John Brennan Cassidy and the Black & Tans

By Eileen T. Cassidy as told to Chris Cassidy

Can you tell the story about your brother and the Black and Tans?

Oh, people still talk about that. It was right in the neighborhood. My brother John was working out in one of the fields owned by William Gillespie. Two men came along and they started to question him. They said to him, ‘Did two men go by here at 10 this morning?’ or whatever time it was. And he said, ‘Well, I didn’t see anybody.’

And they kept on asking him, ‘well, are you sure? Well, how about around 10 o’clock. Did anybody go by then?’ And they went on and on with questions like that. And they were getting angrier and angrier because they weren’t getting any information. The questioning out on the roadside lasted a long time. So then they took him into the buyer beside the cows and told him to kneel down.

Then they talked to each other about shooting him. And you could imagine -– I think he was 15 years old by then. And, of course, he never spoke only to say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to whatever questions they asked him. But he was really terrified.

So they said, ‘Well I think you should  kneel right there.’ And then another would say, ‘No, I think we’ll put him over there.’ And they went on with that kind of thing. And I guess they thought that eventually if he knew anything, he would tell it. And I think at the end, they were convinced he didn’t know anything. So they said, ‘Oh well, I think we’ll let him go.’ He didn’t get over that for a long time. He used to have nightmares and everything.

Were the two men Black and Tans?

No, I don’t know. They could have been. I remember the Black and Tans rode what was called a motor lorry, which was like a big truck. And a whole load of them would come riding through the country. And they had dirt roads at that time. And the roads were not very secure so when they drove, it would make big ridges in the road, the thing was so heavy. It made a lot of noise.

The Black and Tans were in Donegal Town at one time. One day, we heard they were coming out to the country and they came along in the truck. And oh, it made such a noise, you could hear it. And the schoolmaster –- he was scared to death. He didn’t know whether they’d come in and shoot us or what they would do. But it slowed down and then it went right by.

But they used to go into some of the stores in town and take some of the merchandise and just throw it out in the streets. They did all kinds of things. It was terrible. And nobody could do anything about it. They were all people that were in jail that were released just to come out to torture the Catholics.