Following the Documentary on the Bleeding Statues on TG4 last week, I was made aware of the book “Voices & the Sound of Drums” by Patrick Shea, whose father (originally from Listowel) was Head Constable in the RIC in Templemore at the time of the Bleeding Statues.
Over the next few weeks I hope to include an extract from the book, which gives an insight into the goings-on of the time in our town.
“No more than a few months after our arrival in Rathfriland we suddenly got the news that Father was to go on transfer to Templemore in County Tipperary. He was being promoted to the rank of Head Constable but the news of his advancement, instead of being a matter for congratulations, filled us with fear. The shooting had started in Tipperary and had continued without mercy so that it had become the most lawless county in the whole country. Every week brought news of more ambushes and shootings in the streets and burning and wrecking; the Black and Tans were there in numbers and their unconventional ideas on retaliation were adding chaos to terror.
Late into the night Mother and Father talked about what lay ahead. They decided to make no plans to move house again; he would go off to his new station and we would stay where we were until better times. Everyone in the force had now to do a spell of duty in the ‘troubled counties’ but for men with families it was usually not a long one. With luck, they hoped, we might be united again within the year.
My recollection of the period of separation is of Mother writing letters late into the night, of her anxiety if three days should pass without a letter from Father, of looking in the morning papers fearfully for the mention of Templemore, of prayers every night for my father’s safety.
By now there were members of the IRA devoting their whole time to the guerilla campaign. These were, almost all of them, men wanted by the police, who had gone ‘on the run’ and formed themselves into ‘flying columns’ based on districts where the residents were prepared to shelter them. The flying columns were usually available to join with their part-time associates for special assignments. But both the whole-time and the occasional combatants still went about in civilian clothes, sometimes under assumed names, ready to strike when a favourable opportunity came their way. Their hostility to the RIC was sharpened by the possibility of being recognised by men who had served in their home districts; they were without mercy on informers and the finding on roadsides of bodies labelled ‘Spies and Informers Beware’ deterred association with the Crown Forces. The Black and Tans and Auxiliaries and the Military had neither the knowledge nor the patience to distinguish between the actively hostile and the innocent. The Government seemed to have approved reprisals as a deterrent. Irrespective of political loyalties, every man, woman and child in the troubled areas was in danger.
We read in the paper that the District Inspector in Templemore had been assassinated. The new sergeant in Rathfriland came to tell us that he had had a telephone message saying that Father was all right. For a fuller account of what happened then and later we had to wait until our next meeting with him”.