A LETTER TO POSTERITY
by Mike McCormack, AOH NY Historian
Patrick Moylett was a businessman who had opened a grocery and provisions business in Ballina, Mayo and established other branches in Galway. He also acted as a justice of the Dáil Courts under the auspices of Dáil Eireann. He was told to leave the area after death threats and the burning down of his stores in Ballina. On 30 April 1921, the Sunday Times published a letter he had sent to the authorities regarding reprisals by the newly recruited British Black and Tans & Auxiliaries. These are excerpts from that letter:
I am not a member of the IRA or any such seditious organization. I am secretary of Galway development Association, the Sinn Fein Club and, up to August 1920, a member of Galway arbitration court. On or about August 18, 1920 I met an ex-inspector of the RIC on O’Connell Street, Dublin. He told me that he had resigned from the force some weeks previously and stated that all good policemen would have to resign as “the authorities were recruiting a force in London for murder and looting, and that the loot would be their own’ and that in 5 or 6 weeks from then ‘there would be queer work going on in the country’.” On my return to Galway I told some friends of this conversation, but at the time neither my friends nor myself took much notice of it. On the night of September 18, my business premises in Williamsgate St., Galway were bombed and shot up and considerable damage was done. The following day, the Auxiliaries commandeered my private residence known as ‘The Retreat’ in Salthill, giving me 48 hours to vacate the premises. The Retreat contained 12 rooms all fully furnished. As Sunday came, a curfew was in force from 9 PM to 8 AM, I had only about eight working hours to clear out, with the result that my furniture etc. was badly damaged from hasty handling and some of it I had to leave behind from want of time to remove it. The officer in charge of the Auxiliaries informed me that I would get paid for these by the British government and he requested me to make an inventory in duplicate and he would sign it or get it signed for me. This I did the following day, but when I presented it for signing, he did neither sign it nor get it signed. Now I can neither get the officer nor the furniture etc. nor compensation, although I have written to the authorities several times for same.
When the auxiliaries arrived to take possession of ‘The Retreat’ their section leader told me by way of introduction that they were the auxiliary police sometimes called ‘Tudor’s Toughs’ or ‘Tudors Assassins’ and ‘Black and Tans’ but they did not like that name. That they were really officers and gentlemen, that they were all equal as regards rank and authority, that they elected their own officers, that they were subject to no law or authority and that if any of their men were injured they would murder all before them. And that they would break Sinn Fein in 10 weeks or leave Galway a wilderness and England never failed. From subsequent experience I believe he was honest about leaving Galway a wilderness. Events proved him right, with the exception of the miscalculation to break Sinn Fein, Galway is pretty well on the way to being a wilderness. From September 18 when curfew was imposed to October 2, the date I left Galway, I witnessed various Crown forces in action. Every night there were at least two shops or private houses bombed and/or looted. In my humble opinion, curfew was adopted as a means of blindfolding the Irish people so that Crown forces could wreak their vengeance on them undetected and on the following morning, an ‘innocent’ member of the Crown forces would call on the victim, if alive, or if not, his relatives to see what happened and, like the Jews at the crucifixion, to ask the victim ‘who smote him’ when they well knew that the victim had been blinded by curfew.
The night of September 30, during curfew my premise in Williamsgate St. were wrecked by bombs, my safe blown open by a high explosion and £173 in notes and silver taken, along with goods valued at £1,634 and private belongings valued at £364 pounds. I might mention that my premises are not more than 80 yards from the police barracks in which there are over 100 police and I was told by neighbors that the looting of my premises went on all night and was preceded by many bomb explosions. The morning after, as usual, two RIC district inspectors called to see the wreckage. The County inspector gave me neither help nor satisfaction. Instead he cross examined me as to why I did not attend the funerals of the two policemen killed locally and why I attended the funerals of two Sinn Feiners, also killed locally. He cautioned me about using the looting of my premises for propaganda purposes and I have never done so. On Sunday night October 1, during curfew, a notice was handed to me by a man in Crown uniform warning me not to make a claim under the malicious injuries act and told me to leave Galway by the first train. I left, but made the claim before I left. A few nights before my premises were wrecked, one of my employees was searched by an Auxiliary officer and when he found that this man worked for me he gave him notice to look for a new job as I would not be long in Galway.
In January 1921, my brothers who are my partners in business at our premises in Ballina, Co Mayo with four other prominent citizens, were forced by Auxiliaries to march through the streets of Ballina carrying union jacks and burn the Sinn Fein flag. They were also forced to kneel in the gutter and kiss the Union Jack. What an insult to the British flag. On Saturday night April 16, 1921, our two premises were bombed and wrecked and nine plate glass windows, with all the internal fittings of the shop, utensils, and machinery, totally destroyed. At the time of the bombing my brother with his wife and 10 children were sleeping in one of the houses. I can’t give full details of all the destruction but I am reliably informed that 16 shops were wrecked in Ballina that night under the protection of curfew. There seems to be a watertight censorship in force in Ballina since that date, so that the entire world does not know what has happened there.
I hope the police or military authorities won’t consider this letter propaganda because I don’t intend it to be such. I simply want to know where I stand as the income tax man is bothering me for tax which he won’t get. I have referred him to the British government. I am not on the run or evading arrest but still I don’t want the Crown forces to shoot me or arrest me for writing this letter which I hope will in a little way help posterity and others to arrive at a true estimate of the Crown forces in Ireland in 1920 – 21
Signed Patrick Moylett.
In keeping with Patrick’s wish to let posterity know a bit of what the Tans and Auxies were at 100 years ago in Ireland, we share this letter. Despite his anger at the Brits, Patrick was a true Republican and was sent by Dáil Eireann’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Arthur Griffith, to London to investigate the possibility of opening dialogue for a peaceful settlement of the War. His friend, John Steele, the London editor of the Chicago Tribune, helped him contact high-level members of the British Foreign Office and Moylett organized a meeting to discuss the end of hostilities between both parties. As a result, a cease fire would be arranged in June and deValera would be invited to London in July – thanks to Patrick Moylett. Though his is a name that history has largely forgotten, he deserves recognition for his dedication to his country’s independence despite the tragic treatment he received, which would have broken lesser men.