Royal Irish Academy

A Revolution in Profiles - Co. Offaly

In association with The Royal Irish Academy

Patrick McDonald/ McDonnell 1895- 1921

Patrick McDonald was born in Mayo around 1895. When he joined the RIC in March of 1920, he described himself as a farmer. McDonald is part of a small but historically important group of Irish men who joined the constabulary during the War of Independence.

In the early phase of the conflict, many serving policemen who qualified for a pension or those who were unwilling to fight left the force. In response the British Government launched a series of recruitment drives to bolster the RIC ranks. These recruits garnered the moniker the ‘Black and Tans’ after being issued with a makeshift uniform consisting of khaki trousers and the dark green RIC tunic.

Most of these new policemen were born in Britain and had served in the armed forces during the Great War. Nevertheless, several Irish men including McDonald enlisted in the RIC during 1920 and 1921. W.J Lowe estimated that over 2,300 Irishmen joined up, making up 20% of total RIC recruitment during the period. Individual motivations are difficult to decipher, but the bleak employment situation was probably an incentive for some. Previous military experience was far less common amongst Irish born recruits than their British counter parts.

In Edenderry the RIC presence increased as the War intensified. In January 1921 McDonald was one of 21 policemen stationed in the town. With sub stations abandoned and destroyed, the police and their recently recruited reinforcements became concentrated in urban centres. To accommodate the influx, the British government requisitioned Blundell House on Main/JKL street from the Fahy Family. Blundell had originally been constructed in 1813 to house the land agent of Edenderry’s absentee landlord the Marquess of Downshire, by 1921 it had been fortified with sandbags and barbed wire.

On the night of 3 June during an Edenderry IRA attack on Blundell House, McDonald was accidentally shot dead by his colleague constable Joseph Galbraith. A military enquiry held in lieu of an inquest remarked …

‘Evidently the police in the rooms lost their heads & probably the alarm was given in an unnecessarily excited manner.’ (1)

Patrick McDonald’s remains were returned to Mayo and buried at Glenisland.

The author wishes to acknowledge the existing work on Patrick McDonald’s life carried out by Ciaran Reilly.


1901 and 1911 Census. Search online at

Blundell House online at

Richard Abbott. Police Casualties in Ireland 1919-1922 (Cork) 2019.

Daithí O Corráin and Eunan O’Halpin. The dead of the Irish Revolution. (Yale) 2020. Ciaran Reilly. Edenderry 1916 and the revolutionary era. (Edenderry) 2016.

W.J Lowe. ‘Who were the Black and Tans’ in History Ireland. (2004) online at

Connacht Telegraph. 11 June 1921.

Evening Herald. 3 June 1921.

(1) Military Enquiry viewed online at also quoted in Ciaran

Reilly. Edenderry 1916 and the revolutionary era. (Edenderry) 2016.

Scroll to Top