Bohola During the Troubles in Co. Mayo

The period of Irish history from 1916 to 1921 is referred to simply, in the quaint Irish way of understating the obvious, as 'the Troubles'. The country was still under English rule at the time, pending the signing of the treaty, but the Irish were retaliating with a vengeance, with a result that many country areas were like cowboy zones, with law and order being maintained and enforced by both nations in their own way.

The few people in their eighties, still living in Bohola, remember this period with a mixture of feelings. In many of their stories, of course, one senses sadness and, at times, despair, and a reluctance to refer to this period. However, they are more inclined to recall the more humurous side of things, and to laugh at the evasive tactics of the natives, who continuously aggravated the English and still managed to avoid being captured.

The Irish law enforcers in Bohola were known as the 'bailtees' and they ran a respectable jurisdiction, with the most commonly known courthouses at the time being held in Carragowan School and the houses of Pat 'Boaty' McNicholas, John Durkin and Pat Leonard in Carroward. The first Irish Justice Court was supposed to have been held in Tooromeen School, but opinions differ on this.

The Judge in these courts was never too severe, with fines usually ranging from five shillings to a half-crown. The best-known Judges at that time included Michael Carroll (Treenduff), Michael, and Paddy Commons (Carragolda). Some of the lawyers included John Walsh (Carracastle), Michael Burke (Carroward), Johnny Mulroy (Carroward) and Luke Clarke (Treenduff). Michael John Deasy of Carragolda was a summons server, and his job was about as popular as that of the TV licence inspector today.

For the more serious charges, of which there were few, a prison sentence would be imposed, and prisoners would be committed to one of the various jails in the parish, including Pat 'Boaty' McNicholas’ in Altinea and Fair's Granary in Ardacarra. The prisoner was closely guarded, and was fed only bread and water.

The Irish volunteers had to be trained, and a regular venue for training was Pat Conlon's hill in Tooromeen. Navvy Carroll was also in charge here, as he put the men through their paces with the lookout placed at various vantage points, ready to deal with any unwelcome guests.

Dances were often held to raise money for the Cause, and the younger lads were always given the job of watching for the approaching lights of the RIC. If Tom Roache was manning the door of the dancehall, these young fellows would get in for sixpence after finishing their duties.

Another distinct memory of the Black 'n' Tans is that whenever they came visiting, word spread around the parish like wildfire, and all bicycles and valuable possessions were hidden in ditches and drains, to save them from being 'borrowed'.

Another great practice of the Black 'n' Tans was to round up all the men in the parish at the drop of a hat, and bring them to Ballylahan Bridge. This was done for the purpose of frightening the locals, and it usually worked.

One such incident took place in Bohola, in an attempt to capture the notorious George Horkan from Meelick, who was a very popular man among the Bailtees, but an annoyance to the constabulary. O'Hanlon, an Irishman and constable in Bohola Barracks, had been tipped off that Horkan was in the Bohola/Meelick vicinity, and the order was given that all men in the area were to be rounded up and taken to Ballylahan Bridge for execution.

The men were marched from Meelick, down Barleyhill Bog, and, much to the amusement of everyone present, a group of travellers who were camping on the roadside were also included, adding much confusion to the parade. George Horkan was in the middle of the luckless bunch, having been unable to make his escape in time.

They were marched up the Carragolda Road, and at McGeever's Boreen, Horkan escaped, running up the boreen and into Staunton's garden where he hid in the duck-house. After the band of men had passed, he chased up through the forts at the back of Stauntons and Burkes, and away to freedom.

The people of the village were aware of what had happened, and while they were delighted that 'one of their own' had outwitted the soldiers, they were worried in case the Black 'n' Tans would return to plunder the village in search of Horkan.

The round-up eventually reached Ballylahan, with a very sorry looking bunch of people awaiting their fate, and an even sorrier looking bunch when O'Hanlon realised that Horkan had given him the slip yet again. The men were questioned for a while, and eventually let home.

Extract from Bohola: Its history and its people. Reproduced by kind permission of its publishers, Sheridan Memorial Community Centre Committee. Bohola: Its history and its people was published in 1992 under the auspices of Bohola Community Centre Committee which was established in 1988.