In the winter of 1909 a sensational case of murder was broadcast in the national press, and at the center of it was a young police constable from County Mayo.
The area around Craughwell, County Galway had been for many years a disturbed and violent region due to the effects of the Land Wars; a political and economic movement dedicated to redistributing land held by landlords and large farmers. Although the movement had largely died out it was re-ignited in South Galway by one Tom Kenny, a member of the IRB and (later) Sinn Fein. As part of his activities he selected the 16 acre farm at Templemartin to be targeted and broken up, with the land distributed to the members of his society. Against him was the landlord, Lord Clanricarde, and his tenant farmer Mary Ryan. Mrs Ryan was a widow and had returned from America some years ago with her two children aged 18 and 13. She was from Craughwell, and aware of the tensions in the area, had got the blessing of the local United Irish League to move onto the farm. However this did not satisfy Tom Kenny, and she was subjected to a campaign of vicious intimidation with shots being fired near her as she walked home, her hay burned, and the walls of her farm being overthrown (under Irish law an unfenced farm could be grazed by anyone - it was treated as common land).
During the week leading up to the murder two workmen named Malone and Coady were repairing the wall, under the protection of a single police constable. On Friday 22 January 1909 Constable Martin Goldrick was detailed to the job. Around 8.30 a.m. shots were fired by three men lying in bushes near a railway bridge, seriously injuring the two workmen. Constable Goldrick immediately moved towards the men who fled, but he continued to chase them with his revolver drawn. The men then turned and fired a shotgun from about 25 yards distance into Goldrick's forearm. He collapsed into a sitting position in a gap in the wall and tried to staunch the blood flow with a handkerchief. Meanwhile the men were closing cautiously on him, and when they were within 5 yards range they fired a second shotgun blast into his chest. He died instantly.
The police party sent to investigate on the day of the murder.outside Mrs Ryans's cottage.
A witness had seen the entire spectacle from the bridge and identified two men who were brought to trial. The court case was drawn out over several months but the men were acquitted. Nine others were bound over for intimidating Mrs Ryan's 11 year old boy. The man who had actually fired the fatal shot was never arrested but spent the rest of his life repenting what he had done. Tom Kenny, who was the cause of all the trouble, was ousted by the local farmers and suffered violent harassment himself; he eventually moved to America and only returned to Ireland after the Civil War.
Mrs Ryan continued on the farm. The 1911 census shows her as still living there with her son Michael (now) aged 15, he is shown as being an American citizen. Craughwell continued to have a large police protection, two Huts being erected in the vicinity to house about 12 men.
Constable Martin Goldrick 61943 was born at Killala, County Mayo and had been in the police for only 3 years. He was 24 years old when he was killed. The RIC erected a tablet to his memory which was placed over the fireplace of the Depot Library. It read:
"Erected by the Officers and Men of the Royal Irish Constabulary in memory of Constable Martin Goldrick, who fell while bravely discharging his duty at Craughwell, County Galway, on 22nd January 1909".
The tablet was supplied by Messrs T.R.Scott and Co, Dublin.
Acknowledgments: Proceedings of the RUC Historical Society, Autumn 2004; History Ireland Feb 2010; The Irish Times.