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The RIC has enjoyed a bad press in Ireland as a quasi military force oppressing the Irish People.  In fact most of the force rarely carried firearms and apart from recruit training had no contact with arms.  Until the time of the troubles 1916-1922 most of the RIC’s duties apart from ordinary policing took in such tasks as agricultural statistics, census collection and weights and measures.  Going on memoirs for most of its history it enjoyed a reasonable relationship with the local population where it was based.  It had a well deserved reputation for honesty and lack of corruption and was used as a template for police forces in many jurisdictions.

A career in the RIC was attractive, the pay was regarded as low but a constable could retire after 30 years.  Discipline was strict and even extended to the choice of wife.  For many young men from a farming background who were not going to inherit the farm it was an attractive prospect.  Many people prominent in Irish public life had a grandparent or great great parent who was in the RIC.

The force was around 75% Catholic the balance the various Protestant denominations.  In South West Cork there were not many from a Catholic background who joined compared to parts of Beara or Kerry.   It may be that emigration was so ingrained in these districts that for a young man the first port of call was America.  There was however a fair amount of enlistment from the sons of small to middling Church of Ireland farmers who were deemed not to inherit the land.  Of those who did not marry many on reaching 30 years service at the comparatively early age of 48 would return home and resume farming at the home place or a purchased farm.  Most of the  recruits remained as constables the odd person such as Robert Warner, Reendesert, Bantry reached the rank of Chief Constable the equivalent to a Senior NCO in the Army.  The Officer corp in the RIC was distinct and there was minimal movement from the ranks.

From the establishment of the Garda there has been a fair amount of recruitment from West Cork among Catholics but little from the Church of Ireland/Methodist community, understandable in ways gived the ethos and origin of the new state but nontheless a loss of the services of the personnel who were used to policing throughout Ireland.

Foe some West Cork personnel, the records are in the National Archives in microfilmMFA 24 very tedious to extract;


For material collected by Head Constable John Brown in the Cork Archives re Cork 1917-21

Click to access U97web.pdf

On the Townsend Family website


there is reference to Robert Townsend 1801-1872.  He was of the Whitehall, Aughadown Townsends and served in the West Carbery Armed Association probably with his father before joining the RIC in 1823 where he served variously in Mayo. Clare and Donegal as County Inspector until 1866.

Three other members of the Townsend family served with the RIC in addition to Samuel’s son Robert,   Henry Townsend [413] – they are Norman Lionel Townsend [5A03], his son Thomas Philip Barry Townsend [5A17] and Edward Synge Townsend [611]