Monday 31 July 2017

Shannon's Cross Remembers

Western People from 9th July 1980
At one end of our lane lies the village of Lisacul. At the other is a crossroads which everyone local knows as "Shannon's Cross" (or Shannon Cross(ing)). It is just your basic junction, where the road from Lough Glynn to Ballaghaderreen meets our lane and a road off to the village of Moyne so it is very useful to us but very much anonymous.

Police car shot up at the scene.
You will find no sign saying Shannon Cross, or any road-signs pointing to it. The only map I have ever seen it on is the hand-painted "interpretive" map in the Garden of Remembrance in Lisacul. As far as we know it is named for the fact that the Shannon family owned the farm here and is nothing to do with the mighty River Shannon half an hour's drive away.

5 and a half tonne of Kilkenny rock. It is a very
fine Memorial Stone. 
This quiet cross roads was violently thrust into the spotlight of the national news here on the 8th July 1980 when some bank robbers trying to escape Ballaghaderren, where they had just held up a bank, rammed their car into a Garda (Police) car racing from Castlerea to try to intercept them and in the ensuing gun fight (Armelite rifles and pistols) two Officers were tragically shot and killed.

It is not my place to re-tell the story so I will provide a summary from the Internet. Wikipedia covers it well with... "Henry Byrne and John Morley, two officers of the Garda Síochána, the police force of Ireland, were murdered on 7 July 1980 by alleged members of the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) during a pursuit in the aftermath of a bank robbery near Loughglynn, County Roscommon. 

Flags for Roscommon, Sligo and Mayo plus
the Irish Tri-colour and the flag of the Garda
The officers' deaths provoked national outrage. Three men were apprehended, convicted and sentenced to death for capital murder. Two of the sentences were later reduced to 40 years imprisonment while the third was overturned....and...

Police Brass Band doing the honours
"On 7 July 1980 three armed and masked men raided the Bank of Ireland in Ballaghaderreen, County Roscommon. The group held staff and customers at gunpoint before leaving with IR£35,000. Gardaí (Irish) police arrived on the scene but were unarmed and were unable to stop the armed men from escaping in a blue Ford Cortina.[1] The perpetrators were intercepted by a Garda patrol car from Castlerea station with four Gardaí, including Detective John Morley, who was armed with an Uzi submachine gun. The two cars collided at Shannon's Cross, Aghaderry, Loughglinn. One of the raiders jumped out of the Cortina and sprayed the patrol car with bullets, killing Garda Henry Byrne.

A good crowd for the unveiling.
One man left the Cortina and ran off while his two accomplices – wearing balaclavas – ran in the opposite direction. There was an exchange of shots in which Morley is believed to have wounded one of the men, but he himself was fatally wounded. Both of these men were later apprehended, while a third man - Peter Pringle- was arrested in the city of Galway almost two weeks later. The two other Gardaí - Sergeant Mick O'Malley and Garda Derek O'Kelly - survived the shootout".

The old original plaque on the wall of Castlerea Garda Station. 
There has been a Memorial plaque on the wall of the Castlerea Garda Station since the event, but the local people have now had erected a superb Memorial Stone on the crossroads and this was unveiled in a beautiful moving ceremony last week. There was a huge crowd, flags flying, politicians (4 from the 'lower' house, 2 including our friend Senator Frank Feighan from the upper) some giving speeches, a large group of Police including local 'top brass' and members of the Guards' families. 

A Memorial oak tree was planted by/for each
of the families at the Ceremony. 
Apart from the cross roads being a local junction, this blog can claim a couple of connections to the events of 1980 and to the Ceremony last week. First 'Civilian' on the scene after the shootings was none other than the Father and Son team who used to own and live at this house. Referred to in previous posts as the 'TK's they were father and brother to Friend of the Blog, 'Vendor Anna'. Dad was 70 at the time according to our old copy of Western People newspaper, son would have been (I think) 28. 

Manu (left) and Pedro (right)
They'd been shopping in Castlerea and were on their way home. Dad was a retired Guard. The paper tells that the killers "brandished guns at both and (Dad) struggled with one of them and knocked the gun from one before being overpowered". The killers then un-hitched Dad's trailer and hi-jacked his red VW Beetle to flee the scene. Dramatic stuff and very brave for an un-armed 70 year old retired 'cop' facing a man with an Armelite who had possibly already killed 2 Guards. More recently it has been some of Liz's work colleagues doing all the lovely stonework  for the Memorial, me taking a few pictures and Liz doing the Village website, Facebook and Twitter feeds advertising the event. It has been a lovely thing all together and the whole area has done the Guards and the families proud. The Memorial stone will be there for years to come. 

Manu in the 'gear'
In other news, we are continuing to enjoy and be impressed by our two Help-X lads, Manu and Pedro. They are working very hard and getting lots of good tidying, mowing, clearing and trimming done. We work solidly from 9 in the morning thru to 1 pm. They have settled in well and (regular readers will know we love this) are telling us that they feel very relaxed and at home. They are loving all the food and sleeping like logs. 

Tidying up the orchard. 
They are promising to cook for us (something Spanish) on Wednesday and Manu turns out to have an ability with the wood carving (totem poles etc!) so we have supplied him with a big tree-trunk and a set of chisels.  He will carve us "something to remember (them) by", he says. They have fallen in love with the pigs and now throw most of the cuttings/prunings in to the pigs rather than on the compost heap, so that they can say 'Hello' to the pigs and tickle them round the ears. The pigs are impressed too. More on these guys as their stay progresses.

Pedro's new 'best mate'? Pride.
2  minor dramas in the livestock section. One of the turkeys misjudges a leap from the 'patio' chair and gets his leg caught, leaving him half-hanging, chest on the ground but leg stranded 12 inches above him. I do not realise his distress for about an hour by which time his leg has gone numb. He is in the sick-bay now because his 'Brother' believes in kicking a man when he is down and was treading on him. Nice. He looks like he is getting the use back of his leg so we hope he will be better by morning. 

4 'minders' for the gosling. 
One of Beeb's 7 chicks, now 3 weeks old and quite well feathered, managed to get separated from the family by straying into the goose pen and incurring the wrath of Gorgeous George, the gander. The chick fled out the back of the pen and thus out of line of sight and sound of Mum. We tried to find her and re-unite them all but lost her in the long vegetation. We needn't have worried. She came back into the yard flying over a 3 foot wall, whirring wings like a pro! She landed close to Mum and scampered the rest of the way to a happy re-union. No mean flyer that baby. 

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