Mrs Barlow Cows
The Barlow family lived in the townland of Shrough, parish of Lattin. There were three boys in the family, Arthur, Matt, and Jack. They were very patriotic young men and all three joined the Irish Volunteers. After the founding of the Third Tipperary Brigade in October 1918 its area of operations was divided into Battalion areas. These were further divided into Company areas. All three brothers played active parts in the War of Independence. They became members of B Coy. Fourth Batt. Only a mere three months after the reorganisation Arthur was scheduled to take part in the most important IRA action of the War of Independence – the Soloheadbeg Ambush. He waited for the opportune moment at the ambush site in cold, wet, miserable winter weather for five days until 20 January 1919. Then Con Power, Tadg Ryan and himself were ordered to return to Shrough. The ambush occurred the following day!
Soon the brothers’ diligence, talents, dedication to the cause, and their willingness to undertake any task asked of them came to the notice of their superior officers. They also gained the trust of their fellow Volunteers. Consequently they were elected to officerships. Arthur served as Coy. Captain and eventually was appointed Vice Batt. OC from May 1919 to April 1922. Matt served as Coy. Adjutant and he also served on the Brigade’s engineering staff from 1918 to 1922. Like his older brothers Jack was later appointed Company Captain. They had a short commute to work as the Batt. HQ was in their family home in Shrough.
They paid a price for their military activities. Eventually they were arrested and lodged in Cork jail. From there Arthur and Matt were transferred to Wormwood Scrubs high security prison in Hammersmith, London. Once there they went on hunger strike. In due course Matt was released on 07 May 1920, and Arthur almost a month later on 02 June. Their experience of imprisonment did nothing to dampen their ardour for Ireland’s freedom. All three were members of the 4th Batt. Active Service Unit when the truce came into effect on 11 July 1922. Arthur was twenty three years old when he joined the IRA, Matt was twenty, and Jack was seventeen.
Because of their active involvement in the struggle for independence all three came to the notice of the RIC and had to go on the run. As a result they had to neglect their work on the farm. Their mother, Mrs. Catherine Barlow, nee Hogan, had to try to work it on her own as best she could. She had been a widow for many years and without help some tasks were beyond her. For example the provision of fodder for the winter months was impossible. On one occasion, with no hay saved, in January 1921 Mrs. Barlow had to make the hard decision to sell the cows. In order to sell them they had to be walked to Tipperary Town for the sale. The sale was due to be conducted by the auctioneer N. Maher & Sons in the Market Yard. That site, opposite The Excel Theatre, is now used primarily as a car park. The RIC and the Black and Tans heard about this. So just as the sale was about to begin the crown forces moved in and cleared the sales yard.
As a result the cows were not sold that day. A worried Mrs. Barlow had to walk them back home again.
After a few days the neighbours got together to discuss how they could help her out of the dire straits in which she found herself. They decided to divide out the cows among themselves. They fed them over the winter with their own fodder. So, thanks to the kind help of her neighbours, Mrs Barlow was able to keep her cows.
Indeed one could say it was the only good deed ever done by the RIC and the Tans. When they stopped the sale of the cows from going ahead they allowed Mrs. Barlow to keep them. A perfect example of the law of unintended consequences!
There is no disputing the fact that the Barlow brothers earned and well deserve the esteem in which they’re held for their brave actions during the War of Independence. But Catherine Barlow also played a vital and equally heroic part in the struggle. Her worries and sufferings and the goodwill of her neighbours, enabled her sons to accomplish what they did. They are all worthy of honour, respect, gratitude, and remembrance.
Suaimhneas síoraí tabhair dóibh go léir, a Thiarna. Amen.
(Michael Barlow and Mick Maguire supplied the facts for this account).