28th July - Eighteenth Letter to Poppy
Secret diary: No more entries
Official diary: entry for 26th July continues…I stopped for a short time at CAHERELLY GRANGE or CASTLE till darkness and then proceeded to a farm just South of LANGFORD BRIDGE over the CAMOGIE RIVER* I believe the farmhouse belongs to the owner of CAHERELLY GRANGE or he used to live in it. I stayed here until I escaped at 0200 hours on the morning of the 30th July. The window of the room in which I was sleeping was barred and by bursting one of these bars I managed to escape and in doing so burst a small blood vessel in my kidney.
Location: house near Herbertstown, Bruff.
My darling old Pip,
Got your letters of Wed Thurs and Friday, with father’s enclosed, last night. You really must cheer up; you are having a rotten time but it will all be over one day. It must be very trying with the boy crying such a lot, but that will soon wear off wont it. It is a great pity I cant be with you. I am pretty certain to get a months leave as soon as I am released, and it will be all right then.
Very glad you are not going to try and get down to Welwyn by train, with all the holiday traffic. This letter had better be addressed to Welwyn as you will be there before it arrives. Have not had a second batch of letters yet from the brigade, but they ought to arrive soon. We had better not call the boy Atty, after what you say, you must suggest some other names to choose from.
They are bound to keep my place open for me, and there is very little chance of my being moved elsewhere, so you cant count on that. Anyhow we will retire as soon as I conveniently can. Got a good walk yesterday afternoon which did me a lot of good. You must appreciate getting out into the park for an airing, have they got all the flowerbeds planted again properly this year.
All will come right soon, and we can settle down together in peace and comfort. Just think of that and try and forget all the present troubles.
Eighteenth Letter sent to Mrs C.H. Tindall Lucas, The Hall Welwyn Herts. England, postmarked EASTBOURNE 1 45 PM 4 Aug 1920 . Blue paper and envelope Written in pen. Although this was the eighteen letter written, Pip received it as the 20th.
What a heart-breaking letter poor Poppy must have written – she’d just been through giving birth prematurely, her husband was in captivity, she was probably fearing that he’d be killed and on top of all that she was living with her in-laws miles from her beloved Devon, with a baby that wouldn’t stop crying. It is very likely that she was suffering from severe post natal depression. One might wonder whether receiving, what must have been, such a heart rending letter had an effect on CHTL’s captors and was the deciding factor in letting him escape: also whether Poppy's over-whelming distress made CHTL more determined to escape.
Maybe the comments he makes in Poppy’s letter are an indication that CHTL is planning to break free and come home to her:
“All will come right soon, and we can settle down together in peace and comfort. Just think of that and try and forget all the present troubles.”
CHTL had been moved: Caherelly Castle was the perfect spot to stay for a while. Down a private lane and surrounded by trees, it wouldn’t have been easily spotted from the main road. The Camogue River was not far away. And the next stop - a farm house near Herbertstown was just a short journey which could be safely taken after dark.
Some days later, it was decided to transfer the prisoner to McCarthy’s house in Cahercorney (East Limerick Brigade area). This house was about five miles from Caherconlish on the Limerick-Herbertstown road about two miles west of Herbertstown. Transport for transfer of the prisoner was a pony and trap and Volunteers were posted at the various road junctions. The route taken was via Caherline, Caherelly and Raleighstown. McCarthy’s house was a one-storey long low building with iron bars set in the window-sills like a prison.
BUREAU OF MILITARY HISTORY, 1913-21. NO. W.S. 1559. Witness Morgan Portley, Company Captain, Ballybricken, Co. Limerick. Battalion Adjutant.
One would have thought that this ’prison’ was the least likely, of all the places that CHTL had been held in, to escape from. The bars at the window made it appear to be impossible to break free from. However some of the Volunteers hadn’t examined the bars very closely:
In the room he [CHTL] was in, the window was barred with ordinary bars that you would see in a farmhouse, but one of the bars was missing. The McCarthy’s in their young days had taken one of the bars out to enable them to get in and out the window when they were out late. It was through that window Lucas escaped.
BUREAU OF MILITARY HISTORY, 1913-21. NO. W.S. 656 Richard O’Connell, Member of Caherconlish Irish Volunteers 1914 Adjutant, 3rd Battalion O/C. 5th Battalion Mid-Limerick Brigade. O/C. Brigade Flying Column
The mention of the ‘good walk’ is interesting as Michael Brennan writes about taking CHTL for long walks so that he could study the layout of the countryside to aid him in escaping.
We had realised by now, of course, that nobody wanted Lucas, as his presence held up all activities. We also knew that G.H.Q. and the Dáil Government were very embarrassed by him. Threats had been made publicly that he would be held against other prisoners and obviously we couldn't play this game indefinitely against the British. When a Dublin visitor commented: "Why the hell doesn't he escape?”, I saw the solution of the difficulty. We spent three days in Caherconlish and then moved to a vacant house near Herbertstown, Bruff. We took Lucas for long walks across country and I noted with satisfaction that he studied the topography carefully from every hilltop.
BUREAU OF MILITARY HISTORY, 1913-21. STATEMENT BY WITNESS. DOCUMENT: NO. W.S. 1,068 Witness Lieut.-Gen. Michael Brennan, Brigade Adjutant East Clare Brigade; Column Commander East Clare Flying Column. Subject. National activities, East-Clare,1911-1922.
Chased by a Bull
There is an ancient legend in Ireland about the ‘Brown Bull of Cooley’ which CHTL’s Irish companions who were also chased by the bull might have known about. In Connacht there was a queen called Maeve who was strong, powerful and a fearsome character. She was married to King Ailill whom she was very jealous of. She always wanted to be the one with the most wealth. In actual fact they were equally wealthy. Queen Maeve could match her husband in jewels, gold and other riches.
However the one thing that Ailill had that Maeve didn't was the White Bull of Connacht, an awe inspiring fierce creature which was the envy of everyone. Ailill was always boasting about his wonderful bull.
Maeve couldn't cope with her husband having something better than her and asked her knights if there were any other bulls in Ireland that could be a match for Ailill’s white bull. One of her knights told her that there was a magnificent bull called the Brown Bull of Cooley that could outmatch the White Bull. This bull lived in Ulster.
Immediately Maeve wanted this bull and sent a messenger to ask the owner to lend his bull to her for one year. The Bull’s owner, an old man, refused to give Queen Maeve his prize bull. The messenger told the old man that Queen Maeve would take it by force. The old man still refused. Queen Maeve was furious and took her army to Ulster to get the brown bull.
There was a battle between the two sides. Two friends, Cúchulainn and Fredia found themselves fighting on opposing sides, Fredia fighting for Queen Maeve. It came down to a dual between the two friends. This went on for three days. Each night when the fighting stopped the two wept and embraced. It was Cúchulainn who finally won, killing his dear friend Fredia and in the process breaking his own heart.
Even though Queen Maeve lost, she stole the bull and brought it back to Connacht. The Brown Bull and the White Bull met and there was a terrible fight, with the Brown Bull eventually killing the White Bull. However the battle took its toll on the Brown Bull and it also died. Queen Maeve and King Ailill at last accepted that they were even. Source
It would be lovely to speculate that perhaps the encounter with the bull sparked a reminder of the story of two friends fighting on opposite sides and that this influenced Michael Brennan’s decision not to kill CHTL, but sadly that would be stretching the story into the land of fairytale legend. There’s no doubt that there was a certain level of friendship built between the soldiers fighting on opposite sides, but nothing as deep as that of the two warriors, Cúchulainn and Fredia. The war being waged was about far more than the petty jealousy of an indulged monarch. Sadly the Irish Civil War that followed the War of Independence did see close friends on opposite sides and many hearts must have been broken by the tragedy of that. Liam Lynch and Michael Brennan who had worked together in the capture of General Lucas found themselves on opposite sides, with Liam Lynch being killed by those who he’d once been fighting with for the same cause.
Following on from the photo from the 25th July showing CHTL’s left hand with the missing digits, it seems only right to explain what happened to his hand. It was in the Sudan before the Great War that CHTL lost at least one finger if not two. He was miles from anywhere when he had an accident cleaning a gun and did the damage to his hand. Quick thinking by those with him, saved his life. They put him on the back of a donkey and taking turns to hold up his arm to stem the bleeding they walked miles to the nearest doctor who patched him up.
It’s not clear how many fingers CHTL actually lost. From the x rays it looks as if it was only one, but it is possible that he might have lost another due to infection. It appears from the Gallipoli photo that he lost his middle and index finger. He was very discreet about hiding away his damaged hand, often wearing a glove. Even his daughter wasn’t sure of the number of missing fingers being rather squeamish about it.
A fellow officer writing about him in the Auckland Star 30 June 1920 stated:
"His one physical disability is the loss of three fingers of the left hand the result of a shooting accident in the Sudan, on which occasion he had to walk 120 miles before securing medical assistance.”
Auckland Star, Volume LI, Issue 155, 30 June 1920, Page 5
General Sir R Wingate was the Governor-General of the Sudan and Sirdar of the Egyptian army during CHTL’s time out there. (Wingate was also one of the key supporters of T.E. Lawrence’s (”Lawrence of Arabia”) military accomplishments in the Hejaz, Jordan, and Syria. Wingate supplied most of the gold sovereigns Lawrence used to persuade his Bedouin collaborators to join him) General Wingate wrote to CHTL after his escape and recalled the good and bad times in the Sudan.
"I often think of the old Sudan days & all the good work you did there–in spite of the horrid accident which so seriously damaged your hand.”
Letter from R Wingate 1 Aug 1920 Knockenhair, Dunbar, Scotland.
CHTL never allowed this ‘disability’ to be one. When men were deliberately allowing a finger or two to be shot off to give them a free pass home, CHTL was one of the ‘First in, last out’ soldiers of the Great War. He never used his injury as an excuse to not do what all other soldiers were required to do. His Irish captors were amazed at the speed with which he could deal a pack of cards.
The incredible humour of CHTL, where you cope with what could be seen as a tragedy by joking about it, is typical of his family’s attitude. His grandfather wrote a poem about ‘winning a smile from sorrow’ and this is what he did. This photo is from his photograph album - a picture of him in Sudan, with the caption beneath “CHTL Last view of him all there”.
When you turn the album’s page, you are suddenly faced with the startling X-ray photos of CHTL’s damaged hand.
We have tried to find a doctor to give their opinion of the x rays but they have much more pressing concerns at the moment. We’d welcome comments on this - and anything else - via our contact page.