The Castle Lambert Tapes: Tape 9 The Black and Tans

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This is tape 9 of 10 Lambert tapes recorded at Pat Kelly’s house, Castle Lambert in August 1990. The main speakers were Pat Kelly and his son Martin T. Kelly, Nora O’Brien (nee Egan) Paddy Kelly, his brother Jack and John “Mac” Kelly. Michael O’Malley interviewed the gathering and Frank Burke was on the camera.

Michael: Tell me, Mac, you had an experience, yourself and your brother?

Mac: About the tank! We slept out for a couple of months – anyhow at least three or four months and your father (Paddy and Jack) was in the same dugout.

Michael: Where was this dugout?

Mac: About a half a mile from my place – a very wild place. They made a monumental big hole and they put sticks across
and scíatháns and scraws over it and a little burrow going in like a ladder in a ditch. There was place for six or seven men in it. We had the blankets and the sheets and everything above in it and we used to have great fun in it when we’d go in, in the nightime.
We were three weeks home and we thought things was quietened down and the Tans came. (British soldiers called Black and Tans because of the mismatched colour of their uniform were brought into Ireland to suppress revolution and became notorious in its numerous attacks on the Irish civilian population). They walked into the room and there was myself and my brother in the one bed. They went up on top of the bed. They put the bed down to the bottom with all they jumped on it. They pulled first out (hit out) any side they could and I know I got a welt across the mouth and a kick in the hip and a welt on the sides and the legs. They were questioning me here and me brother on the other side. And they caught me by the two legs and drew me out in the yard and put me standing up against the wall of the tank, questioning me, questioning me about the Landlord, too, to be honest about it. They thought that I might give them information. “I know nothing” I said. “I’m only a young lad, seventeen” I said, “I don’t know what’s going on” and the next thing I know I was caught up and threw into the tank of water.

Martin T: And what about Mick (Mac’s brother)?

Mac: they pulled him out into another place and they says “If you give us information about the Landlord and all that like, give us the information, we won’t shoot you but your brother is going to be shot. Wait now ‘till you hear the shot”. “I don’t mind” I says, I don’t mind what you’ll do, I’m innocent” I says, “I’m only a young fellow. I don’t mind what’s going on in the country”. Next thing I was in the tank and after a few minutes me brother was threw on top of me in the tank – down to the bottom.

Michael: That was Mick?

Mac: That was me brother! Nothing but me head out of the top of the water and nothing on but a shirt on a cold winter’s night and if you’d scream or roar that’s when you’d get the punching of the gun in the ribs. If you kept quiet… If you screamed they’d punch you. After a bit they pulled me up and pulled me up around the yard by the two legs like an ould dog and threw me inside the door in the kitchen, not to go out that door ‘till daylight. Next thing me brother was kept out an hour in the tank after me (being) kept in it for half an hour. He was pulled in, too. I went in me father’s bed for the night, a nice dry bed and me sisters putting hot lids and sheets and the devil knows what, trying to warm us.

Nora: Wasn’t it awful too!

Mac: They were questioning me about one certain man. I was making out he was killed anyhow. They were asking me questions about him. Of course I gave them no information.

Nora: They beat Martin Ruane didn’t they that night?

Mac: A good beating! That’s when they came to our house. I said to me father then “Go back” I said “to Martin Ruane’s. I’m sure Martin Ruane is killed”. He went back around the turn in the old road and he seen the lights coming and he ran in and said there’s another crowd coming. Do you know what the other crowd came for? They had all the fowl in the place and geese and turkeys bagged and a new bicycle and an accordion left at the back of the house bagged. They came up across to bring the bags with them.(The Tans were notorious for looting and in this case one group followed the other around to collect the plunder). And God almighty me and me and Mick took into McDonagh’s woodín, Leonard’s woodín and I brought the blankets with me anyway and I was starting to get warm inside with the blanket over the two of us and after a half an hour there was someone calling us, my sister Aggie, was calling us.
They took all the fowl with them and the bike and the accordion and the devil knows what. Me father went to the top of the hill to see would they turn over your way but they went the opposite way. They (someone) went up Castle Lambert across the fields to tell your father (Paddy’s father) “The Tans are coming”. That’s all I know about the Tans.

Martin T: Good Man Mac!

Paddy: Pake’s father got an awful going over that night!

Mac: Who?

Paddy: Martin Ruane! Martin Ruane! They put him in a corner like that now, in between two sheds and two heaps of stones, gathered, for fixing the street.

Mac: There was a big axle of a car one side too!

Paddy: And he’d nothing on only his shirt.

Mac: That’s all that time

Paddy: Well they kept firing stones at him and he was saving his face like that (holding up his two hands) and they were hopping off his body. And I went over the next day to see the heap of stones. He was all blood. He was within in the bed, the doctor had him washed and cleaned and he was all blood all the time. All his body was marked. Well the two big heaps of stones that was outside in the street was around Martin Ruane’s face and he couldn’t stir. They were shouting and laughing, firing the stones at him. He saved his face. He said there was no strength in the Tans firing the stones.

Mac: Tommy Connell! That’s the man that got the killing! They tried to pull him out but they weren’t able, a big man, about six foot two. They hit him with a shovel. They put his hands across the railing when he wouldn’t go out and hit him across the head. Well, the Lord Almighty save us, that man came up to our house next evening to see were we killed or alive and he all bandages around his head and he all cut in his head and everything. A shovel is a big weapon you know. And they hit him and hit him. And there were two girls dyeing clothes that day…

Jack: This is a good one now!

Mac: There were two girls dyeing clothes. They’d steep the pot of clothes left in the kitchen in some corner – a big pot of water and be gods they (the Tans) caught the pot of water – black water – and threw it on top of him. And the next thing he started turning black. “Leave him alone” they said “He’s turning black. He’s gone ye know”

Nora: And do you know why they had the black? Because Mike Connell, you remember Mike Connell, Mike Connell died of TB. (It was the custom at the time to dye the family’s clothes black for the duration of the mourning which, until recently, lasted a year)

Mac: He died a young fella!

Nora: And Martin Connell was in that night and when they threw the bucket of black dye … There was no such thing as
bringing the clothes to the cleaners that time.

Paddy: Well I’ll tell you about Jack Grealish! Jackie Grealish was married to me aunt and they lived in a house together and they (the Tans) went in to him and asked him about something, you know, for what was he doing and where was he? Did he see anyone going the road? So they caught a hold of him and put him standing against the arch (at the open fire place) and they got out two big baskets of eggs the women used to have at the time.

Mac: Surely to God they had the baskets of eggs!

Paddy: And they stood back in the kitchen and they started firing the eggs and Margaret, me aunt, whatever she used say “Oh? Another bomb going off” – when they’d hit the arch. The sound of the eggs breaking, she thought he was dead.

Mac: They chanced (visited at random) five or six houses in the village on that one night.

Paddy: All the eggs thrown and when they’d hit the arch…

Nora: They were all great men, all the Sinn Féiners and the fighting men. They had guns and all and poor Shawe Taylor was shot as he was. Why didn’t ye go together and kill the Tans then?

Mac: But that was easy to do! But weren’t they burning houses in places, weren’t they? Didn’t they burn houses in Coolarne! The people were afraid they would burn their houses. That’s why they weren’t ambushed.

Michael: How many Tans were in Moorpark?

Paddy: There were about eight Tans and six police. Fourteen in all that was in it! They were here in Castle Lambert, the police, before they went back (to Moorpark). He brought them back, Shawe Taylor, down to the house in Moorpark. And the funny part was when the police left and the truce was called, then immediately, Mrs Taylor came to me father and said she was afraid to sleep in Moorpark. The protection was gone from her! “and you’re in the swing of the IRA, now” she says “and you have to get them to go down and mind me” Mac Kelly’s brother, Mick and Matt Ruane went down guarding her at night-time. Isn’t that right?

Mac: That’s right!

Nora: In one sense, sure she the creature she didn’t do anything to anyone.

Paddy: The IRA, they had to come in and mind her. That’s the truth!

Pat: Well, on me word I’ll say one thing – all the Macs and Mick – the beating up they got – Ruanes and Connells! Don’t tell me that wouldn’t happen in Co. Cork.

Paddy: It was from our house they left, Matt Ruane and Mick Kelly, going down guarding her.

Mac: We won’t say any more!

Nora: What about the Loughnanes? The Loughnanes were worst of all! (Note: As far as I gather she is referring here to people who were dragged to their death after a lorry in Labane) And look at D’Arcy (Luke D’Arcy) what happened to him when he was coming from Dublin. When he arrived in Oranmore Station you see, at that time ‘trying to escape’ they shoved him off the lorry and then fired at him and killed him.

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About this record

Written by Recorded in Pat Kelly's House, Castle Lambert

Published here 08 Feb 2021

Page 209 of the The Lamberts of Athenry Book archive.

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