Thursday, February 24, 2011

Larry Griffin - The Missing Postman

On Christmas day 1929 Larry Griffin, a 48 year old married postman, went missing in the village of Stradbally, Co. Waterford.  The saga of the missing postman was to be headline news for months afterwards and remains an unsolved mystery to this day.  Just over 8 years later 35 year old John Taaffe from Co. Longford, a newly promoted Garda Sergeant, arrived in Stradbally from Ballymote in Co. Sligo.  A former teacher, he was to take charge of the Stradbally Garda Station where a Sergeant and 3 young policemen had been stationed on that fateful day in December 1929.  Two of those Gardai were implicated in the disappearance of Larry Griffin and as a consequence had been dismissed from the Garda Siochana.

During his service as a member of the Gardai which commenced on 23rd March 1926 and ended with his retirement on 9th July 1966, my father was never heard to discuss Garda business in my presence.  Only once did I overhear a conversation between himself and a retired Garda Superintendent with whom he had served in Castlecomer in the early 1940s.  It was that conversation which first brought the story of the missing postman to my attention and I have been fascinated by it ever since. 

The investigation into the disappearance of the Stradbally postman had been well run down by the time my father arrived in Stradbally.  However, the discovery of skeletal remains brought my father and his station colleagues to what they believed and perhaps hoped was the final resting place of Larry Griffin.  It was not to be as the remains proved in time to be that of a man of the road who died apparently of natural causes.  This was the story related by my father and for a youngster hearing of the missing postman it created an interest which has remained to this day. 

How was it that a middle aged man last seen in a local pub in a County Waterford village could disappear without trace?  Whelans Pub in the village of Stradbally was where the story unfolded that Christmas day evening 82 years ago.  One man came forward to give an account of what happened.  James Fitzgerald, a farm labourer, claimed that the postman died following a row in Whelans Pub when it is believed he hit his head against a stove.  In the pub that day, contrary to the Christmas day closing laws, were a number of people including two local Gardai, a National school teacher and up to 15 or more other persons.

Fitzgerald made a statement to the Gardai which he later retracted, claiming that Griffin, described by his postmaster as a ‘frail and peaceful man’, having received much hospitality while delivering post that day was not entirely sober.  He apparently received quite an amount of half crowns in Christmas tips and as might have been expected had taken quite a few drinks while on his rounds that day.  Late in the evening he called into Whelans Pub where it was said he joined the company of local school teacher Thomas Cashin and another local man Edward Morrissey.  Some of the money given to the postman during the day fell out of his pocket and Morrissey picked up the money and used it to buy a round of drinks.  When Griffin realised what had happened he challenged Morrissey and according to Fitzgerald’s Statement Morrissey ‘threw Griffin over’ and the unfortunate postman hit his forehead off a stove. 

The Prosecuting Counsel at the preliminary hearing in the District Court claimed in his opening address that Cashin struck Griffin, while Morrissey pushed him to ground.  Larry Griffin lay motionless on the ground, his forehead marked where it had hit the stove.  Neither a doctor nor a priest was called, but instead, if Fitzgerald’s statement is to be believed, it was decided to remove Griffin’s body from the pub.  Fitzgerald then claimed that Cashin and Morrissey, assisted by others in the pub, carried the postman’s body to Cashin’s car and that Cashin, accompanied by Morrissey, drove away to an unknown location to conceal the body.  Given that there were believed to be 15 or 23 persons in Whelans Pub that night it is quite extraordinary that no one other than Fitzgerald, who later withdrew his statement, made any admissions to the investigating Gardai.

Larry Griffin had served in Africa during the First World War and after he was demobbed was appointed postman serving the Stradbally area working out of Kilmacthomas Post Office.  Married with a teenage son and daughter he was very well liked in the area and the publican, Patrick Whelan, who with others was later charged with his murder, would later claim that he was a good friend of Griffins.  At midnight on Christmas day Mr. Brown, the Postmaster of Kilmacthomas, reported Larry Griffin as missing and so started a chain of events which would be headline news in Irish newspapers for weeks and months to follow.


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