The men who manned our Garda stations

There were 40 garda stations in the Cavan/Monaghan Division in year 1925 and all of them were fully manned throughout the 1940s. The complement of guards assigned to a station in an average town or village was 3 or 4 plus a sergeant and their combined attributes resulted in a good cohesive team.

Like a parish Mission in those days conducted by the Redemptorist fathers compromising, a holy man, a boisterous "heard it all before" man, and stern "hell fire and brimstone man," the local garda station had a man for all seasons. The team usually included, a quiet man who discreetly solved crime but in the perception of the public did nothing at all, an older experienced man whose main duty was policing the town streets where his very presence ensured the observance of law and order; next was the serious taciturn man - one of the small number of uniformed garda allowed to carry a firearm while assigned to special duty usually in civies (civilian clothes). Last but by no means least, was the strong man who prevented and resolved trouble in his own inimitable style and summoned nobody.

Garda Philip Brady:
Garda Philip Brady, from Mullahoran, Middletown, Loughduff, Co. Cavan, was more popularly known as Phil the Gunner Brady. As well as being one of the greats Cavan footballers, he was also a well-known and respected member of the Gardai. Phil was 23 years of age when appointed to membership of the garda on the 23rd February, 1948, and following training in the Garda Depot in Dublin, he served initially in Union Quay, Cork City and then in three stations in the Cavan/Monaghan Division - Grousehall, Mullagh and Castleblayney; sadly, he died (while serving) on 6th May, 1980, total service 32 years 16 days.

Phil was a tall athletic giant and his reputation for strength and determination preceded him wherever he went; his presence as a Guardian of the Peace at many a gathering was enough to ensure a peaceful evening. His arrival at the scene of a heated altercation or an escalating dispute had a miraculous calming effect which restored and maintained law and order; obstreperous protagonists continuing to disturb the peace, did so at their peril.

One night in 1950 he was on duty outside a country "Ballroom of Romance" when a discordance occurred in the ballroom between two warring factions which in the parlance of the late Michael O'Heir, developed into a right "shammozle" on the centre of the dance floor; as the scuffle swayed to and fro, ladies huddled for safety in corners and on window ledges; the shouts and commotion could be heard outside above the sound of the band which continued to playing in the hope that happy music might calm hostilities; but alas, this strategy was to no avail. Suddenly, the main door of the Ballroom was pushed open, and there framed in the doorway stood Garda Gunner Brady; someone shouted "Make way for the Gunner," others took up the shout and the band stopped playing and all eyes turned in his direction; the crowd stood back clearing a way for him. Looking like a master of his domain, with airy supreme authority and causal steps, he majestically strode up the centre of the hall ignoring a taunt or two by the principal protagonists who now turned their attention on him; he paused at the edge of the fracas area; and then, like a tiger he bounced; he grabbed the two ringleaders in a lock grip behind their necks and ran with them down the centre of the hall before sliding the last few strides and ejecting them out the main door which was opened and rapidly closed behind them; he easily repeated this process a few times, throwing all the troublemakers out two at a time.

Normality resumed, the dance continued uninterrupted for the remainder of the night, all merrymakers comfortable and relaxed in the strong arms of the law.
None of the troublemakers of that night were summoned; usually in such instances, a strong-armed Guard did not issue summonses, an attribute very much appreciated by all concerned; the Gunner's policy of that night was. "Ah now! That never happened, sure, I didn't hear of anyone getting hurt, did you?"

Garda Joe Joyce:
Garda Joe Joyce, from Schrahallia, Cashel, Co. Galway served in Shercock Station from August 1927 to April 1925; his height measurements at that time was recorded at 6 feet 1 1/4 inches. He was quiet, deceptively strong and deeply religious; his Garda colleagues sometimes saw him on his knees discreetly praying in the Black Hole (barrack cell) and sometimes jovially referred to him as "Holy Joe". He was a perfect gentleman with a diplomatic approach in resolving conflict and ensuring the maintenance of law an order.

One day in 1940, a tinker man, famous for strength and street fighting, was causing major disruption near Duffy's corner and challenging the odd passer bye to fight. Joe came quietly on the scene, tapped him on the shoulder and politely said, "Sir, you must immediately desist from disturbing the peace, otherwise, you must accompany me to the Barracks;" the confused tinker, not used to politeness and being called "Sir" curiously asked, "Do you mean you'd take me to the barracks if I don't stop?" and Joe responded, "that's right, my good man, that's right," whereupon, the astonished tinker, using numerous expletives shouted there wasn't a man in town strong enough to do that job. Joe quietly said he didn't known who might be the strongest man in town but he himself was easily up to the job. The surprised tinker pointing to a 56lb weight on a weighing scale outside Duffy's shop asked, "how far and how high could you throw that weight?" Joe thought for a moment and then pointing to Duffy's crated lorry parked nearby said, "For a start, I'd easily throw it over the back of that lorry, could you?" "I could, of course, that's child play, you go first," challenged the tinker surmising Joe was bluffing. "Right" said Joe, taking of his cap and giving it to a friend to hold; loosening his tunic collar, he picked up the weight and placed it on the ground near the lorry; by this time about 20 onlookers had gathered. "All's clear behind the lorry" confirmed a number of voices in unison. With one heave and to the cheers of the onlookers, Joe sent the 56lb weight sailing high over the back of the lorry.

As one of the onlookers was retrieving the weight, Joe turned to the tinker and said "your turn now." Seeing his man was a bit hesitant, he added, "Throw high now: if you hit the truck, you'll have to pay the damage." Observing that the man was more than a little ponderous, he politely added "maybe you'd prefer to have your throw some other day; sure I understand you're probably a bit exhausted from your earlier exertions; come for a rest to the barracks and we can talk about it." The much-relieved man, anxious not to loose his reputation in front of the gathering, with relief replied. "Right Guard, lets go to the barracks and agree things." One of the onlookers remarked "that Guard is a very holy man" and someone responded, "He's a holy bloody terror."

Garda Con Randles:
Garda Con Randles, a 28 year old blocky well proportioned Kerryman, was stationed in Glangevlin in 1951. Con took great pride in his appearance, with rannai (tache) neatly trimmed and uniform well pressed, he was spick and span as he patrolled the roads wearing his brown leather gloves in all weathers; he had the slow walk of a pensive man, and like Garda Gunner Brady, had his own method of preventing and resolving altercations. During his training day in the Depot, he had earned a reputation in the noble art of self defence.
One day, the barrack sergeant, Ted Murray, received a telephone enquiry from the neighbouring cross border police (R.U.C) as to protocol for inviting an appropriate member of the Gardai to box in a friendly tournament in 10 days time against a member of a visiting British police team. The caller explained that their heavyweight had become ill and they had a problem getting a replacement at short notice. He was very surprised at the sergeant's quick response of "sure I've a young guard in the barrack here whom I'm sure would gladly oblige ye; hold on; I'll ask him; he's here now" within a few moments he replied to the caller, "yes, my man would be glad to oblige."

The caller diplomatically explained that he was just enquiring about the procedure for inviting a suitable representative, proficient in the noble art, from neighbouring cross border county and not just a Guard from the nearest country station. He indicated that the opponent would be top rate and the question of safety for all concerned was a prime consideration. "My man boxed a small bit when training in the Depot; we'll put him immediately in the hands of a good trainer; he seems anxious to oblige because he's a bit bored here at the moment; this will be good for him," replied the sergeant adding, "he'll put up a good show". Arrangements were agreed. Con who had been listening to the sergeant's responses asked, "Who is this good trainer I'm immediately going to have?" and the sergeant replied "your good friend, the young curate, Fr Keogan; all he's got to do is keep you off the drink until the day of the fight - I'll phone him now and the two of ye can have a chat." "I see," replied Con, "and I take it I'm on light duty until the fight?". "That's right, no duty unless there's an emergency" replied the sergeant. "I didn't like your comment - he'll put up a good show," replied Con angrily. "Good! you're getting into the right frame of mind already," replied the sergeant.
The day of the boxing tournament arrived. Fr Keoghan and the sergeant received guest invitations to the event; Con's training had gone well; Fr Keoghan had succeeded in keeping him on the dry.

The bout was announced as the feature event of the evening, the announcer paying tribute to their guest substitute Con Randles, a member of a neighbouring cross border Garda station: he said that Con had sportingly agreed at short notice to substitute for their heavyweight who was ill. The announcer's tone and inferences seemed to indicate that Con had little chance.
The bell sounded for the first round; it lasted just a few seconds; Con rushed from his corner, threw one punch which floored his opponent who was counted out. Afterwards, a good night was enjoyed by all.