The IRA met in a dell deep in the forest. It was the sort of Irish day when it never started to rain only it never stopped either. The air was very wet.
London had built himself a bivouac. He sat there smoking beside Conlan. Two rifles were propped up on a tree stump beside them. A gamecock had been disturbing them by they had chased it off. Jim London was cheerless as ever. London had an Irish Volunteers slouch hat on. He was always moulding it with his hands. He was a man of discernment when it came to his non uniform.
Lynne walked to the dell accompanied by Hendricks. Lynne had difficulty getting his bulk down the steep and muddy bank. He slipped and stained his clothes – cursing loudly. Hendricks helped his former teacher to his feet. They made it the last few metres to the bottom of the dell. Hendricks facial expression indicated that he was still in his unreal world where every problem could be resolved if only enough people were killed.
Lynne walked up to London. ”You heard the news Jim?”
London first saluted with perfect manners and said “commandant”. It irked his nerves that he strove to instill soldierlike discipline into the men and then Lynne was setting and example of laxity and familiarity. London know that the IRA was the crude beginning of any army but it would never be better than a rabble if it did not have some standards. But now was not the time to quibble. ”What’s that?” asked Jim London.
Lynne looked at him gravely, ”The RIC in Clountreem just got reinforced.”
”No. I didn’t. So another fella to replace that one I killed.” said Jim uncaringly.
”No. Much worse than that. They have sent in 11 new fellas. Englishmen.”
”Oh shit. That is going to be hard work.” said London wholeheartedly exasperated.
”It is but they do not know the country. In a sense it is good though. Shows we are winning. They have to use English police here. But these fellas looked serious – ex soldiers I would say. Not your dopey farm boy who joins the police here. ” Lynne sounded philosophical. His face was a picture of puzzlement. How were they going to drive the RIC out now?
”So have they taken back the stations we burn out?” asked London anxiously.
”No, they have not but scouts say they are marching to Ahakista.” said Lynne.
”Jesus Christ. Maybe that parade yesterday was a mistake. They have decided to come in force.” London exhaled sharply and looked down and to his right. He reflected how the IRA had perpetrated such a demarche only the day before the RIC. That had goaded the RIC into outdoing them. Lynne then observed a thought brewing Inside Hendricks dense skull.
”Grab some rifles and go and ambush them” said Hendricks exhilarated.
”Calm down Hendricks that is not going to work” said Lynne sagely. His observation of Hendricks over years in the classroom made him know all too well how volatile and unhinged Hendricks was.
”Come on commandant” said Hendricks. ”They are here. They are marching along the road. Find a good ambuscade and blaze away. I shot that RIC bastard. Not sure if I am the one who killed him but I want a notch on my gun before this war is over.”
”Commandant is right” Jim London nodded ”Hendricks. We cannot go and attack 10 men with 4 of us. We need greater numbers. We must outnumber the English pigs at least 2 to 1. We need to be sure of victory. Could be them luring us into a trap. They might not march back the way they came.” London knew that Victory on such terms was highly improbable.
”At least a sniping attack. If they get to the town and we go on the hill behind the town and shoot down.” said Hendricks excitedly.
”We have a snow ball in hell’s chance of hitting something. Firing from 200 yards. We do not have ammo to waste. We have not had much target practice because we are low on ammunition. We would open fire and they would give chase and fire back. There is no cover up on that hill. Scrub it. That is not going to work.” said London.
”We will think of something. We can be proud that we have tied down more of the King’s men.” said Lynne trying to seem satisfied.
”We will think of something. I think we should continue as normal. I mean taxing the people.” said London.
”Those cows you took off Sheehy went down very well. I had mine slaughtered and butchered up. We have meat for a year. In my grandfather’s day it was like that. Go to a Prod farm in the middle of the night or the farm of a Catholic loyalist. Steal the cow get it home kill it and butcher it up. Cook it that night if you can. Dispose of the evidence like. ” said Lynne ”That was the days of the Ribbonmen.”
”Good work” said Jim. “We can find more of our people who have been fraternising with the enemy. Teach them a lesson like. The Irish are not to even talk to the forces of occupation.”
”That is right . Lads I do not think killing Sheehy and his son was so smart. There is a lot of bad feeling in the town about it. People have been muttering murderer at me if I dare to wander in.” said Lynne. “People say what Sheehy did was only mischief”
”Ah so what? Who? Prods? Unionists? We will put manners on those bastards. They are blood suckers and vermin ; they exploit and steal.” said London.
”Does not matter who” said Conlan.
”London is right” said Lynne ”continue to collect taxes and deal with crime. We cannot give in to these English police. We need to reinforce the fact that we are in charge. Show them who is boss in case people start thinking about paying allegiance to the Crown.” said Lynne. He was unimpressed by London s social commentary but judged it politik to keep this thought to himself.
”Hey did you hear Deirdre Donovan was robbed on the road to Mallow” said Conlan. “savagery like. Total disregard for her as a lone woman.”
”Sounds like the work of Roger Tooth” said Lynne.
”Well she did say it was a skinny man about his height – she saw a bit of his hair. Pale brown turning grey. ” said Conlan.
”he has been doing that for years. ” said London ”Been in gaol for it. I do not see any big problem so long as he gives the money to us.”
”But he never does” said Conlan ”Even if he did it is not right to rob her.” Conlans idealism was affronted by the crude avarice and immorality of his IRA comrade.
”It is tax” said London ”same as the English make us pay tax.”
”Not at gunpoint.” Conlan clarified.
”We have no other way.” said London
”Taxing unionists might be ok but she is an ordinary woman – married with children . Poor like the rest of us. Not a unionist” said Conlan.
”Well she is not a Sinn Feiner either”, said London.
”She is a nationalist of some sort I would say. Just not political” said Conlan ”she was traumatised. AN hour she waited in that soaking ditch till someone came by. It is getting the IRA a bad name. We are not robbers”
”We are an army. We fight by any means necessary. If that means robbing women we will do it” said London.
”Jim is right” said Lynne ”but better not rob Catholics too often unless they support the king. Now find Tooth and make him hand over the loot.” he spoke urbanely.
”He will deny it he always does.” said Conlan. “Why should he admit it? There is no gain for him in saying he did it. He only thinks about gain for himself.”
”How does an unemployed man live so well? He says he gets remittances from an uncle in America. People in the post office say there are no postal orders for him.” said Hendricks.
London said ” Well tonight let us rob a Prod household. Get some money and cattle. Put the fear of God into the heretics. Show people that this is our territory.”
”Another thing” said Lynne ”Oliver Grady was seen breaking into Mrs Donnell’s house. He stole some bread and jacket.”
”Ah we shall have to teach that little bastard a lesson” said London
”She disturbed him. She saw him – broad daylight. He was seen by several people running home with the items” said Lynne.
”Ok well Oliver Grady is on our to do list”, said London determinedly.
Conlan wanted to overthrow English power but feared he was overthrowing civilisation too. But such things always happened in war. Regrettable moral compromises. The revolution would come right in the end. He parsed what the others had said and arrived at the conclusion that they were not bothered about the frank crimes committed by the other IRA volunteers.
METING OUT JUSTICE
Oliver O’Grady was walking home from his work as a farm labourer. He turned into the little botharin that lead towards his family’s cottage outside Ahabeg. O’Grady wore some brown boots that were ready to fall apart. His grey trousers were threadbare, his white short was almost grey with dirt that would not wash out. Not that he was able to wash his clothes very often. His dark blue jacket was deeply stained. He had grit on his hands and his fingernails were clogged. He had an average skin tone, a gormless expression and dark blond hair. His mouth was too small for his face and his dull blue eyes were too large.
O’Grady though nothing of two men smoking by the hedge. He did not recognise these two. Did he? Their dun cloth caps were pulled down low and their faces were partly averted. He noticed they had hurleys with them. No hurling going on today. That was odd.
As O’Grady drew closer they turned to him.
”Good afternoon Oliver”, Jim London said giving him a sinister smile.
O’Grady was almost a simpleton but even he sensed something was amiss.
”Hello Oliver”, said Hendricks smiling darkly, ”We would like a word in your ear.”
”What is it?” Oliver stopped in his tracks. His eyes darted from one man to the other.
”You are coming with us.” said Hendricks forcefully and pulled out a revolver. He threw down his cigarette.
”All right”, Oliver said nervously. His lips twitched.
London pulled back his jacket to reveal a revolver in his trousers. ”Do not think about running for it”.
Hendricks pointed to a gap in the hedge and a path across the sheep fields. ”That way”.
O’Grady walked first. They were behind him and he turned ”What is this all about.”
”You know fine well boy.” said London. O Grady reflected on what he had done that made him liable to abduction. These were IRA honchoes ; he had done Nothing against the republicans. What would they want with him?
Within a few minutes they were deep in the woods atop Colum’s Hill. There they met with Lynne and Adams.
”Commandant” said London. ”This is the scamp who stole from that old woman.”
”You are a thief aren’t you now O’Grady?” said Lynne – grinning intimidatingly. Lynne wore a navy blue jacket and held onto his lapels. He felt himself the pinnacle of middle class respectability.
”Ah no I am not” he stammered ”me ma will be missing me. I have to go home for me dinner.” He turned as if to walk away. Hendricks pressed a hurley into his chest.
”Not so fast boy.” said Lynne raising a hurley too.
Lynne said ”We will get the truth out of you if we have to beat it out of you. I taught you till last year. Now boy – you stole from her. Admit it or you will get one hell of a beating.” with slow menace. Lynne savoured his judicial role. He loved Nothing better than thrashing a pupil. He was known to cane a boy when anyone else would have let the boy off with a scolding.
”All right. Yes, I stole from her.” Oliver O’Grady said quickly. He was increasingly anxious and his breathing rate picked up.
”That is better” said Lynne. ”Now we want the stolen goods back. Well the bread you will have eaten. That is a shilling you owe her.” He was elated to be instilling virtue into this wayward youth.
”And a shilling in court costs to be paid to the Republic”, said London.
”That is right.” said Lynne ”We are the IRA Police. We had a complaint about you. Many witnesses.” He widened his eyes to look scary and nodded with a grim grimace.
”We do him commandant?” said Hendricks keenly.
”Yes give him justice.” said Lynne.
Hendricks his the curled end of the hurley into O Grady’s right bicep.
”Ah” he cried out in pain. He put his hand up to stop the second blow from Hendricks. O’Grady caught the second blow but it hurt his right hand badly. At the same time London swung at his left arm with a hurley. It smashed into his bicep. Then another and another from London. Oliver O Grady called out in pain.
Hendricks proceeded to lay into O’Grady’s right forearm as the boy tried to shelter himself from blows. Bruises were coming up on his arms. Bruises were being hit and he could not longer shield himself with his arms. For Hendricks beating the hell out of someone was Elysian.
”Ah no stop. Mercy. I am sorry. Please stop” he wailed.
“Beat the bejasus out of you” said Hendricks panting.
O Grady went down on his knees and put his hands on his head.
London breathed out heavily. His face was a picture of resolution as he laid into the hapless boy. Hendricks hit with almost as much fervour. Hendricks aimed for the parts of his body that O Grady was not protecting. His legs and his back were these soft targets. Hendricks exertions were such that even his breathing was laboured.
The child was weeping and shrieking. ”Ah no please it hurts. Only a piece of bread. I will pay back I swear. Ah Jesus please stop.” They battered him mercilessly. Lynne looked on and clucked in satisfaction.
”Ah lads don’t you think that might be enough now?” said Adams.
”Not nearly” said London avidly.
”Keep going” said Lynne taking out a cigarette and lighting it. This thrashing was a spectacle that he was going to make the most of.
”Ah he has learnt his lesson” said Adams ”please stop.”
”Just getting started” said London eagerly. Hendricks was relishing it. He did not wish to be outdone.
”In will beat him till he is unconscious” said Hendricks ”little bastard. Probably English.”
Lynne smoked casually and looked on – savouring the spectacle.
There was a crack as O’Grady’s right tibia broke. Blood was seeping out of his arms. His arms went limp. They started to hit him on the head.
”No no – seriously fellas this is too much” said Adams. ”Stop now” he put out his hands as if to stop the blows but did not actually get in the way of them.
”Back off Adams” said London ”you like thieves do you?”
”Not but this is cruel. He has suffered enough.” said Adams almost panicking. He was more than paying lip service to humanity. He was very troubled by the harm they were doing Young OGrady.
”This is for Ireland” said Hendricks – thrilled with himself.
”Don’t hit his head!” shouted Adams.
The boy was too dazed to cry out. His face was down and his scalp broke from the blows. He was bleeding liberally. He moaned incohately.
London whacked the boy in the face several times and on the back of the neck. Even Lynne started to look perturbed. ”How many hits is that?” said Lynne callously.
”I counted 50 ”, said Adams, ”Stop now for Jesus’ sake!”
”No way. Let’s break the little fucker” said Hendricks. One last hit from him had O Grady fall face first onto the forest floor. Hendricks was sure he had endeared himself to London by beating the victim so cruelly.
London was almost leaping into his blows. His adrenaline was pumping. He savagely beat the boy’s spine.
”Wait wait”, said Adams, ”He is not moving” in clemency.
”So? No reason to slow down” said Hendricks who carried on hitting his head. ”The little cunt is just faking. Cry me a river. Malingerer.”
”No , no” said Lynne ”Adams is right. Stop now like.”
London gave the boy one more lash – just to show he disobeyed Lynne. He then breathed out and tilted his head saying ”ah” in gratification.
”That will teach him manners” said Lynne.
“Yeah that will learn him” said Hendricks.
”He is not moving” said Adams with worry.
The others stepped back. Adams bent down and felt the boys’ pulse. ”He is not breathing.”
”Ah so?” said Hendricks with undiluted blood lust.
”He is dead” said Adams very softly. ”He is dead” he said louder checking the pulse again
”He is not dead” said Lynne. Lynne lent his heavy body over. With difficulty he felt the pulse and then the mouth and nose. No air coming in or out.
”Oh shit he is dead. Is he? He can’t be” said Lynne.
”He’s dead” Adams wailed ”I told you not to hit his head” His face went crimson. A tear came to his eye.
”Oh so what? One less thief”, said London.
”This is war, like” Hendricks strove to sound tough. His face showed that he felt otherwise about this killing. ” A good days work. One less thief” He felt he had immortalised himself by Killing an enemy of Ireland.
”A good warning to criminals” said London.
”Oh shit” said Lynne ” this will not look good. Killed over a loaf of bread. I told you fellas to stop sooner.”
”Ah well he was not in the IRA so what?” said London.
”He could have joined” said Lynne.
”His grandmother was a Prod so it is all right like” said Hendricks with demented glee.
”Yeah” said London ”we were just getting the Prods back.”
”His granny was a Prod he was not. He went to mass a lot. ” said Lynne ”This is not good for our image. I will tell you what. We will put it about that the RIC done it.”
”Ok we say that” said London
”What have we done?”, said Adams sitting down face in his hands crying.
”What is wrong with you? You a woman or something?” said London ”Only a fucking farm boy he was” said London.
Hendricks felt blissful. That night he whiled away his time recalling the brutal beating he had meted out to O Grady. It was the proudest day in his life.
A couple of night’s later the IRA gathered at Sweet Hillocks. A dozen armed men had their balaclavas on. They descended on a fertile valley below them in close formation.
The IRA surrounded a spacious pink painted farmhouse. They all carried sticks dipped in tar. Once outside the house they lit them with matches.
Lynne was to the fore. He hammered on the door and shouted ”Open up Prideaux. This is the IRA. We hear you have a fowling piece now. Bring it out or we burn the house down.”
Abraham Mr Prideaux heard the hammering. His wife trembled beside him – too petrified to speak. ”Should I go?” he asked her. She looked at him in blank terror.
”Open up Abe Prideaux or we burn the house down with your family inside.” shouted Lynne. There was an unmistakeable conviction in his voice.
”They might kill me but I cannot let them burn you call down. Heard what they did to Sheehy but he helped the RIC. These fellows will not kill me. ” said Abraham Prideaux getting out of bed and putting on his slippers. His wife was still shaking like a leaf and speechless.
”We want your fowling piece and ammunition. You have been seen shooting birds like” said Lynne sucking some snot back into his nostrils.
Prideaux opened the window and put his head out. Three IRA men instantly trained their rifles on him. They were suddenly aware that carrying torches was perhaps unwise – Prideaux could easily see them. They could not so easily see him.
”All right. I surrender. Don’t shoot” shouted Prideaux warily. ”I will come down directly and give you the gun.”
”And give us all your money.” said Lynne. ”If we find you have cheated us of a penny we will come back and kill you. That is not a word of a lie,” said Lynne gruffly. There was determination in his tone.
”I will give you every last penny. I swear on the Bible” Prideaux gabbled. He realised that mention of the Bible had been ill chosen. It highlighted the fact that he was a Protestant.
The children had heard the commotion and the youngest began to wail. ”Hush children. Hush. Just go to ha boo nee nee” said Prideaux. The anxiety in his tone was noted even by his toddler.
Prideaux fetched his wallet and fowling piece. He took the bag of ammunition. He went to the heavy wooden door and undid both locks. The ancient rusting hinges creaked open.
Prideaux opened the door dressed only in white pyjamas and slippers. He was a man in his 30s with thick dark brown hair brushed back. He was clean shave and athletic with reddish skin and a wide nose.
Prideaux was greeted by 2 IRA men with their rifles aimed at his chest. He felt deadly fear.
”All right please don’t aim at me” he said turning his head away as though that would make him safer. He held his fowling piece butt up so as not to appear threatening.
”Put your gun down first” shouted Lynne.
”All right all right” said Prideaux and placed it on the floor with a bag of ammunition.
”You were told to hand this in by the RIC. You said you had no fowling piece. I bet you regret lying to them now. ” said Lynne advancing with a revolver pointing to Prideaux’s head. The meanness in Lynnes voice made Prideaux fear that he faced no mere beating.
”I am sorry, I am so sorry” he pleaded almost weeping.
”You will be” said Lynne ”hand over the wallet” stretching out his left hand.
Prideaux handed it over.
”How much is in it?” said Lynne
”Three pounds and 18 shillings.”
”A niggardly sum for a rich Prod like you” said Lynne ”Not surprised you greedy miser bastards knows exactly how much. You Orangemen are boring and stupid. Now how much more money you got in the house?”
”I don’t have any more.”
”Yes you do” said Lynne. ”Your maid told us you hide more. Now where the hell is it Prideaux or do I shoot you right now?”
Prideaux sank to his knees in attitude of supplication. ”Now please don’t shoot me. It is under a loose floorboard on the stairs.” He was a delicate man and almost excited pity in Lynne.
Lynne pressed his revolver into Prideaux’s skull .
”Which stair you thieving Orange bastard.” said Lynne.
”The third one. I am not an Orangeman.”
”Bull shit. All Prods are Orangies.”
”I never joined the Orange Order There is no Orange lodge within 50 miles of here.”
”It is all the same to me. A Prod is Prod. All Orange so far as I am concerned. Your co religionists kill my people. Why shouldn’t I kill a land grabber like you? ” said Lynne sounding irate.
”No please I beseech you. I will become a Catholic tonight!” said Prideaux bawling like a baby.
”London in and get the money you heard where it was” said Lynne.
”Yes commandant” said London in a resentful tone. He hurried in the still open door and got the cash. He hastened out. London had been faintly worried someone in the house might ambush him. In fact upstairs Mrs Prideaux and her children cowered.
Conlan was a little disturbed by the lack of chivalry. Was it for this that he had joined the IRA? Were they the Fianna of yore? Were these deeds of derring do? What noble quest was this? Frightening a man half to death to take his money? It was like they were overgrown schoolboy bullies. These acts did not imbue their cause with any honour.
”How much is it?” asked Lynne impatiently.
London went near a comrade who held a flaming torch. He put down his rifle and counted. It took him a few seconds to say ”Looks like near on 20 pounds here” in a tone of discernible perplexity.
”A good night’s taking. Tax for the cause.” said Lynne with satisfaction. ”Now take a hurley and teach this Orange rat not to lie” said Lynne. “You layabout living off the sweat of Catholic labourers”
London eagerly picked up a hurley carried by Hendricks. He lay about Prideaux. The man cried out slumped over. London whacked his shoulders, stomach and spine. This time he avoided the head.
“You think you are so damn sophisticated. You think you are cultrued. You look down on us” said Lynne in rage.
” I dont I respect you” Prideaux pleaded.
Lynne then shouted up ”Mrs Prideaux get you and your Prod rats out of the house. You have one minute. Then we are burning it down. We want no Orange vermin in Ireland. One minute no more. I would like to burn it down with you in it you fucking filth.”
Mrs Prideaux was finally overcoming her fear. When she heard those words she was finally roused to action. She went and got her shrieking children. She had not time to dress them in coats before Hendricks and Nagle went in and set fire to the curtains with their torches.
Mrs Prideaux and her children came out to see her husband lying prostrate and bloody but alive.
Hendricks and Nagle hurried out of the smouldering house.
”A nice cosy house” said Nagle cackling.
”Right men; march off” said Lynne. They all sang ”God Save Ireland said the heroes” lustily as they hurried away. It took Prideaux a month recuperate.
A few night’s later the IRA surrounded the house of Quigley. A dozen masked IRA men held their torches aloft. Lynne had equipped himself with a claw hammer – just in case they should smash anything open. He literally hammered on the door of the white washed thatched roof cottage. Lynne was eager to get this family. One of them had been in the British Army and had sent remittances home from the war. Quigley was known to have ideas about himself. He had a gift for languages and such a conceit meant he had to be humbled.
”Open the door” said Lynne ”Open the door at once or we will burn your place to the ground” he growled.
Quigley – an insomniac – had been up. He had heard them approach and looked out the window unsure what to do. He could not go out but was staying put any safer.
”Who is it?” said Quigley. He could guess who it was and the words had come out almost involuntarily. He prayed his question had not come across as disrespectful.
”The IRA now open the door you Brit loving scum” said Lynne.
The children in the next room had all been woken by the ruckus and the shouting. A baby cried in her cot. The others were frozen in terror.
Mrs Quigely looked at him. Only a little lunar light was admitted but she could still see that her eyes met those of her husband.
”Don’t go out” she whispered ”for the love of God do not go out.” she said.
It was as if Lynne had sensed what the woman had said.
”Quigley get out her within one minute” Lynne called out in a quarter deck voice. ”Get out here or we will burn your house down with the children inside. This is the IRA collecting tax.” in a gruesome tone.
”I must go” said Quigley. He was atremble as he put on his dressing down. He felt himself perspire despite the night chill. He hurried to the door with faltering footsteps. Quigley moved with difficulty – he had been wounded in the leg in the war. Quigley undid the one lock. He had never added another lock. He was too poor to rob or so he thought.
Quigley was a man in his 30s he had brown hair turning prematurely grey. He stood but 5’7” and was slender. He opened the door. The sight of a man with a black balaclava on and a rifle aimed straight at him made Quigley want to slam the door again.
”Don’t even think about it” said Lynne as Quigley hesitated in the doorway. Quigely knew better than to irk the IRA commander.
Quigley stepped out. The rifle was pressed against his forehead. ”Move out move out” said Lynne gesturing to the right. Quigley took several sideways steps from the door.
”Nice to see you” he said humorously, “Now Quigley. You have to pay your taxes.”
”But I have already paid them.” said Quigley.
”Ah yes to King George. Your money is buying the bullets that kill your own people You should get a Victoria Cross!” said Lynne
”Well I could not refuse to pay I would go to gaol.” said Quigley
”We will have none of that. Many a good Irishman has gone to gaol for his country. You volunteered to serve the king in the late war.” said Lynne.
”Yes, that’s true.” said Quigley
”Well Mr Royal Munster Fusiliers – still a loyal king’s man are you?” said Lynne
”Well no not really?” said Quigley
”Not really? Ah so you are a bit. You are a loyalist.” said Lynne
”I am no loyalist. I was always a Home Ruler” said Quigley
”Home Ruler is as bad as a loyalist to me. At least loyalists are honest about being the enemies of Ireland. As for you – you call yourself a Catholic and you fought for the English? You fight for Protestants against your own religion You are a traitorous bastard.” said Lynne.
”Now when I joined there was no fighting in Ireland. I fought the Germans not against our own people.” said Quigley; “I dod not think it was against Catholicism; The pope never said not to join. There were priests in the British Army as chaplains”
”Ah tush. Hireling. You sold your nation for the Kings shilling. ” said Lynne
”John Redmond told us to fight. Fight and get Home Rule. Defend Catholic Belgium. I fought for the freedom of small nations.” said Quigley.
”We will have no more of this cant. Now Quigley you will pay us the some of 10 pounds.” said Lynne
”I do not have ten pounds.” Said Quigley.
”Ah you lying traitor. Tell us where the money is or we burn your house with the kids inside.” said Lynne.
”I do not have that.” said Quigley
”How much do you have?” said Lynne.
”I only have four pounds in there.” said Quigley
”Four pounds? I do not believe you.” said Lynne
”I only have four pounds” there was pleading in his voice. said Quigley.
”If I find you are lying you will be shot dead. We killed Sheehy and we would happily kill you English soldier.” said Lynne
”I am no longer a soldier.” said Quigley
”Once a soldier of the English Army always a soldier. ” said Lynne “You took an oath to the king”
”I am not a soldier.” said Quigley
”Why shouldn’t I shoot you dead right now?” said Lynne.
”Please no. I have a wife and six children. I am their sole support” Quigleys voice quavered.
”you will give me that four pounds. You will hand over your pension to the IRA every week.” said Lynne.
”I will I will I swear it” said Quigely.
”Now go and get the money . Give us your key and leave the door open.” said Lynne
”Yes, sir” Quigley could not believe he was calling the man sir. But he recognised Lynne’s voice only too well.
Quigely hurried back into the house. His hands shook wildly as he unlocked the strong box hidden under the stove. He came back with four pounds and some coins.
He put it in a gunnysack held out by Lynne.
”Now Quigley – go back in there. You will hand over the money every week or you will be shot dead. That is the only reason you have not been killed. The IRA wants your pension.”
”Yes sir I will pay I swear it” he said his voice shaking.
The IRA silently withdrew.
Quigley’s heart was thumping wildly. He could not quite believe what he had witnessed. The money he had saved so hard was gone. He has wanted to pay for medical treatment for his son. Now he had lost it all. But at least he was still alive.
The IRA walked back to their bivouac in the woods on Sweet Hillocks. The masks were off.
”That was a good night’s work” said London gaily. “But we should have half killed him; We need to have a reputation for violence;”
”Certainly was. I like this more than school mastering” Lynne chuckled. “But no m we do not want to beat too much”
”Why did we not beat the bastard? Teach him a lesson like” said Hendricks.
”Maybe we have done enough of that” said Lynne. “You might get carried way ant kill him by accident”
”No Hendricks is right. That bastard Quigely got wounded in service of King George – he should take a few wounds for Ireland too.” said London.
Lynne handed his rifle to London. ”Right I am off home. You fellows on the run camping here. I will see ye here tomorrow night – usual time. Now that four pounds we got from him. I have taken two for safekeeping. London you have the rest. Pay the men their wages.”
”I shall commandant. So I will have one pound myself and give the others two shillings each.” said London.
”Ah that is a bit much for you” said Lynne.
”I am a more senior rank. I am keeping it” London said it with a force that made Lynne back down.
”All right – you deserve it.” said Lynne crestfallen.
Lynne slunk off.
London then announced to the others. ”A pound. That is three days wages to most men. This is the makings of a great weekend. I am taking leave tomorrow. I will be off to Cork. Trawl the bars. See if I cannot pick up a painted lady with this!”
For some of the others surrounding q house and threatening to burn it down with children Inside was starting to become unremarkable. Some had been horrified by what they were doing. But they grew desensitised to it. They were blase about such violence and intimidation.
A few nights later London had rejoined the unit.
The IRA assembled. A dozen of them with balaclavas on went to O’Connors. They surrounded the ivy clad grey house after midnight. London had welcomed the opportunity to liberate a few pounds off a Protestant.
Lynne banged on the door with the butt of his rifle.
”Come out O’Connor. Come out you Orange bastard, you rich bags.”
The elderly O’Connor was astonished to be awoken so rudely. The widower struggled out of bed and pulled back the curtains. He was horrified to see several masked men with torches and guns on the lawn outside his sturdy two storey farmhouse.
O’Connor was not so foolish as to refuse. He wore a nightshirt and cap. He lit a lantern and hobbled down the twirling carpeted staircase. O’Connor then unlocked the three locks on his heavy front door. He was a quiet and elusive man and could not think how he had offended the IRA and he was sure that it was the IRA.
O’Connor’s middle aged daughter and her husband stirred in their room. O’Connor’s three grandchildren began to cry. O’Connor’s son in law bravely roused himself and came to the door in green pyjamas.
As O’Connor opened the door his son in law politely pushed him aside.
”Men you can deal with me” said David Rivers with his chest puffed out.
Lynne stared at him through his balaclava. ”Rivers? We can deal with you can we?” said Lynne mockingly. ”Very well step out then Mr Rivers.” Lynne was momentarily impressed by Rivers’ valour but chose to repress the sentiment. Rivers was 6’2” and had bright orange curls. His skin was fair and he had bucked teeth. Apart from that he was a handsome man. Lynne welcomed the chance to humble this man who had ideas about himself.
Rivers barefooted stepped down the three steps and onto the gravel outside.
”I will be having you too O’Connor.”
The wizen old Mr O’Connor silently stepped out shivering in the cold.
”Now you Prod bastards you have tax to pay to the IRA.”
”We shall then” said Rivers pragmatically.
”Very good Rivers” said Lynne. ”and 100 pounds.”
”100 pounds” said O’Connor. ”I do not have that amount of money in the house. ”
”Not in the house but you do in the bank. A bank clerk has told us. The IRA is defending Ireland and we need salaries. You Prod bastards can pay us back for all you have stolen from us.” said Lynne.
”I never stole anything” said Rivers.
”Ah but your ancestors did. You folk came from England 300 years ago. You Cromwellians can pay us back every last penny plus compound interest. You are Mr Money Bags. You are tight fisted blood suckers. Worse than the Jew.” said Lynne
”Well my mother’s people came to Ireland with the Normans” said Rivers.
”Still invaders. You Protestant swine.” said Lynne.
”Don’t you think some Catholics have Norman or English stock too.?” said Rivers.
”Shut your trap . I will have no more cheek from you – Orange bastard.”
”I am not an Orangeman and never have been.” said Rivers.
”I know but your brother is” said Lynne.
”My brother is but I am against that. I told him the Orange Order are a lot of bigots and fools.” said Rivers
”You are your brother’s keeper” said Lynne – laughing at his own wit. A few of his subordinates chortled at that one too.
London shouted ”How much money you got in the house O’Connor?”
”Barely 20 pounds.” said O’Connor softly.
”You go and get it or your son in law is shot dead” said London impatiently.
”That is for me to say London” said Lynne looking at him and speaking in a reproachful tone.
”Don’t say my name in front of these Orangies” said London.
”Now go and get it you souper bastard. You who changed your religion in the Famine are the worst of the lot” said Lynne. “sold out to the English Church”
”We changed out of conviction” said O’Connor
”You did not. Sold your birthright for a mess of pottage” said Lynne. He was very satisfied with himself for managing that Biblical reference.
O’Connor hobbled into the house. The pottered around trying to find the money. Lynne noted the resemblance between O Connor and some other people in the district who were Catholics. It was an unwelcome reminder that Protestant s were not a different species. But he dispelled the thought. Lynne reminded himself of English treqcheries and barbarities. Anything they did to O Connor was only paying the enemy bacK
”We burn the house later?” said London
”No I told you. If we do that these Prods will leave. We need them here for money. Get their relatives to send more money or the house gets torched. ” said Lynne.
”Rivers” said Lynne ”people of your church are murdering Irishmen in Belfast. We should shoot you too.”
”Those loyalists in Belfast murdering Catholics it is an outrage. I am against it. Everyone knows I treat Catholics fairly. I make no distinction of party or class.” said Rivers. The cold was making his teeth chatter.
”Your father was a landlord. Charged a lot of rent.” said Lynne.
”He only rented out a few acres. We were not rich. Ploughed our own fields.” said Rivers. “My father died when I was a child. It is my brother has that farm now not me”
”You exploiting bastard. Stingy rats paying starvation wages. Living off the sweat of our brow. The poor Catholics paying rent to you rich Prods.” said Lynne.
”We are not rich. Better off than most. But we had only a three room house and one horse.” said Rivers.
”That is rich in my book” said London.
Rivers began to cough and sneeze and the cold got to him.
Mr O’Connor came back with a purse.
”How much is in it?” said Lynne.
”20 pounds 10 shillings and 11 pence.” said O Connor.
”Trust a Prod to know the exact amount. You are the Jews of Ireland. Blood sucking pigs. ” said Lynne.
London ” I shall put manners on these two dirty Orange bastards”
”Yes do” said Lynne.
London turned his rifle around. He swung the butt and hit Rivers on the chin. Rivers cried out in pain. London then rammed the muzzle of the rifle into Rivers’s stomach. Rivers bent double.
”David” Mr O’ Connor cried out in sympathy.
”Robbing Prod bastard” said Lynne as he used the butt against Rivers’ spine. Hendricks joined in. He hit Rivers in the face with the butt of his rifle. Rivers’ face was pouring blood. ANother blow and his teeth were knocked out. It was a dental clearance. Soon a crater appeared in Rivers face.
”No. Please no” pleaded O’Connor in alarm. ”He is a good Irishman. You will get your money I swear it.”
Lynne then hit O’Connor across the face with his rifle. The old man clutched his wound and tottered. Lynne kicked him in the groin. O’Connor fell to his knees and Lynne hit him on the back with his rifle butt.
The savage beating continued. ”Not on the head this time mind” said Lynne. ”Now Conlan go and get the horses. We are taking those.”
”Yes commandant” said Conlan ”But please don’t beat these fellows too bad. Old man O’Connor is not bad. I know people used to work for him. Said he was a fair boss. Decent wages like.”
”Yerra shut up you bowsy. You like these Orange fiends do you?” said Lynne.
”Yes what is your fucking problem you a Prod too or Something? You English lover?” said London.
”Shut your hole Conlan” said Hendricks ”or you will be next for a beating.”
Within a minute they had the gelding and the mare tacked up. Lynne and London mounted the only two horses that old man O’Connor owned. O’Connor and Rivers were unconscious and bleeding on the ground.
”Hope the old bastard remembers to go to the bank and get us our money tomorrow” said Lynne ”or we burn the house down.”
They rode off into the night.
Only with immense difficulty did Mrs Rivers managed to drag the men into the house before they could get hypothermia.
Lynne decided that in future he would have other younger volunteers perform the beatings; share the honour and the pleasure. That would help the volunteers gain maturity. Moreover, they would be blooded; Some of them still recoiled at the sight of heavy violence. He must get they accustomed to it so they could cope with combat.
Conlan was feeling a sense of disillusionment with his mission but chose to keep his misgivings to himself. He began drinking as a means of coping. It was an irony that they called the RIC brutal. The RIC never did anything like this. How were these squalid robberies imitating the noblitity of Irish Warriors of former times?
FR MEAGHER AT THE TABLE.
At the breakfast table Fr Meagher sat beside Benedict. They held hands under the table as they waited for the housekeeper to bring in tea and English muffins.
”It will be summer soon” Benedict Thompson mused.
”Oh yes. Irish summer. The best week of the year!” Fr Meagher tittered camply.
Just then Fr Downy walked in. His hair was a little bouffant and he was freshly bathed. ”I was out for a run this morning” he announced.
”Aren’t you out for a run every morning?” said Fr Meagher.
”No not quite every morning.” said Fr Downy ”Anyway, I spoke to people on the way – people stop me tell me the news. The IRA paid a visit to O’Connor last night. Put manners on the old Prod. That will teach his people for taking the soup in the Famine. ”
”Put manners on him? You mean they beat him up?” Fr Meagher asked for confirmation.
”Ah yes. They licked the old Orange so and so” said Downy who could not bring himself to use foul language.
”Well we should not want anyone to be beaten up least of all Mr O’Connor. He never did any harm.” said Meagher.
”My great grandmother died in the Famine. People like his family survived because they apostated. They joined the Church of Ireland to get food.” said Downy ”It is right that we pay these traitors back” said Downy.
”It is not O’Connor’s fault what his grandparents did in the Famine. Besides they might have converted out of conviction. If a Protestant becomes a Catholic he is not bad. The reverse must also be true. Even if they did convert for food : they had to survive.” said Meagher
”No it must not be right for Catholics to convert to heresy. Our religion is true and theirs is false and deficient. Nil salus ex ecclesia; There can be no comparison between truth and lies!” said Downy.
”We are all baptised into the Church of Christ.” said Meagher
”The Catholic church is the only true church.” said Downy;
”Oh come off it. Not all Protestants are wicked any more than all our own people are entirely good.” said Meagher.
”Sounds to me like you want to take the soup. Catholicism is good and Protestantism is heresy; You want to turn to Protestantism do you father Meagher?” Downy pronounced the word father with sarcastic emphasis.
”No I do not” said Meagher. ” I shall never cross the Tiber”
”Those Orange pigs they have the cheek to call themselves the Church of Ireland; How dare they? They are not an Irish Church ; they are Sassenach or Scotch. We are the only true church in Ireland. Qnd how dare those Proddy dogs call us Roman Catholics; We are not Italian. How did your people survive the famine. Must have been quite bad up in the Midlands.” said Downy
”My grandmother told me they put a net in the river for fish. They ate berries, mushrooms, they begged and yes the stole. But soon all the berries and the mushrooms in the woods were gone English corn saved them. ” said Fr Meagher.
”They English did not provide corn” said Downy;
”They did. The government supplied Indian meal. Some civil servant called Trvelyan organised it. They soup they gave us they tried it in some top private members club in London first to see it was palatable. As though we would have turned our nose up at anything then! Not enough I know. Then charities did. The QUakers and so on. Yes, my family ate Protestant food. We were not required to convert to Protestantism to eat it. They were just showing concern for us. The same as I would feed a starving Protestant, Jew, Mussulman or whoever.” said Fr Meagher
”Feed your enemy? The English did not lift a finger to help. Queen Victoria gave a shilling.” said Downy
”That is not true she gave 5 000 pounds.” said Meagher;
”No she gave a shilling and she gave the same to a dog’s home in case people considered her pro Irish. She rated us as curs.” said Downy
”That is another lie. She did not give to the dogs’ home at that time. ” said Meagher
”The Catholic Church was the only organisation that did anything in the Famine.” said Downy
”Oh come on what did the Church do?” said Meagher.
”I do not know but I am sure that the bishops did a lot/” said Downy.
”Oh yes? The Bishop of Cork said the Famine was divine retribution for us accepting godless colleges. Did children really deserve to die of hunger because non religious colleges were founded?” said Meagher
”How dare you criticise a bishop.” said Downy.
”I respect the episcopacy but sometimes bishops are wrong. They are human : to err is human. They do not have papal infallibilty.” said Meagher.
”I have half a mind to report you to Dr Coghalan for insolence.” said Downy
”I have half a mind to report you to him for insubordination to me and for abetting illegal organisations.” said Meagher
”I do not assist an illegal organisation.” said Downy
”The IRA is an unlawful organisation and the bishop has denounced it from the pulpit. We condone no acts of unlawful violence.” said Meagher
”The IRA is allowed by the law of God.” said Downy
”You blessed the guns?” said Meagher
”And what if I did?’ asked Downy
”Then you are directly disobeying the episcopacy you claim to respect.” said Meagher. “You have an incredible ability to close your mind to Truth that you do not like. You can disbelieve things that you know to be true”
”I do not know about you but I am Irish. Ireland is at war against the English – you may have noticed. We will drive out the invaders. The English are Freemasons. They support the Orangies here. The English are in league with the money Jews and all who would destroy Catholic civilisation. Your mind has been poisoned by Protestant propaganda. I noticed you read the Irish Times.” said Dowany
”Yes, I do. I also read all sorts of newspapers. Freeman’s Journal. Irish Independent, Cork Examiner. I notice you have many back numbers of the Irish Catholic. I dip into that from time to time. I have even seen an tOglac. Even though it is the IRA newspaper I read that to. I expose myself to all points of view. Do you?” said Meagher
”I read nothing that is devilish filth. I do not read Orange rags and lying English newspapers. You know the English press is owned by the Jew. Sir Matthew Nathanson was at Dublin Castle in the Easter Rising. He was a typical court Jew. He was responsible for our heroes of 1916 being murdered.” said Downy.
”Why are you so anti Jewish? They have done us no wrong. Some Jews are even on your side. There is a Jew in Dublin called Briscoe he is in the IRA. People say the chief rabbi leans towards Sinn Fein.” said Meagher.
”I know the harm the Jew did in Limerick some years ago. I have read what Arthur Griffith had to say about them. The Jew murdered Jesus Christ and put the big six inch nails in his hands and feet. The Jews are traitors like Dreyfuss. They should never have let him out. He was guilty all right. I spoke to many French priests. Dreyfussards took away the special position of the Catholic Church in France. In South Africa Griffith saw the Jew was an accomplice of the English. The English tried to steal the land from the true owner sof it – the Dutch. The English were helping the negro against the Dutch. It is a disgrace to say that a white man should have to give way to a nigger.” said Fr Downy.
“That is nonssense. No man should be ill treated for his relgion or is race>. The black man is my brither asmuch as the white man. I would be happy for black gentleman to marry my sister. There are black priests you know. If they are bad why are they allowed to be clergy? There was a black pope. I have met black men just as good as you and I;” said Meagher. ” And there is no war between Ireland and England. Why are people allowed to travel freely between Irlandand ENGLAND. There are hundreds of thousands of Irish people in England. That would not be in the case if there was war. If the IRA in gaol are Prisoners of War none would be tried. None would have sentences. They would not be let out till the end of the conflict but many were let out after only a few months after the Easter Rising; Very lenient don t you think?”