The following is excerpted from "Echoes of Their Footsteps Volume I" by Kathleen Hegarty Thorne. Researched by Patrick Flanagan. The book offers a play-by-play account of the key players and moments in the Irish Civil War, with Volume I centering on the formative years between 1913 and 1922.
The mighty men of Britain’s imperial designs on Ireland couldn’t squash the ardent desire for freedom of these Irish peasant boys. Indicative of the kind of man-handling meted out to Volunteers by the Crown Forces, Tom Hales, O/C 3rd West Cork Brigade, and Pat Harte, Quartermaster, were arrested on 27 July 1920 at the farmhouse of Frank Hurley at Lauragh, Bandon. They were strip-searched and taken to Bandon Military Barracks, where they came face to face with angry RIC men who had just lost a comrade. (Detective Sergeant William Mulherin had been gunned down two days previous on the chapel porch of St. Patrick’s Church in Bandon) (Police Casualties in Ireland 1919−1922 by Richard Abbott, pp. 105−106).
“Hales is declared in the statement (to the court) to have been bound with straps and gagged, to have been hit repeatedly in the face by officers, and to have had a sort of thumb-screw torture applied by means of pliers” (“Some Admissions,” Freemans Journal, 23 October 1920, p. 5). Did this behaviour result in compliant Irish rebels? Impervious to Britannia’s brutality, the spirit of the fighting men would not bend to English will. Pat Harte, whose nose had been crushed by a rifle butt, was beaten and nearly toothless after his encounter with the Crown Forces. He was ultimately sent to a mental institution, where he died a few years later. Tom Hales was shipped to Pentonville Prison, where he had difficulty speaking “as his tongue catches in the broken teeth” (The I.R.A. & Its Enemies by Peter Hart, p. 196). He was released after the Treaty, took the Anti-Treaty side, and went on to become a renowned IRA commander who was present at Beal na Blath, the ambush site of Michael Collins in August 1922.
Tom Hales was later elected to Dail Eireann as a Fianna Fail Teachta Dala (TD) for the Cork West constituency at the 1933 general election. He also unsuccessfully contested the 1944 general election as an independent candidate and the 1948 general election as a candidate for Clann na Poblachta. Hales died eighteen years later in 1966 at the age of 74. The bitter memories of torture, the sadness experienced by his own brother’s killing, and the sacrifice made by so many of Ireland’s young men of 1920 weighed heavily on him and his generation of patriots who could not yet see the dawning of an all-Ireland Republic they had fought so hard to attain.
This article was submitted to the IrishCentral contributors network by a member of the global Irish community. To become an IrishCentral contributor click here.