The instant response of a uniform Garda seventy-six years ago in Ballina, Co. Mayo is a reminder to us all of the dangers members of the Garda Síochána can face on a tour of duty. This case concerns Garda Manus Patten who was on duty in the early hours of St. Stephen’s morning in 1938.
Garda Manus Patten (4576) who came from Derreans, Achill Sound, Co. Mayo, was born on 12 August 1902 and worked on farming before joining the force on 31 May 1923. He was on duty in the early hours 26 December 1938 at Pearse Street, Ballina, Co. Mayo, when he became aware that a fire had broken out in the building used both as home and business premises by Mr. J.J. Duncan. Having immediately alerted those living in the neighbourhood houses, he entered Mr. Duncan’s house and made his way to the upper floor from which smoke was billowing. There he found four members of the household in a distressed state, confused and disoriented by the smoke. Garda Petten instantly urged all four of them down the stairs and out of the building, which was now well and truly ablaze. Both they and their Garda rescuer were exhausted and suffering from smoke inhalation. However, on learning that there were still persons trapped in the house, Garda Patten rushed back into the house and up the stairs where he found the barely-conscious figures of a husband and wife. Again Garda Patten made the terrifying journey downstairs, conveying the distressed couple to safety. On emerging from the building he was then informed that Mr. J.J. Duncan himself was not accounted for. From the others Garda Patten learned the location of Duncan’s bedroom and despite the evident hopelessness of the endeavour, plunged yet again into the building. When he reached the bedroom Duncan was nowhere to be seen, nor did he respond to Garda Patten’s repeated shouts. By now various celluloid and stationery materials stored beneath the stairway had caught fire and were giving off a noxious cocktail of gases. After a few tense minutes Garda Patten himself had to be dragged to safety by several of his colleagues who became alarmed at his failure to return. As he was helped from the building the stairway and ceiling collapsed. Mr. Duncan’s remains were later found among the ruins.
Garda Manus Patten received his Scott Silver Medal from the Minister for Justice, Gerald Boland, at a ceremony in the Depot Library, at Garda Head Quarters on 11 December 1939. Thereafter he continued to serve in the Mayo Garda Division, retiring on 20 July 1965 after a career of 42 years and 51 days. Garda Patten died on 20th June 1977.
(Extract from An Garda Síochána and the Scott Medal by Gerard O’ Brien and the Garda Review Jan. 1940)