Gardai & LDF

LDF and FCA Taughmaconnell

The following is an account of the LDF (Local Defence Force) in Taughmaconnell as given by Mr. Paddy (Frank) Moore.

The LSF (Local Security Force) was founded on the 4th June 1940 and  originally was designed to form an auxiliary force to An Garda Siochana on the 24th June 1940. It was divided into two groups “A” & “B” the “A” being the military section while “B” continued the role of the original force. On the 1st January 1941 the “A” group was handed over to army control and became the LDF. Both forces had grown very rapidly and in the aggregate, represented the largest number of volunteers which ever had been assembled in Ireland.

As stated above the original LSF was divided into two groups “A” and “B” with group “A” going onto form the LDF. Those local men who formed the LSF were generally middle-aged while the LDF was compiled by a section of younger men.

A large degree of the success associated with the LDF lay with the leaders who where appointed to spearhead the Citizen Army, who by their talents wove a web of cooperation between the military and civilians. During the infancy of Taughmaconnell LDE, MR. Martin Joe Creavan gave training instruction to the members for the first year. Mr. Creaven at the time was a teacher in Tavanagh National School and had prior army experience. This task was then taken over by Paddy Moore (Mikes). Mr. Moore at the time had served for a period in the army and held the rank of 1st Lt. within the LDF. It
was Paddy Moore who was primarily responsible for the training of the
Taughmaconnell unit of the LDF until it was disbanded in the mid-forties.

One of the earliest exercises undertaken by the LDF in Taughmaconnell was taking part in a parade in Customer Barracks in Athlone. This parade took place on the 28th June 1942. It was recalled that the above date was an extraordinarily warm day and the LDF members found their boots to be sticking to the Barrack Square with the heat. On that day Taughmaconnell LDF had a half company when they arrived in Athlone and were joined up with Eyrecourt LDF for the day.

Short weekends of training were also undertaken by the LDF. On Saturday evening the LDF members would cycle into the old Poorhouse in Ballinasloe. Each member would sleep on a mattress on the floor of the Poorhouse. The first run would be undertaken on Sunday morning at 06.30 a.m., which was done on the double to Cobban’s which is approximately three miles out the Ahascragh Road from Ballinasloe and back again. After Mass the LDF members would be taken out to the Garbally Estate and further training which consisted of mock battles would be re-enacted through the dense wood. This training was undertaken in all kinds of weather.

Training courses and Rifle Range practice were also carried out at Carna, Kiltoom and Renmore,in Co. Galway. For these courses the LDF members were picked up at Dundonnell N.S. and transported to the location of the training course by means of lorry. Section competitions were also held by the LDF. Taughmaconnell LDF often entered up to seven Sections with ten men in each Section in these Competitions.  Section Competitions consisted of drill, grenade throwing, rifle and field manoeuvres. Taughmaconnell LDF won the Ballinasloe Section on several occasions.

A First Aid Course was also carried out over the Winter period. Martin Joe Creavan was an Officer in charge of the FCA in Taughmaconnell and was also a Teacher in Tavanagh N.S. These courses were held in Churchill’s house (currently the cottage close to the crossroads, which is being renovated by Mr. Jackie Costello). The members who attended the First Aid Course were Michael John Kelly (Skyvalley), Martin Joe Kelly (Esker), Paddy Finneran (Onagh),Jimmy Kilroy  (Racepark), John Killeen (Clonkeen) and Paddy Moore (Frank’s) (Kilkenny).

Competitions were often held by the LDF for marksmen. Malachy Grehan of Camla, was the most successful member in the history of Taughmaconnell LDF by winning an All-Ireland title for shooting with the Lee Enfield rifle.
Funds were raised by the LDF in the Town Hall in Ballinasloe by running of Dances in the days prior to the construction of the LDF hut in Taughmaconnell. A series of Dances was also held in the FCA hut after its construction. The FCA (Foras Cosanta Aitiuil) Taughmaconnell was constructed in the late 1940’s where it stood for close on fifty years. During that period the FCA hut served the Parish for a number of functions other than as an FCA training centre. During it’s lifetime the hut also held dances organised by various groups over the years. Also during the restoration of Taughmaconnell Church in the 1960’s the hut served as a temporary Church with Funeral Masses also conducted within its walls. Skyvalley Rovers also used the hut as a training centre in the early days after the formation of the club. Skyvalley Rovers also held their first AGM in the hut on the 15th July 1971.

At the end of the Second World War the ISF was disbanded. The LDF was retained and from this the FCA formed. In order for members of the LDF to ioin the FCA they first of all had to resign from the LDF and then sign up for the FCA. The Taughmaconnell unit became attached to the 16th Infantry Battalion FCA in  Ballinasloe. ln 1959 the unit was amalgamated with Infantry Units from Ferbane and High St. (Co.Offaly) and transferred to the 4th Field Engineers in Custume Barracks, Athlone. This Unit was Regular Army and FCA Unit became know as the FCA Platoon of the 4th Field Engineers.

Weekly training was held in the Hut on Tuesday nights and Winter camps then two weeks long were held in Custume Barracks. Summer camps were usually held in the Curragh, or the Glen of Immal, Co. Wicklow.

Then in 1979, Taughmaconnell, Ferbane and High St were transferred to the 5th Field Engineers, an FCA Unit based in Renmore Barracks, Galway. The Unit now became know as the No.1 Platoon. From the early eighties Winter Camps had  been held in Galway, now one week long. The Hut in Taughmaconnell was demolished in the Mid-Nineties as it was in poor condition. Training now takes place in Athlone. At present there are about ten members attached to the Taughmaconnell Unit.

History of Policing and An Garda

Organised policing commenced in Ireland in 1822 with the formation of the Royal Irish Constabulary. A Police presence in the Taughmaconnell area can be traced back to the early 1800’s, with what is now Flynn’s shop and post office identified as one of the first Police Barracks. From there the constabulary moved to Togher. In 1909 there was one Sergeant and 7 Constables based at the Barracks. The RIC remained in Togher until the Barracks was burned down in 1918. The authorities of the time then rented premises in Turloughmore from the Killeen Family.

At the foundation of the Irish Free State responsibility of policing was transferred from the RIC to the newly formed Garda Siochana who continued to use the same premises.

In 1922 there was a Sergeant and three Gardai, O’Toole, Rabett and Devers. The Gardai continued to use these premises in Turloughmore until early 1936. The building was then condemned. Records show that as early as 1928 the building had been deemed as unsuitable and unfit “July 17th 1928 – the location of this station is most unsatisfactory. It is situated at a distance from the road, and the road in question is a bye-district and from the public house and post -office. The situation will not suit  as a permanent location from the station.” These were the comments written by Liam O’Murchada, Assistant Commissioner, on inspecting the station. On June 12th 1932, on another visit to the station he writes “No progress has been made to secure a proper
station in this sub-district. It is a scandal that men are required to live in this chilly, damp and quasi-derelict building. The walls are cracked and the roof is sagged. The kitchen and day room are the only useable rooms in the ground floor. It is cold and fitted with a concrete floor. In short, the Gardai are living here under miserable conditions.”

By the end of 1935 a site had been acquired and plans were afoot to build a new station which is still in use today. In early 1936 John Brooks, Carrowreagh, along with his son Joe, were building a new family home (where Joe and May still reside). The building was almost complete when the authorities approached John Brooks and requested that he rent the premises to the Garda Siochana until a station was built. John and Joe Brooks then finished the building and rented it to the Gardai. The new station was built by Gorman Building Contractors, Athlone and was opened in February 1939. Sergeant Kerr, Garda Cafferty and Garda Robinson were the first members of An Garda Siochana to take up duty in the new station. The telephone was installed on 9th September 1940. An exchange at Ballinasloe tested the line at 3.15pm and it was found to be working properly. Sgt. Kerr rang Roscommon station at 10pm on 9/9/40 and notified that station and District Headquarters that this station was now on the telephone. “The number assigned here  24 and the exchange is Ballinasloe”.

During the years of the RIC and following the hand-over to the Garda Siochana the area was known as the Sub-District of Carrowreagh. It remained so until 1939. The sub-district included the area of Brideswell. On 11th, April 1939, the name changed from Carrowreagh to Taughmaconnell Sub-District – this still included Brideswell. The number of Gardai serving at the station remained the same until the 1960s and on 2nd April 197O Sergeant Rushe the last sergeant to serve at the station was transferred to Creggs, and Taughmaconnell officially became a one-man station.

On 2nd May 2000 Assistant Commissioner Eamon Keating visited Taughmaconnell as part of his divisional Inspection. The last visit by a Commissioner to Taughmaconnell was on the 28th August 1961.