Interviewed 27 September 2021
Retired Superintendent Matt Cosgrave speaks to the Capturing Our History Oral History Project about his memories of his time and his career in An Garda Siochána, which began in 1959. Matt is also a past president of our organisation, that is, he was President of the GSRMA, The Garda Siochána Retired Members Association. In this segment, Matt, a native of Carna in County Galway, recalls his early life and discusses his decision to join AGS. The interview was undertaken across the Zoom platform, as a result of the Covid-19 Pandemic.
FRANK FITZPATRICK: Good morning, Matt. Thank you for participating in this interview with me. I would like you to start to tell me about your early years, if you can start off the interview in that format, please?
MR. COSGRAVE: Good morning, Frank. Well, I was born in 1937 in Carna in a little village in County Galway. My father was doing a bit of fishing and farming and we were a big family, I was the youngest of ten children. By the time I was born I suppose most of the family had moved on. My eldest brother was a schoolteacher and some of my family were nurses and some of them worked in different places, mostly in America and England. I enjoyed going to school, going to the national school, left when I was 14 years of age. Rural electrification started in 1953 and I was 16 at that stage and they were employing most people around the locality. So I got a job there digging the holes for poles and you know the wires that was going to be erected on these. So there was numerous ones of those carrying electricity through these wires, all through Connemara. So Connemara changed totally from kind of a barren country to an area now full of posts and wires, et cetera.
So after you know, when that job winded up there was no work around Carna so I went to England and I worked there on construction work. There was a family from Connemara there who were involved in that and I got a job with them and I stayed there for about a year.
My eldest brother, being a schoolteacher, he was always saying ‘well you know, if you join the Gardaí, you’ll have nothing anything heavier in your hand than a pen or perhaps a baton and it would be a handy job for you’. And of course, being 6’6 and a half everybody would be saying me as I was growing up ‘oh you’d make a fine guard, you’d make a great guard, join the Gardaí’.
So I sat for the exam and I can’t remember exactly what year but it probably was about ’57 I’d say, because I know that there was a long time from the time I sat the exam until I finally made it to the Phoenix Park. So I joined in 1959, in February 1959. We were, all the Gardaí were trained in the Phoenix Park at that stage. I did about five months. I joined in February, 19th February, and the Passing Out Parade was on 16th of July. So it was just basically about five months. So we were all lined up. I had people telling me
‘oh the city is an awful place to be as a guard, get out in the country where you would be nothing’.
And so that was kind of going through my mind, so I did not volunteer for the city. They were looking for ten of that batch of recruits to go to the city stations. I did not volunteer for that. But nine people, but they wanted one extra Garda, so the Chief from the DMA who I think was a man called Connolly, and he lined us up on the square and he said “we’ll take the tallest” and of course there was no doubting that I was going to the city because that’s the way I was picked.