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Thread: Royal Irish Constabulary

  1. #1
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    Royal Irish Constabulary

    The Constabulary of Ireland, also known as the Irish Constabulary, was constituted in 1836 and arose from various policing bodies in place since 1814. In recognition of the part it played during the Fenian Rising of 1867 the title 'Royal' was conferred upon the force and thenceforth it was known as the Royal Irish Constabulary or the R.I.C. Once the premier police force of the Empire, it suffered terribly during the Troubles of 1919-21 and was disbanded in 1922 following the creation of the Irish Free State.

    The establishment of the force was around 10,000 and covered the entire 32 counties of Ireland with its headquarters in Dublin. Like the army, it was organised around a system of officers, NCO's and other ranks; with the rank of District Inspector being the lowest officer rank. Officers carried swords on parade and inspection. The swords were purchased privately from military outfitters (John Ireland being perhaps the most popular) but were also commonly purchased from retiring officers or handed down from father to son. Thus it could be that an early Constabulary of Ireland sword would be worn right through to 1922 and indeed, in some cases, then worn in the newly formed Royal Ulster Constabulary.

    A copy of RIC regulations for 1913 reveals the following:
    Sword - Steel mounted; half basket hilt, with the crown and harp pierced in the guard; blade perfectly straight, 32 and one half inches in length, and 1 and one eighth inches in width at the shoulder, gradually decreasing to seven eighths of one inch, till rounded off to the point at 3 inches from same, which is spear shaped; blade embossed on right side with the harp and garter of R.I.C., surmounted by crown, and on the other side with the King's cypher; scabbard of steel.
    Sword-Belt - waist-belt of web, 2 inches wide, with snake-hook fastening. Adjustable buckle of nickel plate on short carriage, long carriage fixed to back of belt. Black patent seal skin slings, 1 and one quarter inches wide, with nickel plated mounting. Sword slings to fasten to sword with studs and billets of plain black leather.
    Sword Knot - Black plaited leather cord, with acorn, covered with leather, also plaited.

    Although these regulations for 1913 are very specific we do of course see a variation in patterns over the years. Most usually it is the 1845 Infantry Pattern hilt but some early examples used the Royal Artillery pattern, and at least one Inspector-General carried the Mameluke style sabre.
    All the sword examples I have seen to date have an unfullered blade.

    Occasionally presentation swords surface; most often presented by local dignitaries to officers of the Constabulary for services rendered.

    The Mounted section of the RIC carried a cavalry pattern sword, and the constables carried the bayonet (also termed a sword, as the force adopted the Rifle Regiment ethos and terminology).

    An officer of the RIC in full dress, with sword.
    This photo was taken outside the Officers Mess, Phoenix Park Depot, Dublin. The old RIC Depot is now the headquarters of the Garda Siochana.



    Constabulary of Ireland
    An example of an early Irish Constabulary sword with Queen Victoria crown. Unusually there is no engraving whatsoever on the blade.










    Royal Irish Constabulary
    An example of an RIC sword, again with Victoria crown. This time the usual motifs are present on the blade, no makers mark.











    I hope the above has given some insight into the swords of the Irish Constabulary. I would be delighted to share knowledge, or photos, of other RIC swords and bayonets.
    Peter Mc
    Interested in anything to do with the Irish Constabularies pre-1922
    - see my RIC Photos and RIC Forum

  2. #2
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    RIC Belt Buckle

    Attached is an example of a pattern of sword belt buckle used by RIC officers, worn outside of the uniform. This one is plated silver.

    Peter Mc
    Interested in anything to do with the Irish Constabularies pre-1922
    - see my RIC Photos and RIC Forum

  3. #3
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    Great stuff, Peter. In your research, have you found any evidence or occasions of Auxi's ('Black & Tans') wearing swords of any kind?
    mark@swordforum.com

    ~ Hostem Hastarum Cuspidibus Salutemus ~

    "Those who beat their swords into plowshares usually end up plowing for those who don't."
    Benjamin Franklin

  4. #4
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    No Mark, no evidence whatsoever. Some members of the Auxiliary Division were appointed as permanent District Inspectors and as such would have carried swords on parade. How the Auxiliaries paraded/inspected amongst themselves would be a good question, and did the company commanders wear swords on such occasions?
    And if so, did they use their original armed forces swords? I would guess so, but maybe some evidence will eventually turn up.
    Peter Mc
    Interested in anything to do with the Irish Constabularies pre-1922
    - see my RIC Photos and RIC Forum

  5. #5
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    Thanks Peter. Very interesting. From the photographic evidence I've examined over the years, the Auxi's general equipage was quite eclectic (the term 'Black & Tans' directly referencing the practice of combining pieces of army issue uniform with police dark blue). Since Sam Brown belts appear prolifically, one would eventually reach the logical conclusion that wearing a sword would have occurred to at least a few of these fellows.

    Mark ~
    mark@swordforum.com

    ~ Hostem Hastarum Cuspidibus Salutemus ~

    "Those who beat their swords into plowshares usually end up plowing for those who don't."
    Benjamin Franklin

  6. #6
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    RIC Badge Sketch

    Amongst the Wilkinson pattern drawings is this one for the RIC.


    Note the drawing has 'Please Return' written on by the artists in the etching shop to his colleagues at the Pall Mall office.
    Also, the specification for RIC swords stated that they should have 'solid' blades, that is with no fuller.

    I have just found an entry in Mole's records showing that he supplied on 27th October 1916 a number of blades to Pillin described as:
    Blades for Royal Irish Constabulary 34 " x 1"- flat (No furrow)

    This blade style was carried over to the RUC swords made after 1922. Here is a blade rub of one perhaps the first RUC sword made in March 1923 by Wilkinsons (Actually sold via their subsidiary Reeves) for H. Maxwell & Co, 8 Dover Street, London. (They were Tailors and Military Tailors.) the harp badge has been replaced by the Hand of Ulster.

    Last edited by Robert Wilkinson-Latham; 02-04-2009 at 12:36 PM.

  7. #7
    I hope this is not drifting off the present thread but I seem to recall hearing that RUC officers were expected to purchase a sword on reaching the rank of District Inspector (possibly Inspector). Apparently a new sword was always relatively expensive and a popular and accepted choice was to purchase an old RIC example as an alternative.

    Was there a later decorative etched design to the 1922 example? I believe the sword (now on display in the RUC museum in Belfast) which belonged to former Chief Constable Sir Jack Hermon and presumably made in the 1970's shows a very delicate and attractive shamrock etching. Would this have been an established Wilkinson design? The 'Red Hand of Ulster' on the 1922 example may possibly have fallen out of favour because of extreme Loyalist connotations.

    I will try to visit the RUC museum (which is close by) and ask to take some detailed photographs which I would then hope to share here.

  8. #8
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    Correct on the first point Sam. Many officers, on retirement or leaving the force, sold their privately purchased equipment off to others. The arrangement benefited both parties. Other officers passed stuff down to family members; and so there were a good few RIC swords used in the RUC.
    The standard RUC etching was the force crest. The Red Hand shown above is a rare and interim example.
    I'm sure Hugh Forrester at the museum will prove very helpful to you. Look forward to your photos.
    Peter Mc
    Interested in anything to do with the Irish Constabularies pre-1922
    - see my RIC Photos and RIC Forum

  9. #9
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    Wonderful information on some very scarce swords. Thanks to all and looking forward to more photos if possible.
    "You can't please everyone, so you have to please yourself." Ricky Nelson

  10. #10

    Old Royal Irish Constabulary sword question

    I have a Royal Irish Constabulary sword the has a maker mark on the ricasso of "SEXTON" and the second line appears to read "DAWSON ST". The third line is not readable. The crest design of the guard is similar but of a different design. The etching of the "ROYAL IRISH CONSTABULARY" on the blade is toally different... being done in the scrolled lines. When was this maker producing RIC swords?
    Attached Images Attached Images    

  11. #11
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    Re the RIC sword under discussion, the retailer Robert Sexton, 51 Dawson-street, tailor. was listed on the Dublin Gray Indemnity Committee of 1882 as a Protestant.

    A similar early RIC sword was sold at James Adam Salerooms on 17 April 2007. Here is the auctioneers description. The sword fetched €2200 !
    Worn at Queen Victoria's Funeral
    Royal Irish Constabulary. A good R.I.C. Dress Sword and Scabbard, by Sexton of Dawson St., Dublin, the engraved 32 1/2" blade with a steel basket hilt inset with engraved crowned harp.
    * By family descent, this sword was worn at the funeral of Queen Victoria.
    Last edited by Robert Wilkinson-Latham; 10-11-2011 at 01:35 AM.

  12. #12
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    Examples of RIC Sword Cartouches, showing some of the variants encountered. If anyone has any others, I'd be grateful to see them.

    John Ireland (VR)






    T G Phillips (EVIIR)





    Lane & Phillips (GvR)



    Reuben Payne & Ireland (GvR)



    JR Gaunt (late Edward Thurkle)



    Wharton & Sons (VR)



    Unknown Retailer/Cutler

    Peter Mc
    Interested in anything to do with the Irish Constabularies pre-1922
    - see my RIC Photos and RIC Forum

  13. #13
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    Peter MC and Fellows; All I ever encounter, here in the US, are the RIC SMLE Carbines and their bayonets, and once every 10 years or so, a (UDF) Romanian Mannlicher with the Red Hand of O'Neill stamped on it..I do not ever recall seeing the Sword..Of course, now I am looking at all future gun shows for these swords!! I might have seen them and not had a clue...

    I worked on a RR in Connecticut for many years, there were lots of Irish there, and they used to say, about an incompetent manager: "He couldn't dispatch the Blacks and Tans out of a St Paddy's Day parade..."
    Now I know what they were referring to...Everyone told me it was the RIC, but thanks to this thread, it was the Auxies that they actually meant...(Now, to go watch "The Informer" again...)

    Dale

  14. #14
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    Glad to have prompted your interest Dale!

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