By Jim Herlihy
On 10th January 1923, the Commissioner of Public Works wrote to the Secretary of the Minister of Home Affairs informing him that the local assistant architect had visited Blarney and had found that the only suitable accommodation for the Civic Guard was a house near the Muskerry train terminus owned by Mrs. Cotter, a school teacher and wife of Eugene Cotter, also a school teacher, of Emerald House, Blarney. She was prepared to vacate it on receiving a few days’ notice in advance.
The building was described as two storied, consisting of two large rooms, one small room suitable as a lock-up, one kitchen fitted with a range, on the ground floor and three large bedrooms and W.C. on the first floor. In the 1980’s the owner of this premises was fitting a bathroom in place of the W.C. when it was found that the W.C. was propped up to the first floor of the building by means of four telegraph poles. There was also a small front garden, a quarter-acre plot at the side and a yard containing a dry closet at the back. The premises were in need of some minor repairs but the owner was not willing to carry them out. The rent demanded, £70 per annum inclusive of rates, was considered high but the owner was not prepared to reduce it. However, it was advised that the premises be hired as temporary quarters for the Civic Guard because there were no alternative premises available. There were no particulars available concerning the tenure of the demolished R.I.C. barracks but enquiries were being made.
The Minister for Home Affairs wrote to the Civic Guard Commissioner who by way of his Deputy Commissioner, Eamon O’Cugain sent a telegram to Supt. Edward P. Cullen in charge of Cork East Riding directing him to call to Mrs. Cotter and secure the premises from her. The rental agreement was secured by Supt. Cullen and a unit of Civic Guards consisting of one Sergeant and four Guards arrived and took up residence in Blarney on 24th May 1923.
The first appointed Sergeant-in-Charge was David Flynn, Sergeant 2444, (1902-1928). He was born on January 5th 1902. He was a native of Abbeyfeale, Co. Limerick and served in the I.R.A. from 1918. He was appointed to the Civic Guards on 17th November 1922 and recommended by Patrick M. English, Captain Adjutant of the West Limerick Area, Newcastlewest and Rev. J.M. Canon Cregan, P.P., The Presbytery Abbeyfeale, Co. Limerick. He was transferred to Blarney Station on 15th May 1923.
The first appointed Garda of Blarney Station was William Barrett, Garda 3266, (1898-1971). He was born on 2nd February 1898. He was a native of Killahan, Abbeydorney, Co. Kerry, served in the I.R.A. from 1916 to 1922. He was appointed to the Civic Guards on 29th January 1923 and recommended by Captain P. Sheehan, Ballymullen Barracks, Tralee, Co. Kerry and Rev. J.J. O’Sullivan, P.P., Abbeydorney Co. Kerry. He was transferred to Blarney Station on 15th May 1923.
On the 1st September 1923 the Board of Works discovered that the former R.I.C. barracks was held on a yearly agreement at £20 per annum, including maintenance and rates and that the owner Sir George St. John Colthurst, was prepared to let it for use for the Civic Guards. On 9th October 1923, Sergeant David Flynn 2444, applied for a telephone, and in support of his application, he stated:
“The wires were twelve or fourteen yards away and it could be installed in one day easily. When every-time anybody will ring us up from Cork at present, we have to go to the military barracks which is a few hundred yards away. Mrs. (Hannah) Forrest who is on the telephone exchange has to call to the station every time there is a call for the Civic Guards and this gives her a considerable amount of trouble. The telephone inspector was here in Blarney about a week age and she was more than surprised that we had not a telephone. She said it would cost very little to get one into the barracks especially now as the connection to John Corkeran’s is cut off.”
The application for the telephone was successful and the telephone number allocated to the station was ‘Blarney 3’. There were forty telephone lines connected to the Blarney Telephone Exchange which was situated at the rear of Blarney Post Office. Initially three of these lines were available for connection to Cork.
Blarney Garda Siochana Barracks
On 23rd October 1923, Supt. P. Fahy, Cork, suggested that the old R.I.C. barracks be secured as a station as it was in a more convenient place and that the present station was not suitable as a married quarters as there would be no privacy for a family. A report was then sought by the Commissioner as to the condition of the old R./I.C. Barrack whereupon it was found that it was completely knocked down with part of the old walls still standing and the landlord, Sir George St. John Colthurst sought a definite commitment from the authorities that they would occupy the building as a station, other-wise he would re-build the station on a different plan to suit some other purpose.
Sir George sought an advance of compensation due to him for the damage caused to the R.I.C. barracks in 1920 as same was being withheld by the Minister for Finance as it was alleged certain taxes amounting to the same sum as the compensation were unpaid. Sir George lodged an appeal with the Inspector of Taxes and represented through his agent that he was not in a position to have the work of restoring the barracks put in hand. However, the matter was amicably resolved and the restoration was proceeding satisfactorily by September 1924.
On 23rd December 1924, the transfer from the ‘old’ station at the Emerald House was made to the ‘new’ refurbished station which was formerly occupied by the R.I.C. It was leased by Sir George St. John Colthurst at a rent of £30 per annum, payable half-yearly on 30th June and on 31st December, with the landlord being liable for rates, taxes and maintenance.
On 18th December 1924, Supt. Louis O’Byrne sought a telephone extension from the Day-room to the new Superintendent’s Office. However, it was not until 13th January 1926 that an extension was actually fitted. Other items fitted to the station included shutters and blinds for ten windows, two lockers and shelves in the kitchen.
The Sergeant-in-Charge of the station was required to reside in the station where married accommodation was provided. On 9th November 1925, Sergeant Francis Crowe, 288, a former member of the R.I.C. made an unsuccessful application to live in alternative accommodation outside the station. He stated:
“the married accommodation is inadequate and unsuitable. The two rooms on the second landing set apart for married accommodation, the walls of which are roughly finished and are not distempered or white-washed. There is no provision for cooking and the married family would have to rely on the men’s kitchen for cooking. There is but one lavatory, which is situated on the outside of the barrack, and though there’s a water supply in the barrack, the lavatory is a non-flush. My family consists of a wife and a female relative who is more-or-less an invalid and aged 31 years. I had an interview with Sir George Colthurst today, as a result, of which he informed me that he would have to let me know on Friday next, if a house, his property, 17 or 18 yards from the barrack would be at my disposal. I arrived on transfer from the Depot (Dublin) on the 3rd inst. And as I learned before I left that the accommodation in the barracks was unsuitable, I had to leave my wife and family and effects after me at No. 9 married quarters, Phoenix Park Depot.”
Supt. John J. Cooney, although sympathising with his request to sleep outside was unable to facilitate Sergeant Crowe in this regard. The Superintendent applied for a separate water closet for his own use inside the building. However, the Board of Works could not fulfil this requirement as there was no sewage system in the village.
The above items are part of a much larger article titled: ‘Policing in Blarney’ by Jim Herlihy and published in Issue No.6 ‘Old Blarney’.