. Served in the British Army for a few years. I got promoted. But I fought with my officers who were anti Irish. I deserted the Brits rather than fight for them when they were crushing Irish freedom. Came back to Ireland. I was imprisoned for republican activities. Here I am. 

We have to know this is not just a national revolution. This is a social revolution.”

There were murmurings of dissent. Lynne looked appalled;


”Ok not every one of ye is a socialist. But put it like this. We are the Catholics – the poor. The Prods are the rich. They are the exploiter class. That is why this is a religious war and a class war. We will take property off the rich Prod blood suckers and we will own it in common. Remember the Irish Citizen Army? James Connolly in the Easter Rising? He and his men were socialists. The Irish Citizen Army has now become part of the IRA. We are fighting to feed the poor. Never forget that. We will have socialism like in Russia where Lenin has guaranteed absolute freedom of religion and freedom of speech. Free elections and every person has plenty to eat. Fair trials. ”


Then Commandant Lynne opened the door. ”The rain has eased off a little. Captain London – would you like to take some of them men off for rifle training?”

”Yes, I would. Now we have only ten rifles. So I shall have ten men. The rest of you stay here. ” said Captain Jim London.

”Right. The lecture on patriotic history shall continue. I need to motivate you. You need to be pysched up to face the merciless foe.” said Lynne.



They were in a dell surrounded by thick woods. The IRA and before it the Fenians had liked training in this secluded spot. The sylvan surrounding absorbed the sound. They could fire here safe in the knowledge that no one would hear the noise more than half a mile away. There was very little danger of the RIC being alerted to what they were up to.

Jim London talked his squad through the parts of a rifle. In fact they had an assortment of firearms: shotguns and revolvers amongst them. The revolvers belonged to volunteers Nagle and Tooth. Nagle and Tooth insisted on having their revolvers back after the session. As the rifle was supposed to be the firearm issue to all the training concentrated on how to use a rifle. Some had never seen one before. He demonstrated how to strip one and reassemble it. This was done several times. He spoke to them about how to hold it and take aim. Then he demonstrated by shooting a few tree trunks.

After half an hour London had his men start firing. They had to be very sparing with shots because ammunition was so limited.

London relaxed and did not closely supervise his men. Jim London spoke to one of the volunteers – a 17 year old called Seamus Simons who wore a slouch hat. Seamus Simons had blond bouffant hair and a fox’s face. He was 5’6” and weedy. His squeaky voice carried and his skin was tanned. He had blue eyes that were full of mischief and a furtive manner.

”I don’t like that Lynne too much” Jim vouchsafed unwisely. ”He is in the IRB. Those IRB boys think they are so special. We should not have a secret society within an army.”

”I know Lynne is so arrogant. Like the English! He taught me when I was at the national school.” said Simons

”What was he like?” said Jim London

”A brute. I know every teacher has to beat you but he beat us more than any. And he was so into grammar. Whipping us for the slightest mistake. His father before him was the same.” said Simons

”You know he is the head of the IRB here and only because his old man was too. At least his old man fought in 1867. Unlike this fellow – Peter Lynne. Full of talk all right. He is good at talking history but has never touched a gun.” said London.

”Did he not teach you?” said Simons.

”Ah no. I am from Macroom remember? Only moved here when I was 12 so I had left school by then.” said London..

Kenneth Adams overheard the conversation. Adams was a slim but not weak. He was in his early 20s and a shock of mid brown hair was swept above his energetic eyes. He mouth was always a little open and his teeth were sharp. Spittle gathered in the corners as he spoke excitedly. ”I do not like Lynne either – nor the IRA. Oath bound societies are forbidden by papal bulls in eminenti and quo gravoria.”

”How do you know about papal bulls or whatever? You speak Latin?” said Jim London nonplussed.

”Yes, I do” said Adams preening himself. ”I spent a couple of years in Maynooth but I did not get ordained.” He looked down and blinked at the ground.

”Why not?” asked Jim London.

”Caught in a clinch with a girl.” said Adams

”Ah well – you are a great soldier for the IRA. Getting a shift with that girl – Twas God’s way of sending you to us , do you see?.” said London.

”And it is the IRA I am in – the people’s army. Not the IRB a lot of plotters. They seem like the Masons to me. There are Protestants in the IRB you know. ” said Adams

”That is why their risings always fail. They are full of informers. Prods are ratting them out.” said London.

”You know that Fr Meagher? I knew him at Maynooth. People said he was a sodomite.” said Adams

”Now, I am not that religious but there are certain things I will not stand for. You do not go calling a priest a sodomite!” Jim London twisted his head and gurned his face menacingly.

”Ah no. Sorry. I did not mean it” said Kenneth Adams laughing wanly. ”That was a bad joke.” He took out a packet of cigarettes and offered them around. He then lit up and smoked anxiously.

”The English are on the run. Haven’t I a brother in the English Navy? He was out in India lately. Bombay like. In the narrow streets there some English sailors are knifed to death. India is in uproar. The English will be kicked out of there next year” said London.

”Don’t compare us to the Indians” said Adams ”We are not niggers. Indians are heathen. The Indians are Hindus – praying to Mohammed. Indians burn widows and perform human sacrifice!”

”You are right.” said London.

”The English are terrible imperialists. The French are different. They are on a civilising mission. Bringing Catholicism to Africa and Indochina. That is why the people of Algeria are turning to Catholicism” said Adams




Commandant Lynne continued, ”Our Church is a church of the poor. The church does good work for the needy. The Pope is humble as Jesus Christ.”

Vinny Conlan put up his hand again.

”Commandant Lynne – but the Pope lives in the lap of luxury. Bishops live in palaces with cellars full of wine.”

”Ah well the pope needs to live in a manner befitting his dignity. Cardinals are princes of the church. It is only right. They are highly educated men and they work very, very hard. The need comfort. Bishops need to be able to entertain. Anyway we are still a church for ordinary people. The Protestants are rich.” said Lynne. 

”Commandant Lynne” Conlan continued ” I have been to France and almost everyone there is Catholic rich and poor. The wealthy are keener on the church than the penniless. And as for Protestants being affluent  – well some are. But there are plenty of working class Protestants. Even in Cork. Some Protestants are poor. They are unemployed too.”

”All right occasionally you will meet a poor Prod but in general they are richer than us. Aristocratic locusts. They are pro English. They benefit form English oppression because they steal from us. The Prod landlords exploited us for centuries. Now they can pay us back. We shall take back the land that the bastards stole; The Saxons and the Prods are lice;’

A cheer went up with that line.

”We shall liberate Ireland and  then Scotland and Wales” said Lynne

”Commandant Lynne – I know that we in Ireland want independence.” said Conlan, ” I want it as much as the next man. I do not think the Scots do. We have no business interfering in their affairs or Welsh affairs. The Scots are Unionists almost every last one of them. I have been to Glasgow and seen all the Union Jacks. They are royalists.”

”That is only because the English Army keeps them down,” Lynne sounded irritated.

Vinny Conlan scowled in disagreement. He realised he had overstepped the mark. Conlain recognised he better not speak too freely again.

”All right men ye can have a break” said Lynne.

The men sauntered outside and many lit cigarettes.

Lynne took Conlan aside. ”What the hell you doing? Who do ye think ye are? Spreading dissent in the ranks? Are ye a republican or a West Brit? I will have no more insubordination. You know the penalty for high treason to the Irish Republic?”

”Commandant Lynne” said Conlan striving to be respectful ”We are fighting for freedom. That includes freedom of speech. I am entitled to ask questions and to disagree. I will fight the English the same as you. I still have my rights. I will obey orders.”

”My order is to shut your face. No more questions that undermine the faith of the men in the cause. This is indoctrination” said Lynne with menace. Conlan’s eyes went wide and round with fear.

Lynne then ambled outside. He lit up a woodbine too.

”Tis great we have Dev in America” said one ” Raising publicity for the cause.”

”De Valera?” said Lynne ”I do not trust that half breed Spaniard too much. You know they say he is a bastard. I mean a real bastard. Mother was not married. Do we want a Spaniard to rule Ireland? Anyway he is only head of Sinn Fein. I know he calls himself President of Ireland. Tis the IRA that really counts. They say Dev wanted to be a priest but could not because those born to unwed mothers cannot be ordained.”

“That is a lot of British propaganda” said another;

“All right tis only  a rumour” Lynne conceded.

One man said ”Me cousin was in the British Army out in South Africa. You know what the English did the cowards? They let Indians fight. They let Indians shoot at the Dutch. It is a disgrace to let Indians fight white men. The Dutch in South Africa are heroes like. It is their country. The English wanted the Dutch to let some blacks have the vote. An outrage! The English only attacked the Dutchmen in Africa because the Dutch are Catholics like.”

Later they went back into the byre.

Lynne said, ”Men, now is a chance for those of ye who want to stand up and tell the others why you are fighting for the Irish Republic.”

”I am a Gaelgoir. I was in the Gaelic League. Our language is our identity. I want Irish to be the real language of daily life. I am 100% Irish and I want ye to all be too.” said Charles Williams. He was a dapper man of 20. His light brown hair was very carefully brushed and heavily geled. His wore brightly polished black leather laceups – he had taken care to get as little mud on them as possible. His blue chinoes were pressed. Charles Williams wore a smart white and blue striped shirt – rather too formal for the occasion. His lime green sweater was a little effete as befits a bank clerk. He as handsome and had hooded eyes. His skin was a little tanned with a rosiness to his cheeks.

”I am a Marxist. We need to break away from the imperialist ogre. Help the other downtrodden races like India and South Africa get free” said Conlan.

Groans issued from the others.

Another volunteer stood up.

”I am in the GAA. We have our own sports, dancing, music, culture and language. We have ancient heroes. That is why I want us to be free.” said Benedict Thompson. They other applauded especially his team mates from the GAA club.

” My friend went to the North for work. He was murdered by loyalists terrorists. The RIC are not effective at stopping the UPA killing Catholics. Some RIC are even in the UPA. We will not be safe till we drive the English out and destroy their loyalist confederates.” said Alex East. East was a swarthy man in his 20s. His dark brown curly hair was very long and he affected a goatee. Alex East had hazel eyes and a turkey strut.

”We are a Catholic nation. It is our duty to establish the Catholic church as the sole legal religion in the state. Then we can have Catholic laws and moral purity. The holy places will be handed over to us. The Prods persecuted us for centuries. Now it will be their turn to be persecuted. The Church published a book saying the death penalty is acceptable for those who reject the faith.” So said Kenneth Adams. He was in his early 20s. He had mid brown hair that was just slightly untidy. He had a long but jolly face and a slim figure. His mid blue eyes were deranged and he was full of nervous energy. He wore tweed trousers and brown jodhpur boots. His white shirt had brown hatching on it.

”Me cousin was killed in the Easter Rising. I want revenge” said William Hendricks. He was young and 6’2” – he was spare and muscular with it. One could tell he was a builder just by looking at him. He had black hair with a slight receding hairline and very fair skin. He had hard blue eyes which betrayed a lack of intelligence or compassion. His teeth were a little gappy and his cheekbones were prominent. His chiseled face was not displeasing. ”I am 18 and almost 19. I will kill an Englishman before I am 20; so help me God!”

”My great grandmother died in the famine. Murdered by the Protestant landlord class. Let us have no more famines. We do not want to be treated like niggers. We are white. It is the darkies who should be slaves. And we shall have no Tinkers in free Ireland.  I hate the Tinkers more than I hate the English – I really do.” said Jonathon Wynn. He was 5’6” and in his mid 20s. He was a fat figure and appeared to have no neck. His mousy brown hair was thin and spiky. He had bulging bug lips and vindictive eyes. His face was exceptionally ugly and he had an aggressive and persecuted attitude to match.

Lynne said ”The English treat us like negroes. Yet the English let their women marry negroes. My cousin in New York says negroes are the lowest of the low. They rape our women and try to keep us out of jobs. ”

There were several men who did not voice their reasons for joining the volunteers. It had been a very effectual sessions from Lynne’s perspective. He needed to imbue his men with a will to fight. The needed to detest the enemy. Then the could bring themselves to kill. They had been well programmed.

Jim London later came back and took the other half of the men off for training.

Damian Walsh pulled Lynne aside. ”Commandant Lynne could I speak to you privately?”

”Yes, certainly Volunteer Walsh.”

They walked away from the others and around the back of the byre.

”That Jim London fellow – the training officer. He was in the British Army.”

”So a lot of men were. It was economic necessity drove them to it. Conscripted by poverty. Only way to get three meals a day like. He was not politically awake back then. I forgive him. At least he has military experience. He left rather than fight for the Brits when they were slaughtering our people.” said Lynne.

”No commandant. It is not that I object to. He says he was kicked out of the Irish Guards for assaulting an officer for being anti Irish. Every man in that regiment is Irish even if Protestant. I have a cousin was in that regiment. He says that London was kicked out for stealing from the others. Served a year in gaol. He came back here. He was a mugger in Ireland. Was in Cork Gaol for that. I know this because I was a court clerk. Do we really want such a man in charge of us?”

”Volunteer Walsh; maybe Captain London has done wrong but we will allow him to work off his crimes. Anyway twas the English that drove him to steal” said Lynne.

”He stole off the Irish not the English. The English say the IRA are brigands and thieves. If you allow Jim London in then that makes it true.”

”Walsh I will have no more of this. I am the commandant of this battalion and I make the recruitment decisions. Your comments have been noted” said Lynne his hair slick with sweat. Lynne then took a swig from his water bottle and gurgled..



Later the men sat down to a basic luncheon in the byre.

A chubby 5’7” man of 40 was holding forth. He had a round and white face with purple cheeks and a revolting appearance. He looked asthmatic. His name was Gerry Nagle. Nagle wore a blue jacket with curious brass buttons on them – they had some design on them. He had a low brow and crafty eyes. He wore an expensive white shirt and crooked limbs. His brown but greying hair was slicked back. Nagle had gold fillings and he ate greedily. His grey trousers were costly as were his shoes – they were too good to be drilling in. There were some medals pinned to his jacket. An expensive watch adorned his chubby wrist. Nagle looked arounf shiftily as if he had his eye out for a chance to purloin a few goodies. His receding chin only served to emphasise the hideousness of his bullfrog throat. Nagle slavered as as he stuffed food into his blubbery lips. His shape was unaccountable; could  a man be so obese and yet still move at a decent pace?

Beside Nagle sat a cadaverous man named Roger Tooth. Tooth was 5’9” – he had ruddy skin and hawkish eyes. His eyes were constantly narrowed – as though looking for an opportunity to steal. He was tense and shifty. There was an unmissbale meanness to him. It was blatant that he was forever calculating – his eye on the main chance. It was blatant that he had larcenous intent. There was a moral vacuity to him. He was clean shaven and his mid brown hair was carefully brushed.  Tooth appeared to be a man of few words. His eyes darted around the room – as though looking for things to steal. Tooth squinted and his sharp fangs formed into a deceptive smile. He sought to psychologically disarm others as he prepared to relieve them of their valuables. Tooth moulted a bit and hair and dandruff coated his slight shoulders. This dandruff was the only generous thing about him.

”Look at these buttons fellows. These are buttons from the Irish Brigade you do know that don’t you?” said Gerry Nagle.

”No, I didn’t” said Conlan dubiously.

”I was in the Irish Brigade fighting for the Boer republics against the British. Their cause is our cause.”

”Gerry” said Conlan ” you were 10 years old when that war ended.”

”I was not. I just look young.” Nagle dug himself in deeper.

”No you were ten when that war ended. You were born in 1892!” said Conlan insistently.

”Well I was a very young and valiant soldier” Nagle said without being self mocking.

Some of the men smirked.

”You see this medal” said Nagle tapping a medal on his chest. ”That was pinned on me by the Kaiser personally. I fought in the GPO. When the others surrendered at the Easter Rising I refused to give in. I fought my way out through the English lines. I killed 10 men some with my bare hands. 20 bullets I carry in my body!” he said with a dramatic flourish in his tone.

”Bullshit Gerry. Not funny.” Conlan cut him down. ”It is an insult to the men who really died for Ireland that an impostor like you should claim to have fought in the GPO.

”No it is true” Nagle stood up in protest. ”I spilled my blood for Ireland!” he said in ghoulish braggadocio.

” Spilled your beer more like” said Conlan, ”Gerry, you are a Walter Mitty.”

”I am not. I have fought and bled for Ireland more than any man here. I am cuchulain. And you know that Prince John – King George’s youngest son. He died last year. The newspapers say he died of pneumonia but he did not. I assassinated him. That is right – broke into Windsor Castle and shot him” said Nagle vaingloriously.

”Gerry he was a 14  year old simpleton. You shot an unarmed child? That would be a disgrace to Ireland” said Conlan.

”No, I am a hero. I will kill any Englishman I come across” Nagle said his eyes writhing. Gerry Nagle looked away. Others chortled and jeered. Gerry just blocked it out. He pretended it was not happening.

Conlan began to wonder if this fool believed his own fantasies. His lies were so extravagant and unreasoning it was as if he had tricked himself into thinking that his stories were veracious. Nagle was morally repugnant but could be accepted as Irish. His eloquence was quite something. Was Tooth even a Celt ?



Later the men were drilling on the flat land. Many carried hurleys as there were not enough rifles to go around.

The cry of greeting went up. Some of the boys had seen Fr Downy walking up the braes.

”Father Downy – welcome”

He smiled. He was a young an in excellent shape. The gathered around him and pumped his hand – patting him on the back.

The IRA gathered around him as his faced was beaming.

”Tis lovely to see ye lads. When I see ye with rifles in your hands I wish I could rip me dog collar off and take a rifle meself to go out and shoot the English. Most of the time the English soldiers are down the alleyways with hoors. Syphilis killed more English in the last war than the Germans did.”

They cheered him raucously.

”Remember what ye are doing is no sin. This is a just war. Make no mistake. Feel no guilt. It is Christian what ye are doing . It is an act of love. You are doing it as the motto of the IRA says – for the glory of God and the honour of Ireland. I give you God’s blessing. The clergy should be in the IRA. You know the rebel ballad Boolavogue? ”Brave Father Murphy God grant you glory. They burned his body upon the rack.”. The English have murdered and martyred many a priest and raped many a nun. Remember the Blessed Oliver Plunkett? The English are an immoral people. 1 in 10 of them is born outside of holy matrimony. They are a bastard race. They are not a pure people. The English are satan’s spawn. There can be no negotiation with the devil.  We are the best Catholics in Europe. The English have syphilis and that is why we shall defeat them” Father Downy scoured the faces of his men to see they were listening. He detected doubt in Conlan’s face. Downy loathed doubt – however insignificant.

Fr Downy then said a quick mass. There were decades of the rosary as well. A few could say the rosary in Irish but most could not. There were joyful mysteries and sorrowful mysteries to be reflected upon. He then blessed their rifles and prayed that their arms may be granted victory by the Most High.


Later Fr Downy spoke to Vinny Conlan

”Father,  in free Ireland could we have mass in Irish as it was in the time of Patrick.” asked Conlan.

”It was never in Irish always in Latin” said Fr Downy.

”But why not in Irish father? It was in Irish until the English came and forced us to have it in Latin” said Conlan.

”It was never in Latin” he was adamantine in maintaining that fallacy. ”It is in Latin. Because the pope says it must be in Latin and he is guided by the Holy Spirit.  You are not getting Protestant tendencies are you?”

”No, I am not. I want our Catholicism to be as Irish as possible” said Conlan. ”In the 19th century the Church of Ireland translated the liturgy into Irish – tried to preach to people in Irish. Did not win many converts. But surely there is something wrong when the Catholic Church does not say mass in Irish.  WHy not have mass in a language that the people actually understand? English even. Why in Latin? Just to be intellectually exclusive? The Church is not just for the clever or the educated. Most people left school at 12 and never did one lesson of Latin. The Church of Ireland which you say is an English organisation is willing to use Irish. I want us to be absolutely Irish.” said Conlan.

”The Catholic is as Irish as possible already. We will have an Irish pope soon” said Fr Downy

”Could we not have a cismontane church – keeping all the seven sacraments and the mysteries of the Blessed Virgin and all that but just worshipping in an Irish style” said Conlan.

”Catholic style is Irish style! We must be ultra montane. Obedience to the Holy Father is Ireland’s glory. When we went soft on that the English conquered us. I hate this heterodoxy from you Vinny Conlan” said Fr Downy adamantly.

”But did the pope not tell Henry II to bring us Catholicism?” said Conlan.

”That is an absolute English lie,” said Fr Downy.

”I was reading in the history books that the church spoke out against the 1798 rebellion” said Conlan.

”That is another English lie.” said Downy angrily. ”You must not believe everything you read. These books are filthy – printed by Protestant liars.”

”Were the leaders of the United Irishmen not Protestants?” asked Conlan.

”Yes, that is why it failed. They betrayed us” said Fr Downy with the firmest conviction.

”Father what should I do to understand the faith more deeply?” said Conlan.

”Read Cornelius Jansen. He has helped me understand the snares of sin. And stay away from Protestant propaganda. I am worried you have been looking at books on the Index Librorum Prohibitorum. Stop thinking too much. You ask too many questions. Shut your mind and believe. Do not yield to these trendy modern ideas” said Fr Downy.



At the end of the training sessions the rifles were spirited away to be hidden in a location known only to the quarter master sergeant.

Most rest repaired to a pub for revelry. Some teetotalers went home. Those in the public house drank. There they had a hooley. Porter was put away but more poteen. A single woman was there – presumed to be a prostitute. A respectable woman did not enter a pub on her own. A really respectable woman would not go in even with her husband.

Conlan then regaled them with a rendition of ‘The Banks of my own lovely Lee’ ”Where we sported and played neath the green leafy shade.”

Nagle then said ”Fellas I know the latest song. You know when that junior team in Fair Hill beat the older boys last year? Well here is the song”

Nagle stood on the bar and sang ”Here’s up them all said the boys of Fair Hill”. Nagle was a crook and a pathological liar but he had a dulcet voice. At the end they were half steamed and applauded him as a lovable rogue.

”I am the one who scored the winning goal” said Nagle.

”For the junior team? You said you were 40!” laughed Conlan.

”No, I did” Nagle doubled down. He was shameless and never one to let self contradiction make him admit the truth. He believed his own fantasies. ”I am a legend” he said defiantly. ”I have a 10 000 acre estate near Navan. Wonderful tillage there – fields of corn. We have a golden harvest. I will have you know I am on Christian name terms with the Duke of Devonshire.” He then effected a cut glass accent ”I say Gerry my dear boy how good of you to come to Chatsworth.” Gerry then reverted to his own accent ”You see like I said I am a legend”

”Yes” said Conlan smiling as a quip formed in his mind ”Because a legend is a story that is a lie!” The others laughed uproariously.

Nagle put his head downed and turned away. He hurried out of the room. That seemed to sum up Nagle’s attitude to the truth. He just would not face it. This would erase the humiliation in his mind. He was forever running away. He blocked the fact that he had exploited the friendship and compassion of others to steal from them even when they were poor.

Conlan got himself drunk but he was not a happy drinker. Soon he was stocious. His face was down and he was feeling morose. He blabbed to anyone who would listen. ”I do not like all this anti Protestant talk. Are we not to unite Protestant, Catholic and Dissenter?”

”Why do you love the Prods? Are you one? Sounds like you like the British – the Brits have brought us nothing but evil” as Hendricks contemptuously.

Conlan tried to painstakingly explain to Hendricks that the Protestants were Irish too. Some of them were Home Rulers or even republicans. They had a right to be in Ireland too. ”We were not always Catholics you know – we had our own Irish Church till the 12th century.” said Conlan.

”Trash! Dirty lies!” said Hendricks livid and quivering. Conlan had never seen him so irate. ”We were Catholic the day that St Patrick arrived in Ireland!”

”He was not sent by the pope. That is a mediaeval myth. You realise that St Patrick same from Britain” Conlan struggled to speak articulately as he was heavily inebriated.

”Shut your hole boy. I will rearrange your facial features if I hear one more word of blasphemy out of you about the sacred name of Patrick!” said Hendricks.

Through the fog of alcohol Conlan perceived that the threat was idle. He sagaciously chose to button his lip and slink off. He ingested no more beer.





Damian Walsh lived in the same direction as Lynne. Walsh spoke in a Cockney accent. ”Commandant Lynne; why have you got hat Nagle fella in the battalion?”

”We need all the men we can get” said Lynne.

”But you know he is a common criminal. He has been in prison for obtaining a pecuniary advantage by deception. The man is a pathological liar. Did you hear all that about saying he fought in South AFrica? It dishonours real heroes when a charlatan like that claims to have been in the Irish Brigade.” said Walsh

”So? Ah nobody is perfect.” said Lynne shrugging.

”And that fella Roger Tooth – you know Nagle’s pal? Tooth has been sent to gaol for theft and armed robbery.” said Walsh.

”Ah well the courts in this country are run by the Crown. You cannot trust the verdicts. He was convicted because he was republican.” said Lynne

”He was not. He only joined the IRA last month. My cousin’s house got broken into last year. She saw a skinny man in the dark. She thought it was Roger Tooth but he ran off. He is her neighbour. She would recognise him even in the dark. You know some people have been robbed by a masked man with a revolver on the road to Kanturk? People reckon that is Tooth.  The English call the IRA common criminals and you are making that become true. Yes, the courts here are run by the Crown but their decisions are sometimes fair. We would make the same decisions if independent. Many criminals are common criminals – thieves and sex maniacs like you find anywhere. ”

”Yerra shut up will you. Are you telling me the English Army has no thieves in it?” said Lynne fuming.

”No, I am not saying that but we are better than them” said Walsh reasonably.

”You sound like an Englishman to me with that English accent of yours. Listen we need every soldier we can get. Nagle and Tooth already have their own revolvers” said Lynne raging.

”But can we trust these bastards? They would do anything for money? They will be going around and robbing people saying they are doing it for the IRA. And when the RIC seek informants these two would be the first to sell us out for a few shillings” said Walsh.

”I have heard enough. I am the commandant. Now go home!” said Lynne.

Damian Walsh  grunted – raised his eyebrows and cocked his head. He had tried his damndest to persuade Lynne that he was making a huge mistake by letting such undesirables into the IRA.  Walsh turned off on his path to his cottage.

Later Peter Lynne trudged home. ”Back to feckin school on Monday. Teach those children? I might as well teach a school of fish.”


Black and Tans. Chapter three. Clountreem



Father Ricard Meagher was in bed. Beside him his boyfriend Benedict Thompson mumbled, ”Why did you become a priest?”

The porky 48 year old priest sat up and thought for a moment as he stroked the 25 year old athelete’s hair. The plump priest had tight pale red curls and a very round face. His skin had light brown freckles and his large mandibles were naturally smiley.

”Good question Benedict” said the chubby priest ”It was a mother’s vocation to some extent. You know growing up on a farm in Leitrim was not ideal for a bookish and dreamy boy like me. I was at the national school – three years ahead of myself. I wanted to go on to the secondary school. My father could not afford a bicycle and I could not walk 10 miles there and back to school every day. Thank goodness I got a scholarship to the diocesan college. I was never attracted to girls so that was no barrier.  They say God calls you. Well I wanted an education. That was the only way to get it. So I was an altar boy and attentive to the parish priest. I got to the diocesan college and then to Maynooth. Then there was a year in Rome – splendid year. Then it was back to Maynooth to be a scholar priest.  ” Fr Meagher spoke in a melodious camp timbre.

”So only for a career – not for God” said the young man sitting up. Benedict Thompson had chestnut hair and was broad shouldered. He was very muscular and 5’8”. He was very masculine and almost ugly in his unsophisticated looks. Benedict’s thighs were like tree trunks and he was hairy.

”Benedict” said Fr Meagher ”I believe in God at the time. It was only after I was ordained I lost my faith.”

”But God exists – everyone knows that. How can you not believe in God.?”

”Reason – a relentless process of logic. I also read the Golden Bough. The really amazing thing about the Vatican is I had access to every book on the Index of Prohibited Books. I read them all. My canon!”, he laughed camply.

”Well you should not be a priest if you do not believe. There you are preaching at mass”

”There are certain things we have to say in life. The noble lie such as I really liked the Christmas present. There are certain things we must never say – such as I love a man.”

”But is this love – can this really be love?”

”Yes of course it can. It is from my side” said Meagher looking hurt

”When I was a schoolboy there were some other boys I fancied. I did not do much. But I have danced with girls and kissed girls. What we are doing. It is sodomy. Isn’t it wrong?”

”No it is not. Just because society say it is a bad thing does not mean that it really is a bad thing. It has always existed even in Ancient Egypt”

”My father says that sodomy was invented by the English. They brought it to Ireland. Their soldiers raped Irish boys to turn them against nature.”

”nonsense. I am not saying that no English soldier ever did that. I never heard of a case though” he said in his Irish Midlands accent.

”How did you come to be down here in the countryside if you hate it so much?”

”It was going very well at Maynooth – lecturing in Philosophy. I was in the frame to be a professor. There was this beautiful seminarian – aged 21. A bit younger than what I normally go for. He and I had a fling. Turned out a bishop had the hots for him too. The bishop found out and became jealous. Now I am exiled to the countryside. Anyway I make the best of it. Until you came along it was like the dark side of the moon. There were occasional escapades when I went to Cork or Limerick. I know where to meet men of my bent. Certain parks of public conveniences. You would never guess what sort of men you meet there. The most normal seeming men. Married men with children. Not just sailors. Sometimes I met policemen there who were seeking a bit of diversion. But sometimes the police raid these places. But I was terrified of arrest. I actually got arrested twice. I managed to talk my way out of it – I persuaded them I was a priest. I had them fetched priests who are friends of mine who vouched for me that I really am a priest. Once they knew I was a priest I was released. The RIC wuld never charge a priest with gross indecency. It is not the RIC I am afraid of so much. It is if the bishop gets word of it. He might send mr tyo Equatorial Africa. I applied to go to lands with Napoleonic law like France or Italy”

”Napoleonic Law what is that?”

”You know the Code Napoleon. He set up a new system o f law. The crucial thing is he aboloshed the law against sodomy. Maybe because his brother Louise was a Ganymede.”

”So in France manly love is legal.”

”It is and in Italy. But then you came along and I wanted to stay here. There were a few men in the parish I sensed might be of my persuasion. But I dare not approach them in case I was wrong. Then in confession you told me of your urges and well  – here we are!”

”Were you not afraid of disease when you met all those men in public conveniences and parks ? I mean syphilis?”

”No, I was not. There is something I have only done with you and one other man I loved. As for the other thing – I am not too worried by a skin irritation. So I want to be here with you. And if you desert me then move to France.”

”Oh well could be fun.”

”Why are you stepping out with Assumpta Mullins?”

”Well she is a nice girl – decent family. Pleasant – fair of face.”

”Oh you are not going to marry her are you?”

”I might do”

”Oh please don’t leave me?”

”Why would I need to do that even if I do get married?”

”Well good point. You vow to swear off other women when you wed – not to swear off men.”

”But she might be suspicious. When I am going back to my parents well sometimes I saw 3 miles is too far to walk home from work so I spend the night with you”

”Yes, how charitable of me to let a young man stay over. I shelter the sojoruner. Corporal works of mercy and all that!”

”She might grow a bit suspicious of me sharing a room with you and even a bed.”

”Only in Ireland is this not seen as evidence that one is homosexial”

”What is homosexual? Would you tell me what is that?”

”That is a new word a German doctor invented. No more sodomite and catimite. These are opprobrious”

”Homosexual” he said quizzically.

The priest answered patiently ”It is from the Greek. Homo is same and sexual – well you know. It is a man who feels romantic love for other men. It could apply to a woman who feels romantic love for women.’

”What? I know there are men like us. But no women love women in a romantic way.”

”I can tell you that they do.”

”I never heard of that before.”

”You would not believe how often I have heard it in the confession box. Not just teenage girls who are unsure of themselves. It is called Sapphism. They usually grow out of it. More than a few nuns feel this way – they do not understand what they are feeling. They unburden themselves to me. Then there are married women who feel love for other women. They often feel wracked by guilt. They are disgusted with themselves  – in dismay.”

”What do you tell them?”

”That it is perfectly natural. That they may do as they please. God created them this way.”

”How can you talk of God when you have lost your faith?”

”It is what I am paid to do. I am this far in I cannot retreat. I have to pretend to believe. Many people do such things. I know it is self serving. But I also do good by stealth.  I tell others not to be filled with self loathing. When I am conducting a child’s funeral saying we are in sure and certain hope of resurrection I am not about to then say actually it is all bollocks and your child is dead as a door nail and not going to heaven. What good would that do? Only cause more grief. God is whatever we imagine him to be – him or her. We had goddesses in Ireland once. So let’s imagine him as benign and not judgemental.”

”Why do you not believe? Did the English make you atheist? It is that Englishman Darwin turned you atheist.”

”I do believe in Darwin’s findings. Any rational man does. Evolution can be compatible with faith. As it happens I do not believe in the super natural. It is all bunkum I am afraid. They whole thing is a hoax. But we are conditioned to believe it. Indoctrinated.If I was surrounded by Buddhism all my childhood I would believe in that. Hundreds of religions have existed – some are not forgotten. We are told all but one faith are false. We happen to be fortunate enough to have been brought up in the one true faith. What are the chances of that? Just fancy that? Mohammedans believe the same. It is arrant nonsense. But a lot of clever men believe it. It also suits them in their career. They believe for psychological treasons. Confirmation bias. Constantly reinforcing belief and suppressing doubt. We discourage questioning. We are not as bad as extreme Protestants. The published hose books the fundamentals. wE CAN believe in evolution because we do not believe in the verbal inerrancy of the Bible . We do not emphasise the Bible. I sometimes thought of being a Protestant. Liberal Protestantism is the least irrational creed but it would upset my mother too much. Would the Church of Ireland take me anyway?”

”Why are you not republican?”

”Nationalism is distasteful. Home Rule might be good for us. But there is no need to split from England. The connection has not been all bad. Of every pound of trade we do 19 shillings is with the British Empire. If we have Home Rule will this lead to total separation? If we had that an Great Britain put up tariff barriers that would ruin us.”

”That Michael Collins says we will be a rich neutral agricultural country like Denmark” said Benedict.

”If we go become a republic I hope he is right. By the way republics and the Catholic Church do not get on. You need only look at France There are Catholic republics – banana republics. Look at Latin America. Is that what we want? Coups and civil wars? Cesarism populaire?” said Meagher

”What is that will you tell me?” Benedict inquired.

”This ludicrous cult of the personality. The press builds the president up into a titanic figure. They think he is larger than life. He embodies all that is best in the nation. He is the messiah. He alone represents salvation. People adulate him and vote him dictatorial powers. All very infantile. A bit like the papacy” he tittered naughtily.  ”Now we must get up darling” he said ”Father Downy will be wondering what is keeping us.” said Meagher.

As they dressed Fr Meagher said to Benedict ”You have your faith. That can be a good thing – a compass. So long as you are not obsessive. I have to deal with so many people who are loonies for religion.”

The two men got up and dressed. They went down to the breakfast table in the small but well furnished dining room. A white table cloth lay over the wooden table. There were unpolished wooden floorboards. A wooden cupboard contained crockery. The bare white walls were hung with holy pictures – images of saints, the sacred heart of Jesus, the pieta, a portrait of the Pope Benedict XV and so forth

Fr William Downy was already seated at the table. He wore his black priestly clothes complete with a white dog collar. He was an athletic man of 24 – slim and not muscular. He had dark brown hair – just slightly curly. His skin was pale but not unhealthily so. He had a few dark, round, precise freckles. He was a sunny character but a man of categorial opinions.

”Good morning Father Meagher” Fr Downy said curtly – rising to greet the parish priest.

”Good morning” said Ricard Meagher shaking his hand. ”Shall we not tu toyer instead of vous voyer now?” said Fr Meagher.

”I am sorry I do not understand”, said Fr Downy knitting his brow.

”You have been here 6 months now. Can we not dispense with this Father business and I just be Ricard and you be William?” said Meagher.

”I think we should keep it father” said Fr Downy.

”All right then” Meagher looked away and sighed.

”Good morning Benedict” said Fr Downy shaking his hand.

”Good morning” said Benedict shaking his hand.

They sat down. The housekeeper came out. She was a short and obese woman in her 50s. She was sallow skinned and buck toothed. Beauty had given her a miss even in her youth.

”There is toast for ye fathers and Benedict” she said laying down a plate of it. They got to work smearing on butter and marmalade.

”Ye were very noisy last night” said Fr Downy ”What was going on”

Benedict and Fr Meagher struggled not to laugh?

”Oh nothing I think he had a bad dream” said Ricard

”Don’t worry I slept well” said Benedict ”I will have energy for the football practice later today”

”Oh good me too.” said Fr Downy ”Now we should insist that anyone who wants to play must come to mass not just on Sunday but at least once mid week too.”

”I see Father – I do not think that will go down well.”

”I don’t care but as I am on the team and chaplain that will be the rule. Remember the Gaelic Athletic Association is Irish culture which is Catholicism which is republicanism. Never let anyone tell you any different. We are all engaged in a struggle against  the English, their Protestant allies, against garrison sports and against laxity in religion. There are some fellows who were slacking off their feasts of obligation. They become indifferent. They are then prey to English propaganda. A man must keep his faith” said Fr Downy who then took a bite of toast.

The housekeeper returned a minute later carrying a plate of sausages

”Gentlemen as I was coming here today I met someone. He told me that IRA was sniping at the RIC barracks last night.” said the woman.

”Any of the police killed?” Downy asked excitedly.

”No none hit” said the woman.

”Ah well better luck next time God bless their guns” said Fr Downy blessing himself.

”Now now – we will have none of that. We are all God’s children”, said Fr Meagher ,”We do not pray for people to be killed.”

”This is a war between Catholicism and Protestantism”, said Fr Downy.

”Top up?” Benedict offered the teapot. Meagher nodded silently and Benedict poured him more tea.

”No it is not. There is no war. There is conflict but no government has declared war on another. Read St Augustine on a just war. There must be a rightful authority to declare war. Even then an independent and united Ireland has never existed.” said Meagher

”There is a right authority. Dail Eireann” said Downy.

”Which did not even declare war. Those Sinn Feiners were elected to Westminster. ANyway they cheated like made in the election. They intimidated the Home Rule Party into not standing here. They stuffed the ballot boxes, they voted the dead, they had children vote, they broke up Home Rule Party meetings where they were held at all. No, it was not a fair election.” said Meagher.

”Sinn Fein did not cheat that much. Anyway this is war. The Home Rule Party is weak – they are semi English and semi Protestant. This is about IRISH Ireland against English Ireland. We must be fully and properly Irish. No English sports, no English dancing, no filthy English culture, no English alcoholism, no English Army, no English immorality. The English invented divorce. They want to break up the Irish family. They want our women to use things not to have children. That is genocide. It is like another famine All merciful God cannot forgive the English – accursed race. Perfidious Albion. Never trust the word of an Englishman.” said Downy.

”Please Father Downy you do get carried away sometimes. All the vices you mention exist amongst the English but not as much as you pretend. They exist among our people too. It really is distasteful your chauvinism – over emphasising Irishness. I am Irish and that is enough. I speak Irish with perfect correctness and you do not. That proves that we do not need the Irish language to know that we are Irish.” said Meagher

”Only when our people have been corrupted by the English and their insiduous propaganda. England is a monster. Germans had it right in the war praying – God punish England.” said Downy.

”The English are not all bad and we are not all good. We are not that different”, said Fr Meagher.

”Yes we are. Absolutely different. ” said Downy.

”Father Downy your mother’s maiden name is Perkins is it not?”

”Yes it is. She is Irish and a fervent a Catholic as anyone” said Downy defensively.

”I know she is but that is an English surname. We mostly have English ancestry or Scots or Welsh. They often have Irish ancestry.” said Meagher

”Perkins is not an English name” said Downy

”I am afraid that it is.” said Meagher.

”It is not – well how about you. Have you English blood in you?” said Downy.

”Well yes I do. My grandmother’s maiden name was Marsh. You do not get a more English name than that” said Meagher/

”Ah that explains it. You are not really Irish. That is why you have those traitor’s views. ” said Downy.

”I do not have traitor’s views. An Irishman is entitled to any view he wants. We are a free country contrary to what you may claim. By the way some unionists would say you are te traitor for being disloyal to the king  – so two can play at that game of name calling” said Meagher

”You are downplaying your Irishness. You are not proud of being Irish.” said Downy.

”That is not so. I am Irish and I am not downplaying the historic fact that like most Irishmen I have some English forbears. ” said Meagher.

”An Irishman is not entitled to views. We are a Catholic people. Anti Catholic views are unacceptable. Especially in time of war!” the blood was up in Fr Downy now.

”Father Downy please calm yourself,” said Fr Meagher.

”And as for your friend – Thompson. I thought you were a good Irishman in the GAA. But your surname is English. Are you English? Did he get these opinions from you?” said Fr Downy

”Oh no I am Irish through and through. All right I might have an English ancestor centuries ago but that does not matter now. I am a Catholic and as true a republican as you are.” said Benedict feeling very gauche about the row.

Fr Downy then took a bite of food.

”Many people in Ireland have surnames that show that they have Scots and Welsh ancestors.” said Meagher.

”That does not mean they are not Irish!” said Fr Downy.

”I did not impute that it meant they were not Irish. I am merely pointing out that to be Irish means to be Welsh, Scots and English too. Same as for our neighbours – they are all a bit Irish. It is foolish to be so dogmatic – so keen to divide people and to separate ourselves from our kith and kin” said Fr Meagher. ”The Scots were an Irish tribe. We invaded Scotland. That is why they speak Irish or Gaelic as they call it.”

”The Scotch will have freedom yet!” said Fr Downy

”If by freedom you mean separation from England you are dead wrong. That is republican fantasy. There are Home Rule MPs and Sinn Feiners in Ireland. There is not a single Home Rule MP in Scotland or Wales. Hardly a parliamentary candidate. They want to be united with England. The Scots are as loyalist as it gets. No doubt about it. 100 years from now Scotland and England will still be united.” said Meagher.

The meal was concluded in silence. Fr Downy then headed out ”I am going to give extreme unction to Mrs Kennedy” he said.

As the door almost slammed Benedict said ”Is is always like this? ”

”Well we have not got on very well since he arrived. How he will last 2 years here I do not know. He is wet behind the ears from Maynooth. I would swear the bishop sent me this fellow to annoy me. Fr Downy is a man of very strident views. He is also brilliant in the GAA as you know. It helps evangelise among the youth I know. He and I could not be more different. He is not at all deferential. I am the parish priest – he is a curate. He ought to show me some respect. Odd thing is he is a scriptural literalist. Thinks the world was made in six days then the omnipotent God got tired and rested. The all powerful does not get tired. Anyway I think he would be better off as a fundamentalist Protestant sometimes. I do not tell him that obviously. He and the extreme Prods have more in common than either would care to admit.” said Meagher.

Fr Meagher was dressed in jupes and a beretta. ”Oh how I wish I were a cardinal. A cerise silk habit would be very heaven.”

They set out on the horse and cart. Fr Meagher drove himself and his paramour into town along the unmetalled road.

”Ricard”, said Benedict ”Do you not think that the Orange Order is evil?”

”Well some of them are. Some of them are members of the Ulster Protestant Association. Now the UPA as such really is a murder gang. The Orange Order as such? No. It is not something I approve of. I know it is a charity too and does some good work. Not just for its members. You know they all pay in like a friendly society. They help each other out if they are unemployed, ill or disabled. They pay for the widows and orphans. Of course since Lloyd George set up pensions, sickness insurance and unemployment insurance there is not quite such an accute need for that. The Orangemen – the criticise the Catholic Church. Some of what they say about the prelates living in luxury even I agree with. Some of what they say I disagree with but is still reasonable. SOme of it is barking mad like the pope being the whore of babylon” said Fr Meagher

”But they are all anti Catholic” said Benedict Thompson.

”They are not. They disagree with our religious dogma as we disagree with us. They do not hate us as people. I know it is a distinction lost on the most dunder headed Orangemen but they are not all bad. An Orangeman who was a doctor saved my sister’s life”, said Meagher

”That is because she paid him” said Benedict smugly.

”It was not. It was a charity hospital. He would not take a penny from her because she is poor. My cousin worked on a farm owned by an Orangeman in Fermanagh – said he was all right. Promoted my cousin foreman over some Protestants”, said Fr Meagher.

”Well I see what you mean. Actually my cousin was in the Royal Irish Rifles. He had some comrades who were Orangemen. He said it was a bit awkward for the first week but they soon got on well. His sergeant was an Orangeman and a nice fellow like” said Benedict.

”It is never so straightforward. There are bad Orangemen. I know their rhetoric is incendiary. We have our own lot of that. Ancient Order of Hibernians and Irish National Foresters” said Fr Meagher

”But did the Orange Order not start out as an anti Catholic force?” Benedict asked.

”Difficult to say. There were so many organisations with Orange in the name in the 1790s it is hard to say which one became the Orange Order. Some of them were anti Catholic as the Defenders and so one were anti Protestants. It is impossible to say who started it. Does it matter? I hate hatred. All this tribal thinking. The idea of loyalty to a cause or a community – it is the enemy of free thought and fairness” said Meagher

”But you are a Home Ruler aren’t you?” Benedict sought assurance.

”I am – kind of. Most people here want Home Rule. No doubt about it. So might as well have it. How it would improve things I am not sure. No Home Ruler ever told me they would make such and such a law that would be different to what we have now. People want it because they want it. We are a small island beside an island with 10 times the population. Of course we are going to be dominated by them – not by malice but by numbers” said Meagher pensively.

”But did they not starve us in the famine?” Benedict asked.

”They fed us in the famine but not enough. I know food was leaving Irish ports too. If we had been totally independent would we have had the famine? I think we would because we mainly grow the potato. It was a natural disaster but the Union maybe exacerbated it. People say it was down to landlordism. But if we had been independent would we not have had a landlord class anyway like every other country? Like we did before the English came.? Of course we would have” said Fr Meagher

”Are we not exploited?” Benedict asked.

”We are not. The government spends more on us than it gets out. Our life expectancy is longer than in England. And if we are to be exploited why not conscript us in the war? Surely if they do not care about us and see us as cannon fodder they would conscript us when they desperately needed men for the front” said Meagher.

”How about South Africa. Weren’t republicans right to fight beside the Boers?” Benedict asked.

”Not all Boers were anti British. Some were broaded minded enough and brave enough to fight for the British. I know the Brits treat the black people badly but the Boers are even worse. It was perfectly ludicrous for republicans here to claim that the English are anti Catholic and then republicans fight for the Boer republics who deny Catholics the vote. Republicans believe in nothing but anglophobia.” said Meagher

”But this Home Rule thing. It was passed but it has not happened. Are we to have it?” said Benedict.

”Well for the three southern provinces surely. For some of Ulster. The Home Rule majority counties – Donegal, Monaghan, Fermanagh and so on” said Meagher

”The Unionists are trying to keep Fermangah and Tyrone despite a Home Rule majority” said Benedict.

”They will never do that” said Fr Meagher urbanely. ”Now tell me Benedict – you are a Sinn Feiner now. But you are not in the Irish Volunteers” Fr Meagher sought reassurance.

”Irish Volunteers – is Sinn Fein not the same thing? The lads are saying we are the Sinn Fein Volunteers. The IRA like. Sinn Fein, IRA, Irish Volunteers – all the same thing so far as I am concerned” said Benedict.

”Sinn Fein is a political party. Not my cup of tea but if that is your politics all right. But the Irish Volunteers or IRA as they are saying now. That is different. That is a fighting organisation. Please do not join them darling. If you are in please leave. DO not get yourself hurt for my sake. I could not live without you.” said Meagher

”But all the other fellows in the GAA club joined. Decent bunch of lads. War is like a sport.” said Benedict.

”War is no game. I have never been to war thank God. I have spoken to enough who have. You can forget about sportsmanship in war. Please for my sake leave the IRA.” said Meagher

”I cannot let the team down” said Benedict.

”But you do not believe in all that republican claptrap?” Meagher asked him.

”Well I kind of do. You make me have doubts.” said Benedict.

”If you think Home Rule would solve all our problems you are wrong. It might solve some but create others. If we had a republic that would be even more upheaval. I am not saying things are perfect. Our problem is poverty. That is not all England’s fault. People have too many children and we have no natural resources no coal, no oil, no precious metals few non precious metals. None of that can be blamed on England. The English make a very convenient scapegoat. If we are to have a republic that means fighting  – a lot of it. Thousands must die maybe tens of thousands. How many buildings would be destroyed. That will deepen our poverty. How long will it take to recover?” Meagher asked rhetorically.

”But come on the English led us into a war against Germany and 50 000 Irishmen died then” said Benedict.

”I agree that was a colossal error. Nonetheless the government had the right to do it. Belgium had been invaded but was hypocritical because the English invaded places in Africa. I would have just protested about Belgium. But Germany might have invaded if they had not been fought. And if we were a republic we could very easily be conquered by Germany or France or Spain. Both France and Spain tried it. Don’t imagine the French or Spanish attacked Ireland to liberate us. Like they had no wish to conquer us – they had conquered their own ethnic minorities. I am telling you a republic is no panacea. It will not be a paradise” said Meagher.

”Twould be a nice feeling though. Is there any other priest thinks like you?” Benedict asked.

”There is one professor at Maynooth – Walter MacDonald. He wrote that the government had the right to conscript us. ” said Meagher.

”But we have our own language. We should be independent” said Benedict.

”Many countries are mutli lingual. Irish is already gaining status like for entry to the National University of Ireland. We can perform in Irish and print in Irish as much as we like. No need to be a separate country for that. Not all who speak Irish are republican and most republicans cannot speak Irish. It is hilarious when republicans say the language is a reason for us to break away – a language these IRA men cannot speak. We are lucky to speak the world language. Helps us get jobs in America. What a huge advantage. Languages come and go. Irish is not the original language of Ireland anyway – there was another Celtic language before that.” said Meagher

”Do you believe in anything?” said Benedict.

”I try to stay detached. Take the emotion out of it. Arrive at a cool judgment. Not easy I know. I dislike the notion of loyalty. I am not to sure of my beliefs. I could be wrong. We are all such fools. Wisdom is recognising that. I detest chauvinism and nationalism. We have too much nationalism in the world. Republicans say the Great War was bad so let’s have another war. Where is the logic in that.” said Meagher.

Benedict said ”How can you think any connection with England is acceptable? They discriminate against us?”

”We have had Prime Ministers of Britain such as Lord Landsdowne, George Canning, the Duke of Wellington, Lord Palmerston, Bonar Law.” said Meagher

”Ah some of these were not born in Ireland.” said Benedict. ”You count American presidents of Irish blood as Irish.?”

”Yes, I do.” Meagher answered.


”Well then it makes no sense to exclude Englishmen of Irish blood. Are you accept de Valera as Irish – he was born half Irish in America. But you do not accept Bonar Law who was born half Irish in Canada.” said Meagher

”Ah but they are Protestants.” said Benedict.

”So Prods are not Irish? How about Wolfe Tone, Parnell, Robert Emmet, Thomas Davis.” said Meagher

”Ah well that is different. The men you are mentioning are upper class.” said Benedict.

”We Irish are not just upper class. Yes, it is true till Lloyd George the Prime Ministers were all upper class. That is class discrimination and not anti Irish discrimination. Where is the prejudice? In the republican mind. Not in the English behaviour. I am not disputing that there is some anti Irish sentiment in England but it is exaggerated.” said Meagher

”We are going to rebel against them because they are against us.” said Benedict.

”Here we go again – the chicken or the egg. Are some of them prejudiced against us because some of us rebel or do some of us rebel because some of them are prejudiced against us? It is impossible to disentangle the two factors. Both factors are mututally reinforcing. The only thing to do is to break the cycle. No more rebellion and no more prejudice. Maybe we cannot stop either immediately. We can gradually reduce both.” said Meagher.

”I am not anti Protestant.” said Benedict. ”By the way one of the reasons some Protestants are prejudiced against us is because of republican priests like Fr Downy. My last curate here – Fr Bolton – he was in Sinn Fein. He chaired the party locally – helped to pick their parliamentary candidate. Protestant ministers never get involved in political parties. It is because of Fr Bolton and Fr Downy’s sort of behaviour that some Protestants say that the Catholic Church is propagandising for Sinn Fein.”

”You certainly sound like it sometimes. You are a typical republican. The Protestants are Irish when it suits your argument and they are not Irish when it suits your argument. You try to have it both ways.” said Meagher.

”But the English do discriminate against Catholics and Prods discriminate against us. So few of us are in the high ranks in the army or the police or as judges or in the civil service.” said Benedict.

”Fewer of us are rich and promotion tends to go to the wealthy and well connected. Just like in the Catholic Church. Yes, there is some discrimination. Not as much as is claimed. Not many of us can afford the expensive education. Fewer of us join the army or navy than the Protestants do. But you then say that anyone who works for the government is a traitor” said Meagher. ”You cannot have it both ways. Complaining that we do not get enough promotion in government and then complaining when people go into government service.”

”Well yes a castle Catholic. Lick spittles who will do anything for promotion.” said Benedict.


”There you go again. You cannot have it both ways. Is working for the government acceptable or not? If it is then stop calling them traitors. If it is not then stop complaining about discrimination. You want us to be discriminated against. You want a problem to complain about. If there were none you would invent it. We are not entirely trusted by the Protestants and English because of the likes of you.” said Meagher.

”Are you pro Protestant?” asked Thompson in a tone approaching horror.

”No not exactly. I admire latitutidinarianism in Anglicanism. But their worship is bland sometimes. I like the pomp and theatricality of our church. Mass is beautitful but it is plain daft to have mass in Latin when most people have not a notion what is being said. It ought to be in the vernacular.  Some of the Bible bashers in the Church of Ireland put me off. As for the Presbyterians – they are so puritan. I like our church because it has room for asceticism for those who want that and splendour for those who like that. I owe the church a lot. It gave me so many life chances. Got me out of that one horse dorp. Now I end up here.  But you never tell the others this” said Meagher. He continued : ”Benedict you know how it is. Dishonesty is the best policy. There are many lies we have to tell in this life. The noble lie. There are other things which are not lies but just truths which must never be told. Only with you – the man I love – I can speak freely. If I am to keep the congregation coming to mass I have to tell them what they want to hear. I dare not challenge their prejudices overmuch. Courage is always a terrible mistake. I have been brave a few times and lived to rue the day.”

”If only I were a bit more clever I could be a solicitor. When I joined as boy clerk I thought they would have me take articles.  But they say I am not bright enough so I have to stay as a clerk all my life. I am a follower and not a leader. ” said Benedict

”That is just fine so long as you are happy to follow. People always take about equality. SOme people are happy being subordinate.” said Meagher.

Finally they reached town. Fr Meagher drew up the carriage beside the solicitor’s office where Benedict worked. ”What will you do now?” asked Benedict?

”I shall go to church. I have to arrange a funeral. Then do the rounds – visit a few people. Might get time to read for fun.” he chuckled and his belly wobbled.

Fr Meagher settled down to some stories by Saki.  H H Munro is so drily cynical. Such wry social commentary – it thrilled him to giggles. He contented himself with the thought that Benedict was developing a capacity for lateral thought. The poor mixed up young man was at least asking the right questions. It was hard for him not to go along with his friends.

Meagher was dispirited though. A raging firefight last night – how long before more men were killed. A few men had been killed in the Great War – some fighting the Germans, some the Austrians in Italy and a few fighting the Ottomans. Maybe he could quietly change men’s minds – turn them away from violence. Trouble was that Downy was undoing all his good work – preaching a Gospel of hate with all the subtlety of a charging elephant. Meagher realised that he was too reasonable to succeed. He offered too many caveats for his views. His opinions were not black and white. The situation was much more complicated than Downy or his loyalist mirror images would allow. People wanted simplicity and moral clarity when in fact there was none. All Meagher’s explanations seemed to convoluted but that is the way truth is he reflected.



Black and Tans. Chapter Two. Training

  1. Tall Northern Irish sergeant. Ian  North. Yorks.—————————————-


2. Short Londoner soldier – blond sergeant aged 40. George Short. Anti Irish anti everyone—————————


3. Davies. Benedict’s. Benjamin  David. Scotland. Not sectarian. Rangers fan—————————


4. Watkins. John Watkins. Wales—————————————


5. Tavi Moise. Octavian More. Southampton. Anti Catholic——————


6. swimming pool guy from school. Alexander   Brokenshire. Liverpool. ————————————


7. Major Neil.  Edward MacNeil. Geordie. Half Irish Catholic but raised Prod. ————————————–


8. Col Olley. Oliver Sergeant.  Berks.—————————————————


9. Mike Cunningham.   Mark Cunningham. Newcastle.————————————–


10. Relu Marichenano.  Richard  March. Lancs. Catholic————————————-


11. Richard chemistry pilot. Older officer. Richard Dixon. Suffolk.——————————


12.  Louis Limtay. Born 1890. protagonist.—————————————————-


13. Williams Bulkeley. William Bulkeley.


14.    Blairmore teacher. Blair Teacher                  anti Catholic. Scots.——————————



Louis arrived at Liverpool docks. He cast his mind back to the song – the Leaving of Liverpool. Where was Prince’s Landing Stage? But there was little time to daydream. Louis knew he must not miss his ferry. Being late to his new job would not make a positive first impression. He soon embarked on a ship to Dublin. Up the gangplank walked all sorts.

There were Irish people returning to Hibernia. There were English folk going there for various reasons. There were navvies, seminarians, students, servants, the jobless, widows, babes in arms, barmen, a businessman carrying and attache case surgeons.

Louis found himself a seat. His travel warrant did not extend to a berth. He might manage a short rest. Chewing the fat with Mr Mather on the train had meant he had not dozed as he usually would on a length rail journey.  The ship began its voyage over the swelling wave. Louis saw no harm in chatting to a middle aged Irishman. After all it was Louis’ duty to get to know these people and to save them from the dangerous revolutionaries. The kindly old chap wore some rosary beads around his neck. Passionately religious it seemed but there was no malice in this old man. Louis had met some Protestants who were equally fundamentalist but for some reason that seemed to bring out malice in them. This elderly Catholic agreed to guard Louis’s seat as he walked out onto the deck to hear the chatter of several people wandering around there already.

The ship soon weighed anchor. It slipped through the oily waters of the harbour – out past ferries, cargo ships, fishing vessels, tugs and all manner of craft. Out the ship sailed to the open sea and the lively waves beyond. Louis looked back as the lights of the huge maritime port receded. The tall and stately buildings that lie along the waterfront still had a few lights on. It was extraordinary that so many people had electricity. When Louis had been a boy no one in his town had electricity.

The Irish Sea was unusually rough that night. Louis felt the ocean undulating beneath the ship. The night was silent but for the sound of the mighty ship slicing through the foaming waves. A year and a half ago German U boats had been here – sinking ships sailing between Ireland and England. What were the Sinn Feiners doing then? Helping the people who were drowning hundreds of Irish civilians. Louis saw the lights on the mainland recede from view. He was alone on deck. If he fell into the deep no one would miss him till morning. He stayed well back from the rail. Then the wind picked up and began to wail. His reception by Ireland seemed portentous to him. He slept in his chair.

It was dawn as the ship sailed into Dublin Bay. Louis woke with a mild crick in his neck from sleeping in an awkward position.  Louis walked out onto deck – the sun was to the stern. His saw the gorgeous city with its domes and steeples. The seagulls circled round cawing and he breathed deep of the salt air. So this at last was Ireland – the first time he had clapped eyes on it. He gazed on the strands and headlands as well as the cityscape. In the foreground lay the City of Dublin. He knew it was a noble city – much more impressive than his unremarkable home town. Dublin was a city of antiquity. The brick and tile of this city could look London in the face – so he had heard. What a panorama of Dublin Bay he had. The seagulls cawed over him and he saw a few rusty fishing boats head out for their catch.

The ship became deadslow as she negotiated her way to the wharf. The water was coated with oil. Finally the gangplank went up and the complement disembarked. It was mid morning. Louis buttoned up his British warm and looked up at the leaden sky. So this was it – the land of 40 shades of grey. Ireland was the only place rainier than England. On the horizon he saw the darkness of the Dublin Mountains. They looked idyllic.

Louis asked his way to Beggar’s Bush Barracks. No one batted an eyelid. Louis had wondered whether it was shrewd to ask? Was it not imprudent to let on that he was joining the police? One of these people could be a Sinn Feiner who would cut his throat. He saw a few soldiers in uniform. Not all of them were armed. It was a sign that Dublin was not as dangerous as he had been led to believe. Dublin seemed no different to any English city had had seen – and he had seen them all. Was Ireland really a foreign country? The accent was more or less Liverpudlian. The signs were virtually all in English. The Irish language was supposed to be the quiddity of Ireland’s separateness and yet it was all but non-existent.

There was nothing belligerent about the people. Did they really want to fight? Louis called to mind a ditty of G K Chesterton ”Now the Irish Gaels are the men whom the gods made mad/ For all their wars are merry and all their songs are sad.”

He recognised the types of people and the behaviour. Had he not been told this was Ireland he could easily have believed that he had not left England. France had been different. He had visited Germany before the war and that had been visibly different. During the war Louis had briefly served in Egypt. That had been another world. But Ireland and England? Peas in a pod.

Louis reached Beggar’s Bush with his duffel bag in hand. He wiped some perspiration from his brow – he had been walking fast with his heavy suitcase.  He carefully smoothed his hair into place. Louis approached the diminutive young sentry on duty. The sentry stiffened as he approached and seemed to prepare to raise his bayonet. ”Good morning, excuse me” Louise said diffidently. ”I am here to join the Royal Irish Constabulary. I have the travel warrant and the…”

”’Oh yes” said the sentry relaxing visibly.”You are the third one this morning.” said that man in an indistinct northern English accent. The sentry threw a glance behind him ”Officer of the guard!”, he said loudly.

Out came an officer – perhaps 23 years old. His uniform was spotless and his revolver was burnished. He threw up a quivering salute. Louis was nonplussed. He was no longer a soldier. He hesitated a moment before dropping his bag and saluting back.

”Good morning – Lieutenant Miller’,’ said the young man introducing himself. Lieut Miller was a shade under 6 foot tall. He  had jet black hair, a high forehead and small dark eyes. There was an astonishing degree of self assurance to him. Even fully clothed it was evident that he was a muscular man.

”Louis Limtay sir, I am here to join the RIC.”

”Very good to have you here” said the Lieut Miller shaking his hand with vigour. Louis had never been greeted so cordially by an officer. ”First of all you must be exhausted from your journey”

”Yes, sir I am” said Louis

”Where did you come from?” said Miller

”London, sir.” Louis answered timidly.

”Ah London – I am a Surrey man myself. That is not a London accent I am hearing” said Miller warmly.

”No sir, Worcestershire” said Louis astonished that Miller’s amicable tone/

”First off, get you some breakfast” Miller said leading him in ”then a few hours shuteye. Then show you the ropes before handing you over to the RIC.”

Louis was already feeling the RIC would turn out to be a much better experience than the army. He remembered his first day in the army. Could he ever forget it? Bawled at, verbally abused, made to march  to and fro then and march about some more, to scrub the floor – constant hassle, futility, mindlessness criticism and exhaustion. Bawled out for this and shrieked at for that. Everything done double quick. The fact that he could write was held against him. Denigration and punishment seemed to be the army way.



Next day Louis was given khaki trousers to wear. He was issued with an RIC shirt and a bottle green RIC cap. In the army barracks there were several other men who had been recruited into the RIC.

At breakfast next morning Louis sat beside a man with a Cockney accent. ”Morning” said the man in a nasal voice. He had close cropped blond hair and looked about 40. He had pale blue killer eyes and very white skin. His face was deeply lined and his yellowing teeth grinned menacingly. ”George Short” he said holding out his hand.

Louis shook George Short’s hand. Short was 5’8” and very muscular. In Louis’ mind’s eye this was not what he had envisaged of his fellow recruits.

”Good morning. My name is Louis Limtay.”

”All right Limtay” said Short as porridge was dolled out to them. ”Fucking ‘ell – I ain’t never been in Scotland before” said Short apropos of nothing.

”No, this is Ireland we are in. You mean Ireland.” said Louis delicately.

”No, Scotland init?” said Short. Louis deduced by his interlocutor’s facial expression that Short was not joking. So it must be a mistake. A slip of the tongue?

”No, honestly we are in Ireland.”

”Ireland or Scotland? Oh what ve ‘ell. It is all ve ruddy same to me. They’s a rum lot. I never knew nuffink about Scotland. I don’t like the Irish too fucking much. A bunch of fick Micks if you ask me” said Short and then gave a hacking smoker’s cough. ”I can tell you is sound as a bell me old china” said Short. Louis was pleased that he had passed some sort of test already in Short’s estimation.

Louis was stunned that George Short could be so spectacularly ignorant as to not know which country he was in. Short was patently not the sharpest knife in the drawer if he did not know that Dublin was in Ireland. How had this man got through the composition test?  Had this man not cogitated on the word ‘Irish’ in Royal Irish Constabulary? Short’s shaky grasp of geography might prove to be a problem.  Louis ruminated on Short’s lack of diplomacy – mouthing off about his animus for the Irish while they were in Ireland. More than a few soldiers in the barracks were Irish.

He was then driven by lorry to an RIC depot. Then he was allowed a few hours to sleep in a dormitory which compared to an army barracks was cozy.  In the army a leak proof roof was a rare glory. Louis was impressed. There was none of the uncaring attitude of the army. None of the institutional stupidity in which the army seemed to specialise.

That evening he was given a quick tour of the barracks.

The next morning Louis, Short and a couple score of others were shown into a large assembly room. They were sat in chairs which were laid out in rows. Then an RIC head constable came in and gave them a talk.

A slender, bronzed middle aged man of average height with a black tooth brush moustache spoke in a slow Connaught accent:”Gentlemen – you are now officer cadets of the Royal Irish Constabulary. Welcome. You have come from Wales, Scotland and England. I know there are two Australians present. There is also a Canadian amongst you. Some of you have lived in far flung corners of the empire such as Rhodesia and India. You are about to embark on a 3 month training course. You are not here for ordinary policing duties as you know. You will not be here to find lost children or to catch pickpockets. You are being sent to dangerous areas. For most of you this is your first time in Ireland. Let me fill you in on the situation in Ireland. Apologies to those of you who have been here before in case you know all this already.

There are two police forces in Ireland. The Dublin Metropolitan Police covers Dublin city and county. The RIC covers the remaining 31 counties of Ireland. The RIC got its prefix royal for defeating rebels in 1867. We are proud of our service to the crown and for our even handed defence of law and order. We are both Catholic and Protestant. We make no distinction between men of any religion, party or class. We are impartial.

The DMP conduct normal policing duties in Dublin such as directing traffic and catching burglars. The DMP is divided into seven divisions. Divisions A, B and C operate in various districts of Dublin north of the River Liffey which bisects the city. Divisions D , E and F operate in different districts south of the River Liffey. Then there is G Division. G Division is what you might call the Criminal Investigation Department. G Division concentrates on organised crime. Members of G Division are called G men and they usually do not wear uniform. G men have to deal with a lot of crime that is politically motivated. They keep and eye on all political organisations and the Orange Order.

As many of you know there is an organisation called the Irish Volunteers founded in 1913. The Irish Volunteers have lately taken to calling themselves the Irish Republican Army – or IRA for short. These fellows organised the Easter Rising back in 1916. We put down that brawl pretty fast: six days. The army licked them. The IRA all surrendered in six days. Anyway the government then made the mistake of letting them all free after a few months. They caused a lot of disturbance during the war. Just as the Treaty of Versailles was being negotiated the IRA started attacking police patrols in the countryside. More and more police patrols have been attacked.

Some policemen reach retirement age every year. That is no problem so long as we have enough young whipper snappers recruited into the RIC. But lately recruitment in Ireland has dropped off to a trickle. A few hundred RIC officers have been shot dead. Some of our fellows have been shot but survived so badly wounded they had to retired – invalided out of the force. 

The IRA are there to shoot you in the back. They are desperadoes. They have no compunction about shooting a man in front of his wife or killing an unarmed man.

There are problems in the North. As you know the Protestant minority in Ireland are almost 30% of the population. Most of them live in the north-east. Almost every Protestant is a loyalist. Some of these loyalists are anti Catholic. There are some Catholics that support the IRA. The IRA are Catholics almost to a man. Loyalists have set up their own IRA called the Ulster Protestant Association. The UPA is a terrorist organisation the same as the IRA. The UPA are cut throats and bigots. They will shoot dead an unoffending Catholic man – even if he is not connected to the IRA. So the security situation in north-east Ireland is bad too. The UPA do not attack the Crown Forces. You men from England, Wales and Scotland are not being sent to the north-east. The regular RIC are to keep down the UPA. Protect the Catholic population from these thugs. Not doing a good job of it I admit. But anyway, you fellas will be sent to trouble spots in the south of Ireland where the IRA are attacking Crown Forces. 

It gets even more confusing. There is a secret society inside the IRA called the Irish Republican Brotherhood. IRB. For the moment that distinction need not bother us. Some fellows in the IRA are also in the IRB and some are not. Our sources tell us that there is squabbling in the IRA between those fellows who are in the IRB and those who are not. We have informers inside these organisations.

The IRA are corner boys and bandits. Make no mistake about that. These marauders are creating havoc in the countryside. They are carrying out armed robberies every night saying they are searching for arms. They are taking shotguns off old farmers saying that these guns for IRA use. In fact they are doing this to steal valuables from vulnerable old folks.

Some counties are particularly badly affected by IRA violence. These are places such as Cork and Tipperary – South Riding. There are some areas of these counties where the RIC do not patrol even in daylight hours.

Some police barracks have been stormed. We have been obliged to abandon the smaller police stations. No sense in having a 3 man police station if 50 IRA men surround it at night. We could be picked off one station at a time. We have withdrawn from the smallest villages and concentrated police strength in fewer rural stations that we can actually hold.

The RIC in the countryside in some counties scarcely leave their barracks at night. That leave rural areas almost unpoliced. The IRA can therefore rob at will. Other criminals are also robbing houses and carrying on all manner of crime. The IRA have set up their own police. They say if someone wronged you then you do not come to the RIC you come to us. But make not mistake. The IRA so called police are a bunch of thugs same as all IRA. They cannot investigate or take fingerprints. They have their kangaroo courts. Beating confessions out of people. They have no gaols. So they beat youngsters to within an inch of their lives over an allegation of petty theft. Tie them up outside church railings overnight with a sign around the neck saying thief. Likely as not he will get pneumonia in the rain. How do the IRA decided guilt? If the fella is a Protestant he is guilty. If he is an ex soldier he is guilty. The word of an IRA supporter will trump that of ten neutral people. 

If the IRA do take someone into custody as they say it is kidnapping. If they lock someone up for a few hours it is false imprisonment and the IRA can be prosecuted for that. 

It is our job to uphold the law.  We are not a political organisation. Whether we are to have Home Rule or not or a republic or there is to be one Ireland or two. That is not for us to decide. That is for politicians to decide.

You men are ex soldiers. As Churchill said you are gendarmerie. You are to be sent to the worst affected counties. You task is to combat the IRA. Arrest them if you can and kill them if you cannot. Expect no quarter from the enemy.

Now – things to look out for. This:

He held up a green, white and orange Tricolour.

 This is the Sinn Fein flag. Sinn Fein is a subversive organisation. The IRA and Sinn Fein are basically the same thing. We tend to call them Shinners. This flag is NOT the Irish Flag. The Flag of Ireland is the gold harp on a background of St Patrick’s blue. Anyway – if you see someone with this Sinn Fein Tricolour you know he is bad news. More than likely mixed up with the republican movement. 

Then he held up a newspaper.

This newspaper is called An tOglac. It means ‘the volunteer’. IRA men call themselves volunteers. The title is in Irish but most of these blighters cannot even speak Irish. I do speak Irish. My mother tongue! This newspaper is mostly in English. ANyway – if you see a fellow with this newspaper arrest him. This paper means he is in the IRA or else a supporter at the very least.

You can arrest people for possession of documents likely to cause disaffection to His Majesty. Notice we do not have to prove that the documents actually do cause disaffection to the king. But only that the documents are LIKELY to cause disaffection. Any pro IRA newspaper or document is evidence enough.

 We have caught a few thousand IRA men. They courts cannot cope and witnesses and jurors are intimidated by the IRA’ bloody reign of terror. The government has been compelled to suspend habeas corpus. So those who strongly suspect of being in the IRA have been locked up. Tha gaols are full. We have an internment camp in the north called Ballykinler. 

There are other organisation to watch out for. The IRA has its women’s section called cumman na mBann. These cowards used women to smuggle guns around for them because we cannot carry out a physical search on a woman. They are also using children’s coffins to move guns and bombs around cities and evade road blocks. We have searched children’s coffins. Trouble is 99 times out of a 100 in a child’s coffin we only find a dead child. When we search a coffin and there is no gun in it we have offended a grieving family. The IRA want it that way. They cause this upset to innocent families by using an underhand tactic which obliges us to search the caskets. 

There is also Fianna Eireann  which is the junior IRA. That is for boys under the age of 16. These boys will be unarmed usually. They will be spying on your movements and warning the IRA there is a search in the offing or else telling the IRA that you are approaching so they can set up an attack. If you see a teenage boy looking at you intently he may well be in Fianna Eireann.

Watch out for the Gaelic Athletic Association – the GAA. This is a sporting organisation but it is also anti English. The GAA is xenophobic. No English dancing, music or sports are allowed. It is definitely anti police and pro IRA. No policeman or retired policeman is permitted to join. The GAA overlaps with the IRA. We have to watch its matches. Whole clubs have joined the IRA. The GAA uses it matches as a cover to allow IRA training or to block roads and allow the IRA to get away after a hit.

Men, none of you have served in the police before. You are all ex soldiers or ex sailors. One of you was even in the Royal Flying Corps or the  Royal Air Force as they call it now. Do not worry that policing is a little new to you. You will be right as rain. We have excellent instructors. You have been carefully chosen for your courage and nous. You will soon pick it up. Your tasks will not be too dissimilar to soldiering. 

Make no mistake. You are not here as boy scouts. You face a perilous mission.

The men went out on a cigraette break. The Cockney George Short said ”IRA and IRB is there a ruddy IRC?” Again it was not a quip. It seemed a fair point. The whole situation was even more puzzling than Louis had first realised.

It made Louis think back to the words of an Irish wag he had read. In Ireland the inevitable never happens and the impossible constantly occurs. Ireland of saints and scholars. So far there seemed to be too many scholars and not enough saints.



”Right men – how do you arrest someone?” The head constable from Mayo held up handcuffs. He instructed the men on how to do it. He demonstrated. They were all issued with handcuffs. They had to practise handcuffing each other and undoing the handcuffs. They handcuffed two men together. The handcuffed men to bars etc….



After luncheon Louis and Short were told to take their suitcases to a dormitory. The head constable showed them the way. Several other men were already installing themselves in the dormitory.

The head constable said, ”Limtay and Short ; these men will be in your unit.  Although we are police we will be running your part of the RIC on army lines. You are all familiar with that. So this is your section. Men, I shall leave you to introduce yourselves.”

A spare man of 6 foot approached them. Even for a former soldier his police uniform was notable immaculate. His hair was jet black and cut shot. He had a narrow nose and a slim face. It was evident that he was a very fit man and he had slightly reddish skin. His eyes were hazel and his manner direct.

”Ian North” he said in a Yorkshire accent. He pronounced North as ‘Norf’. He shook hands with both of them. ”Ex Coldstream Guards” he blared as if automatically. His bearing was rigid. Having announced himself he was suddenly – at ease. North struck Louis as soulless – the perfect drill soldier. Could be a windup tin toy 6 foot tall.

”Areet” said a broad shouldered man of about 21. He was 5’10 and had black hair. His eyes were brown and set deep in his skull. His skin was pale and his mouth was slightly ajar. He had an innocent and almost dim look on his face. He spoke from the back of his throat ”Me name is Benjamin David” he said in a comprehensible Glaswegian accent. David shook hands with them both. He was clearly very strong too. ”Glad to meet youse” he said with a lack of expression in his voice. ”Do you play rugby either of you?”

”Yes, I used to” said Louis ”but I am no great shakes at it.”

”No football me. Millwall supporter, int I?” said Short smiling.

”Oh I am wanting to set up a rugby team. I am a prop see. Millwall? I support Rangers said Benjamin David.

”QPR” said Short knowingly.

”Queen’s Park Rangers ? No, Jimmy. Glasgow Rangers.”

”Never heard of them” said Short. ”Where is Glasgow”

”It is in Scotland, Jimmy” said David – exasperated at the man’s stupidity.

A very short man with thick dark brown hair then spoke in a southern English accent. ”David – you support Rangers? Ah good. I do not like Papists either. My name is Metcalfe by the way.”

”Metcalfe, I have no problem with Catholics. I had Catholic neighbours. Boys in the work were Catholics. In the South Scottish Borderers we had Catholics. As good as anyone else.” said David.

”I thought all Rangers fan hate Catholics’ guts.” said the other Scotsman.

”Some do sadly. I am not like that. I love football. I love to see us whip Celtic. No need to hate the Catholics”, said David.

Metcalfe continued  ”I am from Southampton. Luckily we don’t got too many Papists about. I don’t like em. I am in the National Association of Protestants. Got to stop the Romeward trend in the Church of England. That is what has caused all this trouble. Papists are damnable.” He then turned to Limtay and Short. ”Sorry should have introduced myself. My name is Metcalfe, Octavian Metcalfe.”

Short and Limtay shook his hand.  Metcalfe had small black eyes which dazzled with an intelligence that seemed to sit oddly with his pronounced anti Catholic views. His complexion was average and his forehead was prominent.

”How are you?” said Short and then without waiting for a response ”Which regiment was you in?”

”I was in the Princess of Wales Regiment” said Metcalfe.

”I was in ve King’s Royal Rifle Corps”, Short said puffing out his chest.

”’Watkins, John” said a slender man of 5’10” stepping forward and almost standing to attention. He proferred his hand to the two newcomers. He had mousy coloured straight hair that was  little floppy. His skin was pale and his eyes were light blue. His small head with set on a very weak neck. Watkin’s mouth was too narrow for his face.

Limtay and Short shook hands with him. Short looked at him askance. Watkins seemed to be too feeble and excitable to be a soldier or a policeman.

”All right Watkins. Which regiment was you in then?” asked Short dubiously.

”Royal Welch Fusiliers” said Watkins. He had only a vestigial Welsh accent.

”All Welsh” said Short as if making a judgment. Limtay sensed that Short did not think highly of the Welsh – just as Short despised the Irish. ”How come you don’t got no Welsh accent?”

”I moved to London when I was 12. Then the war broke out. I enlisted underage – lied about my age. Anyway I was back with Welshmen aged 16 so I got kind of a mixed up accent.” said Watkins. He perceived Short’s disdain for him and spoke almost apologetically. Limtay perceived that Watkins had consoled himself about leaving Wales by joining a Welsh regiment.

A man of 6’2” stepped forward. He had a very dark complexion and a broad nose. His brown eyes were small and a faint smile curled in the corners of his mouth. He spoke quietly in a Liverpool accent. ”Aright. Me name is Brokenshire. How you doing?” he said extending his hand. Brokenshire appeared to be a quarter African.

”Brokenshire” said Short respectfully. Short gauaged the strength of the other man’s sinews by his handshake. Here Short had met his match though Brokenshire made no bid to overawe him. Short studied the man’s nose for a second too long – as though comparing the broken part of the man’s surname to the broad bridge of his nose.

Limtay shook Brokenshire’s hand and smiled timidly. ”Do we do Christian names in this unit?”

”Alexander” said Brokenshire softly. His gentle voice belied his height and muscularity.

”I bet you was in an excellent regiment like me” said Short

”Royal Navy” said Brokenshire calmly.

Short felt a regular soldier’s disdain for the navy. ”Royal Navy?” he said disbelievingly.

”Yes, then I was put in the Royal Naval Division. We had more sailors than we needed for ships so I served on land. Fighting on the Western Front. That’s how I lost this” he held up his left hand and showed his ring finger was missing.

The fact that Brokenshire had fought on land redeemed him in Short’s estimation.

”MacNeil” said a short and pear shaped man. He shook their hands. He was only 25 but his brown hair was already receding at the temples. He had narrow eyes and a toneless voice.

”All right MacNeil where you from then?”

”Well I am from Newcastle like but me father is Irish,” he said in a Geordie accent.

”You are not a Catholic are you?” asked Metcalfe in disgust. Louis was stunned that Metcalfe was so openly insulting in his tone. It was as if he wanted to start a fight.

”Well my father is but I was brought up a Protestant” said MacNeill defensively. Louis was a perceptive judge of liars and he deduced that MacNeill spoke the truth.

This was only slightly better in Metcalfe’s eyes.

Short seemed to gloss over the fact that MacNeil was half Irish. Despite Short’s pronounced anti Irish prejudice somehow this did not apply to MacNeil.

”You got a Christian name?” said Short in an unusual display of intimacy.

”Yes, Edward” said MacNeill.

”Sergeant” said a well built man of 6 foot. He was 30 and wore glasses. His thick brown hair was short and carefully brushed into a side parting. His skin was slightly swarthy and his brown eyes were small. He was composed and very neat.

”Oh. Sergeant”, said Short saluting.

”No, I am not a sergeant. The name is Sergeant. Oliver Sergeant” said the man smiling at the misapprehension.

Short laughed at himself, ”Well pleased to meet you. Fankin you ” , he said shaking Sergeant’s hand. Short had instant confidence in Sergeant whose hulking shoulders rivaled those of Brokenshire.

”Cunningham”, said another man from several metres away. His brown hair was greying and close cropped. He was slender and in his 30s.

Short stepped forward. ”Pleased to meet you like” said Cunningham quietly while not making eye contact. Cunningham had prominent teeth and a far away manner.

Short inspected him up and down. He did not make much of Cunningham.

”Which regiment you in then?”

”Duke of Northumberland’s” said CUnningham ”then they put me in the Royal Flying Corps.” Cunningham spoke in a Northumberland accent.

”Right” said Short growing more self assured. He was confident that he could bully this one. ”Much good as soldiers is they?” he asked chortling.

”Field Marshall Haig said the Geordies were the bravest of the lot” said Cunningham.

Short was about to cackle when a very short man introduced himself.

”March” he said. March was 5’2” and had black spiky hair and little round steel rimmed glasses.

”Yes why don’t you march off?” said Short contemptuously.

”No my name is March” said the fellow in a Lancashire accent. He stood absolutely upright as though to get every inch of height out of his miniscule frame. Louis was most surprised to see such a little fellow in the unit. The police were only supposed to recruit men over 5’6” – they must be scraping the bottom of the barrel to let this nipper in.

”You were in a bantam battalion were you?” said Short.

”Yes, I was.” said March – not at all intimidated.

”Oh yes they do any fighting did they?” asked Short sneeringly.

”Yes we did. Then I was in the Tank Brigade. We can fit better in tanks. We are the won that won the war” said March.

”Oh yeah  – you won the war did you?” Short chuckled in frank mockery.

”If you doubt me we can take this outside” said March staring daggers at him. Short looked at him. He was astonished to see no fear there. Short had heard this about the bantam battalions. These men were small and they made up for it by being ultra aggressive. Faced with determined resistance Short decided on discretion.

”I know you were. I was just thinking of seeing some Germans crushed by tanks. That is what made me laugh” Short said unconvincingly and shook March’s hand.

March kept eyeing him menacingly. ”It is Richard March.”

The handshake ended. Then March said to Metcalfe ”And by the way I do not want to hear any of your anti Catholic bull all right? I am a Catholic.”

”You Irish are you?” asked Metcalfe.

”No, English through and through. We stayed true to the faith” said More.

”I dinnae like Papists too much meself” said a gravelly Scottish voice. At 5’10” a slender red faced man with a black tooth brush moustache stood there. A confrontation could have developed between this man and March.

Limtay stepped in to defuse the situation. ”Hello there. My name is Limtay, Louis” in a jovial tone.

”Teacher” said the man shaking his hand dourly. ”Blair Teacher since you insist on Christian names” said the thin Scotsman.

”Right. I see. From Scotland are you?”

”Aye the Highlands. A wee place called Tomintoul.”

”Tomintoul. That is where Topliss was caught”

”Aye it certainly is” said Teacher. ”Hope they catch the bastard again and shoot him. My mates got killed in the war. Why should a deserter live even in prison?”

The North said. ”Fellas, I think it is time for the next lecture?”

They all agreed that it was and hurried off.



A 6’3” slim middle aged bald man stood up. He was a head constable in the RIC. He had a brown moustache and ramrod straight bearing. He began to speak in a southern Irish accent which could not be traced to a particular country. His voice emanated from the top of his pallet.

”Now men – how to question a suspect. What do we want? We want information out of him and as fast as possible. We want to know where the guns are hidden for example. Why do we want it instantly? Because the longer it takes to extract this information the longer the enemy has to move the guns.. I also said information – not disinformation. If you torture a man he may well tell you nonsense – anything to stop the pain. I am not saying that torture never works. Sometimes it does. He might tell you something verifiable. If he says so and so is hiding at such and such and address and we raid the address and find the wanted man then torture has worked. By they way torture is illegal.

There has been a rash of IRA attacks in the past few months. Let me be honest – situation is getting worse. I hate to say it but not all local RIC men can be entirely trusted. 

We want information out of these IRA men and we want it fast. If we get information but it is a week after arrest then the information is stale. If he tells us where the arms cache is they may well have moved it by then. If he tells us where the wanted men are in hiding they will have moved on after a week or even a day. If an IRA man is arrested then the IRA will expect him to break under questioning so they will move their men and their arms before we can get information out of the arrested man. So we want information as fast as possible before the IRA can render that information useless – before they even know we have arrested the man.

We are not allowed to torture. I am not saying that it never happens. There is no law against blindfolding. In fact if there are 2 RIC men and 10 prisoners it may be the only way to control them especially if we do not have enough handcuffs.  By the way if you have one pair of handcuffs and two men then handcuff them together. They find it hard to fight or run like that. There is now law against keeping him in handcuffs overnight.  Handcuff them behind their back and not in front of them. Much harder to make a break for it like that and how they going to fight with hands behind them? With hands in front in manacles they sometimes manage to punch.  We can put fetters on them too if we really need. We are allowed to strip them naked to search them. We do not have to give their clothes back. We can make them cold or make them hot. We can make them stand. We can deny them food and water all day. We can deny them the chance to use the kazi.

If you get suspects first thing you do is you separate them. Imagine if you fell into the hands of the enemy. Would you rather be with a mate or on your own? You would rather be with a mate. So split them up. They feel weak and scared. If there are two of more of them together their morale will be higher. 

Best if we have two interrogators. There is shit and sugar. Shit goes in very nasty – shrieking and threatening. Blindfold the suspect  – maybe strip him naked. Have him stand up. Wave your revolver in his face. Threats to kill his mates. Tell him he is going to hang. Tell the suspect that he has already lost. Once he believes he is worthless he will not resist. Offer him a lifeline. If he informs we will free him. Sugar can be just nice. Talk about anything. Get him to relax – see you as a mate. Talk about friends, family, hobbies – anything.  Just get him talking and in a round about way come back to the subject. You can find out a lot about him. This gives ammunition to shit if necessary. 

Then sugar comes in. Take the blindfold off. Let him put his clothes on. Sugar says sorry for shit. Says shit is a bastard. Offers a cigarette. Says I am Irish too – I agree with your cause. Help me to help you. Help me and I will let you escape. Or I want to end this senseless fighting. I am a moderate on my side. I know you are a reasonable man. Let’s help each other against the extremists on either side. 

The contrast between the two makes each seem better or worse than he really is. If the suspect does not respond to shit he should respond to sugar.

If it is still not working shit can get nastier. If that does not work then sugar comes in. He then loses it and slaps the suspect. The suspect is worried that his one friend in the world is turning against him. Sugar says – I am trying to protect you from sugar. But I do not think I can hold him back much longer. Shit wants to kill you. Shit’s best mate got killed yesterday. Better tell me some valuable info – that is the only way I can save you from his fury. 

If a fella denies all you say – we know you are in the IRA. We know it. We know it. Do not lie to me. We know it. You are caught. Caught red handed. We have informants. We know it. You are guilty. Admit it – admit it! In that case almost everyone will admit it. 

Lie to the bastards. Tell him – the other fellow has spilled the beans. You might as well tell us everything. Save yourself. That is the best way to help yourself – tell the truth. Why be loyal to you comrade when he had dobbed you in? Turn King’s evidence and save yourself from the noose. So we get these fellas to turn against each other. Divide et impera. If we can have a written confession from one fella implicating the other it can be most useful. 

We can also say – we are going to tell the others that you are an informer even though you are not. The IRA will treat you much worse than we will. IRA will tear you limb from limb and kill your whole family.  You had better tell us what is what and then we will protect you. That is why we have infiltrated the IRA. We have some idea of what they are thinking and what they will be doing. 

We can make promises which do not have to be honoured. Tell us everything and you will not be prosecuted. Or tell us everything and we will free you today. Tell us everything and we will let your brother out of gaol or your pal out. We will give you 100 pounds and put you on the boat to Australia under a false name – beyond the reach of the IRA. Sometimes we even keep those promises. Depends on circumstances. Your priority is not to send the IRA boy on holidays to New South Wales. Your job is to get this rebel to help us beat the other rebels. 

We use some stool pigeons. Get an RIC man in mufti especially if he has not shaved in a few days. Got to be torn, cheap old clothes like they tend to wear. Then he can pass unnoticed among IRA suspects. He is in a cell with an IRA man. Then chat to him and get him to reveal all. 

By the way fellas when you have the IRA in a cell take their belt off them in case they try to hang themselves. Take their shoes and socks off them. Floors tend to be of very smooth material. He cannot then attack you – he would slip all over the place and his trousers are falling about his ankles.

If you want to recruit an informer you find which one is weak willed. The young boy in the IRA who is scared. You can see him trembling when you arrest him. He will crack easy. There are other fellows we have the dirt on. We found out he is having an affair. We found out his is stealing money from the IRA. Does he want us to tell the IRA? The IRA will tear him apart. We find out a fellow is a sodomite. Roger Casement was. A lot of these republicans are like that. Maybe Michael Collins too.  They are dirt birds. The IRA have a women’s organisation. We might find out that an IRA woman is having an affair. Maybe she had a baby out of wedlock a few years ago and gave the baby up for adoption. We can offer to find her child. We can threaten to expose her as a slut Whatever it is we can work on these vulnerabilities. Turn him. Let him out. Regularly arrest him along with the usual suspects. That way he can tell us what is going on. That way the IRA cannot pin any one man as the source of the information we are getting. He cannot be seen coming to the police voluntarily or that will arouse suspicion. Then he will be called a traitor and end up in a bog hole. 

Other ways to run informers. Dead letter drops. He writes a letter with information and leaves it at a designated place such as in a wreath on a grave. This place is discretely checked every day to see if he left something there.

 We sometimes pay informers at dead letter drops. Not too much or it will arouse suspicion.

 We can have them write in secret ink. Write a real letter over it. Write to certain addresses in Ireland or England. Sometimes write to a government office about a bland subject such as tax. 

All sorts of things you can do. Get them drunk. Very difficult to lie when drunk. Fellows do not think when they are tight. The words just come tumbling out. 

Right later we will do a role play. Some of you will be assigned the role of IRA prisoners. Others the role of interrogators. Shit and sugar.

Now men – the IRA are filth and we need to clean the house. We got a rogues gallery of IRA men – but we only have photos of the top few thugs. We estimate there are 15 000 IRA. Trouble is we do not know who they are or where they are. The cowards wear civilian clothes and blend in with the people. We cannot tell friend from foe. ”

The lecture was too long for Short who had switched off. Subtlety was not to be his forte it seemed to Louis. They hastily headed out for cigarettes.  They were permitted to smoke inside of course but they preferred to smoke outside despite the chilly January weather and stratus cloud.

By way of conversation Louis said to North ”You know this idea of us joining the RIC – it was Winston Churchill’s idea.”

”Winston bloody Churchill” said North ”That is a name I do not want to hear again. Damn fool. Sent me brother to get killed in Gallipoli. That Churchill – heard he went to the trenches with the Royal Scots. Only served a month. I remember when there was them anarchists shooting in the East End of London – Churchill sends the Scots Guards in to sort them out. Why is Churchill posing with a gun himself? Glory boy. Liberal – Tory – Liberal. What is he?” He almost spat.

”Yes, I know. Cannot figure him out. Arriviste maybe. I like his journalism though. I heard him speak at Birmingham City Hall once” said Louis.

Louis was glad there were no more sectarian spats. March remarked to him ”I am a Catholic. I do not go around insulting Protestants. I respect the Pope – God’s vicar. Why do some Protestants feel they must offend my religion. It is not right. It is that talk that drives Irishmen into the IRA”

”Quite right.” said Louis ”Maybe I can have a word – persuade Teacher and Metcalfe not to speak like that. Bad for unit cohesion”

There was some badinage after that but not more religious slanging – for a while.

The undercover agents that the RIC man had mentioned within the IRA – that enthralled Louis. This was a contest fought in the shadows. All smoke and mirrors  since the enemy did not wear uniforms. If this was not to be a war as such maybe it called for more cloak and dagger. How could he approach a captured IRA man?



There was some drill. They did plenty of time on the rifle range. They also learned to fire revolvers. Most of them being enlisted men in the army had never handled a revolver.

At dinner Louis and his new mates discussed their mission.

”These IRA jokers – you reckon they will really fight? They are ambushing patrols of 2 men or 4 men. Occasionally they attack a police station. Not much to worry about. Not bad compared to Paschaendaele” said one.

”They don’t have the fighting spirit. That is why they did not join up for the war much. That is why there was no conscription here.” said another.

Louis piped up ”I remember a line from G K Chesterton;   Now the Irish Gael is the man whom the gods drove mad/ For all their wars are merry and all their songs are sad.


They were suddenly deeply impressed.

Later in the barracks they had a few drinks. They decided on an evening of glee singing. Some they canticled together. Then it was time for solos. They did a noble call. One man belted out a song and then called on another to sing for his supper.

Louis sang The Land Song.

”That is the Liberal song isn’t it?” said Ian North.


”I grew up in a Liberal household. I am a Labour man now.” said North

An Ulsterman RIC regular then said ”I know a song with the very same melody as the land song.” He then sang ”We are, we are/ We are the billy boys/ Hello, hello/ You’ll know us by the noise/ We are up to our knees in Fenian blood/ Surrender or you’ll die.”

Fenian? Louis knew that word. They Irish Republican Brotherhood were called the Fenians sometimes. But somehow Louis sensed that this fellow was not alluding to the IRB.

The Ulsterman then said ”I glad you boys are here to stay. Show the IRA that there will be no Home Rule for Ulster. What happens in the South of Ireland I do not much care. It is becoming a foreign country to me with all those Sinn Fein flags”

What was this with a new flag Louis wondered. He knew of the Irish Flag – a green flag with a gold harp. He had seen it in sports. Was this fighting the birth pangs of a nation? Some Irish had been agitating to break with Britain totally. But that was only a handful of lunatics. It would never happen. The government would not speak to Sinn Fein. There would be no horse trading. Nothing matched the British Army. Yes, they had needed American help in the war but the IRA was not exactly mighty – not like the Kaiser’s legions. Louis wondered if he was being too jingoistic. WOuld it be that easy?

Louis found himself picking up Irish idiom. He warmed to the Irish – their joviality and their banter. Maybe a happy compromise could be found between Home Rulers and Unionists. The RIC men of different churches and different political outlooks seemed to get along famously.





Black and Tans. Chapter One. Recruitment



  1. Tall Northern Irish sergeant. Ian  North


2. Short Londoner soldier – blond sergeant aged 40. George Short


3. Davies. Benedict’s. Benjamin  David


4. Watkins. John Watkins.


5. Tavi Moise. Octavian More


6. swimming pool guy from school. Alexander   Brokenshire.


7. Major Neil.  Edward MacNeil


8. Col Olley. Oliver Sergeant.


9. Mike Cunningham.   Mark Cunningham.


10. Relu Marichenano.  Richard  March.


11. Richard chemistry pilot. Older officer. Richard Dixon.


12.  Louis Limtay. Born 1890. protagonist.




Like so many unemployed men Louis Limtay had fetched up in London. He wore a thick but loose grey suit that had seen better days and a tatty beige cap. It was a chilly and cloudy January morning as Louis trudged along a crowded street in the centre of London. The mean spirited landlady had thrown him out of the dank boarding house till dinnertime. He plodded the sullen streets and admired once handsome public buildings now covered in soot and needing repair. The war had been over for more than a year and the city was still jaded. London was full of hard faced young men – many of them with scars. London was full of widowed young women and those women for whom there was no man to marry. There had been victory but no joy.

Louis stopped at a traffic lights. He watched a motorcar pootled past  – one young woman was driving and another was in the passenger seat. He could not believe it – a woman driving! The woman driving wore a white silk scarf wound carelessly around her slender neck. In the war a few generals had had women as drivers but women driving in peacetime? It was not quite right. And they both had bobbed hair – made up like tarts. They were smoking and cackling. Rich young women in costly gowns behaving like that! It was wrong but… alluring. Then came more horseless carriages – so many of them these days. Noisy and emitting such horrid smoke.

Then the horse drawn carriages clattered by. Made him think of his small home town. As Louis saw the carriages move by he saw a beggar out of the corner of his eye. He turned around. There was a man his own age – maybe 30 and sitting on the ground in an army uniform. The uniform was tattered but immaculately laundered. The poor fellow had only one leg. He had a cup with a few coppers in it and held a sign ”Lost a leg at the Somme. Seeking a job. Till then a penny will do.” Louis studied him compassionately – there was a quiet dignity to the man despite looking drawn. His pride was as bright as the sheen on the medal pinned to his chest.

Louis’ funds were running low but he would not deny a penny to an old comrade. He fished out his wallet and got out a penny.

”There you go” he said stooping down and dropping a penny into the disabled soldier’s cup.

”Thank you kindly sir” he said in a West country burr.

”You are most welcome. I am an old soldier too. Good on you tish.” said Louis in a mild Brummy accent.

”I could tell there was something decent about you moment I saw you, tosh.” the man answered in charming Devonian tones. ”So many bloody shirkers around and they’s the one’s that gots the jobs now.”

”Good luck to you fella”, said Louis shaking the man’s hand vigorously.

”Best of luck old chum”, said the man. It was as though they had known each other all their lives. Such was the comradeship of the trenches. Louis had read that in Italy they were calling it trencerismo.

Louis stood up and turned around. Was that rash handing him a penny? If he did not get work within a week he would be out of funds. Had he been a bloody fool to help him out? Suppose that man was an impostor. Think of yourself. Patriotism be damned. Patriotism had caused the whole war anyway. Look at all the men who skived the war and were now doing very well thank you.  Louis might soon be asking to spend time in a homeless shelter. He would not be able to afford the train fare back to Bromsgrove. Chances of landing a job there were even less than in London. He would have to walk all the way home and that would take him a week. The leather on his shoes was wearing thin already and so was his patience. How the hell was he going to provide for his wife and children? Should he move to the colonies? The colonies were not a treasure trove of jobs they once had been.

Homes fit for heroes. That is what Lloyd George had said. Was Louis a chump to still be a Liberal? Well, Lloyd George was no longer a Liberal really. Tory in disguise. Asquith was the Liberal leader. There was no home befitting Louis – hero or not.

London was so different from Bromsgrove. He had once seen a black man in Bromsgrove and once  he had seen an Indian. Here in London he saw men and women of different races every day. These people of foreign parentage were from Nigeria, the British West Indies, the Straits Settlement, Malaya, the Gold Coast,  India and so on. In his boarding house there was a Mohammedan Indian from Karachi. Almost 1 in a 100 people in London were not white. It was extraordinarily exotic. Louis had no ill will towards these other people. They were very curious to him but strangely they were just the same as him. Emotions are universal – he reflected. There were whites of immigrant parentage. There were Russians, Lithuanian Jews, Belgian refugees who had not gone back, Frenchman, Italians and Swedes. Naturalised now mostly – did it matter? Then there were Irish – so many Irish. The Irish were British, weren’t they?

Louis had been bored one day and gone along to a public meeting. There was a dashing young MP speaking –  Tory. Tories were not Louis’ cup of cha usually. Sir Oswald Moseley was his name of that Tory MP. Body of an athlete and the face of a mad man he had. There was something unhinged about him railing about how aliens must be booted out. How had this man who had been to Winchester College and Sandhurst been brainwashed into extreme fanaticism. A bump on the head during the war? Something not quite right about Moseley – those maniacal eyes. Unhinged – the war had done that to a lot of people. After that meeting Louis had been so bored and dejected he had gone to a Salvation Army meeting. In out of the chilly drizzle at least. Avoid going back to his boarding house. The mean old landlady tried to freeze them to death if she could not poison them with what she had the cheek to call food.

Cockneys were a rum lot. Their varying strengths of accent told him where they were on the social ladder. He always thought his West Midlands accent was mild. He was accused of talking posh back home. Down in London the Cockneys told him his accent was comically Brummy.

Would he ever source a job? At least he had a dishonourable discharge. Any man thrown out of the forces – well that was a red flag to any employer.

Should he go back to the West Midlands? They said crime was rife up there with Peaky Blinders robbing all and sundry. Stashing their ill gotten gains in hideaways. You had to be extremely wary in Birmingham. But there was no work to be had in Bromsgrove.

The lights had changed and he walked across the road. On the far side of the building he saw a large white poster affixed to the pale grey wall of a government building.

”Ex-soldiers wanted for a dangerous task. Immediate work.  10 shillings a day. Apply within.”

Louis was flabbergasted. Jobs! Available immediately?  10 shillings a day! That three times what a skilled man earned! Why wasn’t there a huge queue? He hurried to the door of the 5 storey high government building.

A commissionaire stood at the door in a red suit and long red overcoat complete with a cap with the word ‘commissionaire’ embroidered in gold braid. He was 6’4” , well built and had reddish skin and a splendid white moustache. He had an air of authority about him – looked like a retired sergeant major. You would not argue with this bloke – thought Louis.

”Morning sir”, said Louis tipping his hat perfunctorily. He was saw excited the words tumbled out. ”Just saw the advertisement on the bill on the wall you see”, in his haste his West Midlands accent became a little more pronounced.

”Ah yes sir. Well pleased to have you. They just started recruiting today. Not an hour ago. You are in luck. Only a dozen men been in. Go straight upstairs and ask for Captain Dixon.” He spoke in a Cockney accent.  The commissionaire took him by the forearm and looked deep into his eye, ”You are an ex soldier, mind?”

”Certainly am. I volunteered a week after the war began. Promoted sergeant. Royal Worcestershires!”

”Excellent. They will check with the War Office, you see.” The commissionaire nodded and made a hand gesture to usher him in.

Louis hurried into the building. His hobnailed books clacked on the polished black and white chequered marbled floor. How he wished he had dressed better. Louis wished he had blacked his boots more recently than three days ago. But there was no time for that. They wanted men immediately! He was not going to go home and change. He only had one better suit of clothes. Just a few feet inside the foyer there was a wide and impressive carpeted staircase. He paused and gathered his breath. Louise then slowly ascended the staircase. Down the corridor on the ground floor he saw a few men walking this way and that – civil servants though one was in an army officer’s uniform. He heard the the clanging of a typewriter and the bell as it reached the end of the line.

Louis slowed himself down as he climbed the stairs. He wiped the perspiration from his brow  with his white cotton handkerchief. Could this be it? At long last a job? Better not get his hopes up too much. His hopes had been dashed too many times in these past few months. Expect nothing – then you might be in for a pleasant surprise.

Louise stopped on the landing and breathed deeply. He had better not mess this up. He needed this job. Up the second flight of stairs. There he was on the first floor. A commissionaire was there – a slim young man  with dark blond hair and pinched cheeks in the same uniform. He noticed that this unfortunate man had no left arm.

”Good morning.” said Louis with as much poise as he could muster.

”Good morning” said the man in a strong Yorkshire accent.

”I am looking for a Captain Dixon about a position for an ex soldier.”

”Ah yes – force for Ireland. Go down corridor. Is third on your right. ‘is name is on door” said the Yorkshireman with a kindly smile.

”Thank you” said Louis nodding.

The commissionaire said ”Don’t mention it sir – one ex-soldier to another.”

Louis walked down the corridor with a plain white stone floor. It was ill lit. There third on the left was the dark brown wooden door. The name plate read ‘Captain Dixon.’

He had known a Captain Dixon. Could this be the same one?

Louis decided not to think about it too much lest he get cold feet. He knocked loudly on the door – twice.

”Come in” said a pukka voice. Louise diffidently turned the handle and stepped in.

”Good morning Captain Dixon” he said. His eyes fixed on a bowed bald pate fringed with white hair. A man in army officer’s uniform was still sitting at his leather topped writing desk. The office was respectably large and the furniture was all polished wood. A few filing cabinet stood behind the desk.

The officer at the desk finished signing a document and looked up. It took Dixon a moment to cogitate.

”Limtay!” he said – a smile spreading across his ageing features. Captain Dixon stood up. He extended a hand

Louis could hardly believe he was seeing the old captain. They shook hands – vigorously. Limtay could tell that Dixon felt like hugging him but his British reserve forfended it.

”How the devil are you old chap?” said Dixon.

”Oh  – very well only I am out of work see Captain Dixon”, said Louis.

”Well yes it has been rough since the end of the war. A lot of good men out of work through no fault of their own. Now do sit down.”

”Oh thank you very much captain” he said and sat on a chair. ”Forgive the clothes.”

”No problem at all. I am just delighted to have such a fine man volunteering for the job.” said Dixon beaming. Louise noticed that Dixon was immaculately turned out as always. His Sam Brown and boots were highly polished. His clothes were spotless and firmly creased along the seams.

”Thank you very much Captain”, said Limtay relaxing a little.

”Now then Limtay – I realise it has been very difficult to get jobs since the war. I volunteered from the bank in 1915  – joined one of the pals battalions.  Half the chaps bought it. Not all killed by some are paralysed – blind. A horrible show! Ended up seconded to the staff as you know. Where I met you. I wanted to go back to Lloyd’s – would not have me. I am rather good at administration. So here I am in this government office. Lucky they took me on. Hard enough for a whipper snapper like you to get a job. A man my age is almost unemployable. You were a schoolmaster weren’t you?”

”Yes, sir that is right. Pupil-teacher then schoolmaster. Teaching at a primary school. I was due to study part-time at Birmingham University then the war came.  I volunteered first week of the war. ”

”Yes, yes I see. You have a wife and children as I recall?”

”Yes, sir. I do – three children now. All girls.”

”Well they need looking after. How long you been demobilised.”

”Only six months sir.”

”Why didn’t you go back to your old school?”

”They are supposed to guarantee to keep my job open. That is the rule. But they said they cannot afford me. Central government gives the local county council so much less money since the war what with all the war debt and that. So they increased the class size from 40 up to 45. Cuts the wages bill. I tried to get work. Only managed to get cover work – a week here a week there. I applied for everything even being a hotel receptionist. Had to do labouring jobs. I am lucky to have two arms and two legs. Many men form my regiment don’t. Those that made it back alive that is.”

”I know how it is. You are a fine man. I remember you speak French and German. Very useful for interpreting for the Frogs or interrogating the Boche. Anyway – we have a new task for you. In Ireland things are playing up. You heard of Sinn Fein?”

”Yes, I have sir – this revolutionary nationalist movement. They want a republic and to break up the empire.”

”That’s right. Anyway – these fiends well they have a few supporters among the population. Most of the people too terrified to do anything about it. They are fanatics going around shooting people on their own doorstep, burning buildings, blowing bridges and what not. Want to steal all property and kill all the Protestants. These zealots they are called the Irish Republican Army. They are extreme Catholics. Most Irish people are not like that  – Home Rulers. Even the Home Rulers are terrified of this lot of assassins who are shooting policemen left, right and centre. That is where you come in. So many Irish policemen have been shot. More resigned in fear. Not easy to get new recruits. they all fear they will be murdered in their beds. We need tough ex soldiers. Doughty men like you to go to Ireland and fill the ranks in the Royal Irish Constabulary. I will be honest with you. This will be no easy task. You shall be in peril of your life. This is not ordinary policing. You will not be directing traffic or searching for missing children. Your main mission will to be to go to the most dangerous counties in Ireland and stop the Irish Republican Army. That is what that Sinn Fein murder gang are calling themselves. IRA. They are ruthless rebels. So you arrest them when you can and shoot them when you cannot.” said Dixon.

”But sir the police do not carry guns.” said Louis quizzically.

”They do in Ireland for their own protection. Now I have explained the task. Do you think you can do that?” Dixon asked.

”Yes, I certainly can”, said Louis smartly.

”I am being frank about it – this is dangerous. No two ways about it”, said Dixon..

”Cannot be dangerous compared to charging a German machinegun”, said Louis. He inwardly winced – felt he was exaggerating his war record.

”That’s the spirit. Well I can offer you the job on the spot. Are you willing to take the train and boat to Ireland tonight?”, said Dixon with avidity.

”Tonight? Yes, I am.”

”You are?” Dixon sought confirmation.

Louise paused for a moment?

”Yes, I am.” Louis masked his inner hesitancy. This was a golden opportunity. If he said no when would he ever secure a job.

”Superb. Right” Dixon opened a drawer and got the form out. ”Take a minute to read that then sign.”

Louis duly read the contract. All that he would expect of an army contract only it was for the police. Better this than being in a teeming slum. Not many situations vacant signs around.

”Yes, sir I accept” said Louis finishing.

”Wonderful man. No need to bother with a composition and an arithmetic test. Normally we put men through that. We cannot have any old Tommy joining. I know a man does not need to be an Oxford don to join the police but he does need to write reasonably well and do sums. This is not normal policing but there are still some reports to be written up. I have had men with distinguished army records. Sergeants even – some of them can scarcely write.” said Dixon.

”Goodness. Well that is shocking. Does not look good for us schoolmasters. By the time most boys leave school aged 12 they should write decently.” said Louis.

”Quite. Very good. that you are accepting. Now sign”, Dixon moved the conversation on and he proffered a fountain pen.

Louis duly signed – hardly believing he was doing it.

Dixon then rose. Louise instinctively followed suit

”Then I welcome you to the RIC” he said smiling broadly  and treated him to a warm handshake.

”Well great to be on board.”

”I shall prepare your travel warrant and tell you where to go in Dublin to introduce yourself. Start three months basic training tomorrow. ” Dixon bent over his desk. He wrote out the particulars on a piece of printed paper – a travel warrant giving the bearer free travel as he was on government service. Dixon then handed it over.

Louis took the travel warrant and folded it carefully inside his jacket pocket.

”Take good care of that. Now I suggest you go home and pack. Take any train from Euston to Liverpool you like but has to be today. Document is made out for today. Take the boat to Dublin tonight and report yourself to Beggar’s Bush Barracks. Tell them why you have come. I shall write down the address and the name of your contact. Then you will go and give the Emerald Isle a good stiff dose of martial law.”

Dixon’s pen was active once more.

A minute later Dixon was bidding him farewell. ”Best of luck Limtay. His Majesty could not have a finer man serving him!” Dixon handed him 10 shillings, ”You get your first day’s pay here and now.”

”I thank you kindly sir” said Limtay – bowled over by the flattery.

His head was spinning. This was the best news he had had since he had proposed to his wife some 8 years ago.

Louis hurried to the nearest post office to send a telegram to Emma. ”Got a job – police in Ireland! Will send salary when I receive it.”

He then hastened home to the boarding house to pack.  Louis was glad to bade a furious farewell to the termagent of a landlady who had rented him a flea infested bed in a dingy boarding house in Ealing.

Louis got the tube to Euston Station. There was plenty of smoke and steam under the cavernous roof. It echoed with the noise of engines and pistons. He saw a man get grit from a locomotive in his eye. The smell of the grease, oil and coal was a heady reminder that Louis was actually going somewhere. How he liked trains. To him trains were a symbol of adventure. As a child he had watched with wonder the trains rattle through his town – he had counted the carriages. As an adult trains had taken him to many happy experiences. Was this one taking him to his doom he wondered?

He caught the 2 o clock train to Liverpool. As the train puffed out of Euston Station he could scarcely believe his luck. To think the day before he had skipped luncheon to preserve funds.  Now he felt flush. But easy does it. Louis was not certain he had the job. He had the contract all right but he might get to Ireland and the Irish Police might decide they did not want him. Better make sure he made the grade before he went mad with spending.

As it was an early afternoon train it was almost empty. Louis put his suitcase on the rack in the second class carriage. He walked along the juddering train to the dining car. His warrant entitled him to a meal. He also intended to celebrate with a drink and a packet of woodbines. Days as good as this did not come often.

Louis got to the dining car. As he walked in he saw a short, obese man of about 50 seated on his own. This man had fairly long black hair which was greying a little and huge rubicund jowls. He nodded in acknowledgment at Louis. This gentleman had a couple of pint glasses in front of him and was three sheets in the wind. The man had large, thick round spectacles on. His skin was flushed and he had the sort of five o clock shadow that indicated he had to shave every 12 hours.

”Good afternoon”, said Louis a little diffidently.

Louis took a suit on the table across the aisle from the hefty middle aged man. A slim young waiter with a scar across his forehead approached Louis and proferred a menu.

”Before I order may I have a pint of Newcastle Brown Ale please?”

”Oh yes certainly sir,” said the courteous young waiter in a Cockney accent.

Louise began perusing the waiter only to hear the chubby man across the aisle say, ”Man after my own heart.”

Louis looked across ”Oh well thank you. Why?” he asked diffidently.

”Drinking at luncheon. Only way to cope. So glad the war is over with all those damn fool drinking restrictions. War is a wonderful excuse for the power mad to boss us about. Reggie Mather by the way” the man said standing up unsteadily and extended his hand.

Louis stood and took the man’s hand to shake it ”Louis Limtay” he said shaking the man’s podgy paw.

”I am honoured to make your acquaintance Mr Limtay” he said ”I have nothing against soldiers or those who fought in the war as I guess you did.  I was too old. I have to say thank God. All these old men say they wish they had fought in the war. Liars most of them. Yes, I admire your courage but I have the courage to say I was glad to be out of it. Away from all that horror and madness. Yes, I am scared of death. Why are most men too scared to admit that? Isn’t that more cowardly than fearing death? Most people more scared of disapproval than death.”

”Good point” said Louis ”Yes, I was in the war and yes I was petrified at times.”

”See you are man who is really brave – brave enough to tell the truth even when it does not look good. We need more of that”

The slender waiter returned with the drink

”Waiter, put that on my bill”, said Mr Mather imperiously.

”Certainly, sir” said the waiter.

”May I ask – What do you do for a living Mr Mather?” said Louis.

”May you ask? I think you just did” he said with a chuckle, ”I am a barrister” said Mr Mather

”I might have guessed” Louis laughed ” so opinionated and self assured”

”That I am. Going up to Liverpool to do a case. Where are you headed?” asked Mather.

”Liverpool and ultimately Ireland. I am joining the police.” said Louis

”Oh good for you. Well they need law and order over there. Bloody Sinn Feiners go and create havoc. We should have granted Home Rule 30 years ago and then we would not be in this bloody mess we are in now. But we cannot have Sinn Feiners taking over. They say they won that election. The intimiated the Home Rule Party into standing down, wrecked their rallies, voted the dead, stuffed the ballot boxes. Not to say Sinn Fein have no support. They do. Maybe one in three Irishmen supports them. Anyway even if most Irishmen want a republic they should not have it. That is never the way these things work. Woodrow Wilson went and said national self determination. His own Congress would not agree to it. No one has ever accepted that. Those Shinners are such hypocrites. They say Ireland can leave the United Kingdom but Ulster cannot leave Ireland” said Mather. ”I do not like extremists of any  political colour.”

”I do know a bit about Irish affairs. Not as much as you. I used to read up on the Irish Question. Yes, I think they should have Home Rule.  I am a Liberal you see. Parliament passed it years ago. They did not get on with it because of the war. Now the situation is deteriorating every day. Well that is where I come in,” said Louis supping his pint.

Behind them sat a hawk eyed slim middle aged man. His mid brown hair was very carefully brushed and his tanned face was prematurely lined with wrinkles. There was something uptight about him.  The man wore a blue pinstripe suit with a turn up collar on a starched white shirt. He looked sour and said ”Gentlemen, I hope you don;t mind my butting in. I have heard what you have been saying. Forgive my intrusion but I totally disagree. I served on the Western Front” he said in a public school accent.  ”I had a few Irishmen in the battalion under my command. Decent chaps most of them. Then came that bloody Easter Rising. I was aghast. The French were up against it at Verdun – about to crack. We were preparing for the Somme. Then the Paddies go and stick a knife in out back. Could not believe the treachery of it. The rebels are bloody cowards. We had them thrashed in six days. 1 000 of the brutes surrendered. Only 16 got executed. I would have hanged the rotten lot. That is what the Kaiser would have done. Then all these Sinn Feiners are always whining – the English are so cruel to us. We are not! Only executed 16 of the blighters. We were within our rights to hang every man jack of them. We were far, far too lenient to those pro German buggers. If we had done that then we would have heard no more trouble. Then Lloyd George let all the Sinn Feiners out of prison a few months later. No end of trouble we had from those Shinner rats. You might have thought they would have been grateful for being let off scot free. Not a bit of it. No logic from the Irish. These rebels ought to have been dangling from a rope and instead they get let go. It just goes to show that mercy gets you nowhere with the Irish. You have got to be FIRM. Force is the only language they understand, mark you”, he ranted

Louis and Mr Mather was in stunned silence for a moment

”Well that was a fascinating insight” said Mather philosophically ”One way of looking at it.”

”Thank you sir. I was a captain in the army so this is all very close to my heart. In stock broking now. Forgive my fervour. When men under my command were getting killed and the Irish were bringing German guns into Ireland to kill more of my comrades well – I felt very strongly about it. Do the Irish really want to be ruled by the Kaiser? Would they rebel against him? If they did the Jerries would round up every man in the village and shoot him dead. Now I do not advocate that but that is what Sinn Fein’s allies did.” the man was a little calmer.

”I think we need to be a little more controlled and disciplined” said Louis ”From a rebel perspective I can see that the Great War was the ideal time for a rebellion. The rebels are not that popular. They knew they would only stand a chance if they had the help of another great power against the United Kingdom. Why would they not take a perfect opportunity? Anyway the lost even with German assistance. Now Germany is defeated the rebels have little chance.”

”I certainly hope so” said the ex army officer. ”Good for you man. You are going to protect His Majesty’s loyal subjects in Ireland and there are plenty of them.”

The waiter came back. Louis ordered. ”I will have roast beef with Yorkshire pudding please”

”Very good sir” said the waiter.

Mr Mather said to the ex army officer ”Excuse me may I have your name sir”

”Yes, certainly”, he said standing, ”Captain Rodney Carruthers” . Mather struggled to his feet. Carruthers gave him a very stiff handshake. ”Never been to Ireland myself. Does one need to speak Irish to get by over there?” asked Carruthers.

”Lord no.” said Mathers ”they only speak Irish in a few villages on the west coast.”

The conversation continued bibulously. Mather drank more and bought a round for the others.

The waiter came back with the meal. Louis tucked in. Mather said ”Tell me waiter – what do you make of the Irish Question?”

”The Irish Question? What is that sir?”

”Well should the Irish have self government of any form? And if so is it for the whole of Ireland or to exclude Ulster?”

”I don’t really know sir. My gut instinct is that if the Irish want independence why not give it to them? Then nobody will die on either side.” He bowed gauchely and hastened off.

Carruthers presently fell asleep.  Mather and Louis continued their confab.

”I wasn’t a hero in the war. I joined up – caught up in the euphoria like so many others. I assumed that everyone joined out of patriotism. Boy was I wrong about that. I was a bit of a naif. Round where I come from there are a lot of factories. The boys told me that when the war started commerce just shut down. Within a month half the men in the works were thrown out of their jobs. Many of them enlisted just to get regular food. Anyway training was a nightmare. Deprived of sleep – chivvied. Everything double quick. Verbally abused. Square bashing – left turn, right turn, about turn. Barked at by total ignoramuses. Some fellow thinks he is special just because he pressed his cap into his nose. I regretted joining the army very soon.” Alcohol had loosened Louis’ tongue.

”Well I admire you for having the courage to admit it to yourself and to me” said Mather. ”That is one thing they did not mass produce in the war – truth.”

”Thanks Mr Mather. So many men say we should all say that we loved the war and loved the army. To hell with it I say.  Stupidest thing I ever did when I could have stayed safe at home. Somehow I told myself this was a sport. Like the ultimate sport. Fellows do not get killed. Well not on our side. And if they do it is not my mates. Well, it is certainly not me who gets killed. How could I have been such a bloody fool? Then over to France. I have to admit – when I saw wounded men , mangled men I considered deserting. I saw fresh graves – full of our corpses. Jesus! I have to confess first time I was heading into battle I nearly shat myself. Some of them guys had been yapping about how brave they were. They really wanted to stab Fritz in the guts. Ok a couple of them really were that crazy. They were that brave when it came to it. Others I saw they changed their tune pretty quick when bullets started to fly. There were men I thought were the bravest – went to pieces. Jibbering and crying.  I got wounded in the chest on the Western Front in 1915. I was pleased with that. Out of action for a few months. No lasting damage. Then I recuperated. Got sent to Egypt. En route to Gallipoli. Then they told us our boys are pulling out of Gallipoli now. So I missed that catastrophe. Nice. Back to France. I got offered a job in a staff office because I speak French and German. I only thought about it for half a second I had a chance to avoid the slaughter. I took it! For a bit of 1917 I was even posted back to England. Wonderful.” Louis was surprised he had been so candid. Usually he spoke only sparingly about the war. It was a nightmare he would rather put behind him.

”I do not blame you. I would feel the same way. Are you married?” asked Mather.

”Yes, unfortunately. Wife and I do not get on too well. She is a miner’s daughter from Nottinghamshire. A very brainy lass is Emma. She has even been to university; unlike me. A teacher. But we got married in a hurry if you know what I mean. Cash, bang, wallop! We have three daughters now. My wife is a socialist. I am a Liberal so there is some tension there. I am glad to be getting away from her. But then I think – I only just got out of the army. Hated every minute of that. Now I am going back to a war zone to fight? But I am desperate. I was reduced to working on building sites. I did not even get that every day” said Louis.

”Let;s have some more drink. I am paying!” said the barrister.

”Are you sure?” asked Louis.

”Come on doctor says I have five years to live. Let’s have another round” said  Mr Mather.

”That’s the spirit. This has been the best day I have had in a long time. Maybe I have five months to live where I am going. Another round!” said Louis cheerfully.  His mind wandered to his companions from the war. Like brothers to him – not that that meant he liked them all. The ones who survived and came home. Would he see them again?

The barrister poured the wine maladroitly and spilled it widely. It was hard for man to be dextrous after he has imbibed so much liquor. Louis could not but admire the man’s joie de vivre.

As the waiter served them their drinks Louis piped up ”You know my doctor said cigarettes are bad for you. I could not believe it.”

”Absolute tosh.  Bunkum! My doctor says smoking clears the lungs. That man ought to be struck off the medical register” ,said Mr Mather

When that bottle was finished the barrister was keen to order yet another.

”No please I shall arrive for duty tight! And that’s not a good…” said Louis.

”Nonsense man!” the barrister cut him off with aplomb. ”No commanding officer would begrugde a doughty soldier such as yourself getting crapulous and merry on his last day in civvy street. Let’s face it what are they going to do? Put you in gaol?” Mather laughed raucously.

”I am all for the short and merry life – Edward FitzGerald. His epitaph” said Louis.

”A literary man? A man after my own heart. Have you read his Rubayyat of Omar Khayyam?” Mather inquired smilingly.

”I have to admit I have not” said Louis.

”My dear boy you must, you must!” said Mather slapping his knee. Mather’s taste for alcoholic tincture was no short of heroic. Louis had to pinch himself to think this man was chiding him for not drinking enough.

It was the evening when the train rattled into Liverpool Lime Street. Louis had sobered up somewhat. He bade a hearty farewell to the alcoholic barrister with outspoken views. He said goodbye to Carruthers a little less warmly.

Outside the station Louis saw a man in a railway uniform. Louis asked the short, tubby middle aged fellow directions ”Excuse me sir, which tram is it for the docks? I have to take the ship to Ireland?”

The short man had a dense, curly brown beard and a bald pate above his thick glasses. ”You going to Ireland? You are English and not Irish, right?”

”Yes, I am English” Louis said a little taken aback.

”Good. And a true hearted Protestant?”

”Well I am – Church of England, sort of. We went to the Methodist Church a bit though. Did not have good enough clothes for the Church of England” said Louis.

”What you going to Ireland for then?” said the little man

”I am going to join the police” Louis said nervously – aware that not everyone like the police.

”Ah great – teach those thick Micks how to behave. I do not like Papists meself. Them Irish come here and take out jobs. Might be all right if they wanted to stay with England but not then they are always bad mouthing us and killing our soldiers – helping the Jerries.”

”Yes, terrible” Louis thought it clever to pretend to be more sympathetic than he really was.

”I am in the British League for the Support of Ulster. Our patron is Lord Willoughby de Brooke. I met him one time. My God! It was almost like meeting the king” said the small man breathlessly.

”Wow. Lucky you” said Louis – wary of this man’s fanaticism.

”Take tram seven. And keep the Protestant faith like!”

”I will do” Louis said with a lack of conviction.

The plump little man shook his hand with vigour ”me name is Zachary Newsom and don’t forget it. I am in the N A P”

”NAP? Forgive my ignorance. What is that?”

”National Association of Protestants. It is Protestantism that made England great!”

Louis could not understand this fixation with religious denomination. Were they not all Christians? Where he came from they were all Protestants. The Irish in his county were about 1 in 100 and no one disliked them.

Louis then got himself onto a tram for the docks and an unremarkable journey.

Black and Tans – novel. Plan.



  1. Tall Northern Irish sergeant. Ian  North


2. Short Londoner soldier – blond sergeant aged 40. George Short


3. Davies. Benedict’s. Benjamin  David


4. Watkins. John Watkins.


5. Tavi Moise. Octavian More


6. swimming pool guy from school. Alexander   Brokenshire.


7. Major Neil.  Edward MacNeil


8. Col Olley. Oliver Sergeant.


9. Mike Cunningham.   Mark Cunningham.


10. Relu Marichenano.  Richard  March.


11. Richard chemistry pilot. Older officer. Richard Dixon.


12.  Louis Limtay. Born 1890. protagonist.




  1. N Lupton. Mayo. Nick Lumley.


2.  Anthony FitzPatrick. Midlands. Tony FitGerald.


3. Rick Forshaw. Wee North. Prod. Rick Forshaw.


4. Shaheen’s husband. Dubliner.  Sean Groom.


I R A men

  1. G Nagle.  Gerry Crook


2. P Lynne.   Peter Lynne


3. Causkey Harrington.  Pascal  Hardy


4. Wesley Hendricks. William Hendricks.


5. Anthony Curtin. Anthony Curtin


6. Honora O’Connor. Honora O Connor.


7. Jonathon Wynn. Jonathon Wynn.


8. Mark Griffiths. Marxist.   Mark Griffiths


9. Abel Kennington.  Adam MacCoinnaith


10. George Williams. Seoirse Williams. 


11. Sean Gallagher. Sean Gallagher.


Victims of IRA.

wrongly suspected informer in the ranks

Prod strong farmer

female informer

petty thief beaten and accidentally killed

One of the Tans.