Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Black & Tans

In the early 1920's the Irish were growing impatient to be free of British rule. They wanted to run their own affairs.  The Brits weren't ready to allow this and to keep it from happening they reinforced their Irish police forces with the "Black & Tans."

Actors portraying "Black & Tans."
One evening during this period several of my Great-Uncles from the Meade family went to a dance near their home in Shronebeha.

On their return they were stopped by a group of Black & Tans.  Uncle Jack suspected that they were stopped mostly because their group included a number of attractive young women.

Uncle Jack tried to stay in the background and avoid drawing attention to himself as they interrogated the group.  He had good reason for this behavior -- he was working with the IRA (although he was still only in his teens, he would become one of their primary bomb experts during the independence struggle).

Jack’s younger brother, Uncle Ned, however, wasn't trying to be inconspicuous.  Possibly to show off for the ladies, maybe because he'd a had a few nips at the dance, or maybe it was just his nature, Ned, only about 15 or 16, decided to confront the "Black & Tans."

Uncle Jack Meade & his sister, my Grandmother,
 Johanna Callahan (née Meade) about 1975.
Almost the instant that Ned smarted off to them they took him into custody.  The others were released and Uncle Jack and the rest hurried home to alert the adults.  Ned’s Mother immediately went to the Banteer Police Station.  They claimed to know nothing.

The family spent all the next day searching and inquiring about Ned.  They enlisted the help of the Parish priest, all to no avail.  No British Official admitted any knowledge of his whereabouts or circumstances.

Late the following morning the family heard a large truck driving up the lane.  They looked out and saw an Auxiliary Division of the Royal Irish Constabulary (ADRIC) vehicle stop briefly near the home and then continue on.  The family went out and found Ned staggering up to the house.  He was beaten and bruised.  Several of his fingernails had been pulled out.

The family said that Uncle Ned never really recovered from this.  Before he’d been a bit wild, but mostly good-natured, but afterwards he was argumentative and belligerent.  His temper was short and he always seemed to be “looking for a fight.”  He never married.


  1. Thank you for posting your family's story. I didn't really know anything about this. My husband's grandmother (born in 1895) said she fought the Black and Tans. I didn't know that that meant. I am so sorry for your great uncle and all the other people who were hurt. I am just learning about this.

  2. How very sad. I'm always surprised when people think this time in Irish history was about the north against the south and Catholics against Protestants when it was as much about more British atrocities than anything. at all. Thank you for this story and I'm adding a link if that is ok to my blog about Irish History