THROUGH THE ARCHIVES: A blow is struck in fight against poteen traffic in south Londonderry

From the News Letter, March 20, 1926

Saturday, 20th March 2021, 6:00 am
Device for instructing officers on how poteen was made at the Police Museum at Knock Headquarters. Picture: Declan Roughan/Presseye/News Letter archives

The ingenuity of two constables of the RUC from the Gulladuff Barracks near Portglenone was rewarded this week in 1926 reported the News Letter when a blow was struck against the poteen traffic in the mountainous districts of south Londonderry.

Having had their suspicions aroused that poteen was being distilled in the area the constables had proceeded to the townland of Broagh.

To ensure that locals did not become suspicious of them they “doffed their uniforms” and went fishing for several days as “civilians”.

The News Letter reported: “Their presence at first, it is stated, caused some uneasiness to the ‘distillers’, but the seeming unconcern of the ‘anglers’ towards what was taking place lulled the lawbreakers back to a sense of security.”

The climax was reached on the Wednesday (St Patrick’s Day) when the poteen makers “probably assuming the district RUC would be present in force at the AOH meeting at Armoy” proceeded to manufacture the spirit in large quantities in broad daylight.

The two “fishermen” appeared as usual and they were permitted to proceed uninterrupted until they were 100 yards of the stilling party.

At that point the alarm was raised and “the men scattered in every direction”.

The paper’s report concluded: “To crown the day’s work the constables on the same night proceeded to Drennan Bog, seven miles from Broagh where, after hiding for some time, they disturbed a large party of poteen vendors and customers. With drawn revolvers they scattered the crowd and were successful in arresting two men, with a large quantity of spirits in their possession.”