To Put Down a Marker


 was an officer in the Royal Irish Constabulary, a proud Tipperary man and an international rugby player (he played the Irish rugby team which met Wales in 1881; the Welsh won their first ever international match that day, 2 Goals and 4 Tries to Nil! But less than sixty years after this event McCarthy was buried in an unmarked, pauper’s grave in Deansgrange Cemetary, Dublin.

Thmas St. George McCarthy's gravestone, after 70 years.

Thmas St. George McCarthy’s gravestone, after 70 years.

Why is this person’s story important? Well, despite several articles to the contrary in recent years, few realise that DI McCarthy was actually a founding member of the Gaelic Athletic Association. On the 1st of November, 1884, McCarthy, Michael Cusack, Maurice Davin, John Wyse Power, John McKay, Joseph Bracken and Joseph O’Ryan assembled in Hayes’ Hotel, Thurles, Co. Tipperary. McCarthy was at the time a serving officer in the RIC, based in Templemore and was known to Cusack through their mutual involvement in sporting circles in Dublin.

An RIC sports team pictured at  Oughterard, Co. Galway, c.1920:  picture from PaulOFarrell,

An RIC sports team pictured at Oughterard, Co. Galway, c.1920:
picture from PaulOFarrell,

McCarthy did not continue on with the nascent organisation; it is possible that he attended another meeting, but that is speculative. The reasons for this Irishman’s omission from the annals of history are also speculative. Well let’s call them speculative; it is pretty common, if unspoken, knowledge as to why this happened. The GAA and by extension, Irish cultural memory, have a unique gift of filtering. Banished are those inconvenient little details which obscure a good story, or which make our heroes and their heroic deeds seem less heroic. The fact that St. Patrick was actually Welsh and was kidnapped by the Irish is rarely brought to bear on March 17th. Michael Collins was probably rather stupid/arrogant to travel the way he did to West Cork. Dustin the Turkey (ask someone Irish!) isn’t funny and one of Bosco’s crew was a gay man; not a fact that’s really highlighted for some strange reason.

The RIC are viewed by mainstream Irish society (in the rearview mirror) as British spies, informers and enforcers. And to a certain extent they were; they took the King’s/Queen’s shilling, reported the happenings in the locality and when push came to shove they had to stand with the wishes of the Castle, their paymaster. But so does any policeman; the Gardaí are currently coming under a not inconsiderable (and not wholly undeserved) amount of flak over their handling of water protests, which the Government directs to them. But the common Irishman and woman generally fails to look beyond the veil and examine life in the RIC before the advent of “popular” republicanism. The constabulary was a safe, pensionable job for sons who were not going to get the farm or unlikely to apprentice. So when Thomas McCarthy entered the RIC, it was unlikely that he was thinking about anything further than the ability to earn a living, serve his community and perhaps play some sport along the way.

The McCarthy Cup

The McCarthy Cup

In recent years there has been a gradual warming of opinion toward the RIC; there is even talk of a commemorative ceremony being held in Dublin to mark the service of thousands of Irishmen in the first national police force. In the case of Thomas St. George McCarthy, although it came almost 70 years late, there is now a gravestone marking his final resting place. The GAA have also honoured this great man by naming the cup awarded to the winners of the annual Garda-PSNI football match after him; judging by his great love for sport, one can be certain that DI McCarthy would have approved.


About eamonntgardiner

Dr. Eamonn T. Gardiner, is a Consulting Historian. He has previously conducted research into links between wartime traumatic-neurosis and evidence of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) amongst veterans of the First World War serving as Auxiliary Policemen, during the Anglo-Irish War 1919-1921. He has written extensively on British central and colonial administrative responses to popular insurgencies. In 2009 he published 'Counterinsurgency and Conflict: Dublin Castle and the Anglo-Irish War (CSP, 2009).' Published papers include; 'The training of the Irish Volunteers, 1913-1916' (The Irish Sword, 2017); 'Scattered, Ambushed and Laid Out: War and Counterinsurgency in the greater Tuam area, 1919-1921' (JOTS, 2015). Research interests include De-Colonialisation/Post-Colonialism; Insurgency, Police/Military Histories; Institutional Histories; Modern Irish/World History; History of Conflict, Protectorates and Peace-Keeping; Hegemony; Old and New Terrorism.
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