First Limerick female gardaí recall how shock of their presence caused motorists to crash

Sat, Oct 13, 2012, 01:00

ONE OF the first female gardaí has recalled how she and her colleagues literally stopped traffic when they joined the force more than 50 years.

Peg Brown, née Tierney, was speaking in Limerick yesterday at a mayoral reception to mark the 50th anniversary of the arrival of the first female gardaí in the city.

She was one of only three female sergeants in the force when she was sent to Limerick as one of the city’s first banghardaí in October 1962. The title of bangharda was abolished in 1990.

Ms Brown, a mother-of-three, recalled how the sight of female gardaí on the streets was so unusual it caused some motorists to crash.  “It happened me in Dublin first, twice in 1959, and then it happened to one of my colleagues in Limerick, and I remember the motorist pulling up and saying ‘it’s all your fault’! That was common then – people staring. I suppose we were an amazing sight.”

She said when they were training in the Garda depot in the Phoenix Park, there were railings outside and it was close to the zoo. “So instead of watching the monkeys in the zoo they were watching us marching.”

Her parents were apprehensive about her joining the force. “I was filled with horror stories that Limerick was an awful place, but when I came I can tell you I just fell in love with it. People were warm and friendly and it was so relaxed and easy-going. I loved it.”

Dympna Canny, née Moore, from Co Laois remembered the strict dress code for female gardaí. “Our hair had to be a certain length. We had to wear gloves – gloves were very important – and you had to have the seam in your stocking straight. Dress code was very, very strict.”

Former garda Teresa Dundon, nee Mitchell, from Roscommon remembered how some male motorists “dreaded” the sight of banghardaí.

“I think the men drivers preferred to see the male garda on the streets because they felt they could talk their way out of a parking ticket with the other men but they couldn’t with us. They hated seeing the ladies coming.”

Former garda Mary Stratford, née Garvey, from Barefield, Co Clare, met her husband Willie in the Garda while transporting a prisoner in Dublin.

Like her four colleagues in Limerick, she left when the marriage ban came into place in 1965, but feels she “never left the job” because her three sons and two daughters all went on to become members of the force.

“I loved every minute of it – hated having to leave when the marriage ban came into place,” she said.