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Title: Tales of the Royal Irish Constabulary
Author: Anonymous
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                              TALES OF THE
                                 R.I.C.


------------------------------------------------------------------------



                              TALES OF THE
                                 R.I.C.


                       William Blackwood and Sons
                          Edinburgh and London
                                  1921

 _ALL RIGHTS RESERVED_

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                                CONTENTS


                                                    PAGE

                   I. THE INFORMER                     1

                  II. ON THE RUN                      20

                 III. THE LANDING OF ARMS             37

                  IV. THE RED CROSS                   54

                   V. THE R.M.                        69

                  VI. AN OUTLAW                       79

                 VII. THE STRANGER WITHIN THE GATES   97

                VIII. MR BRIGGS’ ISLAND              108

                  IX. THE REWARD OF LOYALTY          120

                   X. POTEEN                         137

                  XI. THE MAYOR’S CONSCIENCE         152

                 XII. A BRUTAL MURDER                166

                XIII. SEAL ISLAND                    176

                 XIV. A FAMILY AFFAIR                191

                  XV. THE AMERICAN NURSE             208

                 XVI. FATHER JOHN                    223

                XVII. THE BOG CEMETERY               236

               XVIII. A JEW IN GAELIC CLOTHING       253

                 XIX. MOUNTAIN WARFARE               262

                  XX. THE GREAT ROUND UP             281

                 XXI. THE TRUCE                      300



                          TALES OF THE R.I.C.


[Illustration]



                                   I.
                             THE INFORMER.


In many parts of the west of Ireland one finds small mountain farms of
from five to twenty acres, generally consisting of twenty-five per cent
rock, twenty-five per cent heather, and the remainder of indifferent
grass-land. On such a farm a peasant will rear a large family, and how
it is done is one of the mysteries of Ireland; but done it is, and
often.

Patsey Mulligan was one of a family of ten, brought up on one of these
farms until he was seventeen, when his father told him that it was time
he thought of keeping himself, and, incidentally, of earning some money
for his mother. Patsey quite agreed with his father, but soon found that
it was much easier to talk of getting work in such a poor district as
Cloonalla than to get it.

In the end Patsey made up his mind that the only thing to do was to go
to England in search of work, and one cold winter’s morning he set off
from his home, in company with three other lads from the same townland,
to walk the fifteen miles across the mountains and bogs to the nearest
railway station at Ballybor. Arriving in England, they made their way to
a town in Yorkshire, where one of them had a brother working in a
coal-mine, and within three days of leaving his home in Ireland Patsey
found himself a Yorkshire miner.

Hardly had he settled down to his work in the coal-mine when the war
broke out, followed by a rush of young miners to enlist, amongst others
Patsey Mulligan; and before he realised what he was doing, he was a full
private in a famous Yorkshire regiment. Patsey had, however, enlisted in
the name of Murphy, hoping to keep his people in ignorance of the fact,
knowing it would break his mother’s heart if she knew he was fighting.

Patsey thoroughly enjoyed the training, and within seven months of
enlisting embarked for France; and after a few weeks’ pleasant life in
billets, gradually moved north until finally the battalion took over
trenches in the famous salient of Ypres—a great contrast to Patsey’s
home in the west of Ireland.

There happened to be in the battalion a young Irish subaltern by name
Anthony Blake, and when Blake told his Company Sergeant-Major to find
him a servant—an Irishman if possible—Patsey at once volunteered for the
job, and between the two young Irishmen there soon sprang up a
friendship through the common bond of danger and discomfort.

After some time Patsey learnt through one of the boys with whom he had
first crossed to England that his mother was dangerously ill, and that
she had repeatedly written to Patsey to come home and see her before she
died, but had naturally received no answer. In his trouble he appealed
to Blake, and that night found him waiting at Popperinghe Station for
the leave train with a return-warrant to Ballybor in his pocket.

On his arrival at Ballybor he set out on his long fifteen-mile tramp to
his home at Cloonalla, and late on a summer’s evening the family of
Mulligan were startled by a British soldier in full marching order
walking into their home.

Before his mother died she made Patsey promise that he would not go back
to France, and that he would stay at home and help his father to mind
the other children. It is hard for a son to refuse his dying mother, and
doubly so for an Irish boy.

When his mother’s funeral was over, Patsey buried his uniform and
equipment in a bog-hole at night; but his rifle he hid in the thatch of
an outhouse, and it was given out in the neighbourhood that he had been
discharged from the Army as medically unfit.

After the usual time Patsey was posted as a deserter in his battalion;
Blake found a new servant and forgot all about his late one, while
Patsey settled down to work with his father, and the memory of Blake and
the British Army faded from his mind.

Though wounded three times, Blake was one of the lucky men to return
home to Ireland at the end of the war, and at once set about looking for
a job. The son of a country doctor in the south of Ireland, at the
outbreak of war he had just left school, and had not had time to settle
on a career.

But if in England it was hard for ex-officers to get employment, in
Ireland it was doubly so; and Blake soon found that it was next to
impossible for a man who had worn the King’s uniform to get any work or
appointment. The power of Sinn Fein was beginning to be felt in the
land, and though many people would have gladly employed men returned
from the front, they dared not.

At last, when he had quite given up hope, he received by post an offer
to join the newly-formed Auxiliary Division of the Royal Irish
Constabulary, and, gladly jumping at such an offer, was soon in training
at the depot in Dublin. After a tour of duty in the south, the
authorities offered him a cadetship in the R.I.C., and in the course of
two months Blake found himself the District Inspector at Ballybor.

At this time the R.I.C., after about as bad a hammering as any force
ever received, were beginning to get their tails up again; and whereas
previously no policeman dared show his face outside his barracks after
dark, they were now occasionally sending out strong patrols at
night-time, to the great concern of the local Sinn Feiners, who for a
considerable time had had things all their own way in the south and
west.

The police district of Ballybor is, like many others in the west of
Ireland, large, consisting chiefly of mountains, bogs, lakes, and a few
small scattered villages, some of them hidden away in the mountains—an
ideal district in peace time for a D.I. who is fond of shooting and
fishing, but in war time a hard district to control with the small force
of police at a D.I.’s disposal.

Previous to Blake’s arrival all the barracks in the district had been
vacated with the exception of Ballybor and “Grouse Lodge,” a small
barrack at the foot of the mountains in the Cloonalla district; and as
each barrack was vacated, it was blown up or burnt by the local
Volunteers.

In all former rebellions in Ireland the Government have found that to
get information it was only necessary to pay money. Sometimes it did not
cost much, other times they had to pay generously, but always money
produced information; and at the beginning of the Sinn Fein trouble the
Government naturally assumed that money would produce the informers as
before. But this time they were wrong, and it was only—when the
Government were at their wits’ end—by a lucky chance of finding
important papers on a man, who was shot at night during a military raid
on a Dublin hotel, that at last they received the information which
enabled them to grapple successfully with Sinn Fein.

There is no doubt that the originators of Sinn Fein had read their
country’s history carefully, and were determined that this time there
should be no informers; and to this end they organised a “Reign of
Terror” throughout Ireland such as few countries have ever seen at any
time in history. Their chief obstacle was the R.I.C., and once this
force was reduced to a state of inactivity—they thought they had broken
it for good and all—their task appeared comparatively easy. Every man,
woman, and child in the south and west of Ireland knew that if they gave
any information to the police they would be shot, and shot they were.

When Blake took over his duties at Ballybor, he found that the police
had no source of information whatsoever, with the result that each
attack on a barrack and every ambush of a patrol came as a surprise to
them. So great was the “Reign of Terror” in the Ballybor district that
no person dare speak to a policeman, and the shopkeepers were afraid to
serve one, even with the necessities of life.

Blake quickly realised that if he was ever to get the upper hand in his
district, he must discover some source of getting information, and find
it quickly, before the whole population were driven to join forces
against him.

One of Sinn Fein’s principles has been that the fewer who know the fewer
can tell, and, as a rule, there has only been one man in a
district—usually the local captain of the Volunteers—who has information
of coming events; and Blake knew that his only chance of reliable news
lay with this man, and with him alone.

About the only information which his men could give him of his area was
that a young man, who lived in the townland of Cloonalla, named Patsey
Mulligan, was the captain of the local Volunteers, and that his house
was close to the barracks at Grouse Lodge; so he determined to go out to
Grouse Lodge Barracks and stay there until he had either come to terms
with Patsey Mulligan, or saw that it was hopeless.

On a fine winter’s morning Blake set out from the barracks at Ballybor
in the Crossley tender with an escort of six police, the most he dared
take with him for fear of weakening the Ballybor garrison. It was
market-day in the little town, and all along the road to Grouse Lodge
they met the country people coming in—some in horse-carts, others in
ass-carts, and the poorer ones on foot—but not one of them would speak
to or even look at the police, the people on foot even getting off the
road into the fields directly they caught sight of the police-car
approaching.

On learning from one of the constables that Mulligan’s house was not on
the main road to Grouse Lodge Barracks, but on a byroad, Blake ordered
the driver to go by this road, and when he came to Mulligan’s house to
stop the car and pretend that something required adjusting in his
engine. After a time the driver stopped outside an ordinary thatched
cottage on the side of the road, and, as Blake had expected, the
inhabitants came to the door to see who it was.

The first to appear was a young man, and as the constable whispered to
Blake that he was Patsey Mulligan, Blake nearly shouted for joy, for he
saw that the man was none other than “Murphy,” his former servant in
France, and a deserter from his Majesty’s Army in the field!

At once, before Patsey could get a good look at him and possibly
recognise him, Blake ordered the driver to go on to the barracks as fast
as the bad road would allow them.

The question now was how to get hold of Mulligan alone, and this was
settled by the information which a constable at Grouse Lodge was able to
give. It appeared that this plucky constable had for some time past been
in the habit of slipping out of the barracks by the back entrance at
night in plain clothes and returning before daybreak. He had discovered
that Mulligan was in the habit of meeting a girl nearly every night at a
certain lonely spot about a mile from his house; and from overhearing
their conversation, had found out that Patsey wanted to marry this girl,
but that she had refused to marry him until he had enough money to take
her out of the country and to buy a small farm in America.

On questioning this constable, Blake was able to get a detailed account
of Mulligan’s movements since the time of his desertion. It appeared
that for a considerable time after he came back he hardly left his home
at all, contenting himself by working on his father’s farm, and it was
not until the Sinn Fein Volunteers were started in the district and
Mulligan was elected captain that he appeared in public.

About the same time there was a report in the neighbourhood that Patsey
Mulligan was courting a girl called Bridgie O’Hara, who lived in the
Cloonalla district; also that another man in the same townland with
money was doing his best to make her marry him.

Bridgie had two brothers in the Royal Irish Constabulary, and as the
Sinn Fein movement grew stronger and the resistance of the Government
weaker, the Volunteers started to boycott the O’Hara family. So savage
had the boycott become lately that not a soul dared speak to them, and
it was only by going to a town several miles away that they were able to
obtain food.

As soon as it was dark that night Blake and the constable, both in plain
clothes, slipped out at the back of the barracks and made their way to
Mulligan’s trysting-place. As usual, Mulligan and Bridgie met, and when
they parted Blake and the constable followed Mulligan until the girl was
well out of hearing, when they called on him to halt, at the same time
covering him with their automatics.

Mulligan at once stopped and put up his hands, but did not speak, and
while Blake continued to cover him, the constable searched him for arms.
Blake then ordered Mulligan to walk in front of him until they came to a
mountain track which was off the road; leaving the constable on guard,
he ordered Mulligan to walk up the track in front of him.

After they had gone about a hundred yards, Blake stopped and asked
Mulligan if he knew that he was liable to be arrested and shot for
desertion from the British Army, and waited to see the effect of his
words, as the whole success of his plan depended on this.

By now Mulligan had recognised Blake’s voice, and knowing well what
would happen to him if he fell into the hands of the military, fell on
his knees and begged Blake to spare him. Blake at once explained his
terms, which the boy eagerly accepted, thankful to get off at any price,
though not counting the cost and danger of what he was doing.

Blake’s terms were that Mulligan should give him information well
beforehand of every contemplated outrage in the district, and, in
return, promised him, on behalf of the British Government, a free
pardon, £500, and a passage for himself and Bridgie to any country he
wished to go to, but not until the Sinn Fein movement was crushed in the
district.

As it happened, only the evening before, Bridgie had told Patsey that
she could not stand the boycott any longer, and that if he could not
take her away to America at once she would marry Mike Connelly; hence
the promise of the £500 seemed to poor Patsey like a gift from heaven.

It was arranged, in order that no suspicion should be drawn down on him,
that Mulligan should leave his letter at night-time when going to meet
Bridgie O’Hara under a certain large stone a few feet from where they
were, near the point where the track and road met. As there was nothing
more to settle, Blake told Mulligan to go home at once, while he and the
constable made their way back to the barracks, and the following day
Blake returned to Ballybor.

At this time Blake found that several of his men showed a strong
disinclination to leave the barracks, and remembering how hard it used
to be sometimes during the war to get men who had been stuck in trenches
for months to go “over the top,” he decided to organise strong daylight
patrols so that each man should leave his barracks for a certain number
of hours every day. In addition to patrols round Ballybor, he sent out a
strong patrol on certain days to work its way across country—always by a
different route—to Grouse Lodge Barracks, where the patrol spent the
night, returning to Ballybor across country the following day.

Taking advantage of mistakes made in other parts of the country, he sent
no patrols on the main routes, but made them all go across country, only
using the roads for short distances when they were open, and when it was
practically impossible to be ambushed.

For some time there came no information from Mulligan, and when at last
a note was brought from him from Grouse Lodge, it only contained the
laconic news that the price for shooting a policeman had gone up from
£60 to £100; and though no further message came from Mulligan for
another ten days, as no outrages had been committed during this time,
Blake had no reason to think that he was not fulfilling his part of the
bargain.

Early one morning a bicycle patrol arrived at Ballybor Barracks from
Grouse Lodge, and the constable who had been with Blake the night he met
Mulligan handed him a note to the effect that two car-loads of arms were
to arrive in the Cloonalla district that night for the purpose of an
attack on Grouse Lodge Barracks the following night. Mulligan gave the
route the cars would take, but did not state at what hour they might be
expected.

On looking at an Ordnance map, Blake noticed that the cars would have to
pass through a small wood, and that the road took a sharp bend where it
entered the wood. Taking a leaf out of the Sinn Feiners’ book, he
determined to ambush the cars at the bend, and to try and seize cars and
arms.

The difficulty was to know what to do with the cars once they had gained
possession of them. The Volunteers would no doubt collect in the
Cloonalla district to take over the arms, hence it would be dangerous to
attempt to take them to Grouse Lodge Barracks, which was much the nearer
barrack to the proposed scene of the ambush; so in the end he settled,
if he came off victorious, to take the cars by byroads to Ballybor and
risk being attacked in the town at night. A few days before this Blake
had received his first batch of “Black and Tans,” bringing his force up
to a respectable number, so felt quite justified in making the attempt.

As soon as it was dark that night, Blake with five of his men left
Grouse Lodge, and made their way by the starlight across country to the
wood. The men brought axes with them, and soon had the road blocked with
two small fir-trees, after which they took cover on each side of the
road and waited.

At ten the moon rose and the night still remained fine, but it was not
until after two that they heard the cars approaching. The leading car
came round the bend at a good pace, pulling up just clear of the
barricade, while the second car, failing to see the obstacle on the
road, was unable to pull up in time, and ran into the back of the
leading car.

Blake at once stood up and called on the men—there were two in each
car—to put up their hands; but for answer they opened fire with
automatics in the direction of Blake’s voice, whereupon the police fired
a volley at the cars, and three of the men were seen to collapse, after
which the fourth put up his hands.

They found that two of the men were dead, while the third was shot
through the chest. After removing all papers and arms from the dead men,
they hid their bodies in the wood, removed the trees from the road, and
started off to Ballybor, where they arrived without mishap, and soon had
the two cars safely in the barrack-yard.

On investigation they found that the cars contained thirty carbines and
rifles, several thousand rounds of ammunition, and two boxes of
home-made bombs.

This capture had a great effect on the police _morale_ in the district,
and, in fact, marked the turning-point in the Sinn Fein campaign in that
area, while the two captured cars made a welcome addition to the police
transport.

Shortly afterwards Blake received a warning from Mulligan to expect an
attack on a named night on the barracks in Ballybor, and that an attempt
would be made to blow up the gable-end of the barracks. The night before
the expected attack Blake brought all the men that could be spared with
safety from Grouse Lodge, and made his preparations for defence.

The attack opened with heavy rifle-fire from all the surrounding houses,
which drove the unfortunate inhabitants of Ballybor in terror from the
town, and after an hour a determined rush was made under heavy covering
fire to ram the barrack door; but the fire of the police forced them to
drop the ram and run for shelter. Only one attempt was made to blow up
the gable, the police allowing the attackers to start laying the
gelignite, and then dropping a Mills bomb from the window above, where a
projecting V-shaped steel shutter had been put up, with deadly effect.

After this the attackers kept up an intermittent rifle-fire for another
two hours, and towards daybreak withdrew, leaving the police victorious;
and although several men had been seen to fall during the attempt to ram
the door, by the time it was light their bodies had been removed.

A subsequent attack on Grouse Lodge Barracks was also successfully
beaten off without any police casualties; but an attempt Blake made to
capture an important Volunteer staff-officer in the Cloonalla district
one night failed—the bird had flown a quarter of an hour before the
patrol surrounded the house where he had been staying.

This attempt to seize the staff-officer convinced the Volunteers that
there was a traitor in the district, and a Volunteer intelligence
officer was sent down forthwith from Dublin to investigate.

Blake now felt that he was really beginning to break the Sinn Fein in
his district, and decided to take the offensive to the full extent of
his power. Not only did he have the town and country patrolled night and
day, but he also sent out parties of “Black and Tans” to search houses
in the country for suspected stores of arms, and also to try and obtain
information by all means in their power.

Though at this time the people were beginning to get restive under the
Sinn Fein tyranny, yet so great was the terror that not a single person
in the whole district dared to give the police one word of information
of his own will; and though the information from Mulligan was of vital
importance as regards attacks and movements by the Volunteers, yet Blake
was still in complete ignorance of the names of the most dangerous Sinn
Feiners.

Blake felt that he was winning, but he knew that there would be no peace
or rest in his district until he had arrested the leaders: the others
would then be like sheep without a shepherd. To this end an interview
with Mulligan was necessary, in order to get from him the names of these
leaders.

This time Blake waylaid Mulligan as he was going to meet Bridgie O’Hara,
and at once saw that the boy’s nerve was fast breaking. Mulligan gave
him the names and addresses he wanted readily enough, and then implored
Blake to have him arrested at once and taken to a place of safety, as he
was in terror of his life.

He told Blake that the Volunteers were already suspicious of him, and
that an intelligence officer had been specially sent down from Dublin to
watch him and report on the leakage of information, and that he could
not stick it any longer. Blake, knowing that once Mulligan was removed,
he would not get any information at all, managed after a long argument
to persuade him to carry on a little longer, by promising to arrest him
when the other leaders were taken.

After parting from Blake the unhappy Mulligan met his girl, who by this
time was half-mad from the misery of the boycott of her family. In
despair she told him she had made up her mind to marry Connelly, and
they would sail for America as soon as they could get passports.

Patsey, at the end of his tether and racked with terror, implored her to
wait a little longer, saying that very soon he would have £500, and
directly he got the money he would take her away.

The girl went home in the seventh heaven of delight, forgot all about
the promises of silence she had made to Patsey, and told her mother,
who, of course, told her husband, and it was not many days before the
good news was common property in the district. A few days afterwards the
intelligence officer returned to his H.Q.’s—his mission was fulfilled.

Having got the ringleaders’ names, Blake at once set about his plans for
arresting them, realising that not until they were safe under lock and
key could he truthfully say that he had won; but it is one thing to
arrest two or three men, and quite a different story to arrest thirty or
forty, as, if not all arrested at the same time, the majority would get
warning and disappear on the run.

Once again Blake met Mulligan at night, and arranged with him to call a
meeting of the ringleaders the following Sunday at early Mass outside a
wayside chapel in the Cloonalla district, when he proposed to arrest
them, and promised Mulligan he would be separated from the others at
once and conveyed to England on a destroyer. At first Mulligan refused,
being now demented with the fear of assassination, but when promised the
payment of the £500 on his arrival in England, he consented.

Blake arranged that on the following Sunday morning as many men as could
be spared should be sent from Grouse Lodge and Ballybor Barracks to meet
near the Cloonalla chapel at the same time, when he hoped to surround
the crowd and make the arrests without any difficulty.

On a typical soft Irish morning Blake and his men set out early from
Ballybor Barracks on their drive to the chapel, full of hope that the
day’s work would clinch his victory, and that then he would apply for
leave, as the strain of the last few months was beginning to tell on
him, and he needed a rest badly.

When the Crossley was within half a mile of the chapel and still out of
view from there, Blake stopped the car, got out his men, and proceeded
to surround the chapel, while Blake himself advanced alone towards the
chapel gates. When he drew near he could see that the road in front of
the gates was a mass of country people, who did not move until Blake got
close to them, when they divided, forming a lane towards the gates.

And to his last day Blake will never forget the sight which met his eyes
as he advanced through the people in a deathly silence. Lashed to one of
the pillars of the chapel gates was the body of the unfortunate Patsey
Mulligan with two bullet-holes through his forehead, and pinned on his
chest a sheet of white paper bearing the single word TRAITOR, while at
his feet lay poor Bridgie O’Hara, her body heaving with sobs, and her
long dark hair, which had been cut off, lying on the ground beside her.



                                  II.
                              ON THE RUN.


Paddy Flanagan stood in the doorway of his small shop in the main street
of the mean and dirty little village of Ballyfrack, watching the rain
coming down in torrents, while he listened with one ear to his wife
arguing with a countrywoman in the shop behind him over the price of
eggs, and with his other ear for the high-pitched sound of a powerful
car.

Presently the woman in the shop, having sold her eggs and bought
provisions, wrapped her shawl over her head and started to make her way
home. As Paddy moved aside to let the woman out, his ear caught the
dreaded sound he was expecting, growing louder every second, and
culminating in a shower-bath of mud as two Crossley tenders, full of
Auxiliary Cadets, dashed past the shop and disappeared as suddenly as
they had come.

Hardly had the noise of the engines died away than Paddy’s quick ear
caught the sound of cars approaching again, and two Ford cars—the first
carrying a huge coffin and the second apparently mourners—drew up at the
small hotel almost opposite Paddy’s shop.

Some two years previously Flanagan had become a rabid Sinn Feiner—he had
previously been as rabid a Nationalist—with a keen eye to business. For
a long time it looked as though Sinn Fein was the only horse in the
race, and the dream of an Irish Republic seemed more than likely to
become a reality; lately, however, the British Government had been
sitting up and taking a quite unnecessary interest in Ireland.

First, the British Government had formed the Auxiliary Division—“those
cursed pups of Cromwell,” as Paddy described them to his friends, while
Mrs Paddy used to say that the Government had recruited them from all
the prisons and asylums in England; then, to crown all, the Government
had had the audacity to put several counties within easy reach of
Ballyfrack under martial law.

So far Paddy had carried on the war for freedom with words only, but a
week before this story starts he had found to his great alarm that he
would be called upon for deeds. On a dark Sunday night, just as the
Flanagans were preparing to go to bed, there came two short sharp knocks
at the shop door, followed by a long one.

Now Paddy had always had a great dread of night work, and swore that
come what might he would not open his door to any man, be he policeman
or Sinn Feiner: for a minute there was a tense silence in the stuffy
dark shop, save for the heavy breathing of Mrs Flanagan, broken suddenly
by a blow which threatened to break in the street door, and a loud voice
called out to Flanagan to open in the name of the Irish Republican Army.

“God save us,” said Mrs Flanagan, and dived under the bed; and Paddy
would have liked to follow his wife, but he had heard of the unpleasant
results which always followed a refusal to open to the I.R.A. Before
another blow could be struck on the door he had it open, and at once
three dark figures slipped into the shop, the last one closing the door.

And in the darkness of the shop Paddy Flanagan listened to his fate: it
seemed that in the adjoining county, where martial law had recently been
proclaimed, the military were making life quite unbearable for the
Volunteers, and the Auxiliaries had openly declared that they would
shoot John O’Hara—the chief assassin of policemen in that county—at
sight.

Before Flanagan could realise the horror of the situation, two of the
men had disappeared into the night, and he found himself face to face
with the notorious John O’Hara, with instructions to pass him on without
fail to the port of Ballybor (some eighty miles), where O’Hara would be
smuggled on board a vessel bound for England.

It was some considerable time before Flanagan could induce his wife to
come out from under the bed and produce a meal for O’Hara. Before they
went to sleep his wife reminded Flanagan—quite unnecessarily—of the fate
which the Auxiliaries and “Black and Tans” had assigned to any one who
gave shelter or help to John O’Hara.

For days past Paddy had been racking his brains, spurred on by the
laments of his wife, how to get rid of O’Hara, and every day the danger
seemed to grow greater, until at last Paddy could stand it no longer.

The outstanding feature in a western peasant’s character is always
curiosity, and the longer Paddy stood in the doorway of his shop gazing
at the coffin on the car, the greater his curiosity became. He had never
seen so big a coffin; if there was a man inside he must be the “devil of
a fellow and all,” but perhaps it might be a woman—until at last the
coffin drew him as a magnet draws a needle.

A close inspection of the two cars told him nothing, so there only
remained to go inside in the hope of meeting the occupants. Inside the
hotel he found the mourners seated round the fire in a back room,
drinking porter and discussing the disappearance of John O’Hara, and
after ordering a drink he drew a chair up to the fire and joined in the
general conversation.

Paddy soon found out that the coffin contained the body of a policeman
who had been murdered in a recent ambush in the adjoining county, and
his relatives were bringing his body home, a village close to Ballybor.
Probably the name of the town gave Paddy the idea, but in a flash he saw
his way clear to get rid of O’Hara, and that at once—if a dead policeman
could be taken in the coffin to Ballybor, why not the live John O’Hara?

For the next two hours Paddy plied the relations of the dead policeman
with porter, whisky, and poteen, and by that time had learnt all he
wanted to know: they had permits to the police for the two cars to
travel to Ballybor, they were all strong and noisy patriots (in spite of
the murdered policeman outside), and were as ready as the next man to
turn an honest penny.

Now Flanagan, being no fool, knew that no sane man—drunk or sober—would
take upon himself the responsibility of John O’Hara unless he was forced
to, and bearing this in mind during the negotiations which followed, he
used the threat of the magic letters “I.R.A.” freely—pretending that he
himself was a member of the dreaded Inner Circle. In the end, after much
drink and a lot of haggling, it was settled that the cars should be
taken into the hotel yard for the night.

Then, during the night, the policeman’s body was to be removed to a
hay-loft and buried secretly the following night, under arrangements to
be made by Flanagan, in a bog outside the village, where several
unfortunate Volunteers, who had fallen in an attack on the local police
barracks, were buried. Meanwhile the hotel boots, who was a carpenter by
trade, would make ventilation holes in the coffin, and the “funeral”
party would set off for Ballybor before daybreak.

The last part of the negotiations resembled the selling of a horse at a
fair, and the price he had to pay sobered Flanagan and nearly turned his
hair white,—not one yard would they go with O’Hara until they got £100;
but by now Flanagan was desperate, and if they had demanded £200 he
would have paid it.

At last all the details were settled, and Flanagan went home to warn
O’Hara of his coming journey in the coffin: the thought that in a few
hours he would be free of the man for good and all made life worth
living again.

But his joy was short-lived. On entering the kitchen he found four
long-haired young men making a hearty meal—more victims of British
tyranny, all on the run for the murder of policemen—and his heart sank
at the thought that there would probably be more to follow: in fact his
house was being used as a clearinghouse for all the “wanted” men of the
adjoining county.

Flanagan woke up O’Hara, told him of the arrangements which had been
made to get him to Ballybor, and added that four more men had just
turned up, and that it failed him to know how to pass them on. O’Hara
thought for a moment, and replied, “Sure it’s easily known how—why
wouldn’t they do for the mourners?”

As soon as O’Hara was ready, and the young men could be persuaded to
stop eating, the party set out for the hotel in order to get away before
the mourners woke up. O’Hara took command, found out that one of his
companions could drive a Ford, but that none of them had any idea of how
to get to Ballybor, and told Flanagan that the driver of the coffin-car
would have to go with them as a guide.

On arrival at the hotel Flanagan roused the boots, O’Hara gave his
instructions about the driver, and they then proceeded to the bedrooms
of the poteen-logged mourners, who offered no protest while O’Hara
removed their topcoats and hats for his companions, Flanagan seizing the
opportunity of transferring his £100 from the sleeping chief mourner’s
trousers pocket to his own again.

By the light of a guttering candle O’Hara was packed into the coffin,
and in the darkness of a raw early morning the two cars pulled out of
the hotel yard, and disappeared down the road which leads to Ballybor.
Flanagan, with a sigh of relief, wiped his forehead, and prayed that he
might never see O’Hara in this world again, and went home feeling ten
years younger, but determined not to be at home when the mourners got
busy and came for an explanation.

                  *       *       *       *       *

On the morning O’Hara left Ballyfrack in the coffin, Blake had motored
to the town of Dunallen to see his County Inspector. On his way back,
about fourteen miles from Ballybor, the road leads over a narrow bridge
and up a steep hill with a sharp blind turn at the top.

As Blake swung his car, all out, round this corner, he saw about fifty
yards in front two Ford cars standing in the road, the leading car with
a huge coffin tied across the body of the car, and round the other car a
group of young men. Pulling up his car, he sounded his horn, as he had
not room to pass, but with no effect.

Blake, who was in mufti, had with him an orderly in plain clothes, and
being in a hurry told him to go and tell the driver to go on. As the
orderly returned, both cars started up and went on. Once started, they
went as fast as Blake could wish, and for some miles the three cars kept
close together until they reached a village about ten miles from
Ballybor.

Here the main road to Ballybor appears to carry straight on through the
village, but this only leads into a cul-de-sac—what looks like a side
road on the left of the main street being the Ballybor turning. The two
strange cars passed the turning, while Blake, once round the corner,
made for home at full speed.

He thought no more of the cars, but after they had gone about a mile the
orderly asked him if he had ever seen such a big coffin before. Blake
replied that he had not noticed the size of the coffin, and they both
relapsed into silence again, Blake concentrating his attention on
getting back to Ballybor before dark.

Meanwhile the orderly was thinking the matter out, and came to the
conclusion that the coffin party was not above suspicion. At this time,
when the railway strike was on in the west, it was not unusual to see a
coffin on a car; but, unless the coffin party belonged to the village,
they must be strangers to the district, or they would not have run into
the cul-de-sac.

When about three miles from Ballybor they had a puncture, and just as
Blake finished changing wheels, the cars of the coffin party drew up
about fifty yards behind, and three men advanced towards them. Blake,
who was still quite unsuspicious, thought that the men were going to ask
him to let them pass, and at once started up his car and got in.

The orderly, whose suspicions were now turned to certainties, drew his
revolver, covered the advancing men, and called on them to halt;
whereupon the three men opened fire, and the orderly replied.

Blake yelled to him to jump in, and as the man swung himself into the
seat beside him, he let the car go, while the men on the road continued
to fire. Luckily the light was by now nearly gone, and beyond a broken
wind-screen they got away with a good start.

It now developed into a race, Blake striving to reach the barracks for
reinforcements to stop the funeral party before they could get clear of
Ballybor, and the others to reach the first turning they came to off the
main road.

Blake switched on his lights and drove for his life, down hill as fast
as the car would go and round corners on two wheels, with the result
that in rounding one blind corner they nearly ran into a party of
Auxiliary Cadets, whose Crossley had broken down. The Cadets naturally
opened fire without asking any questions—a car going that pace in the
dusk on a country road in the west of Ireland nowadays is asking for
it—and again Blake and his orderly narrowly escaped being shot.

Blake clapped on his brakes, yelled out “R.I.C.”; the orderly held his
hands high above his head, and the Auxiliaries gave them the benefit of
the doubt. Luckily the leader of the Cadets recognised Blake, the
situation was quickly explained, and they took cover on both sides of
the road at the corner.

Hardly were they in position when the coffin-car rounded the corner, and
the Cadets opened fire; but so great was the impetus of the car, and so
bad the brakes, that it crashed into the rear of Blake’s car, the coffin
pitched on to the road, burst open, and out rolled a huge wild-looking
man.

The second car must have closed up with the leading one as the darkness
came on, for no sooner had the first car crashed than the second one ran
into it, overturned, and pinned the big man to the road; whereupon Blake
shouted hands up, but the men started to run back, and the Cadets at
once opened fire.

Three of them fell, but the fourth managed to get round the corner, and
Blake sent two Cadets after him. The driver of the coffin-car had fallen
clear, and, to avoid the Cadets’ bullets, ran round the Crossley,
straight into the driver’s arms.

As soon as the firing ceased, Blake made for the big man; the Cadets
lifted the car, and flashed a torch on his face.

Only that morning Blake had been reading a full account of O’Hara, and
had studied an excellent photograph of him, and as the electric light
shone on the man’s face, he realised the importance of the capture—the
most-wanted man in the west.

The Cadets rendered first aid to the three wounded men, while Blake
handcuffed O’Hara and placed him in the back of his own car, telling his
orderly to watch him closely, and to keep him covered with his revolver.
In the meantime the two Cadets had returned, having failed to capture
the fourth man.

Blake was now most anxious to get O’Hara safely in the Ballybor
Barracks, but nothing would induce the Crossley to start. At last, after
an hour’s delay, they got the engine going, and the whole party got
under way, the Cadets taking the three wounded prisoners in the tender,
and Blake, in his own car with his orderly, guarding O’Hara.

The distance to Ballybor was short, but the delay had made Blake very
uneasy, knowing that the local Volunteers would surely try and rescue
O’Hara if they got word of his capture. Ahead of them was a thick wood
on both sides of the road, and once past this the betting was in their
favour.

They started without lights, but when they reached the outskirts of the
wood the darkness was so intense that the Crossley driver switched on
his lights and tried to rush the place. Blake was forced to follow his
example, or get left hopelessly behind.

Faster and faster went the tender, bumping and skidding over the wet bog
road, the lamps throwing a brilliant ring of white light in front of the
car, the rest inky dark. When they had passed more than half-way through
the wood, and Blake was beginning to think that they were safe, the
Crossley suddenly began to pull up with a screech of brakes, drowned by
a volley of shots from both sides of the wood.

The driver kept his head, switched off his lights, and the dreadful
fight started in the black darkness of the wood. Blake turned his lights
off and started to back his car, but in the darkness and excitement ran
her into the ditch at the side of the road, where she overturned.

He shot clear of the car, and on regaining the road realised that at
present it was useless to try and get away with his prisoner, so he
shouted to his orderly to guard O’Hara until the fight was over, and
went forward to help the Auxiliaries.

Blake found them lying down on each side of the road, firing at the
flashes of the ambushers’ guns, while the leader and driver were
struggling to remove the barricade of timber and big stones across the
road under a hail of bullets and shot. By this time a Cadet had got a
Lewis gun into action, and at once sprayed the edge of the wood on each
side of the road with a magazine. Promptly the ambushers’ fire died
down, and after two more heavy bursts of fire from the Lewis gun their
fire ceased. The Cadets quickly switched on the lights of the Crossley,
and started to clear away the barricade.

Blake suddenly thought of O’Hara, and ran back to his car to find that
he had completely vanished, the orderly lying pinned to the ground by
the overturned car, unconscious.

The only chance now of recapturing O’Hara was to push on to Ballybor as
fast as possible, collect all the police available, and search the
country round the scene of the ambush. Without a motor it would be
impossible for the fugitive to get far during the next few hours.

But again the Crossley jibbed, and again a priceless hour or more was
wasted before the barricade could be removed and the car induced to
start. Nearly another hour was spent in reaching the barracks, getting
out the men, and starting on the hunt.

Until long after dawn they beat the country within a large radius of the
fatal wood, using powerful acetylene lamps, but to no avail: neither in
the open country nor in any village could they find any sign or get any
tidings of the missing prisoner.

As soon as the light was good, Blake climbed a tree on some high ground
which overlooked the country, and searched in vain with a powerful pair
of Zeiss glasses. At last, thoroughly exhausted, the police returned to
Ballybor, beaten.

                  *       *       *       *       *

When Blake’s car upset in the wood, O’Hara had the good luck to fall
clear, and to roll into the ditch at the side of the road. Here he lay
still for several minutes until he saw what move the orderly would make.
When the shooting slackened for a few seconds he could distinctly hear
the groans of the orderly pinned under the car, and at once realised
that if he could only crawl into the wood he might be free again.

With great difficulty he managed to drag himself out of the ditch and
over the bank, only to find another and deeper ditch on the far side.
Along this ditch he made his way until he judged that he must be close
to the attackers; then he wriggled into the wood, and lay down to await
further developments.

O’Hara was now afraid to go nearer to the ambushers, lest they should
mistake him for a Cadet; but before he could make up his mind what to do
the firing died down, and he could hear the attackers retiring through
the wood. Realising that his only hope lay with these men, he got up and
rushed after them, being mistaken in the darkness and confusion for one
of themselves.

Once clear of the wood, O’Hara found himself close to one of the
attackers, and while they ran explained to him who he was, and learnt
that the ambush had been organised in a village close to by the man who
had escaped from the two Cadets.

On reaching this village the handcuffs were soon filed off O’Hara’s
wrists, two bicycles provided, and in a few minutes he was on his way to
Ballybor with a guide who took him along a byroad. It was essential if
he was to catch the steamer the next day that he should hide that night
in Ballybor, and the chances were that the police would never think of
O’Hara hiding in the town, practically within the shadow of the police
barracks.

Owing to the delay in starting the Crossley, O’Hara and his guide were
actually in Ballybor before the police: as they neared the turning to
the barracks they could see the lights of the Crossley behind them.
Passing through the town they made their way to the quay, where it was
arranged that O’Hara should spend the night with a Volunteer called
Devine, from whose house it was hoped that he would be able to pass on
to the steamer next day in the company of the stoker.

At this time the police, except in strong force, did not leave the
barracks at night, and it was thought quite safe for O’Hara to remain in
Devine’s house. After a change of clothes and some food, he retired to
bed, hoping that his troubles were nearly over.

Early the next morning Devine woke O’Hara up with the bad news that a
picket of Cadets guarded the approach to the steamer, and that the game
was up. On looking out of the window O’Hara could see a sentry with
fixed bayonet on each side of the gangway, while others were resting in
the small weighing-house on the quay-side.

O’Hara, who a second before had been confident of escape, was in
despair, and collapsed on the bed. After a few minutes he pulled himself
together, and on looking at Devine was at once struck by the sinister
expression on the man’s face.

Remembering that there was a price of £1000 on his head, and from
Devine’s expression there was no doubt that he also was thinking of this
reward, without a second’s hesitation O’Hara covered him with a big Colt
automatic, and told him that if a way was not found to get him on to the
steamer he would shoot him. Devine, knowing O’Hara’s reputation, and
preferring his life to £1000, at once suggested a plan.

The town of Ballybor lies about five miles up a river, and all
outward-bound steamers drop the pilot in the bay at the mouth of the
river, where he is rowed to the little fishing village of Dooncarra. The
steamer was due to sail at high tide that afternoon, and Devine
suggested that they should bicycle to Dooncarra, where there ought to be
no difficulty in getting O’Hara aboard by the pilot-boat, as both the
police barracks and coastguard station there had been burnt some time
ago.

After some breakfast they started off, bicycled boldly past the picket
on the quay, and reached Dooncarra without any mishap, where Devine
arranged for O’Hara to stay in a fisherman’s house until the pilot-boat
left at dusk.

O’Hara had never been to sea before, and was ill before he ever reached
the steamer. As soon as he got aboard, a stoker, who had been warned by
Devine to expect O’Hara on the pilot’s boat, took charge of him, and at
once put him into a bunk.

That night the steamer ran into an Atlantic storm, and by the time they
had made the north coast of Ireland, O’Hara was beyond caring whether he
lived or died.

Blake reported O’Hara’s escape to the authorities in Dublin, who were
most anxious to secure the man, knowing he had been the ringleader in
the worst atrocities committed in the south recently. They at once came
to the conclusion that O’Hara was trying to get away by boat from
Ballybor to Liverpool and then on to America, hence the picket of Cadets
on the quay; but to make doubly sure they ordered an ocean-going
destroyer to search the steamer from Ballybor at sea.

After rounding the north of Ireland the steamer ran into smooth water,
and O’Hara came on deck for a breath of fresh air. After a time he
became interested in a queer-looking long grey steamer which was
approaching them from the south, and very soon the queer boat came
within hailing distance, and orders were megaphoned for the steamer to
heave to.

O’Hara was greatly interested in watching the progress of the destroyer
boat, and it was not until a sergeant of the R.I.C. in plain clothes,
who had known O’Hara in the south, covered him with a Webley and
commanded him to put up his hands, that he realised that this
interesting show was all for his benefit.



                                  III.
                          THE LANDING OF ARMS.


It was the busy hour of the evening in Stephen Foy’s public-house in the
small western town of Ballybor, and Larry O’Halloran, the barman, never
ceased drawing corks and measuring out “half ones” of whisky for the
endless flow of customers.

Larry was a good example of a new type of Irishman which the Sinn Fein
movement has produced—a type regarded with sorrow and amazement by the
older generation, and at present unknown in England. Whatever faults an
Irishman possessed, he always had the saving virtues of wit and
cheerfulness.

Probably the British have been the last nation in the world to recognise
the great value of clever propaganda, but there is no doubt that the
originators of the Sinn Fein movement knew the great influence of
judicious propaganda—they had efficient instructors in the Boches—and
wisely started at the beginning, that is, with the children at school,
and the result is sadly apparent in the south and west of Ireland to-day
in the hatred of the British Empire among the young people; and so
obsessed are they with this hatred that they have neglected to learn the
good manners of their elders.

While Larry’s hands never ceased serving out drink, his brain—trained
from childhood to one end only—never ceased running on one subject, how
and when to obtain arms to defeat the British. Only the previous evening
Larry had achieved the ambition of his young life, when he was elected
captain by a large majority of the Volunteers in place of Patsey
Mulligan, who had been tried by court-martial and executed for treachery
to the Irish Republican Army.

Larry, in spite of his long hair and dreamy Celtic eyes, was no fool,
and knew quite well that a battalion of Volunteers without arms was
about as much use for fighting as a mob of old women with umbrellas, and
that if ever they were to fight the British with any chance of success,
they must have arms, and not only rifles, but machine-guns.

Previous to this, by a system of raids at night, every known shot-gun in
the district had been collected by the Volunteers; but Larry realised
that to send a Volunteer, armed with a single-barrel shot-gun, to fight
a British infantryman armed with a magazine rifle, was only a good
example of the old saying of sending a boy on a man’s errand.

While Larry was racking his brains how to obtain arms, a youth,
obviously an American, walked in, accompanied by a strange countryman,
and proceeded to a small private room at the back of the house. But
though Larry’s thoughts were far away, trying to get Mausers in Germany,
his eyes were busy in the public-house, and as the couple disappeared
into the room, he saw at once that the countryman’s walk was the walk of
a soldier.

Larry knew the boy, Micky Fee, well. His father was a wealthy
Irish-American, who, amongst other business, owned an arms factory in
the States, and had refused the request of the Inner Brotherhood
repeatedly to send arms to Ireland for the Volunteers.

It was possible both to oversee and to overhear what went on in the
inner room. Larry saw the couple sitting there in close conversation,
and in a few minutes realised that the strange countryman was in reality
a British Secret Service agent, and that Micky, who had drink taken, was
giving the man all the information of the local Volunteers he could.

It did not take Larry long to determine what course to take with the
Secret Service agent, and he had decided on the same fate for Micky Fee,
when he suddenly realised that his prayers had been answered. His quick
brain began to work out how many rifles, machine-guns, automatics, and
bombs Fee’s father would value the life of his only child at; the more
he thought of it, the higher he made the figures.

Micky had been on a visit to his grandparents in Ballybor for some
months past, and had taken an active interest in the Volunteers. About 2
A.M. the next morning there came a loud knock at the grandparents’
house. When the old man opened the door he found himself looking into
the muzzles of a ring of guns, and in a few minutes Master Micky left
for an unknown destination.

About a fortnight later Michael Fee and his wife received the shock of
their lives when they opened their letters at breakfast one morning.
Among Fee’s was one bearing the Ballybor postmark, which stated briefly
that his son had been tried by a court-martial of the I.R.A. on a charge
of giving information to the enemy and condemned to death, and that the
sentence would be duly carried out unless Michael Fee presented so many
rifles, pistols, machine-guns, bombs, and ammunition to the I.R.A.

The letter also stated that Mr Fee’s answer was to be sent to a named
Sinn Fein agent in New York within seven days of the receipt of the
letter, who would give him a time-limit for handing over the arms, and
would also tell him where the arms were to be landed. A P.S. was added
suggesting that Fee should bring the arms to Ireland in a yacht, and
that he would be able to take his son back to the States in her.

For many months the Irish papers had been full of accounts of men taken
from their beds in the dead of night and executed outside their homes by
armed and masked men; also of the bodies of missing men being found in a
field, days after they had disappeared, riddled with bullets. Some of
the Irish newspapers tried to throw the blame for these murders on the
forces of the Crown by saying that the men wore “trench coats,” but
never adding that practically every young man in Ireland nowadays wears
a so-called trench-coat.

Fee knew that many of these murders were “executions” of men who had
given information to the police, and the thought that one morning at
breakfast he or his wife might open an Irish paper to read an account of
the finding of their son’s body riddled with bullets, caused him to
break out into a cold sweat. Being a good business man, Fee made up his
mind at once, and that evening found him in New York making arrangements
with the Sinn Fein agent for the immediate shipment of the arms to
Ireland.

It’s one thing to talk of smuggling arms into Ireland, but quite another
story to accomplish it. To the Irish peasant, who has never been outside
his own country, it looks as easy as falling off a log; but then he has
no idea of the power of the British Navy, and the British Government
does not take the trouble to inform an Irish peasant that it has the
finest navy in the world—he is supposed to know this, or to find it out
for himself.

When Fee asked the agent for his suggestions, the agent trotted out the
usual stock dodges—packing rifles in piano-frames, S.A.A. in bags of
flour, and more equally futile plans, and he quickly realised that the
man was a fool, so left him and retired to his room in the hotel to
think out a plan for himself.

For a long time he could think of nothing but the picture of his son’s
body lying in a vivid green field in his native land: he could even see
the clothes Micky was wearing, and the dirty white handkerchief (he was
quite sure it would be dirty) over his eyes. For hours his mind dwelt on
this picture, but in the end he gained control over himself, and before
he turned in his brain had evolved a sound plan of action, and with an
Irishman’s sanguine temperament he fell asleep, thinking that his boy
was as good as at home already.

The following morning Fee went to a big yacht agent, but found that he
had only a steam yacht for charter. He explained that he wanted a motor
yacht big enough to cross the Atlantic, and the man referred him to a
firm of builders who had a yacht of this description, which he believed
was on the verge of completion.

Fee next made his way to the yard of these builders, where he found the
yacht he was looking for, which had been built for a rich American who
had recently died. He soon came to terms, and arranged with the builders
for the addition of large extra oil-tanks, in order that the yacht would
be able to make the double journey to Ireland and back without having to
take in oil there.

As soon as the yacht was ready for sea, Fee had large man-holes fitted
to the extra oil-tanks, packed the arms inside them, and then filled up
with oil. Within four weeks of the receipt of Larry O’Halloran’s letter,
Mr and Mrs Fee sailed on their new motor yacht, the _Colleen_, for a
pleasure trip to their native land of Ireland.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The place chosen for the landing of the arms is one of the most
beautiful places in the British Isles, and one of the least known. If
you picture the wildest Norwegian fjord, and add square miles of
mountain, cliffs, moors, bogs, lakes, and rivers, you may get some idea
of the scenery.

Before leaving America Fee cabled to his parents in Ballybor that he
expected to be in Ireland on a certain date, knowing that the
information would reach Larry through friends in the Post Office, and
that he would take the necessary steps to meet the yacht at Errinane on
that date, with the result that Larry passed the information on to the
Volunteers in the Errinane district, and in a short time every
coastguard station and police barracks within a twelve-mile radius of
the landing-place was burnt.

On a fine September day the M.Y. _Colleen_ sighted the west coast of
Ireland, and shortly afterwards made her way up the wonderful natural
harbour which leads to the little fishing village of Errinane, where she
dropped anchor and came to rest after her long voyage across the
Atlantic. In a few minutes a boat left the quay, and Larry stepped
aboard the yacht, and after explaining to the Fees that he had arrived
in the district two days previously with their son Micky, insisted that
the arms should be landed that night; but Fee refused, on the grounds
that the British Navy was bound to know of the yacht’s arrival, and that
if they attempted to land the arms that night they might be caught by a
destroyer.

A hot argument ensued—Larry, now that at last the arms were almost
within his grasp, being mad keen to get them ashore at once. However,
the argument was cut short by a shout from the deck that a destroyer was
coming up the harbour, and Fee had great difficulty to induce Larry to
leave the yacht.

The destroyer came to an anchor within fifty yards of the _Colleen_, and
Fee could see two machine-guns on the bridge trained to sweep the
yacht’s deck. Before the rattle of the anchor-chain had died away a boat
was lowered, and in a few minutes a party of bluejackets, headed by a
lieutenant, came aboard the yacht.

Fee explained to this officer that he was an Irishman living in America,
and that he had come over on a visit to his parents. The officer
examined the yacht’s papers, and then gave orders to his men, who
proceeded to search the yacht thoroughly: mattresses were opened, all
panelling taken down by ship-carpenters, floors lifted, luggage
searched, and even the oil-tanks sounded, while the taps were turned on
to see if they contained oil.

After three hours’ searching the sailors left the yacht, and within half
an hour the destroyer put to sea. Hardly had she disappeared when Larry
came aboard again, and as it was nearly dark by now, he tried to insist
on starting to land the arms, and again Fee refused.

The yacht settled down for the night, but soon after midnight a powerful
searchlight was flashed on to her, and again the bluejackets came aboard
and searched the yacht from top to bottom. Eventually they left, the
searchlight was turned off, and the destroyer could be heard putting out
to sea.

Larry’s original plan had been to land the arms on the north side of the
bay, and to hide them in some caves in the mountains, where French arms
had been hidden during the rebellion of 1798, then to await a favourable
opportunity to remove them to Ballybor. However, the night the destroyer
left the local fishermen filled their boats with herrings, which Larry
found had all been bought by the big shopkeeper in Errinane, who
intended sending them to Ballybor Station the next morning in his three
Ford trucks. Not daring to land the arms during the day, Larry
commandeered the lorries, and as soon as it was dark landed the arms
openly at Errinane quay, packed them in the largest fish-boxes he could
find, and loaded the boxes on to the lorries, putting boxes of herrings
on top. The arms once landed, he restored Micky to his parents on the
yacht, and within half an hour the reunited Fee family were on their way
back to America.

Not long after the yacht had started, the lorries left Errinane on the
long run through the mountains to Ballybor. When about fifteen miles
from Errinane, Larry halted his convoy in a mountain pass, in order to
let one of the drivers repair a tyre.

Hardly had they stopped when the lights of two cars were seen behind
them, descending the road into the pass from the direction of Errinane.
Larry knew at once that they could only be police cars, and must have
been sent to Errinane on the suspicion that arms had been landed from
the yacht.

He at once got his lorries on the move, going in the last one himself,
and in a few minutes could hear the hoot of the oncoming cars close
behind. Ahead of them lay miles of narrow bog road, and as long as he
kept the rear lorry in the middle of the road, the police cars would not
be able to stop them.

Soon he could hear shouts of halt, followed shortly afterwards by a
volley of rifle bullets, but Larry and the driver were well protected by
the boxes on the lorry. So they continued for about two miles, the
police firing volley after volley at the lorry.

So far so good; but though Larry knew he could keep the police from
overhauling them for several miles, yet he knew that in the end the
police must defeat him, unless he could find some means of stopping
them, and the only way to do this was by sacrificing the rear lorry.
This he made up his mind to do, as the lorry only carried the bombs; but
the difficulty was to stop the police altogether.

The idea which saved them came from the driver, who knew every yard of
the road, and reminded Larry that half a mile ahead of them there was an
arched bridge over a mountain river, the very place to block the road.

Larry climbed out on the boxes, and with great difficulty extracted a
bomb; returning to the driving seat, they waited until the lorry was on
the bridge, when they stopped the engine and started to run for the
lorry in front. When they had gone about twenty yards, Larry stopped,
flung the bomb at the lorry on the bridge, and ran like a hare.

Luckily there was a steep rise beyond the bridge, and just as they
reached the slow-moving lorry a flame of fire shot up from the bridge
followed by a deafening explosion. They learnt afterwards that the
bridge was completely wrecked, the leading police car badly damaged, and
that the police took three hours to return to Errinane, having to back
their cars for several miles before they could turn.

The original plan was to hide the arms in a saw-mill in Ballybor, owned
by a notorious loyalist, which fact would divert all suspicion from the
mill; but Larry knew that after the encounter with the police the
hue-and-cry would be up, and that the Auxiliaries would search every
rat-hole in Ballybor before many hours were past.

On reaching Ballybor in the early hours they proceeded to the mill,
which was situated on the bank of the river, and at once unloaded; but
instead of hiding the arms there Larry ordered the men to carry them
straight to the water’s edge, and then sent them to collect boats and
also fishing tackle.

Within an hour six boats containing the arms went down the river, and
half an hour afterwards the town was surrounded and searched through and
through by Auxiliary Cadets who had concentrated on the place from three
different points—their only bag being the unfortunate lorry drivers.

Some three miles below Ballybor there stand on the bank of the river the
ruins of a fine old Franciscan Abbey, in the vaults of which the arms
were safely hidden. Afterwards Larry and his men spent the morning
fishing for sea-trout towards the estuary, returning to Ballybor in the
afternoon, hungry and worn-out, to fall into the hands of the
Auxiliaries, who commandeered their fish and then let them go home.

                  *       *       *       *       *

After the murder of Patsey Mulligan the district of Ballybor was
comparatively free from outrages for several months, and Blake, the
D.I., began to think that his troubles were over; but very shortly after
Larry had successfully run his cargo of American arms Blake was
undeceived, and in a short time the district became one of the worst in
the west.

Success made Larry bolder, and further success made him rash. Being
miles from a road, the old abbey was a most inconvenient place to keep
the arms, and he determined to bring them to the mill in Ballybor.

Bennett, the owner, had a house alongside the mill, and another house
some miles out in the country, where he was in the habit of going from
Saturday until Monday morning, when the mill house used to be locked up.

Larry arranged another fishing expedition on a Saturday afternoon, and
when it was dark they transferred the arms from the abbey to the mill,
hiding them under piles of sawdust in the cellars below the saw-benches.
It was then decided to make an assault on the Ballybor police barracks
the following night, and to wipe out the police for good and all.

But this time his luck was out. On Sunday afternoon Bennett suddenly
made up his mind to return to Ballybor, and motored there in the
afternoon with his eldest son. After tea his son took a walk over the
mill, and to his surprise found a brand-new American repeating-rifle in
the clerk’s office: his father went at once to the police barracks to
inform Blake of the discovery, who arranged to make a raid on the mill
as soon as it was dark.

Blake had settled to take the arms, if found in the mill, straight off
to the nearest military barracks, and to this end left the barracks with
a strong force in two Crossleys. They went for some distance towards
Grouse Lodge Barracks, turned off at a cross-roads, and made their way
back to Ballybor, arriving at the mill by the time it was dark.

Leaving the cars about a hundred yards from the mill, Blake walked on to
the entrance with a sergeant and a constable, and as they drew near, to
their surprise they saw that the mill was lit up. Telling his men to
wait, Blake advanced to the door, which led into the machinery
buildings, and on peeping in saw that the place was full of masked men
in a queue, being served out with rifles from the clerk’s office.

Blake saw that he must act quickly, but that by the time he could bring
up his men all the masked men would be armed, so he determined on a
ruse. In a loud voice he shouted out, “God save us, here are the Black
and Tans; run, boys, for your lives,” and at the same time opened fire.

The magic words “Black and Tan” have the same effect on an Irish crowd
as the name of Cromwell had during a previous period of Irish history,
and a wild stampede ensued in the mill, the final touch being added by
some one switching off the electric lights. As soon as Blake saw the
effects of his words he dashed in to try and secure a prisoner, and
managed to seize a man near the entrance, and hold him until his men,
alarmed by the shots, arrived hurriedly on the scene.

By the aid of electric torches the police quickly collected the arms
which the Volunteers had thrown away in their panic, and a constable
having gone to fetch the cars, they were stowed in, and in a short time
were on their long journey to the military barracks.

Larry stampeded with the rest of the men in the mill, but once outside
he pulled himself together, and determined to make an effort to regain
his beloved arms. Guessing that the police would be fully occupied
removing the arms, he made his way back along the dark streets to the
mill, and saw the cars drive off.

Part of the preparations for assaulting the barracks had been to block
all roads along which help could come to the barracks; and, as Larry
expected, after some time the cars returned to the barracks, being
unable to proceed in any direction owing to deep trenches cut across the
roads.

As soon as Larry had seen the cars return, he collected three of his
best men, commandeered a car in the name of the I.R.A.—at this time in
many parts of Ireland a harmless citizen stood an excellent chance of
having his car taken by the military on a Monday, by the police on
Tuesday, by the Auxiliaries on Wednesday, and by the I.R.A. for the rest
of the week—and drove straight to the Cloonalla district, through which
he knew that Blake would have to pass the next day on his way to the
nearest military barracks. They took shovels with them, and soon had the
trench across the road filled in, and made their way to the house of a
local Volunteer.

That night Larry worked like a man possessed, and by daybreak had an
ambuscade prepared for Blake at a point where the road, following the
shore of a large lake, runs under an overhanging rock, and then turns
sharp to the west. Beyond the bend they cut the usual trench, and above
on the rock erected loop-holed walls of stone and sods, and here they
waited, armed with every shot-gun, pistol, and home-made bomb which the
district could produce.

That night Blake spent an anxious time in his small barrack-room, his
ears straining for the sound of the first shot of the expected attack,
and his brain striving to work out the problem of how to get the arms
into safe keeping. After a time he tried to attend to some routine work,
but soon gave it up as hopeless.

Leaning back in his chair he lit a cigarette. At that moment his eye was
arrested by a large photograph of the notorious John O’Hara over the
fireplace, and he began to think of how the man had tricked him by
getting away by sea, while the police were hunting the countryside for
him. From O’Hara’s photograph his eye wandered to a brightly-printed
card hanging on the wall, with a drawing of a steamer on the top.

For some time he read the letterpress of the card without having any
idea of what it meant; then in a flash he realised that the problem was
solved. At high tide the next morning the s.s. _Cockatoo_ would sail
from the port of Ballybor for Liverpool, and if O’Hara had tricked him
by the sea, then he could trick Larry O’Halloran by the same means.

The following morning, a quarter of an hour before the _Cockatoo_ was
due to sail, two Crossleys dashed on to the quay, and before the usual
crowd of quay loafers knew what was happening, they were outside the
yard gate, and a strong guard of police with rifles at the ready had
surrounded the gangway to the steamer. In a few minutes more the arms
were all aboard the boat, stacked in an empty passenger saloon, guarded
by police, and two minutes after Blake had given the captain his
instructions, the _Cockatoo_ was on her way down the river for England.



                                  IV.
                             THE RED CROSS.


An Englishman who has lived in Ireland for any length of time, knows
that rivalry in religion and politics not only divides parts of Ireland,
but even causes divisions in families. At one time recently things had
reached such a state of passion that an Irish soldier or policeman who
visited his home in the south or west was liable to find the door of his
home shut in his face, and even to lose his life.

In a small town in the west of Ireland—in England you would call the
place a village—there lived some years ago a shopkeeper named John
Dempsey, a steady hard-working man, who left politics alone and attended
to his own business. In due course Dempsey married and had three
children—two boys, Patrick and William, and a daughter, Sheila.

The children were educated at the national school, and as soon as their
minds were capable of understanding anything, the wicked and stupid
policy of hatred of and revenge on England was drummed into their ears
week by week, month by month, and year by year, until the English
appeared to their childish imaginations to be the greatest monsters of
brutality in the world.

After the late war started, not before, the British newspapers and
magazines impressed upon us the thoroughness of the German preparations
for this war, and amongst other things, of how the present generation
had had instilled into their minds from early childhood a hatred of the
British by every schoolmaster and learned professor in Germany. For
years past this German method has been carried on in Ireland, Irish
national school teachers preparing the present generation of young men
and women for the present Sinn Fein movement.

You have in England a saying that a little knowledge is a dangerous
thing, which applies very well to many national school teachers in the
west and south of Ireland, who, though they can tell you of every wrong
which England has inflicted on Ireland during the last three hundred
years, yet know nothing of the greatness and power for good of the
British Empire; nor do they realise the vast benefits which Ireland
reaps as a partner of the Empire.

As time went on John Dempsey made and saved much money on porter, eggs,
and other things, and as the boys appeared to be clever and anxious to
get on in the world, he decided that they should complete their
education in Dublin, Patrick eventually to become a doctor, and William
to enter the priesthood; but as soon as the father announced his
intentions, Sheila, who had never been separated from her brothers,
implored that she might go with them and become a hospital nurse.

In the end the old man gave way and the three children went to Dublin,
where Patrick duly qualified as a doctor, Sheila became a nurse in one
of the hospitals there, but William did not become a priest.

When the brothers and sister first went to Dublin, Sinn Fein was rapidly
becoming the great party of the Celts in Ireland, and every young man
and woman was pressed hard to join. Patrick and Sheila joined eagerly,
but William refused, and the idea of becoming a priest being now
distasteful to him, he joined the R.I.C., to the bitter resentment of
his brother and sister, who refused even to see him.

During the summer of 1919 the two brothers and sister met again at home,
Sheila on her summer holidays, Patrick waiting for an appointment, and
William, who was now stationed at the neighbouring town of Ballybor, on
leave. At first the other two resented the presence of William, and
there were bitter and passionate political arguments at every meal; but
after a time their natural kindliness prevailed, and the three became
nearly as great pals as formerly, but the shadow of William’s uniform
seemed always to come between them.

Sheila was the first to go back. A letter from her matron came one
morning asking if she would care to go abroad, to take entire charge of
a patient who had been ordered to live in Switzerland by the doctors.
She did not wait to answer, but returned to Dublin that day, lest she
should be too late.

Patrick and William were at this time typical of the two parties into
which the people of the greater part of Ireland were divided—in plain
language, Patrick was a rebel and William a loyalist! And though the
loyalist party was very small in comparison to the other, yet it would
never have been so small if proper support from the Government had been
forthcoming at the right time, but would have grown larger and larger as
the outrages increased, and the decent elements of the population ranged
themselves on the side of law and order.

During his time in Dublin, Patrick, young and enthusiastic, had become
deeply involved in the Sinn Fein movement, and when one day he found
himself bound hand and foot to a policy of outrage and murder, he made
strong efforts to regain his freedom, but was quickly made to realise
that he now belonged, body and soul, to Sinn Fein.

No sooner had Sheila gone than the two brothers began to quarrel—to end
in hot and bitter words at supper one night, when William left the table
and returned at once to Ballybor. A few days afterwards Patrick received
an order from Dublin to report at once to the Sinn Fein H.Q.’s there,
and though he would have liked to refuse, he dared not.

On arrival in Dublin, Patrick duly reported at H.Q.’s, and there learnt
that he had been chosen for a most unpleasant job. About this time,
after their signal initial successes, the I.R.A. were endeavouring to
organise a force which would entirely wipe out the police, or at any
rate reduce them to complete impotence.

To this end the General Staff of the I.R.A. were determined to leave no
stone unturned to achieve success in the ambuscades of patrols and
attacks on barracks. During the preliminary attacks the rebels had lost
heavily through lack of medical care, and it was now determined that a
doctor should attend all ambuscades and attacks.

Funds were plentiful, and in a few days Patrick found himself set up as
a practising doctor in a large house in Dublin, and it was arranged
that, when an attack was to take place in a certain district, he should
receive a wire calling him to hold a consultation in a district close
by. They supplied him with a good car, there were no restrictions on the
movements of doctors, so that the busy young Dublin doctor, hurrying to
the sick-bed of a country patient, excited no suspicion.

The plan was quite simple, and worked smoothly. An ambuscade would be
arranged at H.Q.’s in Dublin to take place at a certain point where it
was known that a police patrol passed. The day before Patrick would
receive his wire, and early the next morning would leave Dublin for the
scene of operations. When within a short distance of the attack he would
stop his car, and remain there until the fight was over, attend to the
wounded, and afterwards return to Dublin.

On two occasions he was surprised by relief parties of military, but
each time he was able to explain his presence—that it was a mere chance
that he happened to be passing, and that his professional instincts were
at once aroused by the sight of the wounded men.

In the case of an attack on police barracks the procedure was somewhat
different. Some days before Patrick would receive his usual wire—never
from the place where the attack was to take place, but from a
neighbouring town—and at the same time would receive instructions in
Dublin of the time and place of the attack.

On arriving at the place of attack he would put up at the best hotel,
giving out that he had come to attend a consultation in the town, from
which the wire had been sent. After a talk with the local Volunteer
captain, a house would be decided on as a temporary hospital, to which
the wounded would be taken, and after the attack Patrick would simply
disappear.

At first the danger and excitement appealed to his high-strung
temperament, but soon the novelty wore off, and he saw that there could
only be one end for him—exposure and professional ruin, if not a long
term of imprisonment. In vain he asked to be allowed to resume his
profession, but he might as well have begged for mercy from the
Inquisition of old.

One evening, on his return from an ambuscade, Patrick found a wire from
Sheila, saying that her patient had suddenly died in Switzerland, and
that she was crossing to Dublin that night. The next morning she
arrived, radiant with health, and eager for news.

Under her patient’s will Sheila received a legacy of about £2000 and a
car, which was stored in a Dublin garage, and now she was free to devote
herself to the cause of Ireland’s freedom. On hearing of Patrick’s
occupation, she at once determined to join him.

Patrick was devoted to his sister, and tried hard to put the idea out of
her head, but in the end had to give way. That very day she made him
take her to H.Q.’s, where she offered the services of herself and car to
the I.R.A.

Owing to an insufficient number of rifles for ambuscades and attacks on
a large scale all over the country, the General Staff had decided to
collect rifles in Dublin and send them down to the scenes of attacks in
cars. Sheila’s offer coincided with this decision, and to Patrick’s
horror he and Sheila received orders to attend attacks, and also to
carry the rifles and ammunition.

The car was found to be a large touring car, to which a false bottom was
fitted to take rifles, whilst further false bottoms under the seats gave
sufficient room to hide revolvers, and a dummy space which was packed
with S.A.A. Sheila had large red crosses painted on the lamps and
wind-screen, and the camouflage was complete.

For months the brother and sister—Patrick looking a typical young
doctor, and Sheila dressed as a hospital nurse—carried arms and first
aid to ambuscades throughout the south and west, and not the slightest
suspicion appears to have been aroused in the minds of the authorities.
Sheila thoroughly enjoyed the excitement, and soon became known as the
Florence Nightingale of the I.R.A.

One day there came a wire from home that their mother was dangerously
ill, and begging them to go to her at once. Patrick knew that if they
asked leave to go, their taskmasters would refuse, and so decided to
take “French leave.”

William had also been sent for, and again the two brothers and sister
met. After a few days their mother took a turn for the better, but
Patrick, who dreaded returning to Dublin, insisted on staying, in spite
of Sheila’s urgings to get back to their work.

Soon after their mother was out of danger Sheila received an invitation
to a dance at a large farmhouse about two miles away, and drove there in
the car, resplendent in a Paris evening dress. Patrick and William
refused to go, the former making the excuse that he did not like to
leave his mother, the latter because he knew that the presence of a
policeman would break up the dance.

That evening, after it was dark, William walked across the fields to see
an old school friend, one of the few men in the district who would speak
to him at all, and then only at night in his own house. When William
left, this man warned him that Knockbrack Wood would not be a healthy
place for the next few days, but when pressed for an explanation would
say no more.

When William reached home he learnt from his father that during his
absence a stranger had called for Patrick, and that soon afterwards the
two had left hurriedly to fetch Sheila, Patrick saying that he would
have to return to Dublin that night by car.

Old Dempsey seemed much upset, and after the warning received that night
William’s suspicions were aroused. As soon as supper was over he retired
to bed, or rather to wait in his room until the house was quiet, when he
meant to bicycle back to Ballybor.

William had not been in his room more than ten minutes when he heard
Sheila’s car drive up, and the front door open and shut. Then he heard
Sheila come upstairs to her bedroom, followed by Patrick and strange
footsteps, and then the closing of Patrick’s door.

The bedrooms of the two brothers were separated by a thin partition, and
William managed to overhear enough of their conversation to make out
that there was to be an ambuscade in Knockbrack Wood on Wednesday night
(this being Monday), and that Patrick was returning at once to Dublin.

William lay as still as a mouse, hoping that Patrick and Sheila would
not realise that he was in the house, and in their hurry forget about
him. He could tell from the tone of his brother’s voice that he was not
for it, but further conversation was cut short by Sheila calling out
that she was ready to start.

Shortly afterwards William heard the three leaving the house and the car
go off in the direction of Dublin. He waited for a few minutes to give
the stranger time to get well away, then got out his bicycle, and with
his revolver ready in his right hand, started off for Ballybor.

While William was riding for dear life to Ballybor, Sheila and Patrick
were tearing across Ireland to fetch the arms for the ambuscade. They
reached Dublin without any trouble, had a short rest and a meal,
collected the arms from the secret hiding-place, and then started off on
the return journey by a different route.

By previous arrangement they were met outside the town after dark by the
local Volunteer captain and a party of men, who took over the arms from
them, when they drove on home. Owing to the fact that they had left and
returned at night, no one in the town had any idea that they had been
away.

For some weeks past the police had been bringing tremendous pressure to
bear on the rebels throughout the south and west, which pressure
corresponded with the appointment of a new Inspector-General of the
R.I.C. So strong was the pressure growing that the rebel staff were
afraid of a collapse, and when their secret service learnt that the I.G.
would be motoring to Ballybor on this particular Wednesday night, they
determined to ambush him in Knockbrack Wood, and to kill him at all
costs.

Knockbrack Wood lies along both sides of a main road for a distance of
about a mile and a half, and in the middle the road makes a sharp bend
to avoid a huge granite rock which towers above the trees and makes this
corner quite blind. On the far side of this bend from the direction of
Ballybor the road rises suddenly, so that a car going towards that place
would be likely to approach the bend at a good pace, and be unable to
avoid an obstacle or trench just round the corner.

Here it was settled to make the attempt on the I.G.’s life, and on the
Wednesday the local Volunteers, under the direction of staff officers
from Dublin, started to make the preparations. By dark all was complete,
except to cut a trench across the road, and a large party of Volunteers
had taken up positions on each side of the road at the bend.

It was expected that the I.G.’s car would be wrecked, or at any rate
brought to a standstill, just beneath the big rock, on the top of which
there was a bombing post, with orders to drop a flare as soon as the car
was below, to enable the riflemen to aim in the dark, and to follow up
the flare with a shower of bombs.

Patrick and Sheila waited until it was nearly dark, when they motored to
Knockbrack Wood, leaving the car up a narrow lane in the wood, about a
hundred yards from the big rock on the Ballybor side. They then retired
to a safe distance to await events.

After several hours of waiting they left the wood and walked up and down
the road to Ballybor, as by this time they were half frozen with cold.
Shortly afterwards they were joined by the Volunteer captain, and as it
would soon be daylight, Patrick suggested to him that the men should be
sent home.

The Volunteer captain was a stupid fellow, and further, he resented any
suggestion as to what he should do from Patrick; and the three of
them—Sheila, Patrick, and the captain—began a heated argument in the
middle of the road: the captain argued that an order was an order, and
that he would keep his men there until the next night if necessary, or
even longer.

Patrick saw the mistake he had made, shrugged his shoulders, and started
to return to the car with Sheila.

Now their whole attention had been centred on the direction from which
the I.G.’s car was expected to come, and the last thing they expected
was a counter-attack from the direction of Ballybor; but as Patrick and
Sheila turned to leave the Volunteer captain, they found themselves
covered by a party of R.I.C., with Blake at their head, and at the same
time heavy firing burst out in the wood on both sides of the road.

Patrick and Sheila had no alternative but to put up their hands, but the
Volunteer captain tried to escape, and was promptly shot by a constable.
Blake asked what they were doing at such an hour on the highroad, and
Patrick was starting his usual story of how he and his sister were on
their way from Dublin to attend an urgent case in the country, but when
he caught sight of his brother William standing behind Blake, he
faltered and remained dumb.

Before Blake could ask any more questions they had to jump to one side
to avoid a Crossley full of Auxiliaries, which dashed past, and stopped
a few yards beyond them, the Cadets at once jumping out and taking up
positions on each side of the car with Lewis guns trained to sweep the
road as far as the big rock. Blake, after ordering William and a
constable to take Patrick and Sheila down the Ballybor road out of the
line of fire until he could deal with them, took command of the
Auxiliaries, and waited for the action to develop.

By this time it was daylight, and the police, who had worked round the
flanks of the ambushers, began to make it pretty hot for the men in the
trenches. Now it is one thing to shoot an unfortunate policeman perched
up in a stationary lorry in the middle of the road, and quite a
different story when the policeman starts to shoot you in the back from
behind a tree, and very soon the Volunteers broke from their trenches
and started to stream down the Ballybor road.

There was a momentary lull in the firing, broken by two hurricane bursts
of fire from the Cadets’ Lewis guns, and the Volunteers fell in little
heaps on the grey limestone road; the remainder hesitated, and then ran
for their trenches, to be met by a hail of bullets from the police, who
had taken up positions commanding the trenches while the Volunteers were
trying to escape by the road. Again they tried to escape along the road,
and again the Lewis guns spat out a magazine of bullets whilst a man
could count five, the noise of the guns being intensified by the dead
wall of trees.

The few Volunteers now left threw down their arms, put up their hands,
and the fight was over.

In the meantime William had taken his brother and sister down the
Ballybor road until they came to the lane where the car was, and here he
told them to wait. After a few minutes Sheila asked him to send the
constable out of hearing, as she wished to talk to him.

After the constable had retired up the lane there was a terrible silence
for several minutes. Patrick and Sheila both realised too late that
William must have been in the house when they started on their journey
to Dublin for the arms, and that he must have gone straight to Ballybor
to warn the police of the impending ambuscade. They knew that, even if
they were not sentenced to death, they could not escape a long term of
imprisonment, and that they had been betrayed by their own brother, but
would not—or could not—realise that William had only done his duty.

Suddenly Sheila burst into a passionate denouncement of William’s
treachery to his country and his own flesh and blood, to be stopped by
Patrick with great difficulty, who, controlling his rising passion and
terror by a great effort, implored William for their mother’s sake to
let them escape while there was yet time. At any rate to let Sheila
go—surely the British Government did not wage war on women.

Poor William was torn between love for his brother and sister and his
duty to his King. In those short moments he went through the agony of
hell, knowing well that if he refused to let them escape he would carry
for the rest of his life the brand of Cain; on the other hand, if he let
them go he would not only be betraying his King, but also he would ruin
his own career, and probably Blake’s as well.

To William’s great credit be it said, his sense of duty prevailed, and
he refused to let them go; and to his great relief the unhappy scene was
cut short by the sudden appearance of Blake.

Shortly afterwards the constable returned, and reported to Blake that he
had found a Red Cross car up the lane. Blake gave orders for the car to
be brought on to the highroad, and after collecting his men, started for
Ballybor with Patrick and Sheila prisoners in their own car.



                                   V.
                                THE R.M.


Since the period of Charles Lever, no book of Irish life has equalled
‘Some Experiences of an Irish R.M.’ in successfully portraying the
character or “chat” of the true western peasant; but, at the same time,
this book only shows the social side of a Resident Magistrate’s life,
and hardly does justice to his work in the wild parts of the south and
west.

And of recent years the life led by Resident Magistrates has become more
and more dangerous as the country became more and more unsettled. A D.I.
can always take an escort with him, also he can go where and when he
pleases; but an R.M. has to drive alone about the country, and,
moreover, every one knows that at a certain hour on a certain day the
R.M. will drive to a certain Petty Sessions Court, and after the Court
is over he must drive home, though possibly by a different road. It is
one thing to face death with half a score of rifles at your back, and
quite a different tale unarmed and alone.

Soon after Blake came to Ballybor, the R.M. stationed there retired on
pension, and in his place there came a young man, Anthony Mayne, who had
served with distinction in an Irish regiment during the war. Being
unmarried, Mayne took up his quarters in a small hotel close to the
police barracks, and in a short time struck up a friendship with Blake.

In addition to attending at Ballybor Petty Sessions once a week, Mayne
had to go to several other small towns twice a month. The district was
very large, chiefly wild mountainous country, and some of the places
were many miles from Ballybor, one place in particular, Ballyrick, being
over thirty miles away on the shores of the Atlantic.

The first Court which Mayne attended happened to be at Ballyrick,
probably one of the wildest and most thinly populated districts in
Ireland. Soon after leaving Ballybor the road crossed a railway line by
a level crossing close to the sea, and then ran for many miles between
the sea and a chain of mountains to the small seaside town of Ballyrick.

Mayne found that the people of this district were a race of small men;
they looked as though the terrific Atlantic gales had stunted them in
the same way as the trees are stunted on this coast, and, moreover,
their faces were not pleasing. During his first Court here the nature of
the cases showed plainly that the chief amusement of the peasants was to
beat and batter each other on all opportunities, especially on dark
nights after a fair, and the distillation of illicit whisky their chief
occupation.

In Ireland the penalty for harbouring, keeping, or concealing a still or
illicit spirits is £100, which can be mitigated to £6, luckily no lower;
and from time immemorial the custom of the shopkeeper class of
magistrate has always been to reduce every fine to the minimum, with the
natural result that the peasants have come to regard the £6 fine as the
legal penalty for the bad luck of being caught by the police. £6 is a
mere fraction of the profits of a successful brew of poteen, and is
looked upon in the light of a tax paid to the Government.

In one case a man was caught red-handed by the police with fourteen
barrels of treacle, 200 gallons of wash, a complete still, and enough
poteen to stock a fair-sized public-house. The man brought the £6 into
Court with him, being certain he would be convicted and fined the usual
amount.

But Mayne, the only magistrate on the bench, took a very serious view of
the case, knowing the amount of crime and misery caused by this
abominable drink, and fined the man £50.

Such a sentence had never been heard in Ballyrick Court-house within the
memory of man; even the police received a shock, and a noise resembling
a swarm of angry bees arose to defy the shouts of the police for silence
and order. That evening, when Mayne returned to Ballybor, he was
followed by a police car for many miles, but the peasants had not had
time to organise their revenge.

About this time the magistrates of the district received letters from
the I.R.A. calling upon them to resign their Commissions of the Peace,
and giving them a time limit. The shopkeeper and farmer class, being
threatened with that savage scourge in Ireland, a boycott, had no
alternative but to resign, which they did at once with great promptness
and unanimity. In most cases the gentry hung on to their commissions,
but refrained from appearing on the Bench at a time when their presence
might have made all the difference.

Very soon the Sinn Fein Courts in the Ballybor district were in full
swing; the country people received orders not to appear at a Petty
Sessions Court, and in a very short time every Petty Sessions clerk
found himself completely idle. However, as a matter of form, Mayne
attended every Court regularly, though the only people present were the
police, the clerk, and himself, and their only work to say good-day to
each other.

By now all the magistrates in the district had either resigned or feared
to attend, and if only the R.M. could be frightened out of the country
or removed, all Petty Sessions Courts would be closed, and the King’s
Writ would cease to run in the country both figuratively and in reality.
With this end in view, the Volunteers began to send threatening letters
to Mayne, and on two occasions he was fired at when motoring back from
holding Courts in outlying towns.

However, Mayne was made of the right stuff, and determined that as long
as he was alive the usual Courts should be held throughout his district,
no matter whether the people brought their cases to the King’s Courts or
to the Sinn Fein Courts, which were generally held the day before a
Petty Sessions Court was due in a town; and in order to provide cases he
arranged with Blake to carry out a poteen raid on a large scale in the
Ballyrick district, and that the cases should be tried at the next Court
there. Blake duly carried out the raid, which was most successful, and
the defendants were summoned to appear in Court, with the threat of
arrest held over their heads if they did not turn up.

On the day of the Ballyrick Court Mayne set out, alone as usual, on his
long drive about 9.45 A.M., and on reaching the level crossing found the
gates closed, though no train was due to pass for several hours. After
sounding his horn in vain, he went to open them himself, only to find
that both gates were heavily padlocked.

He then made his way to the crossing-keeper’s house, which was about
fifty yards up the line. The man’s wife, who was the only occupant of
the house, told him that the gates had been locked that morning by the
Volunteers, after the police cars had passed through, and the keys taken
away. Determined not to be beaten, Mayne now got a heavy stone, and had
actually succeeded in smashing the padlock on the near gate, when he was
shot in the head from behind, and at once collapsed on the road.

During the late war extraordinary cases were known of men shot through
the head, even through the brain, living for hours afterwards, though
generally unable to speak; and Mayne, though paralysed, was quite
conscious when his murderers came up to where he was lying.

For some time the murderers argued whether they should finish him off,
or remove him as he was. In the end they put him into his own car,
unlocked the far gate, and drove off in the direction of Ballyrick.

After proceeding about a mile they came to a lane, which led up to a
lonely farm close to the sea. After driving up to the farm they threw
Mayne—still alive and conscious—on to a manure heap at the back of the
farmhouse, and then drove off. It was afterwards found that they then
took the car to a high cliff and ran it over the edge, to be broken up
on the rocks below in the sea.

Mayne spent the rest of that day lying on the manure heap, and so
terrorised were the inhabitants of the farm that not one of them dared
go near him. To give poor Mayne even a cup of cold water would have
meant certain death to the giver.

Late that evening the murderers returned, expecting to find Mayne dead
by now; but he was still alive, though in a pitiable state. Again they
argued among themselves whether they would finish him off or not, and
again for some unknown reason they decided not to. And these are the men
who, according to an English paper (thank God! not an Irish one), are
“entitled to the treatment which, in _civilised_ countries, is given to
prisoners of war.”

After some time an ass was harnessed to a cart, into which they threw
Mayne’s body, and then proceeded to the seashore below the farm. Here,
after another discussion, they buried him—still alive, though quite
paralysed—up to his neck in the sand, at a place where they thought the
incoming tide would just reach him and slowly drown him during the
night-time. It was now several hours since Mayne had been shot, and one
can only hope that, though he was still alive, his senses had become
numbed.

The following morning these fiends returned again to find that they had
miscalculated the height of the tide, which had only reached the level
of poor Mayne’s chin, and that he was _still alive_, though probably by
now quite mad. They then dug him up, and this time made no mistake, but
buried him where the tide was bound to drown him. And the next flood
tide put an end to a torture the like of which Lenin and Trotsky could
hardly exceed for sheer malignant devilry.

Blake and a strong escort of police had motored out to Ballyrick ahead
of Mayne, in case there might be an ambush on the road. The Court was
due to begin at twelve, and when by two there was no sign of the R.M.,
Blake left for Ballybor, making inquiries on the way, but could get no
tidings of him anywhere.

On arriving in Ballybor, Blake wired for a force of Auxiliaries, who
arrived that night, and at once started with Blake and a strong force of
R.I.C. to hunt the countryside for Mayne; but nowadays in Ireland, so
dangerous is it for any civilian to be seen speaking to a policeman,
that it is always quite impossible to obtain any direct information.
People who had seen Mayne set out on his last ill-fated drive denied
that they even knew him by sight.

For three days and three nights they scoured the countryside from
Ballybor to Ballyrick, and from Ballyrick back again to Ballybor, but no
clue or tidings of Mayne could they get. From the time Mayne left
Ballybor, R.M. and car seemed to have disappeared as though the earth
had opened and swallowed them.

As there was no evidence of foul play, the police hoped that the R.M.
had been kidnapped and hidden away in the mountains to the east of
Ballyrick. So they posted notices throughout the district to the effect
that, if the R.M. was returned in two days all would be well, but if
not——

At the end of the two days’ grace a man, who said he kept the railway
crossing on the road to Ballyrick, arrived on a bicycle at the barracks
ashen with fear, and asked to see Blake. On hearing the man’s story,
Blake went out to the level crossing and there found poor Mayne’s body
in a rough wooden box, lying on the side of the line. The cause of death
appeared obvious; but they were greatly puzzled to find the clothes
soaked with sea-water and full of sand, and to hear from the doctor who
examined the body that death was due to—drowning.

The level-crossing man was detained at the barracks, and every means was
taken to extract information from him; but he denied all knowledge of
the murder, and proved an alibi to Blake’s satisfaction.

The police spent the next fortnight searching in vain for Mayne’s
murderers, and it is probable that, but for a curious trait in the
peasant’s character, they would never have solved the mystery.

Late one evening, about three weeks after the murder, a typical
Ballyrick peasant arrived at the barracks in Ballybor and asked to see
the D.I., and refused to state his business except to the D.I. Luckily
the police decided to admit the man, and he was led off to Blake’s
office.

When he was brought in Blake was up to his eyes in official
correspondence, with the prospect of an all-night sitting before him;
but hoping that the man might have news of Mayne, he ordered the police
to leave the man alone with him, and then waited for him to tell his
news.

If a western peasant has a favour to ask or a confession to make, he
will talk of everything and everybody except the object of his visit,
possibly for an hour and probably for two, and will generally not come
to the point until he is preparing to leave. The length of time required
to extract the necessary information depends entirely on the skill of
the interviewer.

Blake’s visitor was no exception to this rule, and many an Englishman,
cleverer than Blake, would have made the mistake of hurrying his man,
which is always fatal; and even Blake’s patience was nearly exhausted
before he made his confession.

Whether the man’s confession was genuine, or whether he hoped to save
his skin by turning informer is not quite clear; but at any rate he
confessed to Blake that he and five other men had murdered Mayne at the
level crossing, gave the full details of one of the worst atrocities
which has ever been committed in Ireland, and stated as his only reason
for confessing that he had not been able to sleep since the murder.



                                  VI.
                               AN OUTLAW.


Probably the great majority of the British public had no idea of the
extraordinary situation in the south and west of Ireland during 1920,
and most likely never will have. In the summer of that sinister year,
when the Sinn Fein tyranny was at its height, an English newspaper sent
a lady journalist over to this unfortunate country to find out what
really was the matter with us, and, if possible, to give the world yet
another solution of the Irish Question.

In her first letter, this lady, quite unnecessarily, told her millions
of readers that she had never been in Ireland before, proceeded to
relate the peculiarities of the people of Dublin and Belfast, and
finished with a vivid description of the peaceful and happy condition of
the country, in spite of the interested rumours put about to the
contrary.

At the time when this lady journalist was discovering peaceful and happy
Ireland, the power of Sinn Fein was rapidly passing from the hands of
the hot-air merchants to the direct-action ruffians; in other words,
Arthur Griffiths became a mere cipher, and Michael Collins the dictator
of the south and west. And very soon Collins had several imitators.

Born in 1889 in the highlands of Ballyrick, Denis Joyce, after working
for a few years as gillie and general boy at a shooting-lodge near
Errinane, drifted to Dublin as a labourer, and at once came under the
influence of Connolly, the prince of Irish Bolsheviks. Taken prisoner
during the Easter rebellion of 1916, he was eventually released with
other small fry, and in return devoted himself to the extermination of
the British Empire in general, and Irish policemen in particular.

During the spring and summer of 1920, Joyce and his numerous bodyguard,
like an Irish chieftain of old, lived like fighting-cocks. Hailed as the
conquerors of the British Army (they had shot several unarmed soldiers)
wherever they went, not only did they live free, gratis, and for
nothing, but the country people literally fought for the honour of
entertaining these heroes. A great pity that the lady journalist could
not have been present at one of these banquets. What “copy” she could
have sent to her editor, and the certified net sale would have soared to
the skies.

But though Joyce and his merry men had a great time, they did not
neglect their duty; and on every occasion, when conditions were all in
their favour, they shot down police patrols from behind walls, and
murdered unfortunate policemen when visiting their wives and families.

However, every dog has his day, and in the autumn of 1920, when the
British Army and the Auxiliary Cadets started to take a hand in the
game, Joyce found himself changed from a popular hero into a hunted
outlaw, with the usual result that, where formerly he had found an open
door and a smiling welcome, he now was met by a closed door and a scowl;
and when seeking board and lodging, it became necessary to persuade the
unwilling hosts with a six-shooter.

The police and military now commenced paying calls at night; and a
farmer, living in the depth of the country, hearing a knock at his door
during the long winter’s nights, had always the pleasing excitement of
not knowing if he was to have the honour of entertaining some
badly-wanted gunmen, a patrol of the R.I.C., a party of Auxiliary
Cadets, a military search-party, or merely a posse of local robbers, any
of whom might take a sudden dislike to the unfortunate farmer, with
unpleasant results.

In the winter of 1920, Joyce, who would have made an excellent soldier,
made the bad mistake of mixing up love with war; in other words, he
became greatly enamoured of a girl living in the south, and in order to
be within reach of her, confined his attentions to that district for a
considerable time, instead of moving about the country with his usual
rapidity; and the Auxiliaries, getting an inkling of the situation from
a former lover of the girl, made a great effort to surround and capture
him.

Though he received repeated warnings of the activity of the Cadets,
Joyce put off his departure, until a day came when word was brought that
the place was surrounded by forces of the Crown, who would close in on
the little town that evening.

Joyce at once went to tell Molly, whose father kept a small hotel in the
town, and the girl’s quick wit soon thought out a plan of escape for her
lover. Five commercial travellers staying in the hotel, and at the time
out touring neighbouring villages, had left their heavy cases of samples
at the hotel, and their railway passes in the safe keeping of the hotel
proprietor.

That afternoon the train to the west carried Joyce and four of his
bodyguard disguised as bagmen; the remainder were left to shift for
themselves, and that evening, when the Cadets searched the town from
attic to cellar, they found that the principal bird had flown.

Joyce knew that it would not be safe to travel by train as far as
Ballybor, and as soon as he thought that they had cleared the Auxiliary
cordon, determined to alight at the next stop and continue the journey
by car. Just as they were on the point of leaving the train, however,
they noticed several Cadets waiting by the station exit, so did not get
out.

Two stations farther on they left the train, and being now outside the
net, quickly commandeered a Ford from the local garage and set out for
the Ballyrick country, where Joyce had decided to hide and rest for a
while. Keeping to byroads, they made their way westwards at a good rate
until it was nearly daylight, when, after hiding the car in a wood, they
proceeded to search for board and lodging.

Shortly they came across a good farmhouse, and, after the usual display
of pistols, were admitted reluctantly, made a hearty meal, and retired
to bed after ordering their host to have five good bicycles and another
meal ready for them as soon as it was dark.

It has been mentioned that Joyce had worked as a boy at a shooting-lodge
near Errinane, and he now conceived the brilliant idea of taking a
rest-cure there until such time as the police took less interest in him.
This lodge, Drumcar by name, belonged to a Connaught squire who had
married an Englishwoman, and except for a short time in the summer was
only occupied by a caretaker. Situated in one of the wildest parts of
the west, a mile from the road, hidden by woods of oak and birch, and
overlooking the bay on which Errinane stands, it was probably the last
place in Ireland where the police would think of looking for an active
gunman, and the chances were that not a single Auxiliary even knew that
such a place existed.

The gunmen arrived at Drumcar soon after dawn, and after rousing the
terrified caretaker, who lived with his son and daughter in a cottage in
the grounds, they settled down to a life of peace and comfort. The girl
attended on them, while the old man brought food from Errinane in a
donkey cart, and a good supply of poteen from a mountain farm near the
mouth of the bay.

The lodge was well supplied with turf, contained an excellent library of
novels, and Joyce and his men waxed fat with good living and soft lying;
but it is a case of once on the run, always on the run, until the
inevitable end comes, or the gunman is lucky enough to escape to the
States.

Now, it is a well-known truth in the west that a “mountainy” man will
always, when sick unto death, home-sick, or in dire distress, make for
his beloved mountains, no matter what far end of the world he may have
drifted to; and when in due course Blake learnt through official
channels that Joyce had escaped from the southern town, he at once began
to keep a sharp look-out for him in the Ballyrick country.

But when a fortnight passed and there was no sign of Joyce, nor yet any
report of his presence in that part of the country, Blake turned up the
man’s official record, from which he learnt two interesting facts:
first, that Joyce had worked at Drumcar; and, secondly, that he had a
married sister in Bunrattey, a district on the southern border of
Blake’s country.

Blake now turned his attention to the sister’s house, and when this
proved a blank, he determined to try Drumcar Lodge as a last resource;
but at the time of the landing of arms at Errinane, every police barrack
and coastguard station within a radius of many miles had been burnt, so
that it was impossible to get any news of the place without going there,
the nearest barrack in Blake’s district being fifty miles away.

A “travelling circus” of Auxiliaries happened to be passing through
Ballybor, and the leader undertook to investigate the lodge and let
Blake know if they found any trace of Joyce. Blake advised them to
surround the lodge in the day-time, as, owing to the wild and
mountainous nature of the country, a night attack would be impossible.

On the whole, the gunmen treated old Faherty, the caretaker, and his
children well, especially the son, Patsy, in the hope that he would join
them; but, luckily for himself, the lad had a wholesome dread of
firearms. After he had been at the lodge some days, in spite of feeling
quite secure, Joyce, with the instinct of the hunted, began to look
about for a bolt-hole in case of need; though in the midst of the wilds
the lodge had serious drawbacks, being situated on the side of a slope,
so that any one leaving the lodge would at once come under observation
from several points, and, moreover, an arm of the sea cut off all escape
to the north.

In fact, escape seemed very doubtful, until by chance Patsy mentioned
that in a boat-house, hidden by trees, on the shore of the bay, there
was a large motor-launch, which he had learnt to drive the previous
summer. The next time the old man went to Errinane for provisions, he
brought back with him twenty gallons of petrol (duly entered up in his
absent master’s account), and Joyce felt easier in his mind.

On a pouring wet afternoon the five gunmen were playing nap in front of
a comfortable turf fire in the drawing-room, while old Faherty’s
daughter brewed poteen punch for them, and Patsy was reading a novel in
an arm-chair, when a long-haired boy dashed in with the news that a
large party of Auxiliary Cadets had rushed through Errinane, taken two
countrymen they had met on the road as guides, and were surrounding the
lodge from all sides except the sea. Joyce had launched the motor-boat
only the previous day, and within a few minutes they were under way,
heading for the mouth of the bay with the throttle full open. Seeing the
launch in the bay below them as they reached the front of the lodge, the
Cadets opened fire, but before they could get on to their target the
launch vanished in the thick mist of rain.

As pursuit was out of the question, the Auxiliaries drove straight to
Errinane Post Office, only to find the wires cut. They then went on to
the nearest town, and wired to the naval authorities at Queenstown,
hoping that they might be able to get in touch with a destroyer off the
west coast by wireless, and so capture Joyce at sea.

Joyce knew that the hue-and-cry would be up, and that it would be fatal
to land anywhere on the coast near Errinane; and as the sea was calm, he
made up his mind to cut across a big bay to the north and make for
Buntarriv, a narrow passage between an island and the mainland, which
would lead them to Trabawn Bay, on the shores of which lay his own
country.

The launch left the slip at Drumcar at 1 P.M., and Joyce made out that
at eight miles an hour they ought to reach Buntarriv Sound at four
o’clock and Trabawn Bay in another hour, which should give them plenty
of time to land before darkness set in. Unfortunately, when out in the
open Atlantic, the engine stopped, and Patsy, who was thoroughly
frightened by now, would only sit down and cry. Two of the gunmen knew
something of motors, and after nearly two hours discovered that the
carburetter was choked with dirt, and it was nearly six o’clock before
the Sound was within sight: another quarter of an hour and they would
have been too late. As it was, a destroyer opened fire on them just as
they were entering the Sound, and they were only saved by the failing
light.

Knowing that the destroyer could not follow them, and afraid of wrecking
the launch in the dark, they anchored and waited for the moon to rise,
and eventually landed on the shore of Trabawn Bay. Joyce was at last in
his own country, and before day broke the gunmen were safely lodged in
different mountain farms close to Joyce’s home, and the next day Patsy
was handed over to the local Volunteers to be returned to Drumcar. The
following day they took the launch to a bay surrounded by high cliffs,
where no human being except an odd herd ever went, and beached her at
the height of the tide on the sandy shore, where they left her for
future use.

After a few days at home Joyce began to get restless, and resolved to
visit his married sister in the Bunrattey district; but the local
Volunteers could only supply them with two bicycles, and the distance
was too far to walk—forty-two miles as the crow flies. However, he
learnt from a postman that a police patrol visited Ballyscaddan, a small
village about sixteen miles east of Ballyrick, daily, and were in the
habit of leaving their bicycles outside a public-house which they
frequented.

The gunmen spent the night in Ballyscaddan, and about eleven o’clock a
patrol of six R.I.C. arrived in the village, left their bicycles outside
the public-house, and went inside to refresh themselves. The gunmen, who
were waiting in the next house, quickly cut the tyres of one bicycle to
ribbons, and rode off on the remaining five, leaving the unfortunate
villagers to bear the brunt of the infuriated policemen’s wrath. That
night Joyce and his four men slept in his sister’s house in Bunrattey.

Besides his courage, the only redeeming feature about Joyce appears to
have been his love for this sister. As usual, she was delighted to see
him, but by now the other inhabitants would have as soon welcomed the
devil himself as Joyce, knowing that his progress through the country
was blazed by reprisals.

Gone were the days when he used to hold audience daily in his sister’s
house like a king, and men came many miles simply to see the famous
Denis Joyce. Now the country people would avoid him on the road, and not
a single person came to see him.

His sister warned him repeatedly that it was dangerous to stay any
length of time with her; but Joyce seems to have lost heart, or perhaps
his Celtic soul had a premonition of coming disaster. At any rate he
refused to go, and spent most of this time sitting by the kitchen fire
brooding.

Blake soon learnt of Joyce’s escape by sea from Drumcar, and feeling
sure that sooner or later he would visit his sister before starting
operations in the south again, concentrated his attention on that
district. To this end, he kept his men well away, and at the same time
asked for the help of the Auxiliary “travelling circus,” among whom were
three Cadets who knew Joyce well by sight.

One of these Cadets, whose personal appearance favoured the disguise,
was dressed up as a priest, and sent out on a bicycle to spy out the
land. After two days he returned with the good news that he had passed
the famous gunman on the road in Bunrattey, and at once Blake made
preparations to surround the place that night.

He knew that success entirely depended on maintaining complete secrecy
until the house was surrounded, and that if even a whisper of what was
in the air got abroad all chances of capturing Joyce were gone. Tired of
seeing operations ruined by well-advertised Crossleys, bristling with
rifles, tearing along the main roads, he determined to try and catch his
man by cunning.

Directly he received the news that Joyce was at Bunrattey, he left
Ballybor Barracks with four Crossleys, two of R.I.C., and two of
Auxiliaries, in the opposite direction to which Bunrattey lay, until
they came to a small village about ten miles to the north, where there
was a large flour-mill. Surrounding the mill, the police carried out a
perfunctory search and left just before dark, taking with them two of
the miller’s lorries, one empty, and the other loaded with flour sacks
and two large tarpaulins, cutting the wires as soon as they were clear
of the village.

Making their way eastwards until they reached a long stretch of desolate
bog-road, they halted with one tender about a quarter of a mile behind
and another the same distance ahead. They then proceeded to transfer
half the flour sacks to the empty lorry, built them up with a hollow in
the middle so that both lorries appeared to be fully loaded, filled the
hollows with police, and then threw a tarpaulin over each.

The two lorries then set off to make a large detour in order to approach
Bunrattey from the south (the opposite direction to Ballybor), and Blake
made out that they ought to arrive there about midnight. The four
Crossleys waited and followed at a time which should bring them to
Bunrattey a quarter of an hour after the arrival of the lorries.

Joyce’s sister’s house stood back from the main road about eighty yards,
was one-storied, very strongly built, and had a tremendous thatch of
straw; to the front there were four small windows, heavily shuttered,
and a stout oak door, and at the back only a door of the same kind. At a
distance of about thirty yards from the house a low stone wall ran round
the sides and back, enclosing a small cabbage garden and the haggard,
which gave excellent cover for the police.

The lorries stopped within 400 yards of the house, and the police
quickly and silently surrounded it without raising the alarm. They then
waited for the arrival of the Crossleys, when the Auxiliaries and the
remainder of the police formed a second cordon outside the first one.

The leading lorry was now brought into the lane which led up to the
house, and left there with the acetylene lamps shining full on the front
door and windows, and at the same time the lamps of the second lorry
were taken to the back of the house and mounted on the wall, so that any
one attempting to leave the house by the doors or windows would be in
the full glare of the powerful lamps.

Approaching the house from a gable-end, Blake crawled along the front
until he reached the door, on which he hammered with the butt of his
revolver, and called on the inmates to surrender, telling them that they
were surrounded and that resistance only meant death. Receiving no
answer, he called out that if they did not come out at once with their
hands up, he would open fire on the house, and for reply there came a
volley of bullets through the lower part of the door. He then crawled
back to cover, and ordered his men to open fire on the front door with a
machine-gun.

The concentrated fire of a machine-gun will cut a hole through a
nine-inch brick wall in a very short time, and in a few minutes the oak
door was in splinters. While the machine-gun kept up a continuous fire
at the height of a man’s chest, four policemen endeavoured to get into
the house by crawling up to the door, but when a few feet away two were
shot, and the remaining two only escaped by rolling to one side.

All that the police had to do now, provided that Joyce was in the
house—and the resistance offered made this a certainty—was to wait until
daylight, when the certain capture of the gunmen would only be a
question of time. But by now Blake was excited, and remembering how
O’Hara had slipped through his hands, he determined to burn the rats out
and finish the show. After getting a tin of petrol from one of the cars,
he again crawled up to the gable-end, set a light to the tin, and flung
it on to the thatch, which at once took fire, burning fiercely.

Only a few days previously this part of the thatch had been renewed, and
as the weather had been fine it was bone-dry. But after a few minutes
the fire reached the old and wet thatch, and as there was a gentle
breeze blowing from the front, very soon the back of the house was
completely hidden by a cloud of smoke.

Realising the mistake he had made, Blake ordered his men to keep up a
continuous fire on the back door, and at the same time rushed the
machine-gun round to that side; but so blinding was the smoke by now
that it was impossible to know where the back door was.

Hearing shouts from the front, on going there he found a young woman
standing in the doorway with her hands up, who told him that all the men
in the house were wounded and unable to move. On entering they found
three of Joyce’s bodyguard and his brother-in-law lying in pools of
blood on the kitchen floor, but not a sign of Joyce or the fourth man.

There was still a chance that the missing two might be found wounded
outside the back door, which was ajar, but the smoke was still so dense
that no one could approach. After a time the smoke abated, and they
found the fourth man dead a few yards from the house, but not a sign of
Joyce.

Again working on the theory that the gunman would make for his home in
the Ballyrick mountains, which lay to the westward at the back of the
house, Blake divided his forces into two, sending each out on a flank in
order to get well ahead of the fugitive, and then form a fan-shaped net
and beat backwards towards the house. Four miles away to the west was
the Owenmore river, which ran northwards through Ballybor, and across
the river were two bridges, each about four miles from where they were.

The two forces crossed by different bridges, each dropping three men at
the bridges, then went on about three miles, and at daybreak started to
beat the country back to the bridges. Here they arrived, worn out, at 10
A.M., and not a sign had any one seen or heard of Joyce.

Sure that Joyce had crossed the river, the police started to beat back
again over the ground they had just covered; but by 4 P.M. the men were
done in, and Blake had to call them off and return to Ballybor.

That night he got out a large-scale Ordnance map of the Bunrattey
district, put himself in Joyce’s place, and tried to think out his line
of escape, presuming that the fugitive had avoided the bridges and swum
the river at the nearest point from his sister’s house. On crossing the
river he would soon come to a thick wood on the slope of a hill, through
which the railway line to Ballybor ran, and here he decided that Joyce
must be hiding.

Early the next morning Blake set out with a strong force, and
approaching Derryallen Wood from all four sides at once, spent the rest
of the day beating the wood through and through, but without any result,
and they came to the conclusion that by now Joyce must have got clear.

A week afterwards, when Blake was returning in the dusk from Grouse
Lodge Barracks, a man stopped the car on an open stretch of road about a
mile outside Ballybor. The man turned out to be the loyal guard of the
goods train, and he told Blake that for several days past he had seen
the engine-driver drop a parcel as the train passed through Derryallen
Wood, and always at the same place, into a patch of briers on the side
of the line.

Blake’s interest in Joyce awoke afresh, but he felt sure that no living
being had escaped them on the day when they searched the wood, and they
had not been able to find any trace of a hiding-place. However, it would
be interesting to know what the engine-driver dropped when passing
through the wood, and by whom it was picked up.

The main road from Ballybor to Castleport ran parallel with the railway,
skirting the east side of Derryallen; and here, on a pitch-dark winter’s
night, in torrents of rain, two Crossleys stopped for a couple of
minutes while Blake and a party of R.I.C. and Cadets dropped out, and
then drove on again.

With great difficulty the party found their way in the dark to the
railway line, where they remained hidden in some laurels until it began
to grow light, when they were able to conceal themselves within easy
reach of the patch of briers.

After hours of weary waiting the goods train passed down, and the
engine-driver dropped the parcel into the briers. At once the police
forgot hunger and cold in their eagerness to see who would pick up the
parcel, but again they were doomed to hours of weary waiting.

At last, when the men had nearly reached the limit of their endurance
and light was almost gone, they saw a most miserable-looking wild-eyed
man crawling painfully towards the patch of briers. When he was within
five yards of the parcel Blake called on him to surrender, and every man
covered him with his rifle.

Game to the end, though unable to stand on account of a bullet-wound in
one leg, Joyce drew his pistol and glared defiance at the police; but as
he raised himself to fire, a fifteen-stone Cadet, who had crept up
silently behind him, flung himself on the famous gunman’s back, and the
long chase was over.

Joyce refused to show Blake his hiding-place, but afterwards they learnt
from the owner of the wood that there was a cave in the middle of the
wood which had been used by robbers over a hundred years ago, the
entrance of which was completely covered by thick heather.



                                  VII.
                     THE STRANGER WITHIN THE GATES.


After the loss of the American arms the district of Ballybor remained
quiet for some considerable time, so that the hard-working farmers in
the country and respectable shopkeepers in the town began to hope at
last that the trouble was over, and that they might be free to carry on
their work in peace. Unfortunately, a quiet and peaceful district is
anathema to the Sinn Fein G.H.Q., and before long a Volunteer flying
column received orders to operate in the Ballybor district, with a view
to stirring up trouble and bringing the county into line with the south.

By this time the large moderate element of Sinn Fein, in other words,
practically every man who had a stake in the country—substantial farmers
with haggards to burn, and prosperous shopkeepers with shops to
burn—realised that they had backed a losing horse, and were prepared to
do any mortal thing for peace, except help the police. Unfortunately,
the farmers’ sons and shop-boys, who, in the usual course of events, but
for the war, would have been in the States by now, took quite a
different view. £20 in the £ rates, burnt haggards, and ruined
businesses meant nothing to boys who paid no rates nor owned shops or
farms.

Up to the winter of 1919 the rebels moved about the country in motors,
how, when, and where they liked. Even during the time when every gallon
of petrol was being kept for the armies in France, and the Loyalists
were only allowed six gallons a month (on paper), De Valera and his
staff burnt petrol as freely as a Connaught peasant will drink poteen.
In connection with this, it would be interesting to know into whose
petrol tanks the many thousands of gallons of petrol which was washed up
on the western shores of Ireland from torpedoed vessels passed, and the
system of collection and distribution.

After this winter, when the use of cars for illegal purposes became more
and more restricted as the car-permit regulations became stricter and
more rigidly enforced, the Volunteers began to make great use of
bicycles, and their flying columns consisted of cyclists only. Orders
were issued from G.H.Q. that every Volunteer must be able to ride a
bicycle, and local commandants were instructed to see that every man in
their command had one.

During the Mons retreat the cyclists were invaluable, both for fighting
small rearguard actions and also for keeping in contact with the enemy.
During the present war in Ireland, the explanation of the mysteries of
how men can shoot policemen from behind a wall and then disappear into
thin air, and of how a column of gunmen can shoot up a train in Kerry on
Monday and ambush a police lorry in Clare on Tuesday, is to be found in
the intelligent use of the humble push-bike. And until the authorities
round up every push-bike in Ireland, these mysteries will continue.

As soon as G.H.Q. determined that the Ballybor district must be brought
into line with the south, a small party of gunmen, operating at the time
many miles to the south, received their orders, and late that night a
silent and ghostly party of cyclists rode into the Ballybor district. At
a certain cross-roads they were met by guides, and long before daybreak
the gunmen were billeted in ones and twos throughout the townland of
Cloonalla.

The following night a meeting of the local Volunteers was held in the
National School, and the leader of the gunmen insisted that a police
ambush or an attack on the Grouse Lodge Barracks should take place
within the next few nights. The general opinion being against an attack
on the barracks—the field of fire was too good, and the Black and Tans
too handy with their rifles—it was settled (by the gunmen) that the
police should be ambushed at a favourable spot where the main road from
Ballybor to Castleport passed through a wooded demesne.

The next morning Father Tom, the parish priest, was besieged by the
young Volunteers’ fathers, men who had homes and haggards to burn, one
and all imploring his reverence to prevent an ambush in the parish, and
to save them from the wrath of the Auxiliaries. Some of them, when
asked, confessed that the gunmen were staying in their houses, but that
their sons had brought them there without leave, and that they were
powerless to get rid of them.

From the beginning of the movement Father Tom, who was young for a
parish priest and an ardent Sinn Feiner in theory, had been one of the
leaders in the district, and even when burning houses and haggards began
to follow murderous ambuscades in far-away Co. Cork as surely as day
follows night, he still felt a thrill of pride for his countrymen who
were giving their all for freedom, and became a fiercer Sinn Feiner than
ever; but an ambush (and the sequel) in his own beloved parish was a
very different thing, and a calamity to be avoided at all costs (his
house stood high, and would give a splendid view at night of burning
houses and haggards), and there was obviously no time to lose.

The next day was Sunday, and at mass Father Tom, who was a fine
preacher, thundered forth from the altar. A vivid imagination stimulated
his eloquence to such a pitch that he reduced most of the older members
of his flock to tears.

He told them that it had come to his ears that certain men in the parish
were harbouring strangers within their gates, and that these strangers
had been trying to incite young and innocent boys to murder policemen.
He then described the result of an ambush—how houses were burnt to the
ground and women and little children were turned out on the road on a
winter’s night (he did not mention the men, knowing that by then they
would be up in the mountains), and how innocent men were shot in their
beds before the eyes of their wives; but he said nothing about the
widows and orphans of the murdered policemen. Finally, he warned his
flock against the strangers, who would fade away before the wrath of the
soldiers and Auxiliaries fell on the parish, and commanded that they
should be instantly turned out under the direst penalties. And with a
last curse on the strangers he left the chapel.

If Father Tom had thundered from the altar against ambushes many, many
months before, instead of openly encouraging the Volunteers, the result
might have been very different; but a leader of men who gives an order
to-day and a counter-order to-morrow is rarely obeyed. That night it was
learnt that a party of military would proceed from Castleport to
Ballybor on Wednesday night, and it was settled to ambush them at the
spot chosen in the demesne, the gunmen promising that a carload of arms
and bombs would arrive in time for the ambush, and also a doctor.

In the Cloonalla district there lived, nowadays a _rara avis_ in the
west of Ireland, a Protestant farmer of the old yeoman type so well
known in England, and a staunch Loyalist. To his house there came on
that Sunday night two of the leading farmers, who told him the whole
story of the proposed ambush, and begged him to warn the police.

The chapel of Cloonalla stands in the centre of the parish, close to a
cross-roads, and on that Wednesday morning the inhabitants woke up to
find a kilted sentry on guard at the cross-roads, and before most of
them could get out of bed, two companies of Highlanders, guided by
Blake, were hard at work searching every house for strangers.

Blake had brought with him two old regular R.I.C. sergeants, men who had
been stationed in the district for years, and who knew every man, young
and old; but the gunmen had been in trouble before, and were not to be
caught so easily.

They were all young men and clean shaved, and before the police and
Highlanders entered any of their billets, one and all were dressed as
women with shawls over their heads; and in one house, where two of them
had been billeted, the Highlanders found a young woman sitting on a
stool by the fire, nursing a baby under her shawl, while another pretty
shawled girl was preparing breakfast for the young mother. A big
Highlander could not resist giving her a glad eye, little knowing that
“she” was a notorious gunman, and wanted to the tune of a thousand
pounds for the brutal murder of a D.I. as he was leaving church.

The only result of the raid was the finding of an old shot-gun in the
bed of the local blacksmith, a man who had always defied the local
Volunteers, and kept a gun for poaching only, and who was taken off to
Ballybor Barracks amidst the jeers of everybody. However, in a few days
they realised how useful and necessary a person a smith is in a country
district, and before the week was out the whole townland was clamouring
for the smith’s release.

However, the raid had good results; the Volunteers refused point-blank
to carry out the ambush on Wednesday night, though the gunmen stayed
until that day, making every endeavour to bring it off. Finding it was
useless, they disappeared that night as silently as they had come,
promising to return shortly in greater numbers.

The whole district heaved a sigh of relief when it was known that there
were no longer any strangers within the gates, and settled down to farm
and lead the life God meant them to live, and hoped against hope that
they might never see a cursed stranger again, be he gunman or Auxiliary.
Blake let it be known that it was a case of no ambush, no Auxiliaries,
and every farmer in the district was quite content to keep his side of
the bargain.

But peace was not yet to be the portion of Cloonalla. Within three weeks
of the first gunman leaving, a party of twenty arrived on a wild
winter’s night, and, as on the former occasion, as silently dispersed to
their allotted billets. This time the leader of the gunmen did not ask
the local Volunteers to help, but ordered them to carry out the ambush
in the wooded demesne on the main road from Castleport to Ballybor, as
previously arranged.

The gunmen did not appear during the day-time at all, and had been
nearly a week in the district before Father Tom heard of their arrival.
Unfortunately, the priest was very ill with influenza at the time, and
before he could take any action the damage was done.

As usual, the scene of the ambush was laid with great cleverness.
Between the two entrance-gates of the demesne on the main road there was
a sharp rise in the form of an S bend, with a thick thorn hedge on each
side of the middle of this bend. Where the rise was steepest, there was
a lane leading to the keeper’s house, about fifty yards from the road,
and at the entrance of this lane the gunmen laid a mine in the main road
to be fired by an electric wire running towards the keeper’s house.
After laying the mine they forced the road contractor of that part of
the road to cart broken stones and lay them right across the road over
the mine, so that all traces of the mine were hidden.

The day after the mine had been laid word came to Cloonalla that the
police had arrested three men in Ballybor during the previous night, and
that it was thought that the prisoners would be sent to Castleport that
night in a Crossley under a strong police escort. As soon as it was
dark, the gunmen, after parking their bicycles in a wood of the demesne,
collected all the Volunteers they could induce or force to accompany
them, and made their way across country to the scene of the ambush.

The night was unusually fine with a full moon, and two hours after the
Volunteers and gunmen had taken up their positions, the peculiar note of
a Crossley engine could be distinctly heard approaching at a great pace
from the Ballybor direction. The gunman who had laid the mine was a
first-class electrician, and as the car tore past the lane there was a
blinding flash, followed by a terrific roar, and the car seemed to jump
clean off the road and then collapse in a burning heap on the road.

With the roar of the mine the ambushers opened a heavy fire on the car,
but receiving no reply they quickly ceased fire, waiting to see what
would happen next. But the mine had done its work only too well, and the
only sounds which could be heard were the groans of dying men amid the
burning ruins of the car. After some minutes two policemen rolled out of
the end of the car and lay on the highroad, one man with both his legs
paralysed, crying piteously for water, and the second with part of his
head blown away by a flat-nosed bullet, crying for a priest.

Up to this point the leader of the gunmen had taken charge of all the
proceedings, and when the Volunteers were collected on the road like a
flock of sheep they still waited for orders. However, after five
minutes, as no order was given, they began to look for their leader,
suddenly to realise that every gunman had faded away.

At once every Volunteer started to make his way home as fast as he
could, and within two minutes the only occupants of the road were the
two dying policemen, lying like two black logs in the white moonlight.
Presently a terror-stricken keeper crept out of his house, and as soon
as his scattered wits could take in the situation, he got out his
bicycle and rode into Ballybor for help.

Long before day broke columns of soldiers, R.I.C., and Auxiliaries
concentrated on and met at that horrible scene on the road between the
two demesne gates, and shortly afterwards broke like a tornado on the
townland of Cloonalla, and Father Tom, from his bedroom window, saw his
worst fears realised. When daylight came the parish was at last clear of
all strangers and avengers, but at a terrible price.

A quick-witted policeman remembered that the only limestone road in
Cloonalla was the road from Ballybor to Castleport, so that it was easy
to tell in a house by an inspection of boots if any man of that
household had been present at the ambush, and that night the fathers
suffered for the sins of their sons, and the sons paid the full price of
the gunmen’s crime.

Like good soldiers, the gunmen carefully thought out their line of
retreat before the ambush took place. They found that a broad river ran
through the demesne parallel to and about 400 yards from the main road,
that the nearest bridges above and below were five miles away, and that
across the river ran a range of wild and desolate country. In a wood on
the bank of the river they found fishing-boats, used for netting salmon
during the summer-time, and before the ambush the leader sent two of his
men to collect all these boats at a certain part of the river, and to
remain there in readiness to take the remainder and their bicycles
across. As soon as the ambush was over they collected their bicycles,
crossed the river, and were soon riding through a little-known pass in
the mountains on their way to carry on their devil’s work in a part of
the country many miles removed from the scene of the Cloonalla ambush.



                                 VIII.
                           MR BRIGGS’ ISLAND.


Several years before the late war there lived in the suburbs of London a
prosperous stockbroker, by name Benjamin Briggs, a lonely bachelor, an
ardent fisherman, and a man of simple and kindly nature. Every year Mr
Briggs spent his entire summer holidays fishing in Scotland or Wales,
and it was not until after hearing a friend at his club recounting the
wonderful fishing that he had had in Ireland that he turned his
attention to that country.

One afternoon, when passing through Euston Station, a famous poster of
Connemara caught Mr Briggs’ eye, and the following summer he made a
complete tour of that delightful country of mountains, moors, and
rivers. So charmed was he with the scenery and the perfect manners of
the peasants that he determined to see more of the country, and on a
fine summer’s afternoon found himself in the little town of Ballybor,
reputed to be one of the best fishing centres in Ireland.

During a walk through the town before dinner, he happened to see a large
notice in an auctioneer’s window, offering for sale, at what seemed to
Mr Briggs a very low figure, a fishing-lodge on an island in the middle
of a large lake, famous for its salmon, trout, and pike-fishing, and
distant about six miles from the town of Ballybor. The notice also
stated that the auctioneer would be glad to give full particulars, and
that the lucky buyer could obtain immediate possession.

Now many of us have cherished a secret longing to possess an island, no
doubt an aftermath from reading ‘Robinson Crusoe’ when very young,
possibly in the sea if one has a weakness for that element, or, if not,
in the middle of some large lake full of salmon and trout. From
childhood Mr Briggs had had two great longings—first, to be a successful
fisherman, and secondly, to possess an island, to which he could
eventually retire and fish all day and every day.

The following morning, after an interview with the auctioneer, he drove
out to the lake on an outside car, was duly met by the caretaker, Pat
Lyden, with a boat, fell in love at sight with a comfortable little
six-roomed lodge built on the shore of a small green island far out in
the lake and commanding glorious views of mountains and water, and on
his return to Ballybor he wasted no time in completing the purchase. The
following day he moved to the island, and spent a happy fortnight
fishing with Pat Lyden before returning to England.

From the outbreak of war until 1920 Mr Briggs was unable to visit
Ireland, but during the summer of that year he decided to retire, and
after disposing of his business and suburban home, set out for Ballybor,
meaning to spend the rest of the year fishing on Lake Moyra. On a dull
morning he landed at Kingstown, as enthusiastic as a schoolboy on his
first sporting trip, and longing to see his beloved island once more.

Mr Briggs only read one newspaper,—a paper once famous throughout the
world for its impartial and patriotic news and complete freedom from
party taint,—and he had not the remotest idea that the Ireland of 1914
and the Ireland of 1920 were two very different countries. But so simple
was the little man’s nature that he did not realise the state of the
country until he reached a small junction about sixteen miles from
Ballybor, and where he had to change.

Here he had some time to wait, and while walking up and down the
platform a long-haired wild-eyed stranger sidled up to him and asked if
he was Mr Briggs; and on learning that he was, the stranger advised him
to return to England at once, as the air on Lough Moyra was very
unhealthy at present. This greatly disturbed Mr Briggs, but he
determined to take no notice of the mysterious warning, and, taking his
seat in the train, began to read his papers again.

Shortly before the train was due to start a small party of British
soldiers, under a N.C.O., marched on to the platform, and proceeded to
take their seats in a third-class carriage. At once the engine-driver,
fireman, and guard packed up their kits and prepared to leave the
station. The station-master did his best to induce them to take the
train on to Ballybor, but not one yard would they go as long as a
British soldier remained in the train; and in the end they marched out
of the station, amid the laughter of the soldiers, who continued to keep
their seats. The civilian passengers now left the train, and Mr Briggs
found himself dumped with all his kit on the platform.

For some time he sat there, feeling sure that in the end the train would
start, but after two hours he gave it up, and wired to a garage in
Ballybor for a car to be sent to the junction. After a further wait of
three hours a car turned up, and late that evening Mr Briggs arrived at
the hotel at Ballybor, weary and quite bewildered. He seemed to have
wandered into a South American republic instead of into the old and
pleasant Ireland.

After breakfast the next morning he determined to call on his old friend
the D.I. before leaving for the lake, but he hardly recognised the
police barracks, which had been transformed from a homely whitewashed
house into a sandbagged and steel-shuttered fort. Here he found that his
old friend had retired on pension, and in his stead reigned a young and
soldier-like D.I., with a row of orders and war ribbons on his breast.
Mr Briggs introduced himself, but found that neither the D.I. nor the
Head Constable had ever heard of either Mr Briggs or his island, but
they told him that only the previous day a police lorry had been
ambushed on the road to the lake, and advised him to return to England.

However, having got so far, Mr Briggs determined to see his island, come
what might; and after a lot of difficulty, and at a very high price, a
driver was at last found with sufficient courage to drive him out to the
place where Lyden was to meet him.

Lyden was a typical western peasant, and on former visits Mr Briggs had
asked no better amusement than to listen to his quaint remarks and
stories for hours on end whilst fishing; but, like the rest of the
people, he now seemed a different being. During the row out to the
island he did not utter a dozen words, and long before they landed on
the little stone quay Mr Briggs had ceased to ask the man any questions.
After his long absence the island appeared more enchanting than ever,
and from the kitchen chimney he could see the blue turf smoke rising in
the still summer’s air, reminding him of Mrs Lyden’s good cooking.

On approaching the house he was startled to hear loud talking and
laughter in the dining-room, and on entering found the room full of
strangers, eating a hearty meal. At the head of the table sat a
soldierly-looking man, who wished Mr Briggs good-day, and asked who the
devil he might be.

On first hearing the voices, Mr Briggs had jumped to the natural
conclusion that a fishing party had landed and asked Mrs Lyden to give
them something to eat, and he was prepared to welcome them as became a
host; but to be asked who the devil he might be, in his own house, was
the last straw of the nightmare, and transformed him from a mild English
gentleman into a foaming fury. However, the only effect on the strangers
of Mr Briggs’ rage was to move them to greater mirth, and as he rushed
out of the room he heard one man saying that they must have sent them a
lunatic this time.

In the kitchen he found Mrs Lyden in tears, and explanations soon
followed. For some time past the island had been used as a Sinn Fein
internment camp, and his unbidden guests consisted of a British colonel,
two subalterns, a D.I., and a magistrate from a neighbouring county, who
had given trouble to the Volunteers by insisting on holding Petty
Sessions Courts in opposition to the newly-established Sinn Fein Courts.

Realising that he was a prisoner in his own house, he returned to the
dining-room, explained this extraordinary situation to his
fellow-prisoners, and then joined them at their meal. When he had
finished he went for a stroll with the colonel, who explained matters
more fully to him. Most of the prisoners had been on the island for some
time, and so far had found no chance of attempting to escape. The
colonel himself had been captured whilst salmon-fishing on a river in
the south, and then brought blindfolded at night in a car to Lough
Moyra.

On inspecting the boat-house, Mr Briggs found that all his boats had
gone, even the one Lyden had rowed him out in, which the colonel told
him had been brought over from another island, where their guards lived,
and that the guards must have returned in her; further, that they were
visited every second day by these guards, who brought them food, for
which they had to pay a stiff price.

The colonel had unearthed two packs of patience cards, and the three
soldiers, with the D.I. for a fourth, played bridge from after breakfast
until they went to bed. In the sitting-room there was a small library of
Mr Briggs’ favourite books, and these kept the rest of the party from
drowning themselves in the lake.

Two days after his arrival, and just as he was thinking about retiring
for the night, Lyden came in to say that an officer wished to speak to
Mr Briggs outside, and on following Lyden he found a man dressed in a
wonderful green uniform waiting at the front door. The officer informed
Mr Briggs that he had come to take him to a republican court, which was
to be held that night on the mainland, and where the case of the
Republic _v._ Briggs would be heard. Mr Briggs had never heard of such a
thing as a republican court, but could get no further information from
the gentleman in green, and shortly afterwards the party set out in a
boat for the mainland.

By the time they landed it was quite dark, and after a walk of about
twenty minutes they arrived at a large building, which Mr Briggs
recognised as Cloonalla chapel, and here the officer handed him over to
a local publican, who told him to follow him into the chapel. Inside
there was a large crowd of country people, while at one end was a raised
table, at which were seated the three judges—two in civilian attire, and
the third in the clothes of a priest.

After his eyes had got accustomed to the poor light of the few
oil-lamps, Mr Briggs recognised in the presiding judge the parish priest
of a neighbouring parish, and in the other two judges a butcher and a
good-for-nothing painter from Ballybor. At the time of his entry a river
fishing-rights case was before the court, with a Ballybor solicitor
acting for the defendant, while another well-known solicitor from the
same town acted as “Republican Prosecutor.”

After a time the case of the Republic _v._ Briggs came on for hearing,
and Mr Briggs learnt, to his great astonishment, that they proposed to
take his island and fishing rights on Lough Moyra from him compulsorily
for the sum of £200, to be paid in Dail Eireann Bonds, whatever they
might be, and that he was to be deported to England as soon as
convenient. At the end of the case the presiding judge asked Mr Briggs
if he had any objection, but he wisely refused to say anything, and
shortly afterwards was handed over to the green officer, who took him
back to the island.

A few days after, as Mr Briggs was sitting disconsolately on a rock at
the north end of the island, gazing across the lake and wondering if he
would ever fish there again, he heard the distant hum of a motor-engine,
and in a short time saw a ‘plane approaching the island from the
south-east. Wild with excitement, he dashed into the house, calling the
colonel to come out at once. The colonel got up from the card-table, and
on seeing the ‘plane quickly collected all the sheets and blankets he
could find, and hurriedly spread them out in the form of rough letters,
spelling the word “HELP” on the grass in front of the house, and then
ran down to the end of the quay, where he waved a sheet frantically over
his head.

For what seemed an age to the prisoners, the ‘plane took no notice of
the colonel’s signals; then, to their great joy, the pilot cut off his
engine, dropped to about 800 feet, and flew low over the island, turned,
flew over the island again, and then made off at full speed in a
southerly direction. That night none of the prisoners slept a wink,
expecting every minute to hear the sounds of their deliverers’ approach.

On the return of the ‘plane to the aerodrome a cipher message was at
once despatched to Blake, with instructions to investigate the trouble
on the island; but, as usual, the message was delayed in the post
office, and received too late to take any action that evening. On
inquiry, Blake found that, though formerly two police boats were kept on
the lake for the purpose of raiding poteen-makers on the islands, some
time ago these boats had been burnt, and there was no means of getting
out to the islands.

Early the next morning the police borrowed a motor-launch lying in the
river at Ballybor, and with difficulty mounted it on a commandeered
lorry. Taking a strong police force with them, Blake and Jones then set
out for the lake, deciding to launch the boat at a bay close to
Cloonalla chapel. Here the road ran about fifty yards from the lake, but
by the aid of rollers they soon got the launch off the lorry and afloat.

Leaving a guard over the cars and lorry, the police then set out for the
islands, and all went well until they reached the neck of the bay, which
was only about 200 yards wide. Here they came under heavy rifle-fire
from the north shore, the attackers being hidden amongst bushes and the
ruins of an old cottage.

Unfortunately one of the first shots cut the magneto wire, and the
launch at once started to drift helplessly in the wind towards the
attackers. While Blake repaired the wire, Jones swept the attackers with
a Lewis gun, which quickly smothered their fire, and the wire being soon
repaired, the launch got under way again, and made for the open lake at
full speed.

Blake had never been on Lough Moyra before, but had brought with him a
sergeant who had often taken part in poteen raids on the islands in
former days. On looking at an Ordnance map he found that there were two
large islands—one with only a fishing-lodge marked on it, and the other
with seven houses shown—and on the sergeant’s advice they made for the
latter, on the assumption that something must have gone wrong with their
boats, and that the people might be short of food.

When within about 400 yards of the island they again came under
rifle-fire, and realising that they had called at the wrong house, and
that it would be impossible to effect a landing except at a heavy loss,
they changed their course and made for the second island; but before
they got half-way a boat put out from the first island, and made off in
the direction of the far shore.

The launch was fairly fast, and in a very short time they were within
600 yards of the boat, when Blake fired a single shot as a signal to it
to stop. In reply the boat opened fire on the launch, but one short
burst of Lewis-gun fire quickly brought them to their senses, and the
occupants put up their hands.

After disarming these men Blake took their boat in tow, and this time
succeeded in reaching Mr Briggs’ island safely, where he was astonished
to meet the prisoners on the quay, and more especially the D.I., who had
been missing for some time, and of whom all hope had been given up. The
whole party then set off for the mainland, found that the guard had
successfully beaten off an attack on the cars, and eventually all
returned safely to Ballybor with only two constables slightly wounded.

Two days afterwards Mr Briggs embarked on the s.s. _Cockatoo_, bound for
England, where he will probably remain until the war in Ireland is over.



                                  IX.
                         THE REWARD OF LOYALTY.


For some time after the death of Anthony Mayne, the murdered R.M., Petty
Sessions Courts ceased to be held in Ballybor, and the Sinn Fein Courts
reigned supreme. At length Mayne’s successor arrived, and endeavoured to
start the Courts in his district again, but found that not only were the
country people too terrorised to bring any cases before a British Court,
but that most of the magistrates had resigned, and none of the few
remaining ones would face the bench.

However, Fitzmaurice, the new R.M., stuck to it, and in the end a
retired officer, living just outside Ballybor, became a magistrate for
the county; and suddenly, to the intense excitement of the whole town,
it was given out that some countryman had had the audacity to defy the
edict of Dail Eireann, and to summon a neighbour to appear before the
British magistrates.

The court-house at Ballybor is a most curious-looking edifice of an
unknown style of architecture, shabby and dismal outside and like a
vault inside. On the day that the Court reopened the place was packed to
the doors, and when the clerk stood up to announce the Court open, and
ending with the words, “God save the King!” the silence could be felt.

It was what is known in the west of Ireland as a “saft day”—a day of
heavy drizzling rain and a mild west wind off the Atlantic, and after a
time the crowded court-house of countrymen in soaked home-spuns and
women with reeking shawls over their heads literally began to steam, and
the strong acrid smell of turf smoke from the drying clothes became
overpowering. At first all eyes were fixed on the two magistrates
sitting on the raised dais at one end of the court-house, and many,
remembering poor Mayne’s end, wondered how long the two had to live. The
R.M., they knew, was well paid by the British Government, but the second
magistrate’s unpaid loyalty must surely be a form of madness, or most
likely he received secret pay from the Government.

After the disposal of cases brought by the police for various offences,
the only civil case on the list—in reality the beginning of a trial of
strength between Sinn Fein and the British Government—came on for
hearing, and in due course the magistrates gave a decision in favour of
the complainant, a herd by name Mickey Coleman.

Taking advantage of the suspension of the law, a neighbour, Ned Foley,
had thought to get free grazing, and day after day had deliberately
driven his cattle on to Coleman’s land. Coleman, having remonstrated
repeatedly with Foley in vain, consulted a Ballybor solicitor, who
advised him to bring Foley into a Sinn Fein Court, where, he assured
him, he would get full justice. This Coleman refused to do, and after
consulting a second solicitor, brought the case before the Ballybor
Petty Sessions Court.

Coleman appears to have been a man of great determination and courage,
as he had been repeatedly warned by the Volunteers that if he persisted
in taking Foley into a British Court they would make his life a hell on
earth; and as he left the court after winning his case, a note was
slipped into his hand to the effect that the I.R.A. neither forgets nor
forgives.

Coleman had started life as a farm labourer, eventually becoming herd to
a Loyalist called Vyvian Carew, whose ancestors came over to Ireland in
the time of Queen Elizabeth, and who lived alone in a large house about
eight miles from Ballybor, where he farmed his own demesne of four
hundred Irish acres.

Carew belonged to a class of Irishman fast dying out in the west, and
considering that it has always been the policy of every Liberal
Government to throw them to the wolves, it is almost beyond belief that
any are left in the country. A type of man any country can ill afford to
lose, and all countries ought to be proud and glad to gain. After
serving throughout the late war in the British Army, Carew had returned
home, hoping to live in peace and quiet for the rest of his days, but
had soon been undeceived. Though working himself as hard as any small
farmer, and farming his land far better than any other man in the
district, it was decided by men who coveted his acres that he possessed
too many, and the usual steps in the west were taken to make him give up
three of his four hundred acres, and if possible force him to sell out
all.

Coleman started with a heavy heart for his cottage in Rossbane, Carew’s
demesne, and from the moment he left the court-house until he lifted the
latch of his door found himself treated as a leper by townsfolk and
country people alike. Probably some of the people would have been
willing to speak to him, and most likely many admired his pluck, but a
man who comes under the curse of the I.R.A. is to be avoided at any
costs. No man can tell when that sinister curse, which is often a matter
of life and death to a peasant, may be extended to an unwary
sympathiser.

In the evening, when going round the cattle, he met his master, who, on
being shown the threatening note, at once wanted Coleman to bring his
family up to the big house; but he refused, knowing that if he did his
cottage would probably be burnt and his own few cattle either stolen or
maimed.

Soon after eleven that night there came a loud knock at the door, and
Coleman, who had been sitting by the fire expecting a visit, rose up to
meet his fate, but was caught by his terrified wife, who clung to him
with the strength of despair. At last Coleman succeeded in opening the
door, and to their utter astonishment in walked a British officer,
dressed in khaki topcoat, steel helmet, and with a belt and holster. The
officer explained that he came from Castleport, that he had a large
party of soldiers on the road outside, and that he was going to scour
the countryside for rebels that night. Lastly, he said that he had been
told Coleman was well disposed, and would he help him by giving
information?

Coleman, who at the sight of a British officer in a steel helmet, when
he expected a Volunteer with a black mask, had been overcome with joy,
at the mention of that sinister word “information” regained his senses,
and answered that he had none to give; that he was only a poor herd
striving to do his work and keep a wife and a long weak family, and that
he had nothing to do with politics.

The officer said nothing, but sat down by the fire on a stool and
started to play with the children; presently he returned to the charge
again, and asked the herd where the Foleys lived, and if they were
Volunteers. The mention of the name of Foley confirmed Coleman in his
growing suspicion, and he replied that he knew the Foleys for quiet
decent boys, and he believed that they had nothing at all to do with
politics.

Shortly afterwards the officer wished them good-night, leaving Coleman
and his wife a prey to conflicting emotions. If he really was a British
officer, then at any rate they were safe for that night, but if not,
then probably some terrible outrage was brewing. Only a week before the
Volunteers had set fire, while the inmates were in bed, to the house of
a farmer, who had bought the farm a few days previously at a public
auction, contrary to the orders of the I.R.A.; and though the inmates
just managed to escape in their night attire, their two horses and a cow
were burnt to death, and their charred bodies could still be seen lying
amid the ruins from the main road—a warning to all who thought of
disobeying the I.R.A.

After the time it would take to walk to the Foleys’ house and back there
came a second knock, and the officer entered again, pushing one of the
young Foleys in front of him with his hands up. “Here’s the young
blighter,” said the officer to Coleman, “and if you will give the
necessary information about him, I’ll have him shot by my men outside at
once.”

But Coleman, whose suspicion by now was a certainty, refused to be
drawn, and replied that he knew nothing against the Foleys, and that
they were quiet respectable neighbours.

For some time the officer tried his best to get Coleman to give evidence
against Foley, but at last, finding it was useless, left, taking his
prisoner with him.

By now the Colemans were too unhappy to go to bed, and sat round the
fire in silence. After an hour there came a third knock, and again the
officer appeared; but this time Coleman could see quite a different
expression on his face, and in a brutal voice, not taking the trouble to
hide his brogue, he bade the unfortunate herd “get up out of that and
come outside.”

Coleman followed his tormentor outside, and there found a mob of young
men and boys waiting for him, who proceeded to kick him along the road
for a mile, when he could go no farther, and fell on the road. They then
tied his hands and ankles, and left him in the middle of the road for a
police car to run over him. And here he lay all night in the rain.

The next day was market-day in Ballybor, and many of the country people
started early in their carts for the town, and though none drove over
the herd, yet one and all passed by on the other side.

Luckily, when the herd was nearly gone from cold and exposure, the good
Samaritan appeared in the shape of Carew driving to Ballybor, and in a
short time he had Coleman back at Rossbane in front of a big turf fire;
and after placing him in charge of the cook, brought the herd’s family
to a cottage in the yard, and then drove into Ballybor to see Blake. But
the D.I. had his hands too full to be able to give protection to
individuals.

At this time, next to Sinn Fein, the Transport Union was the strongest
party in the west, and being composed of landless men, its main object
was to gain land for its members by all and every means in its power,
with the result that their attention was concentrated on outing all men
with four hundred acres or more in their possession, and next would come
the men with three hundred acres, and so on down the scale.

The farmer with forty acres or thereabouts—the best class of small
farmer in the west, and if let alone the most law-abiding, as they are
numerous and possess something worth holding on to—soon realised where
this would lead to, and tried to apply the brakes. They would have
succeeded but for their younger sons, who, in the ordinary course of
events, would have found good employment in the States, but under
present circumstances have to remain at home helping to make small
fortunes for their parents. It is this class of young men who, with the
shop boys, form the rank and file of the I.R.A., and in the case of the
farmers’ sons it is the western peasants’ usual characteristic of “land
hunger” which forms the chief driving power.

At one period it looked as though Sinn Fein and the Transport Union
would come to loggerheads; but Sinn Fein proved too strong, and the two
became partners to all intents and purposes.

A few days after he had returned from his fruitless visit to Blake,
Carew received a letter from the secretary of the local branch of the
Transport Union calling upon him to dismiss Coleman, and that if he did
not comply at once the Union would call out all his men. Carew ignored
the letter and the threat.

The Owenmore river runs through Rossbane, roughly dividing it into two
equal parts, and after a fortnight Carew received a letter from the
I.R.A. calling upon him to attend a Sinn Fein Court the following Sunday
night at Cloonalla Chapel, and saying that the part of his demesne
separated from the house by the river was to be taken from him, and if
he wished to claim “compensation” he must attend the “Court.” And again
Carew ignored the letter.

A week afterwards all his farm hands and servants, with the exception of
the cook, Katey Brogan, simply vanished, and Carew found himself with
only Katey and Coleman to keep going a large house and a
four-hundred-acre farm. Nothing daunted, he took the Colemans into the
house, made Mrs Coleman cook and Katey housemaid, whilst Coleman and he
determined to carry on with the farming as best they could.

A few days after a little girl brought a message that Katey’s father was
very ill, and that her mother wished her to go home at once; so Katey
left immediately, and the following day Carew rode over to see if he
could help the Brogans, knowing that they were miserably poor.

The Brogans lived in a two-roomed hovel on the verge of a bog, and on
entering a terrible sight met Carew’s eyes. The old man lay dead in one
bed, Katey dead in the second bed with a large bullet-hole through her
forehead, and the old mother crooning over the fire ashes, stark mad.

He then tried to find out what had happened from two neighbouring
cottages, but in each case the door was slammed in his face with a curse
of fear. After wandering about for over an hour he met a small boy, who
told him the details of the worst murder the country had yet seen.

It appeared that Katey must have written to the police in Ballybor with
reference to the treatment of the Colemans, and that the letter had
fallen into the hands of Sinn Fein agents in the post office.

Using old Brogan’s illness to decoy Katey home, the murderers waited
until midnight, when they knocked at the door. At the time Katey was
sitting by the fire making broth for her father, and at once opened the
door, to be confronted by eight armed men wearing white masks and black
hats, one of whom said, “Come with us.” Apparently Katey refused,
whereupon they seized her, bound her wrists, and dragged her screaming
and struggling to a field some hundred yards from her home.

Here they tried her by court-martial, convicted her, and no time was
lost by the assassins in carrying out the death sentence. They then
flung her body outside the cottage, where it was found by her mother,
whose cries brought old Brogan out of his bed, and between them they
managed to carry their murdered daughter in. The shock was too much for
the old man, and he died shortly after he returned to bed, which finally
turned the old woman’s brain.

Then followed weeks of misery. Every night Carew’s cattle were driven,
his gates taken off their hinges and flung into the river, trees were
cut down, fences smashed, and the showing of a light at any window was
the signal for a volley of shots. Life in the trenches on the Western
Front was often fearful enough, but to realise the life Carew and his
herd led at this time one must remember that they had to carry on week
in week out, with no rest billets ever to retire to, apart from the fact
that at any moment sudden death in some horrible mutilating form might
be their lot.

The first fair at which Carew tried to sell cattle warned him of the
futility of attending any more. Sinn Fein “policemen,” with green,
white, and yellow brassards on their arms, took care that no buyers came
near him, while all the corner boys in Ballybor amused themselves by
driving his cattle backwards and forwards through the fair until they
could hardly move. Directly Carew would make for one set of tormentors,
a fresh lot would appear behind his back and take up the chase.

After starting Coleman on his way home with the weary cattle, he went to
the grocer he had dealt with for years, meaning to lay in a good stock
of provisions. On entering the shop the owner took Carew into a private
room, and explained that if he sold one pennyworth of food to him his
shop would be burnt over his head that night, and that all the
shopkeepers had received the same orders from the I.R.A. Carew then went
straight to the police barracks, where the police soon bought all that
he required.

It was nearly dark when Carew drew near to his entrance gate, and as his
horse started to walk four men darted out from the shadow of the demesne
wall, two seizing the horse, while the rest, covering him with
shot-guns, ordered him to get out.

Carew had no alternative but to comply, whereupon his captors led him
down a lane towards the river, where they were joined by a crowd of men
and boys. On reaching the river a violent argument started, one section
being for drowning him out of face, while another wished to give him a
chance of his life if he would swear to give up his land. In the end
they compromised, and two tall men took Carew by the arms and waded out
into the river with him until they were over their waists.

The leader then called out to Carew that if he would not agree to
surrender all his lands and promise to leave the country they would
drown him there and then. In order to gain time Carew pretended to be
greatly frightened, and started a whining altercation with the leader on
the bank. As he expected, his would-be executioners soon joined in
heatedly, so much so that shortly one let go of his arm, and throwing
the other off his balance with a quick wrench, Carew dived, and swimming
down and across the river under water was soon in safety on the far
bank. As soon as the crowd realised that their prisoner had escaped,
they opened fire on the river at once, hitting one of the men in the
water, whereupon the wounded man’s friends turned on another faction and
a free fight ensued.

Once across the river, Carew ran as hard as he could for the house of a
friendly farmer living on the main road on the east side of the river,
borrowed a bicycle from the man, and set off for Ballybor.

By great good luck, as Carew reached the barracks in Ballybor, he found
Blake on the point of setting out on a night expedition with a Crossley
load of police. On hearing his story Blake at once agreed to return with
him, in the hope that they might be in time to save Rossbane.

In order to surprise the Volunteers, Blake went by the road on the east
side of the river, and on reaching Carew’s demesne hid the car inside in
the shadow of some trees. Carew then swam the river, brought back a
boat, and ferried the police across in three parties.

The farm buildings and main yard of Rossbane lie between the house and
the river, and on entering the yard the police found Coleman lying
insensible and surrounded by his weeping wife and children. Learning
from the woman that the Volunteers were on the point of setting fire to
the house, the police, led by Blake and Carew, who was armed with rifle
and revolver, and by now in a white heat of fury, made for the house in
two parties, one under Carew for the front entrance, and the other under
Blake for the back.

The last thing the Volunteers expected was a brutal assault by the
police, and after eating and drinking all they could find and looting
what happened to take their fancy, they had just sprayed petrol over the
hall and set it on fire when the police entered.

It is not often that the R.I.C. have the pleasure of coming to grips
with the elusive I.R.A., but when they do they put paid in capital
letters to the accounts of their murdered comrades, men shot in cold
blood in their homes, or dragged unarmed out of trains and butchered
like cattle.

The R.I.C. are probably one of the finest fighting forces to be found in
a continent where, at the present day, practically every man is trained
to arms, and most people have seen the fight cornered rats will put up.

The main hall of Rossbane was in the centre of the house, and after
setting fire to it the Volunteers had started to leave, some by the
front door and others through the kitchen, with the result that they ran
into the arms of the police, who did not waste time with futile shouts
of “hands up,” but proceeded at once to business.

At first they fought in darkness; but soon the flames gathered strength,
and their glow silhouetted the forms of the Volunteers, giving the
police as good targets as man could wish for.

In a short time the Volunteers broke; some rushed upstairs never to be
seen alive again, while others fled into the drawing-room which opened
off the hall, only to find escape cut off by heavy barred shutters. By
now the centre of the house was burning fiercely, and all the police had
to do to complete the rout was to wait outside the two exits and let the
flames act the part of ferrets. Ten minutes more saw the end, and with
it the few Volunteers who escaped with their lives, handcuffed together
in a miserable group in the big yard, covered by two Black and Tans. And
when the captain of the Rossbane Company of the I.R.A. revised his
company roll, his pen must have been busy with “gone to America” after
many names.

Dawn broke on a sight worthy of modern Russia, on the smouldering ruins
of the fine old house, on the wretched groups of singed and blackened
Volunteers, and on the group of still weeping Colemans huddled in a
corner of the yard as far from the fire of the Volunteers as they could
get.

Carew, still undaunted, though wounded in a leg and shoulder and soaked
to the skin for hours, wished to stay on in the cottage in the yard; but
as soon as the fight was over, Blake had sent half his force back to
Ballybor in the Crossley to bring out more transport, and the argument
was settled by the arrival of two Crossleys and three Fords, in which
Blake returned to barracks, taking Carew and the Colemans with him as
well as the prisoners. It was impossible to leave any police at
Rossbane; the wounded had to be attended to, and Blake rightly guessed
that the Volunteers had had a dose that night which would keep them
quiet for some time to come.

Carew’s wounds were only slight, and the following day he was determined
to return to Rossbane. Poor Coleman had no option but to go with his
master, having no money, a family to provide for, and knowing full well
that he might as well ask for the crown of England as seek employment
elsewhere in the west, while emigration to the States was out of the
question.

Blake was now in an awkward dilemma. Unable to give Carew protection, he
feared that if he returned the chances were that both he and the herd
would be murdered. However, Carew was determined to go, so Blake gave
out on the quiet that if anything happened to either of them the
Auxiliaries would be called in, and let him go.

For some time Carew lived in peace. The fight at the burning of Rossbane
had put the fear of God into the local Volunteers, and most of them
would as soon have faced a Lewis gun as face Carew in a fighting mad
temper, while the threat of the Auxiliaries stayed the hands of the
“shoot him from behind a wall brigade.”

At length Carew went up to Dublin to find out about the payment of his
malicious injury claim for the burning of Rossbane, and on his return
was met at Ballybor Station by Blake with the news that some I.R.A.
flying column had beaten Coleman to death and burnt all the outbuildings
at Rossbane, not leaving a wall standing.

Carew wished now to put up a wooden hut at Rossbane and endeavour to
carry on alone; but Blake refused to let him go, and in the end he was
persuaded, greatly against his will, to sell his lands by public
auction.

The auction took place in Ballybor, the lands being divided into lots of
a suitable size to suit small farmers; but the auctioneers did not
receive a single bid—the I.R.A. saw to that.

Carew now determined to leave his lands waste, his home in ruins, and as
soon as he received the money for his malicious injury claim, to go to
British East Africa, there to await the return of better days in
Ireland, when he intends to return and rebuild the home of his fathers.
Will they ever come?



                                   X.
                                POTEEN.


There are very few industries in the west of Ireland, and of these by
far the most lucrative is the distillation of illicit whisky, or, as it
is generally called by the peasants, poteen.

The average countryman would far rather make a fiver by sticking a
stranger with a horse than £100 by hard honest work. Add an element of
danger, and he is quite content. The making of poteen combines much
profit with little labour and a good element of danger, in that the
distiller may be caught by the police and heavily fined.

The beginning of poteen is lost in the mist of past ages, and the end
will probably synchronise with the end of Ireland; the amount made
varies with the demand, and the demand fluctuates with the price and
supply of whisky.

During 1919, when whisky became weak, dear, and scarce, and the police
for a time practically ceased to function, the call for poteen became so
great that the demand far exceeded the supply, and for many months the
whisky sold in the majority of publichouses throughout the west was made
up of a mixture of three-quarters poteen and a quarter whisky.

At the beginning of the last century all poteen was made from malt in
the same way as whisky is made, until some thoughtful man argued that if
they could make beer from sugar in England, we could surely make poteen
from the same material in Ireland; and as any one buying malt or growing
barley was liable to attract the eye of the R.I.C., all poteen ceased to
be made from malt, and the far simpler method of distilling from
“treacle” continues to this day. Treacle is largely imported in barrels
to Ireland, ostensibly for the purpose of fattening cattle and pigs.

In the early part of 1919 a young Welshman, David Evans, was demobilised
with a good gratuity, and being a keen fisherman, determined he would
have one good summer’s salmon-fishing in Scotland before settling down
to work. But Evans was not the only man looking out for salmon-fishing
in Scotland, and he soon realised that that country was out of the
question.

During the war Evans had served at one time in the same division with
Blake, and thinking that the latter might know of some good
salmon-fishing at a moderate rent, he wrote to him. By return of post
came an answer from Blake, saying that, owing to the bad state of the
country, very few Englishmen had taken fishings in Ireland that season,
and that there was a very good stretch of the Owenmore river, about ten
miles above Ballybor, to let at a moderate rent.

Evans at once wired asking Blake to take the fishing for him, and ten
days afterwards took up his quarters at Carra Lodge, a small fishing
lodge on the bank of the river.

Ireland has probably benefited more than any other country in Europe by
the war, and not least by the submarine scourge, which not only raised
the prices of cattle and pigs beyond the dreams of avarice, but also
increased the number of salmon in Irish rivers to an extent unknown
within the memory of man. Before the war salmon and sea-trout in many
western rivers were rapidly becoming exterminated through the great
increase of drift-nets at sea; but directly the first German submarine
was reported to have been seen off the west coast not a fisherman would
leave land, with the result that the fish had free ingress to their
native rivers, and the numbers of spawning fish were greatly increased.

Evans had great sport, thoroughly enjoyed himself, and found the
peasants quite the most charming and amusing people he had ever met. No
matter what sort of house he entered, he was received like a prince and
bid ten thousand welcomes; a carefully dusted chair would be placed by
the fireside for “his honour,” and a large jar of poteen produced from
under the bed.

Towards the end of his time at Carra Lodge, Evans came to the conclusion
that, if he could only discover some way of making a decent income, he
would settle down in the west of Ireland; but the question of how to
make money puzzled him greatly. Farming did not appeal to him, and
beyond that there did not appear to be any other industry open to an
enterprising young man, and any profession was ruled out owing to the
long period of training required.

Before the war Evans had worked for a short time in a distillery, and
had a good idea of how to make whisky and of malting; but to start a
distillery in the Ballybor district was out of the question, owing to
the smallness of his capital. But if he could not make whisky, he could
make poteen with a very small outlay.

On making inquiries, he found that the possibilities of the idea were
enormous; the outlay was small, the returns great, but the risks were
also great. Yet if detection could be avoided, the returns would only be
limited by the amount of treacle and malt available.

At this period the country people were full of money, and as whisky was
almost unattainable, they were prepared to pay a very high price for
poteen, and the distilleries were rapidly making fortunes. Still there
was considerable danger attached to the trade. The police, though hardly
ever seen outside their barracks except in large numbers, occasionally
carried out extensive poteen raids, and as it was nearly an
impossibility to find a house without poteen in it, they never returned
empty-handed.

Having decided to go into the poteen trade, the next question was where
to make it. To start distilling in a small way in a small house merely
meant certain discovery after making small profits, and Evans knew that
once he was caught red-handed by the police the game would be up.

During bad times in any country, when the honest but timid men go to the
wall, the unscrupulous but bold men come into their own, and often make
a fortune by means which in quieter times would be out of the question.
Evans belonged to the latter class.

Towards the end of 1919 the peasants started to burn unoccupied
country-houses throughout the south and west. Doubtless they were often
burnt by wild young men without rhyme or reason, but also probably with
the idea of making it impossible for the owners to return to their
homes, and so force them to sell their demesne lands to the very people
who had burnt their houses.

A few miles from Carra Lodge, at the foot of the mountains, stood one of
the largest houses in Connaught, Ardcumber House, the family seat of one
of the oldest Elizabethan families in Ireland, and probably the finest
sporting demesne in the west. The great house, full of Sheraton and
Chippendale furniture, commanded wonderful views of mountains and moors;
while in front runs the Owenmore river, famous for its salmon fishing,
through a valley which in winter time can show more snipe, duck, geese,
and wild game of all sorts than any other valley of its size in the
British Isles.

One would have thought that the above sporting attractions would have
satisfied any man; but the owner was one of those queer Irishmen who
preferred any country to his own, and divided his time between London
and Continental watering-places, leaving the management of his estates
to an agent, who lived in Ballybor.

When reading the ‘Field’ one evening, Evans came across an advertisement
of Ardcumber House to let to a careful tenant at a nominal rent.
Realising that the agent feared the house would be burnt if left empty,
he drove into Ballybor the following day, took Blake with him to
interview the agent, and drove home with a lease of Ardcumber House in
his pocket, at a rent which the sale of game and salmon would cover
twice over.

The best of the fishing being now over, Evans crossed to England,
nominally to collect his kit, in reality to have a large still made,
which he had packed in large cases, labelled furniture, and brought over
by long sea to Ballybor. At the same time he arranged with a sugar agent
in England to ship treacle in paraffin barrels to Ballyrick and Ballybor
as he required it.

When at home in Wales he induced a cousin, John Evans, to join him, and
the two set out for Ireland. In Dublin they purchased a Ford truck,
which they had fitted up as a shooting waggonette with a hood like a
boxcar, and in this, after obtaining the necessary police permit through
Blake, they drove straight down to the west, and took up their quarters
at Ardcumber.

They found the house in charge of an old woman, who lived in one of the
gate lodges, and arranged with her to cook for them and look after the
few rooms they used, allowing her to go home every evening at six
o’clock.

At the top of the house they found six large rooms shut off from the
rest of the house by a heavy door at the head of the stairs. Here they
erected the still, using a fireplace as a flue; in a second room they
erected wooden fomenting vessels, and in a third stored the treacle and
poteen. In order to obtain a supply of water they fitted a pipe to the
main water-supply tank, which was in the roof above the attics.

They now settled down to a regular routine of shooting by day and
distilling for a greater part of the night, living entirely to
themselves. Once a week they drove into Ballybor in the Ford to obtain
provisions.

Whenever they learnt that a consignment of treacle had reached Ballybor
or Ballyrick, they at once removed it in the Ford, stored it in the
stables, which they kept carefully locked, and carried the treacle in
large pails at night-time to the fermenting vessels in the attics.

At this time, so occupied were the police with looking after themselves,
and the country people with keeping clear of the R.I.C. and the
Volunteers, that nobody gave a thought to the “two queer foreigners
above in the big house” who were mad on shooting.

As soon as they had accumulated a good supply of poteen (the Irish
peasant has no fancy ideas about allowing poteen to mature, and will as
soon drink it hot from the still as not), they began to think of how to
dispose of it without calling unnecessary attention to themselves. In
the end they decided not to try distributing the poteen themselves, but
to find a reliable agent who had a good knowledge of the locality.

Even when he was very poor indeed the western peasant always insisted on
having the best of tea, or perhaps it would be more correct to say that
he insisted on paying a high price. At one time, so great were the
profits on tea, that merchants used to send carts through the country
districts selling nothing but tea, called by the country people “tay
carts.”

David Evans found out that the principal tea merchant for the Ballybor
district—in fact, for many miles round—was a grocer called Terence
O’Dowd, who kept a large shop in Ballybor, and had a branch in
Ballyrick. Hearing that O’Dowd was fond of coursing, Evans called at his
shop, and after buying a quantity of provisions, invited the man to
bring his hounds out to Ardcumber the following Sunday for some
coursing.

After the coursing they took O’Dowd into their confidence, showed him
the distillery and arranged that he should act as their agent. This part
was simple, but the difficulty was how, when, and where to deliver the
goods to O’Dowd. If the “tay carts” came to Ardcumber, or the distillery
Ford went to O’Dowd’s continually, suspicion would be aroused. After a
long discussion they decided on a plan of action.

Once a week, when Evans drove into Ballybor for provisions, he was to
fill up the Ford with poteen and leave the car in a shed in O’Dowd’s
yard, where the poteen could be transferred to O’Dowd’s cellars and the
car loaded up with empties. O’Dowd wanted to use earthenware jars, but
Evans decided on two-gallon petrol tins as being less likely to excite
suspicion.

For a considerable time the plan worked well. Evans took a full load
weekly to O’Dowd’s, whose tea carts distributed the poteen far and wide
throughout the district.

One morning Blake, who had spent a busy night raiding in the district
for arms and poteen stills, called in at Ardcumber on his way home and
had breakfast with the Evans. During the conversation he mentioned
casually that the country was flooded with poteen, and that they had
failed to find out where it was being made, but that they suspected it
was being delivered in tea carts from Ballybor.

As soon as Blake had gone David drove off into Ballybor, settled up his
accounts with O’Dowd, who was only too thankful to be rid of the job in
time, and before he left for home had arranged with an egg merchant
called Michael Flanagan, who sent lorries out to all the villages for
miles around collecting eggs, to take over the agency, the petrol tins
to be hidden in the straw of the empty egg-crates.

The police appear to have had no suspicion of Evans, and the
probabilities are that the Ardcumber distillery would have worked on
indefinitely but for interference from a quite unsuspected quarter. The
Sinn Fein leaders of the district began to grow uneasy at the effects of
the apparently unlimited supply of poteen on the discipline of the
Volunteers, and determined to put down the industry.

Any men who were now found with stills in their possession by the Sinn
Fein police were paraded before the congregation outside the chapels
after Mass on Sunday morning, the stills broken up with hammers, the
owners heavily fined, and then let go with a warning of much severer
penalties if they were found guilty of the same offence again.

Afterwards Evans and Flanagan received summonses to appear on a named
date before a Sinn Fein Court. Flanagan went and was heavily fined, but
Evans took no notice of the summons.

Flanagan was now, of course, afraid to act as agent, and the question
again arose of how they were to get the poteen to the different buyers.
While matters were in this state Flanagan sent a warning to Evans that
the Volunteers would raid Ardcumber on a certain night, and that the
results would be very unpleasant for them.

The situation was now serious. It was impossible for two men to defend
such a large house, and once inside, the Volunteers, apart from the fact
that they would probably shoot them, would certainly break up the
distillery, and the rapid increase of their bank balances would cease.

That evening they received a letter stating that they had been banished
from Ireland by an order of the Sinn Fein Court, and giving them two
days in which to leave the country. The same night, after dark, a volley
of shots was fired through the window of every room showing a light, and
the following morning they had to cook their own breakfast, as the old
woman did not turn up.

But David Evans was not beaten yet. After breakfast he motored into
Ballybor, where he waited until it was dark. He then went to the
barracks, and told Blake that the Volunteers had threatened to raid
Ardcumber the following night for arms, and suggested that the police
should ambush the Volunteers in the grounds.

Blake, only too glad to help a friend, and eager to get the Volunteers
together in the open, consented, and before Evans left the two had
thought out a very pretty trap.

It has been mentioned that Ardcumber stood at the foot of a range of
mountains, which isolated the Ballybor country on the east, and across
them for many miles there was only one track, which led down to the back
of the demesne, and which was never used except by country people
bringing turf in creels on donkeys from the mountain bogs during the
day-time.

Blake proposed to start out the following afternoon with a good force,
cross the mountains by the main road, which ran through a pass due east
of Ballybor, and return by the mountain track, reaching Ardcumber
demesne soon after dark. Here David Evans was to meet them and guide
them to the scene of the ambush. The district between the demesne and
the mountains was thinly populated, and at that hour no one would be
abroad for fear of the Black and Tans. The attackers would be certain to
come from the opposite direction, and would not be likely to arrive
before the moon rose at 11 P.M.

The police, with a party of Cadets and two Lewis guns, were in position
by 9 P.M. in a shrubbery on each side of the avenue, about a hundred
yards from the house. At 11.30 P.M. the Volunteers, sure of their prey,
marched up the avenue in column of route, singing the “Soldiers’ Song.”
When they were within forty yards Blake called on them to halt, lay down
their arms, and put up their hands.

The column halted at once, and for a second appeared to waver, but an
officer gave the order to deploy. Before the column could break up both
Lewis guns opened fire.

Unfortunately at this moment a dark cloud obscured the moon and heavy
rain began to fall, with the result that, after the first short burst of
fire, the Volunteers were invisible; and though the police started in
pursuit, they failed to overtake the flying rebels, and had to
concentrate on the house.

After collecting and rendering first-aid to the wounded—there were none
killed—the police brought their cars up to the house, and shortly
afterwards returned to Ballybor.

The Evanses were now fairly safe from the Volunteers, but again the
question of distributing the poteen arose, and this time it looked as
though they would have to do it themselves. They tried to induce
Flanagan to come on again; but the egg merchant was by now thoroughly
frightened, and thankful to get off with a heavy fine. O’Dowd, being a
police suspect, was out of the question, but there still remained His
Majesty’s mails.

The story of how the Evanses had played the police off against the
Volunteers was soon the talk of the countryside for many a mile, and so
queer and uncertain is the Irish peasant’s mentality that, where one
would have expected them to be furious and determined to be avenged, on
the contrary their great sense of humour was immensely tickled at the
idea of the police defending the Ardcumber distillery, and the Evanses
became popular heroes.

After the Volunteer attack, Blake, being afraid that they might make
another attempt to capture the arms in Ardcumber House, offered David a
party of Black and Tans for protection, but this offer was refused.

For some time His Majesty’s mail cars carried the Ardcumber poteen
punctually and efficiently—in fact, far better than either O’Dowd or
Flanagan had done. Petrol tins were still used to put the poteen in, and
Evans would leave the full tins at a garage twice a week, where the mail
cars got their petrol from, and if a mail car carried a few extra tins
of petrol, who thought anything about it?

Unfortunately the mail contract for that district ran out a few months
afterwards, and this time was given to a man from the north, an
Orangeman, and once again Evans had to find a fresh way of sending round
the country his now famous poteen.

But so popular had the Evanses become that, instead of having to seek
agents, they received offers to deliver the poteen from the manager of a
creamery in the Cloonalla district, and also from the manager of a
Cooperative Society in a village distant about four miles from
Ardcumber. Evans closed with both offers, and the cousins redoubled
their efforts to turn out all the poteen they possibly could, knowing
that an end must come sooner or later.

Two months afterwards the Auxiliaries discovered that the creamery was
being used as a Sinn Fein prison, and, as a result, raided the place one
night and burnt it to the ground. Incidentally, they found several full
petrol tins in the manager’s office, filled up their petrol tanks with
them, and could not make out why the cars would not start.

It is both possible and probable that, except for some unforeseen
accident, the Evanses might have gone on making and selling poteen for
an indefinite time—in fact, as long as the country remained in the
present state of chaos. The distillation of poteen always has and always
will appeal to the western peasant, and the story of how the Evanses
called in the police to defend their still against the attack of the
Volunteers will be told over the firesides of many a cottage for
generations to come—long after Sinn Fein is dead and buried.

But at last their good luck deserted them. One night while working at
the still, John carelessly knocked over an oil-lamp, and in a moment the
old dry woodwork of the attic was in flames. Before morning the grand
old house, with its great collection of priceless furniture, was a
smouldering ruin, nothing but the bare blackened walls standing, and so
it is likely to remain for all time.

The Evanses, having made a considerable sum of money by now, said
good-bye to Blake, and returned to their native land.



                                  XI.
                        THE MAYOR’S CONSCIENCE.


In the spring of 1920 Blake suddenly received orders to proceed to a
town in the south of Ireland on special duty, and on applying for leave
was granted a fortnight, which he determined to spend in Dublin. In due
course his relief arrived, and after handing over he found himself free
from all responsibility for the first time for many months.

At this period the Government and the Irish railwaymen were enacting a
comic opera worthy of Gilbert and Sullivan at their best, the Government
paying the railway companies a huge subsidy, the greater part of which
found its way into the railwaymen’s pockets in the form of enormous
wages, while the men refused to carry any armed forces of the Crown; and
the public, who, of course, indirectly paid the subsidy, looked on
helplessly.

In order to get a passenger train Blake had to motor thirty-two miles to
a station in the next county, where, as yet, no armed forces had tried
to travel. While waiting here a green country boy asked him some trivial
question, and with little difficulty Blake led him on to tell his whole
history.

In spite of a Sinn Fein edict to the contrary, many young men, who could
find no work in Ireland, or who wished to avoid service in the I.R.A.,
were at this time contriving to emigrate to the States by crossing to
England and sailing from Southampton. In order to defeat this, Sinn Fein
agents were in the habit of frequenting the termini in Dublin for the
purpose of getting in touch with these would-be emigrants and forcing
them to return home.

This youth, who came from the Ballyrick district, and had never been in
a train in his life, told Blake that a brother in the States had sent
him his passage, and that he was due to sail from Southampton in a few
days’ time, but had to go to the American Consul in Dublin in order that
his passport might be viséd, and asked Blake where the consul’s office
was.

Blake warned him not to tell any one he met on his journey that he was
going to America, or he would surely fall into the hands of the Sinn
Fein police, and thought no more about the matter.

When the train reached a junction after about an hour and a half’s run,
there was considerable delay while a large party of Auxiliary Cadets
searched the train, and eventually arrested a police sergeant, whom they
removed after a desperate struggle to a waiting motor. Blake was reading
at the time, and did not think anything was wrong until he saw the
sergeant being dragged out of the station. It then occurred to him that,
though he thought he knew every Cadet in the west by sight, yet he
failed to recognise any of the search-party. However, it was useless to
interfere, as he was alone and unarmed.

Blake stayed at a hotel near Stephen’s Green, and for the first part of
the night, so silent and empty were the streets, that Dublin might have
been a city of the dead. However, about 2 A.M., a miniature battle broke
out in some near quarter, and for hours rifle-fire and the explosions of
bombs continued, varied at times by bursts of machine-gun fire.

The following morning after breakfast he set out to see a high official
in the Castle, a friend of his father’s, and also to report at the
R.I.C. Headquarters there. While walking along Grafton Street shots
suddenly rang out at each end, and at once the crowd tried to escape
down several by-streets, only to be held up by the Cadets at every
point; and it was not until two hours afterwards, when the Cadets had
satisfied themselves that the men they wanted were not there, that Blake
was free to proceed to the Castle.

The streets appeared much the same as usual, but the Castle was greatly
changed from peace times. The entrance gates were heavily barred; barbed
wire, steel shutters, and sandbags in evidence everywhere. Outside, a
strong party of Dublin Metropolitan Police and Military Foot Police.
Inside, a strong guard of infantry in steel helmets, while a tank and
two armoured cars were standing by ready to go into action.

As nobody was allowed to enter the Castle without a pass, Blake had to
get a friend from the headquarters of the R.I.C. to identify him before
he could gain admission, and he learnt from his friend that the party of
Auxiliaries he had seen the previous day arresting the police sergeant
at the junction were in reality a flying column of Volunteers, who had
managed to smuggle the Cadets’ uniforms into the country from England.

Blake found that most of the officials in the Castle were virtually
prisoners there, and in order to keep their figures down had improvised
a gravel tennis-court and also a squash racket-court.

When training at the depot in Dublin, Blake had made the acquaintance of
a Colonel Mahoney, who had retired and lived near Kingstown with his
only daughter, and his chief object in going to Dublin was to see Miss
Mahoney again. After leaving the Castle he met her by appointment, and
after they had lunched and been to a picture-house, they left by tram to
be back in time for tea with the Colonel. After the tram started Blake
found that he had an hour to spare, and got out at Ballsbridge to see a
friend, while Miss Mahoney went on alone.

On reaching the Mahoneys’ house Blake learnt that, when Miss Mahoney got
out at Kingstown, she had been followed by four young men, who had
demanded the name of the man she had travelled in the tram with, and on
her refusing to disclose Blake’s name, they had knocked her down with
the butts of their revolvers, and left her there partially stunned.

The following day, when on her way to meet Blake again in Dublin, her
tram was held up by Auxiliaries, and all the men on it carefully
searched for arms; but before the Cadets boarded the tram, Miss Mahoney
saw several young men pass their revolvers to girls sitting next to
them, with the result that the Auxiliaries found no arms. On leaving the
tram at the end of Kildare Street, the pockets of her coat feeling
unusually heavy, she put her hands into them and found a revolver in
each. At the same moment two men overtook her and demanded their arms.

When he had been in Dublin four days Blake had to go to Broadstone
Station to inquire about a kit-bag which had been lost on the journey to
Dublin. He reached the station about a quarter of an hour before the
departure of the train for the west, and passing a group of young men on
the platform, recognised amongst them the youth who had asked him where
to find the American consul.

There were no police within sight, and it was useless to interfere
single-handed, but without doubt the talkative youth had fallen into the
hands of the Sinn Fein Police, who were returning him to his home minus
his passage-money: the group consisted of four dejected-looking youths
and three rough-looking men, obviously in charge of the others.

When his leave was up Blake left for the south by an express train,
changing at a junction after about two hours’ run. Here, just as the
train was on the point of starting, an armed party of the Royal
Fencibles under a subaltern marched on to the platform and took their
seats in several different third-class carriages, the officer getting
into Blake’s carriage. There was a considerable delay, and Blake
expected that, as usual, the guard and driver would refuse to carry
armed soldiers, but to his surprise the train started without any
incident.

After an hour’s run, the train pulled up with a sudden jerk in a cutting
just outside a station, and as the subaltern put his head out of the
window to ascertain the cause, the train was raked from end to end by
heavy rifle-fire, and the young subaltern collapsed on top of Blake, his
head shattered by a dum-dum bullet.

Blake threw himself flat on the floor of the carriage until the fire
from the top of the cutting slackened owing to a Lewis gun opening fire
from one of the carriages near the engine. Taking the dead boy’s
revolver, he then jumped on to the line, and made his way towards the
forward carriages, where the soldiers had opened fire with their rifles.

Here he found a gallant Lewis gunner, badly wounded in an arm and leg,
firing his gun as fast as he could mount the magazines, and so
preventing the Volunteers from leaving their cover at the top of the
bank and attacking at close quarters.

So hot was the Lewis gunner’s fire that after five minutes the
Volunteers broke off the action and simply vanished. Blake then turned
his attention to the wounded civilians, and though he had grown
indifferent to dreadful sights through years of war, the awful condition
of the dead and wounded in that train made him physically sick.

The majority of the wounds were from flat-nosed bullets, with the most
terrible results. In one carriage lay a young woman in a pool of blood,
her chest literally blown away by one of these devilish bullets. In
another, a middle-aged man was screaming like a mad wild animal, his arm
and shoulder shattered, and at his feet lay an old countrywoman, the top
of her head blown off.

Very few of the soldiers had been wounded, and under Blake’s command
they at once started off in pursuit, only to catch a glimpse of the
Volunteers disappearing down a road on bicycles.

After a long delay the train went on, and in order to try and forget the
awful scenes he had just witnessed, Blake endeavoured to read two
English papers. The first paper, in a long leading article, called for a
policy of conciliation in Ireland, while the second (a threepenny
edition of the first) recounted at great length a speech made the
previous day by a famous legal politician calling loudly upon the
Government to withdraw all troops from Ireland, and demanding that the
R.I.C. and Auxiliary Cadets should be severely dealt with for their
brutal reprisals on innocent people, but never a word about the savage
attacks on these same R.I.C. and Cadets by these “innocent people,” or a
single thought for the widows and orphans of the murdered policemen. In
disgust he threw both papers out of the carriage windows, and consigned
all politicians to the bottomless pit.

On arriving at Esker, Blake found that his chief duty was to act as
liaison officer between the military and police, and that he would be
attached to the staff of the G.O.C. of the district.

He quickly realised that the bad reports of the state of the south had
not been exaggerated, and that it was in a far worse state than the
west. Ambushes of police and military, attacks on trains, shootings of
unarmed soldiers and police in the streets at all hours of the day and
night, the finding of dead men riddled with bullets in every kind of
place, from an open field to an empty house, and the robbery of mails
occurred daily with monotonous regularity; and so accustomed had people
of all classes become to this saturnalia of crime, that they thought no
more about the murder of a human being than the usual man thinks of
killing a rat.

Blake’s principal work consisted of investigating these crimes in
company with police and soldiers, and afterwards in making out a report
for the General. In addition, he accompanied the General when making
tours through the district.

One morning they received news of a terrible ambush of Cadets, and on
arriving at the scene of the ambush Blake found the dead bodies of the
Cadets still lying on the road. All their equipment and personal effects
had been stolen, and their faces smashed in with an axe. Probably in
several cases this barbarous mutilation had been committed before the
unfortunate Cadets were dead.

Two days afterwards the bodies of the murdered Cadets passed through
Esker _en route_ for England. All shops were closed, and great crowds
collected in the streets. Blake was greatly struck by the different
attitudes of sections of the crowd, some taking their hats off with
every mark of reverence and sympathy when the coffins passed, while
others kept their hats on until ordered by the officers to uncover, and
many showed plainly by their faces that they were in full sympathy with
the murderers.

Conditions in the south were now rapidly drifting into a war of
extermination, and every morning brought fresh reports of men shot the
previous night, either in bed before the eyes of their relations, or
else against a wall outside their homes.

One evening word came to headquarters through the secret service that a
baker in an outlying village was to be shot that night. It appeared that
the baker, a moderate Sinn Feiner, had been chosen by the Inner Circle
to take part in one of their nightly “executions,” and had refused. So
the edict had gone forth that if the baker would not commit murder, he
should be murdered himself.

The General at once sent Blake with a party of soldiers to try and save
the baker’s life, but, missing their way in the dark, they arrived a few
minutes too late. They found the unfortunate man lying on his bed shot
through the head, while the only occupant of the house, the murdered
man’s sister, sat white-faced by the bedside moaning and wringing her
hands.

They could get nothing out of the sister, except that a party of armed
and masked men, in “trench coats” as ever, had suddenly burst into the
house and insisted that her brother should accompany them for some
unknown purpose, and that he had refused. For a time they argued with
him, until another man rushed into the house, calling out to them to be
quick as the soldiers were near. Whereupon they shot the baker as he lay
in bed, with the sister looking on, and then left the house hurriedly.

There seemed nothing to be done, and Blake was on the point of leaving
when his eye caught a piece of white paper under the bed, which turned
out to be the baker’s death-warrant for treason, signed by the C.M.A. of
the I.R.A.

On his return Blake handed the death-warrant to the Intelligence people,
who returned it shortly, saying that they could make nothing of it.
After showing it to the General, Blake put the warrant away, and thought
no more about it.

Some weeks afterwards, owing to the shooting of soldiers and police in
the streets after dark, the curfew was advanced an hour. As a result,
the number of curfew prisoners greatly increased—so much so on the first
night that there was no room in the usual detention quarters, and the
officer of the guard was obliged to use an empty office for the
overflow.

While the General was working in his office after dinner, the officer of
the guard brought a note from the Mayor of the town, who, he explained,
had been found on the streets after curfew hour by a patrol, and was now
a prisoner in the office below. The note requested a personal interview
with the G.O.C., and stated that the matter was of the highest
importance. The General passed the note to Blake, who was puzzled by the
familiarity of the writing, but unable to remember where he had seen it
before.

After some hesitation the General decided to see the Mayor, who was
brought in by the officer of the guard, and left alone with the General
and Blake. After beating about the bush for some time, the Mayor asked
that he might be kept under arrest and, if possible, deported by sea to
England, as he was in great danger of assassination, but would give no
reason for the danger, only stating that he had received threatening
letters.

The General explained that under no circumstances would he allow the
Mayor to be detained under arrest or deported, unless he could show
sufficient reasons. The Mayor replied that he considered the threatening
letters an ample justification for his request; he had not brought the
letters with him, but that if allowed to go home with a guard he would
fetch them. But the General, being determined to get all the information
he could out of the man, and knowing that once he had granted his
request it would be impossible to get anything out of him, refused.

By now Blake had identified the Mayor’s handwriting with the writing on
the baker’s death-warrant, and getting out the latter, placed the two
papers in front of the General, who at once taxed the Mayor with being
the head of the Inner Circle in Esker. This he denied, but on being
confronted with the two papers, broke down and made a complete
confession.

It appeared that for a long time past he had been the leader of Sinn
Fein in that district, and though himself a moderate man, he had been
unable to control the wild men, who had forced him, as head of the Inner
Circle, to sign the death-warrants of the men condemned to be
“executed,” or, in other words, the men they wished out of the way.
After a time, being a very religious man, his conscience had rebelled
against wholesale murder, and he had refused to sign any more
death-warrants.

Whereupon the wild men, being afraid that the Mayor might give them
away, had signed his death-warrant themselves, and that very morning he
had received by post a warning to prepare for death.

The General was now quite satisfied to order his arrest and deportation
forthwith; but the Mayor asked that he should be allowed to go home to
say good-bye to his family, and that he might be arrested in his own
house at some early hour in the morning. It was now nearly midnight, and
the General, after granting his request, arranged that a patrol should
arrest him at 4 A.M.

At 4 A.M. to the minute Blake drove up to the Mayor’s house in a lorry
with an officer and fifteen men, but at once saw that something was
wrong. Instead of the house being in complete darkness, most of the
windows were lit up, and the loud wails of women could be heard in an
upstairs room.

Leaving the officer to post sentries at the front and back of the house,
Blake knocked at the door, which was opened after some delay by a woman,
who, on seeing a police officer, tried to slam the door in his face.
Blake, however, managed to slip into the hall, and asked the woman what
was wrong, but she ran upstairs, calling out to some one above that the
police had returned.

On the first landing the woman was joined by another woman and a man,
and after a lot of trouble Blake at last got out of them that an hour
previously a party of tall men in black mackintoshes, with soft hats
pulled over their eyes, had gained admittance to the house, and made
their way straight to the Mayor’s bedroom, where they found him kneeling
down by his bed praying. After pushing the Mayor’s wife out of the room
they shot him, threw his body on the bed, and rushed out of the house.

Blake asked to be shown the Mayor’s body, and the man led him to a
bedroom at the back and opened the door. After making certain that the
dead man was the Mayor, Blake left and drove straight back to the
General.

That day the town was seething with excitement, and it was openly stated
by many men that the Mayor had been murdered by the police.

Shortly afterwards a public inquiry was held, and it was clearly proved
that every policeman in the town could be satisfactorily accounted for
during the night of the murder, and, moreover, that every round of rifle
and revolver ammunition could also be accounted for. However, this did
not suit the Sinn Feiners, and a verdict of “guilty” was brought in
against the authorities, though there can be no possible doubt in any
unbiassed mind that the Mayor of Esker was murdered either by, or by the
orders of, the Inner Circle.

When he went home, after his interview with the G.O.C., the natural
assumption was that he had been giving information, and the Inner Circle
determined that he should give no more. Whether they knew that he was to
be arrested and deported at 4 A.M., and deliberately forestalled the
arrest, or whether they merely knew that he was at headquarters, and
were waiting to murder him on the first favourable opportunity, is not
clear, and does not affect the question of the guilt of the murder.



                                  XII.
                            A BRUTAL MURDER.


The childlike trust which so many Englishmen have in their institutions
is a source of never-ending wonder to Irishmen, more especially the
Englishman’s blind faith in the integrity of the Post Office in both
countries. Long after Sinn Fein had made the Irish Post Office its chief
source of information, the Government and public continued happily and
blindly to confide their confidential correspondence to the tender
mercies of the King’s enemies, and at the same time expressed their
bewildered astonishment at the uncanny amount of information that the
Sinn Fein Secret Service was able to obtain.

It is highly doubtful if Blake would ever have even thought of obtaining
information from the mail bags, if a young subaltern, who commanded a
platoon of the Blankshires temporarily stationed in the Ballybor Police
Barracks, had not made the suggestion one night at dinner, and had even
offered to carry out the operation himself if Blake had any official
qualms. At first Blake refused, knowing that the authorities did not
approve of tampering with the public’s private letters; but being
desperately hard up for certain information he gave in, and it was
arranged that Jones, the subaltern, should carry out the search.

A cross-country letter in the west of Ireland will often take nowadays
any time from three to five days to arrive at a town only twenty miles
away, and of the chief reasons of this delay one is that the mails often
lie for twelve to twenty-four hours in a head post office before being
sent out to rural sub-offices for distribution, or in a railway van at
some junction awaiting a connection. This was well known to Blake, who
had often to complain of delay in delivery of official letters, and also
of letters from the “Castle” being frequently opened in the post.

Examining the mails in the Ballybor Post Office was out of the question,
owing to the almost unbelievable fact that the staff, from the
postmaster to the charwoman who washed out the tiled floors of the post
office every morning, were Sinn Feiners, one and all, so that there only
remained to search the mails in the train.

At this period the western railways were slowly dying from a creeping
paralysis caused by the engine-drivers and guards refusing to carry the
armed forces of the Crown, quite oblivious of the fact that it was only
possible to pay the railway men’s enormous wages through the Government
subsidy. For a time some lines shut down, but a goods train managed to
reach Ballybor six days a week with mails and the bare necessities of
life for the inhabitants—chiefly porter barrels. By good luck the guard
on this train chanced to be a Loyalist—probably the only one on the
line—and it was arranged with him that the mails should be searched by
Jones while the mail van waited in a siding for several hours at a
junction about sixteen miles from Ballybor.

Disguised as harvestmen, Jones and his servant were dropped at night
from a Crossley close to the junction and admitted to the mail van by
the guard; they at once set to work with electric torches, the batman
opening the letters, whilst Jones read and made a note of any useful
information, and when they had finished returned in the car to Ballybor
Barracks.

On returning to the barracks, Blake and Jones went carefully through the
information, and found that one letter addressed to a noted Sinn Feiner,
Mr Pat Hegarty, who lived near a village called Lissamore, about eight
miles away, gave sufficient evidence on which to hang Mr Hegarty. The
writer stated that on the 3rd inst. Hegarty was to expect the arrival of
an officer of the I.R.A. in uniform, who would come from the direction
of Castleport on a bicycle about 10 P.M. Hegarty was to keep this
officer in his house, place the new supply of American arms at his
disposal for ambushes, and the officer would not leave the district
until Blake had been either killed or kidnapped.

Some months previous to this Blake had been in the south on special
duty, and during his absence, MacNot, the D.I. who relieved him
temporarily, had called a truce with the Volunteers as long as all
appeared well on paper, with the result that the Volunteers had been
able to make full preparations for a second effort to wipe out the
police in the district. Soon after his return to Ballybor Blake heard
strong rumours of a second landing of American arms during his
absence—this time, at night at Ballybor quay—and the letter confirmed
the rumours.

On the night mentioned in the letter, Blake and Jones, accompanied by a
police sergeant and two constables, left Ballybor Barracks in a car
after dark in the opposite direction to that in which the village of
Lissamore lay, and after going about three miles turned off at a byroad
and proceeded by unfrequented roads, until they reached a small wood
about half a mile from Hegarty’s house on the Castleport road; here they
blocked the road with the car, and waited for their victim.

There was bright starlight, and punctually at 9.45 they saw a cyclist
approaching from the direction of Castleport; but so dark was it in the
wood that the cyclist only avoided running into the car by throwing
himself off, to be quickly seized by two stalwart policemen before he
could let go of his handle-bars, gagged and well tied up. They then took
him into the wood, removed his uniform, dressed him in an old police
uniform, and finally deposited him at the bottom of the car.

Jones then put on the Volunteer officer’s uniform, took his bicycle, and
rode on to Hegarty’s house, while the police backed the car up a
bohereen and waited there. Before starting out they had arranged that
Jones should camouflage his English voice by a Yankee twang, as a brogue
was quite beyond his powers.

On arriving at Hegarty’s house, Jones leant his bicycle against the
wall, and gave three mysterious knocks at the door. For quite two
minutes there was no answer, and just as he was preparing to knock
again, the door opened about three inches, and a girl’s voice asked in a
whisper who was there, and what he wanted at that time of night.

Now, unfortunately, the letter had not given the name of the I.R.A.
officer, so Jones, being afraid to give a name lest the Hegartys might
know the officer’s real name, muttered that he was a republican officer,
and had come to see Pat Hegarty. The door at once closed, and he could
hear the girl open and close a door at the back of the house, and for
fully ten minutes nothing further occurred.

This was not part of the play which Jones and Blake had carefully
rehearsed in the barracks that afternoon, and Jones was quite nonplussed
what to do next. Being young and impetuous, he was just on the point of
ruining the whole show by breaking in the door, when it opened and the
girl’s voice told him to come in.

The room was pitch dark, and for a second Jones hesitated; but the girl
laid her hand on his sleeve, and led him through to a lighted room at
the back, where he found Hegarty with his wife and son about to sit down
to supper. Hegarty bade him welcome, and the meal started.

After they had eaten for some time in silence, Hegarty asked him several
questions about where he had been recently, and of prominent Volunteers
in other parts of the country. Jones made the best answers he could, not
forgetting to keep up his American accent, and mentioned casually that
he had only recently come over from the States, where his parents had
been living for some years.

For a time there was silence again, but Jones could feel that the eyes
of Maria Hegarty were on him all the time; and presently she began to
ask most awkward questions about places and people in the States, and
Jones was hard put to it to avoid suspicion. Luckily Maria mentioned
that her friends lived in the Eastern States, so that it was easy for
Jones’s people to live far away in the west, and the situation was
saved.

Supper over, the women cleared the table and retired, while Hegarty
produced a large jar of poteen and tumblers, and the three men settled
themselves round the fire to drink and talk. For the next two hours
Jones extracted all the information he could out of the Hegartys, who,
though shy at first, warmed up after several glasses of poteen, and
Jones learnt from young Hegarty that the arms were kept under the floors
of a disused Protestant school-house in the rectory grounds at
Cloonalla, the rector of which was a notorious Loyalist, and would have
died sooner than conceal arms knowingly for the rebels.

At this point Jones, who had never tasted poteen before, suddenly
realised that he was nearly drunk, and that before he became quite drunk
it would be wiser to lie down on a bed. On inquiry, he found that he was
to sleep with young Hegarty, the idea of which so staggered him that he
felt soberer at once, and determined to try and hold out.

Suddenly there came a violent knocking at the front door, followed by
what sounded like the bang of a rifle-butt on the back door. At once the
Hegartys put out the light, and started to hustle Jones up a ladder to a
loft above the kitchen.

But by now the poteen had quite got to Jones’s head; and when the police
went into the kitchen, they found old Hegarty and his son still
struggling to get an I.R.A. officer up the ladder. The Hegartys now let
go of Jones, who promptly closed with Blake, and a tremendous struggle
started in the kitchen.

In a few minutes Jones was overcome, and lay on the floor with a heavy
constable sitting on his chest. Blake then ordered the Hegartys to light
the lamp, and afterwards to stand against the wall with their hands over
their heads, and the constables to take Jones outside and shoot him. But
he had not reckoned on Maria, who burst into the kitchen and with
piercing screams endeavoured to throw her arms round Jones’s neck. Maria
was a strong girl and desperate, and it took Jones and the two
constables all they knew to shake her off and struggle out of the house.

Luckily Maria did not attempt to leave the house, and ten seconds after
the back door had closed, six revolver shots rang out in quick
succession, followed by the sound of a heavy body falling on wet ground.
After telling Maria and her mother to go to their bedroom, Blake took
Hegarty and his son into the back-yard, and showed them the body of the
unfortunate Volunteer officer thrown by the police on the manure-heap.
During the next half-hour he had little difficulty in getting all the
information he required about local Volunteers (he made no mention of
the arms), and after warning them not to move the corpse, the police
left the house.

Maria appears to have been greatly taken with Jones’s youthful beauty,
and nearly ruined the whole show again by insisting on her father and
brother going out to bring in the corpse and lay it out in the kitchen.
Luckily the Hegartys were too much afraid, and Jones told Blake
afterwards that the agony of lying with his face buried in liquid manure
was nothing to the agony he suffered listening to the Hegartys arguing
whether his corpse should be left lying on the manure-heap to be eaten
by dogs, or brought into the kitchen and laid out as a “dacent son of
ould Ireland” should be.

While this argument was still raging a car stopped at the front door,
and again the police rushed into the house, out at the back door,
dragged the corpse off the manure-heap, through the house, and flung it
on top of the real Volunteer officer in the back of the car. After
telling the Hegartys that they would throw the body into the lake, the
police drove off at a furious rate in the direction of Ballybor.

On returning to barracks, Jones at once rushed off to have a hot bath,
while Blake went to his office to find his two clerks snowed up with
paper, correspondence which had arrived by the goods mail while they had
been out. After they had some food, Jones was all for raiding the rector
of Cloonalla at once; but Blake made the fatal mistake of attending to
the correspondence then, and putting off the raid to the following
night.

The next night they set out with a strong force of police for the
Cloonalla Rectory, but found, though there were evident signs that their
information had been correct, that the arms had been removed; the rector
was most indignant, and they returned defeated.

A few nights afterwards, when at dinner, Blake showed Jones the
following paragraph in an Irish paper.

    “A BRUTAL MURDER.

    “On the night of the 3rd inst., about midnight, armed men in
    uniform, some of them wearing trenchcoats, raided the house of Mr
    Patrick Hegarty, a respectable farmer, who has never been known to
    take any active part in politics. Inside these men found a young
    man alleged to have been wearing the uniform of an officer in the
    I.R.A.

    “This unfortunate young man, without trial of any kind, was at
    once dragged outside the house, riddled with bullets, and his body
    thrown on a manure-heap in a most callous and brutal manner.

    “After brutally ill-treating Mr Hegarty and his family, the
    murderers left, to return again, saying that they would take the
    body away and throw it into the lake. Though the lake has been
    carefully dragged, no sign of this unhappy youth’s body has yet
    been found.”



                                 XIII.
                              SEAL ISLAND.


Sergeant O’Bryan was as fine a type of the R.I.C. as you would meet in
half a dozen baronies: of magnificent physique, great courage, full of
tact, and with the perfect manners of a true Irishman.

At the end of 1918 O’Bryan found himself sergeant in charge of
Cloghleagh Barracks, a comfortable thatched house close to the shores of
Lough Moyra, and distant about four miles from Ballybor.

While at Cloghleagh his principal work consisted of trying to put down
the making of poteen, which was carried on extensively by the
inhabitants of two small islands at the south end of the lake; otherwise
the sergeant was on the best of terms with all the people of the
district, who often appealed to him for advice and help. And as O’Bryan
was a keen fisherman, he often managed to combine business with sport
while out in the police boat.

Soon after Blake became D.I. at Ballybor, orders were received from the
County Inspector to evacuate Cloghleagh Barracks, and for O’Bryan and
his men to proceed to Ballybor Barracks. As the country round Cloghleagh
had as yet shown no hostility towards the police, and as it was hard to
get a house in any town, O’Bryan asked and obtained leave for his young
wife and family to remain on at Cloghleagh Barracks; and here, not long
after the sergeant had gone, the youngest O’Bryan was born.

Two days afterwards, on a wet winter’s evening, there came a knock at
the barracks door, and when Mrs O’Bryan asked who was there, a man’s
voice bade her open in the name of the I.R.A. Obeying, she found two
masked men, who covered her with revolvers, and told her they would give
her five minutes to clear out of the barracks before they set it on
fire.

Mrs O’Bryan had seven children, the eldest about ten years and the
youngest two days old, most of whom were in bed by this time. As fast as
she could she roused and dressed the children; but the five minutes soon
passed, and the men entered and bundled the whole family, some of the
children only half clothed, out into the wet and cold of a winter’s
night.

Outside Mrs O’Bryan found a large party of Ballybor shop-boys, some of
them wearing black masks, led by four strange gunmen. This party had
arrived in Cloghleagh about an hour before, and had at once proceeded to
picket all roads leading to and from the barracks, and every unfortunate
countryman or woman they met making their way along the roads was at
once seized by the pickets, taken to the barrack-yard, and there placed
face inwards against the wall with their hands on top of their heads.

As soon as the O’Bryan family had been hustled into the road, the gunmen
threw paraffin and petrol on the thatch of the barracks, set it alight,
and in a very short time the building was a charred ruin. They then
mounted their bicycles and rode off into the night, leaving the
unfortunate O’Bryans to shift for themselves.

Leaving her family huddled under a hedge, the mother tried to get into
two neighbouring houses; but the blighting curse of the I.R.A. was on
her and hers, and not a house would even open its door, let alone take
them in. In the end she saw that it was hopeless, and returning to her
children, did her best to keep them warm with her own body and the few
blankets she had managed to bring out of the barracks. And here they
spent the night like the beasts of the fields.

Next morning some countryman, braver than the rest, brought word to the
Ballybor Barracks of the burning at Cloghleagh, and Sergeant O’Bryan
arrived on the scene to find his wife and family perished and starving.
Such is the mercy of the I.R.A. for the little children of the R.I.C.

O’Bryan took his family back to Ballybor Barracks, where they were fed
and warmed; but in Ireland nowadays a police barracks is no place for
little children and women, and before night they must leave. In vain the
sergeant tried to find lodgings; he might as well have tried to swim the
Atlantic. Every door was slammed in his face directly he made his
appeal. But the good Samaritan is not yet extinct in Ireland, and at
last the sergeant found a refuge for his family in the empty gardener’s
lodge of Ballybor House.

While being turned out of Cloghleagh Barracks, Mrs O’Bryan had
recognised two of the incendiaries, who had taken their masks off, as
two prominent Sinn Fein shop-boys of Ballybor, afterwards telling her
husband their names—Martin Walsh and Peter Lynch—and the sergeant never
forgot them.

On a glorious June day Blake was leaning over the parapet of the lower
bridge crossing the Owenmore river in Ballybor, watching the fishermen
hauling in a net full of silvery grilse, and wishing that he could
accept an invitation to fish at Ardcumber. After a time his eye wandered
to a fleet of boats below the bridge, some anchored, while others were
attached to mooring buoys. From force of habit he started to count them,
and on finding that there were no less than thirty-seven, he began to
make out their total carrying capacity, which roughly came to the high
figure of three hundred.

On the following Sunday he happened to be crossing the same bridge at
about ten in the morning, and stopped to look at three boats, packed
with young men, a few carrying fishing-rods, starting off down the
river. The fishing-rods were there right enough, but something seemed
wrong; the men looked too purposeful, and, moreover, eight or nine young
men in a boat with a couple of rods is an unusual sight.

Blake watched the boats disappearing fast down the river, and wondered
what would be the right word to substitute for fishing. After a while he
realised that there was not a boat left on the river, and, further, that
if all the boats had carried as many passengers as the three he had just
seen start, over three hundred young men from Ballybor had gone
a-fishing that Sunday morning, the majority of whom, if not all of them,
were shop-boys, the most dangerous element in the town.

The barracks commanded a good view of the reach of the river where the
boats were usually moored, and next Sunday at an early hour Blake told
off Sergeant O’Bryan with a pair of field-glasses to report how many
boats and how many men went out a-fishing. At eleven o’clock the
sergeant reported that, as usual, all the thirty-seven boats had
started, carrying two hundred and fifty young men, and that among them
he had recognised most of the prominent Sinn Fein shop-boys of the town.
But he did not add that he had seen Walsh and Lynch.

Five miles below Ballybor the Owenmore river, from being roughly two
hundred yards wide, suddenly becomes an inland sea, with a width of over
three miles and a length of a mile. Between this inland water and the
open sea runs a long narrow range of sand-hills, commonly known as Seal
Island, nearly three miles long and with an average width of four
hundred yards.

Blake came to the conclusion that the fishing expeditions every Sunday
must be connected with this lonely island; but except for drilling—and
sand-dunes did not seem a suitable place for a parade—he could think of
nothing to which this island would lend itself. Moreover, he knew that
if he tried to find out what was going on by observing from the
mainland, he would be spotted and the alarm given, and that if he tried
to approach the island in a boat from the seaside the fishermen from
Dooncarra would give him away.

In the end it was settled to wait until the following Sunday, when
Sergeant O’Bryan made his way across country before daylight and hid
himself in the tower of an old abbey on the shore of the inland sea,
from which the greater part of Seal Island was visible. On the Sunday
night he returned to barracks, and reported that the “fishermen” had all
landed at the little pier on the south side of the island, left a small
guard over the boats, and made their way into the sand-hills, where they
were hidden from his view. Some time afterwards, muffled intermittent
rifle-fire started, and continued at intervals for several hours, after
which the “fishermen” returned to their boats, and rowed back leisurely
to Ballybor on the flood tide.

But before Blake could tackle the mystery of Seal Island, he had to turn
his attention to a flying column of the I.R.A. which was reported to be
making its way towards Ballybor. On the Sunday evening when O’Bryan
returned from the old abbey, word was brought in by a Loyalist that the
flying column had been seen that day in the Ballyrick mountains, and had
taken up its quarters in the empty house of Mr Padraig O’Faherty, member
of Dail Eireann for the Ballybor country, who had been for some time
past an unwilling guest of the British Government somewhere in England.

Padraig O’Faherty’s house was (advisably was) situated in the middle of
a desolate valley in the mountains twenty miles from Ballyrick and the
same distance from Ballybor, and could only be approached by a bog road,
which winds through mountains and moors without passing a single human
habitation for the last eight miles. Moreover, there was not a tree
within fifteen miles of the house, so that any attempt at surprise, or
even attack, during the day-time was out of the question. At the first
sight of a Crossley—and they had a three-mile view of the road both ways
from the house—the flying column would simply dissolve into the
mountains, probably to reappear the next day attacking a police barrack
fifty miles the other side of Ballybor. A good example of the kind of
problem the R.I.C. has to solve daily in the wild parts of the west.

That night Blake left Ballybor with an advance-guard of police on
bicycles, and making a detour of the town, timed himself to arrive at
O’Faherty’s house just before daylight, having arranged that Jones
should follow in the Crossleys with his platoon of Blankshires and as
many police as could be spared.

Arriving too soon, they hid their bicycles in some high heather near the
road, and as soon as it was light enough took up positions at different
points round the house, so that every avenue of escape would be swept by
their rifle-fire, and waited for the main body to arrive.

As the sky became light, smoke could be seen rising from some of the
chimneys, a suspicious sign at that hour of the morning, and shortly
afterwards four young men appeared at the door, yawning and stretching
themselves. After examining the valley in every direction with
field-glasses, they proceeded to bring about forty bicycles out of a
stable and park them in military formation outside, after which they
re-entered the house.

During the next hour nothing happened, and just as Blake had given up
all hope of the main body arriving and was thinking of trying to rush
the house with his small force, a large party of men started to leave
the house and make for the bicycles, and Blake was forced to give the
order to open fire.

Several men were seen to drop at once, while the rest rushed back into
the house, carrying their wounded with them, and in a minute heavy fire
was opened from every window in the house on the police positions, the
firing of a single shot by a policeman being the signal for a hail of
bullets in that direction.

Blake was now getting very anxious at the non-arrival of Jones’s party,
fearing that instead of capturing the flying column, the Volunteers
might capture the police; and in order to deceive them, ordered his men
to withhold their fire unless the Volunteers tried to rush them. At last
Jones turned up, having been delayed repeatedly by punctures, and
completed a strong cordon round the house.

Blake now attempted to draw the cordon closer, but every time the police
and soldiers tried to advance by short rushes under heavy covering fire,
the Volunteers opened such accurate fire from every window, including
machine-gun fire from one of the upper rooms, that he had to desist.
Eventually the soldiers silenced the machine-gun with their Lewis guns.

After getting to within three hundred yards of the house, Blake found
that, owing to the formation of the ground, it would be impossible to
advance any nearer without very heavy losses, and refused to allow Jones
to make an assault with his men until all other means of reducing the
place had failed.

The day was now wearing on, and for several hours the situation had
remained a complete deadlock. The Volunteers were obviously marking time
until darkness set in, when they would stand a good chance of slipping
through the cordon; and Blake fully realised that if he did not win
during daylight, he would surely lose in the dark.

Blake and Jones lay in the heather close together, arguing as to whether
they should try to assault the house or not. Jones was keen to try,
while Blake feared a failure with heavy losses. The day was by now
blazing hot, with a steady south wind, and Jones, after lighting a
cigarette, carelessly threw the match away alight, and in a second the
dry heather took fire, and was only extinguished with great difficulty.
But the fire had given Blake the idea he had been hunting for so long.

Collecting all the matches that the men possessed, Jones made his way
round to the south side of the house, and distributed them amongst all
the men there, who, at a given signal, set fire to the heather in front
of them, and as soon as the house was enveloped in a cloud of smoke, the
whole force charged for the house. As soon as they got within range, the
police hurled Mills’ bombs through every window, and the soldiers then
dashed in with fixed bayonets, but the bombs had done the work.

They found that the Volunteers had suffered heavily, hardly a man
escaping a bomb splinter or a Lewis-gun bullet, and the question was how
to remove so many wounded. In the house they found bed and bedding for
fully forty men, and a great supply of fresh and tinned food; also
rifles (chiefly Mauser), American shot-guns, automatics, revolvers, a
quantity of ammunition, and a good stock of home-made bombs in a kind of
cellar.

Not having enough transport, Blake sent off a fast car to ask for help
from the County Inspector. Before leaving, Blake blew up Mr Padraig
O’Faherty’s house with the Volunteers’ bombs, and the party returned to
Ballybor before dark, victorious, but worn out.

As soon as they had had some sleep, Blake and Jones started to work out
their plans for a surprise attack on Seal Island the following Sunday,
and found that they had a difficult task before them.

Except at the east and west ends of the island, where the two channels
of the river cut through the ridge of sand-hills, all approaches were
visible for a long distance, and any idea of surprise out of the
question. On the other hand, if an attempt was made to cross the
channels, the Volunteers would have ample time to reach their boats at
the pier in the middle of the south shore and so escape, while at a low
tide it was possible to walk across at one point to the mainland.

In the end they gave it up, and went to consult the C.I., who decided to
call in the assistance of the Navy.

On Sunday morning Sergeant O’Bryan duly reported that the boats had gone
down the river, as usual with full crews. The previous night a destroyer
had crept into the bay with all lights covered, and after landing a
large party of bluejackets on Seal Island, had left again.

After allowing sufficient time for the Volunteers to land and get to
work, Blake followed in a commandeered motor-launch, and at the same
time Jones left the barracks with his platoon in two Crossleys, each
with a Lewis gun, one party making for the western mouth of the river,
and the other for the eastern, where they proceeded to take up positions
covering all escape across the channels.

About three hundred yards from the pier on Seal Island, Blake and his
men landed on a small round green island called Gannet Island, and took
up positions covering the boats lying alongside the pier. Directly they
landed, a small group of men were seen to leave the pier and disappear
into the sand-dunes. Meanwhile the launch, with a machine-gun mounted in
the bows, proceeded to patrol along the south shore of the island over
the shallow water.

After a short time heavy firing broke out in the sand-hills and then
died down, to break out again as a large body of Volunteers streamed
towards the pier; but before they could reach their boats, Blake’s men
on Gannet Island opened fire on them, and the launch sprayed them well
with its machine-gun. The Volunteers seemed nonplussed and at a loss
what to do; but the bluejackets, advancing in open order with fixed
bayonets from the sand-hills, quickly decided them, and they made for
the east end of the island, disappearing into a hollow followed by the
bluejackets.

Again heavy firing broke out from the direction of the hollow, and
continued at intervals for over an hour. Fearing that something was
wrong, Blake then embarked his men on the launch, and after landing at
the pier, proceeded in the direction of the firing, to find the
Volunteers holding a large house which so far the sailors had failed to
take.

The house came as a surprise to the police, none of whom had ever set
foot on the island before, and there seemed every prospect of another
deadlock. The house was old, well built, and commanded a fine field of
fire in every direction.

But sailors are handy men, and after a consultation with Blake, the
lieutenant in command decided to signal to his destroyer, which had
anchored in the bay again, to open fire with her guns on the house.
After trying in vain to get a direct view of the house, the destroyer
opened indirect fire, a sailor on a high sand-hill signalling the result
of each shot. Unfortunately the house was so sheltered by the sides of
the hollow that nothing short of a howitzer could have reached it.

But the sailors were not beaten. After putting farther out to sea, the
destroyer tried again, and this time at the third shot got home with a
direct hit, and in a few minutes it was seen that the house was on fire.

Sailors and police now held their fire, and waited for the exciting
moment when the Volunteers would be forced by the flames to bolt. A
quarter of an hour, half an hour passed, but not a Volunteer bolted from
the now fiercely burning house. At last the roof fell in with a crash
and shower of sparks, and every man gripped his rifle, thinking that at
last the rebels would be smoked out; but nothing happened. They had
either vanished into thin air or were roasted alive. Still the sailors
and police waited on, thinking that in the end somebody must come out.
Without any warning one gable-end of the house suddenly fell outwards,
and simultaneously firing broke out from the east channel of the river,
about five hundred yards away.

The spell was now broken, and every man dashed in the direction of the
firing. When they reached high ground they could see many of the
Volunteers swimming across the channel, while those who could not swim
were running towards the north side of the island.

The half-platoon of the Blankshires, with Sergeant O’Bryan as a guide,
had taken up their position in the sand-hills on the mainland commanding
the passage across the east channel, and had only been interested
spectators of parts of the battle up to the time the gable fell, when,
to their astonishment, they suddenly saw the Volunteers streaming out of
the sand-hills and dashing into the river in front of them.

Foremost among the swimmers Sergeant O’Bryan saw, to his great joy, the
heads of Walsh and Lynch, their foot-long hair floating like manes
behind them, and knew that his enemies had been delivered into his
hands. By the time the swimmers reached the mainland, and found
themselves covered by the rifles and Lewis gun of the soldiers, they had
had enough, and put up their hands of their own accord.

The sailors and police now beat the island towards the west end, and
after a hard scramble over the sand-hills captured the remaining
Volunteers.

A careful search of the place where the Volunteers had suddenly appeared
out of the ground showed that there was an underground passage running
from the house to within a short distance of the shore, probably used in
former days for smuggling purposes.

A further search explained the reason of the Volunteers’ Sunday visits
to the island. In a valley of the sand-hills they found an up-to-date
rifle-range, and afterwards learnt that it had been built during the
early part of the war, and frequently used for firing musketry courses
by units of the New Armies training in Ireland.



                                  XIV.
                            A FAMILY AFFAIR.


The mac Nessa, Prince of Murrisk, claimed descent from one of the Nine
Hostages; and though proud of his lineage, he was still prouder of the
boast that, up to comparatively recent times, not one of his ancestors
had died in his bed. A violent death in some form or other, chiefly the
“middoge,” accounting for one and all.

Murrisk Abbey is a modern house, as old places go in Ireland, but in the
grounds there are the ruins of a very old castle, built in the days when
the O’Fogartys ruled a countryside as far horse could gallop in any
direction during the hours of daylight. Here the mac Nessa had spent
most of his life, hunting, shooting, fishing, and farming, and
incidentally bringing up a family of two sons and four daughters.

Both the sons, Cormac and Dominic, had served during the war in the
British Army. Dominic willingly and eagerly, and Cormac, the elder, only
because he feared his father, who was a staunch Loyalist.

The spring of 1919 found the two brothers at home. Cormac for good and
all as he believed, and Dominic until he could decide how and where to
make a living.

In England there is nowadays a large class whose one and only object in
life appears to be to take sides with any and every enemy of their
country, be he Boer, Boche, Bolshevik, or Sinn Feiner. This party never
ceases to aid and abet these enemies by every means in their power,
short of endangering their own skins, and at the same time never let an
opportunity pass of accusing our soldiers and police (in Ireland) of
every abominable crime which man has been known to commit. During the
war this class of Englishmen greatly puzzled and irritated the French,
as they have every nation that has ever admired the British as a race. A
French interpreter once said to a British officer, “Many of your race
are noble, the rest are swine.”

In Ireland, by some lucky chance, we have escaped this detestable and
despicable breed of man, to whom a sincere rebel is infinitely
preferable, but at the same time we have a class of men and women who
are first cousins to them. In many good Irish families, noted for
generations past for their unswerving loyalty, there is often one member
who is an out-and-out rebel. Luckily he or she has generally less brains
than the rest of the family, and is looked upon as a harmless lunatic,
and one of the crosses which have to be borne in the world.

A plausible reason often advanced for this sporadic appearance of a
rebel in a loyal family is the complete lack of conversation at the
dinner-table, once sport has been exhausted, when all members of a
family see eye to eye in politics; and as a “mutual admiration society”
quickly palls on many young men and women, one member expresses contrary
political opinions to the others out of pure cussedness, and the anger
and recriminations of the rest quickly turn the bored jibber into a
red-hot rebel.

Not many weeks after the brothers had returned home from the war,
Cormac, who had spent many hours of his youth reading books and
pamphlets on the wrongs England had inflicted on Ireland instead of
hunting and shooting, and had even appeared at breakfast once in a weird
ginger-coloured kilt, raised the red flag of Sinn Fein one evening at
the dinner-table. Probably he did it from sheer boredom, hoping to draw
his father into a wordy argument and so pass the time. The result,
however, had a far-reaching effect on the lives of both Cormac and
Dominic.

The mac Nessa was a big man and Cormac was not, and but for the
intervention of Dominic, the elder son would probably have had an
unpleasant and painful eviction from the dinner-table. However, the old
chieftain controlled himself with a great effort, but as soon as the
servants had withdrawn he ordered Cormac to leave the house the
following morning for good and all, and in a sullen rage Cormac stalked
out of the room.

Leaving word with the butler to pack his kit, Cormac made his way to the
house of the parish priest, about two and a half miles from the abbey,
where, being a Roman Catholic, he hoped to receive sympathy.

If there is one Church in the world which might be expected to range
itself wholeheartedly on the side of law and order it is the Church of
Rome, whose very existence depends on obedience, and it must have been a
source of wonder to many English people why, at the very beginning of
the Sinn Fein movement, this Church did not at once come into the open
and denounce Sinn Fein from the altar in plain and unmistakable terms.
Any thinking priest must know that under a semi-Bolshevik republic the
power of the Roman Catholic Church would be gone, and gone for ever.

Cormac found the old priest kind and gentle as ever, but firm in his
refusal to listen to any Sinn Fein views, and in a fresh rage he left to
make his way to the curate’s lodging in a neighbouring farmhouse, and
here he was received with open arms.

The curate quickly perceived what a valuable recruit Cormac might make,
and before he left to spend his last night at the abbey, took advantage
of the boy’s excited mood to make him swear to join the I.R.A.

After a very early breakfast, Cormac left his home on the fifteen-mile
drive to Ballybor, where he caught the mail train for Dublin, his heart
full of hatred of his family, and his mind set on revenge.

A week of dirty Dublin lodgings convinced Cormac that he had made a fool
of himself, and putting his pride in his pocket, he wrote to his father
asking to be allowed to return home. By return of post came a
typewritten post-card from the mac Nessa to the effect that while he
lived no rebel should ever darken his door.

That evening two strangers called at his rooms, and after making certain
of his identity, explained that a message had been received at the Sinn
Fein headquarters in Dublin from Father Michael of Murrisk that Cormac
was prepared to join in the Sinn Fein movement, and offering him a
high-sounding position. Cormac’s vanity was flattered, and he accepted
at once.

Knowing that Cormac’s name would carry great weight with many
half-hearted supporters and waverers, the Sinn Fein leaders employed him
solely on propaganda work, sending him to every part of the country, not
excepting the north, to speak at meetings, and always taking good care
that his name appeared in large letters on the posters, and kind friends
were not wanting to send the mac Nessa cuttings of his son’s speeches
from every Irish and English paper in which they appeared.

During his travels Cormac at different times met in trains and hotels
many friends of his own class, who one and all, to their great credit,
refused to speak to him, and this treatment embittered him still more
against all Loyalists, more especially against his father and brother.

After one trip to a town in the south, where he had tried to enter a
club, and had been ejected by the hall porter, he offered himself on his
return to Dublin for “active service,” and was at once sent to the
Ballybor district to organise outrages, the Sinn Fein leaders knowing
that the name of O’Fogarty was one to conjure with in that country even
in these days.

In the meantime Dominic had been asked by the authorities to join the
newly-formed Auxiliary Division of the R.I.C., in order that his
knowledge of the Ballybor country might be utilised, and after a short
training in Dublin found himself quartered in Ballybor with a platoon of
Cadets.

By a coincidence the two brothers arrived in Ballybor within a week of
each other, Cormac an avowed Sinn Feiner, and Dominic an officer in the
Auxiliaries, who were about to take on the rebels at their own breed of
warfare.

Every kind of news travels fast in country districts in Ireland, and
within twelve hours of the brothers’ arrival it is doubtful if you could
have found, even in the mountains of Ballyrick, a child who did not know
of the O’Fogartys’ return. Moreover, there is nothing an Irishman loves
more than a fight, and one between two brothers of the best-known family
in three counties, with armed men at their back, was something worth
looking forward to, even in these days of murder and outrage. And at
local race-meetings in the west bets were freely taken on the issue of
the fight between Cormac and Dominic O’Fogarty.

All thought of King or Republic was now completely forgotten in
Ballybor, and for many miles around the countryside was divided into two
camps. Most of the Volunteers, all nominally, were for Cormac, whilst
all Loyalists and a good many Volunteers secretly supported Dominic,
with the result that, so keen were both sides to outmanœuvre each other,
the police obtained far more information than they had for a long time
past.

Dominic made up his mind to take the offensive straight away, and
learning from one of his Volunteer sympathisers that his brother, when
in Ballybor, always slept in the house of a man called Ryan, made
arrangements to raid the place, and at any rate to put Cormac out of
action for some time to come.

However, Cormac learning of his brother’s kindly intention, thought that
it would be an excellent opportunity to raid Murrisk for arms on that
particular night, and incidentally to get some of his own back from his
father. Leaving Ballybor as soon as it was dark with a dozen men, they
bicycled to Murrisk, and after parking their machines in a wood near the
main road, proceeded to knock up the house. The butler opened the door,
but did not recognise Cormac in a mask, though his walk seemed vaguely
familiar to him.

The mac Nessa was no coward, and on entering the inner hall, the raiders
found themselves covered by the old man with a double-barrelled
shot-gun. Cormac had expected that his father would show fight, and
knowing where the electric light switch was in the hall, had arranged
with his men that when he turned the light off they should throw
themselves flat on the floor.

As the light went out the mac Nessa fired both barrels, which went
harmlessly over the raiders’ heads, and before he could reload they had
him down and tied up. Cormac then turned on the light, and by now,
half-mad with rage and excitement, would have gone for his father; but
his men kept him back, and when they had secured all the arms in the
house under Cormac’s directions, they hustled him away.

In the meantime Dominic with a party of Cadets had raided Ryan’s house,
but, of course, drew blank.

Early the next morning a mounted messenger brought word to the barracks
in Ballybor that Cormac and a party of armed and masked men had raided
Murrisk during the night and removed all arms and ammunition. That
afternoon Dominic put up large notices all over Ballybor to the effect
that if he caught Cormac in the town he would horsewhip him in the
market-place.

Both the town and countryside were in a wild state of excitement after
the Murrisk raid, Cormac’s supporters acclaiming his victory, while
Dominic’s could only reply, “Wait and see.” And so keen were Dominic’s
party to help their man, that information of every possible kind and
description literally poured into the barracks by every post.

Like children, as ever, the people quickly forgot that they were either
Loyalists or rebels, the blood-feud between the two brothers being far
more interesting and exciting; and it is probable that, if only
sufficient arms had been forthcoming on both sides, the brothers’ feud
would have developed into a pitched battle, and if the police had
interfered both parties would then have joined forces and turned on the
common enemy.

After leaving Murrisk, Cormac, knowing that Ballybor would now be too
hot for him, made for some caves in the Slievenamoe Mountains to the
east of the town, and here he remained. Some time before these caves had
been fitted up like dug-outs in France, while the food supply gave no
difficulty, every house at the foot of the mountains having to supply
rations on requisition for any gunmen using these caves. Here Cormac had
plenty of time on his hands, and thought out a clever plan to put
Dominic out of action.

Shortly before Cormac raided Murrisk, a new and simple manager had
arrived at one of the Ballybor banks. The arrival of a new bank manager
in an Irish provincial town is always the signal for all in financial
difficulties to get busy and try their luck with the fresh arrival, and
amongst the new manager’s first visitors came the Urban Council, who by
sheer bluff managed to get their already big overdraft increased by some
thousand pounds. A fresh election being within sight, they then
proceeded to borrow a derelict steam-roller from the County Council, who
had practically ceased to function, and to spend the money steam-rolling
the streets of Ballybor. In this way they hoped to catch the votes of
the labourers by the payment of high wages, and of the shopkeepers and
owners of cars by improved streets.

Being in a great hurry to get on with the good work, they forgot that
the streets had never been steam-rolled before, and that the gas-and
water-pipes were very near the surface, with the result that for every
yard of street the roller passed over one or more gas- or water-pipes
burst, and the town soon smelt like the inside of a gas-works.

The consequent proceedings give a very fair idea of the Celtic capacity
for public affairs, and of how the country would be run under “Home
Rule,” or any other kind of rule except the “Union.”

Instead of stopping the steam-rolling until all mains and pipes had been
relaid at a sufficient depth to resist the rolling, they solemnly
proceeded to roll, burst, and mend from one end of the main street to
the other, to the huge delight of all the local plumbers, who also had
votes.

Luckily the money was exhausted by the time the main street was
finished, and though the greater part of the surface was excellent, the
ridges made by digging up the pipes at intervals would break the axle of
an unsuspecting stranger’s car, to the great benefit of the local
garages.

The police barracks at Ballybor are situated in a “cul-de-sac” off the
main street, at the corners of which stand the principal hotel and a
bank, and all cars going to or from the barracks must pass this corner.

Word was brought to Cormac in his mountain dug-out that his brother left
Ballybor Barracks early every morning with a Crossley full of Cadets,
and that they spent the whole day and often most of the night searching
the surrounding country for him. Before leaving Ballybor he had
witnessed the steam-rolling comic opera, and bicycling by night to
Ballybor, he lay up during the day, got in touch with a plumber,
borrowed his tools and barrow, and late that afternoon (in the plumber’s
clothes, and slouch hat pulled well over his face) started to dig up the
road between the bank and the hotel.

Human nature always seems to regard the digging up of a street in the
light of a huge joke, and during his work Cormac was not only chaffed by
the bank manager and the hotel loafers, but by the police themselves.
When it was dusk he was joined by a Volunteer with a charge of
gelignite, which had been raided from a Government ship off the
south-east coast and brought to the west by car, and the two proceeded
to lay a contact-mine in the centre of the road. They then filled in the
earth, returned the tools and barrow to the plumber, and bicycled back
to the mountains.

While Cormac was busy laying his mine, Dominic and Blake were poring
over an Ordnance-map in the barracks not sixty yards away. Having come
to the conclusion that it was quite useless to search the countryside
piecemeal, and hearing a rumour of what was going on in the mountains
through one of the forced food contractors having made a bitter
complaint to a passing police patrol, they were now planning to surround
the southern half of the Slievenamoe Mountains, and organising a great
drive, and the next two days were spent working out the details.

About 9 A.M. a mineral-water lorry, in order to turn, backed up the
cul-de-sac, and the mine being well and truly laid, disappeared in a
sheet of flame, wrecking the bank and hotel. Hardly had the sound of the
explosion died away, and before the police left the barracks to
investigate, every young man in Ballybor of the shopkeeper class had his
bicycle out and was off as hard as he could pedal. A Volunteer greatly
resembles a mountain hare: directly the hunt is up he makes at top speed
for high ground, and the harder you press both the faster they leg it up
the mountains. Blake and Dominic managed to control their men, and no
reprisals followed, the only arrest being the unfortunate plumber who
had lent his outfit to Cormac, and whose bicycle had been “borrowed” by
an agitated shop-boy.

At the present time a big drive in the west presents great difficulties.
Very few, often none, of the R.I.C. or Auxiliaries know anything of the
many wild and mountainous parts in their districts, and the soldiers are
invariably complete strangers.

To reconnoitre the ground beforehand is out of the question, and it is
difficult to induce reliable guides to act.

The part of the mountains Blake and Dominic had selected to drive lay
about nine miles due east of Ballybor, divided by a deep pass from the
remainder of the range to the north, and ending in a wild rocky valley
intersected by the Owenmore river to the south, and the total area to be
covered was about eighteen square miles of mountains, glens, cliffs, and
bogs. It was not possible to start operations before 3 A.M. (the month
being August), and they would have to stop soon after 11 P.M. (summer
time), which gave them roughly twenty hours to beat the eighteen square
miles.

Taking the total number of troops at their disposal, Blake divided them
into groups of six, giving them nearly a hundred groups. Then Dominic
picked out from a contoured Ordnance-map the same number of points
surrounding the mountains, from all of which there was a good view and
field of fire, and it was arranged that as many groups as possible
should have either a Vickers machine-gun or a Lewis gun.

The actual drive was to be carried out by the police. The Cadets under
Dominic were to start from the north end in a crescent formation and
advance towards the highest point, which lay nearly in the centre of the
area, while the R.I.C. under Blake were to advance from the south.

Dominic knew every yard of the mountains, having shot grouse there with
his brother since boyhood, but the difficulty was to procure a guide for
Blake’s party, none of whom had ever set foot on the mountains. With
much persuasion, however, Dominic at last induced a man, who had been
one of the mac Nessa’s game-watchers on the mountains for years, to act
as guide. This man had to be promised a large sum of money, and to save
him from the revenge of Sinn Fein, it was arranged that directly after
the drive he should be safely got away to enlist in the British Army
under an assumed name, and, if he wished, be sent straight off to India.

All officers and N.C.O.’s were given maps showing the position of every
group marked, and it was arranged that the police should be in position
at 3 A.M. and the troops half an hour later. A few days before the date
fixed for the drive Dominic and his Auxiliaries disappeared from
Ballybor, and it was given out that they had gone to Co. Cork.

Sharp at 3 A.M., on a perfect August day, the drive began. Dominic and
the Cadets had to start from the shores of a large lake lying in a cup
at the top of the pass, and climb a thousand feet before reaching the
first valley in the mountains. At the top they halted for a breather and
to admire the wonderful view. To the east the summer sun was fast
rising, all around them stretched miles of heather-clad hills, and away
to the north-west lay the sea, a pearly grey-blue in the fast growing
light.

After a rest Dominic got his men into formation, spreading them out as
far as possible without losing touch, while he kept a small party in the
rear to go to any threatened point where the gunmen might try to break
through the cordon. The Cadets had brought their signallers with them,
equipped with a heliograph and flags, who remained with the reserve
party.

On reaching higher ground Dominic could see with his glasses the small
groups of soldiers taking up their positions, while far away in the
plain to the eastward the Owenmore river wound like a blue thread
through the dark bogland. A Cadet on his left nearly walked on a pack of
grouse, which swung right-handed, passing within twenty yards of
Dominic, and reminding him vividly of other days.

Very soon the Cadets began to feel the heat of the sun, and the hard
going began to tell on several of them. Sitting in a Crossley is bad
training for walking a grouse mountain.

After going about a mile and a half a party of men were seen in front
making eastward at full speed down a valley, the end of which Dominic
knew was held by a group of soldiers with a machine-gun. Halting his
men, he then brought his right wing well round so as to cut off the
gunmen’s retreat to the west should they attempt to break back.

The fleeing gunmen were soon lost sight of in dead ground, but presently
the sound of firing was heard from the far end of the valley, and after
a time the gunmen were seen retreating across the Cadets’ front, and
making as hard as they could for the west side of the mountains.

At this point Blake’s men came in sight from the south, and quickly
getting in touch with the Cadets’ right wing, completed the cordon. The
gunmen, seeing that they were surrounded and all retreat cut off, split
up into two parties, took up positions on two kopjes, and waited for the
attack.

As a frontal attack would have entailed heavy loss, and seeing that
there was another kopje on Blake’s side which would command and enfilade
the gunmen’s positions, Dominic ordered the Cadets to pin the gunmen
down by their fire, and at the same time sent a signaller to Blake
telling him to occupy the commanding kopje. This Blake did, and also
sent to the nearest group of soldiers for a machine-gun.

The fight lasted for two hours, and though the gunmen were always
subject to a hot fire, and several times a man was seen to spring into
the air and collapse in the heather, yet they stuck it gamely until the
machine-gun was brought up and opened a heavy fire on both kopjes; the
remaining gunmen then stood up and put up their hands.

On the two kopjes the police found twelve dead gunmen and twenty-eight
prisoners, eighteen of whom were wounded. And amongst the dead Dominic
found Cormac, shot through the heart.

After arranging for the burial of the dead (with the exception of
Cormac, who was carried down the mountain-side on a stretcher) and the
removal of the prisoners, Dominic took a party of Cadets to search some
caves which he knew of about half a mile to the south-west. Here, as he
expected, he found that the gunmen had been living in comparative
comfort. One cave had been used as a living-room and contained chairs
and tables, while two smaller inner ones were fitted up with bunks in
tiers like a Boche dug-out, and had heather for bedding.

Towards evening the worn-out Cadets got back to their Crossleys on the
pass road which ran along the north shore of the lake; and after leaving
a party with a searchlight mounted on a tender to stop any stray gunmen
escaping during the night on bicycles by the road to the east, Dominic
started for Murrisk in a Crossley with his brother’s body.

Many an evening the two brothers had driven home together over the same
road after a happy day’s grouse-shooting, never dreaming that their last
journey together would be to bring Cormac’s body to the home of their
ancestors.

The mac Nessa met the party in the great hall of Murrisk, and his
ancestors looking down from the walls must surely have thought that they
were back again in their own times of everlasting war and sudden death.



                                  XV.
                          THE AMERICAN NURSE.


In the early ‘eighties there lived in the Cloonalla district a small
farmer named Peter Walsh, who was what is generally called in the west a
bad farmer, which is simply the Irish way of saying that he was lazy and
good-for-nothing, and for several years Walsh had been in the clutches
of the Cloonalla gombeen man, the local big shopkeeper.

The ways of the gombeen man are quite simple and usually most
successful, the success largely depending on a run of bad potato crops,
as generally after two successive failures the majority of the farmers
in a poor mountainous district have no money at all. They are thus
forced to go to the gombeen wallah, who advances them so much money,
according to the size of their farm and their capacity for drink, as a
mortgage on the farm at a high rate of interest. But instead of paying
them money he gives credit for goods, and there is a verbal agreement
that he will not foreclose as long as the farmer deals solely with him
and makes no bones about the prices he is charged. Formerly this was the
terrible millstone which used to hang for life round the necks of many
western peasants.

However, Walsh’s millstone troubled him not one bit, and he “staggered”
along for several years until there came a sequence of three bad and
indifferent crops, which finished him completely. Seeing that Walsh was
not going to make any effort, the gombeen man closed on the farm, and
Peter, the wife, and their one child, Bridget, aged three years, left
Ireland for America, illogically cursing the British Government for
their own sins and those of the gombeen devil.

Now the gombeen man had no use for Peter’s farm himself, so he proceeded
to make Peter’s brother, Michael, drunk one Saturday night in his shop,
and made the farm over to him with the former conditions, not forgetting
to double the mortgage.

In due course Michael died without kith or kin saving Bridget, now a
hospital nurse in New York, who one day received a letter from a
Ballybor solicitor informing her of her uncle’s death, and that she was
the sole heiress to his two farms in Cloonalla, and asking for
instructions.

From her youth upwards Nurse Bridget had heard nothing but abuse of the
so-called English tyranny in Ireland—in fact, up to the time when she
went to be trained hospital nurse, her only knowledge of England and
Ireland was the thousand and one supposed wrongs which Ireland had
suffered at the hands of England since the days of Cromwell, and her one
ambition in life was to see the downfall of the British Empire, and with
that the freedom of her fatherland. In America, the Irish children find
plenty of mentors of hate of England, both among their own people and
the Germans.

In time, when Bridget began to earn some money as a nurse, she joined
every Irish anti-British society, secret and otherwise, she could, and
at the time of her leaving the States to take over her uncle’s farms
possessed more wonderful and weird badges and medallions than she could
conveniently wear at once: incidentally the societies relieved her of
most of her earnings “to provide powder and shot for ould Ireland.”

On the liner, Bridget met many of her race, mostly men and women who had
worked hard for some years in the States and saved enough money to
return to Ireland, where they hoped to buy a small farm or shop and
never to wander any more. One and all were longing to be in Ireland once
again, and not one ever mentioned a word of the “brutal English tyranny”
until Bridget started the subject.

Bridget landed at Queenstown, made her way to Cork, and set out on the
long and tedious cross-country railway journey to the west. At the best
of times the journey is a slow one, but during 1920 it became much worse
owing to the great uncertainty of any train reaching its destination.
Trains were even known to stand in a station for days on end while the
driver, the stoker, the guard, and the station employees argued and
re-argued what they would do and what they would not do.

Twice during the journey Bridget had glimpses of the brutal British
soldiery when two military parties wished to travel on the train, and
the driver and guard refused to start until the armed assassins of the
British Government left. At first Bridget was slightly confused; no
doubt the soldiers were terrible blackguards, but at the time they
seemed to be quiet and inoffensive, and she remembered frequently having
seen American soldiers in the trains in the States, and the drivers and
guards there made no objection.

However, a fellow-passenger explained to her that the soldiers used the
Irish railways to go from one part of the country to another in order to
murder the unfortunate soldiers of the Republican Army, and that the
guard and driver, as became good citizens and soldiers of the Irish
Republic, were quite right to refuse to aid and abet the British by
carrying them on the train.

At a junction some thirty miles from Ballybor she changed into a
composite train carrying passengers and goods, and soon after leaving
the junction the train pulled up suddenly in a cutting, and there was
loud shouting and firing. Bridget was greatly alarmed and excited,
thinking that she would now see the British troops commit some of the
terrible crimes she had heard so much about in the States—she had heard
nothing of the crimes of the I.R.A.

It takes a long time in the west of Ireland to do anything, and it was
quite twenty minutes before Bridget realised that this was a hold-up by
the I.R.A., and that all the passengers were to get out and line up at
the top of the cutting. The confusion then became terrific, half the
passengers going up one side of the cutting, and the remainder up the
other.

Wild-looking masked bandits then started shouting to the people to come
down and go to the other side, whereupon a general post ensued.

Finally, the whole lot was collected together, searched, and at last
allowed to take their seats in the train again; but the performance was
not by any means over yet. Next, the waggons were all broken open, the
contents thrown on the line, and then returned except Belfast
merchandise, which was made into a heap—coffins, cases of jam and tea,
boxes of linen, &c.—sprinkled with petrol, and then set on fire.

Bridget arrived at Ballybor on a summer’s evening, and at once set out
for Cloonalla. Ballybor appeared a mean and dirty little town to her
American eyes, and she hoped for better things at Cloonalla—a good hotel
and decent stores. After an hour and a half’s drive the carman pulled up
outside Cloonalla Chapel, and asked his fare where she wanted to go to.
Not realising where she was, Bridget replied, to Cloonalla, the best
hotel in Cloonalla, only to learn to her astonishment that the place
boasted only one shop and no hotel of any kind. And in the end she was
thankful to accept the hospitality of a farmer’s wife, and share a
stuffy bed with the woman’s daughter.

Bridget received a shock when she saw her uncle’s house—she said that
they wouldn’t put a pig in it in America—and the idea she had had of
settling down there quickly vanished. However, she determined to stay on
awhile in Ireland, and help to the best of her ability the famous
soldiers of the I.R.A. (she had not realised yet that the bandits who
had held up the train were the famous soldiers) of whom she had heard so
much in America.

On visiting the solicitor in Ballybor, she found that her uncle had left
her a few hundred pounds, and this she gave to the man Hanley, with whom
she lodged, to buy cattle with to stock her farm.

As soon as Bridget had settled down she found ample scope for her
political ambitions both in Cloonalla and Ballybor, where most of the
young people of her own age found talking sedition far easier and more
amusing than hard work; and as everybody seemed to have money to burn,
she had a great time—political meetings, drilling, picnics, and dances.
And after joining the Cumann na Ban she volunteered for active service
with the local company of the I.R.A., little knowing what was before
her.

At first the game was amusing enough, teaching the young men the
rudiments of first aid, and lecturing to the girls and youths of
Cloonalla in the school-house in the evening, followed by dancing until
the early hours of the morning; and probably Bridget would have gone no
further than this but for the unfortunate arrival of two professional
gunmen in Cloonalla, who had been sent from Dublin to carry out the
usual series of outrages and then to vanish before the storm burst.

The gunmen came with a list of local undesirables (from the I.R.A. point
of view) to be removed—many of the names had probably been given out of
private spite through the means of anonymous letters, a very favourite
practice in Ireland—and at once proceeded to work, or rather to see that
the Cloonalla Volunteers did the dirty work.

The following week seemed to Bridget like a horrible nightmare, starting
with the murder of ex-soldiers, who paid the full penalty of being so
stupid as to believe that the British Government would protect its
friends and supporters in Ireland, and culminating in the revolting
crime of the murder of a Protestant clergyman, who was seventy-nine
years of age.

Early in the morning, before the household was up, the old man heard a
loud knocking at the hall door, and on coming downstairs found the usual
party of armed and masked men, who ordered him to follow them. He did
so, and had no sooner reached the road than they shot him dead,—to be
found by his old wife—the servants dared not leave the house—lying in
the middle of the road in a pool of blood.

That night the gunmen vanished, and with them the orgy of crime ceased
for a time at any rate. There is no doubt that these revolting and
apparently purposeless murders are instigated by the I.R.A., but
nevertheless they are carried out by the peasants in most cases, and
they will have to bear the stigma now and always. Under a determined
leader they appear to take kindly to “political murder.”

Bridget was physically and mentally sick with horror, and made up her
mind to return to the States as soon as she could dispose of her farms,
and to this end bicycled into Ballybor to arrange with an auctioneer to
sell the farms for her by public auction at the earliest possible date.
The following day the auctioneer inspected the farms, and declared that
she ought to get at least a thousand pounds for her interest in each
farm, and fixed a near date for the auction, though he was very doubtful
if the I.R.A. would permit it, and advised her to try and obtain their
consent. But the last thing in the world Bridget wanted was to have any
further dealings with the I.R.A., and the auctioneer left promising to
do his best.

That night after the Hanleys and Bridget had gone to bed they received a
visit from the captain of the Cloonalla Volunteers, who wanted to know
if it was true that Bridget was going to try and sell her farms by
public auction. Bridget told him that it was quite true, and that she
was going to return to America. Whereupon he told her that the I.R.A.
would not allow this, and that if she wanted to dispose of her land a
Sinn Fein Court would value it, and the Republican Government would then
take it over and pay her in Dail Eireann Bonds (to be redeemed at their
face value when Ireland is free and the Republic established), and after
telling her to stop the auction he left.

In a few days Bridget received an order to attend a Sinn Fein
Arbitration Court in Cloonalla Chapel at night, where the judges valued
her farms at one hundred pounds each (loud applause in Court by the men
who hoped to get the farms), and ordered her to hand over the land the
following day to the Cloonalla Volunteer captain, who had every
intention of keeping the farms himself.

Bridget protested loudly that she was a citizen of the United States,
that the farms were hers, and that if this was a free country like
America she was entitled to get the full market value for them, which
she had been told was quite two thousand pounds; and lastly, that she
had proved herself a good patriot, and burst into tears.

All of no avail—the judges gave her three days to get rid of her cattle
and hand over the land, at the end of which time if she had not complied
she was to be deported, and her farms and cattle confiscated.

Bridget returned to the Hanleys’ house to find her boxes packed and
dumped in the road, together with her bicycle, and the door of the house
locked, and this in the middle of the night. After trying in vain to
gain admittance she sat down on one of her boxes and started to cry.

Towards dawn she again made a piteous appeal to the Hanleys to be
allowed to stay in their house for the rest of the night, and that she
would leave the following day; and for answer Mrs Hanley cursed her, and
warned her that if she was not gone before daylight her hair would be
cut off, and “God only knew what else would happen to her.” In a blind
terror she mounted her bicycle and rode madly into Ballybor, where she
had to wait some hours in the streets before she could gain admittance
to a lodging-house.

Bridget was made of the right stuff, and with the daylight and the
contact with friendly human beings her courage returned, and she went to
see the auctioneer once more, but received cold comfort. The man had
been warned not to hold the auction, but was willing to, provided he had
police protection (he saw his trade slipping away if he did not), and
suggested that she should go and see the D.I.

Blake listened patiently to her tale of woe—he already knew the part she
had played with the Cloonalla Volunteers, but liked the girl’s looks and
her pluck, and at the end promised her protection for the auction, but
warned her that he could not protect her afterwards, and advised her to
get out of the country as soon as she could.

Bridget then hired a car and drove out to Cloonalla to try and collect
her belongings. The boxes were still there by the roadside, but empty.
And on going on to her farms she found that the fences and gates were
smashed and her cattle gone. She tried in vain to get information of
them, but found that not a man, woman, or child would tell her anything.

Returning to Ballybor, she again saw Blake, who promised to send out
police to try and find her cattle. The following day the police went out
to Cloonalla, rounded up the first score of men they met, made them
build up the fences, mend the gates, and lastly, gave them two hours to
return Bridget’s cattle.

The I.R.A. now turned the full blast of that potent weapon, the boycott,
on to the unfortunate Bridget. Not a soul would or rather dare speak to
her—at any rate in public. Little children meeting her in the streets or
country roads ran away, fearing lest she might cast an evil eye on them.
Shopkeepers were forbidden to supply any goods to her, and the
lodging-house people would have put her out on the streets but for the
interference of the D.I. By this time Blake was determined to see her
through, and when the auctioneer attempted to rat, made him think better
of it and stick to his agreement with Bridget.

The day of the auction arrived, and with it the biggest crowd Cloonalla
had ever seen. In fact, so dense was the throng that when Blake drew up
with the auctioneer and Bridget, he was afraid to let his men near the
crowd lest they might be rushed. Standing up in a Crossley, he ordered
the people through a megaphone to form three sides of a square facing
the road, and, as soon as they had complied with his order, he told the
auctioneer to get out and carry on with his work on the fourth side of
the square. This he did, and, after describing the value and virtues of
the farms in the usual flowery language of his kind, asked for a bid.

There followed a deadly silence of fully two minutes. Again the
auctioneer called for a bid, and yet a third time—not a man in the huge
crowd dared open his mouth. Land-hunger is the predominant trait in a
western peasant’s character, and many men in that crowd would have
risked their souls for Bridget’s farms; but so great was the power, or
rather the fear of the I.R.A., that not a single man dared speak.

Seeing that it was useless to go on with the farce, Blake ordered the
auctioneer to return to the car. At once the crowd broke with an angry
roar, and made an ugly rush towards the road, but a volley of blank in
the air quickly stopped them, and they turned to scatter in the opposite
direction, while the police party returned to Ballybor.

That night, when she went to bed in the lodging-house, Bridget locked
her door and piled all the furniture she could against it. About 2 A.M.
some one knocked loudly at her door and bade her open, but she lay still
and gave no answer. She could then hear the raiders entering the other
rooms of the house, and the screams of inmates, followed by the curses
of the raiders.

The girl lay shaking in bed, knowing that it was only a question of time
before they came again, and when they did it gave her almost a sense of
relief. This time they did not knock, and she could hear whispering,
followed by a man wearing rubber soles running down the passage, and
then a crash as he hurled himself against her door.

The door was rotten and gave, but the furniture still held it up, and
the other men then put their shoulders against it, and finally it gave
way altogether, and the whole lot pitched into her room in a heap on the
floor.

As Bridget screamed, the men flashed their electric torches on to her,
and by the light she could see that they all wore painted white masks,
which completely covered their faces except the eyes and mouth. One
great brute then seized her by the hair, and dragged her screaming down
the stairs and into the street, where the others held her while the big
man shaved her hair off with a razor. They then lashed her wrists and
ankles, gagged her, and flung her in her nightdress into a waiting Ford,
which disappeared into the night.

A police patrol, guided by the screams, arrived on the scene just as the
Ford was disappearing in the direction of Castleport. Sending a
constable back to the barracks for a car and more men, the sergeant in
charge searched the lodging-house, only to raise a fresh alarm among the
terrified inmates, most of whom were under their beds.

In a few minutes the car arrived, and the police raced off after the
Ford as fast as the Crossley would travel.

For some time the police had had a strong suspicion that a creamery
about half-way between Ballybor and Castleport had been frequently used
by the I.R.A. as a detention prison, and as they drew near the place
they saw lights disappear from the windows.

After surrounding the building, the sergeant knocked at the door and
received no answer. Being afraid to delay lest they might be attacked,
he told his men to take one of the two thick iron-bound planks carried
under the body of the Crossley, and used for crossing trenches on the
roads, and to use it as a battering-ram on the door. At the second blow
the door splintered, and a third made a hole large enough for the police
to pass in.

The sergeant now advanced into the building, revolver in one hand and
torch in the other, and had nearly reached the back when shots and
shouts were heard, and at the same time he saw a man disappearing
through a door ahead of him and fired.

On reaching the door he was met by his own men, who said that three men
had tried to escape that way, and that they had shot two, the third
escaping.

They then searched the building, and found Bridget lying in a kind of
coal-cellar, half-dead from fright and exposure, and, wrapping her in a
policeman’s greatcoat, took her back to the lodging-house, leaving a
guard there for the rest of the night.

The next day Bridget fled to England, to return to America from
Southampton. Nothing in this world would have induced her to spend
another night in Ireland.

She left the sale of her farms in the hands of the auctioneer, who, to
his great surprise, some time afterwards found a buyer at a low figure
in a man who came from the north.

The police saw the northerner into his new home, and left him there. The
following morning the man staggered into the Ballybor Barracks, and when
he had sufficiently recovered, he told Blake that soon after he had gone
to sleep he was awakened by volumes of smoke, and on getting out of bed
found that the house was on fire. Seizing his clothes, he just managed
to get out before the blazing roof fell in.

Outside he was met by a roaring crowd, who beat him nearly to death with
sticks, and while he lay on the ground he could hear the screams of his
horses and cattle being burnt to death in the blazing outbuildings. The
crowd then left him for dead, well pleased with their night’s work.
After some hours he recovered and managed to crawl into Ballybor.



                                  XVI.
                              FATHER JOHN.


The tiny village of Annagh lies on the eastern slope of the Slievenamoe
Mountains, about fifteen miles due east of Ballybor, and consists of one
dirty street with, roughly, forty-nine miserable tumble-down hovels and
one grand slated two-storied house, as usual the shop and abode of the
village gombeen man, who also kept the Post Office—not because he was
the most honest man in the village, but because there was nobody else
able to do so.

A good many years ago, on a bitter winter’s night, a tinker, answering
to the name of Bernie M’Andrew, drove his ass-cart into the village of
Annagh, and called at the only shop to know if there were any kettles or
cans to be mended. The night was so cold and wet that the old
shopkeeper, in the kindness of his heart, bade the shivering tinker put
up his ass and spend the night. The tinker stayed and never left.

M’Andrew’s stock-in-trade, when he arrived at Annagh on that winter’s
night, consisted of half a barrel of salt herrings, a kettle, the usual
tinker’s soldering outfit, a policeman’s discarded tunic, and the rags
he stood up in. Within a year M’Andrew had buried the old shopkeeper,
who had lived alone for years and was beloved by all, and reigned in his
place.

Being an ambitious tinker, M’Andrew started a gombeen business with the
old man’s savings, which he found by chance in the secret drawer of an
old desk, and in a very short time became the best hated and most feared
man in the district.

At first M’Andrew supported Sinn Fein enthusiastically, but when he saw
law and order beginning to disappear, being now a man of property, he
became alarmed, and tried to run with the hare and the hounds.

M’Andrew’s great opponent was the young parish priest, Father John, who,
after serving as a chaplain with the British Army in France with great
distinction—he had been decorated for bravery in the field by both the
British and the French—returned to Ireland, having seen enough bloodshed
for his lifetime.

Father John was a grand man both physically and morally and in the right
sense of the words, and if only the majority of young Irish priests were
up to the standard of Father John there would be little trouble in
Ireland to-day.

When he became the parish priest of Annagh, Father John saw at once that
M’Andrew was fast reducing the great majority of his parishioners, who
were poor men with poorer mountain land, to a state of slavery, and
realised that it only wanted two bad years in succession to put the
whole parish under the gombeen man’s thumb.

At first he tried to keep the farmers away from M’Andrew’s shop; but
this they resented, as it entailed a journey of many miles to the
nearest town, and then they had to pay nearly as much as to M’Andrew.
Next he denounced M’Andrew and his evil practices from the altar,
warning the people of the consequences; but in spite of all the priest
could do or say the gombeen man flourished.

From the very first Father John opposed the Sinn Fein movement both by
word and deed, and when the first Sinn Fein organisers appeared in his
parish he quickly hunted them away; but before he knew what was
happening practically every young man in the parish had been enrolled,
whether he liked it or not, as a soldier in the I.R.A. M’Andrew was
quick to seize his chance of revenge, telling the people that the priest
was a secret agent of the British Government—hadn’t he served in the
British Army and taken the pay of the British Government, an enemy of
the people?—and that he was doing his best to stand between them and
liberty. In a week Father John was practically an outlaw in his own
parish, and M’Andrew became the popular hero.

Though he still officiated in the chapel, Sinn Fein saw to it that he
was paid no dues. For nearly two years this state of affairs continued,
and it would have been impossible for the priest to live if the older
and more sober members of his flock had not come to his house secretly
in the dead of night and paid him their dues.

One day, when feeling ran very high, Father John opened his daily paper
to see his own death reported, and a long obituary notice, probably the
handiwork of M’Andrew.

It was a situation common in Ireland—the peasants blind to the virtues
of their truest friend, and making a popular idol of their worst enemy:
it is a sad thing that many Irishmen will always insist in believing
what they wish to believe.

Father John was by nature a kindly and genial man, a lover of sport, of
a good horse, and of the society of men, and those two years must have
been a perfect hell on earth for him. Not that any one was ever openly
rude to him; they just sent him to Coventry and kept him there, hoping
to break his heart, and that by refusing to pay him any dues they would
gradually freeze him out, and in his place would come one of those
fire-eating young priests who would lead them to victory and freedom.

The summer of 1920 was wet and cold, with frosty nights during every
month except July. Now, if your potatoes grow in boggy land, and there
comes heavy rain followed by a night’s frost, not once but several
times, you will have no potatoes, and probably very little crop of any
kind. And if your living depends on the potato crop, you stand a good
chance of starving, unless the gombeen man will come to your assistance.

By November the whole parish of Annagh practically belonged to M’Andrew,
who held a mortgage on nearly every acre of tenanted land, and proceeded
to bully the people to his heart’s content.

On a Sunday morning in December, at about 10 o’clock, the hour when the
village usually began to come to life, the inhabitants were startled by
the screams of a woman, and when they rushed to their doors saw
M’Andrew’s servant running out of the village towards Father John’s
house. M’Andrew had been murdered during the night without a sound, and
the servant had no idea of what had happened until she went to his room
to see why he had not got up. All M’Andrew’s books had been burnt, and
afterwards the murderers must have cursed the day they did not set a
light to the house as well.

On the next day the village woke up to find a company of Auxiliaries
billeted in M’Andrew’s house and the yard full of their cars—a case of
out of the frying-pan into the fire.

For some time past the police had known that men on the run were hiding
in the mountains near Annagh; but though the area came within Blake’s
district, it was impossible to keep any control over it, owing to the
fact that the Owenmore river and the Slievenamoe Mountains lay between
it and Ballybor.

The Auxiliaries spent the day fortifying M’Andrew’s house, and that
night started operations, and the inhabitants soon realised that the
British Empire was not yet an “also ran.”

Just as it was getting dark the Auxiliaries in Crossleys would suddenly
burst out of M’Andrew’s yard, travel perhaps five or ten miles at racing
speed, and then surround and round up a village or district, so that the
numerous gunmen who had come from the south for a rest cure found it
impossible to get any sleep at all.

The local Volunteers at once sent an S.O.S. to Dublin, and received the
comforting answer that a flying column would arrive shortly in the
district and deal effectively with the Auxiliaries. In the meanwhile
they were to harass the enemy by every means in their power and carry on
a warfare of attrition—in other words, if they found one or two Cadets
alone—if unarmed so much the better—they were to murder them.

At first the local Volunteers were very much afraid of the Auxiliaries,
Sinn Fein propaganda having taught them to expect nothing but murder,
rape, and looting from the “scum of English prisons and asylums”; but
after a few days had passed and nothing dreadful happened to man or
woman, they took heart once more and started their usual warfare.

The Auxiliaries were commanded by a Major Jones, and on the Sunday
following their arrival in Annagh Jones left alone in a Ford at an early
hour to see Blake in Ballybor. The road crosses the mountains through a
narrow pass, and near the top of the pass there is a small chapel, a
school, a pub, and a few scattered cottages.

On his return Jones passed this chapel as the people were coming out
from Mass, blew his horn, and slowed up. After passing through the crowd
he noticed a group of youths standing on the right side of the road, and
opened his throttle wide, thereby probably saving his life.

When the car was within ten yards of the group every man drew a pistol,
and it seemed to Jones as though he was flying through a shower of
bullets. However, though the car was riddled, and had any one been
sitting in the other three seats they would all have been killed, Jones
found himself uninjured, and the old “tin Lizzie,” responding well to
the throttle, flew down the hill at twice the pace Henry Ford ever meant
her to travel at.

That evening Father John called on Jones and apologised for the outrage,
and Jones at once fell under the charm of the priest. Probably his
astonishment at Father John’s visit had something to do with it, but in
the days to come, when Father John supported his words by deeds, Jones
learnt that his first impression had been a correct one.

Returning in the early hours of the morning from a raiding expedition to
the south of Annagh, the Auxiliaries were surprised to see a tall priest
standing in the middle of the road and holding up his hand. Fearing a
trap—there was a blind corner just behind where the priest was
standing—they stopped about two hundred yards off and beckoned to the
priest to advance.

They were still more surprised to find that the tall priest was Father
John, who, having received information after they had started that the
Volunteers were going to lay trees across the road at this corner in the
hope of smashing up the Auxiliary cars, had spent the whole night
walking up and down the road in order that he might warn them of their
danger.

Father John drove back to Annagh with the Cadets, and by the time they
reached the village every Cadet swore that the priest was the finest man
they had yet met in Ireland, and they didn’t believe there was a finer
one.

From that on Father John accompanied the Auxiliaries on many a stunt,
and there is no doubt that he gave them every help in his power and all
information which reached him; but though he would travel anywhere with
them, he would never accept hospitality from them, nor would he enter
M’Andrew’s house.

About six miles from Annagh, in a hollow of the mountains, is the tiny
village of Glenmuck, completely isolated from the rest of the world, and
so situated that its presence was quite hidden until you literally
walked on top of it. None of the inhabitants, who lived chiefly by
making poteen in the winter time and going to England as harvesters in
the summer, possessed a cart, for the very good reason that the nearest
so-called third-class road was five miles away, and only a goat track
passed within a mile of the place.

Here in due course arrived the flying column of the I.R.A., seventy
strong, every man mounted on a bicycle and armed with a British service
rifle and as many pistols as he could find room for. They were also the
proud possessors of a Lewis gun.

As usual, the gunmen were billeted so many in each farm, and after being
badly harassed for some time in the south, Glenmuck seemed like Paradise
to them. The nights were spent in dancing, card-playing, and drinking
poteen. Somewhere about noon the gunmen got up, and after breakfast
visited each other in their different billets after the fashion of our
troops in France, walking about openly with their rifles slung over
their shoulders. The Lewis gun team passed their days teaching the boys
and girls of the village the mechanism of the Lewis gun.

The leader’s idea was to give his men much-needed rest and amusement for
a few days, and then to try and ambush the Auxiliaries; and probably
they could have spent quite a long time resting here without the
Auxiliaries having the slightest suspicion of their near presence. But
war seems to be made up so largely of “ifs,” and the “if” in this case
proved to be Father John.

When out riding on his rounds one morning, the priest noticed that most
of the young people of his parish appeared to be gravitating in their
best clothes towards Glenmuck, and suspecting a poteen orgy, he sternly
commanded a young damsel to tell him why she was going to Glenmuck, and
the girl told him. Father John rode straight back to Annagh, to be just
in time to stop Jones from starting off on a raid in the opposite
direction.

Jones first sent off a Cadet on a motor bicycle to Blake at Ballybor,
sending him a verbal outline of his plan of attack on Glenmuck, and
asking him to co-operate with the Auxiliaries from the other side of the
mountains. He then turned out every Cadet in the place, left M’Andrew’s
house empty to take care of itself, and made off at full speed in the
direction of Glenmuck with the priest acting as guide.

They reached the nearest point to Glenmuck on the road at noon, and
after leaving a small guard over the Crossleys, the rest of the company
set out in open order across the mountain for the flying column’s lair.

The gunmen had had great luck in the south for a long time, and their
luck still held. A youth, making his way across country to get a sight
of the wonderful gunmen, happened to look behind him when on top of a
rise, and saw about a mile away the oncoming Auxiliaries. Being a sharp
youth he realised who they were, and ran for the village as fast as his
young legs would carry him, and by chance ran straight into the leader
when he entered the outskirts of the place.

Reaching the hill above the village the Auxiliaries made a last
desperate rush down the slope, in the hope of catching the gunmen
scattered in the different cottages, and so mopping them up before they
could get together; but by this time the flying column had taken up
positions on the top of the far slope above the village, and as the
Cadets reached the cottages they came under heavy machine-gun fire.

Quickly realising what had happened, Jones ordered one platoon to make a
frontal attack on the gunmen’s position, while he sent a second and
third platoon to try to work round their flanks; the fourth platoon he
kept with him under cover in the village.

Then followed a very pretty fight for an hour, by which time the gunmen,
like the Boers of old, thought it was time to move on and take up a
position on the next ridge.

Jones knew that if he could only keep in close touch with the flying
column it was only a question of time before Blake, who would be guided
by the heavy firing, would attack them in the rear, and that they would
then stand a good chance of bagging the whole lot. The fight gradually
worked across the mountains, the gunmen retreating from ridge to ridge,
while the Cadets stuck to them like grim death, always striving to pin
them down, and when they retreated to drive them in the direction from
which Blake ought to appear.

Late in the afternoon heavy shooting suddenly broke out behind the
gunmen, and the Cadets redoubled their efforts to close with them.

By this time the opposing forces had worked their way down the western
slopes of the mountains almost as far as the high upland bogs, and
directly the gunmen realised that they were likely to be surrounded,
they broke and fled down a valley, closely pursued by police and Cadets.
Unfortunately the light was getting bad, and the gunmen’s luck still
held good. When they had gone about a mile, they came across a big party
of country people with whom they mixed, and when the police came up with
them it was impossible to tell gunmen from peasants—probably the former
were busily engaged cutting turf while the latter looked on. Their arms
were passed to the women, who hid the rifles in the heather and secreted
the pistols and ammunition on their persons.

During the whole long fight Father John attended to wounded Cadet and
gunman alike, always to be seen where the fight was hottest; and though
his calling was conspicuous from his clothes and white collar, yet on
several occasions the gunmen deliberately fired on him when attending to
a wounded Cadet.

After the battle of Glenmuck the flying column was seen no more in that
district, and for weeks the local Volunteers gave Jones no trouble.

Time after time Jones had received information that certain young men in
and about Annagh carried arms, but whenever they were surprised in a
shop or pub no arms could be found on them, and it was noticed that they
always moved about in the company of certain girls.

Soon after the battle of Glenmuck the belles of the district received
the shock of their lives when shopping in a town some miles away with
these young men. About noon four Crossley loads of Cadets suddenly
dashed into the town with two women searchers dressed in dark-blue
uniforms, and that day the first real haul of revolvers and automatics
was made. As usual, the men passed their arms to the girls directly they
saw the Auxiliaries arrive, but this time no notice was taken of the
men, while the girls, who on former occasions had stood looking on and
jeering at the Cadets, found themselves quickly rounded up, and the
women searchers soon did the rest.

After this the moral effect of the women searchers was so great that not
a girl in the district dare carry arms or even despatches. The girls
were not sure whether the searchers were women or young Cadets dressed
up as women, and this uncertainty greatly increased their alarm.

About six weeks later Jones found out that a much-wanted Dublin gunman,
called Foy, who had murdered at least two British officers in cold
blood, was hidden in the district, and was being fed by his mother and
sister, who lived about two miles from Annagh. Time after time the
Cadets tried to surprise Mrs Foy or her daughter carrying food to Foy’s
hiding-place, but always in vain.

Foy’s presence soon began to be felt in the district. Two Cadets,
returning off leave in mufti and unarmed, were taken out of the train
and murdered just outside the station, their bodies being left there for
all who passed to see, and no man dared to touch the bodies until the
police arrived. Next the Cadets were ambushed twice in one week, both
times unsuccessfully.

Father John, who had hoped that at last his parish had returned to the
paths of peace, was furious, and denounced from the altar all men and
women who shielded murderers. Finally, after the murder of the two
Cadets, he refused Holy Communion to Mrs Foy and her daughter, which is
a very serious step for a priest to take.

And when remonstrated with, he replied that, sooner than not denounce
and punish murderers and those who aided and abetted them, he would
throw off his coat and become an Auxiliary. More power to you, Father
John!



                                 XVII.
                           THE BOG CEMETERY.


After many months of the Sinn Fein Terror, the town of Ballybor became a
place of shadows and whispers. At night-time men saw shadows, real and
unreal, moving and stationary, at every corner of the streets and in
every lane; and during the day-time, when men met in the streets, they
would only speak in low whispers to each other, and always keeping one
eye over their shoulder.

Public opinion withered and died. Sinn Fein had no use for it—men became
completely detached, mere spectators of the unchecked and uncondemned
orgy of crime; like the younger generation in England, who waste a large
part of their lives in picture-houses, gazing at films of vice and
crime. And if a man had been murdered in the main street at Ballybor in
the middle of the day, not a hand would have been raised to save the
victim—the inhabitants would simply have regarded the incident in the
light of a film, and then gone home to their dinners.

The oft-heard remark when a policeman has been murdered, “that it served
him right for joining the R.I.C.,” epitomises the attitude of the
majority of the Irish public towards so-called “political murder.” As a
rule, an Irishman, on being asked if there was any news in the paper,
would reply, “No, only the usual columns of murders and outrages.”

Walter Drake, as his name implies, was descended from an Elizabethan
soldier who had settled in the west of Ireland and built a large house
about two miles from Ballybor, and here for many generations the Drakes
had lived, hunted, and farmed.

Walter Drake had at an early age entered the army through Sandhurst, but
retired after six years’ service on the death of his father, and since
then had lived at the Manor, spending a large part of his time helping
his poorer neighbours in every way in his power: a quiet man of a
retiring nature, a popular magistrate, and a good neighbour, but a
determined Loyalist. Called up again in August 1914, he had served
throughout the war with distinction in his old regiment, to return once
more to his home.

Had Drake lived in any civilised country in the world, he would most
assuredly have died in his bed when his time came, esteemed by all as a
just, kindly, and honourable man; but, as in war, the best seem to be
always taken, so it has been in Ireland. His only crimes appear to have
been that he continued to act as a magistrate after receiving an order
from the I.R.A. to resign his commission of the peace, and devoting
himself to helping ex-soldiers in the town to get their pensions and
trying to get grants of land for such as were worthy. The granting of
land to ex-soldiers was bitterly opposed by the Transport Union, who
wanted every acre for their own landless members. And probably being a
personal friend of Blake’s and beloved by the police force, would
constitute another crime in the eyes of the I.R.A.

On a certain Monday night the constable on duty at Ballybor Barracks
reported that a great light could be seen in the sky, and thought there
must be a big fire not far from the town. Going to the top of the
barracks, Blake at once saw that a large house must be on fire, and
judging from the direction the chances were that it was the Manor.
Taking a dozen men in a Crossley, he at once went off there, to find the
grand old house burning fiercely, and by the light of the fire he could
make out a pathetic group of figures on the tennis-ground in front of
the house.

The first person whom Blake met was the old butler, who told a tale now
familiar in many parts of Ireland to-day. The household had retired at
their usual hour of eleven, after which the butler had carefully closed
up the house and gone to the servants’ hall to smoke a pipe before
turning in. Soon afterwards he heard a loud knocking at the front door,
followed by a volley of shots, some of which must have been fired
through the windows, as he could hear the sound of falling glass.

The old man went and opened the front door, to be met by a ring of
rifles, shot-guns, pistols, and electric torches, behind which he could
make out the usual mob of masked ruffians. A strange voice then demanded
Major Drake; and when the butler told them that the Major had gone to
Dublin by the mail that day, a man handed him a letter telling him that
in ten minutes’ time they were going to burn the house to the ground,
and that he had better warn the inmates if he didn’t want them roasted
alive.

The butler at once took the letter to Miss Drake, who read the following
pleasant communication addressed to her brother:—

    “Major Drake,—Owing to your aggressively anti-Irish attitude, we
    have received orders to burn your house to the ground. You will be
    given ten minutes to collect your clothes. By order.—I.R.A.”

The girl hurriedly slipped on a dressing-gown, and went down to the hall
to find it full of the brutes sprawling in chairs and smoking. The
leader came forward to speak to her, and she begged him to have mercy on
her mother, who was old and in feeble health, and who would surely be
killed by the shock of having her house burnt and being turned out into
the night; and implored the man to take anything he wanted, offering him
all the money she had and her mother’s jewellery. For answer the man
pulled out his watch, and said that she had exactly ten minutes to get
her old English mother out of the house, no more and no less.

Seeing that it was useless to argue with the brute, Miss Drake called
the butler and her mother’s maid, woke up the old lady, dressed her the
best way they could, and as the household passed out through the central
hall, they saw men sprinkling the furniture and carpets with petrol.
Hardly had they reached the lawn when the men rushed out past them.
There was a violent explosion (petrol-tins bursting), and the house
seemed to burst into flames in an instant. And here they remained on the
tennis-ground, helpless and hopeless, their only crime Loyalty, until
Blake found them there, silently crying.

Seeing that the house was gone, that, in fact, it was impossible to save
anything, Blake put the Drakes into the Crossley, with the old butler
and the servants, and drove them to a hotel in the town.

Drake had been seen motoring through Ballybor to the station on the
Monday, and by that evening there was a whisper in the town that
something had happened to him, but what the something was the whisper
did not mention. During Tuesday rumour lay dormant. On Wednesday,
however, rumour awoke and rapidly made up for lost time, and by that
evening it was freely whispered throughout the town that Drake had
joined the I.R.A.; that he had bolted to Canada to escape from the
I.R.A., only to be taken out of the train on his way to Dublin by a
flying column of gunmen, tried by a court-martial, condemned, and
executed; that he had gone to Dublin to join the Auxiliaries; and
lastly, that he had gone to London to get married.

On Wednesday morning Miss Drake, whose poor old mother lay in a state of
collapse at the hotel, came to Blake in great distress, and implored him
to find her brother. She was sure something must have happened to him,
as she had wired twice, and then, getting no reply, had wired to the
secretary of his club, where he had intended staying, and from whom an
answer had just come to say Major Drake had not arrived.

Blake promised to do all he could, and started off at once to the
station to make inquiries. Having found out that Drake actually did
leave Ballybor by the mail train on Monday, he next sent an urgent
cipher message to the authorities in Dublin, hoping they would be able
to trace him there. Blake then set out for Knockshinnagh, the next
station on the line to Dublin, about a mile from the small town of the
same name, and situated in the midst of a vast bog, which stretches
towards the foot of the mountains to the east and west, and runs nearly
as far as Ballybor. Here, acting on the assumption that the rumour of
Drake having left the mail train at this station was correct, Blake
carefully interrogated the station-master and the three porters. One and
all denied having seen Drake on the day in question—one porter, who had
been there years, adding inconsequently that he did not even know him by
sight, and thereby making Blake sure that he was on the right track at
last.

That night Blake again visited the station-master at his house in the
station after midnight; and pretending that he knew for certain that
Drake had left the train at Knockshinnagh, warned the man of the serious
consequences of refusing to give information. 1 A.M. is an unpleasant
hour to interview armed men, and thinking that the police were
uncomfortably near and the I.R.A. in the dim distance, the
station-master made a full confession.

A few minutes before the limited mail arrived at Knockshinnagh on
Monday, three armed and masked men had driven up in a Ford car, and
directly the train pulled up had made straight for the carriage in which
Drake was travelling. At once they seized him, and dragged him,
struggling, out of the carriage to the car, and then drove off rapidly
in the direction of Ballybor. Before the train pulled out, a stranger in
a third-class carriage warned the station-master, in the name of the
I.R.A., to give no information to any one. As no further information
could be got from the station-master, Blake returned to the barracks,
and set out again for Knockshinnagh after breakfast, to endeavour to
trace the Ford from there.

The road from Knockshinnagh to Ballybor runs practically the whole way
through a vast bog, which is drained by the Owenmore river, with a deep
fringe of water-meadows on each bank. At intervals side roads connect up
the villages on the higher ground near the mountains with the main road.

The police had covered nearly three miles of the road without getting
any news of Drake or the Ford, when a sharp-eyed sergeant noticed the
narrow tracks of a Ford turning up one of these side roads to the east.
The car had turned the corner sharply, leaving a deep track of two
wheels in the soft ground on the edge of the road.

Turning down this side road, they proceeded slowly without seeing any
further car-tracks until they came to a long low cottage, standing back
about fifteen yards from the road. Here they found tracks which showed
that the car had pulled up at the door of the cottage, turned, and
returned towards the main road.

Leaving his men outside, Blake entered with a sergeant, in time to see
the owner bolting out of the back door, only to be caught by the
sergeant and brought back. The man said his name was Moran, and
protested his loyalty loudly before Blake could ask him a question.

In Ireland if you want information badly, often the best way to obtain
it is to bluff your opponent into believing that you already know part
of it, leaving him to guess as to how much you know. Blake took this
line of attack with Moran, and asked him the names of the four men who
had called at his cottage on the previous Monday in a car. But Moran
knew the game as well as Blake, and denied that any car had been to his
house lately, or indeed at any time, whereby Blake knew that the man
lied, and had something to conceal.

He then threatened Moran that if he did not tell all he knew he would
arrest him and keep him until he did, and at the same time took him
outside and pointed out the old tracks of a car in front of the cottage.
This had the desired effect, and at long last Blake thought their search
was at an end.

Moran, it appeared, was the caretaker of an I.R.A. cemetery, or rather
an old disused cemetery, where formerly unbaptised children were buried,
and which now was used to bury Volunteers who had “gone to America.” On
the Monday in question three armed and masked men had driven up to his
house with a prisoner, and after trying him by “court-martial” in the
cottage, had taken him to the cemetery, and made Moran help them to dig
a grave, while the unfortunate prisoner looked on. They blindfolded and
shot him, and finally forced Moran to put the body in the grave and fill
it in. They then left.

Though hard pressed, Moran denied any knowledge of the identity of the
masked men or their victim; and when told to describe the murdered man,
gave a description which might have applied to hundreds of men.

Blake then ordered Moran to show him the cemetery, but when thus driven
into a corner he took on the courage of a cornered rat, and though they
tried for an hour not one inch would he go. Seeing that the man was
desperate and would have died sooner than show them the cemetery, Blake
returned to the barracks.

That night, as soon as it was dark, a strong police force rounded up the
six leading Volunteers in Ballybor, and took them out to Moran’s house
in two Crossleys, arriving as the full moon was showing over the top of
the mountains.

At the first knock on the door Moran came out, his face contracted with
fear, which turned to relief on seeing the uniforms of the police; but
when he saw the six Volunteers he nearly collapsed. Blake now ordered
Moran to lead them to the cemetery, and so great was the man’s terror
that he started off across the bog without a word.

After walking over a mile in the moonlight, they came to a low ridge of
limestone mounds running through the bog and parallel to the mountains.
Here in a hollow was the old graveyard, which looked like a disused
sheep-pen, such as the country people use for the rounding-up of
mountain sheep when the different owners pick out their own sheep and
lambs to brand them. The cemetery was surrounded by a stone wall, broken
down in many places, and inside was a tangled mass of elder and thorn
bushes.

After posting sentries round the graveyard, Blake made Moran point out
the latest grave, and after the trembling man had shown them a mound
between two bushes, he ordered two of the Volunteers to start opening
the grave with spades brought by the police. Presently one of the spades
met something in a sack, and on opening the sack they found the body of
a short dark man—obviously a peasant—whereas Drake had been a tall fair
man. On examination they found wounds in the body and left leg.

For a moment Blake was quite nonplussed—he had been so sure that the
body would be Drake’s. He was certain that the station-master had spoken
the truth, and there seemed no reason to doubt Moran’s evidence, though
why he should be in such a state of terror was not plain. Further, it
was now five days since Drake was supposed to have been murdered, and
the body they had just dug up had obviously been in the ground two days
at the most, probably only one.

A careful examination of the cemetery showed that there was no other
recent grave.

Blake’s thoughts were interrupted by one of the Volunteers, a man called
Brogan, asking with his tongue in his cheek and an impudent sneer: “Is
yer honour satisfied now, and will we be after burying this poor fellow
decently agin?”

Taking no notice of Brogan’s question, Blake told a sergeant to make the
Volunteers carry the dead man to the Crossleys, and to wait for him
there. After they had gone he made Moran go down on his knees and swear
on his oath that the body they had dug up was the man who had been
executed on the previous Monday; but Moran could only swear that he had
been so frightened at the time that he had not taken any notice of the
prisoner, but that to the best of his belief the body was the one he had
buried. Moran then broke down, and had to be half-carried, half-led to
his cottage, where they left him, and returned to Ballybor with the
Volunteers and the corpse for a military investigation.

The failure to find Drake’s body in the bog cemetery forced Blake to
follow up the other rumours regarding his sudden disappearance, but
every rumour and clue failed them, and it looked as though Drake’s fate
was to be added to the long list of unsolved Irish crimes.

Two days after the police had visited the cemetery, Blake received
information that arms for a police ambush had been brought into Murrisk
townland, and also that poteen was being freely made and drunk there.

Having arranged with a company of Auxiliaries stationed in Annagh to
co-operate with him, Blake left the barracks with two Crossley loads of
police and a Ford an hour before dawn one morning, and as the day broke
the Auxiliaries and police started to close in a cordon on the village
and outlying farms where they suspected the arms were hidden.

The first signs of life were two women running across a bog, and when
followed one of them was seen by Blake with his glasses to throw a still
into a bog-hole, while the other one took two large jars from under her
shawl and smashed them together into pieces. The women were quickly
rounded up, and on being taken to the nearest house, the police found
six fully-dressed men well tucked up in two beds, and the remains of a
huge fire in the kitchen, while the whole house reeked of poteen—good
circumstantial evidence that the party of eight had spent the night
running a still.

After a long and fruitless search for arms, Blake found himself close to
Murrisk Abbey; so, after sending the Auxiliaries back to Annagh, he went
to pay the mac Nessa a visit.

The old man was delighted to see him, and insisted that he should stay
to dinner, and the police should have drink and food.

Blake and the mac Nessa dined alone, and over the port the old man
started to tell Blake tales of his youth. After his second glass and the
long day in the cold, Blake began to feel drowsy, and his thoughts
wandered to Drake and the grave in the bog cemetery, only to wake up
with a start, hearing the old man say something about a grave, followed
by, “Is yer honour satisfied now?”

Apologising for his deafness, he asked the mac Nessa to begin again, and
the old man told a rambling story of a butler of his young days called
Faherty, whose chief recreation was shooting rabbits in the park during
the summer evenings. Close to the park lived a pompous retired
shopkeeper called Malone, who had a very fine red setter, which was
always wandering in the park, like Faherty, after rabbits.

On several occasions Faherty and Malone had had words over the setter,
and the climax was reached when Malone arrived at the Abbey one evening,
purple with rage, and insisting on seeing the mac Nessa, burst into his
study, accused Faherty of having shot his setter, and added that he knew
that the dog was buried in a shrubbery at the back of the house. The mac
Nessa at once called for Faherty; the three proceeded straight to the
shrubbery with a spade, and Faherty was made to open the grave which
they found there. After digging down a short way he came on the body of
a cur dog, to Malone’s great astonishment and disappointment, and
Faherty asked in a voice of triumph, “Is yer honour satisfied now?”

After Malone had gone home, the mac Nessa asked Faherty for an
explanation, and the butler told his master how he had shot Malone’s
setter by mistake in the dusk, and then buried him in the shrubbery. The
following day he heard that Malone suspected him, and had heard of the
funeral in the shrubbery, so the next night he shot a cur dog, and
buried him on top of the setter.

On the way back to the barracks Blake could not help thinking of the
similarity of the remarks of Faherty and Brogan when the bodies of the
cur dog and the dark peasant were dug up, and that night he dreamt that
he was opening an endless row of graves, and never knew whether he would
dig up a cur dog or a dark peasant, and all the time he was hoping to
find Drake’s body. At last he came to a grave where he was positive he
would find Drake, and started to dig like mad, only to wake up and find
his own red setter on his bed.

Blake now determined to renew his efforts to find Drake. He ordered the
Head Constable to round up the same six Volunteers, and as soon as this
was done set off once more for the bog cemetery. Making their way to
Moran’s house, they learnt from his wife that the previous evening her
husband had been removed by masked men with shovel hats and wearing
black mackintoshes. The wife, noticing the black mackintoshes, accused
the police.

Borrowing a couple of spades, the police then went to the graveyard, and
as soon as the dark man’s grave could be found, Blake ordered the
Volunteers to open it again, and at the same time watched Brogan’s face
carefully. On the way out to the cemetery, Brogan had been laughing and
sneering as on the former occasion, but directly he heard Blake’s order
he went as white as a sheet, and began to tremble, and a look of terror
leapt into his eyes.

Blake knew that at last he was on the right track.

None of the Volunteers moved, waiting for Brogan to give a lead, and
Blake had to repeat his order, calling on Brogan by name to start
digging. Pulling himself together with a great effort, the Volunteer
commenced slowly to throw the earth out of the grave, the sweat, though
it was a cold day, pouring down his face.

The lower Brogan dug the slower he dug, until at last, when he had
excavated about two feet of soil, he suddenly fainted and collapsed into
the shallow grave.

The police were by now strung up to the highest pitch of excitement, and
a huge sergeant, who had been a great favourite with Drake, suddenly
gave a hoarse shout, and, jumping into the grave threw Brogan out, and
started digging like a madman, while the rest began to fidget with the
triggers of their rifles and look ominously at the uneasy Volunteers.

Suddenly the sergeant’s spade met a soft resistance, and in a few
seconds he had uncovered and opened a sack, to find, as Blake expected,
the body of poor Drake with a huge expanding bullet hole through his
forehead.

The next five minutes will always be to Blake a nightmare: the police
went stark mad,—when highly-disciplined troops break they are far worse
to handle than any undisciplined crowd,—and with a howl of rage made for
the cowering Volunteers, ignoring Blake’s shouts; and to this day Blake
has no idea of how he kept his men from taking revenge on the
Volunteers.

Probably he would have failed but for the lucky chance of noticing that
Brogan, who had come to, was trying to escape. The diversion of chasing
Brogan brought the police back to their senses, and by the time he had
been captured and brought back, discipline was completely restored.

Before they left the cemetery, Brogan made a complete confession of all
he knew about the tragedy. He told Blake that information had been given
to the G.H.Q. of the I.R.A. in Dublin that Drake was on the point of
taking command of a company of Auxiliaries who were to be stationed in
his own house, the idea being to use Drake’s local knowledge, which
Blake knew to be quite untrue. On the Sunday two gunmen arrived from
Dublin with orders to shoot Drake and burn his house. Finding out that
Drake intended to go to Dublin the following day by the mail train, they
commandeered a Ford in Ballybor, taking Brogan with them as a guide, and
took him out of the train at Knockshinnagh; and after the murder they
returned to Ballybor, superintended the burning of Drake’s house, and
then disappeared into the night on stolen bicycles.

Shortly afterwards Brogan heard a rumour that Drake had been murdered
and buried in the bog cemetery, and he became very uneasy. That night he
and three of the Volunteers received orders to take part in a police
ambush on the far side of the Slievenamoe Mountains, which order they
obeyed, going in a Ford.

In the ambush a strange gunman—none of the local Volunteers knew who he
was or where he came from—was killed, and when some argument arose as to
how to dispose of his body, Brogan at once volunteered to take the body
back with him and bury it in the bog cemetery, his intention being to
bury the gunman on top of Drake, so that if by chance the police opened
the grave they would find the body of the gunman and be put off the
scent. After the first visit of the police the Volunteers had removed
Moran to a Sinn Fein detention prison, fearing that he might break down
and give information.



                                 XVIII.
                       A JEW IN GAELIC CLOTHING.


“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but
inwardly they are ravening wolves.”—St. Matt. vii. 15.

Probably very few people in England have the remotest idea to what
extent anarchy was rife throughout the south and west of Ireland, even
in parts of loyal Ulster, during the year 1920.

Most of the Irish members of Parliament, seventy-three to be exact,
swore allegiance to Dail Eireann. Of these, seven lived abroad, and the
remainder spent most of their time in prison.

At the beginning of the year Sinn Fein captured practically every County
Council, Rural Council, and Poor Law Guardian’s Board in twenty-seven
counties; nearly all these Boards defied the Local Government Board, and
took their orders from Dail Eireann direct.

Next came the burning of County and Civil Courts, police barracks and
Petty Sessions Courts, followed by murderous attacks on police and
Loyalists throughout the south and west, though chiefly in the south at
first.

In many parts Loyalists were forced under the jurisdiction of Sinn Fein
Land, Arbitration, and Civil Courts. Solicitors had their choice of
practising in these Courts or not practising at all, and a solicitor
must live as well as another man.

The police had no power outside their barracks, and in many districts a
policeman was never seen for weeks on end, whole districts being policed
by civilian Volunteers.

A large national loan was raised openly in defiance of the British
Government, its avowed purpose being to carry on war against England and
to break up the British Army. Sinn Fein banks and insurance societies
were floated, the money obtained being used for the same purposes. Sinn
Fein laws were passed and enforced, and a large army organised and built
up, drilled and armed.

At this time the British Prime Minister repeatedly assured the country
that there never could and never would be an Irish Republic; while Lloyd
George talked De Valera acted, and the Republic came into being while
Lloyd George was still talking.

During the summer of 1919 a very ordinary and at first uninteresting
strike of shop assistants took place in Ballybor for higher wages and
shorter hours, and the shopkeepers managed to carry on with the aid of
their families, and few of the public suffered any inconvenience from
the strike.

Good relations still existed between master and employee in nearly every
shop in the town, and the shopkeepers were just on the point of an
amicable settlement with their assistants when a Transport Union
agitator, or, as he called himself, a Gaelic organiser, appeared on the
scene, and in a few hours the whole situation was changed. The local
secretary of the Transport Union, to which the shop assistants belonged,
at once broke off all negotiations with the shopkeepers, and before
night several acts of sabotage had been committed in the town.

The next morning saw the strike begin afresh in deadly earnest. Every
street was picketed by strikers, who refused to allow any one,
townspeople or country people, to purchase any foodstuffs until the
shopkeepers had given in to their impossible demands. Doubtless the idea
was that the starving people would bring such pressure to bear on the
shopkeepers that they would be forced to give in and grant practically
any terms to the shop assistants. In a word, the old game of blackmail.

Several unfortunate old country-women, who had managed to evade the
pickets and to purchase provisions, were caught on their way home by the
strikers and their purchases trodden into the mud of the streets. One
old clergyman, who lived several miles from Ballybor in an isolated
district, managed not only to dodge the pickets and buy much-needed
food, but to get two miles on his way home. However, a picket of
shop-boys, mounted on bicycles, overtook him, threw all his provisions
into a bog-hole, beat him severely, turned his pony loose in the bog,
and left him by the roadside.

At first the shopkeepers were bewildered and at a complete loss to
understand the sudden change in the attitude of their assistants, but on
hearing Paidraig O’Kelly, the so-called Gaelic organiser, make his first
public speech, they knew at once what they were up against.

In 1914, before the war broke out, all thinking Irishmen knew that the
coming and growing danger in Ireland was the Transport Union, formed
originally for the perfectly legitimate object of raising the status and
wages of the working classes (quite apart from the small farmer class)
by combined action. But in a very short time this Union became the
instrument of Bolshevism in Ireland under the able command of James
Connelly, a disciple of Lenin’s long before the latter had risen to
power.

And so thoroughly and well had Connelly made out his plans for the
future that in every town and village the complete machinery of Soviet
Government had been prepared, ready to start working the instant the
revolution should break out. Men had been appointed to every public
office, and the houses of the well-to-do allotted to the different
Commissioners and officers of each local Soviet.

Luckily for Ireland, the rebellion of 1916 saw the end of James
Connelly, probably the most dangerous and one of the cleverest men of
modern times in Ireland.

With the death of Connelly and the disappearance of Larkin to America,
the Transport Union fell into the hands of less able men, but still
carried on successfully with agrarian agitation, though marking time as
regards revolution.

After the war the Union found itself up against Sinn Fein, and for a
time it looked as though the two parties would come to blows and so
nullify each other’s efforts. Unfortunately both parties saw that their
only chance of success was to co-operate; doubtless the Transport Union
thought that if the rebellion was successful their chance would come in
the general confusion, and that they would be able to get their Soviet
Government working before the Sinn Feiners could get going.

During 1919 and 1920 Sinn Fein and the Transport Union nearly came to
blows on several occasions in the west over agrarian trouble. The
Transport Union wanted to take advantage of the absence of law and order
to hunt every landlord and big farmer out of the country and divide
their lands amongst the landless members of the Union, while Sinn Fein
policy was to wait until the Republic had been set up, when, so they
declared, there would be an equitable division made.

The Ballybor strike collapsed as suddenly as it had started with the
disappearance of Paidraig O’Kelly. The previous day a public meeting on
the town fair green had been held by the Transport Union, and all the
young men and girls of the town and countryside had attended. At first
the local firebrands addressed the meeting with their usual grievance,
and then O’Kelly spoke for a full hour. At first he confined himself to
the strike, and carried his audience with him when he painted a vivid
picture of the different lives led by the shopkeepers and their
“slaves,” how the former and their families lived on the fat of the
land, the latter in the gutter.

The crowd had now had all they wanted and were prepared to go home to
tea, but O’Kelly had a good deal more to tell them. Suddenly and without
any warning he began to unfold the doctrine of Lenin, to show them how
the world and all the good things in it ought really to belong to them,
and that these good things would never be theirs until the ruling
classes were forced to disgorge them, and that the only way to make the
swine disgorge was to kill them one and all—gentry, business men, and
shopkeepers.

The man could really speak, and held his audience spellbound while he
unfolded the Irish Eldorado of the future; but through all his speech
ran the one idea to kill, always to kill those in a higher station of
life than his listeners. To finish with he called upon them to start
with the police, to shoot them like the dogs they were, and when they
were gone the rest would be easy.

Sergeant M’Grath had been detailed to attend the meeting to take down in
shorthand any speeches which might require explaining afterwards, but
until O’Kelly started to preach the doctrine of Lenin he had not opened
his notebook.

The sergeant had served in most parts of Ireland, but O’Kelly’s speech
and brogue puzzled him: the man spoke like an Englishman trying to
imitate the Irish brogue, but with a thickness of speech which the
sergeant could not place. Nor could he place the shape of O’Kelly’s
head, a round bullet-shaped one with a high narrow forehead and coarse
black hair.

He duly reported O’Kelly’s speech to the D.I., who endeavoured to find
out where the man came from, but failed to get any definite information.
One rumour said that O’Kelly came from Cork, another from America, and
yet a third that he was a native of Castleport. So the only thing to do
was to arrest the man and then try to identify him; but O’Kelly had
completely disappeared.

Nothing further appears to have been heard of O’Kelly in Ireland during
1919, but the following year an itinerant lecturer on beekeeping turned
up in Co. Donegal, who bore a strong resemblance to Lenin’s disciple.
This man’s practice was to give a short lecture on bees in
school-houses, and then to launch forth into pure Bolshevism—a complete
waste of time on the average Donegal peasant. Next he was heard of in
Belfast, where he was lucky to escape a violent death at the hands of
some infuriated shipyard workers.

In May 1920 the Transport Union in Ballybor began suddenly to give Blake
a lot of trouble—cases of men being dragged out of their beds at night
and forced with a loaded gun at their heads to join the Union steadily
increased.

Several landlords who employed a good many men were threatened that, if
they did not pay a higher wage than the maximum laid down by law, all
their men would be called out and that they would in addition be
boycotted. And any who refused at once had their hayricks burnt and
their cattle injured.

Rumours came to Blake’s ears of a man making extraordinary speeches at
night in the different country school-houses throughout the district to
audiences of young men and girls, speeches which apparently combined
Sinn Fein aims with red revolution.

During 1920 Sergeant M’Grath had been sent to Grouse Lodge as
sergeant-in-charge, and thinking that he recognised O’Kelly in the
revolutionary lecturer who was touring the district, he kept a careful
watch on the Cloonalla school-house, and within a week had surprised and
captured the man, who turned out to be O’Kelly.

O’Kelly was brought up before the R.M. in Ballybor Barracks, charged
with inciting the people to murder the police during the strike of 1919,
and pleaded not guilty.

The R.M., who looked upon the man as a harmless lunatic (he had not
heard him haranguing a crowd), offered to let him go provided he entered
into a recognisance to be of good behaviour and could find two sureties
in fairly substantial sums. O’Kelly replied that he dared not enter into
a recognisance to be of good behaviour, and further, that if he was
released he would continue to preach revolution. Whereupon the R.M. gave
him three months and left the barracks.

Blake then saw O’Kelly alone, and endeavoured to find out who and what
he was. It was obvious that the man was not an Irishman, nor did he
appear to be English. O’Kelly refused to give him any information
regarding himself.

While this interview was going on an Auxiliary, whose home was in
Scotland, and who commanded a section of Cadets on temporary duty in
Ballybor, looked in to see Blake and found him with O’Kelly.

After O’Kelly had left the room the Auxiliary told Blake that he knew
the man well, and had often seen him in Glasgow, where, previous to
1919, the man had lived for two years working as a Jewish Bolshevik
agent, and that he had suddenly disappeared from Glasgow when the police
began to get unpleasantly attentive.



                                  XIX.
                           MOUNTAIN WARFARE.


The movements of the flying columns of the I.R.A.—gangs of armed
ruffians, usually numbering about forty, but sometimes more, sometimes
less, and led by men with military experience (ex-soldiers and even
ex-officers, to their everlasting shame)—have always corresponded
accurately to the amount of police and military pressure brought to bear
on them, which pressure has continually fluctuated in agreement to the
whims and brain-waves of the politicians in power.

Figuratively speaking, these same politicians have kept the police and
military with one hand tied behind their back, and sometimes when the
screams of the mob politicians in the House have been loudest, have very
nearly tied up both their hands. If a chart had been kept during the
Irish war showing the relative intensity of the politicians’ screams and
the activities of the I.R.A., the reading of it would be highly
interesting and instructive.

Extra pressure, more rigid enforcement of existing restrictions on
movement, and increased military activity have always resulted in a
general stampede of flying columns to the mountains of the west, where
the gunmen could rest in comparative safety, and swagger about among the
simple and ignorant mountain-folk to their hearts’ content.

Here they would stay until the politicians, frightened by inspired
questions in the House, would practically confine the military and
police to barracks. The gunmen would then, with great reluctance, leave
the safety of the mountains, and return to the southern front, to carry
on once more the good work of political murder.

And so the game of seesaw went on. Every time that the Crown forces saw
victory in sight the politicians would drag them back again to start all
afresh. The wonder is that the Crown forces stuck it so long with every
hand against them, and their worst abuse coming from a cowardly section
of their own countrymen in England.

Early in 1921 the Crown forces in the south of Ireland suddenly gave
forth signs that a determined effort was to be made to deal effectively,
once and for all, with the gangs of armed murderers and robbers roaming
the country, masquerading as soldiers of the Irish Republic; and again
the flying columns fled in haste to their mountain retreats in the west,
a part of the country where the majority of the inhabitants have always
done their best to keep out of the trouble, with a few isolated
exceptions.

This time they stayed longer; in fact, each time it became harder to
induce the gunmen to forsake the peace of the mountains for the war in
the south. After a time they started to vary the monotony by carrying
out punitive expeditions against the police and the unfortunate
Loyalists in the surrounding lowlands, but always to fly back to the
mountains at the first sight of a force of police or soldiers.

Ex-soldiers were the chief game at this period. A district would be
chosen where there were no troops and few police. A list of all
ex-soldiers living in this district would be made out, and guides
provided by the local I.R.A. commandant. Each ex-soldier would be
visited in turn during a night, given his choice of active service with
the I.R.A. or a sudden death. Those who remained loyal to the King would
be led out and butchered like sheep, though possibly the murderers would
not take the trouble to remove their victims, but would fire a volley
into them as they lay in bed, and leave them there. Truly a brave army!

Transport presented no difficulty to the gunmen. The British Government
took practically no steps to control the movements of motors, motor
bicycles, or push-bicycles, except the motor-permit farce, which greatly
inconvenienced Loyalists only. All they had to do was to commandeer as
many cars or bicycles as they wanted, where, when, and how they liked.

However, this was not all the work which the Sinn Fein leaders intended
their flying columns to carry out, and in order to induce the gunmen to
return to duty the usual noisy peace squeal was started in England, so
that conditions might be made pleasanter for the gunmen in the south.
The murdering of ex-soldiers and helpless Loyalists could be easily
carried out by local Volunteers under a well-seasoned murderer—an
excellent method of initiating raw recruits into the methods of the Sinn
Fein idea of warfare. The British Government, always great judges of
Irish character, thought that the Sinn Fein leaders were coming to their
senses at last, took off the pressure, and the gunmen duly returned to
duty.

                  *       *       *       *       *

At length there came a time when these columns really got the wind up,
stampeded to the western mountains, and this time refused point-blank to
return to duty.

In the late spring of 1921 Blake was suddenly called over to England on
private business in London, and afterwards went down to the country to
spend a few days with the parents of a man with whom he had served in
France.

The day after his arrival Blake’s host told him that a Black and Tan, a
native of the place, had been murdered in Ireland a few days previously,
and was to be buried that day in the parish graveyard, and asked Blake
if he would accompany him to the funeral.

When passing through Dublin on his way to England, Blake had seen in the
Castle the account of how this unfortunate Black and Tan had met his
death—shot in the back when walking in the streets of a small western
town with a girl; and not content with that, the murderers had fired a
volley at him as he lay wounded on the ground, and even fired several
shots after the girl as she fled shrieking up the street. So terrified
were the townspeople that, though there were many in the streets at the
time, not one dared to even approach the dying constable, and it was not
until a full hour afterwards that a passing police patrol found him
lying dead in a great pool of blood. Incidentally, the murderers had by
then put sixteen miles behind them by means of stolen bicycles.

Blake accepted, expecting to see a large funeral to do honour to the
murdered policeman, but to his great surprise and indignation found that
only the near relations of the murdered man were present.

Returning from the funeral, Blake happened to see the local police
inspector in the main street of the little town, and at once tackled him
about the funeral, wanting to know why the local police had not been
present as a last mark of respect to a man who had died for his country.

The inspector seemed greatly surprised and rather taken aback, and
replied that he could hardly be expected to turn his men out to attend
the funeral of a murderer.

For a moment Blake saw red, and but for a natural horror of making a
scene in a public place, would probably have knocked the inspector down.
Then, thinking that there must be a bad blunder somewhere, he asked whom
the Black and Tan had murdered, and how he had met his death. The
inspector admitted that the Black and Tan had been murdered, he
believed, and then opened out on the crimes and atrocities which the
Black and Tans had committed in Ireland—murder, rape, and highway
robbery,—in fact, the usual list of atrocities which is generally to be
read in the Sinn Fein propaganda pamphlets.

Blake waited patiently until the inspector had given him a harrowing
picture of the condition of the south and west of Ireland: heartrending
accounts of homeless and starving women and children, old and young men
and boys hunted like wild beasts in the mountains and living on berries
and roots; shops burnt to the ground and looted by Black and Tans in
mufti; and of men and boys shot by Auxiliaries in the dead of night
before the eyes of their relations.

He then asked the inspector who had given him this information, adding
that he would like to see the proof of it, and at the same time telling
him that he was a D.I. in the R.I.C.

The inspector invited Blake to go to the police station with him, and
here, as Blake had expected, he was shown the usual lying propaganda and
pamphlets of Sinn Fein, which have been distributed by the million
throughout England, Scotland, Wales, and the U.S.A. An extract from one
pamphlet is worth repeating:—

“Famine is about to add thousands of innocent victims to the hundreds of
thousands already in need of the bare necessities that keep body and
soul together. In every Irish village and town sickness, pestilence, and
death invade the humble homes, striking swiftly and surely the mothers
and children incapable of resistance through months of struggle against
cold and hunger.... Children of tender years, ragged and wretched,
trudge daily through the cold to a school now used for a relief station
to obtain the one meal a day on which they live—a piece of bread and a
warm drink.”

Seeing from his ribbons that the man had served in the war, Blake asked
him if he would take the word of a brother officer against that of a
Sinn Fein rebel. The inspector seemed to think this a good joke, and
replied: “A brother officer every time.” “Well, then,” said Blake, “as
an ex-British officer, I give you my word of honour that all those
pamphlets you have just shown me are a pack of lies circulated by Irish
rebels to ruin your country.”

Still the inspector was only half convinced, and in spite of all Blake
could say he saw when he at last left that the man’s belief in the
printed pamphlets of Sinn Fein was still unshaken. Such is the
tremendous effect of print, whether newspapers or pamphlets, on the
modern mind, and the firm belief in the old saying that there can be no
smoke without a fire.

That afternoon Blake was carried off by his hostess to a drawing-room
lecture at a big country-house. His hostess was not quite sure what the
lecture was about, but believed it had something to do with Russia.
After tea the lecturer arose, and before he uttered a word, Blake had a
premonition of what was coming. A tall thin man, with pronounced Celtic
peculiarities and a mane of long, lank, black hair, Blake had seen his
prototype thousands of times in the west of Ireland.

Throwing back his great mane with a jerk of his head, the lecturer
started on an impassioned recital of the atrocities committed in Ireland
by the British Army of Occupation, practically the same collection of
lies and wicked quarter truths which Blake had heard from the police
inspector that morning.

Blake watched the faces of the audience closely, mostly women of the
upper and middle classes, and could see that the lecturer’s ready tongue
was making a deep impression on them. There was no yawning or fidgeting,
and the audience, many of them with the parted lips of rapt attention,
kept their eyes riveted on the quite interesting face of the wild man of
the west, camouflaged by a London tailor to harmonise with an English
drawing-room.

Blake let the man have a fair innings, and then while he was drinking a
glass of water (Blake felt like asking him if he would not prefer
poteen) stood up and said quietly, “Ladies and gentlemen, so far this
lecture has been nothing but a pack of lies from beginning to end. The
lecturer is a Sinn Fein rebel camouflaged as an Irish gentleman, and I
am a D.I. of the Royal Irish Constabulary. During the war I fought for
your country, and the lecturer probably assisted the Boches in every
underhand and mean way he could. You can judge for yourselves which of
us is most probably telling the truth, and nothing but the truth.”

The wild man turned with a wicked snarl, all signs of the veneer gone,
and his face reminded Blake of a cornered gunman he had had to deal with
once during a raid on a Dublin lodging-house; and there would probably
have been an ugly and unseemly scene, but the owner of the house
intervened, and gently but firmly led the wild man out of the room,
while Blake and his friends left the house at once.

On his return Blake found a cipher wire from his County Inspector
recalling him at once, and going by car to London managed to catch the
Irish mail from Euston. All the sleepers were engaged, but by good luck
he found himself in possession of a first-class compartment.

While idly smoking a cigarette and meditating on the extraordinary
amount of Sinn Fein propaganda he had met with in the course of one
short day in England, he noticed a well-dressed slight girl pass and
repass the glass door of his compartment several times. As the mail
pulled out of the station this girl pulled open the sliding-door from
the corridor and sat down opposite Blake, remarking that it was a grand
evening, and thereby unconsciously informing him that she was Irish.

Suddenly realising that he was smoking, he asked the girl, who he could
see was unusually pretty and quite young, if she had any objection, and,
as he had expected, she readily entered into conversation.

After a time she remarked, with a pretty engaging smile, that she saw he
had nothing to read, and getting down her suit-case, handed Blake a
handful of the identical pamphlets he had already seen that morning in
the English country police station. In addition, there was one fresh one
on “The Irish Issue,” by William J. M. A. Maloney, M.D., captain in the
British Army, August 1914-August 1916.

Blake then saw that his original suspicion was correct, and that he had
to deal with that most dangerous of all spies, Sinn Fein or any other
breed—a pretty girl.

By the time Rugby was passed he had heard the simple life-history in a
rural part of England of the girl, ending with the information that she
was going to Dublin for three months, and that she was very much in
dread after all the dreadful happenings there she had read of in the
papers, and she had never been in Ireland before (all this in a very
fine rich Dublin brogue). And Blake began to think that he must really
possess that most priceless of assets, to look a much bigger fool than
you are.

After the stop at Crewe the girl again attacked him about Dublin, asking
if he lived in lodgings there, and, if so, was there a room to let in
the same house. A few days previously Michael Collins’s flat in a
certain Dublin street had been raided with satisfactory results to the
raiders, and Blake gave her this address, assuring her that she would
here find quarters entirely suitable to her requirements. The girl took
the hint, and the rest of the journey to Holyhead was spent in silence.

On the mail-boat Blake saw the girl once more, sitting with a youthful
officer of the Dublin garrison, and carrying on an animated conversation
with their heads touching.

On arriving at Ballybor Barracks Blake found further orders awaiting him
from the County Inspector to proceed at once to Castleport with all the
men and cars he could spare.

The wildest rumours were afloat amongst his men: that the I.R.A. were
going to take the field openly (this notable achievement was reserved
for the Truce); that a large force of Americans had landed from a yacht
at Errinane with stacks of arms, and that they were raising and arming
the mountain men of that district greatly against their wish and
inclination, and that De Valera had been landed on the west coast from a
submarine, was hiding in the mountains of Ballyrick, and was at long
last going to take the field himself.

Collecting every man he could spare and taking all the transport except
one Crossley, Blake set off with a strong convoy of police for
Castleport. The men were in great heart, and eagerly looking forward to
a good square fight in the open with the hitherto elusive soldiers of
the I.R.A.

At Castleport they found the barracks packed with police, drawn in from
all the outlying districts; even two large houses adjacent to the
barracks had had to be commandeered to hold all the men.

The County Inspector explained the situation, which was quite simple. A
large force of I.R.A. flying columns, estimated at over a thousand
strong, were reported to have refused to return to the south, and had
taken up permanent quarters in the Maryburgh Peninsula, north-west of
Errinane, and were playing old puck generally throughout that part of
the west. At first these flying columns had been distributed all through
the mountains, some in the Ballyrick country, more in the Slievenamoe
Mountains, and a large party to the south of Castleport; but owing to
the unpleasant attentions of Auxiliary flying columns they had gradually
retired towards the Maryburgh Peninsula, where so far they had been left
unmolested.

The gunmen on the Slievenamoe Mountains had had a bad fright from the
very efficient company of Auxiliaries quartered at Annagh. Father John
had done all in his power to get rid of these unwelcome guests in his
parish, but showing a fine turn of speed they just managed to escape,
actually dashing through Ballybor in the middle of the night in a convoy
of commandeered Fords a few days before Blake’s return.

For some time the gunmen had been in the habit of commandeering their
rations at night from Castleport, and during these nights the town would
be completely isolated. The first intimation of anything being wrong
which the townspeople had was the return one night of several
white-faced crying girls, who told their parents that they had just by
chance met Pat So-and-So, and that he had asked them to go for a stroll,
and hardly had they got outside the town when armed men had seized poor
Pateen and ordered the girls to go home at once. Incidentally the poor
Pateens were kept as a labour platoon by the gunmen, and made to do all
the dirty work of digging trenches, breaking down bridges, &c., which
occurred during the operations to follow. A different butcher, baker,
and grocer would be visited each time, just to show that there was no
question of favouritism with the I.R.A.

While this requisitioning was proceeding every road leading into
Castleport was held by strong pickets of gunmen, who, as soon as the
ration party returned, would make for the Maryburgh Mountains on
bicycles, the ration party travelling on a commandeered lorry.

Directly the County Inspector got wind of this proceeding, he made an
attempt to surprise the gunmen one night, but their local information
was too good, and he failed. Then, hearing that this big muster of
gunmen was hiding in the Maryburgh Peninsula, he collected all the
forces he could, and prepared to kill, capture, or drive them into the
Atlantic.

Soon after Blake’s arrival at Castleport, apparently reliable
information came in that a landing of arms had been carried out early
that morning at Errinane, and that these arms were to be taken as soon
as it was dark to the Maryburgh Peninsula. The County Inspector at once
detailed Blake and Black, the Castleport D.I., to take a large force of
police and attempt to seize the arms before they could be taken out of
Errinane.

Errinane lies about twenty-one miles to the south of Castleport, on a
narrow inland bay. The road runs the whole way through wild mountainous
country, though at no point does the road run very close to the
mountains.

On the way out Blake carefully looked out for any points where an ambush
might be carried out, and noticed that there were two bad spots: one
where the road skirted the edge of a wood with a rocky hill close on the
other side; the second, about eight miles from Castleport, where the
road twisted through a ravine with steep rocky sides dotted with bushes,
and at one place crossed a narrow high bridge—an ideal place for an
ambush. Blake was so much impressed with this place that he stopped the
cars and made his men search carefully the sides of the ravine, but not
a sign of any preparations for an ambush could they find. Nor were there
any trenches on the road.

After picketing Errinane, Blake searched every house, shop, store, and
barn in the village, but not a sign of arms could be found, nor was any
yacht to be seen in the harbour.

It was late when they started back for Castleport, and Blake, who was
suspicious of an ambush at the bridge in the ravine, which was the
nearest point on the road to the Maryburgh country, ordered Black to go
ahead with two Crossleys, and to search the ravine thoroughly, and then
to wait until the rest of the force caught him up.

Blake’s party was delayed by two punctures, and when they got near to
the ravine heavy firing suddenly broke out ahead of them. When within
half a mile of the bridge, they saw a party of men running away from a
culvert in a dip of the road ahead of them.

Luckily, Blake was in the leading car, and ordered the driver to pull up
about a hundred yards short of the culvert, which, sure enough, went up
before they had been waiting two minutes.

The firing ahead had now grown heavier, and every now and then the dull
thud of a bursting Mills bomb could be heard above the racket of
musketry. Realising that Black must be hard pressed, Blake divided his
force into two, ordered each party to deploy on one side of the road and
attempt to outflank the ravines.

When within three hundred yards of the bridge both parties came under
heavy enfilade machine-gun fire—machine-guns which made a noise none had
ever heard before, and were probably American Thompson guns,—and they
were forced to take the best cover they could find in the open bog.

The machine-gun fire at once died down, only to break out again every
time the police attempted to advance by short rushes. By painful degrees
they managed to get within eighty yards of the bridge, where the
formation of the ground protected them from that horrible enfilade hail
of bullets, and gathering themselves together they charged at the
reverse slope of the ravine.

At once the firing ceased, and when at last they had torn their way
through briars and gorse to reach the top, all that they found was small
piles of empty cartridges and two ordinary tweed caps—not a sign of a
gunman whichever way they looked.

They then turned their attention to their comrades on the road, and here
a heartrending sight met their eyes. At first it appeared as though all
the occupants of the two cars were either dead or wounded, but as they
descended towards the bridge a small party of police crawled from
underneath it, soaked to the skin. They found Black lying against the
front wheel of the leading car with four bullet wounds in his body and
his head smashed in by a dum-dum bullet—stone-dead.

Blake found out from the survivors that Black had disregarded his
orders, and had not pulled up until the cars had passed the bridge, when
a hail of bullets swept the cars from the top of both banks of the
ravine. Black was wounded by the first volley, was hit twice while
getting out of the car to lead his men to the attack, and in the head as
his foot touched the ground.

The sun had by now gone down, and collecting all his wounded and dead,
Blake pushed off for Castleport as fast as he could.

Beyond a blown-up culvert half a mile from the ravine, which the cars
crossed without difficulty on their own planks, they met with no further
trouble.

Then followed three feverish days of planning and preparing for the
great drive, which it was hoped would put a thousand gunmen out of
action for good and all; unless indeed a new Chief Secretary should come
to Ireland, perhaps this time from Australia or possibly from India, or
even a Jew, who would celebrate his arrival in this unfortunate country
by opening wide the gates of the internment camps.

The area to be driven was roughly three hundred and sixty square miles,
which will give some idea of the magnitude of the task which a handful
of police had to tackle with the aid of a battalion of infantry and a
company of Auxiliaries. And when it is added that the entire peninsula
consisted of mountains (five of them well over two thousand feet, and
unclimbable in many places), bogs, lakes, and rivers, with only one
decent road which ran _round the coast and at the base_, it will be
granted that the task was nearly an impossible one.

Also the few scattered inhabitants would be certain to be found to act
as unwilling scouts for the gunmen. Moreover, once the weather turned
wet, which may happen in the course of a few hours on the west coast, a
thick mist would cover the mountains, and all the gunmen had to do then
was to walk out of the trap and make their way inland.

The plan of attack was as follows. The Castleport-Errinane road crossed
the twenty-mile neck of the peninsula, and before dawn one day ten
columns, each of eighty men, formed up a mile apart.

As soon as it was light enough to see, these columns started, marching
in columns of route for the first two miles; they then deployed into
open order, got in touch with each other, and then started to drive the
country out of face for the remaining eighteen miles. Frequently the
line had to halt while a column would hunt a mountain in its line of
advance, or a detour round a lake had to be made.

For the first four miles there was no sign of the gunmen—the column only
met flocks of mountain sheep, and no sign of a human being; but, when
ten miles from the west end of the peninsula, the troops on both flanks
came under fire—evidently an attempt to stop them working round behind
the gunmen.

The troops in the centre now tried to advance, but were also held up by
heavy fire before they had gone half a mile; but at their third attempt
the flanks met with no opposition, and the whole line was able to
continue the advance. From now on the gunmen offered a determined
resistance at every ridge, but always retired before their positions
could be turned.

At last, close on nightfall, the Crown forces came to the strongest
position of all—a long ridge in the centre with small hills at each end,
extending to the north and south coasts of the peninsula.

As there was no time left for a turning movement, a direct assault was
tried, only to fail twice. It was then decided to wait until the full
moon had risen, when it would be possible to make a turning movement
along the coast.

Unfortunately the sky became cloudy, and during the whole night the
Crown forces were unable to move; but as soon as the daylight came
another assault met with no opposition.

Once on top of the ridge they could see the remainder of the peninsula
to the west coast, and not a sign of a gunman anywhere; nor when they
searched every valley and even some sand-hills on the coast could they
find so much as a single gunman.

The following day word was brought into the barracks at Castleport that
a column of gunmen, thousands strong, had been seen marching in column
of route into the Ballyrick Mountains from the coast; but how they could
have got there from the Maryburgh Peninsula did not transpire for some
time.

Later it was learnt that when the Crown forces gave up the attack on the
final ridge to wait for the moon, the gunmen waited until it was dark,
when they made their way to the coast. Here they had collected every
fishing-boat to be found. The sea being calm, the whole force managed
during the night to cross the bay to the north, a distance of fifteen
miles, landed on the Ballyrick coast soon after dawn, and at once set
off for the Ballyrick Mountains.



                                  XX.
                          THE GREAT ROUND UP.


At the beginning of the Irish war, when the I.R.A., to use its own
words, “took the field against the British Army,” its activities were
purely local and sporadic. Some unfortunate police patrols of half a
dozen men, often less, walking along the King’s highway, interfering
with none except evil-doers, would be suddenly fired at with shot-guns,
sometimes loaded with jagged slugs and pieces of metal, from a safe
cover behind a stone wall with carefully-prepared loopholes.

These police patrols never had a dog’s chance, and should have been
discontinued long before they actually were.

At first the murderers did not trouble to make sure that they had a
perfectly safe line of retreat behind them when the location of these
cowardly ambushes was chosen, but after a few failures they made no
mistake in future, the line of retreat, either through a thick wood or
down the reverse slope of a hill, being always the first consideration.

Married police living in houses or rooms in the town of their station
afforded an easy and safe target for the venom of these hooligan
shop-boys and farmers’ sons. At first the police used to go home
unarmed, and used to be shot down in the back while passing along an
ill-lighted street or lane, or the assassins would knock at the door of
the policeman’s home, and if he came to the door would fire at him and
then run away.

Occasionally, in districts where the standard of bravery was very high,
all the Volunteers would collect in a small town after dark—always after
dark—and carry out an attack on the local police barracks. They knew
perfectly well that it was impossible for the police to leave their
barracks owing to the smallness of their numbers, and that as long as
they kept well under cover (which they did) they were just as safe as
they would be in their own beds at home.

These so-called attacks on police barracks simply consisted in gangs of
hooligans first taking careful cover in houses adjacent to the barracks,
and then firing off as many rounds as they possessed. They always ceased
fire long before daybreak, in order that they might be home in good time
before it was possible for the police to leave barracks or a relief
party to arrive on the scene.

At this period of the war, raiding the houses of the Loyalists for arms,
and incidentally for money and valuables, not forgetting drink, was a
much safer and more remunerative night’s amusement than shooting
policemen or attacking barracks, though the price then was £60 for every
policeman murdered.

A party of twenty to thirty Volunteers, usually boys from fifteen to
twenty years of age, would meet at a fixed rendezvous some time after
dark with all the arms they could raise. They would then don black cloth
masks, turn up their coat collars, pull their hats down, and sally forth
to spend the night robbing, murdering, and terrorising the unfortunate
Loyalists of the district.

Imagine the feelings of a respectable old man living in a lonely house,
who had probably never harmed any one during his lifetime, and whose
only crime consisted in being loyal or refusing to subscribe to the
funds of the I.R.A., in many cases a form of common robbery.

Night after night he lies in bed expecting to hear a loud knock at the
door, and at last it comes. He opens the door to find a dozen shot-guns,
old rifles, and pistols pointed at him. Some brute then demands his
arms; the old man says he has none. They push him aside and force their
way in. The old man is made to sit down while two young hounds keep
prodding him in the back of the neck with the muzzles of their pistols,
to remind him what they could do if they liked. The remainder ransack
the house from top to bottom, take away any money or valuables they can
find, and consume any drink there may be. If they cannot find any money
or valuables, they threaten him with death until he disgorges. And
lonely women suffered in like fashion.

The demand for arms used to be merely a blind for committing robbery.
The location of every firearm in a district was well known from the
beginning of the war.

If the reader happens to be an English country gentleman, let him think
what it would be like never to know the night or hour when he would be
raided by a gang of farm labourers or village loafers, armed and masked,
from the nearest village. He might retire to bed to be waked up by loud
knocking on his front door. If he did not open quickly a rifle shot
would be fired through the lock, and if the door did not open then, it
quickly would to the blows of hatchets which would follow. A wild gang
of drunken brutes would burst into his nice house, smash desks,
sideboards, and cupboards, searching for loot. Lucky man if he escaped
with the loss of arms, money, and valuables, and not of home and life as
well.

If the reader is an ex-soldier, let him imagine what his feelings would
be like if in the middle of the night he was pulled out of his bed by
these same ruffians, and given his choice between joining Trotsky’s Own
Light Infantry, or whatever the local Red force may call itself, or
being shot out of face. Being true to his country, he refuses to have
anything to do with Bolshevism, and is shot before the eyes of his
agonised wife.

Remember that the loyal country gentlemen and ex-soldiers of Ireland
have sacrificed their blood and treasure on the altar of Empire as well
as their English cousins, and hence are entitled to as much protection.

But no, when it comes to a matter of politics and votes they are thrown
to the wolves, to the eternal shame of England. The sacrifice of the
southern Loyalists will form one of the most disgraceful chapters in the
history of England.

Robberies on a more extensive scale followed: bank managers taking large
sums of money to out-of-the-way villages on the occasion of a fair, in
order to facilitate payments by buyers to farmers, were held up and
robbed. Mail-cars carrying pension money for the old and poor were held
up and robbed; likewise post offices, banks, railway stations, and large
shops—and most of this money used to forward the cause of armed
rebellion. In fact, the Government were largely being fought with their
own money, or, rather, that of the helpless British taxpayer.

But this form of warfare, though most unpleasant for the unfortunate
Irish Loyalist, and probably disturbing to the few people in England who
knew anything about what was happening in Ireland, would never have led
to anything provided the British Government had taken the necessary
steps quickly to preserve law and order and punish evil-doers. But no,
as ever in Ireland, they would do nothing, except procrastinate, until
it was too late.

Instead of strengthening the R.I.C. and sending more troops into the
country, they merely evacuated outlying police barracks, which were
promptly burnt amidst scenes of triumph by the local Volunteers, and
hailed by all rebels as the first outward sign of the retreat of the
English from Ireland.

If the police released by the evacuation of these barracks had been used
to form flying columns to quiet the worst districts, there might have
been some sense in this manœuvre; unfortunately, the men were all wanted
to make up the wastage in the occupied barracks caused by the large
number of resignations of young constables in the R.I.C. at this time.

Looking back, these constables who resigned appear to have been mean
deserters of their comrades, but after-events have to a certain degree
justified their action. They were certain that, no matter how often the
British Government swore to see its loyal servants through, in the end
it would let them down, and the pity is that they were right. True,
there was a day when an Englishman’s word was as good as his bond, but
that day appears to be quite out of date. Or perhaps it does not apply
to politicians!

Doubtless greatly surprised at their initial success, the chiefs of the
I.R.A. now determined on a much more ambitious form of warfare—namely,
the formation of flying columns to harry and murder the Crown forces
throughout Ireland, not excepting Ulster; at the same time they started
a tremendous campaign of propaganda in England and the States.

The idea of breaking up the British Empire by means of a number of small
flying columns of corner-boys in Ireland, and green pamphlets at John
Bull’s breakfast-table, appears laughable; but Sinn Fein has shown
itself a wonderfully astute judge of the mentality of the present-day
politician in England.

The summer of 1920 saw the greater part of the south and west in the
hands of the Republic, who not only boasted an army in the field, but
ran their own police, law-courts, and Local Government Board. It was not
an uncommon occurrence for a man to be first arrested by the R.I.C. for
some offence, and then by the I.R.A.; sometimes there used to be quite
an exciting race between these two forces to see who could catch the
culprit first.

The first flying columns were made up of determined and hard-up
corner-boys collected from every district in the south and west, and
were sent out under specially qualified leaders to murder as many police
and soldiers as they could, no matter whether they were armed or
unarmed, asleep or awake. The price for the murder of a policeman rose
gradually to £60, and eventually to £100.

With a terrorised population and a Government which refused to function,
these columns had everything in their favour, and carried on their
campaign of murder and assassination practically unhindered at first.

Their chief channels of information were the post-office and young
girls. The larger proportion of post-office officials were openly
disloyal, postmasters even being caught red-handed decoding important
police and military wires for the information of the I.R.A. And young
girls not only obtained information by walking out with policemen and
soldiers, but also carried the gunmen’s arms to and from a murder or
ambush.

It used to be no uncommon sight in Dublin to see a tram-car held up by
Auxiliaries and searched with no result. Before the Auxiliaries had
boarded the tram, the gunmen would openly pass their pistols to girls
sitting beside them. Any one giving information would never have left
that tram alive, nor would it have done any good, as the Auxiliaries
were powerless (until near the end of the war) to search women.

As regards transport, they had only to take it where, when, and how they
liked—motors, motor bicycles, lorries, and push-bicycles by the thousand
in every part of the country. Think how different the result might have
been if the Government had taken up all this transport and reduced the
I.R.A. to their flat feet. And, of course, they used the trains freely,
and without payment, both to carry arms and men.

Young girls, especially if pretty, make far the most dangerous spies in
the world; and though they have always been used during a war on a small
scale by every country, yet this is probably the first occasion on which
a nation has conscripted girls of from twelve to twenty-five years
wholesale for this vicious and contaminating work.

Even little children were taught the art of eavesdropping, and, of
course, if they did not hear every word, readily filled in the blanks
from their imagination. Many a man in Ireland during the last two years
has lost his life through the medium of a little child. The Markievicz
woman ought to appear on the Day of Judgment with the record millstone
round her neck.

Despatches were carried in dozens of ways—boys on bicycles, men on motor
bicycles, who also acted as scouts for ambushes, in the sample cases of
bagmen (a common method also at one time of sending arms and ammunition
about the country), by the post, and by railway guards—in fact, by every
method which came to hand.

The I.R.A. obtained much valuable information through opening letters in
the post, but their really important and often vital information came to
them through a bad leakage in the Castle.

Any shortage of recruits was quickly made good by a drastic form of the
old pressgang. An unwilling recruit would be dragged out of bed in the
middle of the night, placed against a wall, and given a minute to decide
for King George or the Irish Republic. King George meant a bullet in the
brain, probably a dum-dum of the worst description; the Irish Republic
meant active service with a flying column at some near future date.

Money was obtained in just as simple a way. A levy of, say, a pound a
cow or a pound a beast would be laid on a district. A farmer had six
cows or one horse, two asses, and three head of cattle. In either case
he would pay £6 to the funds of the I.R.A. Any arguing there was would
be solely on the side of the collector, who would have the butt-end of a
large pistol protruding from his pocket. Such a simple and effective
method of collecting a tax! No troublesome forms of beastly red tape,
and no large staff of fat and lazy clerks to pay! Just a
truculent-looking blackguard with a very large pistol, not necessarily
loaded, and the money pours in. Cases of non-payment of this form of
taxation have never been heard of, nor is there any means of dodging it.
Cattle are not easy to hide.

Rations were obtained by the simple process of requisition. In some
cases they used to go through the farce of giving a receipt for the
stolen goods in the name of the I.R.A.!

With the police unable to function, banks and post-offices offered an
easy prey to these ruffians. The meanest form of robbery was the taking
of money to pay old-age pensions from mail-cars on their way to outlying
districts.

A special murder gang was formed, which went about the country to murder
any man—policeman, R.M., or civilian—who was particularly active in
trying or helping to restore law and order in the country—that is, any
man who was too tough a nut for the locals to crack. And, of course, in
many cases private feuds and spites came under this heading. As has been
mentioned, the price for a policeman was £100. People would be heard
discussing this openly, and wondering if the price would go up or down,
in the same way as they might discuss Dunlop’s or Guinness’s shares.

But the most effective weapon of Sinn Fein has been their propaganda
campaign in America and England, coupled with the treasonable and
treacherous aid from certain politicians and the effective silence of
the daily press, with one great and notable exception.

The following letter, which fell into the hands of the Crown forces in
Ireland, speaks for itself:—

                                 Dail Eireann (Department of Finance),
                               Mansion House, Dublin, 21st March 1921.

    _To Director of Propaganda._

    A CHARA,—The enclosed copy of notes from Ireland will probably be
    of some interest to you. I have previously sent some copies of
    these and other things from the Unionist Alliance people.

    Many figures have been given in the papers recently with regard to
    R.I.C. resignations, dismissals, recruitment. All these
    _questions_ have been asked on instructions from me, and I think
    you might be able to make very good use of some of them. For
    instance, in the 10th March ‘Hansard’ (pages 688 and 689) are
    given the figures which appeared in the ‘Independent’ some days
    ago. In a few days’ time we shall get total strength and total
    numbers recruited over certain periods.

    I have got an arrangement made in London whereby the ‘Independent’
    correspondents will always quote the figures pretty fully for our
    benefit.

                                Do Chara,

                                                      MICHAEL COLLINS.

Sinn Fein first learnt the art of propaganda from those pastmasters the
Boches; but if ever the latter think of trying their luck with another
“Der Tag,” they will find that Sinn Fein can teach them now more than
ever they taught Sinn Fein. The Celtic mind seems to be peculiarly
adapted and susceptible to propaganda consisting largely of half and
three-quarter lies.

But nothing surprised and dismayed Irish Loyalists more than the
suppression of reports of murders and outrages in Ireland in the great
majority of English papers, though later on these same papers filled
columns with any murder or atrocity alleged to have been committed by
police or Auxiliaries. Moreover, from their tone, it soon became obvious
that some papers were strongly pro-Sinn Fein.

To an Irishman the English Radical has always been one of the greatest
wonders and mysteries of this world; and often he cannot help asking why
God has sent him into this world. Of course, there is no doubt that all
are here for some purpose, good or bad, but of what use is the Radical
to England?

Is he the wee drop of poison in the whole which is to bring about the
downfall of the Empire as a punishment for the sins of its leaders? At
any rate, he has always been a puzzle and enigma to Irish and French
alike, and they have no use for a man whose chief idea of patriotism
appears to be to take any and every side against his own country.

There is no possible doubt that the Government were forced or
frightened, by the howls of the Radicals, incited by Sinn Fein
propaganda, to order that reprisals by the Crown forces in Ireland
should cease, whereby the Crown forces’ most effective weapon was taken
from them, though it was still left in the hands of the murder gang.

Fierce were the denouncements by the Radicals in the House of the
unfortunate Irish police; but one waited in vain for a like denouncement
of the murder gang (men who have committed as bad atrocities as the
world has seen) by these same unctuous gentlemen. Ye hypocrites!

Much has been said and written (chiefly propaganda) about the wickedness
of reprisals, but it is better first to examine the situation before
condemning them.

It must be clearly understood that the whole power of the murder gang
lay in reprisals: they took reprisals against every one who was against
them by murder, arson, and intimidation. The Crown forces had only the
law, which was paralysed. No one dared give evidence; it was death to do
so.

Under these circumstances the Crown forces, principally the R.I.C., took
counter-reprisals; this was the only possible method by which they could
save their own lives and the lives and property of the Loyalists, who
looked to them for protection.

For many weary months unhappy Ireland was rent and torn by this form of
warfare, and it became obvious to most that if one side did not win
pretty soon the country would be ruined. Twice the Crown forces wriggled
their hands free, and on both occasions had the I.R.A. on the verge of
collapse: one stout blow would have finished the show. And each time the
I.R.A. were saved by the screams of their English allies. Each time the
Government quickly took fright, quickly tied the Crown forces’ right
hands, and even threatened to tie up their legs if they set the English
Radicals on the howl again. And once more the I.R.A. plucked up courage,
and the old weary game of ambush and murder started afresh.

At long last the Government took a sudden notion to make a desperate
effort to finish off the gunmen before the gunmen finished them.

After the failure to round up the big force of gunmen in the Maryburgh
Peninsula, Blake returned at once to Ballybor with all his men, arriving
to find a cipher wire from the County Inspector to tell him that the
gunmen had turned up in the Ballyrick Mountains, and that as soon as the
Crown forces could be regrouped another effort would be made to come to
grips with these slippery customers.

No sooner had Blake started to deal with a fearful accumulation of
official correspondence than the head constable told him that Constable
John M’Hugh, who came from the east centre of Ireland and had not been
long in the force, wished to see him—adding that M’Hugh’s father had
been murdered, and that the constable was most anxious to go home, but
that the police at his home had wired that it was not safe for the man
to go.

Blake saw M’Hugh at once, and found him in a pitiable state of grief,
the first great sorrow of his young life—but had to refuse his request,
though the boy pleaded hard, with the tears running down his cheeks.
M’Hugh’s case is a good example of the murder gang’s reprisals on those
who will not fall in with their views.

Old M’Hugh was a widower living with his two sons near a large town on
the east coast. Unfortunately John was an unwilling witness of the first
murders of British officers in Ireland during the present rebellion, and
in order to save the lives of his sons old M’Hugh got them into the
R.I.C. as soon as he could.

On several occasions old M’Hugh was threatened by the I.R.A. that if he
did not make his sons resign they would do for him: every time he
refused, and told his sons nothing about being threatened. Finally, the
usual pack of masked fiends went to the old man’s cottage in the dead of
night, and murdered him by the refined process of dragging him out of
bed and kicking him on the head until they smashed his skull in—a deed
hard to beat for pure brutal savagery.

The following day Blake received a long visit from the County Inspector,
who gave him the outline of the new plan of campaign, and instructions
for the part Blake and his men were to take.

The country of the Ballyrick Mountains is a square-shaped peninsula of,
roughly, fourteen hundred square miles, consisting of vast flats of bogs
on the north, west, and east, intercepted by hills, while the south part
consists of nothing but mountains. One main road runs through the
centre, east and west, and another skirts the coast for three-quarters
of the north coast, then turns inland, crosses the other road at about
the centre of the peninsula at the village of Ballyscadden, then
continues due south until it reaches the coast. In the whole peninsula
there are only half a dozen small villages, all not less than sixteen
miles apart.

To drive this huge country would require at least twenty times as many
troops as were available, and A.S.C. train to keep them supplied with
rations; there remained the possibility of starving the gunmen into
surrender.

All the villages were to be occupied by military, and every road
picketed and blocked with barbed wire; at the same time the military
were to endeavour to form a cordon across the neck of the peninsula, a
distance of thirty-five miles.

The police, who were to do the actual hunting, were divided into flying
columns, with all available transport. The Navy was to be responsible
for the numerous islands on the west and south coasts, and were to open
fire on any parties of gunmen who came within the range of their vision
and guns.

Aeroplanes were to work continuously over the country during daylight,
and on locating the enemy, were to drop their messages at the police
headquarters at Ballyscadden.

It was expected that at the first sign of danger the gunmen would make
for the mountains in the south, when the area of operations would be
greatly restricted.

When all preparations were completed a start was to be made as soon as
there seemed a reasonable prospect of fine weather. Finally, at Blake’s
suggestion, they tried to collect every flock of mountain sheep and
confine them to the flat country to the north, but after the first day
many of the sheep returned to their own mountains in spite of the
efforts of the shepherds.

Blake’s part was to keep all his available men at headquarters, ready to
dash off at a moment’s notice on receipt of information of the location
of any party of gunmen.

Owing to a bad westerly storm operations had to be postponed for a few
days, during which time the gunmen were left undisturbed.

As had been expected, they drew a blank in the flat country, though it
was reported by the first ‘plane up that a large party of cyclists had
been spotted making their way south from Ballyscadden some time before
the police occupied that village.

The weather then turned very fine, and as there was a full moon, it was
decided to sit tight for a few days in order to see whether starvation
would force the gunmen to attempt a break through.

For two days the aeroplanes had nothing to report except the movements
of small parties of not more than six men, and always in the mountains
to the south. On the third a ‘plane dropped the exciting news that a big
column, estimated at several hundred men, was marching south-west with
an advance of scouts to a depth of two miles.

Blake at once turned out his men, and made off south at full speed. At
the same time a column left Castleport to make its way up the coast road
and intercept the gunmen before they could debouch from the
mountains—their orders being to advance up a valley from the coast to a
shooting-lodge, which was situated at the junction of three valleys, two
of which lead north-east and south-west round the foot of Falcon
Mountain. Here they were to wait while Blake endeavoured to drive the
gunmen down the north-east valley towards them.

For twenty-four hours Blake kept up a running fight with the gunmen in
the mountains, always trying to head them towards the valley which leads
to the foot of Falcon Mountain, and at last, when his men could hardly
move, had the satisfaction of seeing the gunmen making for the valley.

The police followed slowly and painfully, to find not a sign of a human
being at the shooting-lodge. The men flung themselves down in the
heather, beat to the world, and some of them even burst into tears of
rage.

The explanation came afterwards. The Castleport party received orders to
proceed up the valley from the sea, and intercept the gunmen at a
shooting-lodge. Unfortunately there were two lodges—one on the shore of
a lake about half-way up the valley from the sea, and the second and
right one at the junction of the three valleys. Naturally the Castleport
party, none of whom had been in these mountains before, stopped at the
first lodge they came to on the shore of the lake.

A thick mist came up off the sea that night, and the gunmen, who had
taken refuge on the upper rocky slopes of Falcon Mountain, slipped
through the cordon in the mist in twos and threes, commandeered
bicycles, and so made good their escape.

Some time afterwards, being again very hard pressed, large parties of
gunmen took up their quarters in the Ballyrick Mountains, and lay low.
Gradually their numbers increased, until it was reported that the
mountains carried as many gunmen as sheep.

At this time the Government appeared to have at last realised that the
only way to restore order in Ireland was to oppose force by superior
force. Many people could have given them this information months
previously.

A report went through Ireland that the Government was massing artillery
at Holyhead to mow down the I.R.A. with their brutal high explosives and
shrapnel. In reality what happened was that all batteries in England
were turned into mounted infantry, only about twenty-five men being left
with a battery, and concentrated at Holyhead, preparatory to crossing to
Ireland.

To Blake’s joy, the Ballyrick country was chosen as the first scene of
what was fondly supposed would be the end of the rebellion.

Quickly 20,000 troops were massed across the neck of the Ballyrick
Peninsula with every available Auxiliary and a large force of R.I.C.,
while a naval force was standing by off the coast ready to land sailors
and marines. All that was wanted was a good weather forecast to start
in, and put an end to this great mob of gunmen—the curse of modern
Ireland.

The good weather forecast came along all right, and on the morrow they
were to get a move on and put an end to this miserable breed of cowardly
warfare.

But on the morrow, instead of the Advance, they heard the Stand Fast
sounded, and to their dismay learnt that a truce had been proclaimed—a
truce with murderers, forsooth!



                                  XXI.
                               THE TRUCE.


Blake had been educated at a big English public school, where he had
learnt that the keynote to an Englishman’s life is straightness.
Further, in the British Army he had found that all good Britishers try
their level best to run straight.

Early in 1921 there had been a strong rumour in the R.I.C. that the
British Government had come to secret terms with Sinn Fein, and that
after a period of window-dressing a truce would be declared; then would
follow a lot of talk, and the terms of settlement would emerge. It was
even reported that a conference had been held in Norway of
representatives of the British Government and Sinn Fein, and also a
representative from each of the Dominions, and a settlement arrived at.

At the time the Prime Minister fired off one of his loudest and most
daring defiances at Sinn Fein: that he would never give in nor would he
ever treat with the murder gang in Ireland, that the Crown forces in
that country would be supported by all the resources of the Empire, and
so on _ad nauseam_. And this, as Blake heard a cynic remark, was a sign
that the sinister rumour was most likely true.

Blake had dismissed the idea with a laugh, but when the truce bomb burst
his mind at once flew back to the secret settlement rumour, now months
old, and he began to suspect with a horrible fear that they had been
sold, and badly sold.

Naturally the first effects on the police were bad. The older men who
had been let down before laughed and cried to each other, “Sold again!”
but the younger ones, who had yet to learn the ways of politicians, took
the matter to heart, and started to brood over it.

There were several questions to which they badly wanted an answer; the
chief being, if there was to be this complete surrender, why had it not
been made long ago, when the lives of many of their relations and pals
in the Army and R.I.C. might have been saved, not to mention the lives
of many Loyalists? These valuable lives had been freely given in order
that Ireland should be freed from the murderous plague of gunmen, in the
same way as during the late war the lives of the Empire’s best were
sacrificed in order that we should be freed from the murderous plague of
the Boches.

Further, they wanted to know what terms had been made with regard to
their comrades who had fallen into the hands of the I.R.A.

The Loyalists were staggered, knowing that their worst fears would now
be realised; to be handed over to the murder gang, which was the reward
the cynics in the Dublin clubs had always prophesied, would be England’s
return for the efforts of the Loyalists during the war. However, they
could say nothing and do nothing, but simply make the best of their
fate.

The neutrals, most of whom had changed their flag as often as the
British Government had changed its mind, now, of course, openly threw in
their lot with Sinn Fein.

The townspeople and farmers openly rejoiced at the prospect of even a
temporary peace, though in their hearts many of them knew that there
could be no real peace in Ireland until the gunmen had been wiped out or
reduced to a state of impotence by disarming them. However, the future
could take care of itself as far as they were concerned.

For the first few days of the Truce the Sinn Feiners appeared to be
doubtful whether their wonderful good luck could be really true, and
consequently lay low. Then men and boys who had been on the run for many
moons returned to Ballybor, and gave an exhibition of “See the
Conquering Hero Comes” in the streets daily; among them men wanted badly
for atrocious murders, who now snapped their fingers openly in the faces
of the police. A policeman could not walk the streets of Ballybor
without meeting these swaggering fellows, who openly laughed and jeered
at them when they passed.

However, a considerable number did not return, and on their relations
inquiring about their whereabouts from the I.R.A. liaison officer, they
were told they never would come back.

Gradually, being sure they were indeed safe, and that in truth they had
the British Government on the run instead of being on the run
themselves, they grew bolder and more insolent.

One brute went up to the sentry outside the police barracks and
deliberately spat on him, hoping no doubt that the constable would lose
his temper and break the truce. The constable stepped into the barracks
and returned at once with the Sinn Fein flag, with which he carefully
wiped the offending stains off his face and tunic under the nose of the
astonished gunman. He then proceeded to stand on the flag in the mud,
and asked the gunman, “What about it?” For some seconds the gunman stood
irresolute, then turned and walked off, looking a complete ass, followed
by the loud laughter of the police.

From now the Republicans proceeded to take over the government of the
district, the police standing by helpless, bound hand and foot by the
strict order that on no account were they to disturb the peace
atmosphere. How the Boches must be laughing at us!

In every parish Republican Courts were advertised to be held in the
local papers, and were held without let or hindrance, the advertisements
stating that “Summons, &c., can be had on application to ——, Clerk of
the Court.” And why not? Had not the I.R.A. beaten Lloyd George to his
knees, and was not the British Government on the run?

To give the comical touch necessary in Ireland, the R.M. continued to
receive instructions from the Castle to attend the various Petty
Sessions Courts in every district and deal out the British version of
the law. Probably the first time (and please God the last) that any part
of Great Britain and Ireland has been governed by two sets of laws at
the same time.

With regard to this disgraceful state of affairs one particular case
will give a good illustration of how low British law has fallen in the
west of Ireland.

A very decent man called O’Brien, who had been a herd to the Congested
Districts Board, bought a farm from the Board with three other men, the
farm being divided into four.

This did not suit the landless members of the Transport Union in the
district, whose idea was that they should have the land without paying
for it. They told O’Brien to get out, but he refused; they then
proceeded to smash the fences and drive and injure his cattle. O’Brien
built up the fences and put his cattle back.

They next proceeded to beat O’Brien, who afterwards went into Ballybor
but returned without taking any action, as they told him there that
there was now no law in the country. That night they beat him again; the
process consisted of first holding him while a powerful man closed his
eyes with repeated blows of his fists, and then they hammered him to
their heart’s content and left him in the road for dead.

Hours afterwards O’Brien crawled home on his hands and knees—he was
practically blinded, and appears to have found his way home by
instinct,—and some days afterwards, when he had recovered a little, he
went to the police in Ballybor.

A magistrate happened to be at the barracks at the time, and insisted
that steps should be taken to protect O’Brien and punish the savages who
had beaten him, though the police told him that they were afraid that it
was quite useless to try.

However, the magistrate took O’Brien’s information, the case came on
week after week at the Ballybor Petty Sessions, always to be adjourned
at the request of the police, waiting instruction from the Castle. At
last O’Brien, in despair, took his case to the local Sinn Fein Court;
and here the chief offender was fined £27 and the others large sums, and
they were warned that if they interfered with O’Brien again they would
be dealt with very severely.

And this is a good example of how British law protects a decent citizen
in Ireland at the present time; but one forgets that the peace
atmosphere must not be disturbed at all costs! But is there any wonder
that the people are fast leaving the King’s Courts for those of Sinn
Fein, and of their own free will now?

Republican Local Government inspectors appeared in every district, and
quickly ousted the King’s inspectors; held courts of inquiry on
unfortunate road surveyors who had refused to take the oath of
allegiance to Dail Eireann, and tried to sack loyal dispensary doctors.

The chief amusement of the local gunmen on leave, and of their friends,
male and female, was now to spend their time joy-riding through the
countryside, flying Sinn Fein flags on their commandeered lorries and
singing the “Soldier’s Song” whenever they passed any police or a
barracks.

One expedition of this kind went out to Ballyrick on a Sunday and
returned to Ballybor about midnight. Blake happened to be passing down
the main street at the time, and encountered a party of drunken bank
clerks trying to see how much row they could make.

Blake remonstrated with them, and told them that if they did not go home
quietly he would have them arrested. One clerk at once started to sing
the “Soldier’s Song” at the top of his voice, and another shouted at
Blake in an insolent voice, “What about the truce, Mr B——, D.I.?” Blake
saw red—he had borne and suffered much for many days,—and he gave the
bank clerk a full drive on the chin which sent him flying. The whole
party then swiftly retreated in silence.

The following day Blake paid a visit to the bank, and said to the clerk
he had ousted the previous night, “Look here, Mr Bank Clerk, don’t think
I hit you last night because you were drunk. There’s a fine open yard at
the back of the barracks, and if you will come round now, we can fight
it out.” Abject apologies from Mr Bank Clerk, and Blake left the bank.

One morning a woman arrived at the barracks in a state of great distress
and asked to see the D.I. She told Blake that she lived in a small house
in Cloonalla, which she rented from another woman in the village. Twice
her landlady had tried in a British court to evict her, and had failed.
The landlady then applied to the local I.R.A., who promptly turned the
unfortunate woman with all her furniture and belongings into the street,
and there she remained. When she remonstrated with them they showed her
a warrant signed by the village Sinn Fein magistrate and left her.

Blake at once applied to the County Inspector for instructions, who
applied to the higher authorities. Back came the answer, “See circular
so-and-so,” which on being turned up stated that all breaches of the
Truce should be at once reported. Meanwhile the woman remained homeless:
neighbours in an Irish village nowadays fight shy of an I.R.A. victim,
and circulars are not substitutes for roofs.

Again Blake tried to get leave to take action, and this time the answer
was to forward four copies of the case to the police adviser in
Scotland. In despair he put his pride in his pocket and applied to the
I.R.A. liaison officer of the district for help.

And the next day the liaison officer arrived in Ballybor—an ex-soldier
and a well-known murderer. Blake felt that he could hardly stand this
final insult to an honourable uniform; but duty is duty, and a truce
must be kept.

The liaison officer went out in a car to Cloonalla, and ordered the
local braves to put the woman and her furniture back in her house, which
they flatly refused to do. And that was the end of the matter.

After some weeks’ rest the chiefs of the I.R.A. issued an order calling
all men to the colours, whether they liked it or not.

It has been mentioned that the country round Ballybor was famous for its
excellent shooting, grouse, snipe, woodcock, duck, and geese chiefly;
and in the days before the rebellion many Englishmen must have spent
happy times shooting and fishing in the many shooting-lodges dotted
about on the mountains and moors to the east and west of Ballybor.

Now all these lodges are occupied by instructors of the I.R.A., who take
so many of the young men and boys of the district in relays for an eight
days’ intensive training course—drilling, musketry, instruction in the
use of Lewis and Thompson machine-guns, bombing, and twenty-five-mile
route-marches in full fighting order, the latter most unpopular.

Not only have all old members of the I.R.A. to attend these courses, but
every young man and boy, who had previously refused to join up, have to
go; and there is no refusing to go now.

You may miss your garden-boy or shop-assistant, to meet him in the
course of the week taking part in a route-march; or if you are foolishly
inquisitive, you may see him at dawn advancing across your demesne in
company with other boys, or firing his musketry course.

Blake watched two lorry-loads of these recruits setting off on a Monday
morning from the main street of Ballybor under his very nose, Sinn Fein
flags flying; and they sang the “Soldier’s Song” for his special
benefit.

About two miles from Ballybor there lives a retired officer in a nice
house with a good demesne, a man who served the Empire well and truly
for many years. When the war was over he retired, fondly hoping to spend
the remainder of his days in peace and comfort in his old family home.

But not so: he happened to be the owner of a demesne which the Transport
Union had promised to its members. So they tried repeatedly to stampede
him out of the country, but that failed. Now his place is occupied by
what the I.R.A. call a week-end camp for the drilling and instruction of
the Ballybor shop-boys. They use his cooking utensils, burn his turf,
and make the night hideous with their yells and oaths, so that the
officer and his family find it impossible to get any rest. Moreover,
they, the I.R.A., do not appear to be strong in sanitary sections. And
they told him that if he took any action they would burn his place to
the ground.

What action could he take? There is no law in the country except the law
of the pistol. The police are now bound hand and foot. They report these
outrages to the Castle, and what happens? Nothing. The Government are
far too busy hunting for that elusive formula which is to turn this
Irish hell into a paradise, to worry about a stupid old retired officer.
He has no vote in England, nor can he ever affect their political
careers.

And why all these feverish military preparations? Either to invade
Ulster when the time of a settlement and peace comes, or, if the Truce
is broken, to massacre the R.I.C. and the Loyalists.

About this time a constable, transferred from the south-west to
Ballybor, brought with him a story—he swore it was true—which will take
a queer lot of formulæ to explain away. Not long ago the I.R.A. ran a
cargo of arms on the coast where he was stationed, openly, with the
police looking on. The police at once reported the affair, and were told
that it did not matter as the arms would never be used.

Presumably the authorities meant that these arms would not be used
against the Crown forces; but what about loyal Ulster, and those most
unfortunate of people to-day in Europe, outside of Russia, the southern
Irish Loyalists?

Apparently the I.R.A. chiefs are believers in games for their men, as
witness the following advertisement which appeared in the Ballybor shop
windows:—

                         GREAT FOOTBALL MATCH.


                         NORTH BALLYRICK FLYING
                             COLUMN, I.R.A.

                                  _v._

                         BALLYBOR PATRICKITES.


                       PAY YOUR SHILLING AND SEE
                        HOW WE ENJOY THE TRUCE.

The Transport Union unwittingly supplied the comical element of the
situation when they started a great row with the I.R.A. people in
Ballybor. It appeared that the I.R.A. had been in the habit of not
paying the Union rate of wages to the stalwarts of the Transport Union
for digging trenches across roads and breaking down bridges during the
war, and now they were furious because the I.R.A. refused to pay up the
difference, and threatened them with all sorts of horrible things. And
the I.R.A. laughed at them.

People in England have not the remotest conception of the terrible
Frankenstein monster which De Valera & Co. have reared up and armed in
Ireland, a hideous monster of murderous and armed gunmen, fearing
neither God nor man, which in the summer of 1921 was on the point of
being exterminated by British bayonets to make this beautiful island of
Ireland once more a clean and wholesome land, where men might dwell in
peace.

That chance has gone. Will it ever occur again? And if it does will the
British Government seize their opportunity like men and rid Ireland of
this terrible menace? Or will they again be found wanting, groping after
some wretched formula?

Do people realise why De Valera acts the part of the coy fly in
hesitating to enter Mr Lloyd George’s talking parlour? The sinister
reason is that if he once gives up his claim to an Irish Republic he
seals his own doom. The day he enters into a conference with the British
Government on these conditions, the Irish Republican Brotherhood signs
his death warrant, and well he knows it.

But if, for argument’s sake, a so-called settlement is arrived at, what
becomes of De Valera’s Frankenstein monster?

Will it beat its automatics into reaping-hooks and convert its
machine-guns into potato-sprayers? Possibly in the minds of English
Radicals, but nowhere else.

And when the Welshman and the Mexican have fooled the English and the
southern Irish with a formula, do they think that any formula ever
phrased would fool Ulster?

On the day that an Irish Republic is set up (Dominion Home Rule is only
another name for it), Sinn Fein, its _raison d’être_ accomplished, dies;
but out of its corpse will arise two parties, or rather armies (for all
men in Ireland are armed to-day except the Loyalists), one consisting of
the farmer shopkeeper class, while the other will be the Citizen Army of
the Bolshevist Labour Party.

The rank and file of the I.R.A. consists of farmers’ sons, young
townsmen, shop assistants, and the like; they expect either a fat
pension for life or twenty acres of land. Both have been freely promised
to them, and both are equally impossible.

And these disgruntled gunmen, all armed, will take sides according to
their sympathies, and before many months are past these forces will be
at each other’s throats. And the national air of Ireland will be the
“Red Flag.”

Like Kerensky in Russia, De Valera will disappear in the welter of
revolution.

The R.I.C. will have vanished—they have already been told that when the
“Cease fire” sounds, they will be given a month to clear out of Ireland,
lock, stock, and barrel.

The surrender to Sinn Fein by the British Government is a good example
of the evil which can be brought about by that modern plague, skilful
and unscrupulous propaganda.

The sooner the good elements in England wake up and combine to insist
that the necessary action is taken in Ireland to enforce law and order,
the better it will be for both countries and the Empire.

The English people have been fooled by a press which carefully
suppressed all news of the true state of affairs in Ireland, and then
gave lying and distorted accounts.

It is futile to say that the remedy for false reports lies with the law.
All honest men know that a clever lawyer in a court of law can make a
half or three-quarter black lie appear a whole truth white as driven
snow, as easily as a smart and up-to-date accountant can juggle with a
balance-sheet to show + or - half a million as the necessity arises.

The day will come in Ireland when men will pray to God for a sight of
the good old green uniform of the R.I.C. And it will be too late.


                 PRINTED BY WILLIAM BLACKWOOD AND SONS.

------------------------------------------------------------------------



                          TRANSCRIBER'S NOTES


 1. Changed fight to light on p. 198.
 2. Silently corrected typographical errors.
 3. Retained anachronistic and non-standard spellings as printed.
 4. Enclosed italics font in _underscores_.





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