In 1965 when he was 16, Martin Cahill the future "General" was sentenced to two years for burglary. This was his FIFTH criminal conviction. He was first convicted (for larceny) at the age of 12 but before he turned 16, he had spent only one month in detention - in Marlboro House in Glasnevin. This time he served his sentence in the industrial school in Daingean, Co. Offaly run by the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a religious order of priests and brothers. He was released in 1967.
In later years, AFTER he became Ireland's best-known criminal, The General used to say "If anyone corrupted me it was those mad monks down in the bog". This kind of thing was music to the ears of those who saw the Catholic Church as the source of all Ireland's problems - and they were not too worried about the four [should read five] previous convictions.
However a year after he left Daingean, Martin Cahill was planning both to get married AND to go straight and wrote a letter to one of the Oblate Brothers. The following is the text as Cahill wrote it - about March 1968:
Sorry for not writing sooner. I just wanted to let you know how Im getting on, for a start it took me long enuf to get a job but I got one, my flat wages are £11. Some weeks I earn £16 to £17 a week but its hard work and its okay.
I am getting over weight and pale, all I need up here is clean fresh bog air, and bog work to get my weight down. Anyway the money I got on the bog I put into prise bonds and I still have it and with a bit of luck, I might win a £100 this week. I have a great chance, well who knows.
I kept out of trouble so far, please god I stay like that, you know I did [not] for get what you done for me, you made me feel as do I was free, in other words needed, I just want to let you know how grateful I am you made my time fly in.
I have met some of the lads some of them seem to be doing well, but I cant tell, I don't pal with any lads. You know I don't mix much, out straight I don't trust them, I tink that I get better along on my own so far, I'm not stuck up or anything like that. Im going with a girl a very nice girl and I am very happy the way I am. I met Frances two years ago and I love her very much and we are getting married on 16th March next week.
I know it is very soon and you might tink that I should weight, but I tot very seriously about it, and its the only thing we want. I know there will be hard times and easy times but please god that we will be happy and I will go about it the way you would want me to go about it, thats what I want to tell you.
I hope yurself is okay, some of the lads there need a good bashing and don't give into them because you dont hear them talking. as you say you have to be cruel to be kind, and let some of the loud mouths beat you in a cople of games of handball on till it goes to there heads and then beat them and take them down a peg or two, when they need it.
I will close now, sorry about my writing, wright soon. I want you to know that we are saving money since I came out as well as my bonds.
(Its not much but you know what to do).
The above is from Paul William book "The General: Godfather of Crime" (May 1995). Williams also wrote the following:
"In 1969, the year he turned twenty, Ireland was still a country where indictable crime was extremely rare and a much smaller police force boasted an almost hundred per cent detection rate. But Martin Cahill and his contemporaries were about to change all that. He was one of the prime movers in the new generation of hoodlum that emerged from the confusion and panic accompanying the outbreak of violence in Northern Ireland".
May 20, 2007