LOCAL R I C
- N Lupton. Mayo. Nick Lumley. spy————————–
2. Anthony FitzPatrick. Midlands. Tony FitzGerald.
3. Rick Forshaw. Wee North. Prod. Rick Forshaw.
4. Shaheen’s husband. Dubliner. Sean Groom. transferred—————
5. O’Kelly. invalided ———————————-
6. Murphy. retired.————————————————
7. Bill Moore. (W C C)
8. Seamus Bolger (Spanish teacher) shot dead——————————-
9. Donal MacDonald (Alec Scott) wounded———————————
- Tall Northern Irish sergeant. Ian North. Yorks. apolitical —————————————-
2. Short Londoner soldier – blond sergeant aged 40. George Short. Anti Irish anti everyone. apolitical —————————
3. Davies. Benedict’s. Benjamin David. Scotland. Not sectarian. Rangers fan. Liberal —————————
4. Watkins. John Watkins. Wales. Labour —————————————
5. Tavi Moise. Octavian More. Southampton. Anti Catholic. Tory. ——————
6. swimming pool guy from school. Alexander Brokenshire. Liverpool. Labour ————————————
7. Major Neil. Edward MacNeil. Geordie. Half Irish Catholic but raised Prod. Labour ————————————–
8. Col Olley. Oliver Sergeant. Berks Tory.—————————————————
9. Mike Cunningham. Mark Cunningham. Newcastle. Labour ————————————–
10. Relu Marichenano. Richard March. Lancs. Catholic. Tory————————————-
11. Richard chemistry pilot. Older officer. Richard Dixon. Suffolk.——————————
12. Louis Limtay. Born 1890. protagonist Liberal.—————————————————-
13. Williams Bulkeley. William Bulkeley. Tory
14. Blairmore teacher. Blair Teacher anti Catholic. Scots. Labour ——————————
”Well men” said the inspector ”You are all passing out today.” Over 100 RIC recruits from Wales, Scotland and England were seated in a dining hall at mid morning.
The RIC inspector continued, ”You will be then sent to your posts. Some of you shall stay here in Dublin. Others will be sent to various badly affected counties such as Westmeath, Kerry, Galway, Tipperary, Cork and Louth. The situation is by no means all bleak. We have had some real successes in the last month. Big hauls of prisoners. Some of these Shinners we captured singing like canaries. Some arms caches uncovered – major finds. We have bested the rebels in a few engagements. The public is tired of IRA antics. The IRA is robbing people. All sorts of crime are going on in the countryside because the IRA have given villains free rein. In some counties things are going on as normal. In several counties there has not been a single attack on the RIC let alone a man killed. ”
Louis and his nine comrades relaxed a little on the benches as they heard this. Louis cast his eye along the row of men in the barracks dining room. How many would survive he wondered? Would he survive? He had faced worse odds. Was he really going to do this? This was not the army it was the police. He could still resign and go home with his skin unpuncutured.
”Now, you men, from Hut 37” the inspector turned to where Louis and his dorm mates were seated. ”Limtay, North, Short, Brokenshire, MacNeil, David, Teacher and so on. I can tell you where you are headed. And I can tell you who your officer will be. Yes, I know everyone in the RIC is an officer. But we have a former army officer arriving today as your head constable before you are sent off to the countryside. Captain William Bulkeley of the King’s Royal Rifle Corps will be arriving in a minute. You men will be dispatched tomorrow to Clountreem. It is a small town in County Cork. Badly affected. IRA are all over the place like a rash. Half a dozen RIC men cowering in the barracks there. They need reinforcement. The IRA rule the roost down there. RIC can hardly go a mile from their barracks without being sniped at. You go down ant take the fight to the enemy. Show those rebels who is boss.”
Just then an Irish RIC officer opened the door of the dining room and saluted smartly.
A slim man of 28 with jet black hair stepped into the room. He was an officer from his brylcreemed hair to the burnished buckled boots. He had slightly grey skin which somehow did not seem unhealthy despite its hue and wore small round glasses. This man stood 5’11” and was bolt upright. He carried himself with poise and assurance. His officer-like mien had Louis inwardly saluting.
”Ah men – I would like to introduce Captain Bulkeley, formerly of the KRRC.” said the inspector; ” He is now a head constable in the RIC. Your men are over here – they have been in hut 37. Well as for the rest of you. That is today for the briefing. Now go back to your huts. Last minute boot polish and then on the parade ground in an hour. ANy questions?” He paused for five seconds. There were none. ”Hut 37 stay here to meet Captain Bulkely. The rest of you – dismiss.”
They stood up and instantly there was noise as the men fro, sundry other huts chatted and headed for the door.
Hut 37 stood up and all saluted Captain Bulkely who saluted back. The men from the other huts had filed out. Bulkeley had been canny enough to wait for that before speaking.
”At ease men” Bulkeley said noticing they were all rigid and puffing their chests out. They instinctively respected him. ”Now men. You should call me by my RIC rank which is head constable. I demand the strictest discipline from my men” he said almost languidly. ” One thing I insist on is that your kit is absolutely immaculate. I can see that some of you do not have creases in the right places. Some buttons are insufficiently burnished. Men you are about to go on parade in an hour and I will not have you disgrace yourselves.” Bulkeley paused to let them absorb his words. He eyed them and looked witheringly at Limtay’s boots.
Then Bulkely continued. ”I shall get to know you and work together with you. So will you please introduce yourselves one by one.”
The men introduced themsevles perfunctorily. They all felt diffident. Bulkeley was so evidently in charge yet he came across as sympathetic – as though he cared for them.
The passing out parade passed off. Louis felt little pride in it but he was regretful training was over. He had not felt relieved to make it as he had when he had somehow survived basic training in the army. Now he was to be sent to the deep countryside, IRA territory. He did not fancy tangling with the enemy.
The moolah and plentiful food had been welcome. He had sent his wife plenty of money. He had even been home on a long weekend. Perhaps his marriage was not on the rocks. The lads in his RIC unit were amiable enough. Some were even intensely likable. There was a lot to live for. Why oh why did he have to be going to such a danger zone?
The others were of good cheer as they hopped into army lorries next morning. They whizzed through the streets of Dublin. Some youths jeered them as they went. ”Ya boo” and ”boo sucks”.
Louis spotted the occasional Irish Tricolour on rooftops. This provocative gesture was sure to invite a search by the DMP. The DMP he had heard were not much use. They were unarmed and infiltrated by the IRA. When it came to tackling the IRA in Dublin the RIC had to do it themselves. The Dublin Metropolitan Police seldom gave the IRA more than a ticking off and it was more often a tip off.
It was a raining that April afternoon when they pulled up at Kingstown Station. They marched in formation to the train. Civilians were walking this way and that. They tended to be decently dressed. The poorest could not afford to travel by train. Newspaper boys stood outside the station calling out the names of the papers they had to sell.
The 11 RIC officers – led by Bulkeley – marched past the ticket collectors at the barrier. The ticket inspectors averted their eyes – not wanting to make the RIC think they were challenging them. By the khaki and bottle green uniforms these RIC officers stood out as those being drafted in from Great Britain to fight the IRA. They were not the locally recruited RIC men. Bulkeley marched his men right to the end of the platform – where the locomotive was.
The train driver glowered at them. He was a middle aged man in an oil stained blue uniform.
”Don’t you even think about refusing to drive us.” Bulkeley jabbed his finger at the train driver.
The train driver looked down and mumbled ”I will drive ye all right.”
The RIC boarded in first class which was virtually empty.
”Bloody hell – first time I ever sat in first class” said March. They all sat down.
Bulkeley then said ”North and Watkins – you go into the locomotive. You stay there in case the engine driver or his fireman have any second thoughts. Is that understood?”
”Yes sir” they said in unison.
”I shall send men to relieve you at the next station.” Bulkeley added confidently.
The train left on time.
”Why did you join the army Cunningham?” said Limtay.
”I joined because it was a bad home situation. The old man was a beggar for the bottle and used to beat us up. I had to get out ” he said very placidly. ”So I was a drummer boy from the age of 12.”
”For me it was a bit different” said Brokenshire. ”My parents filled in the forms and said you are joining the navy. As 15. So off I went.”
Short remarked ”You was lucky to have parents. I grew up in orphanage. Had to join – got kicked out at 14. Anyway I wanted to join as soon as I could so I left at 12. Drummer boy. By the time I became a real soldier at 17 I knew the ropes. Could kick the shit out of them that joined at 17.”
”I was one of them bloody fools who joined because of the war” said March.
”What you mean fool – we won didn’t we?” said Brokenshire.
”Yes, I know. But I would never have joined if it were not for the war. It was not the life for me. I believed in our cause.” said March.
”Cause? What was our cause? It is our country we fought for.”
”It was fought over Belgium – not our country” said March.
”He is right though” said Cunningham ”We fought for nothing.”
”What you mean nothing? You saying my best mate died for nothing?” said Brokenshire.
”I don’t wish to make it feel worse but yeah. What was wrong before the war? Why did we need that war? I know we had problems even then but now look at the unemployment we got.” said Cunningham.
Brokenshire’s face was a mixture of grief and anger. He formed his hand into a fist. Cunningham had been rash to provoke him and was only just realising as he finally made eye contact. Cunningham had a disconcerting people of not looking at people as he spoke to them. Brokenshire tensed and then relaxed. He had restrained himself. The fury drained away.
Limtay wondered what would have happened if Bulkeley had not been there? Would Brokenshire have hit Cunningham.
”Still in the war I got to do a lot. I got to go to France. I saw aeroplanes. I went in a car for the first time ever. I had leave in Paris. I even got sent to Italy for a bit. To do all that would have cost me 50 pounds!” said March.
”What a Holiday!” said Limtay sarcastically.
”You had been abroad before had you?” said March.
”Yes sure – every summer since 1910. I cycled with a mate from Bromsgrove all the way to Southampton. Ferry to France. We cycled to Paris and around France for a month. Camping out. Then 1911 same thing – cycling around Belgium and Holland. It was like three men in a brummel. 1912 I went to Spain. 1913 I got a temporary job with Berlitz in Hamburg. 1914 I was working in Paris. I was there when the wore broke out. My God what a frenzy? The streets were packed. Tens of thousands of people singing La Marseillaise. It was maddening – like opium I imagine. Just driven wild and buoyed up on emotion – a tidal wave. They were singing themselves hoarse. Oh to feel like that again. Brought tears to my eyes and I am not even French. So I hurried home to enlist.”
Bulkeley listened carefully but pretended not to. He prudently decided that as an officer he had been maintain a distance from the other ranks. He chose not to share particulars of his early life.
”What was you doing in France?” said Cunningham
”Teaching” said Louis.
”You a teacher of course. So you speak French do you?” asked Cunningham seemingly impressed.
”yes, I do” said Louis.
”Hamburg – ain’t that in Germany? You speak German too?” asked Cunningham
”Yes and yes” said Limtay striving not to seem smug.
” Ah that is why you had that cushy number interrogating prisoners” said Cunningham.
”What did you do before the war?” Limtay asked March.
” A miner me. I have got the height for it” said March smirking at his lack of stature.
”I was a furrier” Sergeant ventured without being asked.
”I was a shipping clerk” said Teacher.
North said ”I was a farm labourer”
MacNeill said ” I was an office boy.”
”I was a factory worker” said David.
Moses said ” I was a plumber.”
Limtay mused on the fairly good jobs most of them had had. He thought he had better not say that lest the farm labourer take umbrage. It reflected the higher than average academic standard of men selected for the RIC. They would have to do paperwork and exercise judgment more than in the army. This was not just about being a cog in the wheel.
North remarked ”When I joined the army it was the greatest day in my life. All these clothes for me – and they are brand new. I never had a pair of boots in my life before that either. I only ever had hand me downs from my big brothers and my father. It also felt good to get three meals a day. Never could afford that before. I always had a roof over my head. I was out of work a lot before.”
”You see that is capitalism for you” said Brokenshire. ”The working class live in poverty so the nobs can live it up.”
”You a socialist?” said Limtay.
”Yes, I am. When I got out of the navy I was a merchant seaman. Got into the trades unions. I got sacked for that. ANyway that is why I am here in the RIC.” said Brokenshire.
”I am a Labour man too” said Teacher ”Labour is very popular in Scotland. Some great Labour men have been Scots. Keir Hardie and Ramsay MacDonald. We in Labour do not like the Irish – the Catholic Irish I men. The Protestants are all right. Irish Papists are black leg labour – strike breakers. That is why the British worker cannot get a decent wage. Irish come over and undercut us. Take our jobs and then say they hate Great Britain. If they hate our guts why are they here? Anything for money.”
”Most Irish do not hate us” said Louis ”A Catholic is just as good as Protestant or should I say a Protestant is just as good as a Catholic. The Irish have the right to live in Great Britain. Ireland and Great Britain are one United Kingdom. Get it? What they want is Home Rule. Many Scots want that too”
”Well Home Rule for Scotland might not be a bad idea” said Teacher. “But not to break the Union. I am loyal to the Crown as any man : so long as the king is a Protestant mind”
”Not many Irish are black leg labour. There are Scotch and English scabs too. Surely the problem is the behaviour and not the nationality. If we had decent wages then there wouldn’t need to be any strikes” said Louis.
”That will only happen when we have socialism” said Brokenshire. ”Tax the rich and make them pay. Then we can have guaranteed jobs for all. Good wages, free health care, good pensions, good schools. Build good houses for all. We can easily achieve all this.”
”Come on it would wreck the economy” said Teacher ”It just isn’t going to work. WHy has it never worked anywhere? Then you would have a lot of freeloaders getting paid for doing nothing. More and more people would sponge” said Teacher.
MacNeill interrupted. ”By the way Teacher I did not like what you said about the Irish a minute ago. I am Irish. Just remember. Or half Irish anyway. Catholic. Well myy father is You Scots were Catholic once . Were you people all bad until King James? Come on. Catholics are just as patriotic as you. We fought in the war too. Don’t just think of the Shinners. They do not represent most of us. And you said you were a Labour man a moment ago.”
”Ah well you are different.” said Teacher diplomatically. His facial expression indicated that he did not mean it. ”Anyway are you a Conservative?”
”Yes, I am” said MacNeill.
”How about you Moses?” said Teacher trying to move the subject along.
”Yeah I am a Tory too. And I am in the National Association of Protestants. Trying to stop Catholicism taking over Great Britain. I do not like Roman Catholics and I make no apology for that. Some people think my surname is Jewish but it is not. So there MacNeill. You can practise your religion. I am not trying to stop you but I do not like it. Got that?” said Moses.
MacNeill harrumphed and looked away.
Teacher turned to David and said ”You are a Rangers fan – are you with me on this one?”
”I am not” said David ”Yes, I support Rangers. The finest team in Scotland. I got nothing against Catholics. Why should I? I know that a lot of the boys that supports Rangers are anti Catholic but I am no anti Catholic. There are good Catholics and there are bad Prods. In my regiment we had some Catholics. Nice guys same as anyone else. They are my pals. No, I do not like this whole sectarian thing. It does not look good for you Teacher. Is it all right for a Papist to be bad to a Prod? No it isn’t. So why should a Prod be bad to a Papist? I know some Catholics are evil but that is not most Catholics. We are here to help people and most of them are Catholics. We need Catholics here to support us. It is no use going around mouthing off I hate Papists. Remember that jimmy” he frowned at Teacher.
Teacher was crestfallen and looked out the window.
March then chipped in. ”I am a Catholic. Remember everyone in England was Catholic till Henry VIII. Catholics are English too. So let’s have no more of this anti Catholic shite.”
”I agree” said Louis ”We are all on the same side. We all got to work together. Catholic or Protestant what does it matter? It is like the police inspector said there are extremists on both sides killing people. We are going to take out the bad guys.”
”Are you a Prod at least?” said Teacher turning to Short.
”Me a Protestant. I don’t know. Is that a religion or something? In the orphanage we went to a church. It was called a Church of England. Is that Catholic or what? I don’t know really.” Short looked profoundly bored.
Limtay had noticed that Short was a man of limited understanding and extreme incuriosity.
ARRIVAL IN CORK
Six hours later they arrived in Cork. They came through the long tunnel and to the platforms. Two army lorries were waiting for them at Glanmire Station.
Five soldiers with bayonets fixed were there to meet them.
Bukeley marched up to a lieutenant and banged up a quivering salute. The lieutenant returned the salute.
”Head constable Bulkely?” said the man.
”Yes, sir. And you are Lieutenant Cooper?” he said to a chubby face man in his 30s.
”Yes I am” said the man in a lisping Yorkshire accent. ”We have two lorries outside for you men.”
”Two lorries! there are only eleven of us.”
”Yes, I know. But we have another twenty of our men escorting you. We cannot have small groups of men going around by lorry. It makes too tempting a target for the IRA.”
”Bayonets fixed” remarked Bulkely. ”Is the situation that bad down here?”
”Yes it is I am afraid” said Cooper. He turned on his heel and led on.
The men climbed into the bad of two flat bed army lorries. There were covered in canvas. There was much banter with soldiers and cigarettes were exchanged.
The unpaved road was bockety and twisty. Limtay admired the very lush green countryside. There were hedgerows and copses but not many ploughed fields. The land was very well watered and luxuriated in the densest vegetation. He saw many boulders and black thorn trees. The hillsides, steep and stony, were covered in broom and lavender. They passed villages of whitewashed stone cottages with thatched roofs. Many children were barefoot. He was horrified to see that some were dressed in clothes that were almost rags. Many of them look to be seldom fed and grubby faced. Even those who had decent clothes wore dull colours: dun, grey, navy blue, black and rifle green. Most men wore large soft caps. It was like a poor town in the West Midlands he reflected. Not all women were hats. Some wore shawls especially the older ones. Geese, pigs, cattle and sheep were herded this way and that. Louis counted five motorcars they passed on the whole journey.
Short told war stories ” So we stormed the German trench right? Artillery had killed most of the krauts. We gets there and there is square heads lying dead all over the fucking shop. There is one guy there wounded. This German had had all the fingers blown off his right hand – bleeding a bit. The Jerry is so fucking scared by the bombardment that he just sits there drooling and gibbering when we come in. So we takes him prisoner. Officer says to me and four others take Jerry prisoner back to our lines – get some ammunition and come back. Fighting has stopped and its night so we takes him back. There was no firing. Then I say let’s kill this Jerry fucker. Others says no. I say that my pal was killed last week. Why should this Jerry cunt get to sleep inside when we have to sleep in a tent. Might have been this cunt what killed my mate. The other four says no don’t kill him. We has him blindfolded. No need to tie him up because his right hands got no fingers now. I say fuck this. I takes my bayonet and I stabs him in the guts lot of times. My God it felt good. He was squealing and spitting up blood. I made sure not to kill him too quick. The others are saying what are you doing. I said we just tell officer that Jerry got hit by a stray bullet. It felt good to know I definitely killed a Jerry. They told the officer. Officer said that this man might have given us information – he says there is Geneva Convention and now Jerry might start killing our men who gets captured and bla bla bla. I got number one field punishment for that.”
Louis tried to lighten the mood. ”Why do the French make all these noises ”pwwuuuh” he said blowing at his cheeks. Because they eat so much horse!” That raised but a few chuckles.
After an hour the lorries hoved into the small town of Clountreem. People seemed very surprised to see them. One old man smiled and gave the thumbs up. Another young man made a handgun gesture at them. Limtay’s heart sank as he thought – one horse town. The place was lacking in all vibrancy but at least many of the houses were painted different colours. He noticed that even on the main street some of the buildings were derelict. They parked outside the RIC barracks. Louis knew he would not be treading a primrose path.
Limtay noticed that the Union Flag still floated over the police station. They RIC jumped out as ordered.
The soldiers were ordered out. They formed up around the village square. People peeped out of doors and windows wondering what was up.
The sergeant opened the door
”Thank God you are here” said Sergeant Moore ”Am I pleased to see you?”
Bulkeley could not help smiling despite his officer class reserve.
”Thank you. Good to be here. Right now one of your men – the married one is being transferred to Cork with his wife and children right?”
”Yes head constable that is right.” said Moore
”Bags packed?” said Bulkeley;
”They are”. It was evident that the man about to be moved did not wish to tarry for a minute.
”If you could have the men put them into the lorries as quick as they can. We want to be out of here in ten minutes before the IRA hear that we are in town. Another lorry will be coming tomorrow with more ammunition and supplies.” said Bulkeley.
”Yes we are having trouble with the shopkeepers. Many of them refuse to sell us stuff.” said Moore.
”Yes, I have heard about that. Just commandeer – Defence of the Realm Act. Pay them too though.” said Bulkeley.
Within five minutes the married constable Groom his wife and several children were in the lorry.
The soldiers were all given a chance to use the outhouse in the RIC barracks. That done they jumped into the lorries and were away.
Two men stood guard – FitzGerald and Lumley.
The others gathered in the day room.
Sergeant Moore gave a talk.
”Situation is bad. We are not going more than a mile from barracks. We had to patrol in threes. Reduce the risk of IRA attack. A man on his own is a sitting duck. They have the advantage of numbers. 8 of them attacked two of our men. Killed one of them. Law and order has completely broken down. We get reports of thefts, burglaries and so on every day. Mostly carried out by the IRA. There is a lot more people do not report for fear of retribution. The IRA now call themselves police. They are beating the hell out of people they call criminals. Being a criminal to them usually means not paying extortion money.We cannot raid poteen stills now”
”Poteen what is that?” said Bulkely.
”You know home made whiskey. It is illegal. If they make whiskey they must pay tax on it. No one wants to. We do enforce the law because it is revenue for the government. Well we did. Sometimes we turned Nelson’s eye if the fella was giving us information. We could not afford to anger too many people. Half the people here are pro IRA. This is the most IRA area in the country.” said Moore.
”Half the men are in the IRA?” Bulkeley ventured.
”No I would say only 1 in 10 is. Others would support them – tip them off about our movements like. Others are Home Rulers. Almost no unionists. But a Home Ruler is not going to tell us if he knows of if there is an IRA attack. He would be killed if he did. Home Rulers are neutral really. The IRA are stealing saying they are doing it to get money for the cause. The two most notorious thieves in the town are in the IRA now. They are shaking down the Protestants saying the Prods must pay compensation for the Penal Laws of 100 years ago. Some Prods have left for England already. As with poteen people are getting very drunk now. There was a 14 year old boy died of alcohol poisoning yesterday – he had been sold whiskey by a poteen maker. We have that law to stop too much drinking. Another thing – we heard the IRA paraded in AhaBEG yesterday. 12 men with guns and 12 without. A show of strength. The proved to the people of the village that they control the town. Do not help the Crown forces or else. They dare to do it because they know we will not come to AhaBEG. They are getting bolder. We did not find out about the IRA marching up and down Ahabeg square until today. It is 5 miles away ”
”Well the first thing to do is to take back Ahabeg” said Bulkeley.
”We do not have the manpower to retake the station besides it is burnt out. We cannot be in penny packets or we will be overrun as before.” said Moore. He then realised he ought not to have contradicted a head constable in the presence of the men.
”I agree” said Bulkeley.”I mean a demonstration. It is the last thing they will expect. It will show loyal citizens that we have not abandoned them. The IRA will not dare come to fight. The change starts now. ” Bulkeley then stood up. All the men followed suit. “Right men there shall be a full kit inspection in one hour. Get cleaning” he then walked to his rooM.
Sergeant spoke up ”Come on Brokenshire – what you said about socialism. Isn’t that what they got in Russia with the Bolsheviks stealing everything and people running away. The Bolshies are shooting people and people are starving. No thanks.”
”That is not true. It is a capitalist lie” said Brokenshire.
Louis spoke up. ”We can have help for the poor. Sort of thing Lloyd George brought in. We can have that without socialism.”
”Come on that is so pathetic” said Brokenshire ” Liberals do not have the balls to be Tory or Labour. If you want to help the working class you have to be a Labour man. Liberals are just weak. ”
Against Moore’s better judgement Bulkeley went ahead with his plan.
The Irish RIC and those from overseas were mixed in. The station now had 15 men. 5 remained to guard it. 10 men marched quickly to Ahabeg. Some were Irish and some were not.
They formed up in the Ahabeg square and marched about for five minutes. They then sang God Save the King before marching back again. The townsfolk were stunned. A few smiled but then remembered themselves. They had better not be seen by their neighbours to express any gladness that the Crown Forces were back in town.
The IRA was humiliated. For all its boastfulness it dared not attack. It could not respond to swift manoeuvres by the enemy. Fianna Eireann boys had seen the RIC approach. They had run to warn the IRA in their hideout several miles away. There were not many IRA men there. Most IRA men had jobs and were not available at short notice for an attach. Moreover, the IRA’s arms were mostly secreted in dumps – away from the full-time IRA men. The IRA could not launch opportunistic attacks. The full time IRA men on the run were the likes of Jim London who seldom slept twice in the same place. He was usually unarmed as this meant he could blend in with the civilian population. He was also confident that the RIC would not shoot an unarmed man.
MEETING THE CLERGY
Moore said to Bulkeley, ”Sir is is customary when a new head constable arrives in an Irish town for him to introduce himself to the clergy in the town.”
”Ah very good. There is nothing I like better than hobnobbing with the clergy. Vicar’s garden party and all that. Does the vicar wear a Panama hat in the summer?” he said jocosely.
”Sir this is a Catholic town.” said Moore
”I know I was being flippant.” said Bulkeley
”Ah sir – now the Catholic priests are far more important here. You will find the parish priest very reasonable – Fr Meagher.” said Moore
”Well that is good to hear.” said Bulkeley
”The thing is sir his curate is very different. Fr Downy still wet behind the ear from Maynooth – he is fire breathing. He hates the English with a passion.” said Moore
”Ah that is not so good.” said Bulkeley. ”Is there an Anglican vicar here?”
”Ah yes there is – Church of Ireland. Reverend Reginald Playfair. You will find him welcoming. I do not talk to him really. I am a Catholic you see. ” said Moore.
”Well when should I introduce myself to Fr Meagher and his assistant?” said Bulkeley
”Today would be a good day. I mention is now because I know they are in.” said Moore
”Ah we know their schedule” said Bulkeley with satisfaction
”Well somewhat. Which days they annoint the sick and which days they go to the school.” said Moore
Later that day Bulkeley walked up to the presbytery accompanied by four men with rifles. He knocked on the door.
The housekeeper came to the door. She opened it an inch and said sourly ”What do you want?”
”Good afternoon ma’am. I wish to call on the parish priest.” Bulkeley kicked himself for having forgotten the name. Should have put it in the notebook. There were so many names to remember.
”I will ask him” and she slammed the door.
The woman returned a minute later. ”Come in” she left the door open and walked off with a scowl.
Bulkeley stepped in. He wiped his feet carefully on the mat.
Fr Meagher waddled out.
”Ah Head constable” Fr Meagher extended his hand and they shook. Bulkeley noticed that the man did not say the word welcome.
”Do come into the front room” said Fr Meagher,.
”Thank you Father. It is Father….?” asked Bulkeley
”Meagher” he supplied his name with a genuine smile. In the drawing room there were many holy pictures hanging on the walls. There was a portrait of the pope. Besides Benedict XV there was an image of the sacred heart of Jesus and another of the Blessed Virgin.
Sitting in one corner of the room was an athletic young man. This slim youth glowered at Bulkeley.
”What you here for?” said the young priest before Bulkeley had sat down.
”Ah this is Fr Downy” said Fr Meagher trying not to turn the colour of beetroot.
Bulkeley observed that the young priest did not rise
”I am here to introduce myself to you gentlemen” said Bulkeley putting on a businesslike smile. He approached the seated priest and put out his hand.
Fr Downy tutted and turned away not moving his hand. Bulkeley shrugged and withdrew his hand before sitting.
”You are not welcome here” said Downy.
”Well your colleague asked me in.” said Bulkeley struggling to maintain his decorum.
”I mean you are not welcome in Ireland. Get you and your gang of cut throats out of Ireland before harm comes to you.” said Downy.
”Please father” said Bulkeley ”I have a duty to be here to provide security for the people”
”You are here to keep us down, Englishman” said Downy ”There are boats home every day. Now get out before you get hurt!” he said with all the menace that he could muster.
”Father, I served in the trenches for four years. It is going to take a little bit more than words from a man who cannot fight to shift me” said Bulkeley disdainfully.
”Gentlemen please let us all be good Christians. ” said Meagher
”I will not sit with this heretic a minute longer. Get out of town. You have been warned” said Downy standing ”as a priest I try to prevent bloodshed. So leave no for your own sake” and he stalked out of the room.
Meagher called the housekeeper. She reluctantly brought tea.
”I see you have four men outside” said Meagher.
”Yes, I need them in case the IRA try to shoot me when I come out. ” said Bulkeley ”from what I hear Fr Downy is their recruiting sergeant and chaplain”
”I shall not comment on that” said Meagher – he looked away in embarrasmment. Bulkeley knew he had assessed Downy correctly. He thought of putting a tail on Downy. If they had him under surveillance he would lead them straight to the IRA. Trouble was one should not shadow someone in this small town. The tail would be noticed immediately.
Meagher poured tea. ”Well I want peace and to promote good relations” said Meagher ”you try to persuade young men to turn away from violence. I want ye to use as little force as possible. Let us have negotiation if we can. No brutality.”
”Well it is not my intention to kill if I can avoid it. Trouble is I do not see how it can be avoided. A police officer was murdered last month and the killers are still at large. It is my duty to bring them to justice and ensure that the King’s writ runs here.” said Bulkeley;
”Sorry to tell you that King George is not regarded with warmth here” said Meagher in a triumph of understatement.
”I am well aware of that.” said Bulkeley blankly.
”Well on to nicer things. I do so like musical theatre. I saw a wonderful Gilbert and Sullivan show in January. I am a songbird myself. When I was at Maynooth my star turn was singing I was a fair young curate then. And fair I was! I was a golden youth among many others” he said camply ”I do so like a night at the theatre. the glamour. The young actors. Are you a thespian ? Do you have a party piece?”
”Tone deaf. Not much of an actor I am afraid. I am a military man through and through.” said Bulkeley. “I did not get the brains in the family or the estate. What else was there to do? Army suited me down to the ground.”
ON THE ROAD TO MALLOW
Deirdre Donovan was walking to Mallow one afternoon to buy some clothes for her children. Deirdre was in her 30s and slim. She had auburn hair – bobbed and curly. She wore unglamorous thick black shoes and a dark grey skirt to her ankles. She had a white blouse on and a dark green jersey above it. Deirdre was a fair skinned woman and would have been good looking had smallpox not been so unkind. The road was narrow and twisty, lined with dense bushes. The verdant land was uneven and the drumlins were edged were steep nooks. As she rounded one shady corner a man with a beige cap down over his eyes and a wine coloured scarf around stepped from the bushes pointing a revolver at her. The man wore a beige trenchcoat and sturdy black leather ankle boots. Despite his clothing one could tell that he was thin.
Deirdre shrieked to see him.
”Give me your purse and shut up” he said thrusting a canvass bag at her with his left hand.
Deirdre was hyperventilating as she got out her purse and dropped it into his bag. Her lips quivered.
The man then dropped the bag on the floor. He used his left hand to get some handcuffs out of his belt.
”Put these on you – hands behind your back.”
She took them and put one on her left wrist. She placed her hand behind her and tried to put it on her right. It kept slipping. She realised he would not kill her. Would he rape her? She recovered her composure.
”I will tell the IRA about you and you will get such a beating.”
”I am the IRA!” he said firmly.
From his tone she could tell that this man spoke the truth.
”What? Why you robbing me then?”
”Money for the cause. Now shut up you bitch and put the handcuffs on.” said the male.
”You know the RIC are back they might catch ye?”
”They will not.” He went behind her and managed to finally put the handcuff around her right wrist and clip it shut. ”Lie down in that ditch there. Count to a thousand. IF I see ye moving I will shoot ye dead I swear it.”
”Why are you robbing me? I am a Catholic.” said the female.
”I know but we need money from everyone.” The man hurried off. He disappeared into the bushes from which he had come
Deirdre looked down at the handcuffs. They were RIC issue. The RIC did not leave their barracks. Who else would get a hold of RIC handcuffs? The IRA had raided an RIC station.
The robber ran through the woods that skirted the edge of the muddy road. As he emerged onto the bare hillside half a mile away he removed his face covering. It was Roger Tooth. He was 40 and had light brown hair turning grey. His skin was pallid but mottled. He had merciless grey eyes. His lips were thin and there was a calculating and self-centred expression on his face. What can I get out of this person? That was what he always asked himself. He counted the money from the purse. Two hundreds and three shillings. Not excellent takings but targets do not come much easier. He had stood in a copse on the hillock watching her come. Roger Tooth had been able to observe for a mile in either direction. No one was approaching. These were decent takings for a very low risk robbery.
Fr Downy met the IRA unit in a ruined old chapel. In his homily he said ”Know this boys – you are doing God’s work. You are defending your people. In driving out the English you are driving out Satan. The English are an immoral race. They kill their own young. Cut off this cancer of corruption. Orange fiends are murdering our people up in Belfast. It is your duty to hit back. Our Catholic brothers in the North will not be safe until the heretics down here are screaming for their Prod brothers in the North to stop their reign of terror. ”
VISITING THE VICAR.
Bukleley decided to pay a courtesy call on the Protestant clergyman. Accompanied by Brokenshire and MacNeil he strode out around noon one weekday. He had read the parish noticeboard and happened to know that the rector of the Church of Ireland congregation was ‘at home’ to his parishoners at this time. Bulkeley’s hair was heavily greased as usual and his boots shone as bring as can be. Even for a former army officer he was notably fastidious about his appearance. No one could fail to be impressed about how immaculately turned out he was.
The rectory was hard by the Protestant church. It was a handsome though modest mid grey abode two storeys high and dressed in ivy. It looked to have been constructed in the middle of the 19th century. There was a front lawn on which several badly dressed children were gamboling. Some boys in ragged clothes were kicking a greasy brown ball. Bulkeley was shocked to see a clergyman’s children in such a condition – some of them had no shoes. These children did not appear to be cared for – they were unwashed and their garments were worn and deeply stained. Moreover, it was the number of children that surprised him. They were all around the age of 8. At first floor window a fierce faced grey haired old woman looked out. She was all got up in black raiment and she tapped furiously at the window as she scowled and uttered inaudible imprecations at the boorish children below.
Bulkeley walked crunchingly up the gravel drive. He saw the clergyman’s dog cart parked outside his door. The horses were in the stable behind. A young greasy ostler stood there smoking a pipe and nodded in a half friendly fashion. Bulkeley turned left under the front porch and knocked on the white painted wooden door.
Presently the clergyman’s wife came to the door. She was a woman in her late 30s with the amiable and modest manner that befitted her station. She wore a dark blue skirt, a sensible deep mauve cardigan over a white blouse. Her dark brown hair was down to her shoulders and had not a kink in it. Her skin was unadorned and broach on her sternum was her one concession to elegance. Her flat heeledblack leather slip on shoes were brightly polished.
”Good afternoon” she smiled out of politeness not warmth.
”Good afternoon, Mrs Playfair?” he asked.
”Yes” said the woman a little perturbed, ”I am Mrs Playfair and you are?” she asked demurely.
”I am Captain …er sorry… Head Constably Bulkeley. I am new in the parish as you may gather and I thought that this might be a chance to introduce himself to the Reverend Playfair?” said Bulkeley.
”Yes, certainly come in.” Gail Playfair opened the door and ushered him in. He stepped in and she looked at his two rifle bearing men who hovered outside the door ”Gentlemen are you coming in?”
”Ah no… ” said Bulkeley ”They shall stay out there.”
”Why? Catholics are they?” said Mrs Playfair.
”No” said Bulkekely , ”It is just in case anyone tries to give me a nasty surprise as I come out.’
”Ah…. I see” said Mrs Playfair. Bulkelely noticed that her Irish accent was milder than that of most people in the town. He had some knowledge of Irish accents from labourers on his estate in England. He could often locate them if not the county then certainly to the province. In her case her accent could not be linked to any particular province. A black ladrabor behind her panted and wagged its tail in token of welcome.
They walked into the drawing room. It was a respectable size. It managed to be both austere and comfortable at the same time. A Persian rug that had seen better days covered most of the floorboards. There was a wooden table laid out with a tea service. Bookshelves groaned under the weight of tomes on matters theological and ecclesiastical. Bulkeley also noticed a few volumes on horticulture. On some shelves the cheaper sort of chinoiserie was displayed. Out of the French windows he saw a well kept garden with tulips, daffodils and all sorts. On the walls hung tapestries with religious texts woven into them ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his only son that we might not die but have eternal life’ John 3.16.’ / ‘I need thee every hour.’ / ‘Time is short.’ /’Ye know not the time nor the hour.’ / ‘There shall be one united church of England and Ireland’ – the Act of Union. ‘The Bishop of Rome hath no authority in this realm of Ireland’ – the 39 Articles of the Church of Ireland.
The bald 6’2” spare figure of Rev Playfair stood with his back to the door. He wore a grey suit complete with dog collar. Rev Playfair turned around as he heard the door open. The clergyman had a bucked toothed smile and kindly face. His skin was an average complexion and very youthful for a man of 40 odd years. He was athletic in his movements and his dark brown hair was feckled grey at the corners.
”Ah you must be Captain Bulkeley?” said the reverend with genuine amiablity.
”Yes – actually Head Constable as I am now. I keep forgetting. I slip back to the army rank sometimes.” said Bulkeley.
”Well come in you are very welcome” said PLayfair shaking his hand. ”Please sit down.”
Bulkeley noted that Playfair had only a slight Irish accent.
”Thank you your reverence.” said Bulkeley
”Will you take tea?” asked the cleric.
”Yes, please I shall.” said Bulkeley
Mrs Playfair served him and gave him a plate of sandwiches. The men sat around the table.
”Captain Bulkeley” said the Mrs Playfair ”If you will excuse me my youngest, Rosemary, is upstairs and the maid is not much good with her so I shall join her.”
”Certainly. It was delightful to make your acquaintance.” said Bulkeley
”Yes indeed Captain – I was most pleased to make your acquaintance” she said with slightest bow and then left.
”We normally have the maid greet people at the door but one tea day my wife greets them as they tend to be parishoners.” said Playfair
”I see you have many children.’ said Bulkeley
”Many? I only have four. A modest brood. Ah – you are thinking of the children outside.” said Playfair. He closed his eyes and tittered. ”No – not my children. The Good Lord said suffer the little children to come unto me. So I allow any child to play on the front lawn. The side garden is for my flowerbeds. They may not go in there.”
”Ah I had thoughts of shooing them away. There was an elderly lady upstairs who seemed to be telling them to clear off.” said Bulkeley
”Yes my mother in law. She was widowed last year and moved down from Greystones to live with us. She does not like me letting all this little ones into the garden. The wrong sort she says. Plus I draw no distinction between Protestant and Catholic children. As for tea it is only Protestants I invite. I hope that does not seem unchristian but there is only so much hospitality I can afford to offer. This is not liberty hall.” said Playfair
”I see. A wonderful means of getting to know people.” said Bulkeley
”Well I know them all already. This is the only Protestant church for 10 miles in any direction. So we have only about a 100 Protestants in all that. Not all of them are Church of Ireland. There is a family of Cooneyites.” said Playfair
”Cooneyites?” Bulkeley said quizzically.
”There was this mad chap from Fermanagh went around preaching against organised Christianity. He is a Christian all right in the Protestant tradition but said we should have no clergy. Used to come around and cause trouble. Riling the Catholics. Anyway apart from them there are a couple of Methodist families but they sometimes come to our church as they have none of their own within 20 miles. Of the 100 or so Protestants most will show up on Sunday. There used to be Protestant churchs in Ahabeg and other villages but they were all closed over 20 years ago. Not a dozen Protestants in some villages. Made no sense to have a clergyman ministering to such a tiny congregation so they rationalised things. So what we have now is four parishes combined into one for the Church of Ireland. The Catholics in those four parishes must number above two thousand.”
”Well good for you Rev Playfair – I am afraid church attendance in England is down a little.” said Bulkeley
”Yes so I heard. Peaked during the war. People prayed for victory and deliverance. Now it has dropped off. No wonder the Lord has punished people with unemployment.” said Playfair
”You are right” Bulkeley inwardly scoffed at that comment.
”You are a man of God yourself are you Head Constable?” said Playfair
”Yes, I am. Church of England. Not as attentive as I should be” Bulkeley said diffidently.
”Well sir I recommend that you become more spiritual. You will need the Lord’s aid in your task. You know it is not easy for the Royal Irish Constabulary.” said Playfair
”Indeed it is not. Your reverence, I wonder if you can be of use to us.?” asked Bulkeley expectantly.
”Well, sir I wish to be of service to all in my parish and not just the Protestants. I strive to maintain good relations with our Catholic brethren. It has not been easy since 1912. Especially now with lunatics murdering Catholics in the North. There have been mutterings here that the Catholics should pay us back in our own coin. I received poison pen letters. Even a death threat in the post. ” said Playfair
”My word – that is ghastly.” said Bulkeley with a pained expression.
”It is. Of course no man deserves such things. But it is understandable. Still absolutely wrong but if men of my church slay their Catholic brothers in Ulster then Roman Catholics down here will say let us get back at the Prods in our midst. ” said Playfair philosophically.
”I see your logic.” said Bulkeley.
”Good! I have an excellent working relationship with Fr Meagher – the parish priest. This really is exceptional. I have spoken to many clergymen who say that they never speak to the Catholic priest in their town. If they see each other on the street then they both avoid eye contact. It would be embarrassing to both parties. Fr Meagher and I do not see it that way. Unfortunately the curate Fr Downy is a different story. Young firebrand – more republican than Patrick Pearse so they say! But if every priest was like Fr Meagher and every Protestant minister was like me there would be no Troubles.” said Playfair.
”Monstrous! ” said Bulkeley.
”Indeed. But Meagher is so different – a man of very go ahead ideas. In the beginning it was so awkward. He and I used to write letters to each other even though we live only half a mile apart. It would not do to be seen speaking to each other. We arranged to happen to take a walk in the woods at the same time so we could compare notes. He is a terribly good sort. If only all Catholic clergy were like him. I shall let you in on a big secret – when on holiday I have occasionally gone into a Catholic church and attended mass. Not so very different. The liturgy is the same word for word as our own in places only in Latin. ” said Playfair.
”Astonishing. I have never set foot in a Catholic Church. My family are not anti Catholic. It is just they would not want any of us to convert. What would the neighbours think?” said Bulkeley
”That is the attitude here. But not so many people are so progressive. I have had death threats in the post as I say.” said Playfair
”As you have a young family do you not think of moving?” asked Bulkeley.
”Yes, we are blessed with four children and I pray that the Lord sends us more. But no I shall not move. I am a Corkman. I would be proud to be martyred for the faith. So far the IRA have not killed a clergyman and the loyalist thugs in Ulster have not killed a priest. But it may not always remain so. Three families have moved out of the parish since this trouble began a year ago.” said Playfair.
”To England?” said Bulkeley.
”Ah no one family to England, one to Dublin and the other to Armagh.” said Playfair.
”I thought they would all go to Protestant majority areas. Dublin?” said Bulkeley.
”Dublin is a Catholic city of course but a lot safer. We are in a minority there but not such a tiny one.” said Playfair.
”Rev Playfair – you know everyone in the parish. Many Catholics as well as Protestants. You hear things. You have a reason to travel around. If you come across anything in the course of your travels that might be of use to me you shall pass it on shall you not?” said Bulkeley
”Sir, if you are asking me to be a spy I shall not.” said Playfair
”Are you not loyal to the Crown?” said Bulkeley.
”George V is our sovereign. I offer up prayers for his health every Sunday in church. Not all the congregation approve. Whilst he remains king of Ireland I shall pray for him but he very well may not be king of this country much longer” said Playfair
”You are not saying you doubt the ability of the Crown to scatter the rebels?” said Bulkeley
”Sir, I know Ireland better than you. My father is 80 years old. He remembers the Fenians as a little boy. He has never seen Ireland in such a state. I will admit I have my doubts that you can best the rebels. The country is very disaffected.” said Playfair
”Well will you not pass on any useful gossip you hear?” said Bulkeley
”Head Constable I shall not. I am a clergyman. I am not a policeman. I do not hear such things anyway. How would I? I am not in the IRA. The IRA are Catholics of the working classes. My parishoners are mostly middle sorts. There are a few poor Protestants. That stable boy for instance. ” said Playfair.
”I thought that Protestants in the South are all rich?” said Playfair.
”Sir, you are an Englishman and will never fully understand Ireland. The rich in the South of Ireland are mostly Protestant it is true but the Protestants are not mostly rich. There are a few strong farmers here and some shopkeepers who are doing well. We do not get paid for being members of the Church of Ireland.” said Playfair
”Is your maid a Protestant too?” said Bulkeley
”No she is a Catholic.” said Playfair
”So you do not hire only Catholics?” said Bulkeley.
”No I am a fair employer. There is an expectation that I help members of my own church by employing and I do but I cannot refuse to hire Catholics. That would be wrong and it would strain relations even more.” said Playfair
”Well why will you not pass in information? The church is an arm of the state the same as the police?” asked Bulkeley.
”I have none to pass on. Quite apart from that we are not an arm of the state. The Church of Ireland was disestablished 50 years ago!” said Playfair.
”But if the IRA succeed they will outlaw your church.” said Bulkeley.
”I very much doubt that. They may discriminate a little. It will not be that bad. They will not massacre us. But as the IRA may win anyway there is no sense in aggravating them against us. We are already under enough pressure.” said Playfair
”Will you not tell your parishoners to give information?” said Bulkeley.
”I shall not. A number of them have said this to me – they do not want you to approach them. If they are seen talking to you they will be suspected by the IRA of passing information to you. The IRA already regard Protestants as agents of the Crown. Please do not speak to my parishoners. It would be passing a death sentence on them” said Playfair gravely.
”I have to say I am disappointed. But there is another issue – a happier one. I am an eligible bachelor of 2_. High time a man thought to take a wife especially having come through the war without a serious scratch.” said Bulkeley beaming.
”Here I may be of more use. A clergyman often finds himself as a matchmaker” he chortled. ”I shall keep my eye out for you. There must be 50 Protestant females in the parish. 10 are children. 10 are elderly. Only 30 are women of marriageable age and of those perhaps 25 are already wed or affianced. I shall keep my eye out for you and make some discrete inquiries”
”That would be very kind of you.” said Bulkeley
”There are so few suitable marriage partners that perhaps 1 marriage in 5 is someone marrying across the Tiber as it were.” said Playfair
”Across the Tiber?” said Bulkeley
”Marrying a Catholic” said Playfair.
”And do you object?” asked Bulkeley cautiously.
”We are all part of the church of Christ. I would prefer if they children of this union were raised in the Church of Ireland but it very seldom happens. This ne temere decree is a curse. The Roman Catholics say the progeny of any such marriage must be raised exclusively in their faith. The Catholic Church has such power here – put the fear of the Lord into the papists. So that contributes to our flock dwindling. It is not so controversial here as it would be in the north because 19 out of 20 people in these parts are Catholics. Not long ago it was not uncommon for Catholics and Protestants to marry. My grandmother was a Catholic.” said Playfair
”I see. Hence your broad mindedness.” said Bulkeley.
”Quite. It is most unpalatable to hear Orange partisans denouncing our Catholic friends. I also have this ecumenical attitude because my father was a doctor. You know he said we are all the same. We must be all treated alike. I loathe all racialist prejudice. My uncle is a missionary in India. Bringing the Gospel to the outcaste Hindus” said Playfair
”Very admirable work.” said Bulkeley
”It is indeed.” he said with a proud smile.
”Rev Playfair – than you for the tea. I am sure we shall meet again. I shall come to church Sundays. I cannot come every Sunday because if I do the IRA will notice a pattern and it will be too easy to set up an ambush.”
”Quite right. But just remember I serve God and my parishoners. I am not a political man. I shall not be mixed up in any conflict. We do not support the IRA as a church but neither do we fight against them.” said Playfair.
”Don’t you support the Union?” said Bulkeley
”I do not have politics but yes I would incline that way. It seems to me though that a change is coming. Might as well get on with it. There is nothing in the Bible about Home Rule, the Union or the Republic. I shall serve the Lord under any system.” said Playfair firmly.
”Very well. I thank you for your candour Rev Playfair.” said Bulkeley.
”The afternoon has been most illuminating” said PLayfair ” a new person in the parish is a rare occurrence indeed. You are the biggest boost to Protestantism in this county since 1690!” he laughed ”You do not know what a social twilight it is here. There is no gentry family in the parish. Even if there is we cannot socialise with them. They are seen as fast of they have a glass of wine on Saturday. I must be cloyingly respectable. So I have blameless hobbies such as gardening and hunting butterflies. The strong farmers whom I would socialise with are the dullest people on the planet – desperate to social climb and be seen as close to the rector. Then the working class – they are not the sort one asks to tea let alone dinner. They would have nothing to wear and nothing to say. When I meet a man like you – a man with whom I converse, a man on the same social plane who has seen the world. Well it comes as a very welcome change.”
”I thank you so much Rev Playfair.” said Bulkeley
”You are cordially welcome head constable” said Reginald Playfair. ”Are you a cricketer?”
”I will admit to being a passable wicket keeper” Bulkeley said modestly.
”I am glad to hear it. I am a keen cricketer. Come summer we have a village team. Catholics and the Church of Ireland play as one. When I was doing my testimentarium in divinity up at Trinity I was captain of the XI briefly.”
Bulkeley stood up and shook his hand firmly. Despite Playfair’s refusal to act as his eyes and ears Bulkeley liked the man. They parted on good terms.