Garda College

A brief history of the Garda College
By John Reynolds

The Victorian era
The Garda Síochána College was originally constructed as Richmond barracks in 1815 on a fifty-seven acre site owned by Sir John Craven Carden (1757-1820) and when completed was one of the largest barracks in Ireland with accommodation for ‘54 officers, 1500 men and 30 horses, a hospital for 80 patients; a bridewell; a fever hospital and a dispensary, ball, news and reading rooms, and a public billiard table’. (Lewis, 1837)


An intensive programme of barrack building took place in Ireland following the unsuccessful rebellions of 1798 and 1803. Aside from the fear of further uprisings taking place in Ireland, England was at war with France, and the threat of invasion from Napoleon’s army was a possibility, given that French fleets had arrived at Bantry Bay in 1786 and Kilalla Bay in 1798. Several barracks were constructed in the county of Tipperary, which had a long tradition of rebellion and lawlessness. Robert Peel, chief secretary for Ireland, when writing to Whitworth, the lord lieutenant in 1813 commented that ‘you can have no idea of the moral depravation of the lower orders in that county [Tipperary]. (Gash, 1976) In 1847, Ensign Harry Loft of the 64th Regiment was garrisoned in Templemore, and while writing to his mother described Richmond as a ‘splendid barracks, with two large squares, and all the buildings three stories high.’ The town itself he described as ‘a wretched place…there is only one street with three or four respectable shops’. (Loft, 2003). The presence of a barracks in Templemore also provided the opportunity for local men to enlist, as Richmond was primarily a recruit-training depot, where regiments were stationed for a period of time to recruit, train and then depart on campaign throughout the British Empire. Irishmen were considered good recruits, being described by one military Surgeon as ‘physically and morally the best adapted for service’, and they signed up in large numbers to accept the ‘Queens shilling’.

1830–1898
During the late 1850’s when the Fenian movement was being structured, a large number of Irish soldiers were ‘sworn in’ as members of the movement. In Templemore, the 11th Depot Battalion was transferred from Templemore to Enniskillen and replaced by the 59th Regiment from Glasgow as it was ‘strongly suspected that the regiment was tainted with Fenianism’. (Nenagh Guardian newspaper, 12 December 1865)

World War 1
By 1909 Richmond barracks had been vacated, and Templemore town council were informed by the War Office that there was ‘no prospect of troops being quartered there in the near future’. However, the outbreak of World War 1 in August 1914 brought a reversal of this policy, and between October 1914 and March 1915, Richmond became a prisoner of war camp, holding over 2,300 German soldiers who had been captured on the western front. The two barrack squares were divided into four huge cages, complete with searchlights, barbed wire and sentry towers. Two of the POW’s died in captivity and were buried with full military honours in Templemore.

German POW 1914 Templemore

When the prisoners were transferred to a new camp in England, Richmond became a training depot for recruits to the Munster Fusiliers and the Leinster Regiment. In 1916, soldiers of the Leinsters were dispatched from Templemore to reinforce the Dublin garrison during the Easter rising. The Anglo-Irish War & Civil War The outbreak of the Anglo-Irish war is conventionally dated from 21 January 1919 when a group of nine I.R.A Volunteers including Dan Breen and Sean Treacy of the 3rd Tipperary Brigade attacked a Royal Irish Constabulary (R.I.C) gelignite escort at Solohedbeg near Tipperary town. In the mêlée that followed, R.I.C Constables James McDonnell 50616, and Patrick O’ Connell 61889 were killed. Following the outbreak of the Anglo-Irish war, Templemore rapidly became heavily militarised, with the 1st Battalion of the Northamptonshire Regiment garrisoned at Richmond barracks, a contingent of R.I.C Black & Tans based in the Police barracks, and ‘B’ company of the R.I.C Auxiliary Division (A.D.R.I.C) situated in the Year % Year % 1830 42.2% 1878 21.9% 1840 37.2% 1883 20.0% 1868 30.8% 1893 13.4% 1873 23.7% 1898 12.9% A brief history of the Garda College By Sergeant John Reynolds 7 vacated mansion of Sir John Carden at Templemore Abbey.
The Black and Tans and Auxiliaries were exservicemen that had been recruited in England early in 1920 to augment the regular R.I.C as the R.I.C were ‘now useless as a civil police force’. (Hansard, 1920) The Black and Auxiliaries soon established a reputation for brutality, being described by the former Irish Member of Parliament William O’ Brien as ‘desperadoes of the vilest type.’(Holt, 1960) On two occasions the military and Black and Tans carried out reprisal attacks in Templemore, once for the killing of R.I.C District Inspector Wilson by the I.R.A, following which the town hall was burnt down. Two members of the Northamptonshire Regiment were killed during this incident when they became trapped inside the town hall. Following this incident, reports of ‘supernatural manifestations, accompanied by cures’ occurring in Templemore and nearby Curraheen were carried by local and national newspapers. (Irish Times, 23 August 1920) It was alleged that religious statues were shedding tears of blood, and a local youth, James Walsh claimed that he was receiving visitations from the Virgin Mary. Many people believed that ‘our Lady saved Templemore’, and that divine intervention had taken place to prevent the town being completely destroyed in revenge for the death of D.I Wilson, as the ‘military swore to sack the town and make the Catholics pay for it’ (Limerick Leader, 3 September 1920) Thousands of pilgrims travelled to the area each day to view the ‘bleeding statues’, and the phenomenon of the ‘Templemore miracles’ lasted for three weeks until the visionary James Walsh was interviewed by senior I.R.A member Dan Breen on the instructions of Michael Collins.
The I.RA decided that the apparitions were not genuine, and the Catholic Church also expressed ‘extreme reserve’ about the cures and miracles attributed to them. (Irish Times, 23 August 1920). The Templemore miracles finally ended when the I.R.A ambushed and killed two R.I.C members at Kiloskehan near Barnane on 29 September 1920. Pilgrims were forced to take the bodies of the dead policemen back to Templemore in their car. This ambush brought large number of military and police reinforcements to the area who indulged in a ‘reign of terror by indulging in indiscriminate firing into houses and across fields’. Rumours spread that Templemore would be burned to the ground as a reprisal for the Kiloskehan ambush and pilgrims, stall-holders and tramps all made a hasty exit. Within twentyfour hours normal conditions prevailed in the town once more. On the 11th July 1921 a truce between the Irish Provisional Government and the British Government was arranged, and in November Richmond Barracks was handed over at a ceremony in the Barracks. Major Phibbs Officer Commanding the 1st Battalion, Northamptonshire Regiment signed for the British, and Commandant Sean Scott O/C 2nd Battalion (mid.) Tipperary Brigade I.R.A represented the new Irish Government. The Regimental diary of the Northamptonshire Regiment sarcastically noted that ‘the Barracks was handed over to a motley force calling themselves the Irish Army’. Richmond was renamed McCan Barracks to commemorate the first Member of Parliament for MidTipperary, Pierce McCan, who died in Gloucester prison in 1919. During the Civil War which began on 28 June 1922, the situation in Templemore was very tense, with anti treaty I.R.A members knows as ‘irregulars’ occupying McCan Barracks. Preparations were made by the national army to storm the barracks, but a truce was arranged by the Archbishop of Cashel & Emly, Dr. Harty, which allowed the barracks to be vacated by the irregulars, and the National Army took over. When World War II began in 1939, a state of emergency was declared in Ireland, which remained neutral. McCann Barracks was occupied by the 10th Uisneach Battalion, and until the war ended in 1945 a large garrison was stationed in Templemore. A commemorative plaque is located at the College Driving School remembering the soldiers who served in Templemore during the emergency period. McCann Barracks was vacated except for F.C.A camps during the 1950’s, and when the F.C.A was integrated with the regular Army, it became the Headquarters of the 3rd Field Artillery Regiment.

Garda Training Centre
In 1964 it was decided to move recruit training from the Depot to McCan Barracks, which became the Garda Training Centre (G.T.C) On 14 February, recruits and staff left the Phoenix Park Depot, which had been used for training recruits since 1842, and marched to Heuston railway Station and boarded a train called the ‘Templemore Special’. On 21 February, the G.T.C was officially opened by Mr. Charles J. Haughey, the Minister for Justice, and Commissioner Dan Costigan. An enormous tragedy for An Garda Síochána and the G.T.C occurred on 16 December 1983 23-year old recruit Garda Gary Sheehan, and Private Patrick Kelly of the Defence Forces were killed while on duty at Ballinamore, Co. Leitrim while searching for Mr. Don Tidey, who had been kidnapped by the I.R.A. A memorial plaque to R/Garda Sheehan is situated at the College Guardroom, and on graduation days, the Gary Sheehan Memorial Medal is awarded to the best all-round probationer. In April 1989, following a major examination of training methods for An Garda Síochána, a new two-year Student/Probationer Training Programme was introduced A major building programme saw the facilities developed and modernized to the most up to date standards in Europe and the name of the institution changed from the Garda Training Centre to the Garda College. In 1992 the Garda College was designated an Institute of Higher Education by the National Council for Education Awards (NCEA). In 1993 the two-year Student/Probationer programme was accredited by the N.C.E.A. with the award of a National Diploma in Police Studies. A more recent development was the introduction of a BA (Bachelor of Arts) in Police Management Degree for members of Inspector rank upwards. The Garda College Museum was opened in 2002 and has a large collection of memorabilia from Ireland and around the world. Since opening, the Museum has proven to be a very popular addition to College facilities, and a planned expansion will deal with the Military history of the complex from 1815 to 1921. The Garda College has a long and fascinating history since being built in 1815. It has been centrally involved in Rebellions, the Anglo-Irish war, the Civil War, the foundation of a new State, and more recently, has found a new lease of life as a world leading Police Training facility and vibrant third level institution. As it approaches its 200th anniversary, the Garda College is rapidly expanding to meet the needs of gardaí.