In the second week of September (1920) Seamus Murphy, who was officer in command of the Galway I.R.A., came to me at The Retreat and told me that the I.R.A. expected that I would be the first to be attacked - which I was - in Galway. He came to see me over the house with a view to excavating a tunnel from the house, in order to make an exit for me in case the house was attacked. The tunnel was never made, because the arrival of the Auxiliaries in town prevented any such action by the I.R.A. ...
They then proceeded to wreck my place, but did not do much damage, as they only threw one or two Mills bombs into the place and fired the usual rounds of shot. They then went to my house, The Retreat, to "interview me at two o'clock in the morning. Fortunately for me, they mistook the entrance gate of a man named Dodds, who was in the Land Commission, for mine, when they discovered their mistake and as they were, I am informed, in an advanced state of intoxication, they contented themselves with firing at the house. I thought then of Seamus Murphy's tunnel which had not been made....
After the shooting of the Black and Tan at the station I saw a Scottish soldier going over to a horrible-looking Auxiliary who was outside a shop in Williamsgate Street. The Auxiliary had two revolvers in his crossed hands, after going through a corner house and shooting people in the shop. After firing the shots he had walked 30 or 4O yards up the street and stood with his back to the wall with a revolver in each hand. The Scottish soldier went over to him, put his hand over the Auxiliary's two hands and hit him on the jaw. He hit him again and the Auxiliary crumpled down. The Scottish soldier then went down Francis St. to the police barracks, took off his tunic and asked any of the men there to come out and he would fight them. He said that his mother would be ashamed of him if she saw him in the company he was in in Galway. As a result of this act, the Scottish Regiment was removed from Galway two days later.
The following Saturday, Major Evans of the Auxiliaries arrived at my house at about 3 o'clock and gave my wife notice that the house was commandeered. I did not get information of this fact until 4.30, as I was two miles away in Galway city. The house was to be commandeered from 2 p.m. on Monday, but it was taken over at 9 o'clock on Monday morning. The news that my house was to be commandeered gave me a great shocks because it had seventeen rooms, fully furnished. Curfew was on, and it would not be easy to get everything out. When I arrived home at 5 o'clock on Saturday, I went into my dining room to find two strange men dismantling the place. One was Major O'Sullivan of the British army, retired, and the other was his brother-in-law, Mr. Donovan, an Indian civil servant. Major O'Sullivan was standing on a chair which was on a table, in order to reach the ceiling. He had the lights out arid was pulling out the wires. I said to him: "Don't bother, leave the wires in", but he answered: "No, I wouldn't even leave them the wires". He was helping us to clear the house. About a week later, Donovan refused to meet the Secretary of State for India. He said: "I would not serve for the British Government in India". On the following Monday morning at 9 o'clock the Auxiliaries arrived. All day Sunday, except while I was at Mass, I spent my time packing china and glass. I got willing helpers from the locality for packing other goods.
The Retreat had two well-built steel-framed hot-houses for growing tomatoes and grapes. When leaving the house we pulled all the tomatoes, putting the small ones aside in a basket, and somebody left the basket inside the hall door. As the babies were young, somebody in England had sent me a feeding-plate with the words: "God bless the king and queen" on it. I left that plate on the kitchen table and hit it a blow of a hammer in the centre for the Auxiliaries to see. The first man to visit me to condole with me over the loss of my house was Father Griffin.
Fifty Auxiliaries arrived at my house at 9 o'clock with their equipment, which included machine guns. During the day some of the Auxiliaries left and went into Galway, and I had vans taking away my furniture and effects. Towards 12 or 1 o'clock some of the Auxiliaries produced a large roast of beef and started to cut it with a bayonet or a sword. I felt sorry for them having to eat the dry beef which had been cooked a day or two before and I said to one of them: "There is a basket of small tomatoes behind the door and they will help you with the beef".
By 2 o'clock all the Auxiliaries, except four, had left the house leaving their equipment behind them. At 2 o'clock they took all the furniture which I had not yet removed; this included the furniture of my study, some kitchen furniture and mattresses. This furniture I never got paid for, but afterwards the British Government, from Whitehall, offered me £2 for the furniture, which represented one broken chair which was left behind. They informed me that they were not responsible and that I would have to sue the Auxiliaries for the loss of the furniture.
At 2 o'clock I sent a message by a motor driver named Hayden, a brother of Mrs. O'Shea, who was a good worker in our cause. The message was to Seamus Murphy, commandant of the Volunteers in Galway, asking him to send out six armed men with motors, and that I would guarantee to seize all the equipment beloning to the fifty Auxiliaries because there were only four of them left in the house. I nervously awaited the arrival of the motor trucks, but none arrived. I sent another message with Colman McDonagh, who had his horse-lorries taking furniture from the Retreat, to Seamus Murphy, telling him that if he sent four armed men to me we would be a match for the four Auxiliaries left, but nothing happened. The four Auxiliaries who had been left in my house had decided that everything was all right. I saw one of them seizing a mattress and going off with it on his back to take a room for himself. He at least would have a mattress and would not sleep on the ground. He was in one room and the others were doing likewise in other rooms, so that we would not have any difficulty in seizing the equipment.
Note: I cannot find anything to substantiate Burke being in gaol in Dundee for murder. I do not know who Major O'Sullivan was, as he was not ADRIC
When the Auxiliaries arrived at The Retreat I met their leader, Jock Burke. Jock Burke had been released from prison in Dundee, where he had been incarcerated pending his trial for murder. By a peculiar coincidence, I happened to be in the city of Dundee in 1923 when the Corporation of Dundee called for their Chief Constable to give an explanation of why Jock Burke had been released. The Chief Constable stated he was released on orders from London. When Jock Burke arrived to take over The Retreat, he told me he had been elected commanding officer, that the Auxiliaries were not any part of the R.I.C., that they elected their own officers and were responsible to nobody. He accused me of taking part in the Sinn Féin Courts and of being an I.R.A. man. I told him that we had Courts in Ireland before the British Empire was ever heard of and that we would have Courts in Ireland long after the British Empire would be forgotten. We were standing on the stairs during this conversation, and he was one step higher than I was. He drew his gun immediately I had spoken, but, fortunately for me, Major O'Sullivan, who was standing on the step I was on, jumped between us. Jock Burke also told me that the Auxiliaries were here to break Sinn Féin, and that they would do it within six weeks or leave Galway a wilderness.
They were recruited "for murder and loot, and the loot was their own" and to lay the country waste while the autumn recess of Parliament was on. The Auxiliaries told me that on the following day they would give me a receipt for the portion of the furniture which they held. Accordingly, on the following day, I called at The Retreat and asked for an inventory of the furniture which they had kept; they told me they would shoot me if I did not clear out. When I arrived at my house I found an old lady from Spiddal who called once a week to sell us lobsters. The old lady told me that she had arrived some time earlier in the day with eighteen lobsters which the Auxiliaries kept and would not pay for. She was still waiting for her money and asked me if I could do anything to help her get it. The following day I received a registered letter at my premises in Galway, telling me that I would be held responsible with my life if anything happened to the British or their friends. Three others got the same notice; they were Father O'Meehan, Michael Walsh and Louis O'Dea. A copy of this notice was posted on a pilaster in my premises in Galway, as I had neither a door nor a window since the bombing of a few days previously. Next day I saw Seamus Murphy and asked him why he did not send the men to me when I asked for them and he informed me that he had resigned from the command of the I.R.A. in Galway one month earlier. I then said to him: "Why did you not get your successor to do it"?, but he told me that his successor had not yet been appointed. I said: "We are beaten"
D Coy ADRIC