Category Archives: Deaths in the Troubles

Deaths in Northern Ireland Troubles

Ann Ogilby’s brutal murder: ” Forgotten ” victims of the Troubles

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.

Ann Ogilby

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

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.

 Northern Ireland's Maze Jail

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.

Social milieu

An Orange arch in Sandy Row, Belfast, circa 1920.

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.

See : Dawn of the Troubles

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.

Kangaroo court

Ann Ogilby

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”.

Old ‘Romper Room’ footage from 1960s resurfaces

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.

My thoughts…

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 .

Immediate aftermath

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).

Reactions

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.

Ciarán Barnes

 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”.

Convictions

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”.

Aftermath

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.

See : 29th July

See: Lorraine McCausland murder: Seven men released

See: Margaret Wright killing

See: Murder of Margaret Wright 25 years ago sparked revulsion and bloody retribution

See : Billy Elliot (RHC)

In an ironic twist I knew and grew up with both Lorraine and Margaret . God rest their souls.

See : Anne Marie Smyth killing

See : ANNE MARIE’S KILLER BRAGS ABOUT MURDER; Loyalists vow to silence UVF man

Margaret Wright

See : Jean McConville – The Shameful & Unforgivable Murder of a Widow & Mother of Ten

Jean McConville

Notes:

  1. ^ 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]
  2. ^ 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.
  3. ^ 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]
  4. ^ 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]

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Joe McCann – Life & Death

Joe McCann – Life & Death

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 shot dead, after being confronted by RUC Special Branch and British paratroopers in 1972.

Early life

Joe McCann

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.

In 1969, after sectarian rioting in Belfast, the IRA split into two factions: the newly created Provisional Irish Republican Army, traditionalist militarists, and the existing organisation, which became known as the Official IRAMarxist-Leninist-oriented socialists. McCann sided with the Officials. His brothers Dennis, Patrick and Brian, also joined the OIRA.

Personal life

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.

IRA activities

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.

Robert Bankier

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”.

On 9 August 1971, his unit took over the Inglis bakery in the Markets area and fortified it, following the introduction of internment without trial by the Northern Ireland authorities. They defended it throughout the night from 600 British soldiers who were seeking to arrest paramilitary suspects.

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.

Starry Plough flag (1914).svg

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.

Death

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.

See : 15th April – Deaths & Events in Northern Ireland Troubles

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

Joe McCann’s funeral

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.

cathal goulding

Goulding said:

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.

A memorial plaque in the Markets area of Belfast

In 1997, a plaque was unveiled at the spot on Joy street in the Markets where McCann was killed. Members of the various republican factions, the Workers’ Party of Ireland (ex Official IRA), Sinn Féin (political wing of the Provisional IRA) and the Irish Republican Socialist Party (a splinter, along with the Irish National Liberation Army from the Official republican movement in 1974) were all in attendance.

A ballad about Joe McCann has been authored in tribute by Eamon O’Doherty.

Inquiry and trial

In 2010, the Historical Enquiries Team investigation into the killing of Joe McCann found it was unjustified.

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.

The family are set to apply to the Attorney General to request an inquest

Trial of ex-soldiers over 1972 killing of Official IRA member collapses

Two army veterans acquitted of Joe McCann’s murder after judge ruled some evidence inadmissible

Joe McCann’s widow, Anne, centre, leaves the court in Belfast
Joe McCann’s widow, Anne, centre, leaves the court in Belfast after the case collapsed. Photograph: Paul Faith/AFP/Getty Images

Rory Carroll Ireland correspondent@rorycarroll72

Tue 4 May 2021 19.16 BST

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.

Joe McCann
Joe McCann. Photograph: PA

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.

See Guardian for full story : Trial of ex-soldiers over 1972 killing of Official IRA member collapses

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Death of Robert Hamill: 27th April 1997

Death of Robert Hamill

Robert Hamill

Robert Hamill was an Irish Catholic civilian who was beaten to death by a loyalist mob in Portadown, County Armagh, Northern Ireland. Hamill and his friends were attacked on 27 April 1997 on the town’s main street. It has been claimed that the local Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC), parked a short distance away, did nothing to stop the attack.

At the time of the murder, tension between loyalists (mainly Protestants) and Irish nationalists (mainly Catholics) was high, mostly due to the ongoing Drumcree parade dispute.

— Disclaimer –

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

Death

Loyalism RUC Robert Hamill

Hamill and his friends were attacked by a group of loyalists while walking home from St. Patrick’s dance hall at about 1.30 a.m on 27 April 1997.

After walking along Market Street from the dance hall, they came to the intersection of Market and Thomas Streets in Portadown, where they were attacked. Hamill and his friend, Gregory Girvan, were kicked by the crowd while their attackers shouted abuse at them and Robert Hamill was knocked unconscious almost immediately.

Girvan’s wife and sister, Joanne and Siobhán Garvin, respectively, called for help from four RUC officers sitting in a Land Rover about twenty feet away from the attack, but they did not intervene to stop the attack. The assault lasted about ten minutes, leaving both men unconscious. Just before the ambulance arrived, one of the RUC men got out of the Land Rover and told Garvin to put Robert into the recovery position.

Robert Hamill never regained consciousness and died of his injuries eleven days later on 8 May 1997, aged 25. The cause of his death was recorded as

“Diffuse Brain Injury associated with Fracture of Skull due to Blows to the Head”.

Six people were arrested after Robert Hamill’s death, but only one was eventually tried for his murder.

Investigation

Trial of Paul Hobson

Paul R. Hobson was charged with murder, but found not guilty, though he was found guilty of unlawful fighting and causing an affray and sentenced to four years’ imprisonment. The case under which Hobson was prosecuted is questionable as the main witness,

Constable Atkinson of the then RUC, was at one stage a suspect in conspiracy to cause murder in the same case. His solicitor also did not use crucial evidence in the case to cross-examine witnesses. Mr. Justice McCollum said during his verdict that the killing was a sectarian act, with a very large number of loyalists attacking a small number of nationalists, but that he could not decide whether the RUC men had left their Land Rover or not during the attack.

Allegations of police collusion

The RUC have been criticised for initially claiming in press releases that there was a riot between two large groups; then afterwards claiming it was a large group attacking a group of four. Rosemary Nelson was solicitor for the Hamill family until she was assassinated by a loyalist car bomb in Lurgan

See Rosemary Nelson

There have been allegations of collusion between the RUC and suspects. A public inquiry is currently being held on the recommendation of Cory Collusion Inquiry

New charges

In December 2010 it was announced that three people, including a former RUC officer, were to be charged in relation to Robert Hamill’s death.

In September 2014 District Judge Peter King, sitting at Craigavon court, ruled that a key witness was entirely unreliable and utterly unconvincing. The case against the three, ex-policeman Robert Cecil Atkinson, his wife Eleanor Atkinson, and Kenneth Hanvey, was not sufficient to try.

Man acquitted of Robert Hamill’s Murder in Portadown, March 1999

References

  1. Jump up to:a b c d e f g h Cory Collusion Report Robert Hamill
  2. Jump up to:a b c d e f g The Sectarian Killing of Robert Hamill Archived 2009-09-06 at the Wayback MachineAmnesty International, 1 October 1999.
  3. ^ Portadown man cleared of Robert Hamill’s murder, RTÉ News, 25 March 1999
  4. ^ Claims against RUC at Hamill inquiry, RTÉ News, 13 January 2009
  5. ^ Robert Hamill Inquiry
  6. ^ Moriarty, Gerry (22 December 2010). “Former RUC officer to be charged in Hamill case”The Irish Times. Retrieved 23 December 2010.
  7. ^ “Robert Hamill murder: Three accused will not face trial”. BBC News. Retrieved 2016-07-23.

John Bingham UVF : Life & Death

John Bingham Life & Death

John Dowey Bingham (c. 1953 – 14 September 1986) was a prominent Northern Irish loyalist who led “D Company” (Ballysillan), 1st Battalion, Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF). He was shot dead by the Provisional IRA after they had broken into his home.

Bingham was one of a number of prominent UVF members to be assassinated during the 1980s, the others being Lenny Murphy, William Marchant, Robert Seymour and Jackie Irvine

 – Disclaimer –

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

Ulster Volunteer Force

John Bingham was born in Northern Ireland around 1953 and was brought up in a Protestant family. Described as a shopkeeper, he was married with two children. He lived in Ballysillan Crescent, in the unionist estate of Ballysillan in North Belfast, and also owned a holiday caravan home in MillisleCounty Down.

He was a member of the “Old Boyne Island Heroes” Lodge of the Orange Order. On an unknown date, he joined the Ulster loyalist paramilitary organisation, the UVF, and eventually became the commander of its “D Company”, 1st Battalion, Ballysillan, with the rank of lieutenant-colonel.

See: Oranger Order

He was the mastermind behind a productive gun-running operation from Canada, which over the years had involved the smuggling of illegal weapons into Northern Ireland to supply UVF arsenals; however, three months after Bingham’s death, the entire operation collapsed following a raid on a house in Toronto by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in December 1986.

Bingham was one of the loyalist paramilitaries named in the evidence given by supergrass Joe Bennett, who accused him of being a UVF commander.  He testified that he had seen Bingham armed with an M60 machine gun and claimed that Bingham had been sent to Toronto to raise funds for the UVF.

These meetings opened contact with Canadian businessman John Taylor, who became involved in smuggling guns from North America to the UVF.  As a result of Bennett’s testimony, Bingham was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment after being convicted of committing serious crimes.

He publicly denounced the supergrass system before live television cameras outside Belfast’s Crumlin Road Courthouse when he was released in December 1984 after his conviction had been overturned, having spent two and a half years in prison.

Dillon in 2020
Martin Dillon

On one occasion, Bingham allegedly placed a loaded pistol inside journalist Martin Dillon‘s mouth because of the latter’s offensive words he had used against him. In an attempt to make amends for his threat, Bingham invited Dillon to visit him at his home in North Belfast.

Dillon accepted the invitation and after several whiskeys and brandishing a pistol, Bingham offered to show him his racing pigeons as he was an avid pigeon fancier. He then told Dillon that he shouldn’t believe what people said about him claiming that he couldn’t harm a pigeon. As they said farewell at the front door, Bingham reportedly murmured in a cold voice to Dillon:

“You ever write about me again and I’ll blow yer fuckin’ brains out, because you’re not a pigeon”.

Killing

IRA Belfast Brigade, shoot & kill UVF Inner Council memember John Bingham 14 September 1986

In July 1986, a 25-year-old Catholic civilian, Colm McCallan, was shot close to his Ligoniel home; two days later, he died of his wounds. The IRA sought to avenge McCallan’s death by killing Bingham, the man they held responsible for the shooting.[

Bingham was also believed to have been behind the deaths of several other Catholic civilians.

Ballysillan, north Belfast, where John Bingham lived and commanded the Ballysillan UVF

At 1:30 am on 14 September 1986, Bingham had just returned to Ballysillan Crescent from his caravan home in Millisle. Three gunmen from the IRA’s Ardoyne 3rd Battalion Belfast Brigade, armed with two automatic rifles and a .38 Special, smashed down his front door with a sledgehammer and shot Bingham twice in the legs. Despite his injuries, Bingham ran up the stairs in an attempt to escape his attackers and had just reached a secret door at the top when the gunmen shot him three more times, killing him.

 He was 33 years old. He was given a UVF paramilitary funeral, which was attended by politicians from the two main unionist parties, the Ulster Unionist Party and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). Members of his “Old Boyne Island Heroes” Orange Order (OO) Lodge formed the guard of honour around his coffin, which was covered with the UVF flag and his gloves and beret. Prominent DUP activist George Seawright helped carry the coffin whilst wearing his OO sash, and called for revenge.

See: George Seawright

In retaliation, the UVF killed Larry Marley, a leading IRA member from Ardoyne who was also a close friend of Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams. The IRA in their turn gunned down William “Frenchie” Marchant the following spring on the Shankill Road. The deaths of three leading UVF members caused suspicion amongst the UVF leadership that someone within their ranks was setting up high-ranking UVF men by passing on pertinent information to the IRA; therefore, they decided to conduct an enquiry.

Although it was revealed that the three men, Shankill Butcher Lenny Murphy, Bingham, and Marchant had all quarrelled with powerful UDA fund-raiser and racketeer James Pratt Craig prior to their deaths, the UVF did not believe the evidence was sufficient to warrant an attack against Craig, who ran a large protection racket in Belfast.

Jim craig loyalist.jpg
James Craig

Craig was later shot to death in an East Belfast pub by the UDA (using their “Ulster Freedom Fighters” covername) for “treason”, claiming he had been involved in the assassination of South Belfast UDA brigadier John McMichael, who was blown up by a booby-trap car bomb planted by the IRA outside his Lisburn home in December 1987.

See : James Craig

In Ballysillan Road, there is a memorial plaque dedicated to the memory of Bingham. His name is also on the banner of the “Old Boyne Island Heroes” Lodge.

Patrick Rooney First Child killed in the Troubles 14th August 1969 : Northern Ireland History

Patrick Rooney Age 9

First Child killed in the Troubles

Patrick Rooney

14th August 1969

Patrick was the first child to be killed during the Troubles he died shortly after being struck by a tracer bullet by the RUC as he lay in his bed in his family home in Divis Tower. The shot was fired from a heavy browning machine-gun mounted on an RUC Shorland armoured car.

The Scarman tribunal concluded that the shot was not justified.

The report described the activities of three Shorland vehicles which passed up and down Divis Street in the vicinity of Divis Tower. Ordered into the area after the fatal shooting of Herbert Roy , they were immediately fired on and attacked with an explosive device and petrol bombs by republicans.

Gunners inside the vehicles returned fire with machine-guns and the ground floor Rooney flat was hit by at least four bullets.

See: The Scarman Tribunal

Patrick was in bed at the time and was hit in the head and died shortly after arriving at hospital.

Patrick's distraught mother that day
Patrick’s distraught mother that day

His mother said during an interview:

” There was rioting, half the street was on fire. I was trying to watch TV and Patrick had gone to bed. Ill always remember he told me not to wake him up until late because he was serving at one o’clock mass. He was an altar boy at St. Mary’s “

His father a former soldier said:

” The rioting got worse and then the shooting started I thought  of getting all the children into one room but before we had time to organised  and lie down the room lit up in flames ,I was grazed by a bullet and Patrick seemed to fall along the wall. I thought he fainted from seeing me bleed, but then I saw the back of his head was covered in blood and I knew the flashes had been bullets and that Patrick was shot”

After the shooting the Ronneys moved to Manchester with their other children but later returned to Belfast. His mother stated:

” I wasn’t content knowing that Patrick was buried here and I wanted to be near him “

The funeral of nine-year-old Patrick Rooney
Patrick’s Funeral

A year after his death the couple had another son and named him after Patrick.

Belfast 1969 – Peace Walls & Barricades – Ireland Part 1

In a further tragedy for the family Mrs Rooney’s sister Mary Sheppard was shot dead by loyalist in 1974 whilst a nephew Sean Campbell was also killed by loyalist three years later in 1977. Two friends of one of their sons were also killed during the Troubles. One Stephen Bennett was killed in an inal bomb in 1982. Another relative Thomas Reilly was shot dead by a soldier in 1983,

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To the Memory of

{Patrick Rooney

Age 9

Killed by a stray bullet

Divis Street

Belfast

During the fighting on the night of august 14th 1969

Christ have mercy on us.

Children of the Troubles

Main Source : Lost Lives

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See: Family of boy shot dead express disappointment at decision not to prosecute

See: Fifty years on, I still want justice for Patrick, says brother who watched him die in family home

Tullyvallen Massacre – The Forgotten Massacre

Tullyvallen Massacre – The Forgotten Massacre

1 September 1975

The Tullyvallen massacre took place on 1 September 1975, when Irish republican gunmen attacked an Orange Order meeting hall at Tullyvallen, near Newtownhamilton in County ArmaghNorthern Ireland. The Orange Order is an Ulster Protestant and unionist brotherhood. Five Orangemen were killed and seven wounded in the shooting.

The “South Armagh Republican Action Force” claimed responsibility, saying it was retaliation for a string of attacks on Catholic civilians by Loyalists. It is believed members of the Provisional IRA carried out the attack, despite the organisation being on ceasefire.

Background

On 10 February 1975, the Provisional IRA and British government entered into a truce and restarted negotiations. The IRA agreed to halt attacks on the British security forces, and the security forces mostly ended their raids and searches.

There was a rise in sectarian killings during the truce. Loyalists, fearing they were about to be forsaken by the British government and forced into a united Ireland, increased their attacks on Irish Catholics/nationalists. They hoped to force the IRA to retaliate and thus end the truce.Some IRA units concentrated on tackling the loyalists. The fall-off of regular operations had caused unruliness within the IRA and some members, with or without permission from higher up, engaged in tit-for-tat killings.

On 22 August, loyalists killed three Catholic civilians in a gun and bomb attack on a pub in Armagh. Two days later, loyalists shot dead two Catholic civilians after stopping their car at a fake British Army checkpoint in the Tullyvallen area. Both of these attacks have been linked to the Glenanne gang. On 30 August, loyalists killed two more Catholic civilians in a gun and bomb attack on a pub in Belfast.

THE GLENANNE GANG – WHO ARE THEY? EXCLUSIVE BBC EXPOSE

Orange Hall attack

On the night of 1 September, a group of Orangemen were holding a meeting in their isolated Orange hall in the rural area of Tullyvallen. At about 10pm, two masked gunmen burst into the hall armed with assault rifles and sprayed it with bullets while others stood outside and fired through the windows.

 The Orangemen scrambled for cover. One of them was an off-duty Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) officer. He returned fire with a pistol and believed he hit one of the attackers.  Five of the Orangemen, all Protestant civilians, were killed while seven others were wounded.  Before leaving, the attackers also planted a 2 pound bomb outside the hall, but it failed to detonate.

The victims were John Johnston (80), James McKee (73) and his son William McKee (40), Nevin McConnell (48), and William Herron (68) who died two days later. They all belonged to Tullyvallen Guiding Star Temperance Orange Lodge.

Three of the dead were former members of the Ulster Special Constabulary.

Victims

01 September 1975

James McKee    (70)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Republican Action Force (RepAF)
Shot during gun attack on Tullyvallen Orange Hall, Newtownhamilton, County Armagh.

————————————————————–

01 September 1975
Ronald McKee,   (40)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Republican Action Force (RepAF)
Shot during gun attack on Tullyvallen Orange Hall, Newtownhamilton, County Armagh.

————————————————————–

01 September 1975
John Johnston,  (80)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Republican Action Force (RepAF)
Shot during gun attack on Tullyvallen Orange Hall, Newtownhamilton, County Armagh.

————————————————————–

01 September 1975
Nevin McConnell,   (40)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Republican Action Force (RepAF)
Shot during gun attack on Tullyvallen Orange Hall, Newtownhamilton, County Armagh.

————————————————————–

01 September 1975

William Herron,  (63)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Republican Action Force (RepAF)
Shot during gun attack on Tullyvallen Orange Hall, Newtownhamilton, County Armagh. He died 3 September 1975

————————————————————–

Aftermath

A caller to the BBC claimed responsibility for the attack on behalf of the “South Armagh Republican Action Force” or “South Armagh Reaction Force”, saying it was retaliation for “the assassinations of fellow Catholics”. The Irish Times reported on 10 September: “The Provisional IRA has told the British government that dissident members of its organisation were responsible” and “stressed that the shooting did not have the consent of the organisation’s leadership”.

In response to the attack, the Orange Order called for the creation of a legal militia (or “Home Guard”) to deal with republican paramilitaries.

Some of the rifles used in the attack were later used in the Kingsmill massacre in January 1976, when ten Protestant workmen were killed. Like the Tullyvallen massacre, it was claimed by the “South Armagh Reaction Force” (a cover name for IRA operatives in some operations at the time) as retaliation for the killing of Catholics elsewhere.

In November 1977, 22-year-old Cullyhanna man John Anthony McCooey was convicted of driving the gunmen to and from the scene and of IRA membership. He was also convicted of involvement in the killings of UDR soldier Joseph McCullough—chaplain of Tullyvallen Orange lodge—in February 1976, and UDR soldier Robert McConnell in April 1976.

South Armagh – “Bandit Country” (1976)

Main Source : Wikipedia

See also


Major Events in the Troubles

Mark “Swinger” Fulton: Life and Death

Mark “Swinger” Fulton (c. 1961 – 10 June 2002) was a Northern Irish loyalist. He was the leader of the Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF), having taken over its command following the assassination of Billy Wright in the Maze Prison in 1997 by members of the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA).

Image result for Mark "Swinger" Fulton

Fulton was alleged by journalist Susan McKay to have carried out a dozen sectarian killings in the 1990s. He also allegedly organized the murder of a Catholic lawyer, Rosemary Nelson, in 1999 while he was out of prison on compassionate leave. In 2002, he was found hanged in his cell at Maghaberry Prison, an apparent suicide. He was awaiting trial having been charged with conspiracy to murder a man from a rival loyalist paramilitary organisation. At the time of his death, Fulton was married with two children

– Disclaimer –

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

Early years

Mark Fulton was born in PortadownCounty Armagh in 1961, one of the children of Jim Fulton, a former British soldier who worked as a window cleaner. His mother, Sylvia (née Prentice), came from a family of wealthy car dealers. Fulton grew up in the working-class Protestant Killycomain area. A childhood friend described Fulton as “a lovely, sweet wee boy”.

Following the outbreak of the Troubles in the late 1960s, Fulton’s father became a member of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA). According to journalist Susan McKay, senior Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) members Robin “the Jackal” Jackson and Harris Boyle were frequent visitors to the Fulton home in the early 1970s.

Jackson, one of the alleged leaders of the gang which carried out the 1974 Dublin car bombings, became the commander of the UVF’s Mid-Ulster Brigade in July 1975. Four days later, Boyle was blown up after placing a bomb on the Miami Showband’s minibus after the band was stopped at a bogus checkpoint by UVF gunmen, and three band members shot dead.

Ulster Volunteer Force

Fulton left school early and promptly joined the Mid-Ulster UVF, being sworn in at the age of 15.[3] According to Sean McPhilemy, Fulton’s early activity included being part of the UVF gang that opened fire on a Craigavon mobile sweetshop on 28 March 1991, killing two teenaged girls and one man, all Catholics. The attack was allegedly planned by Robin Jackson.

In the early 1990s, Billy Wright, also from Portadown, took over command of the UVF Mid-Ulster Brigade from Jackson. The Mid-Ulster Brigade, founded in 1972 by its first commander, Billy Hanna, operated mainly in the Lurgan and Portadown areas. Fulton soon became Wright’s closest associate and right-hand man and had an “extreme fixation and obsession over Wright; he even had an image of Wright tattooed over his heart.

Fulton was alleged to have perpetrated twelve sectarian killings in the 1990s, and reportedly was implicated in many other attacks. His victims were often questioned about their religion prior to their killings, and sometimes they were killed in front of their families.

He was very violent and had a quick temper. Wright was the only person who was able to control him. A Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) detective who knew both of them said that whenever they were stopped by the police in the 1990s, Wright was “coolness personified”, while Fulton would rage, shout and make threats.

Although he was brought up in the Church of Ireland religion, Fulton was a follower of the Reverend Ian Paisley, founder and moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster.  In appearance Fulton was heavily tattooed and was known for his habit of always wearing a waistcoat.

The Mid-Ulster Brigade called themselves the “Brat Pack”, which journalist Martin O’Hagan of the Sunday World altered to “Rat Pack”. After the nickname of “King Rat” was given to Wright by local Ulster Defence Association (UDA) commander Robert John Kerr as a form of pub bantering, O’Hagan took to describing Wright by that term.

This soubriquet was thereafter used by the media, much to Wright’s fury. This led him to issue threats against O’Hagan and all journalists who worked for the newspaper. The unit initially welcomed the Combined Loyalist Military Command ceasefire in October 1994; however, things were to change drastically over the next few years.

Loyalist Volunteer Force

Following the order given in August 1996 by the UVF’s Brigade Staff (Belfast leadership) for Wright and the Portadown unit of the Mid-Ulster Brigade to stand down, Fulton remained loyal to Wright and defied the order. This came after the Mid-Ulster UVF’s killing of a Catholic taxi driver, Michael McGoldrick, while the UVF were on ceasefire. Fulton was close to Alex Kerr, the sometime South Befast brigadier of the Ulster Defence Association who had become an ally of Wright during the Drumcree conflict and had been expelled by the UDA at the same time Wright was removed from the UVF.

After Wright defied a UVF order to leave Northern Ireland, he formed the breakaway Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF), taking the members of the officially-disbanded Portadown unit with him, including Fulton. Fulton acted as an adviser to Kerr during the emergence of the LVF as a separate group and told both Kerr and Wright that the LVF should seek a closer relationship with the UDA in order to more fully oppose the UVF.

Fulton, as Wright’s deputy, assumed effective control of the LVF when Wright was sent to the Maze Prison in March 1997, and his relationship with Kerr, who had relocated to the LVF’s Portadown stronghold, soon ended. Fulton, who continued to advocate a closer alliance with the UDA, reasoned that the group would be more prepared to co-operate with the LVF if their dissident former brigadier was not involved and so before long Fulton and his cousin Gary, also a leading LVF member, began to threaten Kerr, resulting in the Kerr family fleeing to England.

Not long after this, on 13 May, Fulton was said by McPhilemy to have been responsible for the abduction and murder of 61 year-old civil servant and GAA official Séan Brown, who was kidnapped in Bellaghy before being murdered in Randalstown.

When Wright was shot dead by the INLA in December 1997, in a prison van while being taken to the Maze’s visitor block, Fulton assumed control of the LVF. In the immediate aftermath he attempted to minimise local violence as youths sympathetic to Wright amassed on Portadown’s loyalist estates preparing to riot in protest at the killing of their leader and local hero.[12] Unlike Wright, Fulton had always been on good personal terms with UDA chief Johnny Adair as the two had socialized together on and off since the early 1990s.

 The alliance was sealed soon afterwards when Mark and Gary Fulton arrived at the Maze prison,ostensibly to visit a friend, but instead sat at Adair’s table in the visiting room. Fulton was deeply affected by Wright’s death, and reportedly spent many nights alone by his grave.

The LVF published a magazine, Leading the Way. The special 1998 edition, commemorating Billy Wright, was edited by and written almost exclusively by Fulton. In an article, “Have Faith”, he advised loyalists to refuse the notion of extending the hand of friendship to “those who are genetically violent, inherent in the Catholic Church, a church as sly as a fox and vicious as a tiger”, citing historic examples of persecution of Protestants by Catholics. In May 1998, the LVF called a ceasefire. It was accepted by the Northern Ireland Office six months later.

See : Who are the Loyalist Volunteer Force

Rosemary Nelson killing

Fulton was arrested in 1998 after shooting at an off-duty soldier in Portadown. He was heavily intoxicated at the time and sentenced to four years imprisonment. While he was out on compassionate leave in early 1999, he allegedly organised the killing of Catholic human rights lawyer Rosemary Nelson. During the Drumcree standoff, Nelson had represented the Catholic Portadown residents who opposed the Orange Order‘s march through the predominantly nationalist Garvaghy area. She was blown up by a car bomb on 15 March 1999 outside her home in Lurgan. The bomb was allegedly made by a man from the Belfast UDA but planted by Fulton’s associates acting on his orders.

Colin Port, the Deputy Chief Constable of Norfolk Constabulary who headed the investigation into her death, said “without question” Fulton was the person who had masterminded her killing. Although he was back in prison at the time, he was excited when he heard the news of her death on the radio. He was linked to the killing by police informers but not forensics. It was also revealed that prior to his own death, Wright had threatened to kill Nelson in the belief she had defended IRA volunteers.

See: Rosemary Nelson – September 1958 – March 1999

Fulton was released from prison in April 2001.

Death

On 10 June 2002, Fulton, who was being held on remand in HMP Maghaberry since December 2001, was found dead in his prison cell with a leather belt around his neck. Fulton was found on his bed rather than hanging from the ceiling, leading to speculation that he has death had been accidentally caused by autoerotic asphyxiation.

 Friends claimed he had expressed suicidal thoughts due to both his failure to recover from his close friend Wright’s death, as well as fears he had that he was suffering from stomach cancer. Some reports suggested his unstable mental state had seen him stood down as leader several weeks before his death, with the LVF’s power base transferred to Belfast. He was also afraid that rival loyalist inmates wished to kill him inside the prison.

At the time of his death, Fulton had been awaiting trial, having been charged with conspiracy to murder Rodney Jennett, a member of a rival loyalist paramilitary organisation, in connection with an ongoing feud. He left behind his wife, Louise and two children, Lee and Alana. His funeral was attended by 500 mourners, including a number of senior loyalist paramilitaries, including Johnny Adair and John White, who acted as pallbearers alongside Fulton’s brother Jim and son, Lee.

After a service at St Columba’s Parish Church, he was interred in Kernan Cemetery in Portadown. Among the tributes placed in the Belfast Telegraph was one which described Fulton as “Never selfish/Always kind”.

See: 19th October

See: 10th June

See: The Rise & Fall of UDA Brigadier of Bling James Gray – AKA ” Doris Day

Major events in the Troubles

See : Billy Wright

See:  Robin “the Jackal” Jackson 

See: Deaths in the Troubles 10th Feb

Dominic “Mad Dog” McGlinchey: Life and Death

Dominic “Mad Dog” McGlinchey (1953/1954 – 10 February 1994) was an Irish republican militant, who moved from the Provisional IRA to become head of the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) paramilitary group. He was the first Republican extradited from Ireland. He was shot dead by unidentified

– Disclaimer –

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

Background

McGlinchey was one of 11 siblings born into a large BellaghyCounty Londonderry family, with a “strong republican background”.

Paramilitary activities: IRA

In August 1971, at the age of 17, he was interned without charge for ten months at Ballykelly (Shackleton Barracks) and Long Kesh. After his release, he was imprisoned again in 1973 on arms charges.

After his next release, he joined an independent Republican unit along with Ian Milne and future Provisional IRA hunger strikers Francis Hughes and Thomas McElwee. The unit would later merge with the Provisional IRA. Their activities led the Royal Ulster Constabulary to take the unusual step of issuing wanted posters.

McGlinchey was arrested by the Gardaí in 1977, and charged with hijacking a police vehicle in County Monaghan, threatening a police officer with a gun, and resisting arrest. In 1982, while serving time in Portlaoise Prison, he clashed with the IRA leadership and despite his effectiveness in an active service unit he was expelled from the IRA.

INLA

The Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) welcomed McGlinchey because of his previous experience. He joined as Operations Officer for South Derry in 1982, and became Chief of Staff within six months. Under McGlinchey the organisation, which previously had a reputation for disorganization and incompetence, became extremely active in cross-border assassinations and bombings.

 In a Sunday Tribune interview, McGlinchey admitted involvement in the Droppin Well bombing in Ballykelly, County Londonderry, in which eleven off-duty soldiers and six civilians were murdered. He also said he had provided the weapons for the Darkley massacre, an attack on a remote evangelical Protestant chapel, but had not approved that attack.

It has been alleged that he was targeted for assassination by 14 Intelligence Company.

In the same interview, which was conducted by Vincent Browne, McGlinchey claimed personal responsibility for at least 30 killings. By this time McGlinchey had already earned the moniker “Mad Dog” because of his ruthlessness.

Internal feud

Tim Pat Coogan, a historian of the Irish republican movement, asserted that McGlinchey’s authority within the INLA was absolute and that he re-enforced it by ordering the deaths of “anyone he didn’t like”. Other authors claimed that decisions were actually taken collectively by a council of leading members, although those disgruntled with the outcomes tended to attribute everything solely to McGlinchey.

When a powerful northern unit based around an extended family did not turn over £50,000 raised in a fake postal order scheme (which was essential to the INLA’s finances) the scheme’s originator insisted that unless the offending unit was punished he would not supply any more funds. It was decided, reportedly against McGlinchey’s objections, that members of the northern faction were to be killed.

Two were summoned to a meeting; Mary McGlinchey acted as an emissary thus lulling the pair into thinking that there would be no danger of violence. However, they were led to waiting gunmen and shot dead. The incident was the beginning of a feud between the northern family and McGlinchey, whereby a long running series of tit for tat revenge killings between the factions eventually led to the demise of the original participants on both sides.

Imprisonment and release

In March 1984 McGlinchey was wounded in a shoot-out with the Gardaí in Ralahine, Newmarket on Fergus, County Clare and arrested. McGlinchey was wanted in the north for the shooting of an elderly woman, this was deemed by a judge in the south to be a “cowardly” act that disqualified him from the protection afforded for political offences and he became the first Republican to be extradited to Northern Ireland. He was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment after being convicted of murder.

This conviction was overturned in October 1985 by the Belfast Court of Appeals on grounds of insufficient evidence, and McGlinchey was returned to the Republic of Ireland, where he was sentenced to ten years’ imprisonment on firearms charges.

Mary McGlinchey was killed in her Dundalk home by INLA gunmen who broke in while she was bathing her children on 31 January 1987. McGlinchey was unable to attend his wife’s funeral as he was still imprisoned in the Republic.

Dominic McGlinchey Interview

After being released from prison in March 1993, he investigated claims that criminals in the Republic were involved in money laundering with the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF). He survived an assassination attempt by UVF Mid-Ulster Brigade leader Billy Wright in June 1993.

Death

Gravestone erected to Dominic McGlinchey.

On 10 February 1994, McGlinchey was making a call from a phone box in Drogheda when two men got out of a vehicle and shot him 14 times. No one has been charged with his killing and it is not known who carried out the assassination or why.

His funeral took place in his native Bellaghy. The mourners included Martin McGuinness and Ruairí Ó Brádaigh. The oration was delivered by Bernadette McAliskey. During the oration she described journalists, particularly from the Sunday Independent, who had claimed that McGlinchy was involved in criminality, as:

curs and dogs. May everyone of them rot in hell. They have taken away Dominic McGlinchy’s character and they will stand judgement for it. He was the finest Republican of them all. He never dishonoured the cause he believed in. His war was with the armed soldiers and the police of this state.

Personal life

He married Mary O’Neill on 5 July 1975. The couple had three children: Declan, Dominic, and Máire (who died as an infant from meningitis). Mary later became a member of the INLA. Dominic Jr. also became a republican activist.

In October 2006, Declan McGlinchey was remanded in custody at Derry Magistrates’ Court on explosives charges. The charges were connected to the discovery of a bomb in Bellaghy in July. He was cleared of these charges. He was again arrested on 14 March 2009 in connection with the murder of Police Service of Northern Ireland constable Stephen Carroll but no charges were brought. Declan McGlinchey died suddenly of a heart attack on 1 November 2015, aged 39.

In popular culture

Dominic McGlinchey is the subject of the songs “Paddy Public Enemy Number One” by Shane MacGowan of The Pogues, and “Hands up Trousers Down” by The Irish Brigade. The former charts McGlinchey’s life from his teens through to his eventual killing in a phonebox while the latter references his theft and use of Garda uniforms.  When asked about McGlinchey, Shane MacGowan remarked, “He was a great man.”

See: Deaths in the Troubles 10th Feb

Ross McWhirter – TV personality Assassinated by the IRA

Ross McWhirter

12 August 1925 – 27 November 1975

Alan Ross McWhirter (12 August 1925 – 27 November 1975) was, with his twin brother, Norris, the co-founder in 1955 of Guinness Book of Records (known since 2000 as Guinness World Records) and a contributor to the television programme Record Breakers.

He was assassinated by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) in 1975.

Ross McWhirter
BornAlan Ross McWhirter
12 August 1925
Winchmore HillMiddlesex, England
Died27 November 1975 (aged 50)
Gordon HillGreater London, England
Cause of deathGunshot wounds
EducationMarlborough College
Trinity College, Oxford
Occupationwriterpolitical activisttelevision presenter
Notable credit(s)The Guinness Book of RecordsRecord Breakers
Spouse(s)Rosemary McWhirter
RelativesNorris McWhirter
FamilyWilliam McWhirter, father; Margaret Williamson, mother

Early life

McWhirter was the youngest son of William McWhirter, editor of the Sunday Pictorial, and Margaret “Bunty” Williamson. He was born at “Giffnock” (after Giffnock Church in Glasgow, where the McWhirters were married), 10 Branscombe Gardens, Winchmore Hill, London, N21.

In 1929, as William was working on the founding of the Northcliffe Newspapers Group chain of provincial newspapers, the family moved to “Aberfoyle”, in Broad Walk, Winchmore Hill. Like his two brothers , Ross McWhirter was educated at Chesterton School, Seaford, Marlborough College and Trinity College, Oxford. Between 1943 and 1946, Ross served as a sub-lieutenant with the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve on board a minesweeper in the Mediterranean.

Career

Ross and Norris both became sports journalists in 1950. In 1951, they published Get to Your Marks, and earlier that year they had founded an agency to provide facts and figures to Fleet Street, setting out, in Norris McWhirter’s words:

“to supply facts and figures to newspapers, yearbooks, encyclopaedias and advertisers”.

While building up their business, they both worked as sports journalists. One of the athletes they knew and covered was runner Christopher Chataway, an employee at Guinness who recommended them to Hugh Beaver. After an interview in 1954 in which the Guinness directors enjoyed testing the twins’ knowledge of records and unusual facts, the brothers agreed to start work on the book that would become The Guinness Book of Records.

In August 1955, the first slim green volume – 198 pages long – was at the bookstalls, and in four more months it was the UK’s number one non-fiction best-seller. Both brothers were regulars on the BBC show Record Breakers. They were noted for their encyclopedic memories, enabling them to provide detailed answers to questions from the audience about entries in The Guinness Book of Records. Norris continued to appear on the programme after Ross’s death.

In 1958, long after the legend of William Webb Ellis as the originator of rugby had become engrained in rugby culture, Ross managed to rediscover his grave in le cimetière du vieux château at Menton in Alpes Maritimes (it has since been renovated by the French Rugby Federation).

Political activity

In the early 1960s, he was a Conservative Party activist and sought, unsuccessfully, the seat of Edmonton in the 1964 general election. Following his killing, his brother and others founded the National Association for Freedom (later The Freedom Association).

Norris McWhirter interview 1979

Views on Ireland

McWhirter advocated various restrictions on the freedom of the Irish community in Britain, such as making it compulsory for all of them to register with the local police and to provide signed photographs of themselves when renting flats or booking into hotels and hostels.

 In addition, McWhirter offered a £50,000 reward for information leading to a conviction for several recent high-profile bombings in England that were publicly claimed by the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA). In doing so, McWhirter recognised that he could then be a target himself.

This was described as a bounty by McWhirter, and considered a bounty by the IRA Army Council, a view that led directly to the events that followed, although the idea was not originally his, but that of John Gouriet.

Assassination

On 27 November 1975 at 6.45 p.m., McWhirter was shot and killed by two IRA volunteers, Harry Duggan and Hugh Doherty, both of whom were members of what became known as the Balcombe Street Gang,[ the group for whose capture McWhirter had offered the reward. McWhirter was shot at close range in the head and chest with a .357 Magnum revolver outside his home in Village Road, Bush Hill Park.

He was taken to Chase Farm Hospital, but died soon after being admitted. Duggan and Doherty were apprehended following the Balcombe Street siege and charged with murdering McWhirter, in addition to nine other victims. They were sentenced to life imprisonment, but released in 1999 under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.

See : Balcombe Street Siege

See: 27th November deaths in the Troubles

The Battle of Springmartin 13th –14th May 1972

Battle of Springmartin 13th -14th May 1972

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

See: IRA history & Background

See: UVF history & background

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

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

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

Northern Ireland in the 1960s/1970s Documentary

— Disclaimer –

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

Bombing of Kelly’s Bar

Aftermath of Bomb

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

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

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

See: UDA History & Background

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

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

The Gun Battles

Saturday 13 May

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Trevor King Mural

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

See: Trevor King

Sunday 14 May

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Main Source : Wikipedia

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

See: The Loyalist Mod , extracts from my forthcoming autobiography