The Early Years:

Patrick Campbell

Interviewed on 12th October 1977



Patrick Campbell was born in Aughrim in County Galway on 26th January 1902. He joined An Garda Síochána on the 25th March 1922 and served in the force until the May 1956. He passed away in December 1979, just two years after he was recorded. Patrick was one of the earliest members of An Garda Síocána (registered number 480). In October 1922, Patrick, then twenty years of age, was sent with five colleagues to County Leitrim, to take up a post as the first Gardaí in the area.  In the fascinating piece of audio below, he recounts the journey, as he was part of a new police force, unsure of the welcome that awaited them.  

A LEGACY RECORDING: This recording was originally undertaken on 11th October 1977. The tape was presented to our Project, by Detective Garda Joe Cullinane, widower of Anne Cullinane, who was the daughter of Patrick Campbell. The interview was undertaken by Sergeant Gregory Allen, a one-time curator of the Garda Museum, and author of The Garda Síochána: Policing Independent Ireland from 1922 to 1982. The tape has now been digitized and integrated into our Archive. John O’Brien, a member of the Centenary Working Group undertook significant work in providing context and detail on the interview, which have been digitally embedded within the full recording.

INTERVIEWER (Gregory Allen): But where did you go to anyway?

PATRICK CAMPBELL: I went down to Carrigallen in the county of Leitrim.

INTERVIEWER: That was your contingent? And where did you — where was your local dispersion point?

MR. CAMPBELL: Killeshandra … No we were notified. There was a Sergeant and six men. Detailed for transfer to Carrigallen. On the 9th or 10th October.

INTERVIEWER: In other words, you knew your station before you left.

MR. CAMPBELL: Oh, we did. We were going right to it … But, eh, we — we were getting ready and all for it, do you see, and the next thing we heard was that the railway line was blown up. And we had to go down — and eventually it was the 13th October. Got going down. On the train. We arrived in Killeshandra.

INTERVIEWER: Yes. Now, look, at this stage, Pat, did you go down — you were dressed in uniform?

MR. CAMPBELL: Oh, we had our uniform.

INTERVIEWER: Had you bicycles?


INTERVIEWER: But you had suitcases?

MR. CAMPBELL: Oh, indeed we had.

INTERVIEWER: Now, did you have any equipment like station equipment or furniture?

MR. CAMPBELL: Oh, we had. We had the forms, and the iron trestle tables. And they were all loaded on to the…(INTERJECTION). They were loaded – we had — when we arrived in Killashandra there was not even a dog on the platform to see us. And we got off the train and we were looking around and … Oh, it was in the afternoon … We had to finish, we had to finish the thing — we had the finish journey by road

INTERVIEWER: Yes. But when you arrived in Killeshandra … There was you, yourself, and how many others got off?

MR. CAMPBELL: Just ourselves alone … Six of us. Altogether. And, ehm, there was property in the Guards’ van belonging to. The beds and all that. They were out in, dumped out on the footpath. Out on the platform rather.

INTERVIEWER: Who was the Sergeant?

MR. CAMPBELL: Jim Carroll, a fair man … he’d be a man of about I’d say 25 or 26.

INTERVIEWER: How old were you yourself?

MR. CAMPBELL: Oh, that was 1922. Twenty. INTERVIEWER: You were 20? And the other lads?

MR. CAMPBELL: Well, Tommy Boland was — Tommy Boland was — he was a few months younger than me. He was 20ish too … And Tommy was from Clare. Jim Carroll was from Galway. And Mick McGrath was from Tipperary. Mick was pretty well on in years. I’d say he was over the 30s. 35ish. And Jim Scully. He wasn’t young either. I’d say he would be between the 30 and 40 mark. And he was Tipperary. And there was a Littleton. Tommy Boland. Scully … Jim Littleton, Clare. Myself, Galway. Tommy Boland, Clare. Jim Carroll, Galway. Mick McGrath, Tipp. Pat Scully, Tipp. Oh, yes, Joe Hughes, Laois. We were the, we were the garsúns.

INTERVIEWER: There was nobody to meet you?

MR. CAMPBELL: In Killeshandra? Not a soul! Not a soul … Well, we went out to try to get something to shift the stuff ourselves … I think somebody — we met someone outside and they directed us to a fella that had a lorry or a truck.

INTERVIEWER: Yes. How many miles had you to travel, can you remember?

MR. CAMPBELL: I think it was roughly four or five. Four or five miles … We had to get a truck, and we got a truck and we went – Tommy Boland always remembered, but I didn’t, that it was solid tyres that was on the truck. But we got it in anyhow, and we had an awful job to get, to get everything on to it and get ourselves in in it then. And that’s the way we arrived in Carrigallen … Oh, it was in the evening. After dark … I well remember it was — it must be around 3:00 or 4:00 o’clock. Approaching darkness.

INTERVIEWER: Well, was the barracks there waiting for you?

MR. CAMPBELL: Not at all! There was no accommodation. There was no one knew we were coming. And we were, we were, we were the scapegoats there on the street of the village for a good 25 minutes, and they gathering and looking out the windows and gathering around, and finally a man came up and he shook hands with, shook hands with us, and welcomed us.

INTERVIEWER: Who was he?

MR. CAMPBELL: He was — he announced that he was the local schoolteacher. And, eh — but the Sergeant then spoke to him and he said that we were after coming down from Headquarters and that we had nowhere to go. Oh, well, he says, “you’re not going back anyhow”, he says, “that’s one thing. You’re badly needed here”. He says “I’ll get, I’ll see”, he says, he says, even to the extent, he says, “of getting the school for you”, he said. “I’ll see the local PP”. And off he went and he left us there. And be God it wasn’t long until he came back and he said he got — there was a man had a four roomed terraced house up there, pointing to the place, he says he’s willing to let it. And he says “I have arranged”, he says, “if you so — if you consider it all right”, he says, “that ye can get your meals”, he says, “in a house opposite it”. So, God, we thanked him, and it was out of the Heavens. And we went up anyhow and we looked at the place and Littleton and himself came back and said it was okay, and we steered up and started to unload our…(INTERJECTION).

INTERVIEWER: What kind of a house was it? Was it a slated roof?

MR. CAMPBELL: A slated roof and it was two-storey high. Yes. But only four rooms in it. (Laughs). No, it was — it was…(INTERJECTION). For six men. We thought when we’d get out of Ship Street that we’d get room to stretch ourselves. But be God, it was out of the frying pan and into the fire.

INTERVIEWER: Was there running water in it? Was there water on the premises?

MR. CAMPBELL: Not at all! (Laughs). Running water! There was a dry toilet away down fifty yards at the end of the yard. And there was an open hearth. Now that’ll give you an idea. An open heart hearth (fire) and a wall jutting out one side of the fire. Oil lamps and candles. Candles. Candles. Not even oil lamps.