Black and Tans chapter 5. Burning

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LOCAL R  I C

  1. N Lupton. Mayo. Nick Lumley.

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2.  Anthony FitzPatrick. Midlands. Tony FitzGerald.

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

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

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5. Aodh O’Kelly. old man

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6.   Pat   Connolly. deserts. Physical description?? aged 48.

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Fr MEAGHER AND BENEDICT THOMPSON

One evening Fr Meagher had his lover Benedict Thompson around to his house. Three miles to his parents’ house was much too far for the young athlete to walk. He needed to spend the night with the parish priest. The podgy menopausal housekeeper had finished her duties.  This woman was broad both fore and aft. Fr Downy had gone to chair a meeting of Sinn Fein.

Fr Meagher spoke to Benedict,

”I am a fisher of men. Yes men. Trawling”, he giggled wickedly. Fr Meagher wore his black habit complete with jupes. He also sported a black silk shovel hat.

Benedict chortled too. ”Did you get into all this in that year you spent in London?”

”Oh yes ” said Fr Meagher naughtily ”That is where I discovered Hellensim. I went to a place called Hampstead Heath. It is a good place to pick up strays. It was a great spot to walk my dog – especially as I did not have one!” they both laughed heartily. ”I am into the cult of a beautiful youth. It is a noble thing for a man like me who is getting on a bit you introduce a man in his 20s to the joys of manly love. It is the purest of all. In London there is a cover world of us sodomites and catimites. ” Meagher combined a wry sense of humour with a smooth talking urbanity.

”Is it not hypocritical of you to stay in the church?” said Benedict Thompson.

”Yes, Bendict it is in a way.” said Fr Meagher, ” I am feathering my nest. I joined the church out of faith. I am staying in it to feather my nest. But I owe the church a lot. Got me out of that one horse dorp where I grew up. Ironic that I should end up here. A one horse town and the horse just left. There is not much intelligent life here – besides you. We have no society. It is so bland. But thank you for coming around on Saturday night. It is a very testing time for a priest. So many others are down the pub or at a hooley – dancing. I still do good for the church. In confession women tell me they are doing things to prevent themselves becoming pregnant. I tell them that is no sin and not to feel guilty about it. The saving grace of the Catholic Church is that it allows forgiveness. Some Protestants are all fire and brimstone. They think Jesus is made in the image of them – all condemn and burn.”

”What can they do it?” said Benedict ”I mean how can these women who lie with their husbands prevent maternity?”

”There is much about the female body you have yet to discover.” said Meagher trying not to come across as patronising. ” It is a mystery to me. I do not want to know. I do not find women at all attractive. Just occasionally I can recognise a woman is good looking in the same way that a work of art of aesthetically pleasing. But I do not find myself aroused by a woman.”

”Should you be saying that in confession – that they can stop themselves having children?” asked Thompson concernedly.

”Of course I should. I am doing good. I am preventing them having more children than they can feed. I stop them feeling bad. There is this Austrian psychiatrist. Freud is his name. He has made all sorts of discoveries about sexual psychology. We should not feel guilty about our urges or behaviour. A sane person recognises we cannot have people having more children than they can feed. That Mrs O’Flaherty had 21 children. I know that is an extreme example. Mrs Nolan had 16 and only 6 lived! I know that is a lot two. 8 children is about average around here.  ” said Fr Meagher tranquilly.

Thompson ventured, ”Tell me more about this Freud character.”

”I dare not tell you about his teachings.” said Meagher,  ”It would make your hair stand on end. I do not believe in all his findings. Of course I do not know much of psychiatry. I can only understand the parts of his books that are more Humanities and Sciences though my German is fairly good. I am a layman when it comes to Medicine. All this stuff about the chemistry of the brain – I have a very hazy notion of it.”

”So what are his teachings?” said Benedict.

”Ah well one of these is about projection. We project onto God all we would want to see in a father when were were toddlers. We imagine him to be almighty, omniscient, wise, just, liberal and forgiving. We also project onto out enemies all our worst traits. People dislike dishonesty, lack of hygiene, sexual immorality, egotism, cruelty, stupidity etc… so they accuse their enemies of all that.” said Meagher.

”Not everyone is all these things,” said Benedict Thompson.

”That is true. Then there is this other scintillating theory he has in totem and taboo. Every society has some shibboleths. There are some things to exalt like the host at mass, or like premarital virginity or the Bible or the idea of Irish independence whatever it. We constantly bang on about how we utterly believe in these things and anyone who does not is wicked. On the other hand we have some beliefs or items that are unacceptable like a food a drink a sexual preference or a political idea. It could be meat on Friday – that is a taboo. The fact that the Irish and the English are related is anathema to republicans. Taboo. I do not just mean that they are our kith and kin. Every Irishman has a cousin he consider English. Look at the fellas around here said to be in the Irish. Their names suggest they have ENglish or Welsh ancestors  like Walsh. Brannock – his name means British. But we are also culturally related – almost identical. There are differences between ourselves and the English of course as there are differences within Ireland. But republicans fetishise these few things that are distinctive about ourselves and hugely inflate them. Same goes for what is different between us and the Scotch and Welsh. The republicans seem not to be so exercised about them though.” said Meagher.

”You really think Ireland and England are that similar?” said Benedict.

”Sister nations. This whole Sinn Fein rebellion thing is intersororal strife. It will soon pass.” said Meagher.

”You think so but empires have broken up since the Great War.” said Benedict.

”Only defeated ones.  Russia, Germany, Austria Hungary and the Ottomans – they are shattered. The British have won. So they or should I say we are staying strong.” said Meagher.

”But the IRA will force the Brits out.” said Benedict.

”Don’t make me laugh. A million British soldiers were killed in the Great War. How many have been killed in Ireland in the last year? 100. The only way that the British will lose Ireland is defeat on the Home Front. If British public opinion is persuaded that this is unwinnable or that England is the baddie then the IRA will win.” said Meagher.

”Well I am willing to follow orders to fight!” said Thompson with vehemence in his tone.

”Do you really mean that?” said Meagher.

”I am in deadly earnest.” said Thompson.

”Please Benedict – do not be so foolish.” said Meagher

”I have to free our country. Out to face the Saxon foe. ” said Thompson.

”We are free. Free speech, free movement, free trade, free elections, freedom of religion. Even women have the vote. Think of the hundreds of countries in the world. We have more freedom than most of them. How is killing thousands of people and burning down half the buildings in Ireland going to help? You see how the IRA and the loyalists have stoked sectarian hatred? People are being shot by the dozen in Belfast. All thanks to your Patrick Pearse. ” said Meagher.

”Ah but the Brits censor the IRA newspaper.” said Thompson/

”Well what do you expect when the newspaper tells people to kill the British Army? Censorship is a consequence of the fighting and not the cause. End the fight and they will end the coercion.” said Meagher. ”If there were an independent Ireland and there was a rebellion would the government not ban the rebel newspaper?

Benedict chose not to parry the question. ”My country needs me.”

”If you think most people will be grateful to you even if you win then you are wrong. A few years ago a lot of boys said that Ireland needed them to fight the Germans – look at those men now, those that survived that is. I am sorry to say but nobody cares. No one gets rewarded. Even if you get this republic – it will make less difference than you hope and unionists fear. Tell me one thing one concrete thing a republic would change?” said Meagher

”Self respect.” said Benedict.

”Self respect? Respect yourself now. I respect myself. No need to kill anyone to do it.” said Meagher

”Are you sure that my cause is wrong?” said Thompson a tone of doubt creeping into his voice.

”Not absolutely. I try not to be too sure of anything. I could be mistaken. These are matters of opinion not fact. But we should have a prejudice towards peace. You say you will obey orders. Who is behind the IRA? It is men in America. Most of them have never set foot in Ireland. I have been to the United States – met some of these Irish-Americans. Some of them are very ignorant. They think the Famine is still on. Even 10 years ago some of them thought there was a rebellion on. It is partly your Sinn Feiners here feeding lies to dupes in America that funds this whole agony.  ” said Meagher

”I am feeling a patriotic fervour” Benedict said darkly.

”I know, I know. The music is so rousing. The words make adrenaline course through my vains. I hear those lyrics and I want to take up a gun. The melodies make me think I could do anything! But the devil has the best tunes. All patriotic music is like that. Does not matter if it is Irish, English, German, American, French or whatever. The trouble is that reason, moderation and ambiguity are not emotionally satisfying. DO not let emotion cloud reason.” said Fr Meagher pleadingly.

”How can I not feel emotional?” said Benedict.

”I know it is difficult. When feeling is running high. It feels so good to be part of the group. Like at the theatre – cheering or in the crowd at a football match. But that proves that your cause or your enemies cause is not really right or wrong. People just want to belong. Ask yourself if you had been born an Ulster Protestants would you be a unionist or even a loyalist?” said Meagher.

”I do not know. I prefer not to think about it.” said Benedict.

”I think I know why you do not wish to think about it. You are afraid of the conclusion you might reach. It is conditioning. It is impossible not to be influenced by those around you in religion or in politics. So here were are raised as Catholics and nationalists and that is the way most of turn out. Not that Catholicism or nationalism are wrong per se. In America they all believe in democracy and in Japan in absolute monarchy. The SIamese are all Buddhists and the Arabians are all Mohammedans. It is all brainwashing. Now I know that in Ireland we are allowed to think for ourselves and speak our minds. That is something that we have the English to thank for. WOuld we have free speech if it was not for them? I do not know. But I do know even now we have more free speech than they have in Germany, Russia, Spain or many places.” said Meagher.

”How can you say this when the church is persecuted.” said Benedict.

”It is not persecuted. There is a Catholic church in every town. We have religious processions. The RIC come out in uniform to parade at corpus christi. We meet the viceroy and government minister. That is absurd. Then look at France a Catholic majority country where the Catholic Church gets no recognition. Even in the Protestant UK we have more recognition than the church does in Catholic France.” said Meagher

”But we are a nation.” said Benedict.

”What is a nation? No one can tell me that. I do not know myself. But the idiots and revolutionaries and reactionaries are always so sure about it. As though it never changes. Nations are always changing. That is the only constant.. Borders change and flags change. People move in and move out.  Nations are protean. Nations break up into several nations. A few nations get together and form a new one. Nations have existed that we have not even heard of. Nations we have never heard of will yet be born. It is ridiculous to pledge your life to a nation.  I do not particularly believe in the UK as a nation nor do I disbelieve in it. It is not a bad nation or a state to be part of.    ” said Meagher

”Come on how about the language?” said Benedict.

”Which we are not even speaking. Languages come and go. It always amused me to hear of Marxists in the IRA saying the language is so vital. Marx said to let minority languages wither on the vine. We have had a non Irish speaking people here since the 9th century – the Danes. Then came the English. The east coast of Ireland has not been Irish speaking for 800 years.That is Dublin. Many nations are multilingual. Many nations share the language of another nation.” said Meagher.

”Well come on aren’t the loyalists bad?” said Benedict.

”Yes, they are. Some of them are anti Catholic bullies. No doubt about. The UPA is going and killing Catholics left, right and centre. Families are burned out of their homes. Some of them say you have to be Protestant to be British. I know it is a problem. But do not let these fellas define Britishness for you? Am I British ? I really don’t know. I am not bothered about the word, about border or flags. I am not swearing off being British. I know I am Irish though – I am definitely that.” said Meagher.

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A QUIET DAY AT THE STATION.

Constable O’Kelly was in Ahabeg police station. It was a quiet and unremarkable rustic town. There was one main street. Beyond that the town sprawled with many yards between each town and no real focal point.

O’Kelly was a man in his 50s – a year away from retirement – and on the plump side as men of his age tend to be. His black hair was including to grey. He was clean shaven and well built. O’Kelly had a long broad nose and brown eyes. His skin was fair and healthy from country living. Though he moved heavily there was muscle on him. His uniform was not tidy but it mattered not. This was that village where nothing ever happened. Since winnowing the grain in the autumn the people had merely tended their cattle and repaired a few walls. The RIC in this somnolent village was dedicated to finding illegal whiskey stills and requiring people to pay the tax on them or have them destroyed. When the RIC had been stripped down some years before the government had considered closing this station but it had narrowly escaped the cull. As there was almost no crime the RIC had grown slack.

A young woman and a middle aged woman were berating him.

Honora Hurley was a middle aged one with his dark blonde hair folded back on top of her head and a long mid blue dress was particularly shrill. ”Why don’t ye come out and investigate? Our prize bull has been stolen and ye are too lazy to come and see where he was stolen from. Why don’t ye go around to other farms and see who might have robbed us? The police is a grand job for the idle. You fat slob. Being paid taxpayers money to sit there.”

”Mrs Hurley” said O’Kelly striving to be courteous ”I have already explained two constables are out on patrol.”

”This is an emergency like.” said Honora.

”Ladies – ye are in Cumman na mBhan. As ye know the RIC are very busy at the moment because certain organisations are committing all manner of crime! There is mayhem in the country. I would like to help ye recover your stolen property. I shall do in time. At the moment my two colleagues are out on patrol and we have bigger fish to fry. Like murder plots to foil every single day!” his patience was straining.

The daughter Antonia screamed ”If my father was home from Ballykinlar he would box your ears you bowsie! Me uncle Paul is out on the missions in the Gold Coast – if he was back he would tell you to do your job – call yourself a Catholic?”

”You are a no good traitor” Honora spat ”Call yourself an Irishman? It is the people of Ireland you are supposed to be serving and not King George.” she pointed the portrait of George V on the wall behind him. ”I am of fighting stock and I will not stop demanding my rights until you get me my bull back”

Her daughter Antonia added ”This is what ye are paid for. Not to go harassing people who want freedom for Ireland. Come out of the station. Arrest the usual suspects. Known thieves. We are not leaving until you come.” There was a telltale bulge at her hip that O’Kelly did not notice.

”I already have the most notorious thief under arrest. Gerry Nagle. Arrested him for theft yesterday. Again! For the last time I am not allowed to leave the station unmanned.”

The three man police station was in a two up two down house. It was on the square of a village of 500 people. Aodh O’Kelly looked out and saw some bustle in the market. Two men he faintly recognised there. They wore their caps low over their eyes. One carried a suitcase and the other had a fishing rod in its bag. The approached the station.

O’Kelly was distracted. The women continued to give him a tongue lashing about what a loafer and a coward he was. His eyes were not on them but on the men walking purposefully towards the station door with suitcase and bag in hand. His sixth sense told him these men were up to no good. He could file a report on this – a formality.

Just then Honora whipped a revolver out of her dress and put it up O’Kelly’s chin.

”Listen now constable” Antonia shrieked. He felt the cold metal against his jowls.

”Surrender. This is the IRA and we are taking over the station.”  said Honora.

”Very funny Mrs Hurley” O’Kelly said not missing a beat ”Now will you kindly put that gun down and we can discuss your missing bull.”

”Hand over the keys or I will shoot you dead” said Honora.

”You do not know how to shoot”  O’Kelly tried not to laugh. ”Sorry I cannot entrust you with the keys” It had been foolish of him not to shoo these shrews out sooner.

Antonia also drew a revolver and held it to his temple ”but I do!”

O’Kelly suspected that she told the truth. Should he go for his own revolver  in his belt he wondered?

Just then the two men walked in.

Jim London got a rifle out of his fishing case and aimed it as O’Kelly’s chest. The other man was Vinny Conlan who removed a rifle from his suitcase and levelled it at O’Kelly. Thoughts of reaching for his revolver faded fast.

”Well done ladies. You can put the guns down. Antonia now take his revolver out of his belt for God’s sake and put it in the suitcase.”

”Oh all right” she said flustered and quickly obeyed.

”Right O’Kelly – now lead on to the prisoner. We are liberating the prisoner.” said Jim London in a no nonsense manner.

”London – I should have known” said O’Kelly ”I always knew you were no good. Since you were a snot nosed kid you were a thief and a brute. Beating up children smaller than you. Stealing from the other fellows at the slaughterhouse when you worked there.”

”You shut up O’Kelly before you get a bullet in the brain.” said London.

O’Kelly had his hands up as he mounted the stairs.

They got to the small cell on the first floor.

”Ah freedom.” said a bestubbled Nagle standing up ”Come to rescue Ireland’s hero” he said unironically.

Antonia took the keys off O’Kelly’s belt and unlocked the door. ”You may borrow the keys” O’Kelly quipped. Nagle stepped out. Antonia then handcuffed O’Kelly.

”Now women –  get the ammunition the files and put them in the suitcase. Conlan – lay the gasoline around. O’Kelly take your uniform off – we will have that.”

O’Kelly reluctantly complied.

”Why you bothering with his uniform?” asked Nagle.

”Ruse de guerre” said Conlan.

”What the hell is that?” said Nagle perplexed.

”No time to chat” said London ”Hurry up. Get the guns out of the strong room”

Conlan went and collected various firearms that the police had confiscated off local farmers for safekeeping. There was a shotgun, a hunting rifle, a revolver and an old blunderbuss. He also took all the ammunition he could fit into the suitcase.

Mrs O’Kelly with a baby in arms came through an adjoining door.

”What is all this?”  said Mrs O’Kelly.

”You get out of here Mrs O’Kelly or your husband gets shot. We are burning down the station house.” She screamed and ran out.

London then led O’Kelly down to the ground floor.

”Why don’t I shoot you now?” London said aiming for the forehead.

”No” said Conlan ”we do not shoot prisoners of war.”

”I don’t give a damn” said London with ill-concealed delight.

”Jim  – you will not shoot him. Come on he has surrendered.” said Conlan

”I am going to shoot the bastard. You arrested me when I stole that watch years ago.” said London

”Ah no – Jim. Do not do it” said Conlan with supplication in his tone.

Jim relented. He turned his rifle around and hit O’Kelly’s face with the butt. O’Kelly fell to the floor but was not unconscious.

Conlan winced at the report of the rifle butt against the poor man’s face.

”Take that and that” said London as he kicked O’Kelly in the stomach. ”14 children is enough already” said London as he booted the recumbent victim on the testimonials. ”Felt good to belt him!”

Conlan put his hand on Jim’s arm ”Jim that is enough now. We got him. We can go.”

”I am not finished with this West Brit bastard. Arresting republicans.” said London whacked O’Kelly in the face with his rifle butt again.

Nagle came along and kicked O’Kelly in the kidneys. O’Kelly roared and writhed in pain. His face was swelling and his nose bled profusely.

”Ok, ok. you have hurt him enough. Now let’s get out of here so I can set fire to the place.”

”I am not finished yet” said Jim London as he carried on hitting his rifle but into the man’s face. The blood splashed out and speckled the counter and walls.

”London please stop” said Conlan growing dismayed ”You will kill him”

”Isn’t that what war is about?” said Conlan a gleam of hatred and bloodlust taking over his eyes.

”Not when he is already handcuffed and on the ground badly wounded. We do not kill prisoners. That is murder,” said Conlan perturbed.

”Oh you are a saint are you? So bloody moral? I want to finish off this peeler bastard.” said London disdainfully.

”Go on finish him off” Nagle cackled. ”He has seen your face you have to kill him”

”So have his wife and child you going to kill them too?” said Conlan.

”Nice idea” said London. Conlan deduced from London’s face that this was not a joke.

”Come on I have poured the petrol out let me set fire to the place.” said Nagle.

”Well maybe when this fellow cannot move. Let him burn to death. I like the smell of burning pork” London chortled.

”The others on patrol could return any minute. We have to get the arms and files away.” said Conlan growing exasperated.

”I have time enough to kill him” said London kicking and kicking O’Kelly in the stomach.

Nagle stood there giggling like it was the funniest farce of all.

Conlan saw nothing else for it. He walked outside the station and pointed his rifle in the air and shot. The gunshot’s sound echoed around the square. If some had not know that something was going on in the police station they did now.

”What the hell you do that for?” said London ”Now the patrol will hear and come back.”

”Oh sorry negligent discharge” said Conlan. He wondered where London’s sadism stemmed from.

London took the suitcase and dashed out to place it on a donkey cart outside that they had stolen earlier. Nagle hurried out to join him. The women of the Cumman na mBhan had already disappeared.

Conlan dragged the unconscious O’Kelly outside the station. Only then did he apply matches to the petrol he had laid on the floor.

Mrs O’Kelly was outside shrieking in distress with two of her toddlers. She ran over to her comatose husband and bent down to him. She was beside herself as he tried to staunch the blood.

”He is not dead still breathing” said Conlan mounting the donkey cart. London lashed the donkey into motion and they were away.

The drove out of the town square. A crowd had gathered. Some were in consternation. Others cheered them. Nagle turned around and and bowed, waving his hand downwards as though he was an 18th century French aristocrat.

”Nagle face this way” said London, irked. ”This is no time for amateur dramatics. Now take the reins!”

”All right” said Nagle harrumphing. He was reluctant not to milk the moment.

London then took one of the handwritten record books they had stolen from the station and thumbed through it.

”By the way can I have my revolver back? Thank God I had not had it on me when he arrested me. I mean…er… damn I wish I had had it when he tried to arrest me because I would have shot the bastard.” said Nagle.

”Ah shit there will have been a huge gallery of photos of IRA suspects. We should have found that and burned that. Curses” said London.

”Ah shit” added Nagle.

”Down this botharin to the left” London directed him.

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HIDEOUT.

Several miles away Conlan and London were hiding out in a derelict house. They had set the donkey free and they had broken up the cart with an axe. They burnt what remained of the cart to keep themselves warm – it was a chilly January day. They had enough firewood that it would not be consumed for a few days – should they choose to stay that long which was improbable. The abandoned house stood on a brae and was well shielded by trees and thick gorse bushes. Here they could hide unnoticed. It was a hideway of superb quality. Conlan was wondering why London was so twisted.

”This place was lived in till the Famine” said Conlan.

”So I heard. How long a head start do you think we had on the RIC patrol?” said London.

”Well they never walk more than five miles from town. Depends which direction they went. Thursday they usually go east. They will have been at least two miles away by the time we set fire to the place. That is a 20 minute jog anyway – and they have rifles to carry. By the way – that Nagle do you think he talked.” said Conlan.

”That is what I was wondering. I don’t trust that bastard. He would sell his soul. Did he talk? Was he arrested just to give him an excuse to talk to the RIC? Well remember when I had Nagle take the reins?” said London.

”Yes” Conlan nodded.

”That was so I could read the interview book. They questioned him about the theft.  Nagle came up with a cock and a bull story that he was giving to the poor when the items were stolen. Then they questioned him on the IRA. He stonewalled them on the IRA.” London explained.

”So he gave away nothing?” Conlan sought confirmation.

”No nothing. I was thinking about this. We all know that Nagle is a pathological liar. Seems to believe his own bullshit but on the other hand he is not stupid. He knows the RIC will beat him up at worst. Maybe get a few months in prison. If he crosses us once we will kill him. That is why he dares not informs despite money being offered.” said Jim London.

”I noticed there were no marks on Nagle. They did not beat him up. O’Kelly is a decent man. He does not harm prisoner. Never faslisied evidence.”

”Don’t  you go calling any peeler decent. A peeler is a peeler to me. They are best off dead. I wish that O’Kelly was in the morgue. ” said London.

Conlan sensed that it would be wise to change the subject.

”So what did you do before you went off to the army?” asked Conlan diffidently.

”I worked in the abbatoir” said London. ”It was brilliant” he smiled sadistically. ”I got to kill animals every day. They say pigs dream of the knife the night before they get slaughtered. The squeal and kick like anything as I cut their throats. Lovely!” he cackled. ”Anyway I was in the army. I left rather than fight against Ireland. Came back to Cork. I had odd jobs. Unemployed most of the time. But in free Ireland I want to be a hangman. Imagine that. I get to kill people every day and I get paid for it.”

Conlan was disturbed. He chose to change the subject.

”How many of the battalion are in the IRB?” said Conlan.

”Not sure. Lynne anyway. Those bastards are so secretive. Why won’t they be open about who they are? A bit like the Freemasons.  They think they are aristocrats. A secret army within a secret army. You know some of the IRB said they might even agree to the King of England being King of Ireland if we were basically independent! No way. Over my dead body. I would never agree to that no matter what.” said London.  ”IRB think they are so special. They think they should control the volunteers. They might sell Ireland short.”

”We had better divide the night into watches – in case the peelers come after us.” said Conlan

”Right you take the first watch.” said London.

”All right” Conlan answered.

”I wish I had scrambled eggs tomorrow” said London ”We might go and requisition them off a farmer if he will not give them for free.” He sensed Conlan’s unease about the brutal thrashing he had meted out to O’Kelly. ”Have no sympathy for the peelers. Remember the rebels of 1848 were taken away in shackles – transported to Van Dieman’s Land. This is war and war is hell”

”You are right Captain London” Conlan said falsely. London caught the false not in Conlan’s voice but chose to ignore it and turn in.

Conlan looked down the declivity. The fire embers were at his back. His eyes adjusted to night vision. He heard calves and yearlings lowing in the field beyond the dry stone wall. His mind wandered. He noticed that during training drills when they had to run over muddy ground Nagle did not fall over. He was out of shape and malco-ordinated but he had a low centre of gravity – that must be it. Nagle had not grassed them up to the RIC – it was a stunning discovery. Did Nagle have an ounce of integrity after all? Maybe he feared the IRA more than the RIC? That was sensible. What was the worse the RIC would do? Send a man to a comfortable prison for a while. The IRA in prison ruled the prison. They had regular visits and letters. They had good sing a longs. They were released under the Cat and Mouse Act if they went on hunger strike. The RIC were known to slap murder suspects around but not torture them. Conlan noticed that Nagle had not been touched by the RIC. If Nagle was suspected of peaching on the IRA it would be interrogation under torture and then death. Conlan later wept profusely for what they had done to O’Kelly. With that shattered head would he ever speak again? Brain damaged no doubt.  Far more violence than they needed to use – and against an unarmed handcuffed man.

 

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BACK AT THE STATION.

Two other constables heard the gunshot and came from three miles way. It took them minutes. They had managed to requisition a cart. They provided first aid to their stricken comrade. Someone had been sent to fetch Dr Laverty.

The two policemen considered organising others to douse the flames but they realised it was too late. The station was consumed by the conflagration. The building was stand alone so nothing else caught fire. There was evidence to collate from Mrs O’Kelly and one bystander who was willing to give a statement. The others who had been on the square were struck by an odd case of instant amnesia. The wall of silence was impenetrable and the RIC could guess why.

Mrs O’Kelly and her children stood by and wept as their home was devoured by the fire.

The police asked passers by which way the inflamators had gone. Everyone had been suddenly struck by amnesia. They knew that to tell on the IRA was to invite death. Mrs O Kelly had been to preoccupied tending her severely beaten husband to say.

”I have a fairly good idea” said Nick Lupton in his Mayo accent. He fixed his bayonet.  ”It will be Jim London he is a bad news bastard. We will head hunt him bejasus! ”

”I know he lives north of here. But where would he hide out?”

”In the wilds to the south” said Lupton.

”Let’s search there.” They followed on in the commandeered donkey cart.

The RIC came to an old woman leading a bull by a rope ring in its nose. She had a stick with her to discipline the bovine should needs be.

”Good afternoon mam – Mrs O’Rourke isn’t it?”

”It is. God save all here” said Mrs O’Rourke. She was a woman of almost 60 – stout in build but fairly upright and energetic for her age. Her blonde hair had turned grey and hung down to her shoulders. She had small brown eyes, a wide nose and slightly sallow skin with sunken cheeks that made her appear to be slimmer than she was.

”Mrs O’Rourke have you seen any fellas hurrying away in a donkey cart?” asked Lupton.

”I have on me tail” said Mrs O’Rourke. ”I am taking His Majesty to the other field to serve the cows.”

”His Majesty?” asked Lupton in perplexity.

”The bull – his name is His Majesty” said Mrs O’Rourke.

”You have not much regard for the king” said Lupton.

”Respect the king? I do one my eye.” said Mrs O’Rourke.

”We are looking for three fellas with rifles hurried out this way. They are after beating O’Kelly half the death” said Lupton.

”Well you go and find them boy” Mrs O’Rourke said pronouncing the word as ”bwoy”

They asked various passersby. They drew a blank. All denied having seen London, Conlan and Nagle with rifles.

Lupton knew from facial expressions that many lied due to fear.

After an hour the trail ran cold and they abandoned the chase. As the station had been burned they moved to the nearby village of Clountreem to move into the station there.

O’Kelly’s life was saved by Dr Laverty but he had been blinded in one eye and brain damaged. He was invalided out of the RIC.

Another RIC officer reached retirement age. No new recruit was sent from the depot to replace him.

===================

LETTERS

The RIC in Clountreem all received this letter addressed to each of them personally.

”Dear Traitors,

You have sold out your motherland. You know that high treason merits death. A man warned is a man saved. We give you this one last chance to avoid death. Resign now. Else you have three days left to live.

signed

Captain Moonlight.

===============================

TRAINING SESSION.

Fr Downy stood outside the cow byre and London and Lynne were lecturing the men inside.

Downy spoke to Kenneth Adams who stood sentry. ”You know that Eimarr Battle girl is pregnant – out of wedlock. It is a disgrace, like.”

”Yes, father very immoral” said Adams earnestly.

”Told me who the father is but the boy will not marry her. Still he was only doing as natured intended him to do. The shame is on her for being a Jezebel and agreeing to fornicate. I am arranging for her to be sent to a magdalen home. She can wash away her sin. She needs to be purified. Such iniquity.  A few years locked up washing clothes as a maggy in a laundry will teach her to not be such a filthy strumpet. Disgusting behaviour. Like the English. They are a bastard race. They murder the babies too you know. Baby farming they call it. There is no race as depraved as them. God curse them. Germans were right – used to say Gott straff England: God punish England” said Fr Downy.

============================

CONFESSION WITH FR DOWNY

Constable Connolly came to confession in mufti.

Downy was surprised to see him in the confessional. Connolly always went into the confession box manned by Fr Meagher. Downy was known to be republican minded and to berate RIC men if they were ever rash enough to confess to him.

Downy recovered his composure and glowered before abasing his head

”Bless me father for I have sinned.” said Connolly.

”What are you sins my child?” Downy said to a man twice his age.

”I have sold out my mother Ireland. I want absolution. I want to do the right thing by Ireland. I want to save my life.” said Connolly.

”I can help you my child” said Fr Downy.

”I want out of the RIC but then I am unemployed. I have a wife and five children” said Connolly

”I know it is hard but this is war. Better you be alive and poor than to be dead.” said Downy.

”If I sell my rifle will the IRA give me the price of a ticket to America?” said Connolly.

”I will speak to them  – see what I can do. But can you help them storm the station?” said Downy

”Ah no. I am suspected already by them – they know I have a cousin in Cumann na mBann up in Charleville. The others are sworn not to surrender. They will fight to the death.” said Connolly.

”Right let me speak to the boys in the IRA. Come back to confession same time tomorrow.  I will see if I can make an arrangement with them.” said Downy. ”Until then stop busting men with whiskey stills. Taxing people finances the enemy’s war effort.”

Next day the policeman came back to confession. Fr Downy told him ”I have spoken to the IRA. They will make a deal. You come out with your full kit at 12 noon. Can you do that? Go behind Sullivan’s pub. That is where you will be met. You hand over your kit. They want at least 50 bullets. You will receive your ticket to America. They will drive you to the station and put you on the train to Queenstown. You will be out of the country before the RIC know you are missing. Another thing – you must swear to write to the others in the RIC saying what you have done. Encouaging them to desert. That way they will know it is safe to desert. If we can get the RIC to give up without any of our fellas being in danger then so much the better.”

”All right father I will write to them.” said Connolly.

”Swear it now.” said Downy.

”I swear before almighty God that when I get to America I will write to the others in the RIC station saying I have deserted and sold my rifle. I will urge them to do likewise.” said Connolly.

”Very good. Now 12 noon behind O’Sullivan’s can you do that?” said Downy

”Yes, I can. But what about my wife and children?” said Connolly.

”They will just have to stay here. You will have to earn money for them in America and send it back for them to join you. I spoke to the commandant about it. Shipping 6 people out will attract too much attention. Are you going to take your wife into your confidence?” said Downy.

”I already have. Tis she is the one telling me to do it. Her brother is an IRA man in Louth.” said Connolly.

The next day at 12 noon Constable Connolly made an excuse to leave the RIC barracks. The others were questioning a man over a drunken assault the night before. They found it a tiresome duty. They knew this man Aidan Hanley had a sister in Cumman na mBann – was he able to pinpoint where the three IRA men involved in the barracks raid in the next village might be? He pleaded ignorance.  It appeared that the attackers were untraceable. The RIC had a fairly good idea of who was in the IRA. Mostly unemployed youths who would have unexplained absences from the village for the few days.

Connolly walked a little too fast across the town square. He strove to contain his nerves. He was jittery and perspiring. His comrades had noticed that something was up. They had put it down to the death threat from the IRA. Connolly had been more frightened by this than the others. When the others had been busy he had been careful to slip into the strong room and take some extra ammunition. 60 rounds. He thought about stealing more and a few firearms to hand over to the IRA. But no. Supposing he was caught by the RIC? If things went wrong Connolly wanted to be able to say that he was kidnapped by the IRA. He could not be seen to have been stealing things on their behalf.

Connolly go to the far side of the square and turned to the right – he went to the street that led off the square. They was an alleyway that went in behind O’Sullivan’s pub. Connolly walked down the fetid lane. A derelict house abutted onto it. In the derelict house. This was the point of no return Connolly told himself. In a few minutes it would all be over and he would be on his way to safety.

Constable Connolly stood in that alleyway – seeing that no one was passing the opening of it onto the street. He felt foolish – thought he better pretend to urinate. The he heard a ”pssst” from the derelict house. Connolly looked – out of the ground floor window of the long since abandoned house he saw two masked faces. It was Conlan and London both were aiming revolvers at him.

”No funny business” said London.

Connolly was nervous to have the guns trained on him. ”No, no funny business. I am on your side. Lower your guns will you?”

”Hand us the rifle – butt first. No games now. We had our people watch you leaving the station to see this is not a trap. ” said London.

”All right I will” he said. Connolly duly slowly handed the rifle over. London took it. Conlan kept his gun aimed at Connolly’s chest.

”Good now – revolver.” said London.

”All right revolver” said Connolly. He slowly withdrew it from its holster and then handed it over with the butt facing London. London grabbed it early and put it into a suitcase.

”Right now climb over the wall into this house” said London.

”Ok I will” said Connolly. With some difficulty he climbed through the ground floor window. The glass had been smashed out of the window years before. Weeds grew throughout the abandoned house.

”Now behind the wall” said London ”Take your uniform off pronto and boots. We have a change of clothes for you.”

”Ok I will” Connolly said and then rapidly complied. London threw him some tatty garments and shoes that were almost falling apart.

”I can’t wear these” said Connolly.

”SHut up” said London ”You cannot put your RIC uniform on again. If you do I will shoot. No ammo? Ah yes here I see it” said London

”I got you 60 bullets” said Connolly.

”Should have got more.” said London regretfully.

”May I have my ticket.” said Connolly as he did the belt up on his new trousers. London handed him his steerage ticket.

In a minute the three sauntered out of the derelict house together. Kenneth Adams was waiting on a donkey cart in the lane. All three men pulled their caps low over their faces.

”Won’t people recognise me?” Connolly susurated.

”Now they won’t/. They only ever see you in a uniform. They will no believe it is you” said London as Adams lashed the donkey into motion.

Within half an hour they were at the station. They dropped him there and sped on. The IRA secreted the rifle and weapons on Adams’ farm.

An IRA man was at Queenstown and he watched Connolly board the ship – just in case Connolly had second thoughts.

Connolly was missed within an hour. There was pandaemonium in the station. His wife seemed oddly unconcerned.

================================

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About Calers

Born Belfast 1971. I read history at Edinburgh. I did a Master's at UCL. I have semi-libertarian right wing opinions. I am married with a daughter and a son. I am allergic to cats. I am the falling hope of the not so stern and somewhat bending Tories. I am a legal beagle rather than and eagle. Big up the Commonwealth of Nations.

2 responses »

    • I am glad that you are casting an eye over my scribblings. I strive for objectivity and balance. I seek to show the complexity and ambiguity of the situation. The overriding theme is conflict. This includes inner personal battles. There are shades of grey and Fr Meagher is sagacious enough to appreciate this. He is very rational and detached. He is sceptical about everything including scepticism.

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