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Memoirs of Constable Jeremiah Mee RIC

ISBN: 9781856358842
€19.99 €17.99

Constable Jeremiah Mee is noted in the annals of Irish history for being the spokesman for a group of RIC men in Listowel, who in 1920 stood up to their divisional commissioner Colonel Smyth, and refused to accept his policy of shooting any suspicious-looking Irishman on sight. This unique record, based on Mee's memoirs, presents a first-hand account of life in the RIC from 1910 to 1920.

It chronicles the changing relationship between the Irish people and the members of the force, gives a valuable insight into the changing attitudes of many RIC men during the War of Independence and includes a comprehensive account of the 1920 Listowel mutiny and its aftermath. It also provides an account of Mee's work for the First Dáil's department of labour where he worked after leaving the RIC and his involvement in the Belfast Boycott.



August 1909-February 1911
Had my father complied with the law and paid the licence for our dog in August 1909, this story would never have been written and the whole course of my life would have been different. At the age of twenty I was anxious to leave home, but there seemed to be no place to go to. It was at that critical period in my life that a policeman called at our home and found that we had an unlicensed dog. That same evening I set out for the village of Williamstown, County Galway, to take out a dog licence and present it for inspection at the police barracks. There I joined the sergeant and two constables in a game of Nap. It must have been my knowledge of Nap that impressed the sergeant, as before I left the barracks that night he suggested that I join the Royal Irish Constabulary. This was the last thought in my head, but when he produced a tape and took my chest measurements I knew that he was taking the matter seriously. Having satisfied himself that my chest was up to standard, he set me some papers in mathematics and other subjects which I managed without any great effort. He then assured me that I was a likely recruit and that he would forward my application and let me know the result later. The night was well advanced when I got home. On the following morning when I reported to my father what had happened he was well pleased with my evenings work. He also considered that I was a likely recruit and he readily agreed to my joining the police force.

I join the RIC: the police depot.

After the usual period of waiting, and having passed at least three medical examinations, I was called for training to the police depot at Phoenix Park in August 1910, just twelve months after my game with the sergeant and his two constables. At the depot I settled down for a six-month course of training which included foot drill, carbine and revolver exercises, physical culture, swimming, rope climbing, ju-jitsu, first aid, firefighting, criminal law and police duties. At that time there were at the depot about 400 men on the reserve in addition to about 100 recruits in training. The reserve were kept standing-to in case of emergency when they were rushed to districts to quell disturbances such as cattle driving, at that time the principal source of trouble. To qualify for the reserve one had to be at least six feet in height and have less than eight years service. The average height of the reserve men was well over six feet, many of them being up to six foot four and five, while one, Thomas (Tom) Shannon, a drill instructor, was six foot seven. Physically the RIC was one of the finest police forces in the world and its members always attracted attention as they marched on Sundays from the depot to Mass at Aughrim Street church wearing their spiked helmets, which added a few inches to their height. The recruits marched with the reserve men to divine service and, being only the bare five foot ten, I felt like a mascot marching with these huge men.

The depot tug-of-war team was famous and unbeaten. Indeed, with the Dublin Metropolitan Police (DMP) and Guinness horses it was one of the sights of Dublin. The RIC boxing team at the depot included such big men as the Glennon brothers, Begley and Forde, all of whom taught boxing, physical culture and drill so that they were always more or less in training. Boxing had not then attained the popularity that it has today so that the RIC boxers were generally matched only against those in the British army and navy. Against this competition, they gave a good account of themselves. We looked forward to the various boxing matches and took a keen interest in the preparations of our heroes. I attended many of their training sessions and I often found myself donning the gloves to help these giants in what they called warming up exercises. Stripped to the waist, one of the boxers would fold his arms while I hammered away at his powerful body until I became exhausted when another recruit would take my place and continue with the slogging without seemingly having the least effect. In addition to the ordinary foot police there was also a mounted force of about fifty men at the depot, where they had a riding and training school. These mounted men were inclined to despise the ordinary police.

The first thing that struck the new recruit was the absolute orderliness of everything both inside and outside the depot buildings. One had to notice the creased pants of the men, the neat uniforms and the shining horses. The entire barrack square was spotless, not even a cigarette end or match could be found on it. Each morning by nine o'clock all beds were neatly folded, boots polished and put carefully away, the floors cleaned and every room dusted. While the nine o'clock parade was on, the sergeants inspected the rooms and woe betide the man who had left even a handkerchief out of place. There was no parade on Saturday, that whole morning up to one o'clock being given over to scrubbing floors and cleaning the cookhouse. Once a week every room in the barracks was disinfected, and twice a week new sheets were supplied for each bed. Cleanliness and orderliness were a kind of religion. The change which the six-month course of training at the depot effected in a young country boy was almost unbelievable.

After six weeks in the depot I was supplied with my first uniform, which included a bottle-green tunic and trousers, a shining peak cap and black cane stick; for in those days a man was not regarded as being properly dressed if he had not a walking stick. The day I donned my first uniform was one of the happiest in my life, and I felt that Dublin belonged to me as I swaggered down Grafton Street with my black cane stick, gloves neatly under my shoulder strap and my whistle chain across my breast.

The police force then offered great attractions to the young man who was anxious for an active, outdoor life and had the required physical and educational qualifications. The policeman's salary was, on the whole, equal to that of the bank clerk, the civil servant and the schoolteacher, and his prospects of advancement were much better. Moreover, while the young schoolteacher and bank clerk would be confined within the narrow space of a classroom or behind a bank counter, the RIC constable would be out in the open air. There were also other advantages such as the fact that uniforms and boots were supplied free, and married men received a lodging allowance.

I spent six happy months at the depot, and, after receiving certificates of merit in first aid, swimming, firefighting, physical culture and drill, I was ready for the road as a fully fledged policeman whose duty was the prevention and detection of crime and the security of life and property. And so on a very bleak day at the end of February 1911, I bade farewell to the depot and set out for the police barracks at Kesh, County Sligo, to which I had been posted.






ISBN 9781856358842

  • Memoirs of Constable Jeremiah Mee RIC