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Portumna Heritage Trail

5. War Department Stone

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A pair of sapper’s marks or ordnance datum points marking the corners of the former Military Barracks in Portumna. The letters WD refers to War Department. There were likely four of these stones originally marking out the full extent of the military property. Two are all that can be seen today though it is believed there may be a third in the Eircom compound.

It could accommodate both cavalry and infantry soldiers. It was noted in 1714 that the military barracks at Portumna was occupied by one troop of horse and two companies of soldiers. In the 1740s a new horse barracks was built by Edward Byrn of the City of Dublin who was described as a ‘bricklayer and master builder’. A new Garda Síochána barracks was built there in 1963.

Sapper's Mark

1st World War Portumna District. Co Galway. August, 1914. (R.I.C. Mag, Sep, 1914).

Portumna District sent four stalwart Constables to re-join their regiments on the 5th ult., viz., George J. Anderson (Grenadier Guards), Martin Walsh, Christopher Doheny and Michael Carey (Irish Guards).

They are four fine specimens of physical manhood, and if they get a chance-which it is more than likely they will-they will be sure to do honour to their corps and county. Prior to their departure they were entertained to a hearty "sent-off" by their comrades at Portumna R.I.C. Barrack.

Head Constable McGowan very genially presided, and in a few appropriate and well-chosen conveyed to the departing men for the fighting line his own wishes and the wishes of every man in the district for their welfare and success. The men left in the best of spirits amidst the cheers of their comrades and a large concourse of townspeople who assembled to witness their departure.

The reservists at Portumna responded nobly to the call to arms on general mobilisation. There was no defaulter, but, on the contrary, some volunteered for service whose term on the army reserve had expired. Some of them left wives and children behind them, but all turned up smiling, without a sign of fear. It may have been that occasionally in the past, one or other of them may have fallen foul of the R.I.C. in the various ramifications of the Licensing Acts, but it was all forgotten on mobilization day, and the strictest R.I.C. man for enforcing the closing regulations was the most anxious to show friendship to the departing warriors, who often dodged him successfully, and sometimes paid the penalty.

One old woman in Portumna, Bridget Monaghan, who has three sons in the fighting line, cheered each son as he took his departure, and exhorted them to fight bravely for their King and country. Her name deserves to be recorded in history.

All creeds and classes in and around Portumna are united in the most intense desire for success of the British arms, and the downfall of the hated Germans.

Constable Walsh, who is at front, sent some very welcome postcards to his comrades in Portumna, stating that they were having a good time, but that it was very warm. As this is being written news has come that the British Expeditionary Force has been engaged. We all hope that our brave representatives came through all right.

Sir William Austen, horse purchaser, called to express his thanks to the police for their help in collecting horses etc. It is understood that the horses purchased by Sir William were superior to those sent from any other centre in Ireland. He paid good prices but never excessive. Several Galway gentlemen sent their hunters to be sold at much less than their ordinary price, thus showing their patriotism in a true manner.

Portumna Bridge is being guarded day and night. As it is the only bridge between Killaloe and Banagher, it is of considerable importance. Some fine pike have been caught during the end of August.

War Department Stone

Extract from a letter received from Constable Martin. Walsh, who joined the Colours from Portumna :-

4th Guard's Brigade, 2nd Division, Expeditionary Force, France, September 21st, 1914.

"As for myself, I am ok. I got your postcard all right; it was the only one I got since I came out here on the 12th August. I can't say why they did not arrive, but I daresay Mr German got the rest of my correspondence, so it’s next to useless to write to anyone at the Front. I will explain more fully what I mean when restrictions are removed. There is no need to give any account of our fighting since you see all in the papers. I have been through eight or nine engagements since Mons. My brother is in the same company and section as I am, and we have had many a good shooting match together at live targets.

We have both escaped without a scratch up to now (T.G.). I was speaking to Noonan (a Portumna reservist) a fortnight ago, and he told me some of the Portumna boys are bowled over since coming out.

I can't give names. One thing I can safely say is, the Germans can't shoot with rifles, but their maxims and big guns are no jokes, although their shrapnel is not as bad as ours. I must send a long letter when I get a chance, which is not very often now-a-days; busy is only a word to use..........I am writing to-day from the top of a trench. Did you read about our 4th Brigade recently; they, or we, are making history, but at an awful price. I have nothing more to say in this letter, as we may get the word to move at any moment. I have made three attempts to get "souvenirs" of this country and Germany. I wish I could send them, I see a move on down the lines, so I must finish."

Ref :-R.I.C. Mag Oct, 1914. plus:- R.I.C..List, 1918.

War Department Stone