Seán Gilchrist of Ramore, Killimor, gives an account of his twenty years with the Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil (FCA) in Killimor.
Joining the FCA
Seán joined in 1956 when weekly meetings were held in the Old Hall. This branch was affiliated to the Loughrea Battalion FCA, which was later called D. Company 16th Battalion, and in 1979 became D. Company 25th Battalion. The meetings were transferred to the Community Centre, Killimor, when it opened. Thirty or more members attended but numbers dwindled drastically due to emigration in the 1960s.
Training of Members
Members were taught arms drill, foot drill, and first-aid, and were given lessons on the use of the hand grenade. Rifles were supplied, and had to be maintained in good condition through the use of oil and a “pullthrough”. Field Days were a big feature, during which participants practised firing on ranges, from a rifle, from a Bren gun (light machine gun), and a sub-machine gun called a Gustaf. They also fired anti tank grenades – both live and dummy, and the MMG (heavy maching gun) on the range. Seán remembers firing mortars in Oranmore, in the Glen of the Imaal, in Kilchreest and on the local range in Hearnesbrook. Members also did sub-maching gun firing in the Esker sandpits in Dunsandle and in Ballinasloe.
Annual training took place in Finner Camp (Donegal) and in Athlone, Mullingar and Galway Barracks. They once went to Lahinch and slept under canvas. Army NCOs from Loughrea, and based in Athlone, provided and supervised the training and were very strict on safety. An Army Officer supervised the whole operation. The Quarter Master was responsible for issuing boots, and the ammunition for the live practices; this ammunition was always weighed and counted. Manoeuvres were sometimes carried out at these annual camps and included: Battalion in attack and Battalion in defence. Army transport, generally trucks, and sometimes vans, collected members from home and brought them back again. Members got basic pay and a bonus, on condition that they trained their required amount of hours. Medical tests were carried out by an Army doctor during annual training.
The FCA provided a Guard-of-Honour at Corpus Christi processions, for de Valera when he visited Loughrea, and at the installation of a bishop.
Fórsa Cosanta Áitiúil (FCA) group taken in Loughrea circa 1960
The front row includes: Jim Donoghue, Noel Byrnes, Kevin Ryan, Mikey Hanney, and Noel Scott
Middle: Jody Brien, Mikey Hanrahan, Seán Treacy, John Peter Treacy, and Pakie Hanrahan
Back: Michael Keane (Seán himself is not in this photograph).