Above & Beyond the Call of Duty

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)

3 Responses to Above & Beyond the Call of Duty

  1. patrick joseph mc December 27, 2013 at 7:27 pm #

    Just read this article. Protection of life is the primary functions of AN GARDA SIOCHANA and this Garda was prepared to give his life to save others. His deeds should never be forgotten. May he rest in peace.

  2. Arthur O December 29, 2013 at 10:01 am #

    Unprecedented sense of the great call to duty, displaying exceptional courage, valour and unselfish instant positive reaction that can readily occur at any time of the day and night for members of An Garda Siochana. The Irish Nation can be proud.

  3. noel January 10, 2014 at 2:42 pm #

    I would like to join Patrick Joseph Mc and Arthur O in acknowledging the heroic efforts of Manus Patten in saving several lives back in 1938 in Ballina. I note that he received a Scott Silver Medal. I pose the question – why did he not receive the Gold Medal?. He had put his life in danger on several occasions and should have received the Gold. As Arthur O stated, the Irish Nation can be proud, which they certainly are. Congratulations also to Tim Bowe for highlighting the bravery of members of An Garda Siochana down the years and there have been many instances all of which should be published again to off set the numerous anti Garda Siochana critics of recent times.

    Back in 1966, Sgt. Cyril Collins was stationed in Mulranney. He rescued a drowning man from the sea in difficult conditions near Mulranney Pier. He was awarded the Scott Gold Medal for exceptional bravery and devotion to duty. 8 years later, in 1974, while on Border duty he disarmed an IRA man, but never received an award for this further demonstration of devotion to duty in defence of the citizens of this State. Several other members of An Garda Siochana received Scott Medals before 1974 and since for similar acts in disarming IRA personnel, so it baffles me why a decision was made by the Garda Authorities not to award one to Cyril. It has to be stated that any member who puts his life in danger in approaching an armed IRA man surely deserves National recognition for his act of bravery. Emerson once stated that “Any man who puts his life in peril in a cause which is esteemed becomes the darling of all men”. Cyril Collins undoubtedly fits into that catergory. Cyril continued with another act of sheer bravery as I will outline in the following paragraph.

    In July 1975 the people of Mayo once again witnessed the outstanding qualities of courage this member possesses, when he recovered the body of a woman who had been missing for 2 days at Ballycastle. Three of her children were also missing with her. The body of the woman could be seen at the bottom of some deep and dangerous cliffs near Downpatrick Head. The area is considered highly dangerous and no one was ever known locally to have gone down the cliffs at that point previously. Despite pleas from those gathered at the top of the cliff not to attempt to go down Cyril Collins insisted that is exactly what he was going to do. With ropes tied around him he was lowered to a narrow ledge 100 feet from the surface. From this ledge which was about 15 feet above the water, he succeeded in recovering the body. In spite of the danger of falling stones he went down a second time and recovered the body of one of the children. For this exceptional courage and heroism involving the risk to his life in the execution of duty, he was awarded the Scott Bronze Medal. Surely this act defies logic. I fail to understand how the Reward Board on that occasion did not award the Gold Medal, in view of the wording in the Citation – “For exceptional courage and heroism involving the risk of life in the execution of duty”. Perhaps certain members on the Boards which have sat since 1924 to determine who are entitled to these Bravery Awards, operate from a different agenda. However Cyril will go down in history as being the recipient of two Scott Medals – but it should have been three.

    Finally, fellow esteemed retired members, our Cyril Collins was chosen as the Mayo Person of the year in November 2001, because of his tremendous involvement in community affairs in Mayo over the previous 23 years. Let me conclude with a wee snippet. When Cyril was based in Achill, two retired ladies asked him on one occasion if he could recommend some one to mow their lawn as the grass was very high. Later that day Cyril returned and did the needful, and the ladies in question enquired who should they thank. Cyril replied jokingly – “The Commissioner of An Garda Siochana”. Two weeks later Cyril received a congratulatory letter from the Commissioner. (It is to be assumed that Cyril has it framed!!!!)
    Noel Hynes.

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