Glenanean, the glen of the birds, is a little coum or vale sleeping in the heart .of the Comeragh Mountains. A wee burn, or stream, wanders and sings it's way down the glen's central depression. It was all too peaceful there and the lads were getting restless from inactivity. Our column consisted of thirty men, some quite hard chaws, the others innocent country lads. Some time back we had pulled off a completely successful affair with a detachment of the Hampshires, all of them taken prisoners, and sometime afterwards we had an almost disastrous affray with a large convoy of the Devons. Since then nothing of any great consequence had happened.
Our armament was by no means negligible. We had: 20 captured Lee Enfields, 5 Lee Metfords, 2 Krag Jagersons, 1 service Mauser, 1 Marlin repeater and 1 Winchester. In reserve were a Martini Enfield, a Snider carbine somebody had brought back from the Crimea. Total supply of ammunition was 1,600 rounds which could only be replenished by capture. We had a number of side weapons but they were ineffective in a field action.
Kirkby, Sullivan and Big Patto were passing around sarcastic remarks amongst the others about our inactivity. Kirkby was our local poacher and he looked like a brigand. Sean Sullivan was an old British army regular who had served from Mons right up to the end of the World War, a very independent man he had never received a promotion. Big Patto was a sailor who had left ship to take to the hills, a usually gentle man he had occasional wild moments. About a month previous the three of them had taken off without permission and shot up a nearby town: the results were most unpleasant for everybody concerned.
Pat [Pat Keating died Burgery 19 March 1921 – buried Kilrossanty] took me off for a walk in the hills as he wanted to unburden himself of his latest plan. He was always enthusiastic about some plan or another and most of his plans sounded crazy. His present plan seemed to make some kind of sense but he wanted to recruit all the inhabitants of the countryside into it.
Military raids were a bane to us and we were often caught napping. At the very first sight of the military, he suggested, all the sounds of day-to-day farming activities should be noisily exaggerated. Women would beat on feed pans to call the hens, ploughmen would bellow at their horses and gossoons would wallop the donkeys to make them bray. This general hullabaloo would put us immediately on our guard and save us from surprise. To me it was reminiscent of the famous fairy tale "the ass brayed, the bog barked, the cat meowed, the cock crowed and the robbers ran away."
On our return we at once sensed the discontent so we decided to come out of the hills and move into the Lickey position right away before the men got out of hand. We would have to devise some clever subterfuge to draw the military out. Clearly something had to be done quickly.
Then Stackpoole arrived. [George Plunkett, Count Plunkett]
We were all quite overawed as he had some most impressive qualifications. He had fought with distinction during Easter Week, had a public school education and his father was a nobleman. He was also a member of the Third Order of St. Francis.The Irish equivalent of the bush telegraph got gossipy at once and quite soon the whole countryside knew that "the Count" had arrived amongst us. We are a people of a kindly and concerned curiosity and everybody was bursting to see him.
The new arrival carefully explained first of all that his true identity was not to be revealed and that he was to be known as "Captain Murphy". On this point he was explicit.
He was, in fact, a G.H.Q. staff officer sent out on a tour of inspection and he proved to be, if ever I met one, a thoroughly conscientious man.
From the beginning there was a wearing tension between the two of us and there were times when we circled politely around each other while seething inwardly. Some modern expert on interpersonal psychology will, no doubt, be able to explain this. At the time it greatly bothered us both and proved quite a strain on our relations.
After the first of many conferences he got down to business straight off and he decided that our brigade was in a really poor state of organization and our column in it's present condition was not fit to go into action for a long time to come. This decision got everybody sulky.
Author: George Lennon