Category Archives: Uncategorized

Books I’ve read: Vietnam – An Epic History of a Tragic War: Max Hastings

Vietnam: An Epic History of a Divisive War 1945-1975

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THE SUNDAY TIMES BESTSELLER

‘His masterpiece’ Antony Beevor, Spectator

‘A masterful performance’ Sunday Times

‘By far the best book on the Vietnam War’ Gerald Degroot, The Times, Book of the Year

My Thoughts ?

I’ve just finished reading this ( all 722 pages) and it sure is an Epic read and forensic analysis of the war , the history of the region and the American’s ill fated journey through the nightmare theatre of the tragedy that was the Vietnam War. Full of interesting and revealing background and personal stories from those on all side , including Johnson and Nixons involvement.

War by Proxy ?

Seemed that way to me, the Americans and their partners were so paranoid about the commie’s getting a foot in the door they were blind to the spiders web they had walked into. Not for the faint hearted, but if you like to get under the skin and know all the details this book is a great way to start!

Vietnam became the Western world’s most divisive modern conflict, precipitating a battlefield humiliation for France in 1954, then a vastly greater one for the United States in 1975. Max Hastings has spent the past three years interviewing scores of participants on both sides, as well as researching a multitude of American and Vietnamese documents and memoirs, to create an epic narrative of an epic struggle. He portrays the set pieces of Dienbienphu, the Tet offensive, the air blitz of North Vietnam, and less familiar battles such as the bloodbath at Daido, where a US Marine battalion was almost wiped out, together with extraordinary recollections of Ho Chi Minh’s warriors. Here are the vivid realities of strife amid jungle and paddies that killed 2 million people.

Many writers treat the war as a US tragedy, yet Hastings sees it as overwhelmingly that of the Vietnamese people, of whom forty died for every American. US blunders and atrocities were matched by those committed by their enemies. While all the world has seen the image of a screaming, naked girl seared by napalm, it forgets countless eviscerations, beheadings and murders carried out by the communists. The people of both former Vietnams paid a bitter price for the Northerners’ victory in privation and oppression. Here is testimony from Vietcong guerrillas, Southern paratroopers, Saigon bargirls and Hanoi students alongside that of infantrymen from South Dakota, Marines from North Carolina, Huey pilots from Arkansas.

No past volume has blended a political and military narrative of the entire conflict with heart-stopping personal experiences, in the fashion that Max Hastings’ readers know so well. The author suggests that neither side deserved to win this struggle with so many lessons for the 21st century about the misuse of military might to confront intractable political and cultural challenges. He marshals testimony from warlords and peasants, statesmen and soldiers, to create an extraordinary record.

Read the Reviews : Amazon Reviews

Vietnam: An Epic Tragedy by Sir Max Hastings

See : The Vietnam Execution of Nguyễn Văn Lém 1st February 1968

See : Fragging – The deliberate killing or attempted killing by a soldier of a fellow soldier

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James Craig UDA – Life & Death

James Pratt Craig

Life and Death

James Pratt Craig (17 November 1941 – 15 October 1988) was an Ulster loyalist paramilitary during The Troubles in Northern Ireland in the latter half of the 20th Century, who was a member of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), and was a command member of its Inner Council.

 He also ran a criminal large-scale protection racket from the West Belfast Shankill Road area, where he resided. Described by journalist David McKittrick as:

“Belfast’s foremost paramilitary extortionist”,

Craig allegedly colluded at times with the enemies of the UDA, Irish Republican groups such as the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA) and Irish National Liberation Army (INLA), providing them with information on key loyalists which led to their subsequent murders.  Aside from controlling rackets and extorting protection money from a variety of businesses, it was claimed that Craig also participated in paramilitary murders.

— Disclaimer –

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

He was accused by the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) of setting up the assassinations of some of their key members by IRA hit squads, such as Shankill Butcher Lenny MurphyJohn Bingham, and William “Frenchie” Marchant in the 1980s. Craig was murdered by the UDA, using their cover name of the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF), for alleged “treason” as it was believed he had passed information to the IRA regarding South Belfast UDA commander John McMichael, who was killed by an IRA booby-trap car bomb in December 1987. Craig was shot dead in The Castle Inn, a pub in Beersbridge Road, East Belfast.

See: John McMichael

James Craig
James Craig
BornJames Pratt Craig
17 November 1941
BelfastNorthern Ireland
Died15 October 1988 (aged 46)
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Cause of deathMultiple gunshot wounds
NationalityBritish
Other namesJim Craig
Known forUlster Defence Association (UDA) fund-raiser and Inner Council member
racketeer

Ulster Defence Association

See: UDA Page

Beginnings

The Shankill Road area, early 1970s

James Pratt Craig, known as Jim, was born in Belfast in 1941 and grew up in an Ulster Protestant family on the Shankill Road.  In the early 1970s, Craig, a former boxer, was sent to the Maze Prison for a criminal offence unrelated to paramilitary activities. While serving his sentence at the Maze he joined the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), and he was asked by the organisation’s commander at the time, Charles Harding Smith to take control of the UDA prisoners inside, on account of his reputation as a “hard man”.

Criminal activities

After his release in 1976,  he set up a large protection racket and became the UDA’s chief fundraiser; by 1985 he had managed to blackmail and extort money from a number of construction firms, building sites, as well as pubs, clubs, and shops in Belfast and elsewhere in Northern Ireland, whose intimidated owners paid protection money out of fear of Craig and his associates.

It was alleged that the UDA received hundreds of thousands of pounds some of which also found their way inside Craig’s pockets as part of his “commission”. He was acquitted on a firearm charge and Ulster Freedom Fighters (a cover name for the UDA) membership on 18 March 1982.  In 1985, Craig was brought to court after a number of businessmen decided to testify against him, with the condition that their identities remained hidden. The case fell apart when Craig’s defence argued that his client’s rights were violated by the concealment of the witnesses’ identities.

Craig was alleged to have been involved in the double killing of a Catholic man and a Protestant man on the Shankill Road in 1977. The men, both work colleagues, had entered a loyalist club and were later stabbed, shot and put into a car which was set on fire. By this time the West Belfast UDA no longer wanted him in their ranks, as they claimed they could no longer “afford him”.

Craig, who was ordered to leave the Shankill Road, went on to join forces with John McMichael‘s South Belfast Brigade. In addition to being the principal fundraiser, Craig also sat on the UDA’s Inner Council. Craig usually travelled in the company of his bodyguard Artie Fee, a UDA member from the Shankill Road.

The rival Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) carried out an investigation after it was rumoured Craig had been involved in the death of UVF major William Marchant, who was gunned down by Provisional IRA gunmen from a passing car on the Shankill Road on 28 April 1987. Marchant was the third high-ranking UVF man to be killed by the IRA during the 1980s. Although their inquiries revealed that Craig had quarrelled with Marchant as well as Lenny Murphy and John Bingham prior to their killings, the UVF felt that there was not enough evidence to warrant an attack on such a powerful UDA figure as Craig.

See : Lenny Murphy

In December 1987, when South Belfast UDA brigadier John McMichael was blown up by an IRA booby-trap car bomb outside his home in Lisburn‘s Hilden estate, it was believed that Craig had organised his death with the IRA.

Allegedly Craig had feared McMichael was about to expose his racketeering business, thus putting an end to his lucrative operation. McMichael had reportedly set up an inquiry and discovered that Craig was spending money on a lavish scale, going on holidays at least twice a year and indulging in a:

“champagne lifestyle”.

 At the same time it was suggested that Craig had made certain deals with Irish republican paramilitary groups, dividing up the rackets in west Belfast, and he would have been doing the IRA a favour by helping them to eliminate a high-profile loyalist such as McMichael.  Craig had established links with republicans during his time in prison, and the profitable deals and exchanges of information between them ensured he would most likely not be a target for IRA assassination.

Craig was named as an extortionist in Central Television’s 1987 programme The Cook Report. Craig planned to sue the programme’s producers for libel; in January 1988, Jack Kielty (father of future television presenter Patrick Kielty), a building contractor from County Down who had promised to testify as a key witness against Craig, was murdered by the UDA. This killing was attributed to Craig, although it was never proven.

Death

“Bunch of Grapes” pub in Beersbridge Road, east Belfast where Craig was shot dead. At the time it was called “The Castle Inn”

Craig was shot dead by two gunmen from the UDA in “The Castle Inn” (later called “The Bunch of Grapes”), a pub in Beersbridge Road, east Belfast on 15 October 1988, to where he had been lured in the belief that there was to have been a UDA meeting.

He was playing pool in the pub at the time of his fatal shooting by the two men, both of whom were wearing boiler suits and ski masks and carrying automatic weapons.  Upon spotting Craig they opened fire, spraying the room with gunfire. Craig died instantly; a bystander pensioner was also murdered in the attack, and four other bystanders were wounded by stray bullets. The UDA claimed the killing was carried out due to Craig’s “treason” and involvement in John McMichael’s murder as they knew he had provided the IRA with information to successfully carry out the assassination.

They apologised for the unintentional death of the pensioner. Craig was not given a paramilitary funeral, and none of the UDA’s command attended it.

Andy Tyrie, the UDA’s former supreme commander, was not convinced of Craig’s complicity in McMichael’s killing. In an interview with Peter Taylor, he stated that after McMichael’s death, the UDA set up an inquiry, but couldn’t find any solid proof which linked Craig to McMichael’s assassination. Tyrie maintained that the two men had been good friends, and that Craig had given McMichael £20,000 to keep the latter’s pub (The Admiral Benbow) from failing. Tyrie suggested that Craig was a suspect because his wife was Catholic.

 Tyrie insisted that John Hanna, a prison officer in the Maze, had supplied the IRA with information about McMichael through Rosena Brown, a Belfast actress and IRA intelligence operative, with whom Hanna had been infatuated.

McMichael’s son, Gary, however, firmly believed Craig to have been the person behind his father’s killing. Less than three months after McMichael’s death, Tyrie himself narrowly escaped an attempt on his life by car bomb; he subsequently tendered his resignation as commander.

Reputation

According to McKittrick, Craig’s:

“notoriety and range of enemies meant he could have been killed by almost any paramilitary group, loyalist or republican”.

Described as stocky of build, he wore expensive clothing and jewellery, and enjoyed a lavish lifestyle from the proceeds of his racketeering. Author and journalist Martin Dillon wrote that Craig was not intelligent but was “cunning, boastful and ruthless”.

There was also much antipathy between him and UDA brigadier Tommy “Tucker” Lyttle due to Craig having allegedly made Lyttle’s daughter pregnant. Lyttle died of natural causes in October 1995.   It was later revealed that Lyttle had worked as an informer for the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC)’s Special Branch.

Craig reportedly invited RUC officers to an extravagant wedding reception held for his daughter. Author Sally Belfrage who encountered Craig at an “Eleventh night” party held at the UDA’s east Belfast headquarters, summed him up as “the most personally powerful man I had ever met, with an air of animal force that inspired awe at the idea of its ever being let loose. He was also as drunk as I had ever seen anyone in my life who could still more or less negotiate a sentence and a sequence of steps.” She claimed Craig had propositioned her; when she rebuffed his advances he took it in his stride, and grabbing a microphone, went on to lead the other revellers in a rendition of “The Sash My Father Wore“.

Dillon, in his book about the violent loyalist gang, the Shankill Butchers, recounted how Craig casually killed a man in a UDA club after a fellow UDA member handed him a jammed pistol. Craig, testing the weapon, allegedly pointed it at a man who was playing pool, and shot him in the head, killing him instantly. Craig then gave orders for the man’s body to be dumped in an adjacent alley. Dillon believes Craig had killed UDA commander William “Bucky” McCullough in October 1981 after the latter discovered Craig had been stealing funds from the UDA for his own personal use. The Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) had claimed responsibility for the killing.

Jackie McDonald, who was part of Craig’s protection racket, was arrested in 1989. He had taken over McMichael’s command of the South Belfast UDA, having been promoted to the rank of brigadier by Andy Tyrie in 1988. In January 1990, he was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment inside the Maze for extortion, blackmail, and intimidation. McDonald was released in 1994. In an interview with Peter Taylor, he made the following statement regarding his former association with Craig:

I would say without a shadow of doubt the worst thing that ever happened to South Belfast, John McMichael and myself especially, was that Jim Craig ever had anything to do with our organisation.

One builder who later assisted the RUC when they set up an anti-racketeering unit, admitted that he had paid out protection money throughout the 1980s to Craig and his henchmen. The amount of money he handed over increased each year.

Dillon suggested that prior to Craig’s killing, younger elements within the UDA, who were loyal supporters of McMichael, discovered (by means which Dillon did not divulge) that the RUC’s anti-racketeering squad CI3 had videotaped a clandestine meeting between Craig and a member of the IRA’s Northern Command, which is what reportedly sealed Craig’s fate.

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

See : 15th Oct deaths in the Troubles

See: Robin `The Jackal’ Jackson – Life & Death

Loyalists Episode1 No Surrender Full Version HQ

Going Underground – The Jam: Iconic Songs & the story behind them

Going Underground – The Jam

The Jam

Going Underground

March 1980

Going Underground – The Jam: Iconic Songs & the story behind them

Going Underground” is the first British #1 chart single by The Jam, released in March 1980. It went straight in at #1 in the UK Singles Chart, spending three weeks at the top.

It was the first of three instant chart-toppers for the group

Going Underground

Song profile

“Going Underground” was not released on any of the band’s six studio albums, although it has appeared on many compilations and re-releases since then. The song was released as a double A-side with “Dreams of Children”, which originally had been intended to be the sole A-side; following a mix-up at the pressing plant, the single became a double A-side, and DJs tended to choose the more melodic “Going Underground” to play on the radio.

The song was ranked at #2 among the “Tracks of the Year” for 1980 by NME. In March 2005, Q magazine placed “Going Underground” at #73 in its list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Tracks, and in October 2006, placed it at #98 in its list of the 100 Greatest Songs Ever.

Jam Facts:

The band released 18 consecutive Top 40 singles in the United Kingdom, from their debut in 1977 to their break-up in December 1982, including four number one hits

“Going Underground”
Single by The Jam
A-side“Dreams of Children”
Released14 March 1980
Format7″ vinyl
RecordedDecember 1979
GenreNew wavemod revivalpower pophard rock[1]
Length2:50
LabelPolydor
Songwriter(s)Paul Weller
Producer(s)Vic Coppersmith-Heaven
The Jam singles chronology
The Eton Rifles
(1979)”Going Underground” / “Dreams of Children”
(1980)”Start!
(1980)

My Thoughts ?

me with hat.PNG
Me in my Mod days

Being an old Mod and a Jam super-fan this was one of the first Jam records I bought and from the first moment I heard it I loved it and became obsessed with the Jam and this set me on the road to becoming a Mod and the best years of my teenage/young adult life in Belfast, what I can remember anyways. The Jam became the sound track to my crazy teenage odyssey and I came to love everything about them and the Mod way of life and even to this day I still love all the Jams stuff and listen to it whenever the feelings take me , which is a few times a week at least.

My fav Jam album ?

Its a hard one but its between Setting Sons & Sound Affects , although I love In the City and This is a Modern World also . Grrrr…. Its like trying to choose which of your kids or pets you love best , an impossible task and Im the same with Jam albums I feel i’d be betraying those I left out. Going Underground is a personal fav of mine for the path it set me on but I have to say Thick as Thieves and That’s Entertainment are two of my fav Jam tunes off all time.

See: Getting Stoned with Paul Well

See: The Loyalist Mod – Death of a fella Mod and a catholic friend

See: Steve Marriott Jan 1947 – April 1991 All or Nothing

Lyrics

“Going Underground”

Some people might say my life is in a rut
But I’m quite happy with what I’ve got
People might say that I should strive for more
But I’m so happy I can’t see the point

Something’s happening here today
A show of strength with your boy’s brigade
And I’m so happy and you’re so kind
You want more money – of course I don’t mind
To buy nuclear textbooks for atomic crimes
And the public gets what the public wants

But I want nothing this society’s got
I’m going underground (going underground)
Well, let the brass bands play and feet start to pound
Going underground (going underground)
Well, let the boys all sing and let the boys all shout for tomorrow

Some people might get some pleasure out of hate
Me, I’ve enough already on my plate
People might need some tension to relax
Me, I’m too busy dodging between the flak

What you see is what you get
You’ve made your bed, you’d better lie in it
You choose your leaders and place your trust
As their lies wash you down and their promises rust
You’ll see kidney machines replaced by rockets and guns
And the public wants what the public gets

But I don’t get what this society wants
I’m going underground (going underground)
Well, let the brass bands play and feet start to pound
Going underground (going underground)
So let the boys all sing and let the boys all shout for tomorrow

La la la la…

We talk and we talk until my head explodes
I turn on the news and my body froze
These braying sheep on my TV screen
Make this boy shout, make this boy scream!

Going underground, I’m going underground!

La la la la…

These braying sheep on my TV screen
Make this boy shout, make this boy scream!

I’m going underground (going underground)
Well, let the brass bands play and feet start to pound
Going underground (going underground)
Well, let the boys all sing and let the boys all shout,
Going underground (going underground)
Well, let the brass bands play and feet go pow, pow, pow
Going underground (going underground)
So let the boys all sing and let the boys all shout for tomorrow

Covers and parodies

Ade Edmondson‘s folk punk band The Bad Shepherds covered it in 2013.

The Bad Shepherds Going Underground

Welsh alternative metal band Lostprophets covered the song in 2007 as a B-side to their single 4:AM Forever.

The comedy band Amateur Transplants released a two-minute parody titled “London Underground” in 2005 in the light of the December strike. It became a popular download in the United Kingdom.

Jam Facts:

Jam biographer Sean Egan said of the Jam that they “took social protest and cultural authenticity to the top of the charts.

Amatuer Transplants London Underground

The song was covered by Buffalo Tom for the 1999 Jam tribute album Fire and Skill: The Songs of the Jam. This version also was released as part of a double A-side single with Liam Gallagher‘s and Steve Cradock‘s version of “Carnation” and reached #6 in the UK singles chart.[6]

Manfred Mann’s Earth Band covered the song on their 1986 album “Criminal Tango“.

Daryl Denham released a version of the song titled “Go England” in 2002 after Weller gave permission for it to be adapted as a football song.

Jam Facts:

Paul Weller on becoming a Mod

“I saw that through becoming a Mod it would give me a base and an angle to write from, and this we eventually did. We went out and bought suits and started playing MotownStax and Atlantic covers. I bought a Rickenbacker guitar, a Lambretta GP 150 and tried to style my hair like Steve Marriott‘s circa ’66.

Dreams of Children

“Going Underground” was coupled with “Dreams of Children” as a double A-side. It opens and is intermittently accentuated with a backmasked sample of the band’s 1979 song “Thick as Thieves“. In the US the backwards intro was edited out making the single 10 seconds shorter than the UK Version. This US edit is available on the best-of compilation Snap!.

The Jam released two other double A-side singles: “David Watts“/”‘A’ Bomb in Wardour Street” and “Town Called Malice“/”Precious“.

Jam Facts:

On 29 April 1977, Polydor released the Jam’s debut single, “In the City“, which charted in the Top 40 in the UK.

See: here for more information on the Jam

Thick As Thieves

See: Golden Brown – The Stranglers

Ok i’m drunk & I might regret this in tomorrow morning, but this is how i’m feeling at this exact moment in time….21.04/06/09/2019

Ok i’m drunk & I might regret this in tomorrow morning, but this is how i’m feeling at this exact moment in time….21.04/06/09/2019

Someone just emailed me ( from Twitter I think () and asked me if I was ok ? , and why i was depressed and talking about drugs on my Twitter feed tonight & it made me stop and think about how people may perceive me and my chat and crack tonight – let me try and expalin.

I’m in the final drafts of completing my forthcoming autobiography Belfast Child( titled to TBC ) , which I’m obviously nervous about and worried how the great British public will receive. But when I planned to write the book although it was always important to tell the story of my mum and our amazing reunion, there was so much more to my story and I never wanted it to be just another book about “The Troubles ” and i have strived hard to make this so. that means alot of my story deals with my Mod life and that period in my early teens/adulthood where the world was my oyster and i grabbed it with both hands and this period for me invloved alot of drugs and trying to blot out the misery of my younger life. but as messed up as this seems there were many happy times and as i have been writting about these days thats why I have that head on tonight and why I am talking about drungs tonight.

Im not promoting them , im just telling me story , which has many funnt stroies about my Mod lifenand rugs.

Also , next week is the 1st anniversary of my mums brutal death , after a soul destroying fight with cancer , that lasted only six months and I cant begin to tell you how painful and hard that was for me , to watch the womean I had missed all my life died in front ogf me. At least I was with bher at the time and help her hand as she lieft this world forever, that was so important to me.

As if that wasn’t bad enough , me mum dying, my daughter 17 year old boyfriend died a few weeks later and he was ony 18 and his single mothers only child. It doesnst get more brutal than that and that sent me over over the edge

Testing – Don’t Panic !

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Unique & Bespoke Gifts & Souvenirs from Northern Ireland

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




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

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

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

Prices

Mugs

£6.00 + 1st class post £4.00

( discounted post for multiply orders )

Key-Rings

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

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

Postal discounts available for bulk orders

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

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

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

The Rise & Fall of UDA Brigadier of Bling James Gray 

 

doris day.JPG

AKA ” Doris Day”

James Gray (1958 – 4 October 2005), known as Jim Gray, was a Northern Irish loyalist and the East Belfast brigadier of the Ulster Defence Association (UDA), the largest Ulster loyalist paramilitary organisation in Northern Ireland.

He was often nicknamed “Doris Day” for his flamboyant clothing, jewellery, and dyed blond hair. Another media nickname for Gray was the “Brigadier of Bling”. He was the owner of several bars in East Belfast.

 

Jim Gray

 

Jim gray.jpg

Jim Gray
Birth name James Gray
Nickname(s) “Doris Day”
Born 1958
Belfast, Northern Ireland
Died 4 October 2005 (aged 46–47)
East Belfast, Northern Ireland
Allegiance Ulster Defence Association (UDA)
Rank Brigadier
Unit East Belfast Brigade
Conflict The Troubles

 

 – Disclaimer –

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

Early life

Related image

Gray, the son of James and Elizabeth Gray, was born in 1958 and raised a Protestant in East BelfastHe had one sister, Elizabeth. He left school at age 15 and had ambitions of becoming a professional golfer, playing off a handicap of three.

He briefly worked at the Short Brothers‘ factory but did not hold the job long as he was heavily involved in petty crime with the Tartan gangs prevalent in loyalist areas at the time.

Ulster Defence Association

According to an interview in the Sunday World with his ex-wife Anne Tedford, to whom a youthful Gray was married for four years (a marriage that produced one son, Jonathan), Gray joined the loyalist paramilitary Ulster Defence Association (UDA) when she was in maternity hospital. She claimed that Gray was offered a lift home by a near-neighbour, Gary Matthews, who was already a UDA member, and that Matthews had Gray sworn in as a member soon afterwards.

He eventually rose to become brigadier of the East Belfast Brigade, taking over after Ned McCreery was killed by the UDA in 1992.

 

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Who killed UDA Boss?

 

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Brigadier

Nicknamed “Doris Day” and the “Brigadier of Bling”, Gray, who was 6’3″ in height, became known as the most flamboyant leader in the UDA with his dyed blond bouffant hair, permanent suntan, gold earring, ostentatious jewellery, and expensive pastel clothing.

 

 

In their book UDA – Inside the Heart of Loyalist Terror, journalists Henry McDonald and Jim Cusack described him as “looking more like an ageing New Romantic” than the leader of a paramilitary organisation.

He once attended a UDA meeting with the Secretary of State for Northern IrelandJohn Reid wearing a loud Hawaiian-print shirt with a pink jumper draped over his shoulders.

A heavy cocaine user, Gray made large amounts of money from selling drugs, protection racketeering, and extortion.

Gray’s criminal empire was reported to have made him one of the richest brigadiers in UDA history. He also acquired several bars in his native east Belfast. One of these, the “Avenue One” in Templemore Avenue, he used as the headquarters for his substantial criminal empire. He lived in an expensive luxury flat in an exclusive private residence and was protected by a devoted gang dubbed “the Spice Boys”.

 

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Rangers 3 Celtic 2…Amazing Penny Arcade & Blue Sea Of Ibrox

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A supporter of Rangers, Gray was reported as knowing a number of players personally and meeting them during his regular visits to Ibrox Park

Renowned for his violent temper, he once allegedly brutally beat then stomped on a man’s head during an outdoor Rod Stewart concert at Stormont in full view of the audience. On another occasion, he violently attacked a man with a golf club after the latter had beaten him in a game of golf. For that assault, Gray was barred from the Ormeau Golf Club.

He had allegedly ordered the killing of his predecessor McCreery, whom he accused of being a police informer. Gray then took over his brigade and one of his pubs. In January 2001, the gunman, Geordie Legge met a grisly end, allegedly at the hands of Gray and his henchmen. Legge had reportedly denounced Gray’s organised criminal racket and tried to interfere with Gray’s lucrative drug-dealing, and he was repeatedly tortured and stabbed to death inside “The Bunch of Grapes”, another of Gray’s east Belfast pubs.

 

Image result for James Gray uda bunch of grapes

After the killing, Legge’s body was placed in a carpet and dumped outside Belfast. Legge’s knife wounds were so severe that his head was almost severed from the body. The pub was set on fire to eliminate the signs of the torture that had been carried out inside. Gray was one of the mourners who attended Legge’s funeral. 

Gray and his right-hand man Gary Matthews, who co-owned the Bunch of Grapes, sought to claim on their insurance for the pub fire and sued AXA when they refused to pay out. Gray and Matthews were eventually forced to drop the case as the judge did not accept their version of events surrounding the fire and AXA successfully argued that they had not disclosed their UDA membership when they took out the policy.

The following year on 13 September 2002, Gray was shot in the face by UDA rivals; the plastic surgery to repair the considerable facial injuries cost £11,000. The shooting, which was blamed on West Belfast Brigadier Johnny Adairhad been described by the police as “loosely related” to the death of Stephen Warnock, a Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF) leader, in one of the loyalist feuds.

 

Image result for johnny adair

Adair had previously started a whispering campaign against both Gray and John Gregg of the UDA South East Antrim Brigade, claiming both men were to be stood down as part of his attempts to take full control of the UDA.

As part of this Adair, who was close to the LVF, had visited the Warnock family and suggested that Gray had been involved in their relative’s death (which had actually been carried out by a hired Red Hand Commando gunman after Warnock refused to pay a drug debt to a North Down businessman).

As a result, Gray was shot by a lone gunman after he left the Warnock home, where he had been paying his respects to the deceased. On 25 September, Gray discharged himself from the Ulster Hospital to attend a meeting of all the brigadiers bar Adair at which he, John Gregg, Jackie McDonaldBilly McFarland and Andre Shoukri found Adair guilty of treason for his role in Gray’s shooting and released a press statement to the effect that Adair was expelled from the UDA.

 Two weeks after the attack, Gray flew to Tenerife for a holiday.[citation needed] He allegedly owned property in Spain.

Gray’s son, Jonathan, died of a drugs overdose in 2002 while with his father on holiday in Thailand. An October 2005 report by the Belfast Telegraph claimed that Jim Gray was bisexual and would regularly take holidays to Thailand to have sex with teenage boys.

 

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Loyalists Episode

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Expulsion and arrest

Gray was expelled by the UDA leadership in March 2005, for “treason” and “building a criminal empire outside the UDA”, according to the South Belfast brigadier, Jackie McDonald. It was suggested that Gray was a Special Branch informer who passed on information to the police about his friends and associates.

In April that year, he was arrested whilst driving; several thousand pounds were found in the car, and the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) believed he was intending to travel to the Republic of Ireland with what they suspected to be the proceeds of drug dealing and extortion. Gray was charged with money laundering, and held in custody until September when he was released on bail.

During this time, police raids on a number of locations brought in thousands of documents related to this investigation. At the same time the prominent Belfast estate agent Philip Johnston was also arrested under suspicion of money laundering.

Gray was replaced as head of the UDA East Belfast Brigade by Jimmy Birch.

Shooting death

Gray was shot five times in the back and killed outside his father’s house in the east Belfast Clarawood estate on 4 October 2005, by two unknown gunmen. The shooting took place at 8 p.m. while he was unloading weight-lifting equipment from the boot of his silver Mini Cooper.

As his body lay on the front lawn, local people took photos and passed the news to others via their mobile phones.

doris day.JPG 2.JPG

According to Gray’s father, his son had left the house after Gary Matthews arrived to give him a set of weights and cigarettes that he had bought for Gray in Spain. Shots rang out and when Gray’s father went out to see what had happened he found his son had been shot and Matthews was ringing for an ambulance.

The involvement of other loyalist factions was suspected, fueling speculation that he was murdered to prevent him making an agreement with the police to expose his former associates in the UDA. Six people were arrested on suspicion of involvement in the murder,

Ultimately however no charges were brought with the investigating officer, Detective Inspector Deborah McMaster, admitting at Gray’s inquest in 2007 that the police had largely given up on securing any convictions due to a lack of evidence.

East Belfast MP Peter Robinson (later First Minister of Northern Ireland from 2008 to January 2016) stated after Gray’s killing that:

“there was no excuse for the murder”.

 

Fellow UDA member and former friend, Michael Stone claimed that Gray had told him he was a businessman rather than a loyalist, as loyalism did not pay the bills.

Unlike most brigadiers, he was not given a paramilitary funeral, complete with volleys of gunfire fired over the coffin. It was a private affair, attended by only 14 mourners. As a further sign of his unpopularity among loyalists, a street disco was held in east Belfast to celebrate his death.

 

doris day funeral

Gray’s effigy, with a curtain ring representing his trademark single gold earring, was thrown upon a bonfire. In lieu of murals dedicated to his memory, there was only graffiti scrawled on an east Belfast wall which read:

“Jim Gray RIP – Rest in Pink”.

 

Gray’s estate was frozen by the Assets Recovery Agency as part of an investigation into his criminality.

 

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MacIntyre’s Underworld Mad Dog

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See:  John Gregg (UDA) The man who shot Gerry Adam?

Featured image

See: Michael Stone – Loyalist Hero or Psychopath?

 

 

Bibliography

  • Lister, David & Jordan, Hugh (2004). Mad Dog – The Rise and Fall of Johnny Adair and C Company, Edinburgh: Mainstream Publishing.
  • McDonald, Henry & Cusack, Jim (2004). UDA – Inside the Heart of Loyalist Terror. Dublin: Penguin Ireland.

 – Disclaimer –

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

 

London Stories – Lost in Translation ,Do you wanna a Poke?

belfast stories header with web

Shortly after I had arrived in London I was hanging out with some London friends and one day to my delight I was invited to a picnic in the local park , with loads of staff (young sexy nurses) from Great Ormond Street Hospital.

Image result for sexy nurses

It was a scorching hot day and I was surrounded by beauties from across the world and I’m not ashamed to say I was having the time of me life and flirting with the girls as if my life depended on it. I was young , free and single and the world really was my oyster and fate was smiling down on me for at  once.

Lying on the grass chatting with a dusty beauty hanging on my every word I was sure I was going to “pull” and I silently thanked for the gods for bringing me here and now.

Suddenly I heard the gentle chimes of an ice-cream van approaching from the distance and feeling rather generous standing up I asked the crowd :

Does anyone want a Poke?

 

Silence……..

After a moment of confused silence everyone burst out laughing and realising what I’d said I had no choice but to joined in , although I felt like an right idiot!

My English mates thought it was feckin hilarious and took the P out of me for the rest of the day. And in case your wondering I did get off with the dusty beauty and she give me a night I will never forget. She informed me she’d read the kama sutra and I was to be her student for twelve glorious hours.

Another time shortly after arriving in London I was living in Walthamstow and after a skin full of beer I decided a pastie supper was in order , so I staggered my way to the local fish and chip shop and joined the queue.  When it was my turn I informed the good chinese lady behind the counter I wanted a Pastie Supper, with lots of salt and vinegar.

Please.

pastie supper 2

She looked at me as if I was speaking Klingon and I saw doubt flicker momentarily in her eyes and then crawl slowly across her face. Then she went off and I was salivating at the thought of getting me chops around a pastie supper and I  could almost taste it my need was so great.

Then she returned and presented me with a  Jamaican Patty, a smug “got you!” smile dancing on her face.

Image result for Jamaican Patty.

No says I ,  “ I want a Pastie Supper”

“Oh”  she says and goes off and returned with a plastic bag. Hmmmm.

This went on for about another ten minute until she’d shown me everything in the shop that sounded like plastic or pastie or whatever the crazy Irish man was asking for.

She was also starting to get grumpy with me and I decided enough was enough and I had to admit defeat!

“Forget it” I says, I’ll have a fish supper.

My Belfast accent was often a talking point among people when I first met and/or worked with during my early years in London. In fact to my joy a lot of women found the accent sexy and with my Northern Irish charm I was never without female company or friends and I always stood out in a crowd. When I first started to work in the City in high profile and big wage sales teams my accent was more of a hindrance and at times I found it hard trying to sell insurance and mortgages to people who couldn’t understand me. Slowly and gradually I learnt to slow right down and pronounce my words with less of the Belfast lilt and thankfully my sales went right up. The weird thing is my accent sound normally to me now, but when I go home they call me”posh git ” and London Steve  and take the piss out of my English accent. ?/

But back in England I still meet  people who find it hard to understand what I’m saying and I have to kinda slow down for them, mostly when I’m drunk come to think of it. I once had a Japanese girl (very rich) and I could hardly understand a word she was saying to me and she had no clue what I was saying to her, the long winter nights flew in!!

Funny.

Bye for now.

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How till spake Norn Iron (A guide to local phrases)

There’s no better way to get to know the city and its people than to mingle with the locals and engage in a bit of light-hearted ‘banter’.

So if you want to know the difference between a minger and a munter or why tea is different from tae, or add your suggestions, just consult ‘How til spake Norn Iron’ and you’ll be talking the talk before you know it…big lad!

Here’s our A-Z online guide to speaking the local lingo, like:

A is for…
Ach: A regional word that’s usually placed at the start of a sentence. “Ach go on.”, “Ach you know?”
Arse: Bottom, bum. “A kick up the arse.”
Ascared: Combination of the words afraid and scared. “I’m ascared of heights.”
Aye: Yes. “Aye, I’ll have a pint if you’re buying.”

B is for…
Bake: Mouth/face. “Shut your bake”, “Look at the bake on her”
Banjaxed: Broken. “Darling, the bog is banjaxed, call a plumber”
Banter: Craic, fun chatter. “Let’s go for a pint and some banter”
Beezer: Good, fantastic “Your new car is beezer mate.” (Rosemary – London) 
Big Lad: A robust young gentleman. “Alright big lad?”
Bout Ye!: Greeting, How are you? “Bout ye big lad, let’s go for a swall.” (Glenn Kelly – Belfast)

C is for…
C’ mere: A command. “Come here”
Catch yourself on!: An expression, translated as “Get a hold of yourself!”, “Wise up!”
Clinker: Similar to Beezer. “My new bike is clinker.” (Eimear – Belfast/Glasgow)
Coupan: Face. “Look at the state of the coupan on yer woman.” (Eimear – Belfast/Glasgow)

Cracker: Good. “That restaurant was cracker”
Craic: Fun, to have a good time. “The craic is mighty lads, get the beers in”

D is for…
Da: Father. “I seen your Da in the pub last night”
Dander: Walk. “Lets go for a dander”
Dead-On: Good, decent, alright. “I like him, he’s dead-on”
Does my head in: Expression. Someone who really annoys you. “That dipso does my head in”

E is for…
Eejit : An Idiot. “You are an eejit”

F is for…
Faffin’: Messing around, acting an eejit. “Stop faffin’ around and do some work”
Fegs: Cigarettes. “Can I have twenty fegs and a can of coke?”
Fiddle: A Violin. “Get that fiddle out and let’s have a sing-song”
Fire: Throw. “I was out firing stones at the peelers”

G is for…
Grand: Good. “That’s grand, I’ll see you at half-eleven”

See: inyourpocket.com for G – Z 

 

Belfast Stories – Glencairn’s Rainbow River

Belfast Stories 

The Rainbow River

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At first Wee Sam and I got on brilliantly and spent every-spare minute together, getting up to all sorts of mischief as teenage boys will. We were in the same year at school and after the bell went, along with David and Pickle we would head towards the glens that surrounded Glencairn and spend hours playing by the river and trying to catch the rainbow trout as they swam up and down down river.

 

Image result for rainbow trout

 

Half way up the glen there was a natural bowl shaped area of the river called The Spoon and in the summer , we along with other children would strip off to our underpants and spend hours swimming and playing in the water. One day when we were swimming in The Spoon the water suddenly changed colour and started flowing a deep red colour. This frightened the life out of us, we all thought it was blood and legged it out of the water as fast as our legs would carry us..

We ran home and told Aunt Gerry and although she couldn’t throw any light on the situation, she told us to keep away from the river for the time being , which of course we ignored.

Image result for rainbow river

 

About a week later, after school we all rushed up to The Spoon again and stood transfixed as we watched the river flowing a deep shade of purple. We all stepped back from the bank and pondered what might be making this strange event happen and came to the conclusion that it was a magic river, possibly evil and we should avoid it all costs. From that day on we renamed the river Rainbow River and every time we returned the water would be a different colour of the Rainbow  and remained a magical place.

Then one day months later we heard through the grapevine that the reason for the river changing colour was that there was a clothes factory further up the Glen and they had been fined for emptying their waste , including dyes into the river. We all felt a bit sheepish about our earlier fears and before long we were once again spending large parts of our spare time playing and swimming in Rainbow River.

 

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