They had come to fire the house, their visit expected because they hadbeen before. On that occasion they had come later, in the early morning,just after one. The sheepdogs had seen them off, but within a week thedogs lay poisoned in the yard and Captain Gault knew that the intruderswould be back. ‘We’re stretched at the barracks, sir,’ Sergeant Talty hadsaid when he came out from Enniseala. ‘Oh, stretched shocking, Captain.’ Lahardane wasn’t the only house under threat; every week somewherewent up, no matter how the constabulary were spread. ‘Please God, there’llbe an end to it,’ Sergeant Talty said, and went away. Martial law prevailed,since the country was in a state of unrest, one that amounted to war. Noaction was taken about the poisoning of the dogs.

Dose the first sentence in bold mean: we have lack of soldiers? or We are so busy at barracks?

and so "stretched shocking" mean:being busy is really shocking? or lack of soldiers is really shocking?

Source: The Story Of Lucy Gualt by William Trevor.


It could mean either or both.

You would need to interrogate the speaker to be sure what they mean.

  • 1
    Either way, it means they have barely enough soldiers/police to carry out the necessary duties. Nov 28 '20 at 13:20

Yes, lack of soldiers. Adding "shocking" emphases the lack, thus meaning many more soldiers are needed. You might substitute the phrases "we are understaffed at the barracks" and "oh badly understaffed" (in the UK the phrase "sorely understaffed" might be used).

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