Back to Family History

The Royal Irish Constabulary



Background

The RIC was the Irish national civil police force. It grew out of Peel's Peace Preservation Force, established in 1814. This was expanded and organised as four provincial forces in 1822 - the "County Constabulary". In 1836 the four provincial forces were amalgamated to form the "Irish Constabulary" to police the whole country, with the exception of the capital.

In 1867 Queen Victoria permitted the force to use the designation "Royal", and sport the crown and harp on its insignia, in recognition of the force's contribution to the supression of the Fenian rebellion.

Rank nomenclature was revamped in 1883 by which time the force had 14,115 members.

Among the duties of the constable was acting as enumerator in the national censuses. This explains why Michael Dwyer signed his form twice: once as head of household and once as enumerator!


Family Members

So far I have found five family members in the RIC. Two are my direct ancestors, the third is a granduncle, the fourth a granduncle (by marriage) and the fifth is the father of a granduncle's wife.

You can see the RIC records transcribed here and a discussion on the recommending officers here.

Luke Reilly
Life: 1822[1829]-1910  RIC: 1853-1884  Rank: Constable  Service No.:22161

Luke was my paternal granny's father. He hailed originally from Sligo, as did his wife. He was stationed in Kiltimagh, Co. Mayo for a substantial part of his career and it was here that he raised his family. I am aware of at least four of a family, including my granny. He stayed on in Kiltimagh after his retirement and he is buried with his wife, two children and a grandchild in the local. graveyard. He retired at the rank of Constable (post 1883 designation = no promotions)

Michael Dwyer
Life: 1860-1941  RIC: 1881-1911  Rank: Constable  Service No.: 46669

Michael was my paternal grandfather. He is recorded as joining the RIC in Limerick in 1881(he was from Cappanahanagh in East Limerick, near the Tipperary border). Prior to joining the RIC he was a farmer. He was stationed initially in Kiltimagh, where he met my granny. There is a story that he hid her away in England (Liverpool) out of the way of local predatory males until he was in a position to marry her in 1888. The RIC recruited single men and they were not allowed to marry for seven years afterwards. If you look at the records you will see a rash of marriages almost seven years to the day after enlistment. Check out Michael and Luke's records at the location referenced above. Edward and Thomas (below) was not far behind. While William was a different story entirely.

When Michael married, he was transferred to Longford, as RIC men were not stationed in either their county of origin or the county of origin of their spouse. Unusually, Michael was transferred back to Mayo, his wife's county, a year later. He remained in Mayo (mainly Ballyhaunis) until his retirement in 1911. There is a suggestion in the family that he retired because the force intended to transfer him out of Ballyhaunis. This would have been in the year following the death of his (RIC) father in law, Luke Reilly. It is not clear what, if any, connection existed between these two events.

Michael was pensioned in 1911 so he was well retired when he went to Ballinasloe to reclaim his drowned son's body in 1922. There is no mention in any of the newspaper reports, or in his son's death notice, of the RIC connection. This was a dangerous time for former RIC men who were being taken out and shot (not always fatally) by the anti-Treaty IRA. He retired at the rank of Constable (post 1883 designation = no promotions)

William Dwyer
Life: 1858- ??  RIC: 1882-1887  Rank: Constable  Service No.: 49205

William was an older sibling of my grandfather Michael (above). He also joined the RIC in Limerick in 1882, a year after Michael. For some reason, known only to himself he claimed to be 18 when he was actually 24. He had a short and not distinguished career in the force. He was fined twice, 15/- in 1884 (Galway West Riding) and 30/- in 1887 (Waterford), substantial amounts for the time. I have no idea what for. But, he resigned from the force in 1887 claiming he was going to emigrate. In fact he got married in that year, two years before he would have been allowed to had he stayed in the force. He married Bridget from Co. Westmeath and they had two children, Mary (b. 1897) and William (b. 1900). Both children were born in Co. Tipperary so it's an open question whether William ever emigrated. He ended up in Crowle, near Cloughjordan, in Co. Tipperary as a publican (1911 Census). His grand-daughter Peig married Michael Tierney's son thereby relating us to Eoin McNeill who was Tierney's father in law {and also to Michael and Moore McDowell, whose mother was a daughter of McNeill).

When the 1911 census caught up with him in Crowle, he claimed to be a publican and RIC pensioner. It is hard to see how his short, and clearly not exemplary, career in the RIC would have entitled him to a pension and there is no indication in RIC records that he ever got one.

Edward Crosby
Life: 1857-??  RIC: 1879-1905  Rank: Sergeant  Service No.: 45114

Edward was a farmer and originally from Kildare, where he joined the RIC in 1879. He was stationed in Kiltimagh, where he met and married my granny's sister, Jane. They moved to Ballina at some stage and Edward is recorded as living there after his retirement in 1905. In the course of his career Edward was promoted to Sergeant.


Thomas O'Brien
Life: 1844-??  RIC: 1868-1900  Rank: Constable [Sergeant?]   Service No.: 34353

Thomas O'Brien is the father of Mary Kate O'Brien who married Christopher Joseph Burgess. In 1904 he was living in St. John's Terrace, in Mountbrown, Dublin. As Dublin City was policed by the DMP (Dublin Metropolitan Police) rather than the RIC, he would not have served there and probably moved to Dublin after his retirement. He was appointed Sub Constable and promoted Assistant Constable and Constable, at which rank he retired in 1900. As these promotions predated the reorganisation of grades he would have been subsequently designated Sargeant (which title replaced the former three chevron grade of Constable in 1883).

He was recruited in Galway/Mayo in 1868 and served initially in Co. Kildare (Celbridge) but after he married Kate Condron from Sallins in 1876 he was shifted to Co. Roscommon (Boyle - he lived in Ballyfarnon). His marriage cert appears to show that both he and his wife were illiterate, and this after he had served 7 years in the RIC. It has been suggested to me that this may relate to an incapacity to write due to an accident, but it is still very strange that he would be a serving member without this capacity. A more likely suggestion, and this would apply to all my potential illiterates, is that the official filling up the form put in the names and simply asked the subjects to put an X beside the name. Some more forensics called for here.

John Medlar
Life: 1828-??  RIC: 1847-1849  Rank: Subconstable   Service No.: 8556

John Medlar is either an ancestor of the Dublin Medlars, or is closely related to their ancestors. His RIC career was a short one. He was recruited at 19 years of age in Kilkenny in 1847. His previous trade was a blacksmith in Co. Kilkenny. He was assigned to Co. Cavan and his career initially looked promising as he was promoted to subconstrable in 1848, but he was [subsequently] fined twice and was dismissed in September 1849.



Peter McRIC has a discussion forum on the RIC here.


Back to Family History