Wednesday 4 August 2021

Book launch: The Black & Tans, 1920-1921, by Jim Herlihy

Jim Herlihy, a retired member of the Garda Síochána, a co-founder of the Garda Síochána Historical Society, author and well-known authority on policing in Ireland, has produced another excellent reference book, this time detailing the nearly 11,000 ex-military men who formed the now infamous Black and Tans.

The three wings of this new force were formed as a temporary top up to the much-depleted Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC), which had suffered huge numbers of resignations from its mainly Irish-born officers during a decade of insurgency in Ireland. Starting in January 1920, a recruitment drive began outside the island with ex-military experience riding high in the person spec.

The first group was called the RIC Special Reserve and, by July the following year, had recruited some 7,684 men. A second and separate group of 2,189 'temporary constables, followed and was attached to the motorised division of the RIC. A third group, known as the Veterans and Drivers Division, was also recruited and consisted of 1,069 recruits.

In total, 882 Irish-born men were among the recruits.

The Black & Tans, 1920-1921 – A complete alphabetical list, short history and genealogical guide is a 446-page book that delivers exactly what the title promises. The short history section, 17 pages of illustrations, and a chapter on tracing and identifying Black and Tan ancestors, make up just over 10% of the pagination, leaving 47 Appendices to spread across the remaining 390 pages. The most important are the listings of personnel recruited into each of the three distinct groups of recruits. These are in a small type size that was just on the edge of comfortable for me (I don't read glasses for reading), but since the majority of readers will be scanning these lists rather than reading every word, I don't think many will consider this a major negative.

Each individual member is listed alphabetically, with RIC registered number, birth year, native country and county, religion, the recruiting office where they enlisted, whether they had served as a soldier or as a sailor, previous occupation and whether they resigned (with the given excuses), were discharged or dismissed, pensioned or disbanded, or killed or died in the service.

Recruits born in Ireland have two entries, one in the full alphabetical listing of recruits to each group, and a second in a list of Irish-born recruits for the same group.

Published by Four Courts Press in May this year, the book is now available in both paperback and hardback from bookshops and online booksellers. ISBN: 978-1-84682-987-1.


- For quiz masters: The top five counties cited as birthplaces by Irish recruits to the three groups were: Dublin (129); Antrim (83); Galway (73); Cork (55); and Tipperary (43).