War in Ireland, 1921

This is another extract from On Another Man’s Wound, by Ernie O’Malley. I posted one here; a post dealing with similar themes appears here. This incident – the execution of three British officers in reprisal for the killing of prisoners – occurred in the same part of South Tipperary as this and this.

We walked into the closing-in darkness, riflemen in front and behind the trap, until we were at a distance from where the officers had been captured. I expected a big round-up in which the countryside would be combed by troops from Cahir and Clonmel – both strong military posts. They would probably converge in the triangular area of which Fethard was the apex.

We came to a farmhouse up in the fields some way off the main Clonmel road. Sentries were posted. The girls and women of the house got ready supper; they did not ask questions. A fire was lighted in the room where the officers were. After supper I went into the room. The blinds were drawn so that they could not look out. It was a large room. They were seated at a table. One had his head in his hands.

‘Would you like to see a clergyman of your own religion?’

‘No,’ said one. The others shook their heads.

‘Would you like a civilian, an imperialist, to stay with you?’

‘No.’ They did not need anyone.

‘Here’s writing paper and envelopes. You can write to anyone you wish. If you give me your words of honour that you won’t mention anything of military importance, you can seal the envelopes.’

Each gave me his word. There were beds for them to sleep on …

… None of us was twenty-four; the youngest officer inside was about that age. One was tall and dark with brown eyes. He had ill-treated prisoners in Tipperary, one of the Rosegreen men said. He had been insulting when on raids. One was stout with a thick neck; his hair was a little thin. He had been more anxious to talk and to remonstrate than the others. The third was quiet and reserved. He had a sensitive face and he did not talk. I liked him best. I was worried about him because he was wounded. It was an accepted convention that a wounded man should not be shot until he was able to walk. I did not bother about the convention, only the presence of the wounded man made its own conditions. I did not see any sense in keeping him for a few days longer. It would be harder on him if his companions went first …

… It’ll soon be dawn,’ said the QM. I knocked at the door. They were seated around the table. Their faces looked worn and drawn. None of them had slept.

‘Have you written your letters?’

‘Yes,’ said the thin, swarthy one. ‘Here they are.’

‘If you would like to send your money or valuables to friends or relatives I will forward them for you.’

‘We would like to send them with a note to our CO, Major King, in Fethard,’ the quiet one said.

I found an empty Fry’s chocolate box on a side table. They put their watches, money and rings inside.

‘Would you like some tea? It’ll soon be dawn and we’ll have to be on our way.’

‘No thanks, we don’t want anything.’

We walked down the sloping fields towards the roadway. The sky was clouded with heavy grey. The light was dim, a cold dawn wind blew across the thick hedges. It ruffled the grass which was shiny with dew-drops. Men with rifles formed an extended five-pointed figure. An officer walked on each side of the QM. I was behind with the third. ‘It’s a mistake,’ he said. ‘It won’t do any good. We could be good to prisoners.’

‘None of us want to do it,’ I said, ‘but I must think of our men.’ I could not see the ultimate implications of our proposed action. The sky lighted silvery grey, the wind dropped. We caught up with the three in front. ‘Stiff banks those for hunting,’ said the tall, swarthy officer. They smiled as if they had thought of horses and a red-brown fox. ‘There’s not much hunting now,’ I said. We had stopped hunting through the martial-law area.

We reached the roadway. There was a wall in front of a church. The three officers were placed on the green grass edge of the dusty road.

‘Do you mind?’ I said, as I placed their handkerchiefs around their eyes. One handkerchief was of silk and claret coloured.


‘This is goodbye,’ I said.

They shook hands with the QM and myself. Their hands were cold and limp. They shook hands with each other.

The six men of the firing-squad stood near the other side of the road. One of the men fumbled for a while with his magazine. He could not click it into place. An officer pulled down his handkerchief and looked at us, then he put it back over his eyes. Perhaps he thought that we were trying to frighten and test them and that we did not intend to shoot. ‘Ram in the magazine,’ I whispered to the QM.

‘Are you ready?’ asked the QM.

One of the officers nodded. They joined hands. ‘Goodbye, old boy,’ they said, inclining their heads.

‘Squad … ready … fire.’

The volley crashed sharply. The three fell to the ground; their arms twitched. The QM put his revolver to each of their foreheads in turn and fired. The bodies lay still on the green grass. We stood to attention. Then slowly we went up the hill across country making for the centre. None of us spoke till we had crossed a good many fields where wind had snaked the rye grass.



Filed under History, Ireland, Literature

168 responses to “War in Ireland, 1921

  1. Why keep them overnight? Get whatever information and then to use a Roscommonism “plug them”.

  2. It was a grim conflict, as was the Civil War that followed after the British left. O’Malley had been a prisoner … he was mistreated and would certainly have been executed had he not managed to escape. He was riddled with bullets by fellow Irishmen in the Civil War, but survived.

    I post this to give people who probably learned no Irish history an idea of what was happening in one part of the UK in 1921.

  3. Ike Jakson

    Thanks Brendan

    I hope that this Post grows and look forward to learning a lot from it.

  4. Cymbeline

    My grandparents would drive me back to boarding school in Denbigh, after weekends at their home. We would drive Bodelwyddan way. There is a famous church there, built by a man for the woman he loved. On the other side of the road there are lots of white gravestones. I was told me that they were Canadian WW1 soldiers who had been executed for wanting to go home

    • Yes. 5 were bayonneted to death during the riot in 1919. Last in first out – the last troops to be conscripted were all highly skilled and needed at once. Men that had been in since 1914 were not allowed to be demobbed first hence the killings.

      • Cymbeline

        Hello Mr Broxted. Yes, a terrible execution. The story horrified me when I was a girl, and it still does. And yet, on the other side of the road, there is the Marble Church, a sort of Taj Mahal.

  5. It is very poignant where people are doomed through some small error or just the circumstances in which they find themselves.

  6. Rainer the cabbie

    It doesn’t matter if this scene took place in Ireland, Germany, the Soviet Union or wherever war takes its evil hands; let us remember that the pain, agony and depression of being someones murderer will always stay with the survivors.
    Therefore, war and killing in the name of whatever you prescribe to is the biggest shame and distress any man can ever face.
    Some live by it, take pleasure and rise to be generals or commanders, however, the damage is worn and lived by the common man.

    • Cymbeline

      Hello Rainer. I often disagree with your tendency to generalize and cast all forms of cultural or historical specificity aside. It is a form of mental laziness.

      • Generalizations can contradict each other as well. In general, people don’t like to live under what they see (or have come to see) as alien rule or occupation, and tend to resort to violence to displace it, even if, in general, violence and killing are seen as wrong and negative.

        Often double standards are applied regarding ‘small’ and ‘big’ wars, I think. But this is not to say that all small wars are justified or all big wars are not.

        Must go out for a while.

      • Cymbeline

        Also, speaking of cultural specificity, I am sometimes annoyed at how you, Rainer, and the chap presently called Lao, try to pit Australia against Britain, giving moral lessons to the British and Great Britain.

        You both come from countries you chose to leave, and you went to Australia, a very British place.

        Do not forget that.

        • Cymbeline

          I doubt that the accentless (to them) Aussies like to hear German and Uruguayan accents whingeing about Britain, and preaching about racism and humanity.

          Accents are not visible in print of course – although they can be. I have spoken about that with Brendano recently.

          Highly culturally charged things, accents. Accents, language and identity. Not so easy to wear a new identity.

        • Cymbeline

          I am never irritated by other people’s identities – on the contrary. However, I think that it is a sign of stupidity to think that one can simply ‘fit in’, get comfy and hey get preachin’ !

          This is what I meant by my ‘we’re all the same underneaf’ comment – excellently illustrated by Brendano’s comment on Ireland NOT being anything to do with Britain – although he did grant me an ‘entwined’.

        • Entwined like a boa constrictor and its prey, O’Malley and his friends thought.

        • Cymbeline

          That’s fine. An old-established couple. Germany and Uruguay are not part of the old-established couple.

        • Cymbeline

          No, not fine at all to many Irish people. Of course not.

        • Rainer the cabbie

          Also in regard to your 7.09 comment.

          Here you speak of something you plugged out of thin air. Lao, yes its his thing, Bearsy was the original inventor of pitching Australia against Britain in order to take the mickey.

          I, on the other hand have never really gone for that approach. I appreciate the British influence that OZ is built on, and the way that we treat each other, which is the Irish input we had since 1788.

          I personally hate this “we are better than you” type of behaviour, one of the bad British hangovers most people in this country are trying to forget.

          I know why I live here, full of admiration for a society that is not perfect, but better in comparison with other countries, and evolving even whilst we blog.

          To accuse me of pitting Australia against Britain is a very wrong perception of my stand. I have not done such a thing. Maybe you should have read a few more blogs on your frequent flounces in order to understand that I don’t fit that bill.

      • Rainer the cabbie

        Fair enough. Let me tell you about my mental laziness :

        Often educated people read far too much into a situation and forget one thing, mainly common sense. Over analysing cultural and historical specificity, and making excuses for behaviour and actions that should not be condoned.

        I do appreciate your criticism, I would be the last one to say that I am knowledgeable or educated in all things, but sometime the intellectualising of actions and events is nothing but a wank. I leave this to Mr.Garrie and his folk.

        God I like you Cymbers, would love to have a drinking session with you one day. 🙂

        • Ike Jakson


          I prefer mature ladies with intelligent independent brains and good manners as company over some good wine.

      • Ike Jakson

        Oh Cymbeline dear Cymbeline

        To Rainer [October 11, 9:13 am above] “generalize and cast all forms of cultural or historical specificity aside.”

        Talking about a fine one to talk, what have you contributed to the topic [which is after all on historical specificity]? Do enlighten an old ignoramus if you please.

    • Cymbeline

      Brendano. Perhaps the idea of malignant coupledom in disfavour to the Irish is what makes you go with the jihad flow for the UK.

      Why not, indeed?

  7. Cymbeline

    And perhaps, like Tariq Khan, you believe that Britain deserves the terrorism. You agree with him on just about everything.

    • No, I don’t believe that Britain deserves terrorism. I think Tariq Khan has made some very good points regarding the unrepresentative nature of Islamic fundamentalists, for example. And it seems to me that some British people see no connection between Britain itself and what Britain does abroad. Bad things are fine so long as they happen abroad, to ‘unlike us’ foreigners. In fact bad things aren’t fine.

      You ought to comment on MyT.

  8. Cymbeline

    It seriously pisses me off that you have the brain to see what are clearly weasel words – whilst deciding not to talk about them for the purposes of your personal – and increasingly insane – middle way.

  9. Cymbeline

    I believe that you are making grave errors.

  10. Cymbeline

    Brendano. You often speak of the Jungian shadow when speaking of the English who knock Ireland. You are part of that Jungian shadow yourself, and trying to disempower Britain is very much part of your psyche.

    Nothing wrong with that, of course.

    Just stop trying to kid yourself that you are on a higher plane, or part of some divinely ordained ‘middle way’.

    You are a bigot, along with everyone else.

    • That is true up to a point. I recognize that we all carry cultural baggage. I try to rise above that where it is negative. I don’t claim to be on a higher plane.

      I genuinely wish Britain and the British well. Certain aspects of British (specifically English) culture and attitudes tend to irritate me, especially the tendency to live on past glories. It’s not a big deal … it’s normal.

      • Cymbeline

        I do not think that the British live on past glories. I think that they have been brainwashed to believe that there were no past glories really. All nasty slave drivers etc.

        Personally, I have been through all that post-colonial stuff, and am coming out at the other end.

        Britain was, and is an extraordinary place. Top hole. The glories remain.

    • Ike Jakson

      Cymbeline [10:31 pm above]

      Are you one of the bigots “along with everyone else” or are you the only pure one?

  11. Cymbeline

    And personally, I prefer British bigotry over Islamo-Irish bigotry. Personal tastes.

    • At times you have seemed to embody Welsh bigotry.

      • Cymbeline

        No such thing as Welsh bigotry. Pride in the Welsh language and a formidable history of Christianity, literature and civilization without the sort of violence seen in Ireland or the Basque country.

        • But pride in Wales ought not to necessitate claiming that those who don’t speak the Welsh language can’t be Welsh, for example. (My memory isn’t as good as your, but I think this is fair.)

          If Wales had had a sufficiently strong sense of nationhood, which was then thwarted, it would have seen violence too, I would have thought.

        • Cymbeline

          We are more civilized than the Irish. We do not kill each other, and we do not kill the English.

          Sorry if that disappoints.

        • No, not at all. But you may be confusing meekness with civilization.

          The histories of Ireland and Wales are very different, especially in the matter of religion (vis-a-vis the English) … perhaps we should not be making glib comparisons.

        • Going to bed now … goodnight.

        • Cymbeline

          I hope you have terrible nightmares.

        • Cymbeline

          And rest assured that I shall bring up the ‘meekness’ reference some time in the future.

        • Cymbeline

          Meanwhile, I am contenting myself with rolling ‘Islamo-Irish bigotry’ on my tongue and thinking about all those Jungian shadows in your disfavour.

        • You do that, Cymbeline. Meanwhile (most of) Ireland will be a free republic, and Wales will continue to be an appendage of England.

    • Ike Jakson

      So Cymbeline [Oct 11, 10:37 PM

      You approve of your own bigotry and it is just fine, but if anyone should dare to disagree with Cymbeline she will condemn it as bigotry and lash out at him/her for being such a bigot “as anyone else?”

      You have some real strange moral values, girl.

    • Ike Jakson

      Cymbeline [Oct 11, 10:37 PM

      I just want to get this straight.

      So you not only approve of bigotry but you are the only judge, because of your personal superior taste, of what is good bigotry [when according to your personal taste] and bad bigotry when you don’t have the taste for it.

      You are a very strange person, indeed.

  12. Cymbeline

    I am Welsh and British.

  13. Cymbeline

    dysgu : sori

  14. Cymbeline

    Mae’r byd yn perthyn i bobl fatha chi sy’n dysgu, Mr Broxted.

  15. Ike Jakson


    I feel someone else besides you and Rainer should address the delicate Miss Cymbeline on some of her unwarranted opinions that have nothing to do with a splendid choice of topic.

    May I do so please? I shall have to work down the list if you are in agreement.

    • Hello Ike. The more conversations the better, as far as I’m concerned. 🙂

      • Ike Jakson

        Thanks Brendan

        I shall start way up and work down making use of the reply function wherever I can. The first one is ready and will be inserted way above right after this but the others may take the rest of the day.

  16. I ‘ad that Gorsedd in the back of me cab once.

    • Ike Jakson

      Hi Ron

      Nice to see you.

      You know we have the big five here but you won’t get any of them into the back of a cab.

      You could get the witgat-jakkals in but you would have to watch him at your back all the time.

  17. Cymbeline

    Ike. Thank you for all your fascinating comments. I think that Brendano and I know each other well enough to be able to have a barney, thank you.

    Rainer. I am very fond of you too.

    Mr Broxted. So she brought you luck, eh.

    • All I ask is a one bedroom flat, well, if this dog thing works out a one bed flat and a kennel…What do I call the dog? Anything I like he seems quite deaf. Very formal, Cymbers with the “Mr”.;)

  18. Cymbeline

    I will simply say this. Of course Islam should not be demonized. At the same time, one should not demonize those who express their worries about living in a country where there is a very real terrorist threat linked to Islam, and where many people feel that they are faced with Islamic pushiness in other domains too. I live in France, and there are similar worries. My daughter is a student in Paris, and Paris too is a target. She recently had to leave her train because of a bomb scare. There are other parts of Paris where she feels extremely uncomfortable as a white girl. She feels the hostility in the air. Near where she lives, whole streets are taken over with praying men, several times a day.

    One cannot compare Ireland to either Great Britain, or France, in this respect.

    And it is wrong to tell people to shut up, and give them ‘correctives’.

    • I respect your views, Cymbeline, and I agree that that kind of thing (in Paris) is wrong. I don’t believe in ghettoization. I understand that people have legitimate concerns.

      • Rainer the cabbie

        Me too. But immigrants have always done the same, stick together in a particular areas. Nothing wrong with that either, gave us places with good deli’s and restaurants.
        Problem with some Muslim migrants, not Islam, is that a lot of them have come from impoverished places and circumstances. Because of this they are stuck in a cultural vortex that makes us look like aliens. Therefore the bad attitude.

        • Hello Rainer. Yes, I’m sure there’s a lot of truth in that. Immigrants do have to accommodate to the ‘host’ country, though, and certainly must allow their children to do so.

      • Cymbeline

        Brendano. The countries in question are no longer host countries for many.

        Rainer. Anti-social behaviour is not the sole preserve of the uneducated and impoverished – far from it. The truly dangerous are both educated and driven by totalitarian ideologies. These are the people who manipulate the masses. I do not speak specifically of Islam. I speak in general terms.

        There should be some sort of acronym so that one does not have to state lengthily that one is not putting all Muslims into the same box, and that one does not wish to stigmatize all Muslims, that one does not wish to demonize Islam itself. Like that, we would perhaps be allowed to state that many aspects of Islam cause great problems in Western democracies, and that a great deal of people feel worried about being killed by religious maniacs, without being accused of Islamophobia, and without having to receive lessons about how interesting delicatessans and curry houses are.

        • Rainer the cabbie

          Fair enough. I agree with everything you say.
          I guess my problem is that the reality of living next to Muslims enclaves is something I don’t have to deal with. But I have felt the scorn and disrespect at certain times and in certain places here in Sydney.

          But let me explain my philosophy on life; you get what we expect. Therefore the preoccupation with the negative aspect of Muslims is not of my concern and by that stand I have mainly positive interaction with the Muslims that I meet. I fully understand what it must mean to live in a suburb like Badger, and therefore have always supported him, but what the rest of our My T propagandist are trying to do is pitch the masses against individuals.

          I can’t and won’t stand for that.

          And as I said to you before, I am not stupid and can see what is happening, but instead of going on and on about the problem I would rather talk about the cure.

        • Cymbeline

          G’day Darl. I am not keen on insane negativity either.

          I read a story in Le Monde about how an artist in Australia painted a ‘no to the burka’ mural on his house. According to the article, the mural was defaced, and the artist threatened. He prefers to shut up and he has not painted the mural again. Good chap – knows how to listen and be sensitive to other people.

          The cure? Many Muslim intellectuals in Muslim countries are trying to find a cure for literalist interpretations of the Koran. Unfortunately many of them end up being gagged or sent to prison.

        • Rainer the cabbie

          OK, enough said, we will all be blown up by some bearded creature. In case you want to concentrate on something else, get a load of this :

        • Brilliant, Rainer … I enjoyed that. Thanks. 🙂

    • Cymbeline

      Re the blockage of Parisian streets. The praying men have now employed private security guards, and those who wish to film the surreal scene are pushed around. One man put a film on YouTube, and he has been threatened with death.

      Meanwhile, ordinary citizens cannot go about their business in these streets, and the shops in the vicinity suffer as a result.

      In protest, a group of French people wished to stage a sausage and wine party in one such occupied street. The Prefecture banned the party.

  19. Cymbeline, the Parisian authorities shouldn’t stand for that, because (a) it is wrong and (presumably) illegal and (b) it will foster polarization and cause trouble down the line. This ought to be blindingly obvious to all concerned. The authorities are behaving extremely stupidly.

  20. Cymbeline

    It is called fear, Brendano.

  21. What would the consequences be if they cleared the streets?

  22. Cymbeline

    Perhaps it would be seen as an open statement of war against Islam, in Paris. One can imagine the consequences.

    One could suggest that there are not enough mosques to accommodate all these men, of course. However, I read that the car number plates come from outside the area. This would suggest a form of wilful colonization. I do not know if it is true that the cars come from outside the area.

    It is certainly a problem.

  23. Cymbeline

    The rector of the main mosque in Paris is a very good man. He is doing his best to limit fundamentalism. He speaks of his difficulty in reaching those who take their lead from extremist internet videos and imported fatwas. He is trying to be instrumental in helping fully veiled women to understand that this form of dress is not considered acceptable in France.

    • That’s good. People like him ought to be supported by the authorities, overtly or covertly. I can’t see the sense of conceding the field to more extreme or trouble-making elements.

      • Cymbeline

        He is seen as a legitimate authority himself. The mainstream Islam de France is perfectly respectable.

        • Cymbeline

          It is respectable because, to maintain its official status as ‘Islam de France’, it has to show itself as functioning within the laws of the République.

          I imagine that the official face of Islam de France is considered too ‘meek’ by many, otherwise there would not be crowds of feral Muslim youth running wild, be-burka-ed women, demands for the Islamic veil to be worn to state schools, pool supervisors being threatened with violence for refusing to allow women to swim in public pools fully clothed, death threats to people who post videos on You-Tube, illegal colonization of public streets, pressure for certain topics to be religiously censored, pressure on Muslim girls to wear the veil or be raped etc etc

        • Cymbeline

          Concerning the very real pressure on French Muslim girls and women, you may be interested to know about the group ‘Ni putes ni soumises’. This translates as ‘Neither whores nor submissive women’. It is a feminist movement headed by Fadela Amara, who is a Muslim.

        • I think organizations like that, within Islam, are extremely important and ought to be strongly supported.

        • Cymbeline

          Why ‘within Islam’?

          Any group that objects to religious obscurantism, violence, the submission of women, should be strongly supported.

        • It’s a pragmatic thing … I think organizations like that within Islam are more likely to be effective.

          They avoid the ‘them and us’ aspects. If Muslims see Islam as being attacked by outsiders, it may have a unifying effect and act against change. Better for Muslim women to address their own problems … with support where it’s needed, of course.

        • Cymbeline

          I disagree. That is like saying that only Germans should have been allowed to criticize Hitler’s totalitarian regime.

        • No, it’s not. Anyone can say anything; I’m talking about pragmatics and what works.

        • Against the Nazis, only massive military force worked. This is different.

    • Cymbeline

      Muslims who criticize certain aspects of Islam are in far more danger than those non-Muslims who do the same.

      Don’t you know that?

      • I would have thought so, yes. All the more reason to support the courageous people who do that.

        • Cymbeline

          All the more reason to support ALL those who object to religious obscurantism, violence, and the submission of women.

        • I certainly sympathize with all those who are sincerely doing that. Given that resources are finite, though, I would have thought it better to support what is most likely to work. I think progressive intra-Islam movements such as Amara’s fit the bill.

        • Cymbeline

          Re your judicious use of the word’sincerely’.

          Yes, ostensibly combatting the more unpleasant sides of some aspects of Islam can be a front for very nasty ideologies. I know that.

  24. Cymbeline

    There are lots of formidable French Muslim women who take no crap from anyone. My husband enjoys working with such women.

    We were once invited to the house of one of these colleagues. She did not stop criticizing certain aspects of Islam over dinner. I preferred to listen, rather than agree too overtly. I thought of her when I read about the Asian businesswoman in Britain who was murdered recently, and her body mutilated.

    • Yes … horrible. We are very lucky in the West in that we don’t need to indulge in self-censorship in the interests of survival … except in parts of Northern Ireland, perhaps.

      • Cymbeline

        You are not listening at all.

        We often do have to impose self-censorship in the West in the interests of survival. Who wants a bloody fatwa for drawing a cartoon or staging a play, or painting a mural?

        • Cymbeline

          And er, the Asian woman in question was murdered and mutilated in Britain. I believe that Britain is part of the West.

        • I’m speaking in general terms, Cymbeline. Have you censored yourself today, or ever? Many people in part of the UK became experts at it, in the interests of survival. That had nothing to do with Islam, but with a perverted tribalism ostensibly based on Christianity.

          I agree that people should be able to stage plays or draw cartoons without their lives being endangered.

        • Cymbeline

          You are being a bit obscure, Brendano, but that is probably because you are saying something that is important to you.

          I think that I understand what you mean.

          Sometimes it helps to think in terms of ideas rather than in terms of groups of people. It was wrong then – a million times wrong yes, and it is wrong now in another form. Thinking in terms of ideas also helps one to get rid of destructive just dessertish ideas, however understandable those ideas may be at a deep and true emotional level.

        • Cymbeline

          Bad use of language. Please replace the last two ‘ideas’ for ‘sentiment’ and ‘that sentiment’.

        • Cymbeline, I have no ‘just dessertish’ sentiment.

        • Cymbeline

          I think that you may have a teeny weeny bit of subconscious just dessertish sentiment. It is the Jungian shadow thing again , and you started that, so don’t blame me for thinking about it as a two-way thing, if indeed it does exist.

          What I say still stands. Ideas, not groups of people.

        • OK … thanks, Cymbeline. You may just be right.

  25. Cymbeline

    Anyway. I shall bid you good evening. I have the feeling that you would much rather speak of the execution of British officers, and of war in Ireland in 1921.

    Ike would rather I stuck to the initial post too, and I do not wish to annoy him any further.

  26. As you know, Cymbeline, you are always welcome to speak of whatever you wish.

    Good evening.

  27. Dear Brendano, If you are suffering from insomnia read “The Herald” letters page for 5th Dec 2004. “From Our Norfolk correspondent”.

  28. Ike Jakson

    Rainer [October 14, 12:59 am but slotted in way up here somewhere].

    The terrorist is not always an uneducated ruffian; he/she could be an educated person with a gripe; if he doesn’t have one he will manufacture it. He may be a respected member of Society while he makes his plans and you may never suspect him; he may be disguised as a friend or as your loving neighbor.

    He strikes when he is ready; he strikes to destroy and when it is done he disappears into the night.

    You have just witnessed a perfect example how it is done in the destruction of what started off as a good Post.

  29. Hello Ike. I don’t have a problem with anything Cymbeline says; I’ve been talking to her online for years, on and off, and hold her in high regard.

    • Rainer the cabbie

      She’s a thinking mans Medusa. With a temper, but we like it that way. 🙂

      I wasn’t referring to terrorists, understanding that they are often very intelligent and manipulative creatures.
      What I was referring to are migrants that seem to live in enclaves and have a healthy disrespect for the members of their host country.
      Even though this looks like a particular problems that Muslim communities suffer, I am aware of many migrants doing the same thing all over the world. Even the highly educated British expats in France and Spain suffer from the affliction.

  30. Cymbeline

    I shall dispense with preambles about war always being terrible etc.

    Reading the piece by O’Malley, one is struck by the restraint and courtesy involved on both sides. There is an acceptance on both sides that this is the way the game is played. There is a formal code of war here, at least. A disturbing gentleness too, and a gentleness that has nothing to do with sentimentality, a gentleness which will not be allowed to interfere with resolve. I do not see terrorism in the above piece.

    This is perhaps the difference between murder and execution, although some may say that murder is murder is murder.

    Terrible times.

    • Yes … to me it seems an awful shame that life is wasted in this way, but it is better to have respect than not. O’Malley was beaten and mistreated as a prisoner and would have been killed had he not escaped.

      O’Malley’s brother was in the British Army and had served at Gallipoli, I think. O’Malley wore his uniform to walk into Dublin Castle, the British HQ in Ireland, and secure a permit to buy a gun, under a false name.

      Liam O’Flaherty (a participant in both wars) wrote a short story about a Civil War Dublin sniper shooting one of the enemy who turns out to be his brother.

      Ken Loach’s The Wind that Shakes the Barley, partly inspired by O’Malley’s books, also brings out the fratricidal theme. (‘A damn fine film’, The Bulletin called it.) It’s worth seeing.

  31. Cymbeline

    I liked the detail of the Fry’s chocolate box, and the idea of where wind had snaked in the rye grass.

  32. Cymbeline

    From what I understand, these British officers were not the ones personally responsible for having killed the Irish prisoners – although one of them ill-treated them.

    Why were the Irish prisoners behind the reprisal killed?

    Why was that code of war broken?

    Didn’t the British discipline the killers?

    Or was the killing of the Irish prisoners considered to be an execution, like the one detailed here?

    • Hello Cymbeline … thanks for the comments.

      Martial law was declared in four counties of Ireland, including Tipperary, in December 1920, and was soon extended to some other counties. This meant that the military could do what they wanted, including court martial and summary execution of prisoners. Civilian coroners’ courts, which had often accused the police and military of unlawful killing, were abolished.

      Prisoners were also killed outside the martial law area. For example, on the night of ‘Bloody Sunday’, 21 November 1921, two prominent IRA men and an uninvolved young man were tortured and murdered by the military in Dublin. Earlier that day in Dublin the IRA had tried to wipe out a network of intelligence agents, killing 14, and the army had opened fire on the players and crowd at a football match, killing 14 people including a Tipperary footballer.


      In the Civil War that followed the Anglo-Irish war, the new Free State executed, I think, 77 IRA prisoners. O’Malley, again, was lucky to escape.

  33. Cymbeline

    One can keep asking questions about the ‘befores’ of course. When it gets down to the very last box, nobody with any sense would deny that the Irish were fighting a just cause.

    I was certainly educated with that idea, within the British GCSE O level educational system of my generation.

    My approach is very simplistic of course. I have never studied history in depth.

    • One could argue about the rights and wrongs of the war. On balance, I think it was justified. Ireland had been promised Home Rule, i.e. its own parliament, since Gladstone’s time, but it had not been delivered. A new generation of young people, many radicalized by the British response to the Easter Rising (including O’Malley), felt that Home Rule would no longer be enough, and only a republic would do.

      It was an emotional thing … a gut feeling that Ireland had been pushed around and kept down for too long, and it was time for a decisive change.

      The tragedy was that the outcome – a 26-county Free State rather than a 32-county republic – might have been achieved by peaceful means.

  34. My father met and shook hands with O’Malley once, he told me. A colleague of my father’s had been a comrade of O’Malley’s, who called to the office to see him.

    My father was very pro-establishment, and disapproved of O’Malley as a reckless troublemaker. He was quite bitter about the Civil War and, in general, very pro-British. This despite, as I have mentioned before, the massacre of prisoners by the British on his uncle’s farm around the time he was born. He was an admirer of the British Empire and its values.

    • Cymbeline

      Yes, you have mentioned your father before in this context. Great complexity behind that handshake on that day.

      Did you argue with your father about his general pro-Britishness? I remember my father quarrelling with his stepfather about Welsh nationalism. Both Welshmen.

      • Hello Cymbeline. It used to annoy me at times, as it seemed an irrational prejudice … he only ever saw one side of the story. I probably argued with him until I was old enough to realize that it was futile.

        It also annoyed my mother, who had contended with anti-Irish prejudice when growing up in Glasgow, and hadn’t expected it from her Irish husband. I remember that in the early days of the Troubles she admired constitutional nationalists such as John Hume, but he would have none of this. As he was free in expressing his views, she used to worry that he would antagonize the wrong people in the pub or whatever.

        At the same time he was a kind and generous man, and very popular in our town. In his work as a civil servant in the Department of Social Welfare, he went out of his way to help people who needed help.

        • People are complicated. Not too long after my mother died, my father became friendly with a woman much younger than him. He told me that he considered proposing marriage to her … what stopped him was her ungrammatical use of English, which he didn’t think he could stand.

          At that time he had already lost two wives to cancer.

        • Cymbeline

          Mention has often been made of people on MyT with Irish family backgrounds and surnames – people like Ped and Badger who are very pro-British. I had assumed that this pro-Britishness was to do with forgetting their Irish roots. The example of your father has helped me see that things are far more complicated than that. Their families may have had pro-British feelings prior to emigration to England.

          You were lucky to grow up in a family where powerfully conflicting currents of thought could be expressed freely.

          That sort of thing forges the brain.

        • Cymbeline

          Yes, people are complicated. Your father certainly went through a very complicated mill in terms of politics and personal sorrow.

      • I have come across a Jungian notion of ‘cultural complexes’, which can ‘flip’ so that a person is repelled by his/her own culture rather than being devoted to it.

        • Cymbeline

          Yes, the idea of self-hatred.

          But, perhaps it is more complicated than that. Culture is not encoded in our DNA. I read what Wafa Sultan had to say at the Wilders’ trial. She said that Islamic thought was encoded in Muslim DNA after 1,400 years of Islam. Yer wot?

          Perhaps some people choose freely not to identify with their original cultures. Wafa Sultan is an example of what she is not saying. Perhaps some people really do like what they see elsewhere. Perhaps they really do think that it is better ‘over there’. Shermeen speaks of her Ahmadi Irish friend who was brought up a Catholic, for example.

          And anyway, what is one’s own culture? All sorts of currents make up a culture. One may choose to follow one current rather than another. You have no problem with preferring the English language over Irish, for example.

          I do not think that theorists know everything. As you said above, people are complicated. They do not fit into neat patterns as defined by the theorists of the soul.

        • Yes, very true, Cymbeline. I’ll think about what you’ve said. I do think that the ‘them’ (bad, threatening, dirty) and ‘us’ (virtuous) complex is prominent in a lot of psyches.

        • Cymbeline

          Another example on the same the same theme; I have mentioned before that my English mother is studying at a Welsh University for a degree in Welsh. One of the academics running the course is an American with no Welsh roots at all. He fell in love with the Celtic languages as a student in the US and went on to specialize in Welsh. He is a scholar. I think that he had a winning entry in the Eisteddfod recently. He also knows how to speak ordinary everyday Welsh, and has a local accent to boot. He lives in a simple house in a small Welsh town, and has acquired a Welsh wife.

          His choice of life has nothing to do with the hatred of the US, and nothing to do with the romantic search for his own cultural roots. He just likes Wales and Welsh.

        • Cymbeline

          I do not like the ‘them’ and ‘us’ mentality either, but that does not stop me thinking about the reasons behind that sort of mentality.

          As you may have gathered, I have always liked the parable of the Good Samaritan.

        • Some people have the intelligence and curiosity to be free of mental shackles; the world is then their oyster.

          The story of the academic reminds me of this man:


        • Cymbeline

          How wonderful. Such people are fascinating and refreshing. Far more interesting than abstract theories.

        • Yes. I watched an interesting documentary on Thomas … he was heartbroken when his friend Muiris Ó Súilleabháin drowned.

        • Cymbeline

          But those who prefer to explore and honour their own cultures are not necessarily mentally shackled, of course.

          You are a good example of that.

          It would have been a loss for Ireland if you had gone to America.

        • Nice of you to say so, Cymbeline.

        • Cymbeline

          Sorry about seeming ‘nice’. I shall strive to do better.

        • Cymbeline

          Re the theorists of the soul.

          You have come across Jungian notions of self-hatred. I have come across Freudian notions about boys killing their fathers so that they may be closer to their mothers.

          Much of what you say could be neatly fitted by the theorists of the soul into the Oedipus thing.

          You would say that was crap, and so would I.

          I suggest we give all that sort of thing a body swerve.

        • OK. Will try to remember.

  35. Much like Brendan Bracken, whose stepfather was related to my mother.


    • Thank you for that link. I am reading ‘Their Finest Years’ by Max Hastings. Bracken is mentioned frequently. I did not know about his connection to The Financial Times. I watched rugby yesterday with one of the descendants of Bracken’s former employer.

  36. Cymbeline, if I may. The Geneva Convention only applies to “designated” armies. As far as the U.K was concerned the (Old) IRA were just men in coats. The lack of uniform is another facet of the Geneva convention. Articles of war must be read. (They were, London merely said they were invalid). O level history is very much of the…1847 there was a famine. Next page…

  37. Cymbeline

    How dare you, Mr Broxted. My GCE O level also involved something about Catholics having tiny bits of land because they do not give it all to the eldest son.

    Anyway, we had to speed onwards towards South Africa and the Boer War, via Australia, the Sudan and New Zealand. Suttee found its way in there too. Chap called Clive as well.

    It’s all right for the Irish. They only have to learn about Irish history.

  38. We do not learn history Ms Cymbers, merely mythology. Any stroll past Falls Rd murals will tell you all you need to know;) We had primogeniture we also had subdivision. We also had conquest. Naughty Welsh. Glad Sooty was on your syllabus, I was in Brixton all we had was drug dealing. Clive James is much over rated. Clive Steps are at the bottom of Downing Street. Excuse me I must take the Agouti out.

  39. Cheechdog

    Brendano, So, you are the one who has been occupying Cymbeline’s time.

    Cymbeline, I thought you might have retired from blogging.

    Brendano, did you at one time really consider a move to the US?

  40. Hello Cheech … nice to see you.

    Some of my best friends moved to the States in the early 1980s. I had just moved in with my girlfriend and we had plans of our own … otherwise I would probably have gone too.

    They started out as illegals and later became very wealthy.

  41. Cheechdog

    You know what, it’s still possible to get wealthy here if you are just willing to work at it.

    I have a Brit friend who is married to an American woman. They live in Wisconsin and he is making money hand over fist doing minor construction work, remodeling, and managing an apartment complex.

    He has his green card and is classifyed a a permanent resident or some such title.

    If the bottom does not fall out between now and next June, I plan on quiting by part time, retirement job, and working around the house until I assume room tempature.

    • I hope it works out for you.

      My friends started out stripping asbestos from old buildings in New York, and later owned their own companies.

    • Cymbeline

      Hello Cheech. Room temperature is very important otherwise you may not have the privilege of the humming birds in your garage.

      Hope you and Mrs Cheech are well.

  42. Cheechdog

    Hello Cymbeline, we are well, thank you and you do remember the hummingbird incident.

    This past summer it was an blue heron walking around in the back yard with a broken wing.

    I hope you and your’s are well Cymbeline.


    It’s a good idea to employ the elderly in the asbestos abatement industry in hopes they die of old age before mesothelomia gets them. They actually do that here.

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