The memoirs of John M. Regan

A Catholic Officer in the RIC and RUC, 1909–48

Joost Augusteijn editor

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ISBN: 978-1-84682-069-4
March 2007. 272pp.

'His [Regan’s] story is a fascinating one and I read it with great interest, genuinely not wanting to put it down. I have learned a great deal from this book about policing in Ireland during a period of 40-50 years of great upheaval and distress …. The book deserves to reach a wider public', Martin Stallion, Police History Society Newsletter.

‘What a valuable addition they [Regan’s memoirs] are to social history in Ireland …. As a police officer – no mere policeman – he lived through a troubled period in Irish history, four decades in all. He provides a first-hand account of agitation over land issues in the west, the Larne gun-running in 1914 and the 1916 Rising from its inception right to the surrender by Pearse', Robert Greacen, Books Ireland.

‘A remarkable narrative of the Irish revolutionary era from a policeman’s perspective.’ Brendan Ó Cathaoir, Irish Times.

‘A valuable account from the side which did not win the war and which did not get to write the official histories. The policeman’s side of the story has rarely been told, and never so well', Maurice Hayes, Irish Independent.

'Regan's ‘varied career, which encompassed the last years of “ordinary” policing in the R.I.C., the 1st World War, and service in the R.U.C., is of considerable interest … The editor has written a very useful survey of policing in Ireland during the century up to 1922 and has provided footnotes for Regan’s text … [T]he memoir itself … is a very welcome account of events and views from a senior police officer who sought to perform his duties impartially throughout a long and varied career’, Peter Mulready, The Irish Sword (Summer 2008).

‘The value of this work lies in Regan’s account of the day-today problems and human stories he encountered in a policing career spanning almost 40 years … and in the personal testimony of how one decent, reasonably balanced and well-placed observer viewed the operations of the RIC and the RUC … On the minor dramas that then made up the staple of rural policing-ructions … the author is forthright and convincing … His writing style is unvarnished and accessible, and the few descents into police report language add to its attractiveness. He tells stories well, even elegantly, combining mild humour … with the policeman’s sceptical eye. A helpful introduction and smooth editing by Augusteijn, of the university of Leiden, are features’, John Swift, Studies (Winter 2007).

‘It remains surprising, as the editor of this memoir suggests, that, considering their key role in the government of Ireland as well as the maintenance of law and order, the Irish police forces have not so far been systematically studied. The absence of a monograph on the Royal Irish Constabulary is one of the most striking lacunae in the history of Ireland under the Union. In particular, as Dr Augusteijn notes, ‘we know relatively little of how individual policemen experienced events unfolding around them.’ In the period of John Regan’s service, the events were, of course, dramatic and pivotal. The publication of this substantial and meticulous memoir…is therefore to be welcomed…[and] forms a valuable source', Charles Townshend, Irish Historical Studies (May 2008).

'It is not every memoir that merits a cloth-cover publication (or publication at all), but Regan’s memoir is one that should be widely read .... John Regan was an interesting, thoughtful man who participated in some of Ireland’s major twentieth-century transitions. His working life was full of peculiarly Irish complexity and there is an unmistakable integrity in his writing. He is always honest about his mistakes and the consequences when things did not go well. Joost Augusteijn has seamlessly edited the two memoir documents and included helpful footnotes from primary sources that confirm Regan’s stories. It is fortunate that many more readers now have the opportunity to make the acquaintance of John Regan', W.J. Lowe, Irish Economic and Social History (Winter 2008).

‘These memoirs of an RIC man provide a unique and unusual aspect on the “Troubles in Ireland” in the period from 1914 to 1922. This is especially so for students of the period in the area because Regan was the last County inspector of the RIC in Limerick … By his actions Regan was obviously a brave and resolute man. When his service was completed he rejoined the RIC in Cork in 1919 and in April 1920 he was appointed staff officer to Brigadier General Cyril Prescott-Decies, RIC Divisional Commissioner … Viewpoints of the “Irish Troubles” from the perspective of the RIC have rarely been chronicled. Regan’s service in Counties Clare and Fermanagh before WWI and in Counties Cork and Limerick during the period 1919–1922 provides a valuable insight into this period in Irish history. He chose to join the RUC after the establishment of the Free State but suffered career frustration on account of his religion. In editing this work, Augusteijn has made a major contribution to a fuller understanding of Ireland in this critical part of the 20th Century’, Tom Toomey, North Munster Antiquarian Journal.

‘Combining material from two autobiographical accounts (written by Regan in the early 1950s and 1960s), Joost Augusteijn has edited an interesting memoir which deserves a wider audience, particularly given the paucity of accounts by Irish members of the Crown forces during the revolutionary period … Regan’s account of his early years in the RIC before the Easter Rising transformed the nature of policing in Ireland is engaging. Rural Irish society – the social pecking order, familial violence, arranged marriages, sexual offences (‘genuine rape cases are few’), feuds, infanticide and (most enduringly) agrarian violence – is dissected from the conservative and moralistic perspective of the RIC officer. The tone is occasionally reminiscent of "the Irish R.M." novels of Somerville and Ross … Regan’s experience during the revolution are of particular interest. His account is no more objective than the memoirs of IRA gunmen such as Tom Barry or Dan Breen, but there are far fewer narratives of the conflict from the perspective of the Crown forces', Fearghal McGarry, English Historical Review (October 2009).