Stories of Seamus No.19

Sniper’s MoonA story of the Irish War for Independence

June is a month of short nights and long, warm days. But, for some, the long June nights proved to be no advantage, when it came to fulfilling their assigned tasks. It was not until midnight that darkness first began to really envelop the town of Derryard, with the full moon shedding its bright silvery light over the streets and houses. If there were clouds or rain in the night sky then darkness would come sooner and gave extra cover to those who used the blackness to hide them from observation. But, in the quietness that night-time brought there could be heard the occasional growl of a lorry engine, or the heavy clip of military boots upon the cobbled roads and paved footpaths. In the ill lit streets there were shadows of small squads of armed men making through their way through the town. Here and there the sound of automobile engines could be heard as lorries filled with troops and armoured cars are moved, spreading out in their search for those who were prepared to spread treason. This was the terrible, dark days of war with Black and Tan auxiliaries, as Ireland sought its independence from Britain.

A slow moving river wound its way through the centre of town and an ornate iron bridge carried traffic across from one bank to the other. On a high rooftop overlooking the bridge there lay a young man with a rifle by his side. He had skilfully established a hidden sniper’s nest for himself high above the road that ran across the iron bridge. From this vantage point he scanned the area with a pair of binoculars, seeking an easy target for his bullets. Making the minimum of movement the young man studied the scene before him with eyes that were both bright and cold. He had a lot of spare time to himself, in which to consider the fate that would most likely befall him if he was ever captured by the enemy. The young man, filled with the courage of youth, preferred, however, to put such negative thoughts to one side and concentrate on the next target that unwarily moved into his rifle’s sights.

There was an uneasy quiet over the entire town as the Church clock struck the half-hour, and the sniper felt his stomach rumble with the winds of hunger. There, lying at his side, next to the rifle, sat a small satchel that he had brought with him from home. He put his hand into the small satchel and took out a roughly cut sandwich that had been prepared that morning and began to eat it very hungrily. The young man had eaten nothing since the previous morning, an hour or so prior to entering the building below and making his way up to the roof, where he had immediately proceeded to settle himself down. Then, as he chewed on the bread he muttered satisfyingly to himself, “By Jaysus, that is one hell of a good sandwich Ma has made.”

He felt that the sandwich had been well worth the wait and, when he had finished it, he reached into the satchel for a small flask of whisky that he had also brought with him. He took a swift drink and enjoyed the feeling of comfort that immediately began to spread through his stiff body before he replaced the flask. Then, just for a moment, he thought about lighting a cigarette to enjoy a soothing smoke after his snack. It was an idea, however, that he quickly discarded because it was much too risky. The lighting of a cigarette might easily be seen in the growing darkness, and he did not wish to give the enemy any kind of signal as to where he was hiding.

As the sniper raised his head cautiously above the roof’s parapet, he noticed the shadows of four soldiers as they crossed beneath a street lamp on the bridge below him. In the light of that street lamp he could just discern that the four figures crossing the bridge were members of the hated British auxiliaries, the Black and Tans. So, pointing the barrel through the parapet’s ornamentation, the sniper took careful aim along the barrel of the rifle, picked out his target, and gently squeezed the trigger. There was a flask as the built exploded out of the gun’s barrel, spinning its way down toward the target that had been chosen. It only took a fraction of a second for the bullet to reach its destination, but it missed the chosen target and smashed into the concrete casement of the bridge, just above the soldier’s head. “Jaysus, steady yourself man,”the sniper muttered to himself.

Just as he finished reloading the rifle, with the bolt action, there was another explosion from a rifle shot, and a bullet flattened itself against the ornate parapet that was camouflaging the sniper’s nest. Down below, on the bridge, three of the four auxiliary soldiers immediately sought cover, while the fourth soldier prepared to defend his comrades. He had seen the flash from the muzzle of the sniper’s rifle and had hurriedly fired a shot in reply. “Return fire!” he instructed his comrades and bullet after bullet whizzed over Sean’s head, crashing into the parapet and chimney pots and causing him to keep his head down. While the sniper was thus engaged two of the auxiliary soldiers broke cover, and ran across to the building in which the sniper was hiding.

Sean, the sniper, realised that it was time to move his position and he  crawled about ten yards to his left. While the enemy was continuing to lay down suppressing fire on his previous position, Sean felt he was now secure enough to raise his head carefully above the parapet. On this occasion, however, only two of the soldiers on the bridge were visible to him, one of whom was creeping closer to the gas street lamp. Sean raised his rifle and sighted it upon his new target, who was illuminated by the gas light. He squeezed the trigger of the rifle and let loose another bullet, which flew perfectly toward the enemy. The bullet struck home, exploding in the man’s head, killing him instantly, and causing his body to convulse with the impact.

From the roof, the sniper could clearly hear the shouts of men calling out to each other as he reloaded and sought yet another target. Just at that moment an armoured car rattled down the cobbled main street of the town, and slowly advanced across the bridge until it reached the remaining soldier. Sean felt it was time to move his position again and, on this occasion, he crawled over to a chimney stack, raising himself up behind it. Hidden from view of the pursuing soldiers, Sean felt free to sneak a peek over the parapet to identify a new target for himself. Although he had wanted to open fire on the armoured car he did not want to give his new position away on a fruitless task. Both Sean and the troops in the armoured car knew that the bullets would never pierce the armoured steel that covered that vehicle.

From the street below Sean could hear the crash of a door being forced open. He had not a doubt that the door that he heard being broken belonged to the building on whose roof he was hiding. It was obvious that the Black and Tans had now gained entry to the building and that they would soon be on the roof seeking him out. But, Sean did not allow himself to be distracted from the armoured car on the bridge and he caught sight of the remaining soldier there breaking cover. Creeping his body bent and low to the ground, the man quickly made his way to the side of the car, and he began to talk to another soldier who had made an appearance in the vehicle’s turret. The soldier standing at the side of the armoured car began to point in Sean’s direction, causing the man in the turret to raise his head and shoulders above the turret protection. Sean exhaled calmly as he gently squeezed the rifle’s trigger. Within a fraction of a second the bullet hit the soldier in the turret, causing his head to be jarred backward and his body to fall heavily, as it folded over the turret. “Two,” Sean said to himself, quietly pleased with his efforts so far.

The auxiliary who had been standing at the side of the armoured car was stunned by the swiftness of his comrade’s demise. One moment he had been talking to a friend and the next moment he was covered in the blood of that friend. Unfortunately, the shock of the incident had caused him to stand motionless for a few seconds as he took in the total horror of it all. Sean, did not take his eyes from the scene, pushed another bullet into the chamber and, as the auxiliary began to run for cover, he fired the rifle again. In an instant the bullet smashed into the fleeing soldier’s body, causing a fountain of blood to spurt high in the air as the man’s torso twisted, and he fell with a great shriek to the road. “Three,” Sean smiled, pleased with himself.

Then, suddenly, and without any warning, an access door to the roof burst open causing Sean to turn quickly and loose off a shot towards the origin of the sound. The bullet found its mark in the body of another soldier, but he had managed fire a shot from his own gun. There was a sudden and excruciating pain that shot through Sean’s arm, which caused him to drop his rifle. “The game’s up,” said Sean to himself as the rifle fell onto the roof with a loud clattering sound that Sean was certain the other soldiers would have heard. With his forearm virtually immobile, Sean immediately flung his body flat against the roof, and painfully crawled away to protective cover.

The soldier that remained at the door was in no mind to be reckless with his life after seeing how his comrades had been so efficiently killed by the sniper. He had heard the armoured car pulling up outside the building and thought it would be a much better tactic to await reinforcements. While he waited the nervous soldier kept a watch on the roof, hoping to get a clear shot at the sniper and be declared the hero of the hour by his comrades.

Sean reached a suitable place of cover and with his left hand examined the injury to his right forearm. There was still sufficient light in the sky to see the blood that was oozing through his jacket sleeve, and he was quite surprised that there was no real pain. But, there was a numbness in his forearm that made him start to think that his arm had been cut off. Since this was clearly not the case, however, Sean took a large knife from his jacket pocket, opened it with his teeth and began to cut the sleeve of his jacket.

At the site of the wound there was only a small hole that indicated where the bullet had entered, while on the other side of the arm there was no sign of where the bullet had exited. Sean knew enough, however, to realise that the soldier’s bullet had lodged in the bone of the arm and must have caused it to fracture. He gritted his teeth and bent his arm below the wound. His arm bent back quite easily causing him great pain, and he had wanted to scream out aloud. But, Sean didn’t dare make a sound that might expose him to any danger.

From another pocket in his jacket Sean took out his field dressing and ripped open the packaging with his knife. Breaking the neck of a bottle of iodine, Sean allowed the bitter fluid to drip on the wound and sterilize it. There was a tremendous burning sensation that wracked his entire body with great pain, and he quickly placed the cotton padding over the wound. With a good deal of difficulty he wrapped the dressing over his fore-arm and tied the end with the help of his teeth. He was exhausted by the effort and he lay still against the chimney stack, closing his eyes in a vain attempt to shut out the pain that was sweeping through his body. Sean could not, however, permit himself to sleep though his eyes were very heavy and his mind sought some means of relief.

Below Sean’s hiding place, in the street, there was almost complete quiet. The armoured car’s engine was no longer turning over and the body of the dead soldier still hung lifelessly over the turret. The other members of the crew had disembarked the car and were quickly making their way through the building. All this while, Sean was still lying motionless against the chimney stack, nursing his wounded arm and making frantic plans for his escape. The enemy, he now knew, were at the door that led on to the roof and that they would be very reluctant to expose themselves to any danger, without knowledge of his exact location. Sean would have to kill whatever number of soldiers were there and, not being able to use his rifle, he only had his revolver with six bullets to help him achieve success in his escape attempt. This called for Sean to devise a new exit plan from the roof .

Sean removed his cap and pulled his rifle closer to him. Placing the cap over the muzzle of his rifle he slowly pushed the rifle out from the side of the chimney stack until the cap was visible to the black and tans hiding in the doorway. Almost immediately there was the crack of a rifle shot and a bullet pierced the centre of the cap. Gradually, Sean slanted the rifle forward until the hat fell down on to the roof. A few seconds later he allowed the rifle to drop on to the roof with a clatter and immediately rose to his feet with the revolver ready in his left hand.

I got him!” declared an excited English voice from the open doorway. “That sneaky bastard’s dead! Let’s go get him!” The doorway opened a little wider and the light from a gas light caused the auxiliary soldiers to be exposed to Sean. His plan appeared to be starting out successfully and he smiled, knowing that his enemies had made a serious error of judgement. He lifted his revolver and braced himself against the brickwork of the chimney stack as he took aim at the figures only about thirty feet distant. It was a hard shot in the dim light, despite the short distance to the targets, and the pain in his right arm was like someone sticking a dozen knives into him. Though his hand trembled, he took as steady an aim as he possibly could. Pressing his lips tightly together he breathed heavily through his nose and squeezed the trigger once, twice, and three times. The sound of the revolver being fired was ear shattering and the recoil of each shot shook his arm violently. But, when the smoke had cleared, Sean saw the lifeless bodies of two men lying on the roof just outside the door. The others had escaped back into the sanctuary of that doorway. It was now time for Sean to quickly execute his own escape. He began to move further to his left, to a place on the parapet where a steel ladder had been fixed that ran down the side of the building to the narrow dark street below. The death of two more comrades might just cause the other auxiliaries to delay a further assault and, therefore, give Sean enough time to descend to the street.

A chill now descended over Sean’s body and he trembled a little. The anger and blood-lust that had filled him only minutes before was now gone. A sense of great remorse for the lives he had taken that night now filled him. But, despite the chills he was experiencing there were beads of sweat that stood out on his forehead. He was very much weakened by the wound he had received and by the loss of blood that he had been forced to endure. In fact, if he had had anything substantial in his stomach he would have, most likely, been physically sick at the sight of two slain men lying in a pool of their own blood. The chills began to worsen, perhaps it was shock, but his teeth began to chatter and his mind began to wander. In his pain and confusion he began to mutter quietly to himself and curse this damned, bloody war. He had not, however, heard the silent approach of an enemy soldier, who had scrambled over the parapet after climbing the escape ladder at the side of the building. There was moment’s pain, followed by deep unconsciousness. “Got the rat!” an English voice cried in triumph.

When he awakened Sean’s head was throbbing very badly and he was lying on a cold stone bed with a rough army blanket spread over him. If the blanket was there to give him some warmth, Sean thought, it had failed very badly. The pain in his head was almost overpowering, and he reached up his hands to find that a thick bandage had been wrapped around it. When he pulled the blanket off he saw that he was only dressed in a light cotton shirt and his trousers, from which the belt had been removed. With pain coming from every quarter of his body Sean sat up on the makeshift bed to examine his new surroundings, though there was not much to see. He was in an eight by four feet cell with four walls that had been painted a grey colour. Above his head daylight shone through a small, iron-barred window and in the opposite wall stood a grey metal door with a sliding panel about two-thirds the way up the door. Sean looked down at his forearm and saw that his wound had been freshly dressed by someone who knew what they were doing. Then he lay back on the cold stone bed, with no pillow for his head and resigned himself to the fact that he was now a prisoner of his enemies.

The panel in the door quietly slid open and allowed Sean to see a red, bespectacled face staring in at him. “You’re awake the?” the red-faced man asked.

I am,” replied Sean disinterestedly.

Aren’t you the big man, Cullen?” asked the guard sarcastically. “Caught today, Court Martial tomorrow, and a courtyard firing squad tomorrow or the next day.

It will be quick then,” said Sean as he spat at the door of the cell. Sean knew the danger that he was in and was resigned to whatever fate befell him.

As quick as any of your comrades did,” the guard smiled. “But be careful, Cullen, for there are all sorts of strange things happen here. So, sleep tight if you can,” he ended the conversation and slid the panel back in place.

The hours passed peacefully and the prison guards changed their shifts on a regular basis, rarely looking into Sean’s cell. He could clearly hear the Black and Tan auxiliaries talking as they smoked cigarettes and played cards. There was also the clink of glass, suggesting that the men were also enjoying a few bottles of beer, or something stronger. They were enjoying the fact that they had captured the man who had been considered the scourge of the crown’s forces in this area for several months. This was the man who had been nicknamed, “Hawkeye” and had caused the death of at least eighteen members of the British forces. It was time for the soldiers to celebrate that they would soon have the pleasure of seeing “Hawkeye” executed by firing squad.

At six o’clock in the morning the sun was already shining brightly and the night shift of prison guards went about their final inspection of the cells, awakening the inmates. On this occasion the guards were escorted by a small squad of armed soldiers, who were sent to bring Sean Cullen to the Court Martial in chains. Loudly, the heavy army boots of the men echoed off the stone floor of the narrow corridor. Step by loud step the marched until they came before the door to Sean’s cell. “Get up, Cullen!” the leader of the military escort barked out an order as the guard turned his key in the lock of the door. With a creak the heavy metal door opened to reveal that the cell was empty. The escort leader rushed into the cell, with army pistol drawn, and confirmed that there was no prisoner there. “Alarm!” he cried out and began to rush back down the corridor with his men.

Alarm!”; “Prisoner Escape!”; The alarm spread rapidly throughout the jail block that had been incorporated into the old castle building. In just a matter of minutes the entire building was filled with soldiers and auxiliaries running here and there, seeking the whereabouts of Sean Cullen. In the main office telephones and telegraphs were busy spreading the news of Cullen’s escape throughout the entire countryside. Police patrols, flying columns of Black and Tans, and squadrons of soldiers scoured the land searching every possible place that Cullen might seek refuge. Cottages, whether full or empty, were ransacked. Barns, hedgerows and known caves were all searched with great thoroughness, but the fugitive remained at large.

By afternoon the warm sunshine of the early morning had given way to dark clouds and heavy downpours of rain. By early evening “Wanted Posters” had begun to appear throughout the district. Even in the small fishing village of Kilcurragh, which lay on the coast some five miles from Derryard, the local policemen were busy pasting posters in ever available prominent position. Each poster proclaimed that a reward was available to any person giving information to the authorities, which would lead to the arrest of the fugitive, Sean Cullen. The head of the local constabulary, Sergeant Thompson, was being assisted by Constables O’Neill and Kelly in the task of posting the town and district. By the time they actually got into the narrow streets of the small fishing town darkness was beginning to settle. Thankfully the heavy rain showers had ceased, but a mist was beginning to settle on the town as the three officials hurried to finish their thankless task and return to their homes.

The taller of two constables, Kelly, addressed the sergeant, “Sergeant, that big door over there looks a great spot to put up one of these posters.”

He doesn’t hear you, Kelly,” said O’Neill. “Try him again.”

Pointing to the huge door of a nearby store Kelly called to the sergeant in a voice that was a little louder. “Will this door be a good place for one of these posters, sergeant?

But sergeant Thompson’s attention was attracted elsewhere and was  not hearing anything his subordinates had to say. “For God’s sake, sergeant will we put one of these posters on this door over here?” O’Neill shouted.

Rather distractedly the sergeant answered, “Look over here! There are steps that lead all the way down to the water.

It’s a fishing harbor,” Kelly informed him. “Fishing boats dock here all the time!

The sergeant appeared unmoved by Kelly’s sarcastic tone of voice and continued with his own discussion. “You know boys, this is the sort of place that would need to be carefully watched. If this Cullen fellow managed to make his way down those steps some of his friends might get a boat to meet him. In fact, those same boys could very well steal a local boat for the job.

Kelly just looked at his superior with quite some disbelief and repeated, “The door? It’s a good place for a poster!

Aye!” replied the sergeant. “Stick one of them up there.”

As O’Neill and Kelly pasted the poster on the large wooden door the sergeant began to read aloud the writing that the poster contained, “Wanted for Murder and Absconding Jail; Sean Cullen; Dark Hair, Dark Eyes; Smooth Faced and Five Feet Five Inches in height. Last seen with bandaged hand and bandaged right forearm.”

That’s a good description to be going by,” commented Kelly.

It would have been much better if I had seen the man with my own eyes,” said Thompson, “but they didn’t hold on to him long enough. How in the name of Jesus did a wounded man get out of that jail. He must have had friends on the inside, or the help of the Holy Spirit!

You might not be too far from the truth there, sergeant,” said Kelly. “But look at that! A hundred guineas is a tempting amount for any man and any policeman nabbing him will take a good leap up the ranks.

You’re right, Kelly!” Thompson told him. “I tell you what, I will take care of this area. It wouldn’t surprise me that Cullen has already scoped this place. If Cullen and his pals do come this way then he will be mine, and someone who needs the reward will get it!

Constable O’Neill regarded his sergeant with disbelief at what he had heard. “Are you a mad man?” he asked Thompson. “If any of us catch Cullen we will be signing our own death warrants. The people around here, and maybe even our own relations, will spit in our eye. None of us would know the minute or the hour when we would get a bullet or a knife in the back one dark night when we are on our own.

Sergeant Thompson gave the constable a look of complete disgust. “We are the police and we have a duty to uphold the law. If we fail to do our job then the entire country will fall into chaos.

Sure isn’t the entire country already in a complete state of chaos?” said O’Neill.

You know what I mean, you smart arse. Just finish putting up those posters both of you and get yourselves back here as soon as possible. Don’t be too long, for I am not too fussy about standing around this place for too long!” Sergeant Thompson told him.

As the two constables left him alone on the dockside Sergeant Thompson perused the poster once again and began to think about what he could do with one hundred guineas. If only he could be the man to capture Sean Cullen he would get a well-deserved promotion as well as a decent reward. “Wouldn’t I be on the pig’s back,” he muttered to himself quietly and smiled. It was then that he heard a slight noise coming from behind him, and he turned to see a poorly dressed man who had been trying to slip past him unnoticed.

Where do you think you are going, little man?” Thompson growled at the stranger.

Sure, I did not want to disturb you sergeant,” the man replied.

And who are you?

Ah sergeant, sure I am just a poor travelling man who is fond of the gargle and sleeps among the old netting down there. Some of the fishermen and the harbor workers give me a few pennies now and again to put some meat on my bones, thanks be to God.”

As the stranger went to walk on, sergeant Thompson took a step toward him. “Did I not tell you to stop? Are you deaf, or do you not know what “Stop” means?” the sergeant asked. “These days, you just cannot go wherever you like, you know.”

God bless you sergeant, but it is a hard fate for a man to be poor and wanting a rest from a hard day trying to keep yourself alive.”

Just who in the name of God are you?” asked the sergeant impatiently. “I don’t recognise you as someone from around these parts.”

My name, sergeant, is Tommy Carney, and I live anywhere I can lay my head, and make a few pennies tinkering.”

Never heard of you, Tommy Carney,” Sergeant Thompson told him.

I am thankful for that,” Tommy smiled. “If you knew me already it might not be in the best light. But, I am harmless tramp who is not known too well anywhere.

And so what brings you here?

I came here to earn myself a few shillings when the fishing boats get in after daylight breaks. I’ll do a bit of lifting and carrying from the boats and that will allow me to survive another day or two,” Tommy told the policeman.

Get out of here, you gobshite!” Thompson told him. “Move on out of this!

The ill-dressed little man simply smiled at the sergeant an said, “Sure I will just make myself comfortable among those boxes and nets at the dock steps.

Indeed you will not,” insisted Thompson. “No person will be allowed near those dock steps this night.

Can I not just sit over there at the steps themselves? Those boxes will give me shelter from the chilly sea breeze and I can use the nets as a blanket to cover me,” said Carney, rather forlornly.

Thompson shook his head and asked Carney, “What part of the word “No” do you not understand, little man?

I’ll go,” Carney told him. “Could you just give a few pennies to get myself something to drink that might keep me warm?

Tea, I suppose?” replied Thompson sarcastically. “Do you think I’m a fool? Get away out of this!

But Carney opened his coat and took out a half-bottle of poteen, which he offered to the policeman. “Would you like a wee mouthful, yourself?

By Jaysus, Carney, will you get out of my way before I put my big size twelve hobnail boots up your arse!

Carney replace the bottle and buttoned his coat before he began to moving off toward the steps of the dock. Sergeant Thompson could not quite believe it and angrily asked, “Where the hell are you going now?

You told me to move on sergeant and I am obeying your order, like any law abiding citizen,” replied Carney.

Are you really looking trouble, or are you really just a complete eejit?” Thompson asked angrily and shouted at him, “I pointed for you to go back where you came from!

To the town?” asked Carney.

Let me show you the way, Sir!” said Thompson as he took hold of Carney by the shoulders and pushing him in the direction that he wanted him to go. “Now, get out of here!

Carney took two steps forward and came to an abrupt halt. It was the ‘last straw’ for the sergeant. “What the hell are you stopping for now? You must be looking for trouble!”

Carney pointed to the ‘wanted poster’ on the large wooden door saying, “I bet that’s the fella you’re waiting for, sergeant.

And what if it is?”

Sure it’s just that I know that man, Sean Cullen, well. But, I’ll just get on my way like you asked, sergeant.

Just hold on a minute!” said Thompson. “What sort of man is this Cullen? There’s no pictures of him, and we don’t know what he looks like!

I can tell you nothing,” Carney told him. “Just speaking to a policeman could get me killed in a very short time.

Why would that be? Sure aren’t we only talking?

But Carney just shook his head and replied, “If you don’t know by now then God be with you. But let me tell you that I would not want to be in your shoes if you catch Cullen. I wouldn’t get involved in this matter even if the reward was three times as much.”

In a flash, Sergeant Thompson rushed forward and took hold of Carney with both hands. “Alright, smart arse,” he shouted, “What kind of man is this Sean Cullen and where do you know him from? Are you one of his friends?

Friends?” questioned Carney nervously. “I hardly know the man well enough to call him a friend. I only met the man about four months ago in a pub, but I can tell you that he is a man to strike fear in others. You wouldn’t want to be left alone facing him, for there is not a weapon that man doesn’t know how to use. But he doesn’t need a weapon for that boy has muscles as hard as oak, and could do some real damage.

Thompson looked into Carney’s eyes and was convinced that the tramp was exaggerating. “I don’t think that he is that bad.

But Carney’s expression did not change and he insisted, “He is!”

The sergeant released his grip on Carney as he asked him, “Tell me more.”

Carney pulled himself together and began to speak quietly, making sure no person was around to hear him. “There was a man on the other side Kinvarra, another policeman, and Cullen killed him with a sledge hammer.

When was this?” asked Thompson with a definite tone of suspicion. “I never heard a word about that one.”

Of course you wouldn’t have heard about it,” insisted Carney. “He was an undercover policeman and his battered body was dumped in a rubbish pit.

Jaysus, but this has become one hell of a terrible country to live in!” said Thompson as he removed his helmet and rubbed his brow with the back of his hand.

Isn’t it the truth?” said Carney. “One minute you could be standing giving your full attention to something, and comes up quietly behind you and does the job.

The job?

Cut your throat,” said Carney.

The sergeant took a very deep breath and told Carney, “It will take a whole troop of police and auxiliaries to catch this murdering rebel and not the few boys we have here.”

I could stay with you,” Carney offered. “You keep watch the one way and I will watch your back.

Thompson thought for a moment and put his helmet back on his head. “That just might work, since you actually know the man.”

Ah, that Sean Cullen! Sure I would know that man a mile away, Sergeant.”

Aye, but you would want a share of my reward money!”

Are you crazy, Sergeant? I don’t want the name of being an informer,” Carney insisted. “A ‘tout ‘ (Informer)does not live very long these days, and I wouldn’t have much time to spend what I would get. No, you can keep it all yourself and I will make myself scarce!

Just you stay where you are!” Thompson ordered him.

Together the two men stood in silence, looking out across the small, darkening harbor and the policeman gave a great yawn. “You’re a tired man, sergeant. All this walking up and down here, keeping your eyes open has exhausted you,” Carney told him.

I’m well used to it,” replied Thompson.

Aye, but you just might need all your strength, should you come up against Cullen in the dark,” Carney warned him and pointed to some large, wooden fish barrels standing close the large wooden door of the store. “Look, let’s get up on those barrels, where we can rest ourselves and still have a good view of things.

Sergeant Thompson nodded his head in approval and the two men clambered on the fish barrels. “We will sit back to back,” suggested Thompson, “ so we have the best view all around. To be honest, the way you described Cullen to me has made me awful uneasy.”

Just give me a light of my pipe, sergeant,” said Carney and Thompson obliged him with a match to light his pipe. “Maybe you would like a smoke yourself, sergeant. It would ease your nerves and make you feel a little more comfortable. Just you keep your eyes peeled ahead of you and I will reach my pipe around to you.”

Thompson didn’t move, but kept staring straight ahead of himself. “Don’t you worry wee man, I won’t look away. But, I will light my own pipe and we can have a smoke together.” Thompson struck a match, lit his pipe and the two men sat back to back on the barrels smoking in the pleasant night air.

Do you know Carney that being a policeman is not all it’s cracked up to be,” complained Thompson. “You are out to all hours, in all types of weather, and never a word of thanks is heard for the dangerous situations we find ourselves in. We only ever get dog’s abuse from all sides, and yet they expect us to carry out our duty. There’s not one would ask or even care if you are a married man with family before they send you into the most dangerous situations.

Carney took another drag from his pipe and with a sweet voice he quietly began to sing, “They say that the Lakes of Killarney are fair, but none with the Liffey will ever compare! If it’s water you want you will get plenty of it there! Thank God, we’re surrounded by water!

For Jaysus’ sake Carney, don’t be singing those songs around here. You know these are dangerous days and those Black and Tans are trigger happy. They would shoot you just for being Irish, never mind the song,” Thompson warned him.

But, sergeant, a little bit of a song helps keep my heart light, especially when my thoughts are turned to Cullen and his friends. I can’t help thinking that he is lurking about here just waiting for his chance to jump both of us.

Well stop singing and keep a good look out,” the policeman urged.

Carney shrugged his shoulders and assured the sergeant, “Isn’t that just what I am doing, sergeant Thompson, sir. And sure aren’t I doing it for free? What kind of a fool am I?” He took yet another puff from his pipe and blew a large cloud of fragrant tobacco smoke into the air. “But, sure I could never stand by and just watch another man in trouble.”

Don’t worry Carney, you will get your reward in heaven.”

Don’t I know that, sergeant. But, I would like to enjoy life on earth first.

Thompson smiled at the tramp’s comment and told him, “Sing your song then, if it gives you comfort.

Carney cleared his throat and began his song where he left off, “The sea, the sea, the geal grá mo chroí, long may it reign between England and me. It’s a sure guarantee that some hour we’ll be free …

Wheesht! For Christ’s sake! If you sing that type of song I will have to arrest you, you eejit” said Thompson. “If you want to sing, sing something like “the Galway Shawl.””

Carney turned his head slightly around, “That’s a good song sergeant. Imagine a man of the law knowing such a song?

There’s many a thing that I know,” replied Thompson. “I wasn’t always a policeman.”

I bet you were some boy in your youth, sergeant. Sitting up with your friends drinking the ‘porter’ and singing all the old songs of freedom,” Carney laughed.

I did, to be sure!” smiled Thompson as he recalled those days of his youth.

May be Cullen also enjoyed a glass of ‘porter’ and singing freedom songs when he was a young boy. Maybe singing the same songs as yourself,” Carney commented. “It’s a small world filled with queer coincidences, sergeant. You took one road and

“Quiet!” urged the Sergeant. “I think there is someone coming this way,” he declared nervously and shuffled himself slightly to try and obtain a better view. “Ah! Sure it’s only an old dog!”

“Do you not think this is a queer world, sergeant?” asked Carney as he resumed from where he was before being interrupted. “With you, being a policeman ,could even be faced with arresting one of those friends you sang those songs with, and putting him before a judge.”

“True enough! It could all happen,” the sergeant responded

“You know, in those days, after a few drinks and a few songs those boys may have talked a little treason. Maybe you joined in. If they talked about ways in which to free this country you may have also joined in those discussions.”

“I couldn’t say that I didn’t, for I was a wee bit wild in my younger days,” smiled Thompson.

Carney laughed a little and told him, “It’s a queer world, Sergeant, sure enough. No mother knows what might happen her child as that child goes through life, and how may it end up.”

“You couldn’t speak a truer word,” Thompson told him. “if it wasn’t for the sense beaten into me by my parents, and the fact that I am a father and a husband, I could have gotten into trouble. Only for joining the police force I could well be a fugitive from justice, hiding in the darkness and seeking refuge in whatever hovel I could find that would take me in. It could have even been the case that Cullen would be sitting here instead of me. Him keeping the law and me breaking it, and trying to escape justice. Me waiting to put a bullet in his head, or even beat his brains out with a brick. What the ..?” the sergeant gasped and turned his attention to the water.

“I didn’t hear anything,” said Carney.

“It sounded like the splash of an oar. I had thought maybe friends of Cullen will try and free him, by sailing him out of here,” said Thompson.

Not at all,” sneered Carney eager to get his attention back to their conversation. “You are and will always be a man of the people and not just a slavish servant of the law.”

Aye, I was foolish in my young days, but those days have long gone,” Thompson declared.

Carney looked at Thompson for a minute before saying, “I bet those feelings are still in there somewhere, despite the uniform and badge.

You would be wrong, then,” snapped Thompson.

I think you will be on his side very soon,” Carney told him.

The sergeant’s expression darkened, “Keep your thoughts to yourself, you gobshite!” he snarled. “How dare you talk to me like that, a policeman. I have my duty to do and my orders to obey.” There was another splashing sound and Thompson turned his attention to the dockside again. He jumped down from the fish barrel, telling Carney, “That is a boat, for I can hear the splash of oars in the water.”

As Thompson moved closer to the edge of the dock Carney again broke into song, “Thank God we’re surrounded by water?

Didn’t I tell you to be quiet?” the sergeant turned back toward Carney with a very angry look on his face.

“The Sea, the sea, the ….” Carney began to sing louder.

Stop now, Carney, or you will go to jail!” said the sergeant as a soft whistling noise came from the area of the dock steps.

Now that is a signal to somebody,” declared Thompson, causing Carney to get down of the fish barrel and move toward the dockside.

Keep back there, Carney,” Thompson urged him. “You cannot pass this way.

But, Carney did not stop and kept coming forward. “Just who, in God’s name, are you?”

You know me by the name on that poster,” Carney declared.

Cullen? You are Cullen?” said a shocked police sergeant.

Carney removed his hat and the wig he had been using to disguise the bandage on his head and threw them at the sergeant’s feet. “I am Sean Cullen and there are a hundred guineas on my head. Furthermore, there is a boat at the bottom of these stone steps that contains some very close comrades of mine who are ready to take me to safety,” he said.

Well, Cullen. You certainly tricked me this night, but it will do you no good!” Thompson angrily assured him.

Look, Sergeant. I have one hundred guineas on my head because I fight for our freedom.”

I heard about the reward, Cullen and I have heard something of what you have done. I have a certain sympathy but I have my duty to do,” replied Thompson.

There’s no more time to waste on idle talk now. Will you let me pass or will I have to force my way past?” Cullen warned in a cold tone of voice.

Good God, man, I am an officer of the law and I cannot knowingly allow a criminal to escape. In fact I actually hoped I might convince you in a friendly manner to … What’s that?” said the sergeant as he placed his right hand into the breast of his jacket.

There were voices talking as they approached the dockside from another street. “This where we left the sergeant,” said one of the voices that Thompson recognised as Constable Kelly.

Those are my constables returning from patrol,” said the sergeant as he looked into Cullen’s face.

You will not betray me to them, Sergeant. Not a true Irishman like you,” Cullen told him as he returned to his hiding place behind the barrels, just in the nick of time.

That was the last of the posters, thanks be to God,” said Constable O’Neill.

Well, if that boyo makes good his escape it will be no fault of ours. All the posters we have put up will ensure he is well known in this area, now,” pointed out Kelly.

In the meantime, as his comrades came closer, Thompson kicked the fugitive’s wig and hat, behind some barrels.

Did you see anyone since we left?” asked O’Neill.

Not a one,” replied Thompson nervously, for it was the first occasion that he had deliberately lied.


Not a single soul,” the sergeant replied more confidently.

Since we have no orders to go back to the police station we thought we would come and keep you company, Sergeant,” said O’Neill.

Thompson looked at the two constables for a moment and bluntly told them, “There is nothing here for you to do!”

You told us that we should come back to this place as quickly as we could,” Constable Kelly reminded him. “You wanted us to keep watch with you.”

I would rather be on my own, boys. Sure why would any escaped convict come this way with all the noise and racket the two of you make with all your chatter? It might be better if I was here on my own..”

Right then, sergeant. But we will leave you this torch,” said Constable O’Neill.

Just bring it with you, I don’t need it,” The sergeant told them.

“It is still dark, sergeant and there are rain clouds gathering that will make it even darker,” O’Neill pointed out. “I will just put it over here on the barrels so it will be handy for you.

Just take the damn thing with you, for God’s sake, and go” snapped Thompson angrily.

The two constables were taken aback by this change in the sergeant’s tone. “We only thought it would help you. It’s a big torch and gives plenty of light, but you could also use it as a weapon if someone creeps up on you. That torch would give some eejit a quare dig in the head,” said constable Kelly.

I will give you two a quare dig on the head if you don’t get out of here and take that damn torch with you.”

Jaysus, sergeant, we were only trying to help,” said O’Neill as the two constables stormed off toward the police station.

As the two policemen marched away, Cullen stuck his head up from behind the fish barrels. Sergeant Thompson went closer to him and asked, “What are you waiting for now?

I need my hat and wig! It’s cold and it might even rain,” said Cullen.

Sergeant Thompson handed the items to Cullen and he put them back on his head as he walked toward the dock steps. “Good night, my friend,” he said. “You have helped save my life this night and I will never forget it. Maybe the day will come when I will be able to do something for you that will be just as important, when freedom comes. I would shake your hand on it but you know that I can’t because of my wound. I will, however, give you my word of honour.” He nodded his head in respect to the police sergeant and began to walk down the stone steps.

Thompson just watched as Cullen descended the steps and sighed sadly to himself, “Am I as big a buck eejit as I feel?” He turned on his heels and followed the same path as his constables back to the police barracks.

Krumm’s Riot 1920

The RIC and the Black &Tans

This last while I have been looking at various books concerning the ‘Irish War of Independence’ and have read many curious stories about participants and various incidents in what was a bloody and often cruel conflict. One story particularly caught my interest and concerns the mysterious shooting and murder of a member of the ‘Black and Tan’ auxiliaries to the Royal Irish Constabulary. This incident took place in Galway City during the night of 8th/9th September 1920, and the victim was a constable of the force called Edward Krumm. Perhaps the information gleaned here will help solve what mystery there was about the incident, with contradicting reports and propaganda campaigns created by each side to place the full blame on their opponents.

Edward Krumm was only one of thousands of British ex-servicemen who were sent to Ireland to reinforce the ranks of the ‘Royal Irish Constabulary’ (RIC), which had come under serious pressure in the bloody conflict known as the ‘Irish War of Independence (1920-21). Krumm, aged 26, volunteered for service with the RIC auxiliary force, ‘The Black and Tans’, on 10th August 1920 and was registered as Constable 72372. He was quite a tall man, standing five feet eleven inches tall, and although he came from Middlesex, he did have family in Surrey, and was a confirmed bachelor and active member of the Church of England. When enlisting for the auxiliary force, Edward had given his occupation as an electrical engineer.

Though Krumm, like many ‘Black and Tans’ had seen service in the armed forces he was given very little police training before being sent to Ireland on 18th August 1920 and stationed in the west of County Galway. Being former soldiers, the British Government were interested only in ability to employ their military skills and mentality as ‘Black and Tans’ to subdue the Irish terrorists with a greater terror, and so despised did this force of men become that each member became a walking target for any Irish patriot with a gun. It is not surprising then to learn that only three weeks after arriving in Galway, on the night of 8th September 1920, he was shot by persons unknown in Galway City.[1]

There were many shootings of ‘Black and Tans’ throughout Ireland, but what made this particular incident stand out was that Krumm lost his life under what can only be described as mysterious circumstances. News reports at the time and the testimony of eyewitnesses to the incident confirm that Constable Krumm was gunned down in a shooting confrontation with local volunteers belonging to the ‘Irish Republican Army (IRA). There are some accounts suggesting that the volunteers confronted Krumm with the aim of taking his revolver, and he had opened fire in self-defence. There are other reports that the constable pulled his gun from its holster and ran amok, forcing the volunteers to intervene in order to stop him killing or injuring nearby civilians. In the record there is one witness report that suggested Krumm had intentionally opened fire on civilians, which would cause an incident that would give the ‘Black and Tans’ a pretext for bloody reprisals on the Irish population of the city.[2]

After so many years it is incredibly difficult to attempt to discover the truth, but if the evidence available is believed to be factual then Constable Krumm was murdered in an IRA hold-up to relieve him of his weapon. In this case we must also accept that Krumm did fire his gun in self-defence when he was confronted by the armed IRA volunteers, who prevailed in shooting and killing the Constable. This conclusion is made all the stronger when a military court of inquiry investigated the circumstances of Krumm’s death and agreed with the evidential conclusion. It was also how IRA veterans remembered the events when they were interviewed years later. Their statements corroborated the findings of the military court of inquiry and contradict the story told by the Irish Republican movement at the time. The case of Constable Krumm, therefore, might help throw a different light on ‘police violence’ during the Irish War of Independence and the way such actions were perceived and represented by both sides of the conflict, not only in Ireland, but in Great Britain and Irish America.

In November 1920 an unofficial ‘American Commission on Conditions in Ireland’ (ACCI) was established, at which several Irish and American witnesses gave testimony. One witness, John Joseph Caddan, was a former constable in the RIC and gave testimony concerning events in Galway City and the West. He was a nineteen-year-old Irishman and a son of a sergeant in the RIC. But the shortage of work in Ireland caused him and many Irishmen to leave and seek employment in England. John’s fortunes did not improve, however, and so he joined the RIC in London during February 1920. After receiving his training, he was posted to the western reaches of County Galway in May and stationed in Galway City’s Eglinton Street station alongside almost thirty other policemen, the largest barracks in the district.[3] He testified to the ACCI that while Galway City itself was quiet until the end of August, the rugged countryside to the west of the City was in a constant state of tension. In fact, revolutionary activity had grown to a point that the RIC had abandoned ordinary patrols in the area, concentrating forces in fewer and fewer police stations.

In the first six months of 1920, the ‘Irish Republican Army’ (IRA) had attacked three of these reinforced police barracks and, although none of these were captured, they were all so badly damaged that they had to be abandoned afterward. The IRA volunteers had also set fire to several abandoned police stations at Easter, in commemoration of the 1916 Rebellion. Elsewhere in the County the republicans had established land arbitration courts and volunteers were acting a republican police, all of which brought instability to many in the countryside. The duties of these ‘Republican Police’ included guarding the polling booths during local government elections held at the beginning of June 1920. Sinn Féin romped home to win the elections and the new councils that were formed pledged their allegiance to the republican ‘Dail Eireann’ rather than the British authorities. Furthermore, in Galway City, the first meeting of the new Galway County Council passed a motion rescinding a previous motion condemning the 1916 Rebellion and struck it from the minutes.

At the end of June 1920, County Inspector Rutledge reported to the RIC Inspector General … “Sinn Fein courts have set aside Petty Sessions courts to a great extent. The Irish Volunteers are in control everywhere and the police are set aside. The Police cannot go on patrol except in considerable force and on the slightest opportunity they are held up. It is difficult for them to get provisions and fuel & light in many places. Their condition of life in barracks with light and air shut out by sandbags, shell boxes and steel shutters is very irksome and disagreeable. At night they cannot sleep during the dark hours apprehending an attack at any time. No one speaks to them in a friendly way. No one will give them any information … The old form of police control is practically beaten to the ropes, and it is as well to recognise the situation.”[4]

The tension that had been building up in the County finally exploded into violence on 19th July, when the summer assizes were held in Galway City with the assistance of heavy police and military presence. The IRA in the county had organised a boycott of these legal proceedings and the local people had little choice but to obey, whether they were supporters or not. The boycott proved to be successful since most of the cases listed to be heard were adjourned until the next session because many of the jurors failed to attend. Then, that evening, while driving back from the city to their barracks at Dunmore, the IRA ambushed a Royal Irish Constabulary sergeant and three constables on the road just outside Tuam. In this action two of the constables were killed and although the two survivors were captured by the attackers, they were subsequently released unharmed. But news of the ambush and the police casualties raised the alarm in Galway City, causing police reinforcements to be sent to the scene. They spent several hours searching the countryside without result and, in their anger and frustration, decided to take revenge on the town of Tuam by rioting in the streets, threatening to shoot innocent people as suspects, and setting several buildings on fire. The ‘American Commission’ heard eyewitness testimony that when the police returned to barracks, they bragged about burning public houses and the town hall, as well as making a complete wreck of the town.[5]

Not surprisingly the events in Tuam on 19th July intensified the deep sense of bitterness on both sides of the conflict in Galway. As had happened with the summer assizes, the coroner’s inquest on the two dead constables was adjourned after members of the jury failed to show. The local newspaper reported the response of the police to this adjournment – “Head Constable Bowles, who represented the authorities, said from their action in absenting themselves as jurors it might be accepted that the people of Tuam took it to be the right course to murder the police. We must take it that that is the general feeling in the town. It looks as if they had no more regard for a policeman’s life than a dog’s.” [6] The local newspaper, however, blamed the government for the violence that had erupted in the county, saying – “At the beginning of the present campaign the Irish police were plainly told that so long as they performed ordinary police duties no one would interfere with them, but if they took up arms against those who were fighting for Irish freedom they would have to abide by the consequences. Since then, the government has with callous and reckless indifference to the lives of its Irish police, proceeded with the task of militarising’ the force.

This policy, many believed, was leading the entire country to disaster. The same newspaper declared, “Those who can no longer govern will provoke and wreck,” and predicted, “extremists will resort to physical force and reprisals will follow, until a widespread vendetta of revenge must lay the country waste, and drive men of good will to despair.” The prediction rapidly appeared to be turning into reality in the weeks that followed, which saw more police barracks abandoned and burned. Then, on 21st August, five policemen were ambushed as they cycled from Oranmore to Galway City. One constable was killed by the attackers, while another constable and a sergeant were wounded. A police team left the city that same night to seek out a suspected attacker, Joseph Howley, in Oranmore, but they were unable to find him. In their anger, the police took revenge by setting fire to the family home, and so the violence escalated until at the end of the County Inspector sent in his monthly report and made it clear how the violence was affecting him and his men – “are shunned and hated and rejoicing takes place when they are shot. They have to take the necessaries of life by force. Their wives are miserable, and their children suffer in the schools and nobody cares.

Meanwhile, on 19th August Edward Krumm had been posted to County Galway. One RIC constable who met Constable Krumm recalled that he was one of the ‘Black and Tans’ and “was a motor driver stationed in Dunmore, about ten miles outside of Galway. He was in town about two weeks getting his motor repaired”. But even with such a short encounter the Constable had developed a very low opinion of Krumm, calling him “He was a generally reckless fellow and drank a lot.” On the night of 8th September, however, Krumm went to a nearby hotel to meet a civilian driver whom he had come to know. It was about midnight when the two men decided to go Galway railway station to meet the mail train that was bringing the evening papers from Dublin.

Soon after Krumm and his companion arrived at the station platform a fierce gun battle erupted in which Constable Krumm and an IRA volunteer called John Mulvoy were killed. Although details about the incident are sketchy, there was a report said to have come a Father Griffin that suggested that the young ‘Black and Tan’ (Krumm) was drunk. Moreover, he was described as a chauffeur who had only been in Ireland for two weeks and was surprised that there was not as much violence as he was led to believe. Krumm was on the platform when the newspapers arrived and there was a great rush of people to get them. The big news of the day was the condition of Lord Mayor McSwiney, and the sudden rush and noise appears to have overwhelmed the young constable, causing him to open fire. This version was corroborated by a Roman Catholic priest, Re. Dr. James Cotter, reporting that he was an eyewitness to the events in the station. He said he was talking to an Irish priest when he heard shots being fired and, “then very quickly a Black-and-Tan went out on the platform that leads to the back door of the ‘Railway Hotel’, and when the people were coming to get the papers off the train at midnight, he used his revolver in any way, shooting in any direction. He shot a young fellow named Mulvoy.” The priest stated that a civilian tackled Krumm and tried to disarm him, but the Black and Tan kept firing, wounding a couple of bystanders until, finally, another civilian shot him dead.

To many the report of a young ‘Black and Tan’ losing his nerve and opening fire on civilians in his panic appeared to be quite plausible. There were many instances in which the ‘Black and Tans’ had done stupid and very violent things when they were drunk. On one occasion, in December 1920, six ‘Black and Tans’ from County Longford chose to rob a bank in Strokestown, County Roscommon. The local police, however, caught three of these men drinking in a local public house after the robbery, with the stolen banknotes falling out of their pockets. In his petition to the court for clemency of these bank robbers it is reported that one of the bank robbers admitted that he had been “very drunk” that day, stating, “if I had been sober, this would not have happened.

Another incident occurred in Maryborough, County Laois in January 1921 when two soldiers and two ‘Black and Tans’ went from door to door seeking a billet after spending the evening drinking. A family refused to open the door to them and one of the ‘Black and Tans’, William Wilton, fired his revolver at the front door and killing the man on the other side. Wilton was tried and convicted of manslaughter, but in his petition for clemency he claimed that the shooting had been accidental, saying “The door was not opened, and someone shouted ‘We have no room or something to that effect. I imagining that we were going to be attacked took my revolver from my holster and the shot was accidentally discharged into the street.

Although Wilton’s version of events appear to be doubtful, Constable Krumm may well have imagined a similar attack was to be made on him. An American lady said that she was on the platform, waiting with the crowd, and saw everything that occurred. She stated, “There was a man on the platform to whom I paid little attention and could not give a description of him in a satisfactory way. He wore what I think was a loose cap. He did not appear to me to be a regular soldier, nor did he seem to me to be the customary Black-and-Tan. There was a woman on the platform at the station with three or four children. There was an English officer on the platform, and there were many civilians. I turned my head in this direction (indicating aside), and the man in this peculiar uniform whipped out a revolver. He was standing with another man in ordinary attire. And he slashed the revolver around and began shooting.” Mrs. King further testified that while the Army officer tried to protect the woman and her children, Krumm shot a young man in the leg. It was at this time that Mulvoy stepped up to help the wounded man, but Krumm shot him as well. She further stated, “Then, another boy jumped from the back and caught the soldier in this way (indicating across the body) so that he had only one hand free. And then a harsh shot rang out and this soldier fell to the ground.”[7]

Despite previous testimony from other ‘witnesses’, Mrs King said that Krumm had not opened fire after the crowd rushed forward. “There was perfect peace, and we were all waiting for the papers, and he whipped out the revolver and began to fire.” Furthermore, she poured doubt on the testimony of a priest witness by stating, “I do not think Father Cotter was on the platform, I happened to be there at the time. I think he was in the hotel.” It was obvious that Mrs. King believed that Krumm had opened fire without provocation, with the idea of provoking the people into rebellion.

Meanwhile, back at Eglinton Street Barracks, many of the men were already in bed. Then, one of the constables came rushing into the building shouting the alarm, telling the entire barracks that one of their own had been shot. There were about fifty men in the Barracks, and they all rose from their beds and got dressed, and immediately armed themselves before going on the streets of the city to take revenge. Rampaging through those streets they fired their rifles and attacked the homes of known Irish Volunteers, beating the occupants and setting the houses on fire. One Volunteer that they captured, Seamus Quirke, was taken down to the railways station and shot dead, where Krumm had fallen. The rioting was said to have lasted about ninety minutes with guns firing, women and children screaming, and the flames of burning buildings lighting up the night sky. Mrs. King and other witnesses to events took refuge in the hotel and British officers assured them they would be safe and only those townspeople who deserved to be shot were being shot.

During the riot the police attacked the offices of a republican newspaper, ‘The Galway Express’, and smashed up the printing machinery. In the morning Mrs. King saw the damage that had occurred to the newspaper building and others, with people trying to salvage what they could from the ruins. But despite the damage done to the ‘Galway Express’ by the police it managed to publish a special edition that day, giving a brief account of the deaths of Krumm and Mulvoy in line with the testimony of Mrs. King. The paper reported, “The public are aware that an English member of the R.I.C. foully murdered J. Mulvoy, a citizen of Galway, who had called to the station to secure an evening paper from the midnight mail. Not satisfied, this policeman attempted to murder another peaceful citizen when he himself was killed in self-defence.” The newspaper further reported, “an English officer, who witnessed the occurrence at the Railway Station, offered to give evidence, and said that the policeman was the aggressor and that no course was open to prevent further bloodshed but to shoot him.[8]

Black & Tan Revenge

‘The Galway Express’ and ‘the Irish Bulletin’, the official gazette of the revolutionary shadow government of the Irish Republic, were not the only papers to report these events. The shootout at the railway station, and the violent reprisals that followed, were described in both the local Irish weekly, ‘The Connacht Tribune’ and in national dailies like the Irish Independent and the Freeman’s Journal. These reports, however, included some interesting errors about the identity of the dead police constable, including the suggestion that Krumm had been serving in the Royal Irish Constabulary for a year, and was on detective duty at the railway station that night.

The report in ‘The Freeman’s Journal’ read, “When the train pulled in at the platform the waiting crowd rushed toward the newsboys who were taking out papers, as since the beginning of the hunger-strike of the Lord Mayor of Cork there are not enough papers to meet the demand. It appears that when Krumm saw the people pressing in on the platform he whipped out his automatic pistol.

“It does not appear that he actually fired at this moment, but when the crowd saw his actions they formed into a knot. He then fired two or three shots in the air, and afterwards putting his pistol under his left arm he fired back at Mulvoy, hitting him in the right forehead. The crowd then rushed toward Krumm, who was knocked down, and while on the ground he was, it is alleged, aiming his pistol at the crowd again when a revolver shot was fired, hitting him in the breast.”

The terrible violence in Galway was also reported in the British press and ‘The Times’ even mentioned reports of a civilian being taken out of his house and shot in the street. A very different version of events in Galway appeared in the ‘Manchester Guardian’, liberal newspaper that had been very critical of the Government’s Irish policy and gave extensive coverage of the Galway police reprisal. “The facts of the trouble were briefly these,” their report began. Krumm and Yorke were part of a crowd on the station platform, waiting for some race results, and for news about the Lord Mayor of Cork. Some Irish Volunteers were in the crowd that night as well. “Krumm was in plain clothes,” says the report, “but was known to carry a revolver, and it seems likely that the Volunteers wished to disarm him.” The Volunteers shouted, “hands up” and pointed their guns at Yorke and Krumm. Yorke put up his hands, but the Black and Tan drew his revolver. In the battle that followed, both Constable Krumm and Volunteer Mulvoy were shot through the head and killed.

The British authorities, naturally, favoured such a ‘hold-up’ narrative and the death of a ‘Black and Tan’ was mentioned in a press release from Dublin Castle. “Constable Krumm of the Royal Irish Constabulary, an ex-soldier, who recently joined the force, was shot dead at Galway railway station at midnight on Wednesday,” it said. “Three of the assailants were shot dead by the police, and two more are believed to have been wounded.” Brief as it was, this notice included all the information then available from official sources. The report received by Dublin Castle said only that: “At midnight on 8.9.20. Constable Krumm, R.I.C. was shot dead at Galway Railway Station. Three assailants were shot dead, and one or two believed wounded.” The next day, the Castle was told only that, “number of assailants shot dead should read TWO and not three as stated. Three assailants were wounded.”[9]

A military court of inquiry was convened to investigate the deaths of Constable Krumm and the two Volunteers. Coroner’s inquests had been suspended after the U.K. Parliament passed emergency legislation, the ‘Restoration of Order in Ireland Act, in August, but this court of inquiry was the first to be held since the suspension, and its proceedings were covered fully by the Irish press. It opened on 10th September at Renmore Barracks, Galway and several witnesses were called to give evidence. It was then adjourned after issuing a warrant for Christopher Yorke, the civilian who had accompanied Constable Krumm to the railway station on the night of 8th September 8. The court then re-opened on September 15, took additional evidence from Yorke and other witnesses, and returned its verdict. They gave scant attention to the deaths of Quirke and Mulvoy. But one witness, Eileen Baker, testified that both Krumm and Yorke had been at Bakers Hotel that night, and that Krumm had suggested to Yorke “that they should go to the station to get a paper as Mr. Krumm was interested in Spion Kop which was running in the St. Leger that day and wanted to see the results of the race.” In her opinion, both men were quite sober when they left the hotel and went down to the station at 11:45. Then, at twenty minutes past midnight, Yorke returned to the hotel, and told her that both men had been held up at the station, and that Krumm had been killed.

When Yorke appeared before the court on September 15, he corroborated Baker s account of leaving the hotel in company with Constable Krumm, and the two men went down to the railway station. He testified, “As soon as the papers were taken off the train, the crowd gathered in to get the papers, and Krumm was amongst them. Krumm got three papers and gave me one.” Yorke further testified that as they were leaving the platform, he heard a shot fired, then he was held up at gunpoint by one man and searched by another. “While I was held up,” he continued, “I heard a man shouting “Help,” and I heard Constable Krumm say, “If you do not let me go, I will fire.” It was not Constable Krumm who shouted for help. The man who had searched me then went away. After the cry for help five or six shots rang out. When I looked around, I saw two men lying on the ground.” Yorke was then told to “go on,” and returned to Bakers Hotel.[10]

In its verdict, the court of inquiry found that Krumm had died from bullet wounds, “and that these wounds were wilfully inflicted by some person or persons unknown.” Interestingly, the police pressed the court for a verdict of murder, but the court refused. Even more interestingly, the court refused to pass judgement on what had precipitated the shooting at the railway station that night. “There is no actual proof of what occurred regarding the shooting,” said the president of the court.

In this account there remains one group of witnesses from whom we have heard no testimony, namely those men who had shot Constable Krumm. As we can expect these IRA Volunteers were unwilling to give their side of the story to any newspapers, or to military courts of inquiry. In fact, it was only thirty years later that they were prepared to talk to investigators from the ‘Bureau of Military History’ established by the Irish Government. This collection, which is available to the public, includes two ‘Witness Statements’ by those IRA Volunteers who were present at Galway railway station on the night that Constable Krumm was killed, These Men were Sean Broderick and Mícheál Ó Droighneáin, their statements provide added proof to the belief that the incident was a “hold-up”.

Sean Broderick was not just any ordinary IRA Volunteer, for he was the commanding officer of the 4th Battalion of the IRA’s ‘Galway Brigade’. In his statement of events he included details of how he was arrested, taken back to the railway station, and almost shot to death during the police riot that occurred later that night. “My father’s house was raided,” he said. “I heard them coming, but, as I slept at the top of the house, I had no means of escape. They pulled me down the stairs in my shirt and trousers, without boots, and brought me towards the station, poking me with their rifles and revolvers and accompanied by choice language. I saw several patrols of military on our way and, when we got to the station, I shouted to the British Army officer that as an officer of the I.R.A. I demanded a fair trial. The reply from several of his men was: “You bloody bastard””

Broderick said that the police put him up against a wooden railway door and assembled a firing squad to execute him, and all he could do was to close his eyes and pray. The police fired and Broderick fell, but miraculously, he survived. He stated, “I realised I was not seriously wounded and commenced to moan and kick my legs and then lay still. To my complete amazement, they then cleared off hurriedly without firing any further shots at me.” Furthermore, Broderick described what he had seen and done earlier that night, stating that there were several IRA Volunteers at Galway station that night. He said, “We went up to the railway station to meet Michael Thornton of Connemara, who was coming from Dublin on the 11 p.m. train, as we expected he would have some stuff for our planned attack on Spiddal R.I.C. barracks. We were told by Volunteers that there were a few armed Tans swaggering about after leaving Baker s Hotel in Eyre St., which was a resort for the R.I.C. and Tans. I had already told Captain Sean Turk to meet us at the station with a few armed men. I met him and we decided to hold up the Tans and disarm them. I was just walking into the station when I heard shots. I found one Tan shot and his pals gone.”

This testimony, however, was not conclusive, because Broderick was reminiscing years after the event, and had not seen everything that had happened and. as a result, in his account, Constable Krumm and a civilian motor driver had become “a few armed Tans swaggering about.” In addition, both John Caddan and Mícheál Ó Droighneáin agree that it was another Volunteer who was stood up against the door at the Galway railway station, instead of Sean Broderick. The testimony of the latter is important, because he was, in fact, the ‘Michael Thornton to whom Broderick had referred. Ó Droighneáin was the one arriving at Galway station that night, on the train from Dublin with some revolvers and improvised explosives in a box under his seat, which were to be used in an attack on the constabulary station at Spiddal. According to Ó Droighneáins Witness Statement, a group of “six or eight” Galway Volunteers under the command of Captain Seán Türke met him at the station and loaded the box of munitions onto a wagon. “No sooner had the horse begun to move out of the station,” he said, “than shots rang out around us. We galloped off with our load.”

What happened was this,” Ó Droighneáin said. “A Black and Tan named Krumm [sic], was moving around the station, swinging a heavy revolver, and blowing about it, and making himself a nuisance to everybody. Just at the point that we had our box on the sidecar, Seán Türke jumped on Krumm’s back, and brought him to the ground. Krumm blazed away immediately, and one of his bullets hit Mulvoy, from the effects of which he died during the night. One of our boys had a .32 revolver, and with it he shot Krumm dead. Some say it was Frank Dowd who did it, but I remember Tommy Fahy, the youngest of the lot, saying it was he who fr one more fact. Reprisals, like the Galway police riot that followed the shooting of Constable Krumm, are usually blamed on the ‘Black and Tans’ and Auxiliaries. Edward Krumm, however, was the only ‘Black and Tan’ at Eglinton Street Barracks in the city, and he was dead before the reprisals began. The police who rioted after Krumm was shot dead were all Irishmen, the same as those Irishmen who had rioted in Tuam in the previous July. Moreover, these police were led by a Catholic Irish officer. In his testimony to the ‘American Commission’, John Caddan mentioned a “District Inspector Crewe,” who had taken part in the riot along with his men, and who was promoted “about a week after.” In fact, this police officer’s name was Richard Cruise, who had been appointed the district inspector for Galway in mid- June and became the county inspector in charge of County Galway’s West Riding in mid-October. In his monthly report, the new county inspector noted, with evident sense of satisfaction, that “The chief item of interest in Galway during the month was the reprisal scare and the dread of the gun-men lest the forces of law and order should catch any of them in the act of any of their evil doings.

In addition, the Irish government’s Police Adviser, Major General Henry Hugh Tudor, was in Galway the night that Constable Krumm was killed. As a guest at Bakers Hotel, Major General Tudor was one of the British Army officers who assured Mrs. King that the rioting police were merely “shooting some of the townspeople that deserve shooting.” In his testimony to the ‘American Commission’, John Caddan described how the Police Adviser came to Eglinton Street RIC Barracks on the morning of September 9 and spoke to the assembled police. He told the assembly, “This country is ruled by gunmen, and they must be put down.” He talked about giving home rule to Ireland, and he said home rule could not be given until all gunmen were put down, and he called upon the RIC to put them down. Tudor also asked them what they required in the barracks, and that whatever they wanted he would give them, and that they were also going to get a raise in pay. He said they needed machine guns, and he said they would get them, and also tanks and more men; men who had been in the army during the war and who knew how to shoot to kill, who would the right men in the right place.

By this time, the RIC was already being reinforced with Black and Tans and Auxiliaries. In fact, an entire Auxiliary Company – ‘D Company’ – would soon be stationed in Galway, where it would take the lead in the British counteroffensive against the Republicans in their war for independence. More importantly, there is no record of any policeman being punished for taking part in the Galway police riot and, in fact, far from being punished, District Inspector Cruise was promoted, and promoted again. In November 1920, just a month after he became county inspector for Galway’s West Riding, Cruise became the commissioner for the Connaught No. 2 Division, and as a divisional commissioner, Cruise authorized reprisals, including the burning of homes despite having no legal authority to do so. In Galway, then, it seems the police interpreted General Tudor’s encouraging words and indulgent attitude as carte blanche to crush the insurgency, by due process if possible, but by reprisals if necessary. For the rest of the ‘War of Independence’, County Galway’s West Riding would become notorious as being the most violent district in the province of Connaught.

[1] Constable 72372, RIC General Register, The National Archives of the United Kingdom (henceforward TNA), HO 184/37

[2] David Leeson, “The ‘Scum of London’s Underworld’; British Recruits for the Royal Irish Constabulary, 1920-21,” Contemporary British History 17, no. 1 (2003): 6-7.

[3] RIC Returns by County, 1920-21, TNA, HO 184/61-62. One of the very few Black and Tans to leave behind a memoir of his experiences in Ireland, Douglas Duff, was also stationed at Eglinton Street barracks in Galway. See Douglas Duff, Sword for Hire: The Saga of a Modern Free Companion (London: John Murray, 1934).

[4] RIC County Inspector’s Monthly Report, West Galway, June 1920, TNA: PRO CO 904/112.

[5] Report from “A Dawn of Terror,” Connacht Tribune July 24, 1920, 5, 8.

[6] Report from Morning Post, July 22, 1920, 7

[7] The testimony of Agnes King, in Coyle, Evidence on Conditions in Ireland to the American Commission, 130.

[8] “The Murder of Innocent Men,” Galway Express” , September 8, 1920, quoted in “Murder and Crime in Galway City,” Irish Bulletin , September 14, 1920, 2. After this edition of the Galway Express appeared, the police came back and smashed what remained of the paper’s printing machines.

[9] Summary of Police Reports received on 10: 9: 1920, TNA, CO 904/142.

[10] “Galway Tragedies,” Connacht Tribuney September 18, 1920, 5