Gardai in our locality.
Great crimes included not having a light on your bicycle and after hours drinking.
The local Gardai in the 1960s were different to the modern force of today in many ways. They had no cars, no high visibility jackets and not a lot of equipment at all. The odd car that you might observe just had a small sign on top with a single blue light. There were more of them, of course, but they had to travel mostly by bicycle. In Menlough Garda Station at that time there was usually one Sergeant and two Gardai. Sometimes there were three gardai but not all of the time. Crime was really non existent by comparison to how we see it today and like it or not, or be it right or wrong, if a young lad was beginning to show signs of going down the wrong path then the Sergeant at the time brought him into the station and “had a word in his ear” and this generally sorted the problem out.
People in the 1960s had, in general, much more respect for authority so the great crimes in those days were such things as not having a light on your bicycle, after hours drinking in the pub, noxious weeds and thistles growing on land, poaching salmon in the local river, no bell on your bicycle, no lights on your cart, the owner’s name not painted on the shaft of the cart and not sending children to school regularly. All these ‘major’ crimes of the time that could land you in Mountbellew Court and was good for a five or ten shilling fine not to mention the shame of your name appearing on the Tuam Herald or Connacht Tribune. In these days also when the local paper was read at home it was then rolled up and posted to the relations in England so they also knew who was in Court last week!
Gardai Pay and Conditions
The pay in those days was not top notch but they all had the use of the garden attached to the Garda Station. Each guard had his allotted section and was required to keep it tidy, neat and cultivated. At inspection time by the dreaded Superintendent it would be a black mark against the guard on whose plot a weed was found and it was recorded for future reference. There was usually a station bicycle so whoever got it first meant the rest were on foot or had to use their own bicycle. I can well remember when the only garda car in the area was based in Athenry where the Superintendent himself was based. Eventually as the odd garda got his own car they began to use them in the line of duty. Oul local tailor of the time, Dan Kelly, had the “contract” for making and repairing the Garda uniforms for the Gardai based within the Athenry District Division. Local Tailors made the Garda uniforms in the olden days.
(Here is a recitation by my old friend John Duggan about his memories of The Guard In The Country. John was a member of the Gardai for many years and served in Glenamaddy for a number of these years before retiring and joining Mid West Radio in Ballyhaunis where he became one of their most popular presenters. John wrote this recitation as well as many others and together with many, many songs that are today Irish hits. We applaud his super talents.)
© John Duggan
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