I need to chill , the daily grind of everyday life gets a little boring sometimes , esp after 53 years of many crazy highs and at times epic lows .But I’ve got to be grateful for what I have. I know my life although far from perfect is much better than many others . Thank god for small mercies.
Hospital appointment tomorrow morning for over active thyroid , I ain’t complaining about it but my god I didn’t even know it was a thing until they found I had it after some blood tests. I knew there was something not quite right , but took ages to diagnose. Caused me loads of problems , mostly with my eyes which is kind of scary ,chronic tiredness , weight …..
Wifey going to Goa on Friday to teach yoga and go to a yoga retreat. I was invited along but not my kind of thing,. To be sure I like the philosophy of it all , just not bendy enough to do most of the moves. Might take up tai chi , that’s more my style. hee he.
She’s away for nine days so I’ll be in charge of the kids, two cats , one with only three legs and two very nervous goldfish. Hope I don’t drink myself to death. I wonder if she’ll make me a curry before she goes.. Hmmmm…
Wondering if I can be arsed joining the local astronomy club , or should I wait until spring/summer ? Star gazing is something I really enjoy, I have a telescope and all the equipment , but when no one else in the family is interested in sitting in the garden in the middle of winter in the dark and cold it can become quite a lonely venture. .Tried to get son interested, but he’s a teenager now, thinks he’s a gangster and hates me at least five times a day at the mo.
Wondering if that big asteroid gonna destroy the Earth and when we’ll ever hear the end of the harry and Meghan debate. Snzzzz……….
Worried and anxious about my forthcoming book , its a massive thing for me and I’m about to go down the rabbit hole and have no idea what I’ll find down there.
Considering if it would be a good idea to have a gin.
And finally Im testing out some new features on my blog and wanted to see how they all worked and looked , hence this boring post!
Key Events & Deaths on this day in Northern Ireland Troubles
Sunday 14 May 1972
A 13 year old Catholic girl was shot dead by Loyalist paramilitaries in Ballymurphy, Belfast.
Monday 14 May 1973
Martin McGuinness was released from prison in the Republic of Ireland having served a six months sentence.
Tuesday 14 May 1974
Beginning of the Ulster Workers Council Strike
There was a debate in the Northern Ireland Assembly on a motion condemning power-sharing and the Council of Ireland. The motion was defeated by 44 votes to 28. At 6.00pm, following the conclusion of the Assembly debate, Harry Murray announced to a group of journalists that a general strike was to start the following day.
The organisation named as being responsible for calling the strike was the Ulster Workers’ Council (UWC). The action was to become known as the UWC Strike. The Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and Sinn Féin (SF) were declared legal following the passing of legislation at Westminster.
Saturday 14 May 1977
Robert Nairac (29), a member of the British Army, was abducted by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) outside the Three Step Inn, near Forkhill, County Armagh.
His body was never recovered and he was presumed dead. He is listed as one of the ‘disappeared’.
[The IRA later stated that they had interrogated and killed a Special Air Service (SAS) officer. Nairac was posthumously awarded the George Cross.]
[McLaughlin was taken off the strike on 26 May 1981 when he suffered a perforated ulcer and internal bleeding.]
Wednesday 14 May 1986
The pressure group ‘Campaign for Equal Citizenship‘ was established at a meeting in Belfast. The CEC argued that British political parties, such as the Labour and Conservative, should organise and stand for election in Northern Ireland. The CEC was also in favour of the full administrative integration of Northern Ireland into the United Kingdom
Saturday 14 May 1994
David Wilson (27), a British Army (BA) soldier, was killed by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) during a bomb attack on a permanent Vehicle Checkpoint, Castleblaney Road, Keady, County Armagh.
Sunday 14 May 1995
The Sunday Business Post (a Dublin based newspaper) published a report of an interview with Peter Temple-Morris, then co-chairman of the British-Irish Interparliamentary Body. He expressed the view that Republican frustration with the lack of progress on all-party talks might lead to an end of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) ceasefire.
Wednesday 14 May 1997
Gunmen tried to kill a taxi driver in Milford village, County Armagh.
The attempt failed when the gun jammed. The Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) was believed to be responsible for the attack.
Betty Boothroyd, then Speaker of the House of Commons, ruled that the two Sinn Féin (SF) MPs would not be given office facilities at Westminster because they had refused to take their seats in the House.
In the Queen’s speech setting out the Labour governments legislative plans it was announced that the North Report on parades and marches would be implemented in 1998. In addition the European Convention on Human Rights would be incorporated into forthcoming legislation on Northern Ireland.
Thursday 14 May 1998
Tony Blair, then British Prime Minister, paid another visit to Northern Ireland to continue campaigning for a ‘Yes’ vote in the referendum. During his visit he delivered a key note speech.
Friday 14 May 1999
There were further political talks in London involving the two Prime Ministers and the leaders of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), and Sinn Féin (SF). Before the meeting Gerry Adams, then President of Sinn Féin (SF) expressed concern about the state of the ceasefires of the main Loyalist paramilitary groups.
He claimed that the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) had co-operated with other Loyalist groups in carrying out attacks on Catholic homes.
At the meeting Tony Blair, then British Prime Minister, announced an “absolute” deadline of 30 June 1999 for the formation of an Executive and the devolution of power to the Northern Ireland Assembly. Proposals put before the parties were thought to have been agreed by, David Trimble, then leader of the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP), the Irish Government, the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), and Sinn Féin (SF).
[However the UUP Assembly party failed to endorse the proposals. The proposals would have seen the d’Hondt procedure for the appointment of ministers in a power-sharing executive triggered in the coming week, with full devolution achieved by the end of June, following a report on “progress” on decommissioning by Gen. John de Chastelain.]
Sunday 14 May 2000
Cyril Ramaphosa, former secretary-general of the African National Congress (ANC), and Martti Ahtisaari, former President of Finland, both of whom were appointed as arms inspectors arrived in Northern Ireland. The arms inspectors report to the Independent International Commission on Decommissioning (IICD).
Remembering all innocent victims of the Troubles
Today is the anniversary of the death of the following people killed as a results of the conflict in Northern Ireland
“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die
– Thomas Campbell
To the innocent on the list – Your memory will live forever
– To the Paramilitaries –
There are many things worth living for, a few things worth dying for, but nothing worth killing for.
10 People lost their lives on the 14th between 1972 – 1994
14 May 1972
Marta Campbell (13)
Catholic Status: Civilian (Civ),
Killed by: non-specific Loyalist group (LOY)
Shot while walking along Springhill Avenue, Ballymurphy, Belfast.
14 May 1972
John Pedlow (17)
Protestant Status: Civilian (Civ),
Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Died one day after being shot during gun battle between Irish Republican Army (IRA) and Loyalists, Springmartin Road, Belfast.
14 May 1972 Gerard McCusker (24)
Catholic Status: Civilian (Civ),
Killed by: non-specific Loyalist group (LOY)
Found shot on waste ground, Hopeton Street, Shankill, Belfast.
14 May 1973
John McCormac (34)
Catholic Status: Civilian (Civ),
Killed by: Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)
Died three days after being shot while walking along Raglan Street, Lower Falls, Belfast.
14 May 1973
Roy Rutherford (33)
Protestant Status: Civilian (Civ),
Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed by booby trap bomb in derelict cottage, Moy Road, Portadown, County Armagh
14 May 1977
Robert Nairac (29)
nfNI Status: British Army (BA),
Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Undercover British Army (BA) member. Abducted outside Three Step Inn, near Forkhill, County Armagh. Presumed killed. Body never recovered.
Unashamedly Proud of My Loyalist and British Heritage.
In fact I want the world to know that despite what loony lefties and followers of Corbyn think – its perfectly normal to take pride in our country and celebrate and embrace our long and glorious history.
Someone emailed me yesterday after visiting my website and praised me for writing about the history of The Troubles and commemorating the memory of all those who had died during the 30 year conflict.
So far – so good!
And then she asked me………..
“Did I hate Catholic’s and what I thought of a United Ireland ?”.
Well at this stage my antenna went up and I thought ” Here we go again “
Let me explain….
When I set up this blog/website last year my primary objective was to promote my Autobiography Belfast Child and hopefully attract some attention from the publishing world and maybe one day see my book printed and share my story with the world.
That was the objective anyways and the process has been long and full of disappointments – but I am now working with high profile ghost writing Tom Henry to complete the book and his enthusiasm for the subject is feeding my dream.
I have always thought I had an interesting story to tell ( I would wouldn’t I ? ) and within weeks of launching the site I was pleasantly surprised to see that I was receiving a lot of visitors and people were commenting on my story. As of yesterday I have had more 100,000 visitors to the site and this figure is growing and increasing weekly by a few thousand and this I must say surprised me.
It had always been my aim to dedicate the book/my story to the memory of all those killed in the Troubles and off course to the memory of my beloved father John Chambers – who died way to young and left a wound in my soul that can never been healed or soothed.
So with this in mind I decided to use my website to tell the story of the Northern Ireland conflict and include an unbiased (mostly) comprehensive history of all major events and deaths in the Troubles. Due to my loyalist heritage and background this has not always been easy, considering I lived through the worst years of the Troubles among the loyalist communities of West Belfast and like those around me I was on the front-line of the sectarian slaughter and there was no escape from the madness that surrounded and engulfed us.
I blamed the IRA ( and other republican terrorists ) for all the woes of life in Belfast and I hated them with a passion – still do.
Growing up as a protestant in Northern Ireland is unlike life in any other part of the UK or British territories and from cradle to grave our lives are governed by the tenuous umbilical cord that reluctantly connects us to the rest of the UK and Westminster’s corridors of power.
Unlike most other communities throughout the UK we are fanatically proud of our Britishness and we have literally fought for the right to remain part of Britain and have Queen Elizabeth II as the mother of our nation.
Long may she reign
If you have read extracts from my Autobiography Belfast Child ( It’s worth it – promise ) you will know that I was raised within the heartlands of loyalist Northern Ireland – The Glorious Shankill Road.
The UDA ( Ulster Defense Force) and other loyalist paramilitaries governed and controlled our daily lives and lived and operated among us. The loyalist community stood as one against the IRA and other republican terrorists and although there was often war between the various different groups , they were untied in their hatred of Republican’s and pride in the Union.
The definition of loyalist is :
a. A supporter of union between Great Britain and Northern Ireland
b. A person who remains loyal to the established ruler or government, especially in the face of a revolt.
Why Ireland split into the Republic of Ireland & Northern Ireland
A bit of history for you
A very brief outlined of the beginning of the modern troubles
Whilst the Protestants’ clung to their British sovereignty and took pride in the union, our Catholic counterparts felt abandoned and second class citizens in a Unionist run state. The civil rights marches of the 60’s & Republican calls for a United Ireland were the catalyst for the IRA and other Republican terrorist groups to take up arms against the British and feed the paranoia of the loyalist community.
Northern Ireland descended into decades of sectarian conflict & slaughter. An attack on the crown was an attack on the Protestant people of the North and the Protestant paramilitaries took up arms and waged an indiscriminate war against the IRA, the Catholic population and each other. Many innocent Catholic’s and Protestant’s became targets of psychopathic sectarian murder squad’s. Murder was almost a daily occurrence and the killings on both sides perpetuated the hatred and mistrust between the two ever-warring communities. It was a recipe for disaster and Northern stood on the brink of all out civil war.
Growing up in this environment it is hardly surprising to learn that I hated republicans and all they stood for. But that doesn’t mean I hated Catholic’s or Irish people and would wish any harm on them – I don’t and I didn’t.
It means I have a different point of view and democracy is all about freedom of choice and my choice is to maintain the Union with the UK and embrace and celebrate my loyalist culture and tradition. It also means I have the right to take pride in the union with the rest of the UK and I wear my nationality like a badge of honor for all the world to see.
Jason Mawer has been warned twice to remove his jacket in case it offends someone
The unique Mod-style jacket in red, white and blue was made a few years ago for a Who convention in London
Pub landlord Jason Mawer has twice been asked in public to remove his treasured Union Jack jacket – for risk of it being ‘offensive’.
He was told to take off his valuable Mod-style Barbour jacket – designed in honour of legendary rock band The Who – by officials who appeared to be council enforcement officers.
On the second occasion the female official warned him: ‘Would you mind removing your coat it might offend somebody.’
In recent years it has become almost politically “incorrect” to show any signs of pride in being British and mad lefties and their deluded disciples are always banging on about offending other religions and communities throughout the UK. The fact that the UK has such a diverse melting pot of different nationalities and religions and is generally accommodating to them – is lost on these do gooders and they ignore our country’s long history of religious and politically tolerance and instead accuse us of being xenophobic and this offends me no end.
Have they forgotten that it was our forefathers who fought and died for our great nation and our democracy is built on their ultimate sacrifice for our freedom – they did not die in vain.
…back to the email
If you had taken the time to have a proper look through my site you would be aware that I commemorate the deaths of all innocent people killed as a direct result of the conflict in Northern Ireland , regardless of political or religious background . I also cover the deaths of paramilitaries from both sides killed “in Action” as my objective to to give a complete picture of the history of the Troubles.
I receive lots of emails and comments about my site and although most of these are positive – a few ( normally from republicans ) accuse me of being a loyalist and somehow responsible for the all the deaths in Northern Ireland’s tortured history. Generally I ignore these emails as they are so far of the mark – if they had taken the time to read my story they would know a bit more about my history and know that I preach love – not hate!
Just because I am proud of the union and my British heritage does not mean I hate Catholics or Irish people or any others for that matter – in fact I judge no man on his colour , creed , religious or political background (apart from Republican Terrorists ).
I judge people on their humanity and empathy towards others and the world around us . Life is for living – so live and let live.
“In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.”
― Anne Frank
By age ten I’d heard shots ring out and seen the injuries caused by bullets and beatings. But nothing could’ve prepared me for the scene outside Glencairn’s community centre on Forthriver Road on an overcast morning in October 1976. Before heading to school I polished off my cornflakes and, kicking and protesting as ever, had my face wiped by Granny, who spat on a handkerchief and assaulted my grubby mush with it. ‘Come here, ye dirty wee hallion!’ she shouted as she grabbed me for the unwanted daily routine. Struggle over, I let myself out of the front door and walked the few doors to Uncle Sam’s to call for Wee Sam.
He too had succumbed to the humiliating last-minute face scrub from Aunt Gerry and as we trudged down his garden path and on to the main road through the estate we muttered darkly about our so-called elders and betters.
We’d only walked a few yards when up ahead we noticed a gathering of green and grey Land Rovers and Saracen armoured cars, which we nicknamed ‘Pigs’. That meant only one thing that the RUC and the army were out in force. To the side stood a small knot of onlookers, mostly women on their way to school, the wee ones holding their hands. This group had turned away from the scene and were speaking together. As we approached, we heard murmurs from the women and the occasional shaking of a scarfed head.
‘Fuckin’ hell,’ said Wee Sam, wide-eyed, ‘somebody musta gotten kilt up there. Look at all the peelers around.’
A knot of fear tightened in my stomach as we approached the scene. Despite being on supposedly ‘safe’ Loyalist territory, grim-faced soldiers gripped their SLRs tightly while uniformed police from the RUC spoke into radios and plain-clothes detectives huddled in a group. Judging by the mood hanging over the community centre on this cold, grey morning, we were about to see something unprecedented.
Maybe we should’ve walked on by. But we were just wee boys. Filled with childish curiosity we rubbernecked all the time. ‘C’mon,’ said Sam, grabbing me by the sleeve of my snorkel jacket, ‘let’s see what’s going on!’
We ducked past the group of clucking housewives and right up to a tall soldier in full battledress. ‘Hey mister, what’s happenin’?’ I asked. ‘Is somebody dead?’
The soldier looked down on us, not unkindly. We weren’t his enemy. Maybe he viewed similar aged boys from the Catholic areas of Ardoyne and Andersonstown in a different way, but up here we were the good guys. Supposedly.
‘If I were you two I’d bugger off to school pronto,’ he said, in a northern English voice. ‘There’s nowt to look at here.’
He was wrong. There was something to look at, lying just a couple of yards from where he stood. Behind the soldier’s back, down the grassy bank at the back of the community centre – UDA controlled, of course, and a social gathering point for those in the estate – we saw a pair of shoe-clad feet sticking out at angles from beneath a brown woollen blanket. This covered the undisputable shape of a body, and surrounding it was thick, red, jellified blood. Pints of the stuff that had spread across the grass on which the body lay, creating a semi-frozen scene of complete horror.
‘Jesus!’ I said, stepping back a couple of paces from the soldier. ‘What the fuck happened here?’
‘Never you mind,’ he said. ‘Kids your age shouldn’t be seeing things like this. And watch your language, lad.’
I ignored him and looked again. By now, a typical Belfast morning drizzle had begun to fall, covering the blanket in a fine mist. I craned my neck, and could just about see a tuft of dark, bloodstained hair sticking out of the top. Even at this age I knew that a single bullet, or even a couple of them, couldn’t have created such a mess. Rooted to the spot, I hadn’t noticed that Wee Sam was no longer by my side. I turned to see him talking animatedly to a boy of about our age standing beside his mum and went over. Wee Sam grabbed my sleeve, pulling me into the conversation.
‘Jimmy’s ma says it’s the Butchers who’s done him,’ he whispered, pointing to the body. ‘They carved him up wi’ knives and a’ that. Just cos he’s a Catholic.’
I couldn’t believe it. I knew Provies killed Loyalists, and we killed them. That’s how it was. In my mind that was all fair. We were under siege, and at war. But to have murdered this man just because he was a Catholic? And to have used knives on him, literally carving him up like a piece of meat? I knew something about this was terribly, terribly wrong and I wondered why God in all his wisdom would let such things happen. Was this the point when I started to lose faith in a Saviour who seemed to ignore the suffering of mortal men?
For weeks previously we’d heard whispers across Glencairn about a gang called the ‘Butchers’, or the ‘Shankill Butchers’. We knew they were Loyalist UVF paramilitaries, but seemingly nothing like the uncles, cousins and friends who aligned themselves to the UDA or UVF, collecting for prisoners and running shebeens, illegal drinking clubs that brought in funds. Those we knew to be UDA members, hardened as they were to whatever was going on across Belfast, seemed to be talking about this particular set of murders with a mixture of awe and horror.
As time went on, it became clear that the ‘Butchers’ killings had little connection with everyday Loyalism and more to do with the psychopathic condition of the gang’s members. It appeared they were using a black taxi to pick up their victims – innocent people on their way home – before kidnapping and murdering them. But they were also killing Protestants too; people who’d fallen foul of their notorious leader, Lenny Murphy. In short, they enjoyed killing for killing’s sake, and in mid-1970s Northern Ireland the opportunity to destroy lives at random, for any scrap of a reason, was unprecedented and easy. Life was cheap and victims would be forgotten about by the next day as another victim took their place.
The politics of Loyalist feuding was way over my head back then, but like everyone else I came to regard the Butchers as nothing short of bogeymen. They invaded my dreams and seemed to be pursuing me during my waking hours. On late summer nights and into the dark nights of autumn 1976, a group of us would gather at the bottom of the estate, playing around the woods and streams that gave this area a kind of weird beauty in the midst of all the mayhem. When darkness fell and it was time to go home, I would walk alone back up the estate, listening out in mortal fear for the distinctive sound of a wailing diesel engine climbing the hill behind me that could only be a Belfast black taxi. I was only just ten by then , but I had no reason to believe the Butchers wouldn’t grab me and rip me apart with their specially sharpened knives, just for the fun of it.
These guys meant business. The body Wee Sam and I saw was the first of four that were dumped on Glencairn by the Butchers, along with others murdered in Loyalist feuds. Some months after we came upon the scene in Forthriver Road, we were playing in and around a building site in ‘the Link’, a new part of Glencairn still under construction. Several houses were being created and while we shouldn’t have been there, nobody was stopping us from running wild around the estate and doing what we liked. We’d poked about one particular half-built house and were about to leave when I spotted what appeared to be words written on an unplastered wall.
‘Gi’e us a match, Sam,’ I said, ‘I wanna see what’s written up there.’
Sam produced a box of matches from his jeans pocket and I struck one, holding it close to the wall. The colour drained from my face as I read the words ‘Help me’. They had been written in blood. Dropping the match we legged it out of there and ran all the way home.
I told Dad, but if I expected him to be shocked I was just as surprised when his reaction was indifference. ‘Just leave well, alone, John,’ he said, shaking his head. ‘You’re better off out of it.’
You have been reading extracts from my No.1 bestselling book : A Belfast Child. See blow for more details and how to order.
Who wants… A signed copy of my No.1 best selling book ? Makes a great Xmas gift for book lovers & those interested in the Troubles & the crazy, mad days my generation lived through.
By age ten I’d heard shots ring out and seen the injuries caused by bullets and beatings. But nothing could’ve prepared me for the scene outside Glencairn’s community centre on Forthriver Road on an overcast morning in October 1976. Before heading to school I polished off my cornflakes and, kicking and protesting as ever, had … Continue reading The Shankill Butchers…→
The life and death of Eamon Collins Eamon Collins (1954 – 27 January 1999) was a Provisional Irish Republican Army member in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He turned his back on the organisation in the late 1980s, and later co-authored a book called Killing Rage detailing his experiences within it. In January 1999 he was waylaid on a … Continue reading Killing Rage – The life and death of Eamon Collins→
A big thank you to the team at Belfast Books for promoting my number one best selling book. A Belfast Child. To order a copy from Belfast Books please use this link : A Belfast Child or see Tweet below. Belfast Books Belfast’s favourite bookshop, selling used and new books. Specialising in Northern Ireland ‘Troubles’ … Continue reading Belfast Books – Thanks for promoting my book mate.→
The brutal & unforgivable murder of Ann Ogilby, also known as the Romper Room murder Forgotten victims of the Troubles The murder of Ann Ogilby, also known as the “Romper Room murder”, took place in Sandy Row, south Belfast, Northern Ireland on 24 July 1974. It was a punishment killing, carried out by members of the Sandy Row women’s Ulster Defence … Continue reading Ann Ogilby’s brutal murder: ” Forgotten ” victims of the Troubles→
My ‘time’ in the Crum Prison – mid 80s …but a matter of life and death. These were the lads who would go on to be the ‘top boys’ of Loyalist paramilitarism and in time would become infamous in Belfast and well beyond. They’d do time in the Maze prison or in ‘ the Crum’ … Continue reading My ‘time’ in the Crum Prison – mid 80s→
Eamon Collins (1954 – 27 January 1999) was a Provisional Irish Republican Army member in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He turned his back on the organisation in the late 1980s, and later co-authored a book called Killing Rage detailing his experiences within it.
In January 1999 he was waylaid on a public road and murdered near his home in Newry in Northern Ireland.
He was born in Camlough, County Armagh, his parents being Brian Collins and his wife Kathleen Cumiskey; his farmer father dealt in livestock, and was involved in cattle smuggling.
Camlough was a small, staunchly Irish republican town in South Armagh. Despite the sentiment of the area, the Collins family had no association and little interest in Irish Nationalist politics. Kathleen Collins was a devout Catholic, and he was brought up under her influence with a sense of awe for the martyrs of that religion in Irish history, in its conflicts with Protestantism.
After completing his schooling, Collins worked for a time in the Ministry of Defence in a clerical capacity in London before studying law at Queen’s University, where he became influenced by Marxist political ideology.
In Easter 1974, as he walked home to his parents’ home in South Armagh during a break from his studies in Belfast, on arrival he found both his parents being man-handled by British troops during a house-to-house raid searching for illegal weapons, and on remonstrating with them Collins was himself seriously assaulted, and both he and his father were arrested and detained.
Collins later attributed his crossing of the psychological threshold of actively supporting anti-British Irish Republican paramilitarism to this incident. Another factor in his radicalization at this time was a Law tutor at university who had persuaded him that the newly formed Provisional Irish Republican Army was a means of opposing British military presence in Northern Ireland, as well as a vehicle for Marxist revolutionary politics, in line with the radical ideological expression of a younger generation in the IRA in the late 1970s that were now replacing an old guard which was more Catholic and nationalist.
Marxist revolutionary politics
Collins subsequently dropped out of university, and after working in a pub for a period, he joined Her Majesty’s Customs & Excise Service, serving in Newry, and would go on to use this internal position within the administrative machinery of the British Government to support IRA operations against Crown Forces personnel.
Around this time he married Bernadette, with whom he subsequently had four children.
Collins joined the Provisional IRA during the cc inmates in the late 1970s, which sought Special Category Status for Irish Republican paramilitary prisoners, and he became involved in street demonstrations at this time.
He joined the “South Down Brigade” of the IRA, based around Newry. This was not one of the organisation’s most active formations, but it sometimes worked alongside the “South Armagh Brigade”, which was one of its most aggressive units.
Psychologically unsuited to physical violence, Collins was appointed instead by the IRA as its South Down Brigade’s intelligence officer.
This role involved gathering information on members of the Crown security forces personnel and installations for targeting in gun and bomb attacks. His planning was directly responsible for at least five deaths, including that of the Ulster Defence Regiment Major Ivan Toombs in January 1981, with whom Collins worked in the Customs Station at Warrenpoint, and possibly three times that number.
Many of the bombing targets of his unit were of limited scale, such as the wrecking of Newry Public Library, and a public house where a Royal Ulster Constabulary choir drank after practice.
Collins became noted within IRA circles for his hard-line views on the continuance of armed campaign, and later joined its Internal Security Unit.
At the instigation of the South Armagh Brigade’s leadership he became a member of Sinn Féin in Newry. The South Armagh IRA wanted a hard-line militarist in the local party, as they were opposed to the increasing emphasis of the Republican leadership on political over military activity.
Collins was not selected as a Sinn Féin candidate for local government elections, in part, due to his open expressions of suspicion of the IRA and Sinn Féin leadership, whom he accused of covertly moving towards a position of an abandonment of the IRA’s military campaign.
Around this time Collins had a confrontation with Gerry Adams at the funeral of an IRA man killed in a failed bombing attack over how to deal with the funeral’s policing, where Collins accused Adams a being a “Stickie” (a derogatory slang term for the Official IRA).
“Why did you not join the IRA?” Gerry Adams (FULL INTERVIEW) – BBC News
Despite his militarist convictions at this time, Collins found the psychological strain caused by his involvement in the IRA’s war increasingly difficult to deal with. His belief in the martial discipline of IRA’s campaign had been seriously undermined by the murder of Norman Hanna, a 28-year-old Newry man on 11 March 1982 in front of his wife and young daughter, who had been targeted because of his former service with the Ulster Defence Regiment, which he had resigned from in 1976.
Collins had opposed the targeting of Hanna on the basis that it wasn’t of a governmental entity, but had been over-ruled by his superiors, and he had gone along with the operation; his conscience burdened him afterwards about it though.
His uneasy state was further augmented by being arrested under anti-terrorism laws on two occasions, the second involving his detention at Gough Barracks in Armagh for a week, where he was subject to extensive sessions of interrogation in 1985 after an IRA mortar attack in Newry, which had claimed the lives of multiple police officers.
Collins had not been involved in this operation, but after five days of incessant psychological pressure being exerted by R.U.C. specialist police officers, during which he had not said a word, he mentally broke, and yielded detailed information to the police about the organisation.
As a result of his arrest he was dismissed from his career with H.M. Customs & Excise Service.
Collins subsequently stated that the strain of the interrogation merely exacerbated increasing doubts that he had already possessed about the moral justification of the IRA’s paramilitary campaign and his actions within it.
These doubts had been made worse by the strategic view that he had come to that the organisation’s senior leadership had in the early 1980s quietly decided that the war had failed, and was now slowly manoeuvring the movement away from a military campaign to allow its political wing Sinn Féin to pursue its purposes by another means in what would become the Northern Ireland peace process.
This negated in Collins’ mind the justification for its then on-going military actions.
Statements against the IRA
After his confession of involvement in IRA activity, Collins became an RUC informant (or “Supergrass“, in contemporary media language), upon whose evidence the authorities were able to prosecute a large number of IRA members.
Crumlin Road Prison
He was incarcerated in specialized protective custody, along with other paramilitaries who had after arrest given evidence against their organisations, in the Crumlin Road Prison in Belfast from 1985 to 1987.
However, after an appeal from his wife who remained an IRA supporter, and on receiving a message from the IRA delivered by his brother on a visit to the prison, Collins legally retracted his evidence, in return for which he was given a guarantee of safety by the IRA provided he consented to being debriefed by it. He agreed, and was in consequence transferred by the authorities to the Irish Republican paramilitary wing of the prison.
Trial for murder
As a result of losing his previous legal status as a Crown protected witness, Collins was charged with several counts of murder and attempted murder. However, on being tried in 1987 he was acquitted as the statement in which he had admitted to involvement in these acts was ruled legally inadmissible by the court, as it was judged that it had been obtained under duress and was not supported by enough conclusive corroboratory evidence to allow a legally sound conviction.
On release from prison he spent several weeks being counter-interrogated by the IRA’s Internal Security Unit to discover what had been revealed to the authorities, after which he was exiled by the organisation from the northern part of Ireland, being warned that if he was found north of Drogheda after a certain date he would be summarily executed by it.
The technical acquittal in the Crown court based upon judicial legal principles made an impact upon Collins’ view of the British state, markedly contrasting with what he had witnessed in the IRA’s Internal Security Unit, and reinforced his disillusionment with Irish Republican paramilitarism.
After his exile Collins moved to Dublin and squatted for a while in a deserted flat in the impoverished Ballymun area of the city. At the time the area was experiencing an epidemic of heroin addiction and he volunteered to help a local priest Peter McVerry, who ran programmes for local youths to try to keep them away from drugs.
After several years in Dublin, he subsequently moved to Edinburgh, Scotland for a period, where he ran a youth centre. He would later write that because of his Northern Ireland background he felt closer culturally to Scottish people than people from the Irish Republic.
In 1995 he returned to live in Newry, a district known for the militancy of its communal support of the IRA, with numerous IRA members in its midst. The IRA order exiling him had not been lifted, but with a formal ceasefire from the organisation in operation ordered by its senior command, and in the sweeping changes that were underway with renunciations of violence by all the paramilitary organisations in Northern Ireland that had followed on from it, he judged it safer to move back in with his wife and children who had never left Newry.
Broadcasting and published works
Having returned to live in Newry, rather than maintaining a low profile Collins decided to take a prominent role in the ongoing transition of Northern Ireland’s society, using his personal history as a platform in the media to analyze the adverse effects of terrorism.
EAMON COLLINS (NETWORK FIRST ITV ) CONFESSION.
In 1995 he appeared in an ITV television documentary entitled ‘Confession’,giving an account of his disillusioning experiences and a bleak insight into Irish Republican paramilitarism.
Just read this book and I will be doing a review shortly.
In 1997 he co-authored Killing Rage, with journalist Mick McGovern, a biographical account of his life and IRA career. He also contributed to the book Bandit Country by Toby Harnden about the South Armagh IRA.
At the same time in the media he called for the re-introduction of internment after the Omagh bombing for those continuing to engage in such acts; published newspaper articles openly denouncing and ridiculing the Real IRA’s campaign, alongside publicly analysing his own past role in such activity, and the damage that it had caused on a personal and social level to the two communities of Northern Ireland.
In May 1998 Collins gave evidence against leading republican Thomas “Slab” Murphy, in a libel case Murphy had brought against the Sunday Times, over a 1985 article naming him as the IRA’s Northern Commander.
Murphy denied IRA membership, but Collins took the witness stand against him, and testified that from personal experience he knew that Murphy had been a key military leader in the organisation. Murphy subsequently lost the libel case and sustained substantial financial losses in consequence.
After giving his testimony Collins had said in the court-room to Murphy :
“No hard feelings Slab”.
However, soon after the trial Collins’ home was attacked and daubed with graffiti calling him a “tout”, a slang word for an informer in Irish Republican circles. Since his return to Newry in 1995 his home there had been intermittently attacked with acts of petty vandalism, but after the Murphy trial these intensified in regularity and severity, and another house belonging to his family in Camlough, in which no one was resident, was destroyed by arson.
Threats were made against his children, and they faced persecution in school from elements among their peers. Graffiti threatening him with murder was also daubed on the walls of the streets in the vicinity of the family home in Newry.
Collins was beaten and stabbed to death in his 45th year by an unidentified assailant(s) early in the morning of 27 January 1999, whilst walking his dogs near the Barcroft Park Estate in Newry along a quiet stretch of country lane at Doran’s Hill, just within sight of Sliabh gCuircin (Camlough Mountain).
His body also bore marks of having been struck by a car moving at speed. The subsequent police investigation and Coroner’s Inquest commented upon the extremity of weaponed violence to Collins’ head and face used during the attack.
Rumoured reasons behind the murder were that he had returned to Northern Ireland in breach of the IRA’s banning order, and further he had detailed IRA activities and publicly criticized in the media a multiplicity of Irish Republican paramilitary splinter groups that had appeared after the Provisional IRA’s 1994 ceasefire, and that he had testified in court against Murphy.
Gerry Adams stated the murder was “regrettable”, but added that Collins had:
“many enemies in many places”.
After a traditional Irish wake, with a closed coffin necessitated due to the damage to his face, and a funeral service at St. Catherine’s Church in Newry, Collins’ body was buried at the city’s Monkshill Cemetery, not far from the grave of Albert White, a Catholic former Royal Ulster Constabulary Inspector, whose assassination he helped to organise in 1982.
In January 2014 the Police Service of Northern Ireland released a statement that a re-examination of the evidence from the scene of the 1999 murder had revealed new DNA material of a potential perpetrator’s presence, and made a public appeal for information, detailing the involvement of a specific car model (a white coloured Hyundai Pony), and a compass pommel that had broken off of a hunting knife during the attack and had been left behind at the scene.
In February 2014 detectives from the Serious Crime Branch arrested a 59-year-old man at an address in Newry in relation to the murder, he was subsequently released without charge. In
September 2014 the police arrested three men, aged 56, 55 and 42 in County Armagh in relation to inquiries into the murder, all of whom were subsequently released without charges after questioning.
In January 2019 the police released a statement regarding the murder that one of the assailants of Collins had been seriously injured by an accidentally sustained knife wound during the attack, and had left traces of his own blood at the scene, and that recent scientific advances in DNA evidence had increased the possibility of his identification.
In May 2019, three men aged 60 to 62 were arrested and questioned, but then released unconditionally.
A big thank you to the team at Belfast Books for promoting my number one best selling book. A Belfast Child.
To order a copy from Belfast Books please use this link : A Belfast Child or see Tweet below.
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The brutal & unforgivable murder of Ann Ogilby, also known as the Romper Room murder
Forgotten victims of the Troubles
The murder of Ann Ogilby, also known as the “Romper Room murder”, took place in Sandy Row, south Belfast, Northern Ireland on 24 July 1974.
It was a punishment killing, carried out by members of the Sandy Row women’s Ulster Defence Association (UDA) unit. At the time the UDA was a legal Ulster loyalist paramilitary organisation.
The victim, Ann Ogilby, a Protestant single mother of four, was beaten to death by two teenaged girls after being sentenced to a “rompering” (UDA slang term for a torture session followed by a fatal beating) at a kangaroo court. Ogilby had been having an affair with a married UDA commander, William Young, who prior to his internment, had made her pregnant.
His wife, Elizabeth Young, was a member of the Sandy Row women’s UDA unit. Ogilby had made defamatory remarks against Elizabeth Young in public regarding food parcels. Eight weeks after Ogilby had given birth to Young’s son, the women’s unit decided that Ogilby would pay for both the affair and remarks with her life. The day following the kangaroo court “trial”, they arranged for the kidnapping of Ogilby and her six-year-old daughter, Sharlene, outside a Social Services office by UDA man Albert “Bumper” Graham.
A group of UDA women then followed the minibus which took Ogilby and Sharlene to a disused bakery in Hunter Street, Sandy Row; this empty building had been converted into a UDA club and “romper room”. After Sharlene was sent by Graham to a shop to buy sweets, Ogilby was made to sit on a bench and a hood placed over her head. Two teenagers, Henrietta Cowan and Christine Smith, acting on the orders previously given them by the unit’s leader, Elizabeth “Lily” Douglas, proceeded to savagely beat Ogilby to death with bricks and sticks. As Ogilby screamed and pleaded for her life, Sharlene, who had already returned from the shop, overheard her mother being beaten and killed
. A later autopsy report revealed that Ogilby had sustained 24 blows to the head and body, 14 of which caused a “severe fracture to the bulk of the skull”.
Within weeks of the killing, ten women and one man were arrested in connection with the murder. They were convicted in February 1975. All but one, a minor whose sentence was suspended, went to prison. The murder caused widespread revulsion, shock and horror throughout Northern Ireland and remained long in the public psyche even at a time when bombings and killings were daily occurrences.
The Ann Ogilby murder was investigated by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET) which was established by the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) to investigate the most controversial killings carried out during the Troubles.
Events leading to the murder
Ann Ogilby (born c.1942/1943 and sometimes referred to as Anne Ogilby), a young Protestant woman, moved to Belfast from Sion Mills, County Tyrone on a date that has not been firmly established. She was one of 13 children from a poor family.
Described as a “very attractive girl with dark-brown silky hair and blue eyes”, and a slender figure, she embarked on a transient lifestyle, regularly changing her address and employment. The jobs she held were mostly low-paid positions in offices and shops, and she was often evicted for failing to pay the rent.
Her striking good looks made her popular with men. In about 1968 she became a single mother, having been made pregnant by a married British soldier stationed in Northern Ireland who had abandoned her and their child after he was transferred to another duty station.
She started socialising with a rough crowd, and in August 1972, she met William Young, a married high-ranking member of the then-legal Ulster Defence Association (UDA) with whom she fell deeply in love and began living with him in south Belfast. Young came from the loyalist Donegall Pass area and was a local UDA commander. He told Ogilby his marriage had already broken up and that his divorce hadn’t been finalised. Ogilby by that time had three children by two different men: Sharlene, and twins Stephen and Gary. The boys had been put up for adoption after their birth, leaving only the eldest child, her daughter Sharlene, in her care.
When Young was interned inside the Maze Prison in 1973, she often visited him. He complained that his estranged wife, Elizabeth never sent him food parcels, despite her having been provided with money by the Loyalist Prisoners’ Association (LPA). The LPA was unaware of the Young couple’s estrangement.
The delivery of food parcels by women to imprisoned members was a long-established practice by the UDA and a “particular source of pride for the organisation”. Ogilby was required to make up and send him the food parcels herself which she felt was an imposition as these had to come out of her own money, although she was almost destitute.
When Ogilby mistakenly repeated Young’s complaint in a Sandy Row pub, the local Sandy Row women’s UDA unit (of which Elizabeth was a member) overheard her words and became violently angry, especially as Elizabeth was able to prove that she had been sending her husband food parcels.
Ogilby’s comments were regarded by the women’s UDA as a grievous insult to its integrity, as the unit was responsible for the assembly and distribution of the parcels. The group was already antagonistic due to Ogilby’s affair with Young, and her defamatory remarks only added fuel to their wrath. The women considered her behaviour in public immoral, ostentatious, and extremely unconventional because she frequented clubs and pubs on her own instead of with female friends which was the custom in Sandy Row. Furthermore, they believed her loud, outspoken and maverick personality, status as an unmarried mother, and habit of what was described by a local as “flaunting herself” was a cultural infraction that brought shame upon their community.
Sandy Row is an Ulster Protestant working class enclave just south of Belfast city centre closely affiliated with the Orange Order whose 12 July parades are gaudy, elaborate events made notable by the traditional Orange Arches erected for the occasion.
Prior to late 20th-century urban redevelopment beginning in the 1980s, rows of 19th-century terraced houses lined the streets and backstreets that branched off the main commercial thoroughfare. Loyalist paramilitaries have had an active presence there since the early days of the Troubles.
By 1974, the violent ethno-political conflict waged between the Protestant unionists and Catholic Irish nationalists was six years old and showed no sign of abating; bombings, shootings, sectarian murders, intimidation, security alerts and military patrols were a daily feature of life in Belfast and the rest of Northern Ireland.
There was no family in working-class areas of Belfast that remained unscathed by the Troubles or insusceptible to the effects of the disorder, tension and carnage.
Belfast 1969 : The Dawn of the Troubles ( Shankill / Falls Road
The Provisional Irish Republican Army’s bombing campaign had escalated sharply in 1972 and began to increasingly target Belfast city centre, often with lethal consequences such as on Bloody Friday on 21 July 1972, when the Provisional IRA exploded 22 bombs across the city, killing nine people and injuring over 100. This led to the erection of steel gates, manned by the British Army, thus effectively putting a security cordon or “ring of steel” around the city centre, which resulted in both Protestants and Catholics retreating further into segregated neighbourhoods, which rapidly fell under the sway of local paramilitary groups who exerted a strong influence in their respective districts.
These groups also assumed the role of policing their communities and rooting out what they described as anti-social elements. In the February 1974 edition of Ulster Loyalist, a UDA publication, the UDA warned that it intended to take firm action against teenaged criminals and vandals in the Sandy Row and Village areas.
Robert Fisk, Belfast correspondent for The Times between the years 1972-75, regarded the Sandy Row UDA as having been one of the most truculent of all paramilitary outfits in Belfast.
Their bellicose stance over the street barricades they erected during the Ulster Workers Council Strike in May 1974 almost led them into direct confrontation with the British Army and they had even made preparations to fight if the latter had smashed the UDA roadblocks. The Sandy Row UDA’s commander during this volatile period was Sammy Murphy who used as his headquarters the local Orange Hall.
Ulster Workers Council Strike
In addition to Sandy Row, Murphy had overall command of the South Belfast UDA and was referred to as a community leader in the British Army’s press releases although his name and paramilitary affiliation were not mentioned. To defuse the explosive situation, Murphy engaged in talks with the Army which proved successful. According to journalists Henry McDonald and Jim Cusack, the Sandy Row and Donegall Pass UDA were almost completely out of control by this time; both the male and female members were caught up in violence and drunkenness and already inured to beatings and killings.
Drinking clubs or shebeens where alcohol was obtained cheaply were common features in the area. Author David M. Kiely suggested that by this stage the women’s unit was more about gangsterism and mob rule than adhering to a political cause.
The Sandy Row unit was not the only women’s unit within the UDA. There was a particularly active women’s group on the Shankill Road which had been established by Wendy “Bucket” Millar as the first UDA women’s unit. A number of the members were highly visible due to the beehive hairstyles they typically wore.
Although each unit was independent of the others, Jean Moore and later Hester Dunn served as the overall leaders of the UDA’s women’s department at the UDA headquarters in Gawn Street, east Belfast. Tanya Higgins and Nancy Brown Diggs observed in their book Women Living in Conflict that the loyalist paramilitary women were “angrier and more militant” than their male counterparts.
Another analysis was provided by Sandra McEvoy in her report Women Loyalist Paramilitaries in Northern Ireland: Duty, Agency and Empowerment – a Report from the Field in which she suggested that by joining paramilitary groups like the UDA, loyalist women were provided with a sense of freedom and personal and political power that had previously been denied them in the domestic sphere; furthermore by taking up “the gun”, the women proved they were willing to go to prison for their beliefs and the loyalist cause.
The commander of the Sandy Row women’s unit was Elizabeth “Lily” Douglas, described by Kiely as having revered power above everything else in her life. As leader of that particular unit she exerted a great deal of control over the lives of other women within the area that included intimidation and moral policing. The middle of three daughters, Douglas was born and raised in an impoverished working-class family. She married at the age of 17 and had four children.
By 1974, Douglas (aged 40) who lived in a terraced house in Sandy Row’s City Street had a criminal record dating back over ten years for various offences which included smuggling, forgery, assault, inflicting bodily harm and running a brothel. When Ogilby had publicly denounced the women’s UDA over the food parcels, she was not fully aware of Douglas’ violent character and the considerable amount of authority she wielded in Sandy Row.
On 23 July 1974, eight weeks after Ogilby gave birth to a premature son, Derek, fathered by Young, five UDA women, including her lover’s wife Elizabeth Young (32), Kathleen Whitla (49, the second-in-command), Josephine Brown (18), Elizabeth Douglas (19), led by the latter’s mother, commander Lily Douglas, abducted Ogilby from a friend’s house in the Suffolk housing estate.
They took her back to Sandy Row and put her before a kangaroo court held inside the disused Warwick’s Bakery in 114 Hunter Street between Felt Street and Oswald Street, which had been converted into a UDA club.
Ogilby had often frequented the club with Young on previous occasions prior to his internment; according to Kiely she had enjoyed the company of the other patrons and being part of the camaraderie of loyalists “against the Fenians”. A total of eight women and two men presided over this “trial”; Elizabeth Young, however, had by then absented herself as she was not part of Douglas’ “Heavy Squad”. The “Heavy Squad” were the members of the Sandy Row women’s UDA unit who meted out punishment beatings by Douglas’ orders.
Ogilby was grilled for an hour over her affair with Young and regarding her calumnies over the food parcels. At some stage, Douglas told her,
“We have rules here. We all stick to them and I expect anybody new to do the same”.
Ogilby, by now frightened at the predicament in which she found herself, was additionally informed that if found guilty, she would be subjected to a “rompering”. The notorious UDA “romper rooms” had been invented in the early 1970s by UDA North Belfast Brigadier Davy Payne.
Named after the children’s television programme, these “romper rooms” were located inside vacant buildings, warehouses, lock-up garages, and rooms above pubs and drinking clubs. Once inside, a victim would be “rompered” (beaten and tortured) before being killed. Although most of the victims were Catholics, many Protestants were also consigned to the “romper rooms”.
Despite the UDA women having found Ogilby guilty, the two UDA men present at the “trial” couldn’t reach a verdict and gave orders that she be released. The women drove her to the Glengall Street bus station where she got on a bus headed for the YWCA hostel she had moved to on the Malone Road.
The women then “rearrested” her. It was alleged that this decision came about after she sarcastically remarked in reference to Douglas,
“Who does she think she is? The Queen?”
which had freshly infuriated Douglas and the others.
Blocking the bus as it pulled out of the station into the street, Douglas and her “Heavy Squad” then boarded the bus and dragged her off into the waiting car for a further grilling. Minutes later, after being alerted by the bus station staff, the car was stopped by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). Although Douglas claimed they were on their way to a party, the querying policeman told the women about the report of one of them having been forced off the bus. In an attempt to mollify Douglas, Ogilby then spoke up admitting that she was the person who had been removed from the bus but that “It was nothing. Just a couple of us fooling around”.
The police however remained unconvinced of their claims and the eight women and Ogilby were taken into the RUC Queen Street station for questioning. All of the women were asked for their names and addresses; the majority lived in the Sandy Row area. Fearing the grisly fate that typically befell informers, Ogilby did not say anything to the RUC about the UDA kangaroo court or threats against her. Therefore, she and the eight other women were released without being charged the following morning at 2.00 a.m.
Ogilby returned to the police station a few hours later, visibly frightened, but was sent home in a taxi after refusing to give the reason for her distress. That same day inside a Sandy Row pub, Douglas told the other women that Ogilby was a troublemaker who had to die, and she speedily made arrangements to facilitate the murder.
“Romper room” beating
That same Wednesday 24 July 1974 at 3:30 pm, outside the Social Services office in Shaftesbury Square, Ogilby and her daughter were kidnapped by 25-year-old UDA man Albert “Bumper” Graham, while members of Lily Douglas’ “Heavy Squad” waited at the nearby Regency Hotel lounge bar overlooking the office.
They knew beforehand that Ogilby had an appointment that afternoon at the Shaftesbury Square office. Using the pretext that a UDA commander wished to speak with her, Graham was able to abduct Ogilby and her daughter Sharlene as they left the office; Ogilby, taken in by Graham’s words, willingly got into his blue minibus.
Having made a pre-arranged signal to the watching women, Graham drove the two females away to the UDA club in Hunter Street, Sandy Row, which had been turned into a “romper room”. When the UDA women, led by Douglas, arrived on the scene, Ogilby tried to escape, but was grabbed and forcibly detained. After Graham sent Sharlene to a corner shop to buy sweets, Ogilby was ordered by Douglas to be dragged inside the former bakery and forced upstairs to the first floor where she was made to sit on a wooden bench, blindfolded and a hood placed over her head.
By this stage, Ogilby was so intimidated and terrorised by the “Heavy Squad”, she no longer put up any resistance. Sunday Life newspaper suggested that she was bound to a chair instead of a bench.
Ciarán Barnes, a journalist writing for the paper, had conducted an interview with Sharlene Ogilby in 2010. Retired RUC detective, Alan Simpson, who devoted a chapter to the Ann Ogilby murder in his 1999 book Murder Madness: True Crimes of The Troubles, instead affirmed that Ogilby was forced by her captors to sit on a wooden bench. Although hooded and blindfolded, her hands remained untied.
Acting under earlier instructions by Douglas, who had remained downstairs, to give Ogilby a “good rompering”, two members of the “Heavy Squad”, teenagers Henrietta Piper Cowan (17) and Christine Smith (16), both of whom were wearing masks, proceeded to attack Ogilby.
Cowan punched her forcefully in the face, knocking her to the floor. Ogilby was then kicked in the face, head, and stomach by both girls before blows from sticks were rained down upon her. When the two teenagers began battering Ogilby’s face and head with bricks which had been lying about the dismantled bakery,Albert Graham and “Heavy Squad” member Josephine Brown (who was also masked), saw Ogilby’s blood staining the hood and realising things had gone too far, started to panic and remonstrated with the girls to discontinue the beating.
Cowan and Smith did stop, to smoke cigarettes and make plans to attend a disco that evening. Simpson suggested that during the attack, Ogilby had placed her hands inside the hood in a futile attempt to protect her face from the force of the bricks.
Meanwhile, Ogilby’s daughter, Sharlene, had returned from the shops; she entered the club, climbed the stairs to the first floor and began banging on the door and crying for her mother.
” My mammy’s in there “
Although by this stage Ogilby had sustained severe head injuries from the brutal assault, Sharlene heard her screaming and pleading with her assailants for mercy while they danced to blaring disco music.
Ignoring the injured woman’s pleas for her life and Sharlene’s cries, Henrietta Cowan, once again wielding a brick, resumed beating Ogilby on the head with renewed vigour until she lay dead on the floor. The beating session had lasted for over an hour. Ogilby received (according to the later autopsy report) a total of 24 blows to the head and body with a blunt object, 14 of which had caused “a severe fracture to the bulk of the skull”.
Albert Graham took Sharlene out of the building and drove her back to the YWCA hostel; as he left her on the doorstep he reassured the little girl that her mother was inside waiting for her. Sharlene was looked after by the hostel staff until she was placed in the care of the Social Services. Back at the UDA club, Cowan removed the bloodstained hood and saw by her appalling head wounds and badly-bruised, disfigured face that Ann Ogilby was obviously dead; the body was then wrapped up in a brown sack and carried downstairs. The killers went to have a drink with Lily Douglas to whom they recounted the details of the fatal beating as she had remained on the ground floor the entire time.
Afterwards, Cowan and Smith got dressed up and went out to the disco as planned.
Anne is one of those almost forgotten victims of the Troubles, far less known than Jean McConville or other high-profile killings and yet her death was one of the most violent and gruesome to take place during that terrifying period of our tortured past.
Growing up among the hard men and women in the loyalist ghettos of west Belfast during the 70s my world was dominated by the unceasing violence and conflict going on all around me. By ten years of age I had become almost indifferent to the daily deaths and brutal events playing out in the streets and communities I played in and called home. Day after soul destroying day I watched in horror and disbelief at the madness and cruelty mankind was capable of and I often wondered why God in all his wisdom would let such things happen. It was a never-ending nightmare of death and fear that we were all trapped in for thirty long bloody years and I thank God that those dark days are mostly behind us.
But back then when death stalked the streets of Belfast and life was cheap some killings still had the power to shock and outrage me, especially when innocent women and children were involved regardless of political or religious background.
Few murders have disturbed and appalled me more than the wicked and vindictive killing of Ann Ogilby, an innocent single mother down on her luck who got caught up in a love triangle that ultimately led to her unforgivable and brutal killing. The fact that it was women who carried out this horrendous act makes it more frightening and harder to comprehend.
Rest in peace Anne .
Douglas arranged for the body’s disposal and unnamed UDA men later loaded it onto a van and dumped it in a ditch in Stockman’s Lane near the M1 motorway.
It was discovered five days later on 29 July by motorway maintenance men. The RUC were immediately called to the scene which was then photographed and mapped. Ogilby, clad in a red jumper, grey trousers and wearing just one shoe, was lying on her back partly submerged in 18 inches of stagnant water with her blackened and battered face visible and her arms outstretched. Her missing shoe and a large brown sack were discovered not far away from her body at the top of the ditch.
There were no identifying documents found on her. The press, along with local television and radio news bulletins, released details regarding her physical appearance and the distinctive rings on her fingers. Hours later, a social worker from the Shaftesbury Square Social Services office, who had been scheduled to meet with Ann Ogilby on 24 July, contacted the RUC telling them that Ogilby and her daughter Sharlene had arrived at the office late for the appointment but left without explanation before the social worker could speak with Ann. She informed the RUC that Ogilby had not been seen since that afternoon.
The social worker was then taken to the mortuary where she confirmed that the dead woman inside was Ann Ogilby. One of Ogilby’s brothers later positively identified her. The police were told Sharlene was in the care of Social Services.
Due to the location of the body, the murder investigation was allocated to the RUC B Division (West Belfast), based at the Springfield Road station where CID Detective Alan Simpson served. He formed part of the CID team set up to investigate the Ogilby killing.
After Sharlene was located in a children’s home, she was interviewed by a female detective; she clearly remembered the events of 24 July. It was arranged for Sharlene to accompany three CID detectives in a car to Sandy Row and she was able to direct them to the disused bakery in Hunter Street. A Scenes of Crime Officer was sent to the scene to examine the building’s interior and collect the evidence. Forensics later showed that the bloodstains police detectives found on the floor and on the items retrieved from inside the UDA club matched Ogilby’s blood group.
Documents were also found on the premises bearing William Young’s name. By that time the suspects had already been rounded up and taken in for interrogation. These were the eight women who had been inside the car with Ogilby on the evening of 23 July following the fracas outside the Glengall Street bus station.
Ogilby, aged 31 or 32 at the time of her death, was buried in Umgall Cemetery, Templepatrick, County Antrim. Her children Sharlene and Derek were put into care. The Ogilby family received only £149 compensation from the State to cover her funeral expenses.
It was later revealed that Ogilby had planned to relocate to Edinburgh, Scotland as soon as her infant son, Derek, was released from hospital (on account of his premature birth).
Ogilby’s murder caused widespread revulsion and shock throughout Northern Ireland, even though it had taken place during the most turbulent period of the Troubles when bombings and sectarian killings had become commonplace. Protestants were especially appalled that Ogilby, herself a Protestant, had become a victim of loyalist violence and angrily denounced the UDA.
Journalist Ciarán Barnes described it as being one of the most brutal murders of the Troubles; adding that its sheer savagery and the fact that it was carried out by women against another woman within earshot of her child left a lasting impression upon the public psyche.
The UDA leadership had not sanctioned the killing; and there was general condemnation from the UDA prisoners inside the Maze Prison. According to Ian S. Wood, the UDA’s commander Andy Tyrie had not sufficient control over the many units that comprised the UDA to have been able to prevent the punishment beating from being carried out.
A spokesman for the UDA released a statement condemning the killing and the women’s unit that carried it out which was first published in the Irish Times on 8 February 1975:
We have completely disowned them [Sandy Row women’s UDA]. We think the whole affair was foul and sickening. Ogilby was cleared by the UDA of an allegation about her private life long before she was killed. The killing was an act of jealousy by a group of women.
Following the Ogilby attack, the Sandy Row women’s UDA unit was permanently disbanded by the UDA leadership. None of the other UDA women’s units had consented to or been aware of the fatal punishment beating until it was reported in the news. Additionally, the Sandy Row women’s unit notwithstanding, UDA “romper rooms” were more commonly used by male members of the organisation than by their female counterparts.
Journalists Henry McDonald and Jim Cusack described Ogilby’s death as typical of the “brutish … culture” that dominated the UDA and other paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland. In reference to this attack and other cases of “rompering”, the authors argue that “rape and the beating and humiliation of women in working-class Belfast was as routine as gunfire but was subsumed in the maelstrom of violence engulfing the North”.
Within weeks of the killing, the RUC had arrested ten women and one man in connection with the murder; this group contained Douglas’ entire “Heavy Squad”.
Most of the women were unemployed and at least three had male relatives imprisoned for paramilitary offences. On 6 February 1975 at the Belfast City Commission, teenagers Henrietta Cowan and Christine Smith pleaded guilty to murder. They were now aged 18 and 17 respectively. Characterised as having been “without feeling or remorse”, they were convicted of carrying out the murder and sentenced to be detained at Armagh Women’s Prison for life at the pleasure of the Secretary of State for Northern Ireland. Smith was not the only member of her family to be involved in loyalist paramilitary activity. Her elder brother, prominent South Belfast UDA member Francis “Hatchet” Smith (28), was shot dead in Rodney Parade, off Donegall Road, by the IRA in January 1973 after he, as part of a UDA unit, gunned down Peter Watterson, a 15-year-old Catholic boy, in a drive-by sectarian shooting at the Falls Road/Donegall Road junction. A roofer by trade who was married with one child he was (despite his wife having been Catholic), the local UDA commander in the Village area where he lived.
Described to the court as the leader of the Sandy Row women’s UDA unit, Lily Douglas who had ordered the fatal punishment beating, pleaded guilty to manslaughter. The charge of murder was withdrawn on the grounds that she had not actually intended for her “Heavy Squad” to kill Ogilby and she was subsequently sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment in Armagh Prison.
She received two further sentences (which were to run concurrently with her 10 years) of three years each, for intimidation and detaining Ogilby against her will. The exact motive for the murder was not established in court.
During police interrogation, Douglas maintained that Ogilby’s killing was the result of a personal vendetta, stating:
“It was not a UDA operation, they had nothing to do with it. It was just a move between a lot of women, a personal thing”.
In his book The Protestants of Ulster which was published in 1976, Geoffrey Bell stated that the women murdered her as punishment for her affair with William Young. Henry McDonald and Jim Cusack suggested that jealousy and bloodlust were the motives for the murder.
The others received lesser sentences: Albert Graham and Josephine Brown, after pleading guilty, were sentenced to three years imprisonment on charges of being accessories after the fact and causing grievous bodily harm to Ann Ogilby; the Crown withdrew the murder charge against the pair after recognising their attempt to prevent Cowan and Smith from continuing with the fatal beating.
The unit’s second-in-command, Kathleen Whitla was given two years for intimidation; Maud Tait (21), Anne Gracey (28), Elizabeth Douglas, Jr (19) and Marie Lendrum (23), were all sentenced to 18 months imprisonment for intimidation, and an unnamed 16-year-old was given an 18-months suspended sentence for intimidation. The convictions resulted in the largest single ingress of loyalist women into a Northern Ireland prison.
Denouncing the UDA, the trial judge, Mr. Justice McGonigle stated:
“What appears before me today under the name of the UDA is gun law, a vicious, brutalising organisation of persons who take the law into their own hands and who, by kangaroo courts and the infliction of physical brutality, terrorise a neighbourhood through intimidation”.
During the trial, it emerged that plans to kill Ogilby had been formulated by the UDA unit several months before her kangaroo court “trial”. Lily Douglas was lambasted by Justice McGonigle,
“You ordered and directed the punishment of this girl. You chose and chose well those who were to carry out your directions. When you heard what had happened you organised the cover-up and disposal of the body. Your concern was that these happenings should not come to light. You were the commander of these women; your responsibility was great. You are no stranger to crime. You have a record of smuggling, forgery, assault and actual bodily harm and aiding and abetting the keeping of a brothel. Though the last of these was in 1961 it is an indication of your character.”[
The Northern Irish press dubbed Elizabeth “Lily” Douglas “the Sandy Row executioner”.
Sharlene Ogilby later married and has three children of her own. After her mother’s murder, she was taken to live in Sion Mills by an uncle and aunt. For a while she kept in touch with her brother Gary but has since lost contact; she has no knowledge of what happened to her other brothers Stephen and Derek.
Lily Douglas died shortly after being released from Armagh Prison on compassionate grounds in 1979; Kathleen Whitla is also deceased. Henrietta Cowan and Christine Smith were both released from Armagh in December 1983 after serving nine years. They returned to the Sandy Row area. Loyalist sources claimed Smith “deeply regretted” the part she played in Ogilby’s murder. Graham, following his release from prison, also returned to south Belfast. To the present day he has steadfastly refused to discuss the murder.
The rest of the women involved in Ogilby’s murder are to date living in Sandy Row or the Village. William Young died in 2007.
The disused bakery in Hunter Street has since been demolished.
Belfast poet Linda Anderson wrote a poem, Gang-Bang Ulster Style, based on the Ogilby killing. It was published in the August 1989, no. 204 edition of Spare Rib.
Ann Ogilby’s murder also featured in a Gavin Ewart poem entitled, The Gentle Sex (1974). The murder was investigated by the Historical Enquiries Team (HET), which was established by the PSNI to inquire into the most controversial killings perpetrated during the Troubles.
^ Author David M. Kiely gives her age as 17 at the time of her move which would make the year approximately 1959/1960,[ref:”Elizabeth Douglas: the Sandy Row executioner”. Belfast Telegraph. David Kiely. 1 June 2005] however RUC detective Alan Simpson contradicts this date in his book Murder Madness: True Crimes of The Troubles” by stating that Ann Ogilby arrived in Belfast “some six years” before her murder, making the year of her arrival 1967 or 1968. [ref: Murder Madness: True Crimes of The Troubles, p.34]
^ The UDA was formed in September 1971 as an umbrella organisation for the many loyalist vigilante groups known as “defence associations”. It was structured along military lines with brigades, battalions, companies, platoons and sections. Although Andy Tyrie was the overall commander, the brigadiers enjoyed a large degree of autonomy and regarded their own territories as “their personal fiefdoms”. [ref: Loyalists. Peter Taylor. p.199]. The UDA remained legal until 10 August 1992 when it was proscribed by the British Government.
^ Lily Douglas came from City Street, Henrietta Piper Cowan came from Teutonic Street, Josephine Agnes Brown from Blythe Street; located in Sandy Row. The others had Sandy Row addresses as well with the exception of Christine Kathleen Smith who lived in Tates Avenue, which is in the neighbouring Village area and Kathleen Whitla of Howard Street South in Donegall Pass. [ref: Ciaran Barnes. Andersonstown News]
^ Although Lily Douglas admitted to the CID that she made the necessary arrangements for the disposal of Ann Ogilby’s body, she refused to give the names of the men who carried out the removal. Ciaran Barnes alleged that Sandy Row UDA commander Sammy Murphy (now deceased) was involved. [ref=”Sunday Life. Ciaran Barnes]
See below for details on my number one best selling book :
…but a matter of life and death. These were the lads who would go on to be the ‘top boys’ of Loyalist paramilitarism and in time would become infamous in Belfast and well beyond. They’d do time in the Maze prison or in ‘ the Crum’ – the damp, dank Crumlin Road gaol that is now a major tourist attraction in Belfast. I have to confess that I was in there too – but not for any romantic notion of defending Loyalism against hordes of Republican invaders.
In fact, it was for motoring offences.
I had a very reckless approach to taxing and insuring my scooter and given that I was prone to crashing or falling off it, this wasn’t great behaviour. Time after time the RUC would flag me down and demand that I produce my documents at the nearest station. Of course, I never had any of these so it would be off to court, and a fine that I couldn’t or wouldn’t pay. This happened so frequently that eventually the magistrate demanded that I either pay the fine straight away or spend three days in Crumlin Road gaol.
Well, I didn’t have much else to do that weekend, to be honest. And I didn’t want to be slapped with a big fine that would be on my mind for ages. So to the surprise of the magistrate I said, ‘I’ll take prison, please,’ and with that I was marched down the steps of the dock and through the tunnel that links the courthouse with the gaol. As I walked I thought about all the paramilitary hard men from both sides who’d been taken on this very journey, many receiving multiple life sentences for the terrible stuff they’d done. I wasn’t exactly in their ranks, but a taste of the Crum would be something to tell the boys when I was finally sprung on the Monday.
Unfortunately for me, I’d overlooked two things. The first was that my time in prison coincided with a bank holiday Monday. There wouldn’t be enough screws present that day to take me through the release procedure, so I’d have to come out on the Tuesday instead. That took the wind out of my sails a wee bit. The second was my clothing. I’d arrived at court complete with sixties paisley shirt, eyeliner and a string of beads around my neck. This wasn’t great gear for going to prison in and when I arrived in the prison to take the obligatory shower the screw in charge gave me a filthy look.
‘Are ye seriously goin’ in there looking like a fruit,’ he asked. ‘D’ye think that’ll be fun for ye?’
I looked at myself in the cracked mirror. The guy was right. Some of the fellas in here were psychos, not exactly sympathetic to lads who looked a bit gay, as I’m sure I did. I couldn’t do much about the shirt, but I scrubbed off the eyeliner and handed in the love beads for safekeeping. Then, in an act of defiance, I scratched the words ‘Mods UTC’ (‘Up The Hoods’) on the door of the shower with a pen before handing that in too. I headed into the prison and to my cell for what turned out to be a pleasant few days.
Because I wasn’t in for anything heinous nobody took any notice of me. Also, I was a skinny lad with hollow legs and I enjoyed the carb-heavy prison food served up to us three times a day. I can’t say I was sorry to be released but it was an experience, and I could always talk it up a bit for the benefit of my mates.
Many years later I took my young son on an organised tour of the prison, which is now a museum. I showed him the shower, and the graffiti that I’d etched on to the door. An American tourist overheard me talking to my boy about my ‘time’ in the Crum, and for the rest of the tour he and his fellow visitors treated me like royalty – Republican, no doubt. I didn’t tell them the truth . . . .why let the facts get in the way of a good story ?
As I’ve said, the spell in gaol was towards the end of a long period of joy-riding, shoplifting and drug-taking, some of which I was lifted for, many others that I got away with. In the 1980s, stealing cars and joyriding was almost a full-time occupation for many of Northern Ireland’s teenage males, especially in the Loyalist and Republican-controlled ghettos. There was always a danger that an untrained driver would crash, accidentally or deliberately, into an army checkpoint and be shot dead, and this happened on multiple occasions during the Troubles. I wasn’t confident enough to drive, but I was a regular passenger in cars that had been stolen by my mates in Belfast city centre and driven at high-speed back up to Glencairn, where they’d be burned out.
This was the scenario one such Saturday night, when we jacked a car just…
Joe McCann (2 November 1947 – 15 April 1972) was an Irish republican volunteer. A member of the Irish Republican Army and later the Official Irish Republican Army, he was active in politics from the early 1960s and participated in the early years of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.
He was born in the Lower Falls area of Belfast, and spent most of his life there and in the nearby Markets area of the city. His mother died when he was four years old leaving, four children. His father remarried. He was educated at the Christian Brothers school on Barrack Street in Belfast, where he developed an interest in the Irish language. A bricklayer by trade, he joined the Fianna Éireann at age 14 and the IRA in the early 1960s.
In 1964 he was involved in a riot on Divis Street in Belfast in opposition to the threat from loyalist leader Ian Paisley to march on the area and remove an Irish tricolour flying over the election office of Billy McMillen. In 1965 he was arrested for the possession of bayonets with five other men. They served nine months in Crumlin Road jail. He had expressed an interest in the priesthood while a teenager. He joined the Third Order of Saint Francis in his later teens.
McCann was active in the IRA’s involvement in the civil rights activism, protesting against the development of the Divis Flats. McCann became Officer Commanding of the IRA in the Markets, involved in housing issues and any matters which related to local government.
McCann married Anne McKnight who hailed from a strong republican family in the Markets area in Belfast. Anne’s older brother, Bobby, was part of the 1956–62 border campaign and was arrested and jailed, as well as later being interned. Anne’s brother Seán sided with the Provisionals after the 1969 split, and went on to represent South Belfast for Sinn Féin.
McCann was appointed commander of the OIRA’s Third Belfast Battalion. By 1970, violence in Northern Ireland had escalated to the point where British soldiers were deployed there in large numbers. From 3–5 July 1970, McCann was involved in gun battles during the Falls Curfew between the Official IRA and up to 3,000 British soldiers in the Lower Falls area that left four civilians dead from gunshot wounds, another killed after being hit by an armoured car and 60 injured.
On 22 May 1971, the first British soldier to die at the hands of the Official IRA, Robert Bankier of the Royal Green Jackets was killed by a unit led by McCann. McCann’s unit opened fire on a passing British mobile patrol near Cromac Square, hitting the patrol from both sides. He was the fourth British soldier to die on active service & the seventh overall since the conflict began.
In another incident, McCann led a unit which captured three UVF members in Sandy Row. The UVF had raided an OIRA arms dump earlier that day and the OIRA announced they would execute the three prisoners if the weapons were not returned. McCann eventually released the three UVF members, allegedly because they were “working class men”.
The action allowed other IRA members to slip out of the area and avoid arrest. He was photographed during the incident, holding an M1 carbine, against the background of a burning building and the Starry Plough flag.
In early February 1972, he was involved in the attempted assassination of Ulster Unionist politician and Northern Ireland Minister for Home Affairs John Taylor in Armagh City, outside the then Hibernian Bank on Russell Street. McCann and another gunman fired on Taylor’s car with Thompson submachine guns, hitting him five times in the neck and head; he survived, though he was badly injured. In another incident MaCann and another man were standing outside a Belfast cinema to purchase tickets for the film Soldier Blue when McCann spotted a British Army checkpoint.
McCann was killed on 15 April 1972 in Joy Street in The Markets, in disputed circumstances. He had been sent to Belfast by a member of the Dublin command as he was at the top of the RUC Special Branch wanted list. He was told by the Official IRA Belfast command to return for his own safety to Dublin. However he ignored their requests and remained in Belfast.
The RUC Special Branch was aware of his presence in Belfast and were on the look out for him. On the morning of his death, he was spotted by an RUC officer who reported his whereabouts to the British Parachute Regiment, who were carrying out a road block in the immediate area at the time. McCann was approached by the RUC officer who informed him that he was under arrest. McCann was unarmed and tried to run to evade arrest when confronted by the soldiers. He was shot dead at the corner of Joy Street and Hamilton Street after a chase on foot through the Markets.
McCann was hit 3 times according to the pathology report, the fatal shot hitting him in the buttock and passing up through his internal organs. Ten cartridge cases were found close to his body, indicating that he had been shot repeatedly at close range. Bullet holes were also visible in the walls of nearby houses.
McCann was the leader of the most militant of the OIRA’s members in Belfast and was much more enthusiastic about the use of “armed struggle” in Northern Ireland than the OIRA leadership. His killing was closely followed by the organisation calling a ceasefire. As a result, it was rumoured that the reason that McCann was unarmed when he was killed was that the Official leadership had confiscated his personal weapon, a .38 pistol.
Some former OIRA members have even alleged that McCann’s killing was set up by their Dublin leadership.
Five days of rioting followed his death. Turf Lodge, where McCann lived, was a no-go area and was openly patrolled by an OIRA land rover with the words “Official IRA – Mobile Patrol” emblazoned on the side. The OIRA shot five British soldiers, killing three, in revenge for McCann’s killing, in different incidents the following day in Belfast, Derry and Newry.
Funeral and tributes
McCann’s funeral on 18 April 1972 was attended by thousands of mourners. A guard of honour was provided by 20 OIRA volunteers and a further 200 women followed carrying flowers and wreaths. Four MPs including Bernadette Devlin were also in attendance. Cathal Goulding the Official IRA Chief of Staff, provided the graveside oration in Milltown Cemetery.
By shooting Joe McCann [the British government’s] Whitelaws and their Heaths and their Tuzos have shown the colour of their so called peace initiatives. They have re-declared war on the people…We have given notice, by action that no words can now efface, that those who are responsible for the terrorism that is Britain’s age old reaction to Irish demands will be the victim of that terrorism, paying richly in their own red blood for their crimes and the crimes of their imperial masters.
In spite of this hardline rhetoric, however, Goulding called a ceasefire just six weeks later, on 29 May 1972. One of the more surprising tributes to McCann came from Gusty Spence, leader of the Ulster Volunteer Force loyalist group. Spence wrote a letter of sympathy to McCann’s widow, expressing his, “deepest and profoundest sympathy” on the death of her husband.
“He was a soldier of the Republic and I a Volunteer of Ulster and we made no apology for being what we were or are…Joe once did me a good turn indirectly and I never forgot him for his humanity”.
This is thought to refer to an incident in which three UVF men wandered into the Lower Falls, were captured by OIRA men, but were released unharmed on McCann’s orders.
In December 2016, two British soldiers, known as Soldier A and Soldier C, were arrested and charged with murder. The trial commenced in Belfast April 2021. In May 2021, the trial collapsed and the two soldiers were acquitted. The judge found, amongst other things, that the soldiers’ statements given in 1972 to the Royal Military Police, on which the prosecution was based, were inadmissible because the statements were provided without the soldiers being under caution.
Two former British army paratroopers accused of murdering an Official IRA commander during the Troubles have been acquitted after their trial in Northern Ireland collapsed.
The two veterans, known as soldiers A and C, had been accused of murdering Joe McCann on 15 April 1972, in a closely watched trial with political ramifications.
The case collapsed when the Public Prosecution Service decided not to appeal against a decision by Mr Justice O’Hara to exclude some evidence as inadmissible.
The result delighted army veterans’ groups and their supporters, who said the case was the latest example of old soldiers being subjected to a politically motivated witch-hunt. McCann’s family said justice had been denied.
McCann was a member not of the Provisional IRA but its republican Marxist rival, the Official IRA. He was photographed in 1971 holding a rifle beside the Starry Plough, the flag of the Irish labour movement.
A year later when a Royal Ulster Constabulary officer tried to arrest McCann, he fled, prompting soldiers A and C and a now deceased paratrooper, soldier B, to open fire, hitting the 24-year-old in the back. The case hinged on whether the force used was reasonable.
Prosecutors said soldiers A and C believed McCann was armed but they found no weapon. A defence lawyer said McCann was suspected of murders and could have committed more if he had evaded arrest, leaving the soldiers with a “binary choice” of shooting to effect the arrest or letting him escape.
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 … Continue reading The Shankill Bomb→
Kriss Donald – The Racist Killing of an Innocent Schoolboy
Kriss Donald 2 July 1988 – 15 March 2004
Kriss Donald was a 15-year-old white Scottish boy who was kidnapped and murdered in Glasgow in 2004 by a gang of men of Pakistani origins.
On 15 March 2004, Kriss was abducted from Kenmure Street by five men associated with a local British Pakistani gang led by Imran Shahid. The kidnapping was supposedly revenge for an attack on Shahid at a nightclub in Glasgow city centre the night before by a local white gang.
The innocent schoolboy had nothing to do with the attack and was randomly selected by the gang who were hunting for any white boy to exact revenge for the attack.
Kriss was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Despite protesting his innocence Kriss was bundled into a car and was savagely attacked over a prolonged period of time before the gang took him to Clyde Walkway where he was horrifically murdered .
The corner stated that the murder was the most savage and brutal they had ever seen. Kriss was beaten and then held down while he was repeated stabbed more that a dozen times. While still alive he was doused in petrol and set on fire as he bleed to death.
The RACIST Murder of Kriss Donald
The case highlighted the lack of attention the media and society in general give to white sufferers of racist attacks compared to that given to ethnic minorities. It is also suggested the crime demonstrates how society has been forced to redefine racism so as to no longer include white victims.
Initially, two men were arrested in connection with the crime. One man, Daanish Zahid, was found guilty of Kriss Donald’s murder on 18 November 2004 and was the first person to be convicted of racially motivated murder in Scotland.
Another man, Zahid Mohammed, admitted involvement in the abduction of Donald and lying to police during their investigation and was imprisoned for five years. He was released after serving half of his sentence and returned to court to give evidence against three subsequent defendant
Three suspects were arrested in Pakistan in July 2005 and extradited to the UK in October 2005, following the intervention of Mohammed Sarwar, the MP for Glasgow Central.
Extradition of three men to Scotland
The Pakistani police had to engage in a “long struggle” to capture two of the escapees. There is no extradition treaty between Pakistan and Britain, but the Pakistani authorities agreed to extradite the suspects.
There were numerous diplomatic complications around the case, including apparent divergences between government activities and those of ambassadorial officials; government figures were at times alleged to be reluctant to pursue the case for diplomatic reasons.
The three extradited suspects, Imran Shahid, Zeeshan Shahid, and Mohammed Faisal Mushtaq, all in their late twenties, arrived in Scotland on 5 October 2005. They were charged with Donald’s murder the following day. Their trial opened on 2 October 2006.
On 8 November 2006, the three men were found guilty of the racially motivated murder of Kriss Donald. All three had denied the charge, but a jury at the High Court in Edinburgh convicted them of abduction and murder.
Each of the killers received sentences of life imprisonment, with Imran Shahid given a 25-year minimum term, Zeeshan Shahid a 23-year minimum and Mushtaq receiving a recommended minimum of 22 years
Lack of media coverage
The BBC has been criticised by some viewers because the case featured on national news only three times and the first trial was later largely confined to regional Scottish bulletins including the verdict itself. Although admitting that the BBC had “got it wrong”, the organisation’s Head of Newsgathering, Fran Unsworth, largely rejected the suggestion that Donald’s race played a part in the lack of reportage, instead claiming it was mostly a product of “Scottish blindness”.
In preference to reporting the verdict the organisation found the time to report the opening of a new arts centre in Gateshead in its running order. The BBC again faced criticisms for its failure to cover the second trial in its main bulletins, waiting until day 18 to mention the issue and Peter Horrocks of the BBC apologised for the organisation’s further failings.
Following their convictions, the killers – particularly Imran Shahid, due to his reputation and distinctive appearance – continued to draw attention for events that occurred inside the prison system. From the time of their remand in 2005, it was known to the authorities that other prisoners had particular intent to attack the accused, and an incident at HMP Barlinnie prompted Imran Shahid to be placed in solitary confinement, a practice which continued regularly until 2010, due to the continual threat of violence against him, and the aggressive behaviour he showed when he did come into contact with others.
He appealed against this measure as a breach of his human rights, which was rejected in 2011 and in 2014 but upheld in October 2015 by the UK Supreme Court. It was found that prison rules had not been correctly adhered to in the application for, or extension of, some periods totalling 14 months of his 56 months of detention, but that overall, the reasons for keeping him in solitary confinement for his own safety were valid.
He was not offered any financial compensation, which he had tried to claim.
In the interim, the concerns over violent reprisals had proven correct, as Shahid was attacked twice (the second incident, in which a fellow murderer struck him with a barbell weight in the gym at HMP Kilmarnock in 2013, caused serious injury) and also attacked another prisoner with a barbell, for which he was sentenced to additional jail time in March 2016; he had received a concurrent sentence for violence in 2009 after being racially abused by another prisoner.
Shahid also received media attention for cases he brought against the prison service governors in 2017 for unlawful removal of his possessions (a ‘penis pump’ for erectile dysfunction which was deemed to have negligible medical benefit, and an Xbox games console which it was believed could have been adjusted to access the internet), which were dismissed.
Zahid Mohammed, who later changed his name to Yusef Harris to avoid connection to the murder, was convicted and imprisoned in 2017 for another separate incident involving weapons, threats and driving his vehicle at police.
In 2009, the sibling of the Shahid brothers, Ahsan Shahid, and the brother of Faisal Mushtaq, Farooq Mushtaq, were both convicted and imprisoned for their own involvement in violent gang-related disorder in Pollokshields which included the use of firearms. A third man, Omar Sadiq was also convicted. In September 2020, Omar Sadiq was stabbed to death in a violent attack in Glasgow. Ahsan Shahid also had previous convictions for fraud from 2002 and was jailed for the same crime in 2017 along with his wife.
“Lola” is a song written by Ray Davies and performed by English rock band the Kinks on their album Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One. The song details a romantic encounter between a young man and a possible cross-dresser, whom he meets in a club in Soho, London. In the song, the narrator describes his confusion towards Lola, who:
“walked like a woman but talked like a man”
The song was released in the United Kingdom on 12 June 1970, while in the United States it was released on 28 June 1970. Commercially, the single reached number two on the UK Singles Chart and number nine on the Billboard Hot 100.
Since its release, “Lola” has appeared on multiple compilation and live albums. In 1980, a live version of the song from the album One for the Road was released as a single in the US and some European countries, becoming a minor hit. In the Netherlands it became #1, just as in 1970 with the studio version. Other versions include live renditions from 1972’s Everybody’s in Show-Biz and 1996’s To the Bone.
The “Lola” character also made an appearance in the lyrics of the band’s 1981 song, “Destroyer“.
The Kinks – Lola (Official Audio)
Lola was the lead single from the album “Lola Versus Powerman and the Moneygoround, Part One” originally released in the UK and the US in June 1970 and reached number two on the UK Singles Chart nine on the Billboard Hot 100
I met her in a club down in old Soho Where you drink champagne and it tastes just like cherry-cola [LP version – Coca-Cola:] C O L A cola She walked up to me and she asked me to dance I asked her her name and in a dark brown voice she said Lola L O L A Lola la-la-la-la Lola
Well I’m not the world’s most physical guy But when she squeezed me tight she nearly broke my spine Oh my Lola la-la-la-la Lola Well I’m not dumb but I can’t understand Why she walked like a woman and talked like a man Oh my Lola la-la-la-la Lola la-la-la-la Lola
Well that’s the way that I want it to stay And I always want it to be that way for my Lola La-la-la-la Lola Girls will be boys and boys will be girls It’s a mixed up muddled up shook up world except for Lola La-la-la-la Lola
Well I left home just a week before And I’d never ever kissed a woman before But Lola smiled and took me by the hand And said dear boy I’m gonna make you a man
Well I’m not the world’s most masculine man But I know what I am and I’m glad I’m a man And so is Lola La-la-la-la Lola la-la-la-la Lola Lola la-la-la-la Lola la-la-la-la Lola
As an old mod I have long loved the Kinks and everything about them and their iconic music legacy is embedded deep within my soul and still gives me much pleasure and joy. In my opinion they are one of the most underrated English bands of the 60s and although their music has always been well received and revered by their musical peers, they never had the commercial success of the Who or the Stones and to my mind that is a shame.
From the first time I heard Lola spoke to me in a way few tunes do and the surreal theme of the lyrics and the haunting melody its in my top ten tunes ever!
Ray Davies has claimed that he was inspired to write “Lola” after Kinks manager Robert Wace spent a night in Paris dancing with a cross-dresser.
Davies said of the incident, “In his apartment, Robert had been dancing with this black woman, and he said, ‘I’m really onto a thing here.’ And it was okay until we left at six in the morning and then I said, ‘Have you seen the stubble?’ He said ‘Yeah’, but he was too pissed [intoxicated] to care, I think”.
It was a real experience in a club. I was asked to dance by somebody who was a fabulous looking woman. I said “no thank you”. And she went in a cab with my manager straight afterwards. It’s based on a personal experience. But not every word.
– Ray Davies
Drummer Mick Avory has offered an alternative explanation for the song’s lyrics, claiming that “Lola” was partially inspired by Avory’s frequenting of certain bars in West London.
“We used to know this character called Michael McGrath. He used to hound the group a bit, because being called The Kinks did attract these sorts of people. He used to come down to Top of the Pops, and he was publicist for John Stephen’s shop in Carnaby Street. He used to have this place in Earl’s Court, and he used to invite me to all these drag queen acts and transsexual pubs. They were like secret clubs. And that’s where Ray [Davies] got the idea for ‘Lola’. When he was invited too, he wrote it while I was getting drunk”.
Ray Davies has denied claims that the song was written about a date between himself and Candy Darling—Davies contends the two only went out to dinner together and that he had known the whole time that Darling was trans.
In his autobiography, Dave Davies said that he came up with the music for what would become “Lola”, noting that brother Ray added the lyrics after hearing it. In a 1990 interview, Dave Davies stated that “Lola” was written in a similar fashion to “You Really Got Me” in that the two worked on Ray’s basic skeleton of the song, saying that the song was more of a collaborative effort than many believed.
Writing and recording
I remember going into a music store on Shaftesbury Avenue when we were about to make “Lola”. I said, “I want to get a really good guitar sound on this record, I want a Martin”. And in the corner they had this old 1938 Dobro [resonating guitar] that I bought for £150. I put them together on “Lola” which is what makes that clangy sound: the combination of the Martin and the Dobro with heavy compression.
– Ray Davies
Written in April 1970, “Lola” was cited by Ray Davies as the first song he wrote following a break he took to act in the 1970 Play for Today film The Long Distance Piano Player. Davies said that he had initially struggled with writing an opening that would sell the song, but the rest of the song “came naturally”.
Initial recordings of the song began in April 1970, but, as the band’s bassist John Dalton remembered, recording for “Lola” took particularly long, stretching into the next month.
During April, four to five versions were attempted, utilizing different keys as well as varying beginnings and styles. In May, new piano parts were added to the backing track by John Gosling, the band’s new piano player that had just been auditioned. Vocals were also added at this time. The song was then mixed during that month. Mick Avory remembered the recording sessions for the song positively, saying that it “was fun, as it was the Baptist’s [John Gosling’s] first recording with us”.
The guitar opening on the song was produced as a result of combining the sound of a Martin guitar and a vintage Dobro resonating guitar. Ray Davies cited this blend of guitar sounds for the song’s unique guitar sound.
I remember going into a music store on Shaftesbury Avenue when we were about to make “Lola”. I said, “I want to get a really good guitar sound on this record, I want a Martin”. And in the corner they had this old 1938 Dobro [resonating guitar] that I bought for £150. I put them together on “Lola” which is what makes that clangy sound: the combination of the Martin and the Dobro with heavy compression.
– Ray Davies
Despite the chart success “Lola” would achieve, its fellow Lola vs. Powerman track “Powerman” was initially considered to be the first single from the album. However, “Lola”, which Ray Davies later claimed was an attempt to write a hit, was eventually decided on as the debut single release.
while the Dave Davies-penned “Mindless Child of Motherhood” was used in the US. It became an unexpected chart smash for the Kinks, reaching number two in Britain and number nine in the United States.
The single also saw success worldwide, reaching the top of the charts in Ireland, New Zealand, and South Africa, as well as the top 5 in Germany, Austria, Belgium, and Switzerland. The success of the single had important ramifications for the band’s career at a critical time, allowing them to negotiate a new contract with RCA Records, construct their own London Studio, and assume more creative and managerial control.
In a 1970 interview, Dave Davies stated that, if “Lola” had been a failure, the band would have “gone on making records for another year or so and then drifted apart”.
Although the track was a major hit for the band, Dave Davies did not enjoy the success of “Lola”, saying, “In fact, when ‘Lola’ was a hit, it made me feel a bit uncomfortable. Because it was taking us out of a different sort of comfort zone, where we’d been getting into the work, and the writing and the musicality was more thought about. It did have that smell of: ‘Oh blimey, not that again.’ I found it a bit odd, that period. And then it got odder and weirder”.
Mick Avory said that he “enjoyed the success” the band had with “Lola” and its follow-up, “Apeman“.
I wanted to write a hit [with “Lola”.] It wasn’t just the song. it was the musical design. It wasn’t a power chord song like “You Really Got Me“. It was a power chord beginning. It needed a special acoustic guitar sound … sonorous, growling, with an attack to it.
– Ray Davies, Radio 4’s Master Tapes
Originally, “Lola” saw controversy for its lyrics. In a Record Mirror article entitled “Sex Change Record: Kink Speaks”, Ray Davies addressed the matter, saying, “It really doesn’t matter what sex Lola is, I think she’s alright”.
Some radio stations would fade the track out before implications of Lola’s biological sex were revealed. On 18 November 1970, “Lola” was banned from being played by some radio stations in Australia because of its “controversial subject matter”.
The BBC banned the track for a different reason: the original stereo recording had the words “Coca-Cola” in the lyrics, but because of BBC Radio’s policy against product placement, Ray Davies was forced to make a 6000-mile round-trip flight from New York to London and back on June 3, 1970, interrupting the band’s American tour, to change those words to the generic “cherry cola” for the single release, which is included on various compilation albums as well.
Reception and legacy
“Lola” received positive reviews from critics. Upon the single’s release, the NME praised the song as “an engaging and sparkling piece with a gay Latin flavour and a catchy hook chorus”.
Writing a contemporary review in Creem, critic Dave Marsh recognized it as “the first significantly blatant gay-rock ballad”.Billboard said of the song at the time of its US release, “Currently a top ten British chart winner, this infectious rhythm item has all the ingredients to put the Kinks right back up the Hot 100 here with solid impact”.
Stephen Thomas Erlewine of AllMusic lauded the song for “its crisp, muscular sound, pitched halfway between acoustic folk and hard rock”. Ultimate Classic Rock ranked “Lola” as The Kinks’ third best song, saying “the great guitar riff that feeds the song is one of Dave’s all-time greatest”. Paste Magazine listed the track as the band’s fourth best song.
The song was also well-liked by the band. Mick Avory, who noted the song as one of the songs he was most proud to be associated with, said “I always liked ‘Lola’, I liked the subject. It’s not like anything else. I liked it for that. We’d always take a different path”.
In a 1983 interview, Ray Davies said, “I’m just very pleased I recorded it and more pleased I wrote it”. The band revisited the “Lola” character in the lyrics of their 1981 song, “Destroyer“, a minor chart hit in America.
Since its release, “Lola” became a mainstay in The Kinks’ live repertoire, appearing in the majority of the band’s subsequent set-lists until the group’s break-up.
In 1972, a live performance of the song recorded at Carnegie Hall in New York City appeared on the live half of the band’s 1972 album, Everybody’s in Show-Biz, a double-LP which contained half new studio compositions and half live versions of previously released songs.
The single was a moderate success, reaching number 81 on the Billboard Hot 100. It was also released in some countries in Europe (although not the UK) in April 1981. It topped the charts in both the Netherlands, matching the number one peak of the original version, and in Belgium, where it exceeded the original’s peak of three.
It also charted in Australia, peaking at number 69 and spending 22 weeks on the charts. Although not released as a stand-alone single in the UK, it was included on a bonus single (backed with a live version of “David Watts” from the same album) with initial copies of “Better Things” in June 1981.
This live rendition, along with the live versions of “Celluloid Heroes” and “You Really Got Me” from the same album, also appeared on the 1986 compilation album Come Dancing with The Kinks: The Best of the Kinks 1977–1986.
Although it did not appear on the original 1994 version, another live version of “Lola” was included on the 1996 US double-album release of To the Bone, the band’s final release of new material before their dissolution.
Tarred and Feathered: Street Justice Belfast Style
Life during the Troubles
Here are the opening few pages of my bestselling book: A Belfast Child
As a child, I loved the housing estate of Glencairn. To my mind it was paradise. Cut into the hillside, and with unbeatable views of the city on one side and the Divis Mountains on the other, it was like arriving in heaven after the hell of living among the urban sectarian flashpoints of West Belfast. Here were trees, lush green fields, sparkling clear rivers and streams that rushed down from the mountainside and were filled with fish. Us kids spent long hot summers splashing about in the ‘Spoon’, a natural cavernous feature of the landscape filled with water, and feasted on wild berries, strawberries and nuts that grew along the banks of the river.
Here were our close family and friends, housed in the damp flats and maisonettes that had been hurriedly built to house those Protestants ‘put out’ of their homes in the city by avenging Catholics. They too were being burnt from their homes but back then my young Loyalist heart felt no sympathy for them; in my opinion they supported the IRA and had started the ‘war’.
Up in Glencairn we felt safe and free. As long as we all obeyed the rules, of course.
These rules were not the laws of the land. They were not enforced by police, army or government officials. They were not set down in any written form, but we all knew what they were and who had made them. And even as small children, we knew that a heavy price would be extracted for those foolish enough to break the rules. A heavy price, and sometimes a very public price too.
Our two-bedroom maisonette was situated at the bottom of a small grassy hill facing St Andrew’s church Church and the local shopping complex, which consisted of a Chinese chippy, the VG general store, a laundrette, a newsagent’s, a wine lodge and the local Ulster Defence Association – UDA – drinking club called ‘Grouchos’ . In fact, we could roll down it almost to our back door – a game my younger brother David and I played frequently. In the winter when the hill was covered in snow, we would make sledges out of old bits of wood and spend hours and hours going up and down the hill, never feeling the cold. Dad would have a go at us for all the mud and grass we trailed into the flat but his was a good-natured telling-off. The truth was that he was pleased to see us all happy and carefree again after the trauma of the previous few years, and the sudden and final disappearance of my mum.
One late spring afternoon I was revolving rolling towards our back door, Dad’s beloved Alsatian dog Shep (my best friend and constant companion) in hot pursuit. Dad called him Shep after the Elvis song and he was able to knock our letter box with his nose when he wanted to come indoors. The grass had recently been cut and was damp, meaning that it stuck to every part of my clothing. I came to a halt just short of our back wall, the sweet smell of cut grass filling my nostrils, before standing up to brush it all off my jumper. As I did, I noticed my cousin, Wee Sam, running up towards our house from the direction of the main road.
‘John! Davy! C’mon, hurry up! There’s summin’ going on down the shops!’
Wee Sam was red in the face and could hardly get his words out. ‘It must be good,’ I said, ‘cos you look like you’re about to die.’
‘Not me,’ he replied, ‘but there’s a woman down there looks likely to. C’mon, we gotta see this!’
He turned tail and without thought we ran after him. As anyone who’s ever grown up on a housing estate will know, if there’s a commotion taking place word gets around like lightning. In Loyalist Glencairn there was always something going on and it was violent as often as not violent. As we ran, it seemed that from every direction half of estate was also making its way to the shops from every direction facing St. Andrews church from every direction. ‘This must be big,’ I thought as I ran, my wee brother trying to keep up with me. On this estate, as in every area of Belfast afflicted by the Troubles, very few people turned away from troubledanger. The natural sense of curiosity found in spades among Northern Irish people was too strong for that.
In the few minutes it took us to run from our house, a large crowd had already gathered outside the shops. A gang of ‘hard men’, whom we all knew to be paramilitary enforcers, seemed to be at the centre of the action. Local women stood on the fringes of the crowd, shouting, swearing and spitting.
‘Fuckin’ Fenian- loving bitch!’
‘Youse deserve to die, ye fuckin’ Taig-loving hoor!’ (‘Taig’ is an offensive slang term for a Catholic).
I pushed in to get a better look. At the heart of the crowd was a young woman, struggling against the grip of the men holding her. Her cheap, fashionable clothes were torn and her eyes were wild and staring, like an animal’s before slaughter. She screamed for them to take their hands off her, spitting at her accusers and lashing out with her feet. It was no use. One of the bigger guys pulled her hands behind her back and dragged her against a concrete lamppost. Someone passed him a length of rope and with a few expert strokes he’d lashed the young woman against the post by her hands, quickly followed by her feet. She reminded me of a squaw captured by cowboys in the Westerns I loved to watch and then re-enact using local kids in games that could last for days.
Except this wasn’t a game. This was justice Glencairn style – all perfectly normal to me and my peers and we took it in our stride. Although she was still squealing like a pig, the resistance seemed to have gone out of the woman. Smelling blood, the crowd pushed forwards and the woman’s head hung low in shame and embarrassment. One of the men grabbed a hank of her long hair and wrenched her head upwards, forcing her to look him right in the eye.
‘You,’ he said slowly, ‘have been caught going with a Taig, so you have! Do you deny it?’
Now I recognised the woman. She was a girl off the estate. I ha’d seen her walking down Forthriver Road on her way to meet her mini-skirted mates. They’d pile into a black taxi and head into town for a bit of drinking and dancing. I guess it was on one of these nights out that she’d met the Catholic boy – the ‘Taig’ – who was at the centre of the allegations. Good job he wasn’t here now, because he might already be lying in a pool of blood, a bullet through his head.
The woman shook her head. There was no point trying to talk her way out of anything now.
‘Fuck you,’ she said defiantly. ‘Fuck youse all.’
‘Grab her hair!’ shouted a female voice from the crowd. ‘Cut off the fuckin’ lot!’
The enforcer produced a large pair of scissors from his pocket. Slowly, deliberately, he tightened his grip on her hair before hacking savagely at the clump below his fist. Amid cheers he threw it at her feet before continuing his rough barbering skills. Within minutes he’d finished and now the woman looked like a cancer victim. Blood oozed from the indiscriminate cuts he’d made on her head and as it ran down her face it intermingled with her tears and snot. She was not a pretty sight.
‘ back!’ demanded one of the enforcers. The crowd parted and someone came forward with an open tin of bright red paint. Knowing what was to come, and not wanting to be physically contaminated with the woman’s shame, the crowd moved even further back.
The UDA man poured the contents of the tin all over the woman’s head, allowing it to run the entire length of her body, right down to her platform boots. She looked like she’d been drowned in blood. Then a pillow was passed up, and ham-hands the enforcer tore a big hole in the cotton, exposing the contents – feathers, hundreds and thousands of them.
‘G’wan,’ said a voice, ‘give her the full fuckin’ works.’
Without further ado the man poured the white feathers all over the woman, head to toe. They clung to the paint, giving the impression of a slaughtered goose hanging off the telegraph pole.
‘That will teach ye not to go with filthy Taigs,’ said the enforcer. ‘Any more of this and youse’ll get a beating then a bullet, so you will. Understand?’
Through the paint and the feathers came a small nod of the head.
‘Good,’ said the man. ‘And just so ye don’t forget, here’s a wee something we made for you earlier.’
To laughter and jeers, the man produced a cardboard sign which he placed around the woman’s neck. In the same red paint used to humiliate her, someone had written ‘Fenian Lover’ across the middle of the cardboard.
‘Leave her there for half an hour,’ commanded the man to a subordinate, ‘then cut her down.’ The crowd dispersed, a few women spitting on the victim as they left.
‘Jesus,’ said Wee Sam, wide-eyed. ‘Did you see that? Looked like she’d been shot in the head and the feathers were her brain running down her face. Fuckin’ amazing.’
‘Course I saw it,’ I said. ‘I was right at the front, wasn’t I? The bitch deserved it. Imagine going with Taigs, the dirty whorehoor.’
‘Let’s wait round the shops till they chop her down,’ said Sam. ‘See where she goes.’
We’d been playing one of our eternal games of Cowboys and Indians recently and we’d got into the idea of tracking people down stealthily. So we waited until another paramilitary cut the woman’s rope and watched as she slumped to the ground.
‘I think she’s pissed herself,’ said Sam.
‘Ssh,’ I replied, ‘she’ll hear us. Wait while she gets up.’
We watched the woman slowly pick herself up from the pavement. She wiped her eyes and looked around. The area outside the shops was now completely deserted, as though nothing had happened. An angry mob had been replaced by an eerie silence.
As she stumbled off, we nudged each other. ‘Look,’ I said., ‘Look what’s happening. She’s leaving a trail!’
She was too, a trail of blood- red boot prints. We gave her twenty or so yards’ start, then in single file began to follow her, sidling up against walls and lamp-posts like the gang of Cherokees we imagined we were. We must have gone a good quarter- mile when she turned into a pathway leading up to a small, shabby flat. We saw her fumbling in her pocket for a key, noticing the relief on her face as she found it still there. The lock turned and she went inside without a backwards glance.
‘That’s it,’ said Sam, ‘fun’s over. Let’s go home.’
‘Wait,’ I said. I watched as the woman put on a light, looked in a mirror then drew the curtains tightly. Some part of me, the part that wasn’t screaming ‘Fenian bitch!’ with all the others, suddenly felt hugely sorry for her. She only looked about seventeen17 or eighteen18 – not much older than my sister Margaret. What had she really done wrong, other than meet a nice boy she liked? Did she deserve such brutal treatment? After this I never saw her around the estate again. She’d probably fled for her ,life, never to return. And who could blame her?
Something inside of me knew I’d witnessed a terrible thing, yet I knew I couldn’t even begin to think like this. It was against the rules; the same unwritten rules and code of conduct that this young woman had disobeyed. Fear of the paramilitaries created a culture of silence and where we lived this was a survival strategy we all lived by. We were all products of this violent environment and we were had been desensitised conditioned to events that no child should ever have to witness.
I shuddered, pulled my thin jacket close around me and with the others, headed for the safety of home.
Even now, more than forty years later, whenever I smell the sweet smell aroma of cut grass I am transported back to that dusky spring evening in the early 70’s seventies and the woman’s brutal punishment, and I can hardly believe the madness of my childhood in Glencairn.
Who wants… A signed copy of my No.1 best selling book ? Makes a great Xmas gift for book lovers & those interested in the Troubles & the crazy, mad days my generation lived through.
Here’s my latest interview , as you can tell Im rather nervous and as a result I get a little muddled in some areas and stumble over some of the questions and answers as if I have no idea what Im speaking about.
This is simply the story of a boy trying to grow up, survive, thrive, have fun & discover himself against a backdrop of events that might best be described as ‘explosive’, captivating & shocking the world for thirty long years.