We sailed from Theodosia on the same troopship at 5:30am on Monday 27th March 1920 and disembarked at Constantinople at 12 noon on Sat. 3rd April 1920. We arrived at Maslak Rest Camp at 4:30pm on the same date. During our stay in this camp a case of typhus broke out and we were all kept in quarantine isolation for three weeks.
Maslak camp I assume was in what is now the Maslak business district of Istanbul which is on the European side of the city and close to the Bosphorus. I wrote a little bit about quarantine and war here. In war, disease certainly would have spread quickly what with masses of people displaced and armies moving around but no doubt it also suited certain powers to limit the movements of bodies of people. In fact the ‘plague model’ which isolates people within communities-as opposed to the leprosy model’ which imposes banishment on sufferers-has been used to propose systems of controlling the population. Jeremy Bentham’s Panopticon, a never-built proposal for a prison that is self-regulating was based on the plague model. The last time granddad had passed through Constantinople areas of the city had been closed off because of the plague. Anyway. Though he did not get out and about for the most part there was still time for a tour before they left.
On the 29th April 1920 we had a tour round several villages on the shores of the Bosphorus in a small boat.
No doubt some refreshments were imbibed which may explain some of what happened next…
When we were coming back to camp that night we stopped a Turkish taxicab driver & asked him to drive us back to camp & he refused so I pulled out my revolver & and made him drive us back to camp with the barrel of the revolver pointing at his head. When we arrived at the camp I took his fez (which is a Turkish cap) for a souvenir.
A band of young men having just been released from quarantine after months in a perilous and tense situation in a foreign country would have no qualms about pulling out their guns and the unfortunate taxi driver may have been familiar with this sort of situation too.
Revolvers are a recurring theme in my granddad’s life and probably in the lives of most young men in this turbulent century. On his return to Ireland he would join the Irish Army, then the Free State Army and afterwards the Garda Siochana. He always had two guns, one a .38 and one .45 which he had obviously taken with him from his time in the army and which he kept in good order all his life.
Granddad always kept a bulldog, which was always called Prince, and he would shoot two Princes on separate occasions. Once when one bit a donkey which had broken into the garden and another time when one bit his daughter Mary, my aunt, who would later die from mushroom poisoning at age 8. Another time one of the Princes cornered the local Superintendent and had to be rescued. I believe that Prince remained unharmed.
My granddad and superintendents did not mix well. In fact the first time I ever heard a story about my granddad and his revolver it was from someone who didn’t realise he was related to me. A friend had bought a building in Graiguenamanagh in Co. Kilkenny. It was the old Garda barracks and as such it had a history attached which my friend related to me while giving me a tour. In the 1920s the IRB (as the IRA were then know) had set a bomb in the attic, not having yet perfected the art of blowing up buildings, and blown the roof off it. My friend then told me of a Garda Superintendent who, sixty years previously, had been on a mission to capture a particular Garda with drink on him while on duty. Having had no success at apprehending this wily, and obviously legendary Garda-in south Kilkenny at least-in desperation the Superintendent climbed up and into the window of the living quarters just after the Garda had finished his shift, hoping to find his with the ‘drop taken’. The Garda, perhaps with his drop taken but still ‘on the ball’, as they say around here, seeing a shadow coming in through the net curtains grabbed his revolver and smacked the intruder across the head with the butt of it. ..
At this point in the story my friend stopped and said…
“Strangely enough the Garda had the same name as you…”
When I related this to my father he confirmed it but distanced himself from the episode by pointing out he had not yet been born and could not be held responsible for such shenanigans. I believe my granddad was posted to County Offaly after this incident (where my aunt Mary would die) and in fact he was moved around quite a bit until he was posted to Baldwinstown in County Wexford in 1941 where he would stay until his retirement. Maybe he had settled down a bit by then.
Anyway, my father told me another story about a close shave with a revolver of granddads’ when he (my dad) nearly killed himself with the .38 in Baldwinstown. He was ten years old at the time. He was obviously a bit bored one day, perhaps it was raining outside. He was messing around in the barracks-where the families if the Garda lived- he took out a revolver to play with it. It was not loaded but being an observant one he knew where the ammunition was and how to load it. He idly stuck a bullet in one of the chambers but when he tried to get it out he could not budge it. Terrified at being caught out by his father, my granddad, he desperately tried to get the bullet free. It eventually occurred to him that the only way to do so was to shoot the gun. He duly placed the muzzle against the wall and pulled the trigger. Luckily for him the revolver, as it was designed to do, skipped the full chamber and clicked on an empty one. The bullet fell out of its own accord. Which is why I am here I am to tell you about it…
Even on his deathbed, the revolvers would still be on granddad’s mind. He asked my father to dismantle them and dispose of them, forgetting that by this time they were long gone, as was the fez.
I thought I would get around to the general history of the fez but I think that’s enough excitement for now so I will leave it for next time.
Further Reading & References
Foucault, M., (1975), Panopticism, from Discipline & Punish:The Birth of the Prison, trans. Alan Sheridan, New York:Vintage books