Article continuing late Detective Sergeant Charlie Gaffney’s career, who was responsible for solving 21 murders during his career as a member of the Fingerprint Section in Garda Headquarters. By Noel Hynes , GSRMA Naas Branch.
ON A PAR WITH EINSTEIN Charlie, you are indeed a genius on a par with Einstein (who died the year you joined An Garda Síochána) and Leonardo da Vinci, although a Mathematician, was more famous for his painting of the Mona Lisa. Indeed, it could be argued that your famous son Cathal followed in Leonardo’s footsteps as he too drew on the walls of his room the same as Leonardo did back in 1473, but Leonardo was never nominated for an Oscar! So, take a bow Ann and Charlie for nurturing Cathal’s artistic brilliance. On Monday 16 October 1843, William Rowan Hamilton, an Irish worldwide celebrated mathematician (1805-1865), was on his way to the Royal Irish Academy where he was going to preside at a council meeting. As he walked along the towpath of the Royal Canal with his wife, the concepts behind quaternions were taking shape in his mind. Suddenly in a flash of genius, the answer dawned on him and he immediately flicked out his penknife and scratched the formula on the stone at Broom Bridge there and then. Unfortunately, no tracing of these carvings can be seen today, but a stone plague does commemorate the discovery. This plaque was unveiled by the Taoiseach Eamonn de Valera on 13 November 1958, he too being a mathematician and indeed Charlie Gaffney was probably present for the occasion as he was based in Cabra Garda Station at the time. Since 1989, NUI Maynooth has organised a pilgrimage from Dunsink Observatory to the Bridge, started by Professor Emeritus Anthony O’Farrell and now continued by Prof Fiacre O’Cairdre, both mathematicians themselves. The Central Bank of Ireland issued a commemorative coin in Hamilton’s honour in 2005 to celebrate the 200th Anniversary of his birth. He died on 2 September 1865 following a severe attack of gout precipitated by excessive drinking and overeating. He is buried in Mount Jerome Cemetery in Dublin. It can be categorically stated that Charlie Gaffney, although a fingerprint expert, was also endowed with innovative instincts which came to the fore back in the early 1960s when he was one of the founding members of the Garda Recreation Club and became its first treasurer. This year is the 56th anniversary of its foundation. In 1964, the Committee purchased 9-10 Harrington Street for the princely sum of £7,000, which were the proceeds from running ballroom dancing sessions in Kevin St Garda Station, where many members ‘met their Waterloo’ including myself. This is a great success story and on a par with St Raphael’s Garda Credit Union, who also celebrates their 56th Anniversary this year.
MANY STRINGS TO HIS BOW Charlie had many strings to his bow – the cryptic crossword in the ‘Irish Independent’ being one. His day would not be complete until he had solved it and that was long before Google came on the scene! He enjoyed a game of Pitch & Putt with his fellow Leitrim man, Pat Bohan and a visit to the Canteen in the Depot was seen as a fitting end to the week, where he could engage nostalgically with other retired members. As an ardent GAA follower, it is easy to envisage his double joy in 1994 when his native County of Leitrim won the Senior Connaught Football final and his son Cathal founded Brown Bag Films, who would in due course achieve an Oscar nomination amongst many other awards – he was in seventh heaven no doubt. His wife, Ann, son Cathal, daughters Grainne, Leanne and Shaunagh (who followed Charlie’s footsteps in joining An Garda Síochána and is stationed in Clondalkin in the DMR) and his grandchildren, Sarah, Sam, Ross, Gina and Fia, can indeed be proud of one great human being who was a credit to An Garda Síochána and one who certainly left his mark. Many men and women are born with various remarkable qualities and talents, but occasionally, in a way that transcends nature, a single person is endowed by heaven with beauty, grace and talent in such abundance that leaves other men behind. Such a man was Charlie Gaffney. In conclusion, I will quote from Shakespeare’s Othello as a fitting tribute to an unsung Garda hero – “I have done the state some service; they know’t”.