MARKING HISTORY Mike Kerrigan and Paddy Fanning, grandsons of PJ Kerrigan, at the unveiling of the plaque dedicated to PJ at Westport Garda Station yesterday (Monday). Pic: Frank Dolan
PJ Kerrigan from Westport was the first member of An Garda Siochána
A MEMORIAL to PJ Kerrigan, the first member of An Garda Siochána, which was unveiled outside Westport Garda Station will ensure he is no longer the forgotten man of the force.
A native of the Fairgreen in Westport, Kerrigan became the first member of the Civil Guard when he joined the new police force on February 21, 1922. The Civil Guard were later renamed An Garda Siochána and were formed to replaced the disbanded RIC following the signing and ratification of the Anglo-Irish Treaty in January 1922.
Over 200 people attended the unveiling of a plaque to PJ Kerrigan by Assistant Commissioner Barry O’Brien yesterday (Monday) morning. The unveiling of the plaque was the first of six national events due to take place in 2022 to mark the centenary of An Garda Siochána.
Westport-based Garda Tony McCabe, who organised the memorial to Kerrigan, told The Mayo News that Kerrigan was ‘the forgotten man of An Garda Siochána’ and that he hopes the plaque will ensure his memory lives on.
“Every division in the country was asked to do something to mark the centenary of An Garda Siochána. I knew that the first garda was from the Fairgreen, so I made it my mission to track him down …
“I am very pleased by the way things worked out and Kerrigan has now been honoured in his home town. At least he will be remembered for the role he played in An Garda Siochána, and the plaque outside Westport Garda Station will be there for the next 100 years,” he said.
Born on September 12, 1892 on the Fairgreen, Westport, PJ Kerrigan was the son of Patrick and Mary Ellen Kerrigan. He had three brothers and two sisters, all of whom emigrated to the US. Patrick Kerrigan also worked as a postman for 44 years, and he is buried in Aughagower Cemeteryalong with his wife Mary Ellen.
He joined the RIC in 1913 on the recommendation of District Inspector Thomas Neylon and was allocated to Co Meath, and three months later he was transferred to the Reserve at Phoenix Park.
Silver Wound Badge
Following the outbreak of World War I, PJ resigned from the RIC on February 8, 1915, ‘to take up a position in the Army’ and enlisted in the Irish Guards Regiment.PJ was wounded on January 1, 1919, medically discharged on August 26, 1919, and awarded the Silver Wound Badge. His medal entitlement was the British War Medal and the Victory Medal for his WWI service.
He returned to Ireland in 1919 and married Molly Finnegan from South Quay Drogheda, Co Louth, whose father, Patrick Finnegan was at one time a ship’s captain owning a schooner and later a coal importer.
PJ Kerrigan was a controversial figure, and his time in An Garda Siochána was short lived, however. He was only a few months in the post when he was forced to resign for disciplinary issues. He later joined the National Army but emigrated to Canada and onto New York, leaving his wife and young family behind in Ireland never to return. He started a new family in New York before he died in 1947.
He had children living in New York and Ireland, and thanks to investigation work by Garda historian and former Garda Jim Herhily, he managed to trace their whereabouts.
Two of his grandchildren, Mike Kerrigan from Boston and Paddy Fanning from Co Louth, were present at the ceremony.
“It was the first time they ever met and they embraced each other at the ceremony and it was a very emotional moment,” said Garda McCabe. “It was a terrific event and we are delighted to make it happen.”