John Shine - Irish Policeman


John Shine was born in 1839 on the County Roscommon side of Athlone.  He worked as a labourer whilst a young man.  However, times were hard for the labouring classes in the middle of the 19th century and he recognised the need for more stable employment.  With a recommendation from a local J.P. he secured an appointment as a constable with the Royal Irish Constabulary in May 1862.  He was then aged 23, a Roman Catholic, 5 foot 8 inches in height.  He was allocated the service number 27673.  His first posting was to the West Riding of County Galway in October 1862.  The RIC was run very much on military lines including the carrying of arms.  John Shine fell foul of the strict regime several times, experiencing a series of disciplinary measures with fines imposed and even a reduction in rank on one occasion.  An infamous escapade occurred one night when he was part of a patrol sent out to raid an outlying farm where, according to information received, a distilling operation had been established to produce the illicit liquor, poteen.  Concerns were raised the following morning when his patrol failed to return.  Another patrol was sent out on a rescue mission.  When the relief patrol arrived at the farm all was quiet.  In fact it was too quiet.  The constables in the first patrol had not been captured or harmed - they were all blind drunk!


John Shine mellowed and matured after his marriage to Mary Healey at the end of 1869.  She was a local girl from Co. Galway but they were soon to move from the area.  In July 1870 he was transferred to Ballinrobe in Co. Mayo.  It was here that at least 4 of their 13 children, John, Louisa, Bridget and William were born.


The 13 years that he served at Ballinrobe included the most testing time of his career, when a series of events led to the introduction of a new word into the English language.  Several years of bad harvests in Ireland culminated in demands from tenant farmers for rent reductions and pressure for land reform.  The response of many landlords to a refusal, or inability, to pay rent was eviction of the tenant.  This was the situation in 1880 a few miles outside Ballinrobe on the Lough Mask estates of Lord Erne.  Process servers of eviction notices were often attacked by local people.  Lord Erne, an absentee landlord, employed an agent to run his estates.  The unfortunate agent, who bore the brunt of local unrest, was one Captain Charles Boycott.  He was ostracised by many of the local people - "boycotted".


John Shine was one of the local constables faced with keeping the peace and providing protection for process servers and, with the military, for the 2,000 Orangemen from Co. Monaghan who marched from the railway station at Claremorris to Lough Mask House to save the harvest.  A photograph of a line up of constables in the grounds of Lough Mask House may well include John Shine.


He retired in 1883, after 21 years service, with a pension of £40 10s 4d.  A short stay in County Galway was followed, in February 1884, by a move with his family back to Athlone.  He opened a shop at 14, Bastion St. Athlone, which he and his wife ran.  The window sills of the substantial living accommodation, above the shop, were crammed with flower boxes and pots.  Sides of bacon and other produce filled the window display.  Wooden barrels lined the pavement in front of the shop.  He must have sold alcohol as the 1901 census records him as a publican.


John Shine died in 1908 at the age of 68.   The census of 1911 census records that Mary Shine was a widow and that only 4 of their children were still alive.  Mary died in 1937 with a recorded age of 73 but this is clearly wrong as her age appears to differ in the censuses.  Her memorial card records her age as 89 and resident in Chapel Street, Athlone.









Census of Ireland 1901 & 1911

PRO  HO184 Royal Irish Constabulary 1816 - 1922

PRO  PMG 48 Royal Irish Constabulary Pensions 1873 - 1925

Marlow J. (1973) Captain Boycott & The Irish,  London, Andre Deutsch.