Coastguards and Guards

By Patricia McElhone

The Guards Barrack was in the village at the bottom of the Short Line until the present Barrack was built in 1940 at the entrance to the village and near the site of the old Coastguard Station. For me the Guards Barrack was a familiar place in olden days. One Guard had to remain in the Barrack Day Room overnight and this duty was described as Barrack Orderly - or BO. There was one particular Guard who lived nearby and I often got the job of going to the Barrack with a jug of tea for the Guard's supper. The jug had a lid. I can still smell the dusty wooden floorboards and the dejected turf smouldering in the small grate. The walls were whitewashed and a wooden form or bench ran along one wall. Black-printed posters were stuck on the wall - one about voting and one about warble fly. The bed on which the Guard could rest was black iron. There was a small room where offenders could be detained, which we called the black hole and which I never remember being occupied.

The Coastguards Station was nearer the shore. Among the Coastguards functions in Ireland was the prevention of removal of sand from the foreshores and the tracking down of poteen stills. In O'Rourke's History of Sligo there is the following reference: On the summit of the Green (The hill between the first and second strands) may often be seen the Coastguards of Rosses Point signaling by mirror to the Coastguards of Raughley who flashed back in turn, question and answer.

On this hill also were sited large cannons which were familiar landmarks. O'Rourke refers to their usage: Here is the Sligo Militia at cannon practice and apparently at war with the incoming waves, on which they fire, but with little success, as to making the enemy fall back: there it is a body of the Royal Irish Police going through military evolutions and displaying their movements, as well as in their handsome, manly and martial forms those qualities and attributes which have earned for them the reputation of being the finest body of military or quasi-military men in Europe.

The children of Coastguards went to the local National School and provided the roll with names like Biddlecombe, Devereux, Mountain, Rowe, Stocks and Watkins. A Captain Atwood, possibly in charge of the Station, went with his family to Canada after the Station was burned down in 1921. My mother travelled with them on the first leg of their journey and corresponded with them for many years. The Atwood children were very young when they left Rosses Point but about 15 years ago returned to the village to see the place their parents had spoken of with such affection and nostalgia and to find out if anyone still living here would remember their name. At least one local woman married a Coastguard and after 1921 went with him to live in England.