Who were the Black and Tans?
They were an affliated force of the Royal Irish Constabulary that executed their missions during the War of

 Independence with a particular viciousness. They were not, as many Irish Nationalists claim, British jailbirds

 assembled to wreck havoc in Ireland, but ex-World War I soldiers lured back from demobilization in 1920 by the

 promise of money and action. Whence their nickname? Once the war was on, there simply wasn't enough RIC

 uniforms for all the forces, and so this gang went about in khakis. Admittedly, Michael Collins and his Volunteers -

 now called the Irish Republican Army - didn't shrink from potshot and assassination, but even by IRA standards the

 Black and Tans were a ruthless bunch. Decades later, mention of their name sends a shiver up the spine of an

 Irishman, while discussing them at a literary reading on the decorous Upper East Side of Manhattan. In the audience

 were various Irish and English and Irish Americans, as well as some just-plain Americans. The reading had an Irish

 slant and was generally well received. But there were odd moments, not the least of them when the evening's host,

 apparently of English descent, mentioned during his introduction of tonight's guest that he himself had dressed for

 balance - tan sports coat, black slacks - since the forthcoming words were sure to be very green. The audience laughed

 politely.