Dinny – A True Legend


Published in An Cosantóir on May 1, 2011.
By Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald – Photos by Airman Greg Dorney

Dinny A True Legend - May 2011

Dinny finally receives his Emergency Medal (65 years late) from Col John Courtney (EO DFTC)

Dinny McGuinness was born at Newtown Park, Blackrock in 1914. His parents Abraham and Alice had eight children, six of whom survived (four boys and two girls: Dinny, Abby, Billy, Owen (aka Mick) and Alice and Olive). Dinny’s father served in the Royal Dublin Fusiliers in World War One and the effects of shellshock contributed to his death at the early age of 41.

When the Spanish Civil War broke out in 1936, Cardinal McRory and the Catholic Church supported the Nationalist cause and General Eoin O’Duffy recruited an Irish brigade to serve in Spain. Of the 7,000 interviewed 700 were chosen for the new unit and 200 of these made their way to Spain in small groups. The remaining 500, including Dinny McGuinness, boarded a German ship at Galway in November 1936 and sailed for El Ferrol in north-western Spain.

On 19 February 1937 the Irish unit was deployed to the Jarama battle area but when approaching the front line they were hit by ‘friendly fire’ from a newly formed, allied Falangist unit from the Canary Islands. In an hour-long exchange of fire four Irish and 13 Canarians were killed.

In a later offensive action against the village of Titulcia two more members of the unit were killed before the unit was placed in defensive positions at nearby La Maranosa. The brigade was demobilised in June 1937 and returned to Dublin where Dinny found work as a handyman for the Mother Mary Martin African Mission Society.

In 1939 Dinny returned to military life when he joined the 43rd Battalion of the Local Defence Force (LDF), which trained in Blackrock College and guarded the ammunition in the old police station. In that year Dinny also got married to Rita McGlynn, with whom he would have 10 children. (Rita’s brother Peter served as a company sergeant with 3 Inf Bn). Dinny served with the LDF throughout the Emergency except for a five-month spell when he worked in a munitions factory in Liverpool.

After the Emergency Dinny spent much of his working life with Petree’s Modern Display, Dublin, which produced signs and displays.

Dinny A True Legend 2 - May 2011

Dinny with his extended family and members of the Defence Forces outside the Military Museum at the Curragh Camp

Dinny is now aged 97 years and has 18 grandchildren and 19 great-grandchildren, with number 20 due to arrive shortly. Some of Dinny’s grandchildren have taken a great interest in his service during the Spanish Civil War. His granddaughter Niamh has completed a thesis based on his experiences in Spain, and another granddaughter, Linda, has produced a video of Dinny speaking about his experiences during that conflict.

After a family member contacted the Defence Forces to tell them that Dinny had never received the Emergency medal, a special medal presentation ceremony was planned for Dinny at the newly opened Curragh Military Museum.

When Dinny arrived I asked him if he had received any medal for his time in the Spanish Civil War and he said to me: ‘No, and what’s more I received no medal for the time I spent in the LDF during the Emergency either!’

Of course, he knew well that oversight was about to be rectified, even though it was 65 years late. The ceremony was hosted by the museum’s director Comdt Moore and Dinny was presented with his medal by Col John Courtney (EO DFTC).



Published in An Cosantóir on March 1, 2013. 
Written by Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald – Photos Corporal Noel Coss

Rules, Regulations, Defence Acts and Civil Law, we must abide by them all and at all times. This is what makes a well disciplined armed force. But cross the line… and you may get to visit the Military Detention Barracks or otherwise known as ‘The Glass House’, so called because of its distinctive glass roof.

prisonerRecently the An Cosantóir staff visited the Military Detention Barracks (MDB) under the watchful eye of its current ‘Governor’ and Assistant Provost Marshal (APM) Lt Thomas Caulfield. Luckily for us it was only a visit and not from the wrong side of the bars.

The MDB was a purpose built prison constructed in 1863. It operates as a detention barracks for military detainees going on nearly 130 years. In 1972, the MDB had an intake of civilian prisoners, initially subversives but later problem prisoners with no subversive connections were detained there, but now they were in Military Custody under the MP Corps. The then Depot Military Police Corps unit relocated its HQ to the old internment camp a hundred metres away. Both civilian and military prisoners were treated equally within the prison system but security and discipline was tighter than in a civil prison. In 1995, the MDB was handed over in its entirety to the Irish Prison Service where it was used as a civil prison with no military involvement.

In 2008 it was taken back over by the military and under the control of the now renamed Military Police Company, Defence Forces Training Centre or MP Coy, DFTC for short and they are housed within the MDB.

The strict prisoner regime and I mean for all prisoners as there is no rank held while in detention, is the real power in the MDB.

Early morning discipline starts off with a whistle blast! Step out from your 6×6” cell and stand to attention, on the next blast left or right turn depending on which side of the block house you are on. Another whistle blast and this is to march into line for breakfast, I think you start to get the picture about the strict prisoner regime.

IMG_8493The next item on the programme is military discipline again this time in the form of ‘Foot Drill’. Conducted in the exercise yard with its high dull grey walls and its daunting confined presence, where sometimes even sunlight would need a lift to shine in. Foot Drill not being a favourite pastime for many a soldier I’m sure then the allotted 3-hours per day of it would wear the best of us down.

When you finally get to your evening or night quiet time, it may be your only time for a temporary reprieve from the strict military regime. But trying to read a book under a constant blue light that shines in your small cell room all night isn’t easy, and you are always under the watchful of eye of your MP custodian. This strict military discipline continues throughout day and every day for the duration of one’s stay in the ‘Glass House’. One can only conclude there is probably no Sky+ with little or no treats to be gained or lost. When one comes to the MDB to serve time your wages stop on conviction and it’s counted as non-reckonable service for pension purposes.

Most prisoners don’t book in for another stay, one long vacation away from family and loved ones in the ‘Glass House’ is enough to tame us all.

From 400 Horsepower to One


Published in An Cosantóir on October 1, 2012.
Written by Sgt Wayne Fitzgerald – Photos Jim O’Connor & Airman Neville Coughlan

7837165220_db253bd32e_cRiders from the Army Equitation School, founded in 1926, have represented Ireland and the Defence Forces at European-, World- and Olympic-level.
They have also assisted in Irish team wins in many Aga Khan Trophy successes in the RDS in Dublin. The School’s mission is to advertise the Irish competition horse through participation in international events at the highest level. This they have done remarkably well for nearly 90 years. But what of the backroom staff of any award winning team? In the equestrian sport/discipline a horse and jockey both rely on the ‘Groom’ to that end.
Grooms have come to the equitation school from all corners of Ireland, and from many different walks of life.
Horse2The Equitation School have run two grooms courses of six weeks duration this year so far. The course climaxed with the students completing a general test (GT), a riding test and a lunging test – lunging is walking the horse around in a circle which exercises a particular side of the animal. Students are assigned two horses, one to ride and one for lunging; everything is taken into consideration when being assigned a horse, like injuries and size. Then the Grooms had to present themselves and their respective horse for a Commanding Officers (COs) Inspection – which includes getting the horses hair plaited and making sure the Tack i.e. Saddle and Bridle are in pristine condition and that’s before they get their own No1 Uniforms ready.
This year’s courses have attracted a small group of infantry soldiers from Cavan and Cathal Brugha Barracks.

These are their stories on how they made the transition from infantry soldier to groom in six weeks.

“I’ve gone from being a car commander of a 400-horsepower Mowag APC to looking after a one-horsepower animal” – Cpl Thomas Craig

Horse11st GROOMS COURSE (13/02/12 TO 24/03/12)
Pte Seán Davidson from Termonfeckin came from 2 Inf Bn with 12yrs service and three trips overseas to Lebanon (x2) and Liberia. “I have never had any experience with horses,” he says. “I just fancied a change and haven’t regretted it once … now we are looking forward to travelling to international shows.”

Pte Patrick Hessin from Cootehill has 8yrs service and one overseas trip with 100 Inf Bn in Chad. “I started out in 27 Inf Bn in Monaghan,” he told us, “but on the closure of that barracks I was posted to 6 Inf Bn in Cavan. Then with Cavan closing I saw this course advertised in routine orders. I have no prior experience with horses but I’ve found it great so far.”

Pte Gerard McCaffrey from Cavan Town has 13yrs service and has served overseas three times in Lebanon, Liberia and Chad. “I was a chef in Cavan Bks for seven years and when the barracks closed I fancied a change,” he says. “I have some prior experience having completed a Certificate in Equestrian Studies and Business Management prior to joining the Defence Forces and I ride for my local club Red Hills Equestrian Centre. I had applied for the grooms course as far back as 2000, but my unit was unable to release me at the time.”

2nd GROOMS COURSE (16/04/12 – 23/05/12)
Cpl Ritchie Costello from Cavan Town has 25yrs service and four trips overseas to Lebanon (x3) and Liberia. “I joined up in 1987,” he says, “and was posted to 29 Inf Bn in the old Cavan Bks before we moved to the new barracks on the Dublin Road.
When that closed we were posted to 6 Inf Bn, Athlone. Having worked with horses prior to joining up I applied for this course. You know, a lot of people think we just shovel you-know-what but they don’t know the half of it; we were taught about veterinarian medicine, the horse’s digestion system and its psychology, among other things.”

Pte Francie Lane from Laragh, Co. Cavan has 25 yrs service with five trips overseas to Lebanon (x2), Kosovo (x2) and Chad. “I trained in Gormonstown before being posted to 29 Inf Bn in Cootehill,” he told us. “That closed in 1990 and then in 1998 we were posted to 6 Inf Bn in Cavan and now that’s closed. I worked with horses before joining the DF; that’s why I applied for the course.”

Cpl Thomas Craig from Ballyhaise has 9yrs service and two trips overseas to Liberia and Lebanon. “I trained in Gormonstown and was posted to 2 Fd Arty Regt in McKee Bks for four years before I transferred to 27 Inf Bn in Monaghan. When that barracks closed I went to Cavan Bks, but that’s closed now and here I am back in McKee: I’ve come full circle. I have no prior experience with horses but I like animals.
Six weeks ago I knew nothing about horses but now we can all ride and jump fences. I’ve gone from being a car commander of a 400-horsepower Mowag APC to looking after a one-horsepower animal; and believe me the one-horsepower is more high maintenance. Still, I’m definitely happy I made the move.”

Pte Keith Costello from Cavan Town has 5yrs service and served overseas with 104 Inf Bn in Lebanon. “I trained in Cavan Bks with 6 Inf Bn and was overseas with Cpl Craig when the barracks was closing. On returning home we both applied for the grooms course and were successful. I had no experience with horses before this, although I have an uncle who works in the Equitation School, so that did help my decision to apply.”Horse3

The course commander was Lt David Power and the chief instructor was Sgt Elaine Price. There are no plans to recruit any more grooms this year, but they do intend to run an advanced grooms course later in the year.