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Black and Tans – The Royal Irish Constabulary Special Reserve

Black and Tans

The Royal Irish Constabulary Special Reserve

Background & History

The Black and Tans  officially the Royal Irish Constabulary Special Reserve, was a force of temporary constables recruited to assist the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) during the Irish War of Independence.

Irish War of Independence in 12 Minutes

 The force was the brainchild of Winston Churchill, then British Secretary of State for War. Recruitment began in Great Britain in late 1919. Thousands, many of them British Army veterans of World War I, answered the British government’s call for recruits. Most of the recruits came from Britain, although it also had some members from Ireland.

Their role was to help the RIC maintain control and fight the Irish Republican Army (IRA), the army of the Irish Republic. The nickname “Black and Tans” arose from the colours of the improvised uniforms they initially wore, composed of mixed khaki British Army and black RIC uniform parts. The Black and Tans became known for their attacks on civilians and civilian property.

The Black and Tans were sometimes confused with the Auxiliary Division, a counter-insurgency unit of the RIC made up of former British officers. However, sometimes the term “Black and Tans” is used to cover both of these groups.

Disclaimer –-

The views and opinions expressed in these documentary are soley intended to educate and provide background information to those interested in the Troubles of Northern Ireland. They in no way reflect my own opinions and I take no responsibility for any inaccuracies or factual errors.

Foundation

The late 19th and early 20th centuries in Ireland were dominated by Irish nationalists’ pursuit of Home Rule from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland. The issue of Home Rule was shelved with the outbreak of World War I, and in 1916 Irish republicans staged the Easter Rising against British rule in an attempt to establish a republic. Growing support amongst the Irish populace for the republican Sinn Féin political party saw it win 73 out of 105 seats in the 1918 Irish general election.

On 21 January 1919, Sinn Féin established themselves as the First Dáil, which then declared an independent Irish Republic. They also declared the Irish Republican Army (IRA) the official army of the state, which in the same month began the Irish War of Independence. The main targets of the IRA offensive were the Royal Irish Constabulary (RIC) and the British Army in Ireland.

In September 1919 David Lloyd George, the British Prime Minister, outlawed the Dáil and augmented the British Army presence in Ireland, starting work on the next Home Rule Act.

A Black and Tan in Dublin, smoking and carrying a Lewis gun, February 1921

In January 1920, the British government started advertising in British cities for men willing to “face a rough and dangerous task”, helping to boost the ranks of the RIC in policing an increasingly anti-British Ireland. There was no shortage of recruits, many of them unemployed First World War army veterans, and by November 1921 about 9,500 men had joined. This sudden influx of men led to a shortage of RIC uniforms, and the new recruits were issued with khaki army uniforms (usually only trousers) and dark green RIC or blue British police surplus tunics, caps and belts.

These uniforms differentiated them from the British Army and the regular RIC, and gave rise to the force’s nickname: Christopher O’Sullivan wrote in the Limerick Echo on 25 March 1920 that, meeting a group of recruits on a train at Limerick Junction, the attire of one reminded him of the ScarteenHunt, whose “Black and Tans” nickname derived from the colouration of its Kerry Beagles.

Ennis comedian Mike Nono elaborated the joke in Limerick’s Theatre Royal, and the nickname soon took hold, persisting even after the men received full RIC uniforms. The popular Irish claim made at the time that most of the men serving in the Black and Tans had criminal records and had been recruited straight from British prisons is incorrect, as a criminal record would disqualify one from working as a policeman.

The vast majority of the men serving in the Black and Tans were unemployed veterans of the First World War who were having trouble finding jobs, and for most of them it was economic reasons that drove them to join the Temporary Constables.

The new recruits received three months’ hurried training, and were rapidly posted to RIC barracks, mostly in rural County DublinMunster and eastern Connacht. The first men arrived on 25 March 1920. The British government also raised another unit, the Auxiliary Division of the constabulary, known as the Auxiliaries or Auxies, consisting of ex-army officers. The Black and Tans aided the Auxiliaries in the British government’s attempts to break both the IRA and the Dáil.

The Blacks and Tans were meant to back up the RIC in the struggle against the IRA, playing a defensive-reactive role whereas the role of the “Auxies” were those of heavily armed, mobile units meant for offensive operations in the Irish countryside intended to hunt down and destroy IRA units. At least part of the infamy of the Blacks and Tans is undeserved as many of the war crimes attributed to the Blacks and Tans were actually the work of the “Auxies”

Conduct

See also: Timeline of the Irish War of Independence

A group of Black and Tans and Auxiliaries outside the London and North Western Hotel in Dublin following an attack by the IRA, April 1921

Temporary Constables were paid the relatively good wage of 10 shillings (half a pound) a day, plus full board and lodging. With minimal police training, their main role was to increase the strength of police posts, where they functioned as sentries, guards, escorts for government agents, reinforcement to the regular police, and crowd control.

British In Ireland (1916-1920)

They mounted a determined counter-insurgency campaign. They and the Auxies became known as Tudor’s Toughs after the police commander, Major-General Sir Henry Hugh Tudor. They were viewed by republicans as akin to an army of occupation because of these duties. They soon gained a reputation for brutality, as the RIC campaign against the IRA and Sinn Féin members was stepped up and police reprisals for IRA attacks were condoned by the government.

Alexander Will, from Forfar in Scotland, was the first Temporary Constable to die in the conflict. He was killed during an IRA attack on the RIC barracks in Rathmore, County Kerry, on 11 July 1920.

The Black and Tans were not subject to strict discipline in their first months and, as a result, their deaths at the hands of the IRA in 1920 were often repaid with arbitrary reprisals against the civilian population. In the summer of 1920, the Black and Tans burned and sacked many small towns and villages in Ireland, beginning with Tuam in County Galway in July 1920 and also including TrimBalbrigganKnockcrogheryThurles and Templemore amongst many others. In November 1920, the Tans “besieged” Tralee in revenge for the IRA abduction and killing of two local RIC men. They closed all the businesses in the town, let no food in for a week and shot dead three local civilians. On 14 November, the Tans were suspected of abducting and murdering a Roman Catholic priest, Father Michael Griffin, in Galway. His body was found in a bog in Barna a week later.

From October 1920 to July 1921, the Galway region was “remarkable in many ways”, most notably the level of police brutality towards suspected IRA members, which was far above the norm in the rest of Ireland. On the night of 11 December 1920, they sacked Corkdestroying a large part of the city centre.

In January 1921, the British Labour Commission produced a report on the situation in Ireland which was highly critical of the government’s security policy. It said the government, in forming the Black and Tans, had:

The R.I.C. The Forgotten Force

“liberated forces which it is not at present able to dominate”.

However, since 29 December 1920, the British government had sanctioned “official reprisals” in Ireland – usually meaning burning property of IRA men and their suspected sympathisers. Taken together with an increased emphasis on discipline in the RIC, this helped to curb the random atrocities the Black and Tans committed since March 1920 for the remainder of the war, if only because reprisals were now directed from above rather than being the result of a spontaneous desire for revenge.

Many of the activities popularly attributed to the Black and Tans may have been committed by the Auxiliary Division. For instance, Tomás Mac Curtain, the Mayor of Cork, was assassinated in March 1920 by local RIC men under the command of an Inspector General who had been a ‘plague on the local Catholic population’ and the shooting dead of 13 civilians at Croke Park on Bloody Sunday was supposedly carried out by the regular RIC, although a small detachment of Auxiliaries were also present. Most Republicans did not make a distinction, and “Black and Tans” was often used as a catch-all term for all police groups.

Government policy and reaction

The actions of the Black and Tans alienated public opinion in both Ireland and Great Britain. Their violent tactics encouraged the Irish public to increase their covert support of the IRA, while the British public pressed for a move towards a peaceful resolution. Edward Wood MP, better known as the future Foreign Secretary Lord Halifax, rejected force and urged the British government to make an offer to the Irish “conceived on the most generous lines”.

Sir John Simon MP, another future Foreign Secretary, was also horrified at the tactics being used. Lionel Curtis, writing in the imperialist journal The Round Table, wrote:

If the British Commonwealth can only be preserved by such means, it would become a negation of the principle for which it has stood”.

 The King, senior Anglican bishops, MPs from the Liberal and Labour parties, Oswald MosleyJan Smuts, the Trades Union Congress and parts of the press were increasingly critical of the actions of the Black and Tans. Mahatma Gandhi said of the British peace offer:

“It is not fear of losing more lives that has compelled a reluctant offer from England but it is the shame of any further imposition of agony upon a people that loves liberty above everything else”.

About 7,000 Black and Tans served in Ireland in 1920–22. More than one-third left the service before they were disbanded along with the rest of the RIC in 1922, an extremely high wastage rate, and well over half received government pensions. A total of 404 members of the Royal Irish Constabulary died in the conflict and more than 600 were wounded but it is not clear how many of these were regular RIC men and how many were Black and Tans or Auxiliaries.

Those who returned to civilian life sometimes had problems re-integrating. At least two former Black and Tans were hanged for murder in Britain and another (Scott Cullen) wanted for murder committed suicide before the police could arrest him.

Legacy

Due to the ferocity of the Tans’ behaviour in Ireland and the numerous war crimes they committed, feelings continue to run high regarding their actions. The term can still stir bad reactions because of their remembered brutality.

One of the best known Irish Republican songs is Dominic Behan‘s “Come out Ye Black and Tans“.

The Irish War of Independence is sometimes referred to as the “Tan War” or “Black-and-Tan War.” This term was preferred by those who fought on the anti-Treaty side in the Irish Civil Warand is still used by Republicans today. The “Cogadh na Saoirse” (“War of Independence”) medal, awarded since 1941 by the Irish government to IRA veterans of the War of Independence, bears a ribbon with two vertical stripes in black and tan

B Specials

See: The “B-Specials” or “B Men’

See: Why Ireland split into the Republic of Ireland & Northern Ireland

Main Source : wikipedia.org

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The Battle of Springmartin 13th –14th May 1972

Battle of Springmartin 13th -14th May 1972

The Battle at Springmartin was a series of gun battles in Belfast, Northern Ireland on 13–14 May 1972. It involved the British Army, the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), and the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF).

See: IRA history & Background

See: UVF history & background

The violence began when a car bomb, planted by Ulster loyalists, exploded outside a crowded public house in the mainly Irish nationalist and Catholic district of Ballymurphy.

UVF snipers then opened fire on the survivors from an abandoned high-rise flat. This began the worst fighting in Northern Ireland since the suspension of the Parliament of Northern Ireland and the imposition of direct rule from London. For the rest of the night and throughout the next day, local IRA units fought gun battles with both the UVF and British Army. Most of the fighting took place along the interface between the Catholic Ballymurphy and Ulster Protestant Springmartin housing estates, and the British Army base that sat between them.

Seven people were killed in the violence: five civilians (four Catholics, one Protestant), a British soldier and a member of the IRA Youth Section. Four of the dead were teenagers.

Northern Ireland in the 1960s/1970s Documentary

— Disclaimer –

The views and opinions expressed in this post/documentaries  are soley intended to educate and provide background information to those interested in the Troubles of Northern Ireland. They in no way reflect my own opinions and I take no responsibility for any inaccuracies or factual error

Bombing of Kelly’s Bar

Aftermath of Bomb

Shortly after 5:00 PM on Saturday 13 May 1972, a car bomb exploded without warning outside Kelly’s Bar, at the junction of the Springfield Road and Whiterock Road. The pub was in a mainly Irish Catholic and nationalist area and most of its customers were from the area.  At the time of the blast, the pub was crowded with men watching an association football match between England and West Germany on colour television. Sixty-three people were injured, eight of them seriously. John Moran (19), who had been working at Kelly’s as a part-time barman, died of his injuries on 23 May.

At first, the British Army claimed that the blast had been an “accident” caused by a Provisional IRA bomb. The Secretary of State for Northern IrelandWilliam Whitelaw, told the House of Commons on 18 May that the blast was caused by a Provisional IRA bomb that exploded prematurely.

However, locals suspected that the loyalist Ulster Defence Association (UDA) had planted the bomb. Republican sources said that IRA volunteers would not have risked storing such a large amount of explosives in such a crowded pub. It later emerged that the bomb had indeed been planted by loyalists.

See: UDA History & Background

A memorial plaque on the site of the former pub names three members of staff who lost their lives as a result of the bomb and the gun battles that followed. It reads: “.

” ..here on 13th May 1972 a no warning Loyalist car bomb exploded. As a result, 66 people were injured and three innocent members of staff of Kelly’s Bar lost their lives. They were: Tommy McIlroy (died 13th May 1972), John Moran (died from his injuries 23rd May 1972), Gerard Clarke (died from his injuries 6th September 1989) “

The Gun Battles

Saturday 13 May

The night before the bombing, gunmen from the UVF West Belfast Brigade had taken up position along the second floor of an abandoned row of maisonettes  (or flats) at the edge of the Protestant Springmartin estate. The flats overlooked the Catholic Ballymurphy estate. Rifles, mostly Second World War stock, were ferried to the area from dumps in the Shankill.

Not long after the explosion, the UVF unit opened fire on those gathered outside the wrecked pub, including those who had been caught in the blast.

 A British Army spokesman said that the shooting began at about 5:35 PM, when 30 high-velocity shots were heard.  Social Democratic and Labour Party Member of Parliament Gerry Fitt said that shots had been fired from the Springmartin estate only minutes after the bombing. William Whitelaw, however, claimed that the shooting did not begin until 40 minutes after the blast.

Ambulances braved the gunfire to reach the wounded, which included a number of children.  Tommy McIlroy (50), a Catholic civilian who worked at Kelly’s Bar, was shot in the chest and killed outright. He was the first to be killed in the violence.

See: 13th May – Deaths & Events in Northern Ireland Troubles

Members of both the Provisional and Official wings of the IRA “joined forces to return the fire”, using Thompson submachine gunsM1 carbines and a Bren light machine gun.

When British troops arrived on the scene, they too were fired upon by IRA units. Corporal Alan Buckley (22) of the 1st Battalion The Kings Regiment was fatally shot by the Provisionals on Whiterock Road.

 A platoon of soldiers then gave covering fire while a medical officer tried to help him. Another soldier was also wounded in the gunfight. Following this, 300 members of the Parachute Regiment were sent to back up the King’s Own Scottish Borderers.

Over the next few hours there were 35 separate shooting incidents reported, making it the most violent night since the suspension of the Northern Ireland government and imposition of Direct Rule from London earlier that year.

The IRA exchanged fire with both the British Army and with the UVF snipers on the Springmartin flats. Most of the IRA’s fire was aimed at the Henry Taggart Army base—near the Springmartin flats—which was hit by over 400 rounds in the first 14 hours of the battle.  

Although most of the republican gunfire came from the Ballymurphy estate, British soldiers also reported shots being fired from the nearby mountain slopes. According to journalist Malachi O’Doherty, a source claimed that the British Army had also fired into Belfast City Cemetery between the Whiterock and Springfield roads.

If you hate the british army clap your hands! – Irish children’s music (Ballymurphy)

Two more people were killed that night. The first was 15-year-old Michael Magee, a member of Fianna Éireann (the IRA youth wing), who was found shot in the chest at New Barnsley Crescent, near his home. He died shortly after he was brought to the Royal Victoria Hospital.

Two men who took him there claimed they were beaten by British soldiers who had just heard of Corporal Buckley’s death.  A death notice said that Magee was killed by the British Army but the republican publication Belfast Graves claimed he had been accidentally shot.

The other was a Catholic civilian, Robert McMullan (32), who was shot at New Barnsley Park, also near his home. Witnesses said there was heavy gunfire in the area at 8PM and then:

“a single shot rang out and Robert McMullan fell to the ground”.

It is thought that he was shot by soldiers firing from Henry Taggart base.

Trevor King Mural

On the first night of the battle, the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) arrested two young UVF members, Trevor King and William Graham. They were found at a house in Blackmountain Pass trying to fix a rifle that had jammed. During a search of the house, the RUC found three Steyr rifles, ammunition and illuminating flares.

See: Trevor King

Sunday 14 May

The fighting between the IRA, UVF and British Army resumed the following day. According to the book UVF (1997), British soldiers were moved into the ground floor of the abandoned flats while the UVF snipers continued firing from the flats above them. The soldiers and UVF were both firing into Ballymurphy, and according to the book both were “initially unaware of each other”.

 However, according to a UVF gunman involved in the battle, there was collusion between the UVF and British soldiers. He alleged that a British foot patrol caught a UVF unit hiding guns in a bin but ignored their cache with a wink when the UVF member said the guns were “rubbish”.

According to Jim Cusack and Henry McDonald, Jim Hanna — who later became UVF Chief of Staff — was one of the snipers operating from Springmartin during the battle. Jim Hanna told journalist Kevin Myers that, during the clashes, a British Army patrol helped Hanna and two other UVF members get into Corry’s Timber Yard, which overlooked the Catholic Ballymurphy estate.  When a British Army Major heard of the incident he ordered his men to withdraw, but they did not arrest the UVF members, who were allowed to hold their position. The IRA’s Ballymurphy unit was returning fire at an equal rate and some 400 strike marks were later counted on the flats.

Squaddies on the Frontline – BBC Documentary 2018 – British Army in Northern Ireland

In the Springmartin estate, gunfire killed Protestant teenager John Pedlow (17) and wounded his friend.  According to the book Lost Lives, they had been shot by soldiers. His friend said that they had been walking home from a shop when there was a burst of gunfire, which “came from near the Taggart Memorial Army post and seemed to be directed towards Black Mountain Parade”.

However, Malcolm Sutton’s Index of Deaths from the Conflict in Ireland states that he was killed by the IRA.  An inquest into Pedlow’s death found that he had been hit by a .303 bullet, which was likely a ricochet. Pedlow was given a loyalist funeral, but police said there was nothing to link him with any “illegal organisation or acts”.

UVF snipers continued to fire from the high-rise flats on the hill at Springmartin Road. About three hours after the shooting of Pedlow, a bullet fatally struck a 13-year-old Catholic girl, Martha Campbell, as she walked along Springhill Avenue.

She was among a group of young girls and a witness said the firing must have been directed at himself and the girls, as nobody else was in the area at the time. Reliable loyalist sources say that the schoolgirl was shot by the UVF.

Shortly afterwards, the loyalist UDA used roadblocks and barricades to seal-off the Woodvale area into a “no-go” zone, controlled by the UDA’s B Company, which was then commanded by former British soldier Davy Fogel.

Belfast 1969 : The Dawn of the Troubles ( Shankill / Falls Rd

Main Source : Wikipedia

Don’t forget to check out my homepage for a comprehensive database on deaths & events during the Troubles

See: The Loyalist Mod , extracts from my forthcoming autobiography

Northern Ireland/Belfast Food & Drink – Things I love & miss from home & A few I don’t!

Things I miss ( and some I don’t ) from homeBelfast

Ok so here’s a list of things I love and miss from home , food and drink I grew up with which are still firm favorites and will be known to all Belfast/Northern Ireland folk the world over. And the good news is you can actually order some of these iconic foods online , including Veg Roll ( who knew ) , Dulse and my fav Tayto Cheese and Onion. So if you have a husband or wife originally from Belfast/Norther Ireland you could bring a smile to their face and the taste of childhood memories. See individual listings for order details were available.

Having just returned from a trip home, working on my forthcoming book and taking in the glorious 12th whilst there I’ve feasted on many of these childhood favorites and so I’m not missing them as much as usual, but give it a few weeks/months and I’d sell my granny for a Pastie Supper from Beatties on the Shankill after a few jar in The Royal or Blues.

The list is a work in progress, so if you notice something missing please email me, leave a comment below or send me a Tweet .

@bfchild66

And a MASSIVE BIG thank you to all my Twitter friends whom helped me compile the list and offered many comments and suggestion along the way – I couldn’t have done it without you guys helping me – so Thank You All.

Barmbrack

Barmbrack is a yeasted bread with added sultanas and raisins and has long been a favorite of Northern Ireland folk.

It is usually sold in flattened rounds and served toasted with butter. The dough is sweeter than sandwich bread, but not as rich as cake, and the sultanas and raisins add flavour and texture to the final product.

I loved this toasted when I was younger , the smell of hot sultanas and raisins was to die for.

Cook it at home :  Barmbrack Recipe

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Beef Sausages

Although beef sausages are available all over the UK the ones from Belfast and my childhood remain a firm favorite and no Ulster Fry is complete without one or two in my humble opinion. I do love a sausage now and again , but I’m very fussy and only eat the top brands or those infused with herbs. cheese , onions, peppers or spices etc . But given a choice I would give them all up for one from home.

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Belfast Bap

Big, crusty bread famed throughout Northern Ireland and Belfast the stuff of legends and a firm favorite for generations of Norm Iron folk.



Often split in the middle and stuffed full of any filling you like , a pastie, crisps or some folk like Dulse in them, but that’s just wrong in my book.


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Brown Lemonade

 Brown Lemonade is a brown coloured lemonade flavoured fizzy soft drink sold in Northern Ireland. It is made by companies such as Cantrell & Cochrane (C&C) and by Maine.

When I first moved to London and went drinking in the bars and clubs I couldn’t believe that none of them sold or had heard of brown Lemonade. Grrrr……..

Link to : Brown Lemonade – Stujak Blog

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Brandy Balls

Brandy Balls, a traditional Irish hard boiled sweet, with a sweet brandy hint about them and a taste that transports me back to 1970’s Belfast.

My granddad always seemed to have an endless supply of these in his “magic ” pockets , which held all sorts of weird and wonderful things he would randomly produce. Looking back I think he sucked them so me Granny wouldn’t smell the smoke on him & as he was supposed to have stopped and he’d get a telling off.

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Buckfast

Buckfast Tonic Wine is a caffeinated fortified wine originally made by monks at Buckfast Abbey in Devon, England, now made under a licence granted by the monastery, and distributed by J. Chandler & Company in the United Kingdom and Richmond Marketing Ltd in Ireland.

This stuff is legendary and splits the crowd big style. I’d drank it when I was younger back in Belfast , but had not had it in ages. So whilst I was home ( working on my book & taking in the 12th 2019 ) I decided to try a bottle, small to be fair. But I’d been on the Shankill drinking all day and by the time I drank it , mid afternoon I was already pissed outta my head. To be fair i had drank about 15 pints of Harp & countless Gin n Tonics. Anyways I lost a few hours of my life and had little memory of what i got up to during this sad period. Ive been informed that I was drinking like there was no tomorrow in the Royal, The Blues and various other pubs in and around the Shankill. How I managed to stay conscious long enough to watch the Bonfires is a mystery, but I did have a monster hangover whilst watching the bands on the 12th

See my Tweet below , posted whilst I could still stand, just .

NEVER again !!

Link to :  Buckfast: a drink with almost supernatural powers of destruction

English People Try Buckfast For The First Time

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Club  Orange

Club is the brand name for a series of Irish carbonated soft drinks produced in Ireland by Britvic Ireland and previously by Cantrell & Cochrane (C&C). It is bottled by the Britvic plant in Dublin. The series includes Club Orange, Club Lemon, Club Rock Shandy (a mixture of the orange and lemon flavours) and Club Apple soft drinks.

History :

Club Orange, an orange flavoured carbonated drink, was the first orange fruit juice to appear on the Irish market. It was launched in the late 1930s, with the formula refined since then to its present state. The name Club derives from the Kildare Street Club in Dublin, which commissioned C&C to make an orange-flavoured drink. In 1960, Club Lemon was introduced as a sister product, and in the 2000s several other flavours were added to the range.

In 2004 C&C relaunched Club Lemon, which now also contains vesicles. Over the years a number of drinks have appeared under the Club label, including Club Orange and Cranberry, Club Berry, and Club Apple. Diet and sugar free versions were also produced.

Not a lot I can say about this apart from it was a childhood favorite and there were always a few bottles lurking about in the cupboard or fridge at home. Its got a unique flavor that I’ve never tasted in an fizzy orange drink elsewhere in the world!

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Champ


Champ is an Irish dish, made by combining mashed potatoes and chopped scallions with butter, milk and optionally, salt and pepper. As recently as the mid-20th century it was sometimes made with stinging nettle rather than scallions but this is rarely seen now

I never liked this for some reason and when my wee granny use to make it when I was a kid in Glencairn back in the early 70’s I’d wait until she’d left the room and then throw it in the bin or dog, whichever was closer. My wee granny wasn’t the kind of person to take cheek from a nipper like me and i’d have been in trouble if I’d complaint about the food. Plus i loved her and didn’t want to hurt her feelings.

Link to : Easy Traditional Irish Champ

 

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Cowboy Supper

Cowboy supper (plural cowboy suppers). (Northern Ireland ) A meal of sausages, baked beans, and chips or mashed potatoes.

Ok this one’s not strictly traditional Northern Ireland cuisine but once again a firm childhood favorite and a treat on a Friday night when me Da got paid. Once again plastered in HP sauce and a Belfast Bap to make a piece ( Northern Ireland slang for sandwich ) beans and all!

The wife often makes it now, but with posh sausages , caramelized onions , mash and she tries to get me to have it with carrots or some other veg, but sometimes I rebel and much to the amusement of her and the kids I insist on having it with beans ,the taste of my childhood

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Dulse

Dulse (Palmaria Palmata) is a wild seaweed that grows on the North Atlantic coast of  Britain. Its Gaelic name is duileasg, and the fronds are long and membranous with a dark reddish-purple translucent hue. It formed part of a regular diet for coastal-dwelling communities in Scotland and Northern Ireland for centuries, as it is highly rich in vitamins and minerals, and a good source of protein. It is a very versatile ingredient; it can be eaten raw, having a salty flavour and chewy texture, like a natural chewing gum. It can also be dried and consumed as a snack or added to broths and stews to enhance the flavour and act as a thickener. It can be boiled for several hours into a pulp which has a porridge-like consistenc

Always loved this as a child growing up in Belfast and it was one of my favourite childhood snacks. We use to get it in Bangor ,  Millisle and Donaghadee and it was served in a small white paper bag and fresh from the sea, covered in dry salt. My mum and many others would make a sandwich (piece in Northern Ireland slang ) and eat it like this, but I thought that was gross !

Nowadays it seems harder to come across and it just doesn’t taste as good as what I remember.

Travel Bloggers Eat Dulse For the First Time

You can order it here : Get some Dulse delivered straight to your door

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Guinness

Guinness is a dark Irish dry stout that originated in the brewery of Arthur Guinness at St. James’s Gate, Dublin, Ireland, in 1759. It is one of the most successful beer brands worldwide, brewed in almost 50 countries, and available in over 120.

Now I know its controversial, an Irish man not liking the   the “ Black Stuff”, but I have a good excuse , trust me!

When I was in my teens my granda use to take me down the Woodvale/Shankill whilst he put a few bets on the horses and watched the results as he supped a few beers in the bars. I was always given a coke and told to be quiet whilst he watched ( and lost on )  the races. As I got  a bit older I kept on and on at him to let me have a “real” drink and so one day in order to shut me up he got me a half pint of Guinness . One sip and I hated it, but he insisted I drank the lot and I was sick as dog afterwards.

So that’s why I can’t stand the “Back Stuff

The perfect pint of Guinness

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Harp

Harp Lager is an Irish lager created in 1960 by Guinness in its Great Northern Brewery, Dundalk. It is a major lager brand throughout most of the North of Ireland, but is a minor lager brand in the rest of the Republic.

What can I say apart from  the taste of Belfast in a glass. The crowd is split on this one, but I’ve always enjoyed it and any time I’m home it’s my drink of choice , apart from gin off course

A pint of Harp and packet of dates please Harp Lager TV Ad 1992

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Irish Stew

Irish stew is any variety of meat and root vegetable stew native to Ireland. As in all traditional folk dishes, the exact recipe is not consistent from time to time, or place to place. Common ingredients include lamb, or mutton, as well as potatoes, onions, and parsley. It may sometimes also include carrots.

This is more like the stew I had when I was a kid in Belfast. Although ours use to be much thicker and better looking.

In recent years Ive perfected a recipe that uses lamb on the bone and I gotta say its to die for. But when I was a kid in Belfast my family use to make in with mince meat ( we couldn’t afford real lamb ) , loads of spuds, onion, carrots and thickened it up with gravy.  A big bit of bread ( Belfast Bap ) and HP brown sauce made it a winter favourite that would leave me stuffed and needing a wee lay down on the sofa.

Link to: Irish Stew recipe

Link to: How to cook the perfect Irish stew

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Maine Sarsaparilla

Maine Sarsaparilla – For over 65 years The Maine Man has continued the tradition of delivering quality soft drinks to our doorsteps.

Families throughout Northern Ireland have fond memories of regular weekly orders of their favourite flavours such as Sarsaparilla, American Cream Soda, Pineappleade and Cloudy Lime in glass returnable bottles.

Practically everyone who grew up in Northern Ireland remembers the Maine mineral van coming with a crate of goodies every week. Flavours like Sarsaparilla, Pineappleade and American Cream Soda came in glass bottles which were returned empty and new ones replaced them.

It all began when the Harkness family established a soft drinks business, Braid Mineral Water Co., in Ballymena in 1919. The founder’s son, John Harkness, decided to branch out on his own in 1949 and formed Maine Soft Drinks. In 1959 the business relocated to its current premises in Ballymoney.

The company is still owned by the Harkness family and is now into its 4th generation.

It has expanded and branched out in different ways including supplying to supermarkets and contract bottling. They are also exporting to various companies on the UK mainland. Regardless of expansion the doorstep delivery side of the business is still very important, with more than 40,000 homes supplied on a weekly / fortnightly basis.

Maine Soft Drinks employs more than 100 people, half of which are based in Ballymoney and the other half spread throughout Northern Ireland in depots located in Lurgan, Belfast and Derry-Londonderry.

What can I say apart from this is another childhood favorite and I loved all their drinks especially Cream Soda, Pineappleade and Cloudy Lime , which in my book all have a unique flavor I’ve never come across before throughout my 30 years of living in the land of the English. And having it delivered straight to your door was an added bonus.

Link to : Maine Soft Drinks Website

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Nambarrie

Nambarrie was launched back in 1860 and for over 150 years has been our wee country’s beloved bold and hearty tea that can be relied on for the perfect cuppa at any time of the day.

Nambarrie is the brand name of a tea company based in Andover, Hampshire, now owned by Twinings. Nambarrie Tea Co. Ltd. now operates delivery depots in Mallusk, County Antrim and Glasgow, being the third biggest brand in Scotland

On 10, April 2008 Nambarrie announced its plans to close its factory in Belfast. The factory is now closed and production currently takes place in England. The signage at the Belfast Nambarrie factory is still attached, however the building is now disused and has since fallen into disrepair.

Writer and comedian Will Self is a self-confessed fan of Nambarrie.

This was the only tea served in our house when I was a kid and has a very distinct strong taste that lingers on the palette . great for dipping Rich Tea biscuits in and the odd Hob Nob. The wife doesn’t like it so we have “English” breakfast tea at home, which is ok to be fair, but not the taste of my childhood. When I’m back in Belfast , tucking into an Ulster fry or Pastie Supper I always have a big mug of this on the side, with two sugars , sometimes three if I’m feeling rebellious . Don’t tell the wife though , she’s got me on sweeteners at home !

Nambarrie TV Advert

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Pastie Supper/ Pastie Bap

Pastie Supper – A pastie /ˈpæstiː/ is a large to medium-sized round battered pie common to Northern Ireland. Generally served with chips to form a “pastie supper” (“supper” in Northern Irish chip shops meaning something with chips), or in a bread roll as a “pastie bap”, it is a common staple in most fish and chip shops in the country.

Recipes vary, but the most common ingredients are minced pork, onion, potato and seasoning formed into a “round” (just like a burger) which is then covered in a batter mix and deep fried. Traditionally, chip shops coloured the pastie’s filling with a cochineal dye, giving it a bright pink colour, supposedly to make the snack more appetising. Many shops have stopped using this method due to cochineal allergies.

Another taste from home that I yearn for after a beer or six. Although the crowd is split on this I’ve always preferred the pink ones

This is one of the things I miss most about Belfast, the good old Pastie supper, preferably from Beatties on the Shankill. When I first moved to London after a skin full of beer one day I went into the local chippy and tried to order a Pastie Supper. To my absolute horror and continuing disappointment they hadn’t a clue what I was talking about and tried to give me everything from Jamaican Patti to a plastic bag and some very funny looks.

Grrr……  I was gutted

Thrush and Jen challenge. Join us as we make Belfast pastie baps

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Pigs Trotters

A pig’s trotter, also known as a pettitoe,  is the culinary term used to refer to the foot of a pig. The cuts are used in various dishes around the world, and experienced a resurgence in the late 2000s. Before sale, the trotters are cleaned and typically have the hairs pulled with a hot tank and beaters.

They are often used in cooking to make stocks, as they add thickness to gravy, although they are also served as a normal cut of meat.

Back in the early 70’s my Da use to bring these home from work every Friday night and I use to love them, although sometimes they still had hair on them and that was kinda gross to say the least, but didn’t put me of eating them.  These days I wouldn’t touch one with a barge pole , but they bring back memories of my beloved dad and therefore will always be special to me.

See: Getting Stoned with Paul Weller

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Plain Bread

Plain Bread , preferably O’Hara’s – O’Hara’s Plain Bread is a batch bread made in a large baking tray, which means the loaves only form a crust on the top and bottom. it differs from a pan loaf, which is baked in an individual tray and so forms crust round the whole bread. I know the picture is Sunblest , but I couldn’t find a picture of an O’Hara’s one ! If you have one please send it over.

Another thing I really miss from home is plain bread. Nothing tastes better toasted or fried and the crust is always the best bit. I can’t understand why they don’t sell/make it in England  .

If they do , where please ?

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Potato  Bread

Potato bread is a form of bread in which potato flour or potato replaces a portion of the regular wheat flour. It is cooked in a variety of ways, including baking it on a hot griddle or pan, or in an oven. We fry it in our family as most others in Northern Ireland do.

This is as iconic as its possible to be when talking about food from Belfast / Northern Ireland. A must have in every Ulster Fry , best served fried in a shallow pan with loads of oil , although some folk like them toasted and covered in butter, my wee granny use to love these served that way. Nowadays its readily available in most of the big UK supermarkets, but it’s just not the same as back home and the taste of my childhood O’Hara’s . Although I do buy and eat it in England , its always a bit of a disappointment.

Also known as Tattie Scone to our friends from Caledonia .  I ran a poll on Twitter last year and had over 25,000 votes (see below) and surprisingly Tattie Scone came up tops by a vast margin. I can only assume more Scottish folk responded as its clearly “ Potato Bread “ to most folk in Belfast /Northern Ireland .

Recipe from Ulster Folk Museum

See : Is this Potato Bread or Tatti Scone?

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Shandy Bass

Shandy Bass is a 0.5% ABV shandy made with Bass beer and lemonade Introduced in 1972, it is made by Britvic.

When I was 12/13 me and my cousin Wee Sam were given a tin of this each ( or did we steal it ? I can’t remember) on the 11th of July. It was the first time I recall drinking alcohol ( I know ) and we were both pissed as a newt, or acted as if we were anyways and we sang and dance to all night long until me granny came and dragged us of to bed. Innocent days I’ll never forget.

Funny Drunk People Compilation

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Soda Bread

Soda bread is a variety of quick bread traditionally made in a variety of cuisines in which sodium bicarbonate (otherwise known as “baking soda”, or in Ireland, “bread soda”) is used as a leavening agent instead of the traditional yeast. The ingredients of traditional soda bread are flour, baking soda, salt, and buttermilk. The buttermilk in the dough contains lactic acid, which reacts with the baking soda to form tiny bubbles of carbon dioxide. Other ingredients can be added such as butter, egg, raisins, or nuts. An advantage of quick breads is their ability to be prepared quickly and reliably, without requiring the time-consuming skilled labor and temperature control needed for traditional yeast breads.

Another icon of Northern Ireland foods and star of any Ulster Fry. Like the good old potato bread it can be served toasted or fried and like most of my peers I love it well fried with the yoke of a runny fried egg running all over and soaking into it.

Link to: BBC Irish soda bread recipe

Link to youtube :  How to make a very quick and easy Irish Soda bread.

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Snowball

Preferably from O’Hara’s back in the day.

A kind of round bun , dense sponge covered in coconut flakes and held together with icing sugar in the middle.

I loved these as a kid and when I started secondary School, Cairnmartin Ballygomartin , after the bell went I would hang about out side the O’Hara’s at the bottom of Glencairn in the hope that there would be some cheap cakes/buns left over before closing, which they always sold at a knockdown price to get rid of them. If I was lucky there would be a few snowballs on offer , which I loved pulling apart and licking the icing suger from the middle and dunking some in my after school cup of Nambarries tea. Heaven ! They are very popular in Scotland also, but there not the same as the Belfast ones of my childhood.

Steakette

Steakette – Is kind of like a hamburger coated in batter and deep fried in oil.

Not for the faint hearted – These are another favorite of mine and when I’m home and on the beer I head straight for Beatties if I’m on the Shankill and get one. Last time I was home I order a Pastie & Steakette in one sitting and I gotta say they booth went down well. They are normally swimming in fat and grease, but I love them just like that ( don’t tell the wife ) smothered with loads of salt and vinegar. Yum Yum

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Tayto Cheese and Onion

Set deep in the heart of the Ulster countryside in Tandragee is Tayto Castle where Tayto crisps and snacks have been made for the past 60 years. A ‘Taste of Home’ our products have been a big part of growing up in Northern Ireland.

Established in 1956 and still owned by the same family – the Hutchinsons, we pride ourselves in employing local people and using local ingredients and materials to produce great tasting crisps and snacks for everyone to enjoy. In our 60th year, we are also proud to support Northern Ireland Year of Food and Drink 2016.

Within the Castle is a closely guarded room where the unique Tayto Cheese & Onion flavour is made to the same recipe as it has for the last 60 years. Only a very select few know the secret recipe which has been carefully passed down to the current day.

Come and visit us at Tayto Castle to see for yourself how our crisps and snacks are made and meet our very own Mr.Tayto – why not book a tour today?’

Another of the things I miss most from home and something I always stock up on when visiting Belfast. My daughter orders me a box for Xmas, which was very thoughtful of her. But the problem was they came from the Tayto brand in Ireland (ROI) , in an insulting blue packet, lol.  They just aren’t the same as the ones I still love and crave since childhood.

You can order them here and I believe they do international delivery : Follow this link to order

Link to: Book a tour here

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Tennants Larger

Tennents is the most popular draught lager beer in Northern Ireland, according to the latest research. 2007It was piloted in Northern Ireland before being rolled out across the rest of the UK.

Tennents lager was produced by the Bass Brewery on the Glen Road in west Belfast until a cutback in 2003.

Now it comes from the Wellpark Brewery in Glasgow, but the company, owned by Belgian group InBev, still has a warehouse and logistics operation in Belfast.

A specific draught is brewed for Northern Ireland with an alcohol volume of 3.7% compared with the 4.1% Scottish drinkers buy as research has shown it to be what local consumers want.

Another iconic Northern Ireland ( and Scotland ) drink from my childhood in Belfast and one which cause much uproar and debate, regarding the sexy ladies on the them. You’d never get away with that now ! I remember my Da and uncles having card schools and drinking vast amounts of this stuff and me and my brothers,cousins always had a good wee look at the ladies on the tin and we all had our favorites. For the record my favorite was Linda

See : The Scotsman – The story of Tennent’s Lager Lovelies

Link to survey in Belfast telegraph

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Ulster Fry

The best known traditional dish in Northern Ireland is the Ulster fry. An Ulster fry, although not originally particularly associated with breakfast time, has in recent decades been marketed as Northern Ireland’s version of a cooked breakfast. It is distinguishable from a full breakfast by its griddle breads – soda bread and potato bread, fried (or occasionally grilled) until crisp and golden. Sometimes also including small pancakes. Bacon, sausages, an egg, and (as a modern development) tomato and sometimes mushrooms complete the dish It is usually served with tea and toast.

This is a the king of Northern Ireland foods and has been enjoyed for generations of folk from Belfast and throughout the six counties since time began, relatively speaking . It will satisfy any hunger or cure any hangover and is served with an array of tasty N.I things , depending on your preference , including  fried eggs, the all important fried potato and soda bread, perfect pork sausages or beef sausages in my house , crispy bacon, black and white pudding ( optional ) and a few slices of Veg Roll (always in my house ) and a mug of strong sweet tea to wash it all down.

With or without Beans?

That is the question  – OK I’m going to get slated for this, but I always have beans with an Ulster Fry, blame my English wife for teaching me bad habits. HP sauce is also a must

Ulster Fry Up: Full Northern Irish Breakfast in Belfast, Ireland

Link to : Is the Ulster fry best in UK

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Veda Bread

Veda bread is a malted bread sold in Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland . It is a small, caramel-coloured loaf with a very soft consistency when fresh. Allied Bakeries Ireland (ABI) is the market leader with over 81 per cent value share of the Veda market within Northern Ireland, which it sells as “Sunblest Veda”.

Stylish Belfast city centre hotel Malmaison has teamed up with Northern Ireland’s biggest bakery Allied Bakeries Ireland (ABI) to serve up one of the Province’s best loved bread brands to residents and customers.

Veda bread, while very much a Scottish invention, has become a Northern Ireland phenomenon since Allied Bakeries Ireland launched its first Veda loaf back in 1930 and continues to grow from strength to strength.

Sunblest Veda, launched in 1956, is the market leader with over 81 per cent value share of the Veda market within Northern Ireland and an established local favourite.

I love this toasted and its smells amazing when covered in butter and eaten whilst still hot. we always had this in the cupboard at home and whenever there was nought else to eat this always filled a hole.

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Vegetable Roll

Vegetable Roll is a uniquely Northern Irish delicacy, made up of cuts of lean beef and seasoned with fresh herbs and vegetables such as leeks and onions.

Always served with an Ulster Fry in my family and controversially we always kept the plastic cover on whilst cooking, although take it off before eating , if I’m sober at least ! In another of those little Northern Irish things that make my England friend laugh, its as far from being “vegetable “ as can be. I think it just makes us feel we’re getting one of our five a day as it has ” vegetable ” in it. LOL

You can order it here: Home Butchers Northern Ireland 

Twitter : @meatdelivered They deliver Veg roll folks !!!

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Veg Soup

A traditional soup made by my parents and grandparents and a traditional winter soup in Northern Ireland and especially popular served as a starter to Christmas dinner. Pure, simple, wholesome comforting and natural food. As with all one pot dishes, it always tastes better the following day when all the ingredients have had time to marinate and got to know each other so if you want to impress, make it the day before serving.

Link to : All Recipes Northern Irish Veg Soup Recipe

Another classic I love and miss from home and I have never had this outside Belfast or a soup taht tasted anything like it. It’s common to cook it with a whole chicken (I know ) or shin bone and this is often removed and stripped before being eaten, my family use to leave it in.

Once my veggie sister in law was half way through a bowl before anyone had the heart to tell her it was made with a chicken involved.

Ouch……..

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Willicks

An edible sea snail – The common periwinkle or winkle (Littorina littorea) is a species of small edible whelk or sea snail, a marine gastropod mollusc that has gills and an operculum, and is classified within the family Littorinidae, the periwinkles.

This is a robust intertidal species with a dark and sometimes banded shell. It is native to the rocky shores of the northeastern, and introduced to the northwestern, Atlantic Ocean.

The common periwinkle is sold by fishmongers at seafood markets in large cities around the world, and is also commonly found in seafood restaurants as an appetizer or as a part of a seafood platter. In some countries, pubs may serve periwinkles as a snack.

Entrance of a sea snail’s house with living sea snail within. Veddö naturreservat, Sweden 2005.

Most of the volume fished, is consumed by France, Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands.

I loved these as a child and we use to go round the coast of Antrim and beyond collecting, cooking and eating. We’d spend ages boiling them and when they were cooked we would all gather round, with a pin in hand, to pick the eyes out  and tuck in. A taste and smell that always brings me back to my childhood. 

Once I was in a French restaurant with the wife and she ordered snails ( Escargots ) and I had the cheek to turn my nose up. Hee hee , The contradiction was not lost on me, but Willicks are just one of those things that I was raised eating/liking and was way more civilized than eating slimy French snails in my book. LOL

Belfast Granny just won’t let him cook his Willicks in her home.

Other things Northern Ireland folk grew up with and love and know know

  • Caramel Squares
  • Cockles
  • Dale Farm ice-creams
  • Golden Cow Butter
  • Gravy Ring
  • Moy Park Chicken
  • Portavogie prawns
  • Yellow Man

See: How to speak Belfast/Northern Irish

See: Mickey Marleys Roundabout

See: The Loyalist Mod

And don’t forget to check out my homepage and read extracts from my forthcoming autobiography: Belfast Child

Battle of Thermopylae & Leonidas I – The King of Sparta

Battle of Thermopylae

The Battle of Thermopylae  was fought between an alliance of Greek city-states, led by King Leonidas of Sparta, and the Persian Empire of Xerxes I over the course of three days, during the second Persian invasion of Greece.

Map of Thermopylae area with modern shoreline and reconstructed shoreline of 480 BC

It took place simultaneously with the naval battle at Artemisium, in August or September 480 BC, at the narrow coastal pass of Thermopylae (“The Hot Gates”). The Persian invasion was a delayed response to the defeat of the first Persian invasion of Greece, which had been ended by the Athenian victory at the Battle of Marathon in 490 BC.

Xerxes

By 480 BC Xerxes had amassed a huge army and navy, and set out to conquer all of Greece. The Athenian politician and general Themistocles had proposed that the allied Greeks block the advance of the Persian army at the pass of Thermopylae, and simultaneously block the Persian navy at the Straits of Artemisium.

Map showing major incidents of the second Persian invasion of Greece

A Greek force of approximately 7,000 men marched north to block the pass in the middle of 480 BC. The Persian army, alleged by the ancient sources to have numbered over one million, but today considered to have been much smaller (various figures are given by scholars, ranging between about 100,000 and 150,000) arrived at the pass in late August or early September. The vastly outnumbered Greeks held off the Persians for seven days (including three of battle) before the rear-guard was annihilated in one of history’s most famous last stands.

Last Stand of the 300 documentary

During two full days of battle, the small force led by Leonidas blocked the only road by which the massive Persian army could pass. After the second day, a local resident named Ephialtes betrayed the Greeks by revealing a small path that led behind the Greek lines. Leonidas, aware that his force was being outflanked, dismissed the bulk of the Greek army and remained to guard their retreat with 300 Spartans and 700 Thespians, fighting to the death.

Others also reportedly remained, including up to 900 helots and 400 Thebans; most of these Thebans reportedly surrendered.

Themistocles was in command of the Greek Navy at Artemisium when he received news that the Persians had taken the pass at Thermopylae. Since the Greek strategy required both Thermopylae and Artemisium to be held, given their losses, it was decided to withdraw to Salamis. The Persians overran Boeotia and then captured the evacuated Athens. The Greek fleet—seeking a decisive victory over the Persian armada—attacked and defeated the invaders at the Battle of Salamis in late 480 BC. Wary of being trapped in Europe, Xerxes withdrew with much of his army to Asia (losing most to starvation and disease), leaving Mardonius to attempt to complete the conquest of Greece. However, the following year saw a Greek army decisively defeat the Persians at the Battle of Plataea, thereby ending the Persian invasion.

Both ancient and modern writers have used the Battle of Thermopylae as an example of the power of a patriotic army defending its native soil. The performance of the defenders is also used as an example of the advantages of training, equipment, and good use of terrain as force multipliers and has become a symbol of courage against overwhelming odds.

See here for more details : Battle of Thermopylae

See: 10 Things You Should Know About The Battle Of Thermopylae

Leonidas I – The King of Sparta

Leonidas I

Leonidas I , Leōnídas A’;  “son of the lion”; died 11 August 480 BC) was a warrior king of the Greek city-state of Sparta, and the 17th of the Agiad line; a dynasty which claimed descent from the mythological demigod Heracles.

He was the husband of Gorgo, the daughter of Cleomenes I of Sparta. Leonidas had a notable participation in the Second Persian War, where he led the allied Greek forces to a last stand at the Battle of Thermopylae (480 BC) while attempting to defend the pass from the invading Persian army

My Thoughts

I have long held a fascination bordering on obsession with the ancient world , esp the epic times and battles of the Romans , Persians & Greeks. The Spartans knew how to kick arse and this battle and the heroics of Leonidas and his “300” has rightly earned its place as one of the greatest battles ever and has fascinated me since i was a child.

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The Persians & Greeks: Crash Course World History 


Ancient Greece: The Legacy of Leonidas I (The King of Sparta)

See :The Battle of the Teutoburg Forest – Rome’s darkest hour

See: Decimation in the Roman Army

Testing – Don’t Panic !

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Robin `The Jackal’ Jackson – Life & Death

Robert John Jackson

  Robert John Jackson (27 September 1948  – 30 May 1998) ] also known as The Jackal, was a Northern Irish loyalistparamilitary who held the rank of brigadier in the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) during the period of violent ethno-nationalist  conflict in Northern Ireland known as the Troubles.

He was the commander of the UVF’s Mid-Ulster Brigade from 1975 to the early 1990s, when Billy Wright took over as leader.

From his home in the small village of DonaghcloneyCounty Down, five miles southeast of Lurgan, Jackson is alleged to have organised and committed a series of killings, mainly against Catholic civilians, although he was never convicted in connection with any killing and never served any lengthy prison terms.

At least 50 killings in Northern Ireland have been attributed to him, according to Stephen Howe (New Statesman) and David McKittrick (Lost Lives).

 David McKittrick (Lost Lives).

An article by Paul Foot in Private Eye suggested that Jackson led one of the teams that bombed Dublin on 17 May 1974, killing 26 people, including two infants.

Journalist Kevin Dowling in the Irish Independent alleged that Jackson had headed the gang that perpetrated the Miami Showband killings, which left three members of the cabaret band dead and two wounded. Journalist Joe Tiernan and the Pat Finucane Centre alleged this as well as Jackson’s involvement in the Dublin bombings.

When questioned about the latter, Jackson denied involvement. Findings noted in a report by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) (released in December 2011) confirmed that Jackson was linked to the Miami Showband attack through his fingerprints, which had been found on the silencer specifically made for the Luger pistol used in the shootings.

See : Miami Showband Killings – The Day The Music Died

Jackson was a former member of the Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR), but had been discharged from the regiment for undisclosed reasons. It was stated by Weir, as well as by others including former British Army psychological warfare operative Major Colin Wallace, that Jackson was an RUC Special Branch agent.

Image result for operative Major Colin Wallace
Colin Wallace – Colin Wallace (left) with Field Marshal Lord Alexander of Tunis

Royal Ulster Constabulary Special Patrol Group (SPG) officer John Weir (who was also involved in loyalist killings), also maintained this in an affidavit. The information from Weir’s affidavit was published in 2003 in the Barron Report, the findings of an official investigation into the Dublin bombings commissioned by Irish Supreme Court Justice Henry Barron.

See: the Barron report

— Disclaimer –

The views and opinions expressed in this post/documentaries  are soley intended to educate and provide background information to those interested in the Troubles of Northern Ireland. They in no way reflect my own opinions and I take no responsibility for any inaccuracies or factual errors.

Early life and UDR career

Jackson was born into a Church of Ireland family in the small hamlet of the mainly Protestant Donaghmore, County Down, Northern Ireland on 27 September 1948, the son of John Jackson and Eileen Muriel.

Some time later, he went to live in the Mourneview Estate in Lurgan,  County Armagh before making his permanent home in the village of DonaghcloneyCounty Down, five miles southeast of Lurgan. Jackson married and made a living by working in a shoe factory and delivering chickens for the Moy Park food processing company throughout most of the 1970s.

The conflict known as “the Troubles” erupted in Northern Ireland in the late 1960s, and people from both sides of the religious/political divide were soon caught up in the maelstrom of violence that ensued. In 1972, Jackson joined the locally recruited Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR), an infantry regiment of the British Army, in Lurgan.

He was attached to 11th Battalion UDR. On 23 October 1972, a large cache of guns and ammunition was stolen during an armed raid by the illegal Ulster loyalist paramilitary organisation, the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), on King’s Park camp, a UDR/Territorial Army depot.

It is alleged by the Pat Finucane Centre, a Derry-based civil rights group, that Jackson took part in the raid while a serving member of the UDR. Journalist Scott Jamison also echoed this allegation in an article in the North Belfast News,  as did David McKittrick in his book Lost Lives.

UVF history

Image result for uvf history logo

Around the same time Jackson was expelled from the regiment for undisclosed reasons, he joined the UVF Mid-Ulster Brigade‘s Lurgan unit. The UVF drew its greatest strength as well as the organisation’s most ruthless members from its Mid-Ulster Brigade, according to journalist Brendan O’Brien.

The Pat Finucane Centre‘s allegation that he had taken part in the UVF’s 23 October 1972 raid on the UDR/TA depot indicates that he was most likely already an active UVF member prior to being dismissed from the UDR.

Anne Cadwallader states in her 2013 book Lethal Allies that Jackson was expelled from the UDR on 4 March 1974; by then he was discernibly involved in UVF activity.

Image result for Anne Cadwallader book Lethal Allies

As the Provisional IRA continued to wage its militant campaign across Northern Ireland throughout 1972, many loyalists felt their community was under attack and their status was being threatened and sought to retaliate against Irish nationalists and republicans by joining one of the two main loyalist paramilitary organisations, the illegal UVF or the legal Ulster Defence Association (UDA).

The proscription against the UVF was lifted by Merlyn ReesSecretary of State for Northern Ireland, on 4 April 1974. It remained a legal organisation until 3 October 1975, when it was once again banned by the British government.

Many members of loyalist paramilitary groups such as the UVF and UDA managed to join the UDR despite the vetting process. Their purpose in doing so was to obtain weapons, training and intelligence.

 Vetting procedures were carried out jointly by the Intelligence Corps and the RUC Special Branch and if no intelligence was found to suggest unsuitability, individuals were passed for recruitment and would remain as soldiers until the commanding officer was provided with intelligence enabling him to remove soldiers with paramilitary links or sympathies.

Operating mainly around the Lurgan and Portadown areas, the Mid-Ulster Brigade had been set up in 1972 in Lurgan by Billy Hanna, who appointed himself commander. His leadership was endorsed by the UVF’s supreme commander Gusty Spence.

Hanna was a decorated war hero, having won the Military Medal for gallantry in the Korean War when he served with the Royal Ulster Rifles. He later joined the UDR, serving as a permanent staff instructor (PSI) and holding the rank of sergeant. According to David McKittrick, he was dismissed from the regiment two years later “for UVF activity”;

The regimental history of the UDR confirms this although journalist/author Martin Dillon states in his book, The Dirty War, that at the time of his death Hanna was still a member of the UDR.

Hanna’s unit formed part of the “Glenanne gang“, a loose alliance of loyalist extremists which allegedly functioned under the direction of the Intelligence Corps and/or RUC Special Branch.

See: The Glenanne Gang

It comprised rogue elements of the RUC and its Special Patrol Group (SPG), the UDR, the UDA, as well as the UVF.

The Pat Finucane Centre (PFC), in collaboration with an international panel of inquiry (headed by Professor Douglass Cassel, formerly of Northwestern University School of Law) has implicated this gang in 87 killings which were carried out in the 1970s against Catholics and nationalists.

The name, first used in 2003, is derived from a farm in Glenanne, County Armagh, which the UVF regularly used as an arms dump and bomb-making site. It was owned by James Mitchell, an RUC reservist.  According to John Weir, the gang usually did not use the name UVF whenever it claimed its attacks; instead it employed the cover names of “Red Hand Commando“, “Protestant Action Force“, or “Red Hand Brigade”. Weir named Jackson as a key player in the Glenanne gang.

He had close ties to loyalist extremists from Dungannon such as brothers Wesley and John James Somerville, with whom he was often spotted drinking in the Morning Star pub in the town. 

Alleged shooting and bombing attacks

Patrick Campbell shooting

He was first arrested on 8 November 1973 for the killing on 28 October of Patrick Campbell, a Catholic trade unionist from Banbridge who was gunned down on his doorstep. Jackson’s words after he was charged with the killing were:

“Nothing. I just can’t believe it”.

Campbell’s wife, Margaret had opened the door to the gunman and his accomplice when they had come looking for her husband. She had got a good look at the two men, who drove off in a Ford Cortina after the shooting, and although she identified Jackson as the killer at an identity parade, murder charges against him were dropped on 4 January 1974 at Belfast Magistrates’ Court.

The charges were allegedly withdrawn because the RUC thought Mrs. Campbell knew him beforehand. Jackson confirmed this, saying that they had met previously on account that he worked in the same Banbridge shoe factory (Down Shoes Ltd.) as Patrick Campbell.

 It was suggested in David McKittrick’s Lost Lives that some time before the shooting there may have been a “minor political disagreement” between Jackson and Campbell while the two men were on a night out.

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Raymond Murray, in his book The SAS in Ireland, suggested that his accomplice in the shooting was Wesley Somerville. Irish writer and journalist Hugh Jordan also maintains this allegation.

When the RUC had searched Jackson’s house after his arrest they discovered 49 additional bullets to those allotted a serving member of the UDR. A notebook was also found which contained personal details of over two dozen individuals including their car registration numbers.

Dublin car bombings

RUC Special Patrol Group officer John Weir claimed to have first met Jackson in 1974 at Norman’s Bar, in Moira, County Down.

Weir stated in an affidavit that Jackson was one of those who had planned and carried out the Dublin car bombings. According to Weir, Jackson, along with the main organiser Billy Hanna and Davy Payne (UDA, Belfast), led one of the two UVF units that bombed Dublin on 17 May 1974 in three separate explosions, resulting in the deaths of 26 people, including two infant girls. Close to 300 others were injured in the blasts; many of them maimed and scarred for life.

Journalist Peter Taylor affirmed that the Dublin car bombings were carried out by two UVF units, one from Mid-Ulster, the other from Belfast.

The bombings took place on the third day of the Ulster Workers Council Strike, which was a general strike in Northern Ireland called by hardline unionists in protest against the Sunningdale Agreement and the Northern Ireland Assembly which had proposed their sharing political power with nationalists in an Executive that also planned a greater role for the Republic of Ireland in the governance of Northern Ireland.

In 2003, Weir’s information was published in the Barron Report, which was the findings of an official investigation into the bombings by Irish Supreme Court Justice Henry Barron.

 Justice Barron concluded Weir’s “evidence overall is credible”.  An article by Paul Foot in Private Eye also implicated Jackson in the bombings.

The producers of the 1993 Yorkshire Television documentary, The Hidden Hand: The Forgotten Massacre, referred to Jackson indirectly as one of the bombers. However, three of his alleged accomplices, Billy Hanna, Harris Boyle, and Robert McConnell were directly named.

Although the incriminating evidence against Jackson had comprised eight hours of recorded testimony which came from one of his purported chief accomplices in the bombings, the programme did not name him directly during the transmission as the station did not want to risk an accusation of libel.

The programme’s narrator instead referred to him as “the Jackal”. Hanna, Boyle, and McConnell were deceased at the time of the programme’s airing.

According to submissions received by Mr. Justice Barron, on the morning of 17 May 1974, the day of the bombings, Jackson collected the three bombs and placed them onto his poultry lorry at James Mitchell‘s farm in Glenanne, County Armagh, which had been used for the construction and storage of the devices.

He then drove across the border to Dublin, crossing the Boyne River at Oldbridge. The route had been well-rehearsed over the previous months. Billy Hanna, then the Mid-Ulster UVF’s commander and the principal organiser of the attacks, accompanied him.

At the Coachman’s Inn pub carpark on the Swords Road near Dublin Airport, the two men met up with the other members of the UVF bombing team.  Jackson and Hanna subsequently transferred the bombs from his lorry into the boots of three allocated cars, which had been hijacked and stolen that morning in Belfast. The Hidden Hand producers named William “Frenchie” Marchant of the UVF’s A Coy, 1st Battalion Belfast Brigade, as having been on a Garda list of suspects as the organiser of the hijackings in Belfast on the morning of the bombings.

The cars, after being obtained by the gang of hijackers, known as “Freddie and the Dreamers”, were driven from Belfast across the border to the carpark, retaining their original registration numbers.

Journalist Joe Tiernan suggested that the bombs were activated by Billy Hanna.  Sometime before 4.00 p.m., Jackson and Hanna headed back to Northern Ireland in the poultry lorry after the latter had given the final instructions to the drivers of the car bombs.

 Upon their return, Jackson and Hanna went back to the soup kitchen they were running at a Mourneville, Lurgan bingo hall. With the UWC strike in its third day, it was extremely difficult for people throughout Northern Ireland to obtain necessities such as food. Neither man’s absence had been noticed by the other helpers.

Following Hanna’s orders, the three car bombs (two of them escorted by a “scout” [lead] car, to be used for the bombers’ escape back across the Northern Ireland border) were driven into the city centre of Dublin where they detonated in Parnell StreetTalbot Street, and South Leinster Street, almost simultaneously at approximately 5.30 pm.

No warnings were given. From the available forensic evidence derived from material traces at the scene, the bombs are believed to have contained, as their main tertiary explosive a gelignite containing ammonium nitrate, packed into the usual metallic beer barrel container used by loyalists in prior car bombings.

Twenty-three people were killed outright in the blasts, including a pregnant woman and her unborn child; three more people would later die of their injuries. The bodies of the dead were mostly unrecognisable. One girl who had been near the epicentre of the Talbot Street explosion was decapitated; only her platform boots provided a clue as to her sex.

The bombers immediately fled from the destruction they had wrought in central Dublin in the two scout cars and made their way north using the “smuggler’s route” of minor and back roads, crossing the border near Hackballs CrossCounty Louth at about 7.30 pm. 

Thirty minutes earlier in Monaghan, an additional seven people were killed instantly or fatally injured by a fourth car bomb which had been delivered by a team from the Mid-Ulster UVF’s Portadown unit. According to Joe Tiernan, this attack was carried out to draw the Gardaí away from the border, enabling the Dublin bombers to cross back into Northern Ireland undetected.

Jackson was questioned following the Yorkshire Television programme, and he denied any involvement in the Dublin attacks.[ His name had appeared on a Garda list of suspects for the bombings.  Hanna’s name was on both the Garda and the RUC’s list of suspects; however, neither of the two men were ever arrested or interrogated in connection with the bombings. The submissions made to the Barron Inquiry also stated that one week before the Dublin attacks, Jackson and others had been stopped at a Garda checkpoint at Hackballs Cross.

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As it turned out, nobody was ever convicted of the car bombings. Years later, British journalist Peter Taylor in an interview with Progressive Unionist Party (PUP) politician and former senior Belfast UVF member David Ervine questioned him about UVF motives for the 1974 Dublin attacks. Ervine replied they [UVF] were:

“returning the serve”.

Ervine, although he had not participated in the bombings, explained that the UVF had wanted the Catholics across the border in the Republic of Ireland to suffer as Protestants in Northern Ireland had suffered on account of the intensive bombing campaign waged by the Provisional IRA.

On 28 May 1974, 11 days after the bombings, the UWC strike ended with the collapse of the Northern Ireland Assembly and the power-sharing Executive.

See: Dublin and Monaghan Bombings

John Francis Green killing

Statements made by John Weir affirmed Jackson’s active participation in the killing of senior IRA member John Francis Green in Mullyash, near CastleblayneyCounty Monaghan.

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John Francis Green

On the evening of 10 January 1975, gunmen kicked down the front door of the “safe” house Green was staying in and, finding him alone in the living room, immediately opened fire, shooting him six times in the head at close range. The bullets all entered from the front, which indicated that Green had been facing his killers.

The UVF claimed responsibility for the killing in the June 1975 edition of its publication, Combat. Green’s killing occurred during an IRA ceasefire, which had been declared the previous month.

Assassination of Billy Hanna and leadership of UVF Mid-Ulster Brigade†

Ulster Volunteer Force mural. Robin Jackson led the UVF’s Mid-Ulster Brigade from 1975 to the early 1990s.

Subsequent to his alleged killing of leader Billy Hanna outside his home in Lurgan in the early hours of 27 July 1975, Jackson assumed command of the Mid-Ulster Brigade.

Hanna and his wife Ann had just returned from a function at the local British Legion Club. When he stepped out of the car, Jackson and another man approached him. After asking them “What are you playing at?” Jackson produced a pistol, walked over and shot him twice in the head; once in the temple and afterwards in the back of the head, execution style as he lay on the ground. His wife witnessed the killing.

Joe Tiernan suggested that Jackson killed Hanna on account of the latter’s refusal to participate in the Miami Showband killings. Hanna apparently suffered remorse following the 1974 Dublin bombings, as he is believed by Tiernan to have instructed one of the bombers, David Alexander Mulholland to drive the car which exploded in Parnell Street, where two infant girls were among those killed.

 According to Tiernan and the Barron Report, David Alexander Mulholland was identified by three eyewitnesses. Tiernan also suggested that Hanna and Mulholland became informers for the Gardaí regarding the car bombings in exchange for immunity from prosecution. He added that although the British Army was aware of this, Jackson was never told, as it was feared he would decide to become an informer himself

Investigative journalist Paul Larkin, in his book A Very British Jihad: collusion, conspiracy, and cover-up in Northern Ireland maintained that Jackson, accompanied by Harris Boyle, had shot Hanna after learning that he had passed on information regarding the Dublin bombings.

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Martin Dillon also claims this in The Trigger Men. Dillon also stated in The Dirty War that because a number of UDR/UVF men were to be used for the planned Miami Showband attack, the UVF considered Hanna to have been a “security risk”, and therefore it had been necessary to kill him.

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David McKittrick in Lost Lives, however, suggested that Jackson had actually killed Hanna in order to obtain a cache of weapons the latter held.

The UVF drew its greatest strength as well as the organisation’s most ruthless members from its Mid-Ulster Brigade according to Irish journalist Brendan O’Brien.

Miami Showband massacre

See: Miami Showband massacre

Links to Captain Robert Nairac

Robert Nairac.jpg

It was stated by The Hidden Hand programme that Jackson had links to British Military Intelligence and Liaison officer Captain Robert Nairac.

The Hidden Hand alleged that Jackson and his UVF comrades were controlled by Nairac who was attached to 14th Intelligence Company (The Det). Former MI6 operative, Captain Fred Holroyd claimed that Nairac admitted to having been involved in John Francis Green’s death and had shown Holroyd a colour polaroid photograph of Green’s corpse to back up his claim. Holroyd believed that for some months leading up to his shooting, Green had been kept under surveillance by 4 Field Survey Troop, Royal Engineers, one of the three sub-units of 14th Intelligence.

This unit was based in Castledillon, County Armagh, and according to Holroyd, was the cover name of an SAS troop commanded by Nairac and Captain Julian Antony “Tony” Ball. Nairac was himself abducted and killed by the IRA in 1977, and Ball was killed in an accident in Oman in 1981.

Justice Barron himself questioned Holroyd’s evidence as a result of two later Garda investigations, where Detective Inspector Culhane discounted Holroyd’s allegations regarding Nairac and the polaroid photograph. Culhane concluded that the latter had been one of a series of official photographs taken of Green’s body the morning following his killing by Detective Sergeant William Stratford, who worked in the Garda Technical Bureau‘s Photography Section.

Weir made the following statements in relation to Jackson and Nairac’s alleged mutual involvement in the Green assassination:

The men who did that shooting were Robert McConnell, Robin Jackson, and I would be almost certain, Harris Boyle who was killed in the Miami attack. What I am absolutely certain of is that Robert McConnell, Robert McConnell knew that area really, really well. Robin Jackson was with him. I was later told that Nairac was with them. I was told by … a UVF man, he was very close to Jackson and operated with him. Jackson told [him] that Nairac was with them.

In his 1989 book War Without Honour, Holyroyd claimed that Nairac had organised the Miami Showband ambush in collaboration with Jackson, and had also been present at Buskhill when the attack was carried out.

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Bassist Stephen Travers and saxophonist Des McAlea, the two bandmembers who survived the shootings, both testified in court that a British Army officer “with a crisp, clipped English accent” had overseen the operation. However, when shown a photograph of Nairac, Travers could not positively identify him as the soldier who had been at the scene.

Martin Dillon in The Dirty War adamantly stated that Nairac had not been involved in the Green killing nor in the Miami Showband massacre.

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The Barron Report noted that although Weir maintained that Jackson and Billy Hanna had links to Nairac and British Military Intelligence, his claim did not imply that the British Army or Military Intelligence had aided the two men in the planning and perpetration of the 1974 Dublin bombings. While in prison, Weir wrote a letter to a friend claiming that Nairac had ties to both Jackson and James Mitchell, owner of the Glenanne farm.

The 2006 Interim Report of Mr. Justice Barron’s inquiry into the Dundalk bombing of 1975 (see below) concluded that Jackson was one of the suspected bombers:

“reliably said to have had relationships with British Intelligence and or RUC Special Branch officers”.

In 2015, a biography of Nairac entitled “Betrayal: the Murder of Robert Nairac” was published. Written by former diplomat Alistair Kerr, the book provides documentary evidence that shows Nairac as having been elsewhere at the time the Dublin and Monaghan bombings, John Francis Green killing and Miami Showband ambush took place.

On 17 May 1974 he was on a months-long training course in England; 10 January 1975 there were three witnesses who placed him on temporary duty in Derry for a secret mission; and on 31 July 1975 at 4am he had started on a road journey from London to Scotland for a fishing holiday.

Other killings

1975

The 2006 Interim Report named Jackson as having possibly been one of the two gunmen in the shooting death of the McKearney couple on 23 October 1975. Peter McKearney was shot between 14 and 18 times, and his wife, Jenny 11 times. The shooting took place at their home in Moy, County Tyrone; Jackson was linked to the 9mm Sterling submachine gun used in the killings. “Glenanne gang” member Garnet Busby pleaded guilty to the killings and was sentenced to life imprisonment.

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John Weir

John Weir claimed that Jackson led the group who bombed Kay’s Tavern pub in Dundalk on 19 December 1975, which killed two men.  Barron implicated the “Glenanne gang” in the bombing, however, Jackson was not identified by any eyewitnesses at or in the vicinity of Kay’s Tavern.[

Gardaí received information from a reliable source that Jackson and his car – a Vauxhall Viva with the registration number CIA 2771 – were involved in the bombing; yet there were no witnesses who reported having seen the car. The RUC stated that Jackson had been observed celebrating at a Banbridge bar at 9.00 pm on the evening of the attack in the company of other loyalist extremists. The implication was that they were celebrating the Kay’s Tavern bombing.

1976

The following month, on 4 January 1976, Jackson supposedly organised the “Glenanne gang”‘s two co-ordinated sectarian attacks against the O’Dowd and Reavey families in County Armagh, leaving a total of five men dead and one injured.

 Weir maintained that it was Jackson who shot 61-year-old Joseph O’Dowd and his two nephews, Barry and Declan, to death at a family celebration in Ballydougan, near Gilford; although Jackson had not been at the scene where the Reavey brothers had been killed twenty minutes earlier.

The day after the double killing, ten Protestant workmen were gunned down by the South Armagh Republican Action Force, who ambushed their minibus near the village of Kingsmill. The shootings were in retaliation for the O’Dowd and Reavey killings. The Glenanne gang made plans to avenge the Kingsmill victims with an attack on St Lawrence O’Toole Primary School, Belleeks. This plan, which involved the killing of at least 30 schoolchildren and their teacher, was called off at the last minute by the UVF’s Brigade Staff (Belfast leadership), who considered it “morally unacceptable” and feared it would have led to a civil war.

Based on the description given by Barney O’Dowd, a survivor of the shooting attack at Ballydougan, one of the weapons used in the O’Dowd killings was a Luger with an attached silencer.  The findings noted in the HET Report on the Miami Showband killings revealed that on 19 May 1976, two fingerprints belonging to Jackson were discovered on the metal barrel of a home-made silencer constructed for a Luger pistol.

Both the silencer and Luger, as well as more firearms, ammunition, a magazine, explosives, and bomb-making material, were found by the security forces at the farm of a man by the name of Edward Sinclair, a former member of the “B Specials“. The exhibit, however, was mistakenly labelled indicating that his prints had been found on the black insulating tape wrapped around the silencer rather than the silencer itself.

After several unsuccessful attempts to apprehend Jackson between 20 and 30 May, Jackson was arrested at his home on 31 May under Section 10 of the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provisions) Act 1973; he was taken to Armagh Police Station. This was when the amended information regarding his fingerprints was delivered to Detective Superintendent Ernest Drew at Armagh. Drew and Detective Constable William Elder both questioned him; Jackson denied ever having been at Sinclair’s farm whilst admitting knowing him through the Portadown Loyalist Club which they both frequented.

When shown the Luger, silencer and magazine (but not the insulating tape), Jackson denied having handled them. When asked by Detective Superintendent Drew to provide an explanation should his fingerprints be discovered on either pistol or silencer, Jackson told him that one night at the Portadown Loyalist Club, Sinclair had asked him for some adhesive tape and Jackson claimed

“I gave him part of the roll I was using in the bar”.

Jackson had allegedly been using the tape whilst lapping hoses for beer kegs at the bar. In his statement to Detective Superintendent Drew, Jackson claimed that one week prior to his arrest, two high-ranking RUC officers had tipped him off about his fingerprints having been found on the insulating tape wrapped around the silencer used with the Luger. Jackson went on to say that he was forewarned, using the words:

“I should clear as there was a wee job up the country that I would be done for and there was no way out of it for me”.

On 2 June, Jackson was charged with possession of a firearm, a magazine, four rounds of ammunition and a silencer with intent to endanger life. He was detained in custody and went to trial on 11 November 1976 at a Diplock Court held at Belfast City Commission, charged only with possession of the silencer. Although the judge initially rejected his defence that his fingerprints were on the insulating tape and had “been innocently transferred to the silencer”, he managed to avoid conviction when he was acquitted of the charge.

The trial judge, Mr Justice Murray, had said: “At the end of the day I find that the accused somehow touched the silencer, but the Crown evidence has left me completely in the dark as to whether he did that wittingly or unwittingly, willingly or unwillingly”.

As a result of the judicious examination of forensic ballistics procured from original RUC reports and presented to Justice Barron, the 9 mm Luger pistol, serial no. U 4 for which the silencer was specifically made, was established as having been the same one used in the Miami Showband and John Francis Green killings.

Image result for Miami Showband trumpeter Brian McCoy

According to journalist Tom McGurk, Miami Showband trumpeter Brian McCoy was shot nine times in the back with a Luger pistol.  The Miami inquiry team was never informed of these developments and Jackson was never questioned about the Miami Showband killings following the discovery of his fingerprints on the silencer. The Luger pistol serial no.U 4 was later destroyed by the RUC on 28 August 1978.

Barney O’Dowd claimed RUC detectives in the 1980s admitted to him that Jackson had been the man who shot the three O’Dowd men, but the evidence had not been sufficient to charge him with the killings.

In 2006, Barney O’Dowd spoke at the public hearings of the Houses of the Oireachtas Sub-Committee on the Barron Report Debate. He maintained that in June 1976 an RUC detective came to see him at his home and told him the gunman could not be charged with the killings as he was the “head of the UVF” and a “hard man” who could not be broken during police interrogation. Additionally the UVF had threatened to start shooting policeman like the IRA were doing if the gunman was ever charged with murder.

Weir stated in his affidavit that on one occasion some months after he was transferred to Newry RUC station in October 1976, Jackson himself, and another RUC officer and “Glenanne gang” member, Gary Armstrong, went on a reconnaissance in south Armagh seeking out the homes of known IRA members, with the aim of assassinating them. Jackson, according to Weir, carried a knife and hammer, and boasted to Weir that if they happened to:

“find a suitable person to kill”, he [Jackson] “knew how to do it with those weapons”.

They approached the houses of two IRA men; however, the plan to attack them was aborted and they drove back to Lurgan. They were stopped at an RUC roadblock near the Republic of Ireland border, but the three men were waved through, after an exchange of courtesies, despite the presence of Jackson in the car with two RUC officers.

1977 and the William Strathearn killing

The village of AhoghillCounty Antrim, where the William Strathearn killing took place

He was implicated by Weir in the killing of Catholic chemist, William Strathearn,  who was shot at his home in AhoghillCounty Antrim after two men knocked on his door at 2.00 am on 19 April 1977 claiming to need medicine for a sick child.

Strathearn lived above his chemist’s shop. Weir was one of the RUC men later convicted of the killing, along with his SPG colleague, Billy McCaughey, and he named Jackson as having been the gunman, alleging that Jackson had told him after the shooting that he had shot Strathearn twice when the latter opened the door.

Weir and McCaughey had waited in Weir’s car while the shooting was carried out. The gun that Jackson used had been given to him by McCaughey, with the instructions that he was only to fire through an upstairs window to frighten the occupants and make sure they “got the message”, and not to kill anyone. As in the Dublin bombings, Jackson’s poultry lorry was also employed on this occasion, specifically to transport himself and Robert John “R.J.” Kerr, another alleged accomplice, to and from the scene of the crime. After the killing, Jackson and Kerr went on to deliver a load of chickens. Kerr was allegedly Jackson’s lorry helper, assisting in loading and unloading chickens which Jackson sold for a living.

Jackson was never questioned about the killing. According to an RUC detective, he was not interrogated for “reasons of operational strategy”. Weir suggested that “Jackson was untouchable because he was an RUC Special Branch agent.”

The Barron Report stated that Weir had made an offer to testify against Jackson and Robert John “R.J”. Kerr, but only on the condition that the murder charge against him was withdrawn. This offer was refused by the Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions who said

Kerr and Jackson have not been interviewed by the police because the police state they are virtually immune to interrogation and the common police consensus is that to arrest and interview either man is a waste of time. Both men are known to police to be very active and notorious UVF murderers. Nevertheless the police do not recommend consideration of withdrawal of charges against Weir. I agree with this view. Weir and McCaughey must be proceeded against. When proceedings against them are terminated the position may be reviewed in respect of Jackson and Kerr.

It is noted in the Barron Report that Northern Ireland’s Lord Chief Justice Robert Lowry was aware of Jackson and Kerr’s involvement in the Strathearn killing, and that they were not prosecuted for “operational reasons”. Mr. Justice Barron was highly critical of the RUC’s failure to properly investigate Jackson.

Weir declared:

“I think it is important to make it clear that this collusion between loyalist paramilitaries such as Robin Jackson and my RUC colleagues and me was taking place with the full knowledge of my superiors”.

1978–1991

The interior of Crumlin Road Prison in Belfast. Following his arrest in 1979 for possession of guns, ammunition, and hoods, Jackson was remanded in custody to the prison to await trial

Journalist Liam Clarke alleged that in early 1978, Weir and Jackson traveled to Castleblaney with the intention of kidnapping an IRA volunteer named Dessie O’Hare from a pub called The Spinning Wheel. However, when Jackson and Weir arrived, they discovered the publican had been warned of the kidnap plot and they were ordered to leave the premises.

Jackson’s sole conviction came after he was arrested on 16 October 1979 when a .22 pistol, a .38 revolver, a magazine, 13 rounds of ammunition, and hoods were found in his possession.He was remanded in custody to Crumlin Road Prison in Belfast to await trial. On 20 January 1981, Jackson was brought before the Belfast Crown Court on charges of possession of guns and ammunition, and was sentenced to seven years in prison.

 He was released on 12 May 1983.

A man whose description matched Jackson’s was seen behaving suspiciously in the vicinity of Lurgan RUC barracks close to where three prominent republicans were later ambushed and shot by masked UVF gunmen after they left the police station on 7 March 1990. The republicans had been signing in at the station as part of their bail conditions for charges of possession of ammunition. Sam Marshall was killed in the attack; Colin Duffy and Tony McCaughey were both wounded. Although the shooting was claimed by the UVF, the gunmen were never caught. Two UVF members were later convicted of having supplied the car used in the ambush.

He reportedly perpetrated his last killings in March 1991, with the fatal shootings of three Catholics, Eileen Duffy, Catriona Rennie, and Brian Frizzell, at a mobile shop in Craigavon. Duffy and Rennie were teenage girls.

 Weir’s affidavit contradicted this as it pointed out that although Jackson was aware that the killings were to take place, he had not been at the scene of the crime; a solicitor informed Weir he had been with Jackson at his home at the time the shootings occurred to provide him with an alibi. Investigative journalist Paul Larkin suggested that the shooting attack against the shop was organised by Jackson upon receiving complaints from UDR soldiers after they had been refused service and insulted by the mobile shop employees.

Larkin identified one of the hitmen as Mark “Swinger” Fulton. Although the RUC initially arrested UVF members associated with Jackson, they then focused their attention on the men belonging to the Mid-Ulster Brigade’s Portadown unit led by Billy Wright. Fulton was a prominent member of this unit and served as Wright’s right-hand man.

Reputation and further allegations

Designated by Weir the “most notorious paramilitary in Northern Ireland”, at least 50 killings were directly attributed to Jackson, according to journalists Stephen Howe in the New Statesman,  and David McKittrick in his book Lost Lives.

Kevin Dowling in the Irish Independent, dubbed Jackson the “Lord High Executioner of the North’s notorious murder triangle”, adding that he was infamous from Belfast to the Irish border for “the intensity and fury of his instinct to kill”.

A former UDR soldier who had served with Jackson described him as a sectarian killer who had a visceral hatred of Catholics but that :

“you were always glad to have him with you when you were out on patrol”.

Unnamed Intelligence officers personally acquainted with Jackson stated that he was a psychopath who would often dress up and attend the funerals of his victims because he felt a need “to make sure they were dead.”

 Described as a sardonic man who was extremely dedicated; physically he was dark-haired, blue-eyed, “small, but firmly-built”. Suspicious by nature, he repeatedly advised his associates that they should never reveal secret information to anyone. His paranoia and fear of recognition by his potential victims was such that he attempted to destroy all photographs of himself including school and family pictures.

Psychological warfare operative Major Colin Wallace corroborated the allegations, stating that

[E]verything people had whispered about Robin Jackson for years was perfectly true. He was a hired gun. A professional assassin. He was responsible for more deaths in the North [Northern Ireland] than any other person I knew. The Jackal killed people for a living. The State not only knew that he was doing it. Its servants encouraged him to kill its political opponents and protected him.

Wallace also named Jackson as having been “centrally-involved” in the Dublin bombings, but like Weir, suggested that the principal organiser had been Billy Hanna.  Wallace’s psychological operations unit typically targeted loyalist extremists; however, during the period of 1973 and 1974 he was refused clearance to target principal members of the Mid-Ulster UVF despite an increase in paramilitary activity from the organisation.

In June 1974, a month after the bombings, Wallace was denied permission to target key loyalists including Jackson and Hanna, as their names were on a list which excluded them from being targeted for psychological operations. This appeared to indicate that in practice, those members of paramilitaries whose names were listed were also excluded from being targeted for prosecution.

Liam Clarke of the Sunday Times made the following statements regarding Jackson and his reported special relationship with the security forces and military intelligence:

Jackson had many allies still serving in the UDR and close links to special forces soldiers. These included Bunny Dearsley of military intelligence and Robert Nairac, Tony Ball and other soldiers attached to the undercover 14th Intelligence Unit. These officers met him at a bar in Moira and many suspect that he was involved in murders set up by military contacts at that time. In the late 1970s, he [Jackson] was a binge drinker and sometimes boasted to UVF associates of “someone looking after me”. Some took this as a reference to God, or even the Devil, but the most likely explanation is that it referred to members of the Army’s intelligence corps.

Originally nicknamed “Jacko”,  Jackson was given the more sinister sobriquet, “the Jackal” by Sunday World newspaper’s Northern Ireland editor Jim Campbell when he investigated and exposed Jackson’s alleged paramilitary activities – including his involvement in the Miami Showband killings – and links to British Military Intelligence.

 In retaliation, Jackson reportedly approached members of the violent loyalist Shankill Butchers gang in Belfast, who (at Jackson’s request) shot and seriously wounded Campbell on 18 May 1984.  According to journalist Joe Gorrod of The Mirror, it was reported in the Irish Times that the SAS took Jackson abroad where he received specialist training. In the late 1980s, he was also sent by MI5 to South Africa and Australia to buy weapons that were shipped back to loyalist paramilitaries and Ulster Resistance in Northern Ireland.[130]Gorrod wrote that Jackson kept hidden files that incriminated the politicians and businessmen who were involved with Jackson in the loyalist arms shipments.

In his book Loyalists, British journalist Peter Taylor devotes pages 187–195 to the loyalists’ South African arms deals which had taken place in the late 1980s. Jackson’s name does not appear in the account nor is Australia referred to. Joe Gorrod is the only journalist to make these allegations although Henry McDonald (of The Guardian) affirmed that Jackson lived for a period of time in South Africa during the 1980s.

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The purported files, which were kept with a friend, would have ensured Jackson that he would never be sentenced to a lengthy imprisonment.

Weapons used in the 1994 UVF shooting attack on patrons in the Heights Bar at Loughinisland were later found to have come from the South African arms shipment that had ended up in the hands of Robin Jackson.

Succeeded by Billy Wright

In the early 1990s, he handed over command of the Mid-Ulster UVF to Portadown unit leader Billy Wright, also known as “King Rat”. Wright formed the breakaway Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) in 1996. This was after he and his Portadown unit had been stood down by the UVF’s Brigade Staff in Belfast on 2 August 1996, following the unauthorised killing of a Catholic taxi driver by members of Wright’s group outside Lurgan during the Drumcree disturbances when the UVF were on ceasefire.

Although Wright took the officially-disbanded Portadown unit with him to form the LVF, Jackson, despite being on friendly terms with Wright, remained loyal to the UVF leadership as did most of the other Mid-Ulster Brigade units. Wright was shot dead inside the Maze Prison on 27 December 1997 by Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) inmates while waiting in a prison van which was transporting him to a visit with his girlfriend. Wright had been sentenced to eight years imprisonment for having threatened a woman’s life.

Jackson was confronted in 1998 by the son of RUC Sergeant Joseph Campbell, a Catholic constable gunned down outside the Cushendall, County Antrim RUC station in February 1977, as he was locking up. It was rumoured that Jackson had been the hitman sent to shoot Campbell on behalf of an RUC Special Branch officer.

Weir, in his affidavit, claimed Jackson, prior to Campbell’s shooting, had informed him of the RUC officer’s request. Jackson, by then dying of cancer, told Campbell’s son that he had not been involved in the killing. The UVF, at a secret meeting with journalists, declared that Jackson had no part in Campbell’s killing. The case was later placed under investigation by the Office of the Police Ombudsman for Northern Ireland.

See: Billy Wright

Death

Jackson died of lung cancer at his Donaghcloney home on Saturday, 30 May 1998 and was buried the following Monday, 1 June in a private ceremony in the St. Bartholomew Church of Ireland churchyard in his native Donaghmore, County Down. His grave, close to that of his parents, is unmarked apart from a steel poppy cross. 

He was 49 years old. His father had died in 1985 and his mother outlived him for five years.

After his death, a friend of Jackson told Gorrod that Jackson had no regrets about his UVF activities; however, due to his religious upbringing he was tormented by feelings of remorse on his deathbed believing that he had been “drawn into a world of evil that wasn’t of his making”. One of his last wishes was that the secret documents incriminating the politicians and businessmen with whom he associated be released to the public. Liam Clarke suggested the killing of Billy Hanna was the only killing Jackson ever regretted, admitting it had been “unfair” to kill him.

Journalist Martin O’Hagan had been in the process of writing a book about Jackson but his assassination by the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) in 2001 prevented its completion. Along with Billy Hanna and other senior loyalists, Jackson was commemorated in the UVF song Battalion of the Dead. In May 2010, angry relatives of UVF victims unsuccessfully sought the removal of the song from YouTube.

See : Miami Showband Killings – The Day The Music Died

See: The Glenanne Gang

See: Dublin and Monaghan Bombings

The day A Squirrel sh*t on my head –

A Squirrel once sh*t on my head –

Image result for squirrel doing a shit

It was a beautiful summers day the birds were singing in the trees and I was out walking in Hyde park with a ( rather hot ) lady nurse from Great Ormond Street Hospital and some of her nursy friends.

I’d not long been in London and was delighted when I moved jobs to work in Russell Square , as all the local bars and clubs were full of student nurses and other hospital staff and to my sheer joy they seemed to like my Belfast charm and accent and I felt confident that I may pull me a sexy nurse.

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Hey, I was a young hot blooded male back then.

It was also full of trainee police staff , but to be honest they kind of scared me a little and I kept my distance. This was obviously a hangup from growing up in Glencairn and in and around the Shankill. Back in those days we tended to police ourselfs ( well UDA / UVF did ) and whilst we respected the police it would never enter our heads to ask them to settle local disputes or fallouts.

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The day way going great until I heard the gentle calling chimes of the Poke Man ( icecream van in Northern Ireland slang to those who don’t know )and thought I’d treat myself and all the nice girls to a nice big Poke.

Image result for ice cream van belfast 1970s

I inquired of the ladies present if any of them would like to have a Poke with me and through howls of laughter I took their orders. Of I go and on my way through a grove of tree I look up and pause for a moment, watching as two beautiful squirrels seemed to play tag with each other , jumping and swinging from branch to branch they disappeared in to the tree tops above me. It felt like a special moment in time and I was kind of entranced and touched by it all.

And then one of the little feckers shat on my head!

How feckin rude is that ?

I knew it was squirrel shit immediately because it was the most logical answer and also they were both up there in the trees, starring down at me and I swear I heard them snigger.

Also the one that done the dump on my head must have had a curry the night before because as it ran down the side of my face , hot and sticky it smelt shocking and to make matters worse I could feel lumps cascading through the shit and gagging I realised they were poo covered bits of nuts.

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Bending over a tree I start throwing up all over the place and prayed for the ground to open up and swallow me alive. Sadly it didn’t happen.

Then to my utter shame and horror my Lady Nurse friend was beside me, stroking my back and asking if in a mummy voice if I was OK. It wasn’t a pretty sight to be fair and wiping my hair with a tissue I excused myself and proceeded to go get the pokes.

Sadly I wasn’t successfully that day in pulling a sexy nurse ( but more than made up for it over the comings months) and those bare stories for any day.

See: How to speech Belfast : https://belfastchildis.com/2017/04/30/how-to-speak-belfast-northern-ireland-2/

Unique & Bespoke Gifts & Souvenirs from Northern Ireland

Made in Belfast – Unique & Bespoke Gifts & Souvenirs from Northern Ireland




Are you looking for a local gift to send to a friend or relative?

Then maybe we can help you with one of our personalized gifts. We can even gift wrap it and send it direct to person your buying it for. Here is a small sample of what we have.

My sisters Mags has a wee business selling these kind of things and I thought as many of my blog visitors and Twitter friends are from or interested in all things Northern Ireland I would give her a little exposure via my blog .

Prices

Mugs

£6.00 + 1st class post £4.00

( discounted post for multiply orders )

Key-Rings

£2.00 + £1.00 postage
( discounted post for multiply orders )

If you would like to order some items please follow this link to her website :
Northern Ireland Gifts and mentioned that Belfast Child sent you.

Postal discounts available for bulk orders

Please allow between 3/5 days for delivery in UK and longer for Mainland Europe and America/ Canada

Visit the site for a full range of products. : Northern Ireland Gifts

Death Row Dates – Billy Wayne Coble : 28th Feb 2019

Update: 2/3/2019

Execution Carried Out

HUNTSVILLE, Texas (AP) — A Texas inmate was executed Thursday evening for the killings nearly 30 years ago of his estranged wife’s parents and her brother, who was a police officer.

Billie Wayne Coble received lethal injection at the state penitentiary in Huntsville for the August 1989 shooting deaths of Robert and Zelda Vicha and their son, Bobby Vicha, at separate homes in Axtell, northeast of Waco.

Coble, 70, once described by a prosecutor as having “a heart full of scorpions,” was the oldest inmate executed by Texas since the state resumed carrying out capital punishment in 1982.

Asked to make a final statement, Coble replied: “That’ll be $5.”

He told the five witnesses he selected to be in attendance that he loved them, then again said: “That’ll be $5.” Coble nodded to the witnesses and added, “take care.”

He gasped several times and began snoring.

As Coble was finishing his statement, his son, a friend and a daughter-in-law became emotional and violent. They were yelling obscenities, throwing fists and kicking at others in the death chamber witness area.

Officers stepped in and the witnesses continued to resist. They were eventually moved to a courtyard and the two men were handcuffed.

“Why are you doing this?” the woman asked. “They just killed his daddy.”

While the witnesses were being subdued outside, the single dose of pentobarbital was being administered to Coble. He was pronounced dead 11 minutes later at 6:24 p.m.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice spokesman Jeremy Desel said the two men were arrested on a charge of resisting arrest and taken to the Walker County Jail.

The U.S. Supreme Court earlier Thursday turned down Coble’s request to delay his execution.

His attorneys had told the high court that Coble’s original trial lawyers were negligent for conceding his guilt by failing to present an insanity defense before a jury convicted him of capital murder.

A state appeals court had previously rejected Coble’s request to delay Thursday’s execution and the Texas Board of Pardons and Paroles turned down his request for a commutation.

Coble “does not deny that he bears responsibility for the victims’ loss of life, but he nonetheless wanted his lawyers to present a defense on his behalf,” his attorney, A. Richard Ellis, said in his appeal to the Supreme Court.

In Coble’s clemency petition to the Board of Pardons and Paroles, Ellis said his client suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder stemming from his time as a Marine during the Vietnam War and was convicted, in part, due to misleading testimony from two prosecution expert witnesses on whether he would be a future danger.

See USA Today for full story

Billy Wayne Coble

Crime : Multiple Homicide

Crime

Coble was convicted in 1990 of killing his in-laws, Robert and Zelda Vicha, and their son, Waco police Sgt. Bobby Vicha, at the family’s Axtell home

After shooting the three, Coble kidnapped his estranged wife, Karen Vicha, threatened to sexually assault and kill her, but was injured when he crashed his vehicle during a police chase in Bosque County.

Coble has a list of appeals, the only one successful filed in 2007 with the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that resulted in the dismissal of the death sentence and an order for re-trial on punishment after the court’s opinion stated Coble’s jury faced two questions that were unconstitutional.

The punishment re-trial ended with the same result, a death sentence.

A retired police officer who worked on the Coble case and a current district judge who back then was a prosecutor and who took Coble to trial on the capital murder case for the first time were among a few dozen people who crowded into the 54th District Courtroom on Wednesday to watch the hearing.

After a few minutes the judge asked one of the bailiffs why Coble wasn’t in the courtroom and the bailiff said he was refusing to leave the holding cell.

Johnson sent a squad of bailiffs to retrieve Coble, but they reported he refused to come to the courtroom, after which Johnson called the case, read the preliminary documents concerning the appeals Coble has filed since his conviction, and then set the date.

Coble has a list of appeals, the only one successful filed in 2007 with the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals that resulted in the dismissal of the death sentence and an order for re-trial on punishment after the court’s opinion stated Coble’s jury faced two questions that were unconstitutional.

See: www.kwtx.com for full details.

See: The Forgivenes Centre for more details

Death Row Dates – Domineque Hakim Marcelle Ray: 7th Feb 2019

Update : 7/Feb/2019

Court grants Muslim death row inmate stay of execution

Melissa Brown  

Montgomery Advertiser

The U.S. Court of Appeals has granted a stay of execution for a Muslim death row inmate in Alabama as he continues his ongoing bid to have an imam present at his execution.

Domineque Ray maintains the absence of his imam in Alabama’s death chamber would violate his constitutional rights, as the state has an established practice of including a Christian prison chaplain in previous executions. Wednesday’s ruling overturns a Montgomery federal judge’s denial of a stay last week.  

Ray was slated to be executed at 6 p.m. Thursday.

5:27 PM EST Feb 6, 2019

See: Montgomery Advertiser

Domineque Hakim Marcelle Ray

Crime : Rape & Murder

Ray was sentenced to death for the 1995 rape and fatal stabbing of 15-year-old Tiffany Harville of Selma. Months before his death penalty trial, he was sentenced to life for a 1994 slaying of two teen brothers, The Associated Press reports.

The Alabama death row inmate, is challenging the state on religious grounds after prison officials denied his Muslim spiritual advisor access to the execution chamber.

See: montgomeryadvertisernews for more details

See: The Forgivenes Centre for more details