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The Scott Medal Recipients 1923-1928

In an excerpt from Gerard O’Brien’s book ‘An Garda Siochana and the Scott Medal’ we take a look at the first recipients of the Force’s highest honour.

James Mulroy,Garda 1264

Garda Mulroy was the first recipient of the Scott Medal. Born at Coolkevane, Straide, County Mayo on 17 August 1899, he had been a labourer before he joined the Guards on 19 May 1922.

He was on his first posting at Broadford Garda Station, County Clare on 26 May 1923 when the incident occurred for which he was awarded his medal. Together with a colleague he was on his way back to the station at Broadford when, in a lonely spot some four miles from home they were waylaid by two armed assailants. Both attackers were armed, one brandishing a revolver and the other a shotgun. The object appeared to have been simple robbery as both Guards were ordered to surrender all possessions even including their uniforms. It is unclear whether Mulroy’s colleague complied, but Mulroy himself refused to be intimidated and his attackers then forced him at gunpoint further along the road in the direction of Broadford. The two robbers then tried to force Mulroy up an even more-deserted laneway, but Mulroy, realizing that they were seeking a quiet spot to murder him, again refused, challenging them to kill him where he stood. The revolver was then placed against his chest and the robbers gave him five minutes in which to comply, reinforcing their clear threat to kill him by counting off the minutes and seconds. In the course of this their attention strayed and Mulroy sprang at the man holding the revolver, pinning him down on the road. The other assailant then fired at Mulroy, causing a flesh wound to his shoulder. The shotgun was single-barrelled and so, unable to fire again, the man then began to beat Mulroy over the head with the weapon until the stock broke away.

Maintaining his hold on the man he had pinned to the ground, Mulroy with his other hand gripped the shotgun barrel. The shotgun-bearer then took to his heels, leaving his colleague in Mulroy’s grip. Mulroy was then able to disarm the assailant beneath him. At this point Mulroy momentarily lost consciousness. When he recovered he was still clutching the shotgun barrel and the revolver, but his captive had taken the opportunity to flee. Mulroy made his way back to Broadford Station arriving at 5a.m. As soon as his wounds had been attended to by a local doctor he went immediately with another Guard and managed to arrest one of the two assailants.

Garda Mulroy received his Scott Gold Medal from Colonel Scott himself at a presentation ceremony at the Depot in Dublin’s Phoenix Park on 18 August 1924 in the presence of a distinguished company. Mulroy continued his career later in the Special Branch at Limerick, retiring on 16 August 1962 after 40 years and 9 months service. His achievement as the first Guard to receive the Scott Medal was remembered in 1978 when he was feted at a special dinner during which he presented the medal to the Garda Museum. James Mulroy died on 7 August 1986 ten days short of his 87th birthday.

John Rooney, Garda 3378

John Rooney had been born in Glasgow on 4 October 1902 but had family links with Derry. He was an engineer’s apprentice at the time he joined the Guards on 10 February 1923. Rooney was on duty as Barrack Orderly at Tirconnaill, Castlefin, County Donegal, when a man reported that his car had just been stolen by an armed man. Leaving the station in the hands of his complainant, Rooney immediately set out in pursuit of the thief. When sighted by Rooney the thief (one Maguire, well-known to the Gardaí) was still in the village, again in the act of robbing passers-by at gunpoint and clearly intending to use the stolen car as a getaway vehicle. Rooney crept up behind the man, pausing only to allow Maguire’s latest victims to get clear.

The thief, however, spotted him at the last moment. Ignoring the gun, now being pointed directly at him, Rooney seized hold of Maguire, struggling with him for possession of the revolver which he eventually succeeded in wresting from the man’s grasp.The Guard then marched the whining, threatening and cajoling thief to the station and secured him. Garda Rooney received his Scott Gold Medal from the Minister for Justice, Kevin O’Higgins, on 9 December 1925, at what was now to become an annual presentation ceremony. Rooney went on to serve at Kanturk, County Cork, but resigned on 23 September 1927. He had served for 4 years and 7 months. Nothing is known of his life thereafter.

Peter O’Reilly, Sgt. 1873

Peter O’Reilly, born on 17 April 1891 at Leitrim, Upper Mullagh, Kells, County Meath, left his occupation as a farmer to join the Guards on 6 October 1922. He was sergeant on duty at Raheny Station (then part of the Dublin/Wicklow Division) on the night of 10 October 1925 when he received a report that a masked man brandishing a revolver had held up the staff at the Howth Railway Station’s parcels office. The thief had been unable to breach the office safe, however, and had made off instead with items of clothing. O’Reilly, who had already spotted a man cycling at speed through the village without lights, took off immediately after the robber, although knowing him to be armed.

Overtaken by O’Reilly a mile outside Raheny, the thief, one Christopher Farnan, was seized by the Guard and a vicious struggle took place lasting some thirty minutes in which O’Reilly frustrated the man’s efforts to draw his gun. O’Reilly sustained facial injuries as Farnan (a member of a Dublin boxing club) grabbed at his lip and attempted to gouge out one of his eyes. At length O’Reilly got possession of the gun and marched Farnon back to Raheny Station.

O’Reilly received his Scott Gold Medal from the President of the Irish Free State, William T. Cosgrave, at a presentation ceremony in August 1926. He continued at Raheny until his retirement on 16 April 1948, having served 25 years and 193 days. He died on 9 February 1976.

John Whelan, Garda 11825 (106A Dublin Metropolitan Police)

Born at Clonegal, Carlow, on 21 June 1901, John Whelan forsook farming for a career in the police on 20 March 1923. He had been on patrol in Inchicore on the night of 14 April 1925 when a resident on the licensed premises of Mr Patrick Guinan, Tyrconnell House, called to him from a window that two armed men had broken in. Whelan immediately entered the building by forcing the front door and was confronted by an armed assailant who fired at him but missed. The Guard then seized and overpowered the man but was beaten almost unconscious by the man’s accomplice who struck him repeatedly with the butt of a revolver.

Whelan, despite his injuries, attempted to pursue the robbers and reached Kilmainham Station where he was able to give an accurate description of them. That same night both assailants, Patrick King and Sean Costello, were arrested by a team of Gardaí which included Whelan. When Whelan was finally taken to hospital the wounds to his head required six stitches. Garda Whelan received his Scott Silver Medal from the President of the Irish Free State, William T. Cosgrave, at a presentation ceremony in August 1926. Thereafter he continued in the Dublin Metropolitan Division until he retired on 28 December 1944, having served 21 years and 9 months. (The date of his death does not appear in the records).

James Hanafin,Garda, 4797

James Hanafin was born at Tubber, Lispole, County Kerry, on 8 March 1904. He left farming to become a Guard on 23 June 1923. He was on duty at his first posting in Belderrig, County Mayo, on the morning of 30 March 1925 when he heard revolver shots. The culprit, he quickly ascertained, was one Martin Hegarty, who had discharged the revolver outside the home of aMr Caulfield of Belderrig. Though unarmed, Hanafin pursued and caught up with Hegarty a short distance away. Ignoring the levelled revolver and an explicit threat to shoot him, Hanafin seized both the assailant and the loaded firearm. An accomplice of O’Hegarty’s attempted to rescue him but, with the help of Garda Kelly 4181, who arrived fortuitously on the scene, Hanafin managed to arrest both men.

Garda Hanafin received his Scott BronzeMedal from the President of the Irish Free State, William T. Cosgrave, at a presentation ceremony in August 1926. By the time he received the award Hanafin had become a Detective Officer attached to the Special Branch at Cork. Here he was to remain until he retired on 23 June 1954, having served 31 years and 1 day. He died on 2 June 1958.


John J.Ward,Garda 12491  (Dublin Metropolitan Police)

John Ward, born in Derry’s Waterside district on 14 January 1897, joined the police on 15 July 1924. He was off duty and had just looked in at Terenure Station on the early evening of 23 March 1926 when he heard of an attempted robbery at Kimmage Post Office. Two men had presented revolvers at the counter assistant and demanded cash, but fled when the lady screamed loudly for help. Once the postmistress had telephoned the details to Terenure Station an immediate search was put in hand, in which Ward, though in plain clothes and unarmed, willingly joined. As he cycled along the Canal between Harold’s Cross Bridge and Parnell Bridge he spotted two men approaching who matched the description of the would-be robbers. Both had their right hands in their pockets and Ward formed the opinion that they were armed. Having cycled past them he dismounted and called on them to halt. Both men instantly fired on him from a distance of about eight yards, but missed. Ward began to weave to avoid presenting a standing target.

The men began to move apart and one of them demanded that Ward put his hands up, cocking and pointing the gun as he did so. When Ward ignored the threat and advanced on the men one of them again fired, the bullet passing between Ward’s legs and through his overcoat. The two assailants then fled past Harold’s Cross Bridge and along Harold’s Cross Road and into a lane off the Canal, turning to fire yet again at the pursuing Ward. Catching sight of Garda Michael North, 11550, of Rathmines Station, in the near-distance Ward drew his attention to the two men and quickly appraised him of the situation. Although likewise off duty, unarmed and in plain clothes,North joined Ward in the pursuit. As they followed the assailants into the lane the Guards saw one of them fling his overcoat over a wall as he ran. North stopped to pick up the coat but Ward continued and apprehended the man who had abandoned it. The man’s revolver was discovered later near the discarded coat, but Ward had continued and seized the man in the belief that he was still armed. The captured robber was then handed byWard and North to a group of detectives who had joined them at the scene. The second man’s escape was but temporary; he was arrested a few days later.

Garda Ward received his Scott Gold Medal from the Minister for Justice, Kevin O’Higgins, at a presentation ceremony on 22 June 1927. Later, Ward left ‘E’ District for Kevin Street and remained there until he retired on 27 March 1958, having served a total of 33 years and 256 days.He died on 9 June 1969.

Francis O’Donoghue, Garda 2943

Garda O’Donoghue was born in Virginia, County Cavan, on 30 April 1902, and had been a student before joining the Guards on 20 December 1922. He was on duty in the dayroom of Midleton Station, County Cork, on the evening of 10 November 1926 when a telephone message was received from Carrigtwohill Station alerting him that a party of IRA men had driven through the town at high speed apparently heading towards Midleton. Detective (or‘S’Branch) Units at Cobh and Midleton had already been instructed to intercept these evidently-frequent forays across the county by the IRA, and the uniformed Gardaí (of which O’Donoghue was one) had orders to co-operate with the detectives and keep them informed of such movements. On the night in question, however, no detective was available to accompany O’Donoghue who, being unarmed, would not normally have been expected to halt the IRA men’s car in the absence of an armed detective.

Undaunted, however, by the dangers of which he was well aware (having previously taken part in such stop-and-search operations), O’Donoghue, accompanied only by Garda Michael Mason, 5687, immediately proceeded to take up a position on the bridge at Midleton. Within minutes the car came speeding towards them. The motorists evaded O’Donoghue’s signal to halt and his attempt to block their passage. Instead they drove into an adjacent road only to be impeded by a set of railway crossing gates. The two Guards, aware that a train was due and that the gates would be shut across the road, hotly pursued the car, coming level with it as it’s driver attempted to turn it around. Garda O’Donoghue, his renewed call to the driver to stop again having been ignored, leaped onto the running board and seized the steering wheel. The front-seat passenger grabbed him by the throat and tried to push him off the car, but O’Donoghue persisted and wrenched the wheel of the vehicle (then moving at some 20 miles per hour) in an attempt to run it into a wall.

The passengers at this point lost their collective nerve and pleaded with the Guard not to‘kill’them. O’Donoghue then managed to grab and apply the hand-brake, bringing the car to a halt despite some residual resistance from its occupants. At this stage O’Donoghue, who had now placed the car’s occupants under arrest, was assisted by Detective Officer Lynch, who had arrived on the same Cork train which had initially prevented the IRA men’s escape and whose attention had been attracted by the commotion. Beneath the car’s front seat a fully-loaded Webley revolver was discovered together with nine rounds of ammunition and a number of seditious documents.

The occupants of the (unlicensed) car were discovered to be four members of what was then known as the Irregular Battalion Staff, all from Cobh, and on their way to a Battalion Councilmeeting.Themeeting, it subsequently emerged, had been called to plan the series of raids on Garda Stations which took place a few days later, during which two Gardaí, Sergeant Fitzsimons and Garda Ward, were murdered.

Garda O’Donoghue received his Scott Silver Medal from the Minister for Justice, Kevin O’Higgins, at a presentation ceremony on 22 June 1927. He later moved to the Special Branch in Dublin, and had served 41 years and 6 days when he retired on 29 April 1965. Garda O’Donoghue died on 21 September 1983.

Charles Scully, Garda 12428 (DublinMetropolitan Police)

Charles Scully was born at Foynes, County Limerick on 2 March 1904, and left his labouring job to join the police on 12 June 1924.

He was on duty in the vicinity of North Clarence Street, Dublin on the evening of 26 June 1926, when he was alerted by a shopkeeper and a group of by-standers to an attempt which had just been made to rob a nearby shop. The robber was armed and a shot had already been fired. Garda Scully joined the by-standers in pursuit of the robber, one William Cooney, but was virtually alone when, after a chase of 440 yards, he cornered Cooney in a cul-de-sac off Railway Street.

Ignoring the revolver pointed at him from a distance of five yards, Scully grappled with the robber who then fired the gun missing the Guard by inches, and disarmed him. With the assistance of one of the original by-standers who had arrived on the scene (but who took no part in the actual struggle) Scully conveyed his prisoner to the Station. He received his Scott Silver Medal from the Minister for Justice, Kevin O’Higgins, at a presentation ceremony on  22 June 1927. Garda Scully later moved to Fitzgibbon Street Station, but his remaining career was all too short. Sadly, he died of tuberculosis on 10 July 1936 having served 11 years and 66 days. He was 32 years old.

John Kelly,Sgt. 3656

John Kelly, born at Ballymurray, County Roscommon, on 10 May 1900, exchanged the life of a student for that of a Guard on 8 March 1923. M.J. Ellis, born at Clonmellon, Drumlish, County Longford, on 21 May 1905, left farming to become a Guard on 23 July 1925. Sergeant Kelly and Garda Ellis were prominent among a group of volunteers (including an ex-RIC man) who rescued the crew of a stricken vessel at Killala Bay on the night of 6 November 1927. The ship, a Danish schooner named the Sine had left Poltenhugh, Sweden, early in October with a cargo of 450 tons of timber bound for Ballina. She had laid at anchor for over a fortnight in Killala Bay waiting for a tide high enough to allow her to proceed up the riverMoy to Ballina. But, under gale-force conditions on the afternoon of 6 November, the ship’s two anchors gave way and she was swept outward until she lay off Barrtra Island 1.5 miles from Killala Pier. When rockets and distress signals were spotted and it became clear that the crew were in great danger Sergeant Kelly took the initiative and organised a rescue party comprising Garda Ellis and eight civilians.

The volunteers took possession of the only craft available – two leaky fourteen-foot rowing boats. Soon after setting out the boat carrying the two Guards was discovered to be taking in water so fast that a sod of turf had to be used to plug the leak. In darkness, high wind and seas, and in constant danger of capsizing, the rescuers reached the small island after two gruelling hours rowing, only to face a mile walk across sandbanks in order to get near as possible to the ship. Kelly was almost immediately caught up in a lengthy but successful struggle to get possession of a life buoy which had been thrown from the ship into the wild sea. After wading in almost five feet of water for half an hour Sergeant Kelly secured the buoy which had a vital durable lifeline attached. This enabled the exhausted ship’s crew to clamber to safety along the hundred-foot rope which the rescue team weighed down with their bodies. Another gruelling hike across the sandbanks followed, this time dragging with them the shattered crew-members, and a return sea-journey no less arduous than the first. Rescuers and crew reached the safety of Killala at 11p.m.

The heroic rescue was the subject of much attention locally as well as at Garda Headquarters. At a presentation ceremony at Killala Schoolhouse on 5 April 1928 both Guards and ex-RIC Sergeant James Pryal were each given inscribed binoculars and the three were also included in the award of certificates made to all the volunteers by the Lifeboat Institution. During a garden party at the Depot on 4 July 1928 Sergeant Kelly’s initiative and leadership on the fateful night were rewarded further with the presentation of a Scott Gold Medal. Garda Ellis, who supported his sergeant so magnificently, was awarded a Scott Silver Medal. Both medals were presented by the Minister for Justice, James Fitzgerald-Kenney. John Kelly rose to the rank of Inspector in April 1943 and to that of Superintendent in July 1957. He spent the latter part of his service in Wexford and retired on 9 May 1963, having spent 40 years and 63. days in the force. He died on 10 June 1978. M.J. Ellis continued in the west of Ireland, serving in the May and Galway Districts until his retirement on 20 August 1955. He had served a total of 30 years and 17 days.Garda Ellis died on 9 June 1989.

John O’Brien,Garda 5846

Born at Rathmore, County Kerry, on 6 March 1905, John O’Brien had been a labourer before joining the Guards on 10 July 1924. He was returning from a long swim at Courtown Harbour, County Wexford, on 13 July 1927 when his attention was attracted by a man still in the water and about 25 yards fromland who appeared to be in difficulties.The man, Nicholas Scallon of Gorey, had remained too long in the water in an area plagued by a strong undercurrent and had no strength left to reach the shore. Garda O’Brien hurriedly undressed again and went to his aid.Mr Scallon was near the end of his endurance when Garda O’Brien reached him and his panic-stricken struggles made it difficult for the Guard to effect the rescue. By the time he was brought to shore the man had lost consciousness and Garda O’Brien had to resort to artificial respiration to revive him.

At length Mr Scallon recovered sufficiently to make his way home. Just over a month later, on 18 August 1927, when Garda O’Brien was swimming at the same spot, this time in the company of the Revd Mr McNabney, Methodist minister of Gorey, the minister, notwithstanding the Guard’s warning to him to stay near the shore as the sea was very rough that day, accidentally strayed too far out. Finding himself some 70 yards from the shore and growing exhausted, McNabney called for help and Garda O’Brien yet again swam to the rescue. Again there was the desperate struggle to effect the rescue against the frenzied clutching of a drowning man and a rough sea, and again the successful delivery of a man from certain death. In the aftermath of the McNabney rescue Gorey’s Methodist community presented Garda O’Brien with a gold watch.

In recognition of both acts of gallantry John O’Brien received the Scott Silver Medal from the Minister for Justice, James Fitzgerald-Kenny, during a garden party at the Depot on 4 July 1928. Garda O’Brien continued his career in the Wexford Division, becoming Sergeant in August 1959 and retiring on 24 March 1967, having served 42 years and 258 days. He died on 19 April 1978.




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