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Memoirs Of George Lennon - 17. 19th March 1921 Aftermath (Part 6)
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Related Article: The Ambush At The Burgery By Edmond Keohan
I and Thou
A Play In One Act [The Burgery Ambush 18th – 19th March 1921]
A Partisan Officer [George Lennon]
A Constabulary Sergeant [R.I.C. Officer Hickey, seized at Green’s pub at the Burgery]
A Priest [Fr. Power?]
A Firing Squad
A grey cold morning in Holy Week
The night action has been indecisive on all sides. Both the partisans and the enemy soldiers have got mixed up in the night’s darkness and have scattered in all directions.
The partisan officer is walking back and forth outside the priest’s house - the agreed re-assembly point. His patience has almost given out when a squad of his men come tiredly up the country road: They surround a prisoner. He restrains his curiosity until they come up.
Subordinate Officer: We ran a bunch of them to ground, we hunted them down and they surrendered. We released the regular soldiers but we had to take him (he inclines his head towards the prisoner, a constabulary sergeant.)
Partisan Officer: (he exchanges a glance of recognition with the police sergeant) Ah, it is him.
Subordinate Officer: He is very windy. He knows he is for it.
Partisan Officer (doubtfully): It would be hard for us to release him?
Subordinate Officer (heatedly): Release him. Of course not, it would be the end of us all and our homes.
The police sergeant [Constable Hickey] is a powerfully built man but he seems to have shrunk into his bottle-green uniform. He looks by no means ill natured but his face now as a sallow, yellow tinge and his lips are white. He has the look of the deepest sadness, if not despair.
Partisan Officer: Call the priest.
One of the men knocks loudly on the door of the priest’s house. The priest opens the door with a frightened look and goes back to dress. They all wait in silence. A cold morning mist seeps around and drips from the bare hawthorn branches. The priest comes out into the forbidding morning wearing a stole and carrying a prayer book.
Partisan Officer: Father, get this man a full glass of whiskey and then hear his confession.
The pale young priest reenters his house and returns after a moment with a tumbler full of whiskey. One of the partisans takes the glass from him and partisans takes it up to the prisoner.
Partisan (not unkindly): Drink this.
The police sergeant takes the glass unsteadily and gets the liquid down in a number or gulps. Then the priest takes him gently by the arm and leads him to his doorstep where they both sit down. The priest places his hand affectionately on the sergeant’s arm and hears his confession.
When they have finished the others wait uneasily for the moments are pregnant. The officer makes a signal and the priest takes the prisoners arm to assist him up. As they pass the officer the prisoner looks appealingly at him but the officer averts his eyes. They all force themselves into motion. The clergyman is holding the prisoner’s arm and he is speaking words of consolation into his ear. They walk back the boreen with the partisan officer bringing up the rear. He is very disturbed but he conceals his unhappiness.
A sharp turn in the by-road. A gateway leading into a field. The partisan officer goes ahead, opens the rusty gate and the all file in. The officer leads the prisoner out in the field and affixes a label on front of his tunic. Written on the label are the words ‘Police Spy’. Then the partisan leader whips a handkerchief from his pocket. The file of men slam the bolts of their rifles with an uneven clatter. The partisan officer moves close to the sergeant with the bandage in his hand -
Police Sergeant (pleadingly): George, I knew you as a child, you used to play with the head constables children in the barracks.
Partisan Officer (almost inaudibly): yes
Police Sergeant (intimately): You are the one person in the world that can save me.
Partisan Officer (pity is choking him): I would give anything... anything in the world to save you...but I cannot -
They are alone, quite alone, and helpless. In that instant the policeman their awful situation. A glance of understanding and deep affection passes between them. The sergeant squares is shoulders and stands straight to attention. The officer quickly ties the bandage over the mans eyes, steps back, drops his arm and calls “fire”.
The morning silence of the glen is shattered.
The dead man sways on his feet an instant, slowly inclines and falls rigidly on his left side, his head amongst the ferns. The officer draws his Luger, bends down and fires into the man’s temple. The priest clasps his hands before his face and runs back towards his house, his shoulders shaken with sobs.
The partisan officer looks down at the erstwhile enemy who is now an enemy no more. His turmoil is calmed. He makes a sign to his men and they go quickly off.
The police sergeant lies peacefully amongst the withered ferns.
It was not really a mistake to go back as we badly needed what munitions that might have been left behind by the military when they fled. It was a grave mistake not to have reconnoitered the place in the first instance and the fatal mistake could only have been mine. We walked straight into an ambuscade.
I must confess that I did not conduct myself with any great show of bravery. Stackpoole behaved with amazing coolness and courage. He took over.
The remainder of us retreated sadly across the grey fields. I seemed unable to face the fact that Pat was dead [Pat Keating buried at Kilrossanty Republican plot]. I was weary, unspeakably unhappy and quite dispirited and had fallen a long way behind. The staff captain came back and slipped his arm into mine. “Come along” said he, “there is something you must do for me.
Soon afterwards Stackpoole left us to return to G.H.Q. with his report. As he was fixing his bicycle clips he said coldly that he was recommending that I take responsibility for all activities in the county. As we were still a bit stiff with each other we did not offer to shake hands. He rode away and soon disappeared around a bend in the road.
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