Sir Neville Francis Fitzgerald Chamberlain was Inspector General of the R.I.C. from 1900 to 1901.

He ignored intelligence reports warning of the 1916 Rising and was retired a couple of months later. He lived in Oatlands House Diswellstown he previously lived in Hermitage Rathfarnham where coincidentally the man who caused him to lose his job Patrick Pearse moved in to after he moved out. When Chamberlain was living in India as a young man he invented the game of Snooker. At the time he was a junior officer in the British Army and was posted to a quite area where there was little to do and got fed up playing Billiards and thought up the alternative game to relieve boredom.He was a distant cousin to Prime Minister Chamberlain who similarly ignored intelligence advice and was codded by the late and unlamented Adolf Hitler. photo and information credit Jim Lacey
With many thanks to: Easter Rising War of Independence and Irish Civil war History.

Óglach Thomas Murphy, aged 22, F Company, 6th Battalion, Dublin Brigade, Irish Republican Army (IRA).

Óglach Thomas Murphy, aged 22.

Murdered in his bed by Black and Tans at ‘The Hotel’, Foxrock Village, on this day 1921.

At the time of his death, Thomas or ‘Tommy’ Murphy, a popular young uilleann-piper, was one of a number of young men active with the local IRA company, a unit made up of men from the Deansgrange, Cornelscourt, Cabinteely and Foxrock districts. By the summer of 1921, several of it’s members had been forced ‘on the run’ and began operating as a full-time ‘flying column’, sleeping rough in stables and sheds and harassing crown forces at any opportunity that presented itself.

Attacks on the local RIC barracks at Cabinteely were numerous. In the dead of night, Volunteers, acting under cover of darkness, would make their way to the village, where they would creep along the empty streets, taking up positions before subjecting the barracks to a sustained attack using rifles and home-made bombs. Just weeks before his death, Thomas Murphy, dressed in a chauffeur’s uniform in order to give the appearance of a British officer, had driven a car at top speed past the barracks while the car’s other two occupants lobbed bombs at the Black and Tan sentries posted outside.

On May 13th, local Volunteer Charles ‘Rodney’ Murphy (no relation) of Deansgrange, scaled a tree in the Brennanstown Road area, using his elevated position overlooking the barracks to snipe at two Black and Tans tending to the gardens in the yard out back. Constable Albert Edward Skeats, a Black and Tan recruit from London, was hit behind the ear and rushed to a hospital in the city, where he lay critically ill. He eventually succumbed to his injuries on May 28th. The night after his death, a party of Tans and RIC returning to their barracks were ambushed at Monaloe cross-roads by Volunteers Jackie Nolan, John Merriman and Billy Fitzgibbon. During a brisk gunfight, one constable was wounded before the Volunteers made their escape across fields.

With one of their number dead and another now seriously injured, tensions inside Cabinteely barracks had reached boiling point. Just before three o’clock in the morning, a party of five Tans, faces blackened with shoe polish, made their way along Brennanstown Road to Foxrock, where they stopped at ‘The Hotel’, a large tenement building that once stood in the centre of the village. It was here that Volunteer Thomas Murphy resided along with his widowed mother and four sisters. As the building was home to several families, the front door was left open, enabling the Tans to make their way inside unnoticed. They then quietly made their way to Thomas’ room before bursting through his bedroom door, waking the startled man from his sleep. One of the intruders asked if he was Thomas Murphy, and when he replied that he was, a shot was fired, hitting the young man through his head, the bullet passing through the wall into the adjacent room. As the intruders left, Thomas’ mother and sisters rushed into the room to find their son in a collapsed state. Despite the best efforts of a local doctor, Thomas died where he lay several hours later.

On June 1st, Thomas’ remains were buried at Deansgrange Cemetery following a military enquiry. In a large funeral cortege, members of the Dublin and South Eastern Railway Company, where Thomas worked as a porter, marched in a body after the hearse. Numerous wreaths were placed over the coffin, which was wrapped in a tricolour flag. Thomas’ IRA comrades supplied a guard of honour and firing party. Three volleys of shots were fired as the coffin was lowered into the grave, before men and arms managed to get safely out of the cemetery through a cordon of British military.

With many thanks to: Sean Larkin, South Derry.

The Soloheadbeg Ambush – 21 January, 1919

On Tuesday, 21 January 1919, between the hours of 12:30 pm and 1 pm, two Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) constables were ambushed near Tipperary town and shot dead. This attack is generally regarded as the start of the horrific and bloody guerrilla war which became known as the Anglo-Irish War.

Constables James McDonnell and Patrick O’Connell (both Irish born Catholics), had been walking with loaded rifles escorting a horse drawn cart containing a load of gelignite from Tipperary Military Barracks for blasting purpose at Soloheadbeg Quarry (located 3 miles from Tipperary). Constable McDonnell, who was about 50 years was from Belmullet, County Mayo. He was a widower with four children. Constable O’Connell, from Coachford, County Cork, was about 30 years and unmarried. According to the page 1 of The Cork Examiner 21 January, 1919 and Robert Kee author of The Green Flag” (London 1972), p.632, both constables were very popular policemen within the community.

The driver of the cart was a James Godfrey, who was accompanied by Patrick Flynn, a County Council employee. A group of masked men of the I.R.A.’s 3rd Tipperary Brigade, which included Dan Breen, Séan Hogan, Séamus Robbinson and Séan Treacy, jumped over the roadside fence near the quarry and shouted “hands up”. Dan Breen claims in his book “My fight for Irish Freedom” (Anvil Books Dublin 1928) that the constables raised their rifles in preparation and that they were forced to kill the two constables. After loading up the constables’ rifles and ammunition, Hogan drove the cart away with Treacy, Breen and the explosives away in the direction of the quarry while the others headed towards Coffey’s forge. Witnesses later saw the cart been driven furiously towards Dundrum, County Tipperary, by two masked men with a third in the back. The horse and cart minus the explosives were later found abandoned at Allen Creamery near Dundrum, by District Inspector Poer O’Shee of Clonmel and Sergeant Horgan of Tipperary.

The following day Martial Law was imposed and on page 1 of the Cork Examiner 21 January, 1919, the following communiqué was published; “In view of the murder of police constables in Tipperary yesterday, the Irish Government has determined to proclaim the district a military area immediately – Press Censor, Ireland”. The British Government offered a reward of £1,000 and wanted posters containing photographs of Dan Breen were posted outside every police barracks in the country (Click here to see the RUC Museum’s copy of the wanted poster – external link). Descriptions of Breen, Hogan, Robbinson and Treacy were given in the RIC’s “Hue and Cry”.

Hogan was eventually arrested in May 1919 and sent to Cork jail to await trial. On 13 May 1919, while Hogan was being escorted from Thurles RIC Barracks to the Cork city’s jail by four armed policemen, a group of Hogan’s comrades boarded the train at Knocklong Railway Station and attacked the police escort. Hogan was freed but Sergeant Peter Wallace and Constable Michael Enright of the Royal Irish Constabulary were shot dead and Breen and Treacy were seriously wounded.

Breen and Treacy recovered from their wounds but Séan Treacy was later shot dead on 15 October 1920, in a gun fight in Talbot Street, Dublin. Dan Breen survived both the Anglo-Irish War and Irish Civil War and became a TD (member of the Irish Parliament – Dáil Éireann) for North Tipperary.


  • The Cork Examiner, Wednesday, January 22, 1919.
  • My fight for Irish Freedom – Dan Breen 1928, © 1981 Anvil Books Dublin.
  • The Black and Tans – Richard Bennett, © 1959, E Hulton & Co. Ltd., London.
  • The Green Flag – A history of Irish Nationalism – Robert Kee © 1972, Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London.
  • The Memoirs of Constable Jeremiah Mee, RIC – J. Anthony Gaughan © 1975, Anvil Books, Dublin.


History .. Ireland 1848 to 1922 > The Black and Tans

Royal Irish Constabulary

The Black and Tans as a subject still arouses controversy in Ireland. The Black and Tans were mostly former soldiers brought into Ireland by the government in London after 1918 to assist the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) in their work.

For a number of years, the RIC had been a target for the IRB and then the IRA. RIC barracks were frequently attacked and members of the RIC were murdered. Therefore, recruitment to the RIC started to be hit and the RIC found it difficult to carry out its duties effectively, especially in the remote rural areas of southern Ireland. Never knowing if you were going to be the next target did a great deal to undermine morale in the RIC.

In 1919, the British government advertised for men who were willing to “face a rough and dangerous task”. Many former British army soldiers had come back from Western Europe and did not find a land fit for heroes. They came back to unemployment and few firms needed men whose primary skill was fighting in war. Therefore, there were plenty of ex-servicemen who were willing to reply to the government’s advert. For many the sole attraction was not political or national pride – it was simply money. The men got paid ten shillings a day. They got three months training before being sent to Ireland. The first unit arrived in Ireland in March 1920.

Once in Ireland it quickly became apparent that there were not enough uniforms for all those who had joined up. Therefore they wore a mixture of uniforms – some military, some RIC. This mixture gave them the appearance of being in khaki and dark police uniform. As a result, these men got the nickname “Black and Tans”, and it stuck. Some say that the nickname came from a pack of hunting hounds known as the ‘Black and Tans’.

The Black and Tans did not act as a supplement to the RIC. Though some men were experienced in trench warfare, they lacked the self-discipline that would have been found in the Western Front. Many Black and Tan units all but terrorised local communities. Community policing was the preserve of the RIC. For the Black and Tans, their primary task was to make Ireland “hell for the rebels to live in”. Over 8000 Black and Tans went to Ireland and while they found it difficult to cope with men who used classic guerrilla tactics against them, those who lived in areas where the Black and Tans were based, paid the price.

The attitude of the Black and Tans is best summed up by one of their divisional commanders:

RIC and Hussars at an eviction

“If a police barracks is burned or if the barracks already occupied is not suitable, then the best house in the locality is to be commandeered, the occupants thrown into the gutter. Let them die there – the more the merrier.
Should the order (“Hands Up”) not be immediately obeyed, shoot and shoot with effect. If the persons approaching (a patrol) carry their hands in their pockets, or are in any way suspicious-looking, shoot them down. You may make mistakes occasionally and innocent persons may be shot, but that cannot be helped, and you are bound to get the right parties some time. The more you shoot, the better I will like you, and I assure you no policeman will get into trouble for shooting any man.”

Lt. Col. Smyth, June 1920

The most infamous attack on the public came in November 1920. Many people had packed into Croke Park, Dublin, to watch a football match. In retaliation for the murder of fourteen undercover detectives by the IRA, the Black and Tans opened fire on the crowd, killing twelve people. In retaliation for this attack, eighteen members of the ‘Auxies’ (a separate part of the Black and Tans) were killed in Kilmichael, County Cork. The ‘Auxies’ took their revenge for this by burning down the centre of Cork and parading around after this event with burnt cork in their caps. Violence, it appeared, only led to even more violence on both sides.

The Black and Tans were not regular troops. There were many examples of them shooting indiscriminately at civilians as opposed to republican guerrillas. Creameries were also destroyed by the Black and Tans – almost as a way of economically punishing those who may have been helping the IRA. Those experienced in trench warfare fighting a seen enemy, were of little use in Ireland. The Black and Tans were so poorly disciplined and trained for Ireland that their casualty rate was far higher than could have been imagined when the government first advertised for them. The government in Westminster quickly realised that they were a liability as even public opinion in mainland Britainwas appalled by a lot of what they did.

Badge from the tack used by the mounted divisi...

What did the Black and Tans achieve? They served no purpose for the British government as they simply failed to stop what the IRA was doing. However, they did succeed in getting the republican cause a great deal of civilian support simply because of their acts – people may not have joined the IRA, but they were supporters of it and gave what financial help they could to the movement. The Black and Tans were pulled out of Ireland in ignominy.


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