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1921 Comeragh Mountains (Part 2)

Memoirs Of George Lennon

10. 1921 Comeragh Mountains (Part 2)

A great cleaning and refurbishing of our arms. Stackpoole proved to be the personification of military efficiency. Sloppy habits he most disliked. We had a habit of letting our small arms lie about any place; with an almost courtly bow he would confront you with your gun saying urbanely "I believe you must have mislaid this." It was one of his most exasperating habits.

The local company captain had his legs run off putting out scouts day and night. The staff captain informed us that we were no longer a flying column but a commando and that we were not to use the words "on active service" but the words "on commando". So now we were a commando on commando.

Our man was almost constantly pouring over a military text book by one Captain Kinsman called The Training of the Infantry Officer. The book, which he loaned me, was all about sire steps, slit trenches and directions for moving large bodies of men across oceans of mud against coils of barbed wire. It was hard to relate its contents to our little guerrilla war.

A week later.

Stackpoole got a cracked idea - some of his ideas seemed quite dottie. We had dinner with Father Power and our captain decided right away that Father Tom must be appointed official chaplain to the column. (We had already dropped the name commando). He said he was going to communicate with the bishop about it. Anyway, there was a priest in every parish we moved into and we had such fine friends on call as Father Gleason of Aglish, and Father Sheehy of Kilrossanty. Father Tom fed us, gave us cigarettes, played his Victrola for us and held himself in readiness to perform the last offices for the dying and he considered his religious functions ended right there. He was a holy little man and he did not like receiving religious instruction. The idea was dropped.

A week following.

The captain got quite distressed about the lads singing what he called "music hall ditties". Their favorite song was "I m for Every Blowing Bubbles" and when on the march they sang a song about where the flies went in wintertime. His voice was not one of his many good qualities but he tried us out with such moving native folk songs as –

One fine morning in spring
As the birds they did sing
And the fields were all covered with noneens

The response was negative. Pat did much better, occasionally he would quite suddenly burst out with –

Then rally round the banner boys
That now above us flies
The die is cast, the night is past
The dawn is in the skies

The words, at any rate, were inspiring.

Then there was the row about the cigarettes. The lads, as their only compensation for their national service, got a packet of ten Players cigarettes each day. English manufacture. The brigade Q.M. was instructed to supply an irish brand. It was not the fault of the Irish manufacturer that the cigarettes were too long in stock, and consequently mouldly, but it was sufficient to have the native product rejected with scorn.

Author: George Lennon

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