In June, 1922, nineteen-year-old, Skibbereen native, Hugh Shields, travelled with a friend to Croke Park, Dublin to witness Tipperary beating Dublin in the All-Ireland Football Final. The new Civic Guards on duty impressed him so much that he walked into the Civic Guard Depot to sign-up. On the 8th December,1922, Guard Hugh Shields was attested to the force with Reg. No. 2812. With just over six months service, the West Corkman was promoted to the rank of “Sergeant” and allocated to Emly, Co. Tipperary on the 5th July, 1923.
On the 31st July that year, the name “Civic Guard” was changed and Sergeant Hugh Shields became a member of “An Garda Síochána”. Two years later he went on transfer to Holycross where he spent three years. While in the Tipperary village he met a local girl, Greta Harty, who was very involved in athletics. A legal secretary for a Clonmel solicitor firm, Gretta had won a number of Puck-Fada Competitions with Clonmel Camogie Club. Following her marriage to the local Garda Sergeant, the couple were transferred to Ballygar, then Galway City, Courtown-Harbour, Wexford, Killaloe, Ennistymon, Kilrush before finally transferring to Cork City on the 7th May, 1940.
Sergeant Shields gave thirteen years at Lower Road Garda Station which was next to Kent Rail Station. In 1953, the Garda Station was closed and Sgt. Shields transferred to nearby McCurtain Street and in 1956, moved to Shandon Street Station. He retired from Shandon Station on the 31st October, 1966 after giving 43 years and 328 days of exemplary service to the Garda Siochana.
Young Gardai serving with him at the time of his retirement included;- Flan Wiley; Timmy Callaghan; John Burke; Hugh Courtney, John Dullea and Paddy Power. Six years after retirement, Hugh Shields was one of the founding members of the Garda Síochana honoured at the Garda Siochana Golden Jubille Celebrations. He died in 1979 aged 74 years.
Sons, Michael and Kevin, did not follow their father’s foot-steps but they were very proud of the special award presented to their father in 1972. In 2001, a grandson, Kieran Shields, joined the Garda Siochana and now based in Carlow. At Garda Kieran Shields graduation ceremony, Garda Commissioner Patrick Byrne, was on hand to pass-on “Sergeant Hugh Shields, Golden Jubilee Trophy” to his grandson. What a proud day for the Shields family.
While it all started on the trip to Croke Park in 1922, our story finishes with joy and celebrations for the Shields, on All-Ireland Football Final Day, 2010, when the other grandson, Michael Shields, wearing the Red & White Jersey and playing in full-back position, won his All-Ireland Gold Football Medal.