The policeman calls

by St Patrick's Glen PS Maghera

It is a morning in early May in Ballymulderg Magherafelt, Co. Derry
The year is 1922
On this late spring day, the McKeown brothers,
James, Francis and Thomas are coming home for their tea,
Little knowing that Irish history is about to change their lives.

A figure on a bike
Made his way down the lane
The sound of a bell rang through the air
The gravel crunched underneath the tires
The man of authority knocked hard on the door
Francis began to feel worried and shook
And goosebumps appeared on his arms.
‘Tillage returns’ he announced.

A few weeks went by
An unfamiliar silhouette
Made its way down the lane
The sound of shouting and screaming rang through the air
Men jumped off the lorry
Firing warning shots into the air
The B Specialist leader ordering
All men outside

The next sounds to be heard
Were not expected
Gunshots filled the air
Thomas and Francis watched in horror
As their brother James hit the floor
Little did they know what was to follow
Francis was met with the barrel of a gun
When it was over, no sounds were made
Except the painful screams of Mrs. McKeown
And the cheers from the lorry
As its tires churned up the mucky lane
No dogs barked, no crows cawed
The ground at the farmhouse
Had gone from green to red
There would be no tillage returns in 1923.

Written by pupils at St. Patrick’s Glen PS, Maghera, as part of Poetry as Commemoration workshops led by Frank Galligan in September 2022.

The poem commemorates the shooting by Special Constables of James, Francis, and Thomas McKeown at their home at Ballymulderg, near Magherafelt, in May 1922. James McKeown died from his wounds while his brothers were seriously injured.