When I was a small boy living in a small town in Co. Tipperary, an old man lived across the road from us whose name was Jack Meagher. I must have been quite young when he died, because my memories of him are vague. I think he was from up the mountains … an old-style countryman, garrulous and jovial, who would walk in the back door of our house without knocking and declare ‘God bless all here!’, then stay chatting for hours. Jack was a character.
Years later my sister told me something about him that I hadn’t known – he had been in the Old IRA* of 1919–21, and had, it seems been the local brigade’s executioner. When prisoners needed to be killed, in reprisal for the execution of IRA prisoners by the British, Jack was the man that did the deed. He didn’t fit the stereotype of the old soldier who ‘doesn’t like to talk about the war’; apparently he had no qualms about regaling my uncomfortable parents, around the kitchen table, with gory details of how he had ‘plugged’ some unfortunate captive. Continue reading