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. Here, Matt recalls being a young Garda, from a native Irish-speaking family, dealing with the challenging of an English-speaking reality in Dublin in 1959.
MR. FITZPATRICK: Now Matt, you said you were trained in the Garda Depot, where did you stay or where did you sleep? Was there accommodation in the depot or have you any feelings about that time of your career?
MR. COSGRAVE: No, there was no accommodation in the depot. We were marching down to Parkgate Street. That’s where we lived. Of course, the regulations at that time were you had to be in at 11 o’clock every night. That I found strange because I was after being in England and I was around the place and there were fellows coming from the country in those days that never saw traffic lights for the first time, or never used a phone. You know those phones with A and B? And I remember spending some time teaching those people, you know, you put in your money and if you don’t get an answer you press Button B. If you get an answer you press Button A. All those kinds of things. Now when I reflect back on that, of course at the time I didn’t take much notice of it because you know nobody was that au fait with telephones or anything, and of course there were no mobile phones or any of those things.
I suppose the biggest probably difficulty that I had is, because I am a native Irish speaker, and that’s what I spoke all the time. And even in England, I was working with native Connemara people. So the times that I spoke English weren’t that much, you know.
So there was an awful lot of English words in the lectures that we were getting that I didn’t understand and, incidentally, the first lecture that we did was on discipline and we spent one hour on discipline and I can still remember some of it: “There’s that quality which makes a man responsible for orders in authority to do promptly and without question what you are ordered to do”. It still hasn’t left my mind and of course, there was another long, this type of thing. I was kind of amazed at that kind of stuff. Then my difficulty in trying to understand words in relation to the job itself, you know, misdemeanours, felony, rape, indecent assault, all those kinds of things that would never have been part of my vocabulary.