Tag Archives: Glencairn

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.

 

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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.

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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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Glencairn was a violent, ultra loyalist estate controlled by the UDA ( Ulster Defence Association )

CHAPTER TWO

GLENCAIRN

Extracts from my Autobiography , Belfast Child

glencairn

 

On a sunny day in 1970 my osteomyelitis was finally given the all clear and I was on my way home from the hospital, for a couple of years at least. I was so heartbroken to leave Nurse Brown, that on the day of my discharge I hid in a broom cupboard, in the childish belief if they couldn’t find me they would let me stay in the children’s ward with Nurse Brown.

The day before dad had explained to me that we had a new home and that‘s where I would be going to live when I left hospital. He explained that we had moved to Glencairn to be near his family, so that our grandmother could help look after us. We all loved my grandmother dearly and although I was grief stricken at the thought of leaving Nurse Brown, I was also excited at the thought of living in a new home and being surrounded by my grandparents and cousins. When I had first gone into hospital we had lived in a mixed area of the city and spent as much time with our Catholic family on mum’s side, as we had with dad’s family. When mum and dad had first parted dad forbade any of mum’s family from visiting me in hospital and as a result when they parted for good we were never to meet any of our Catholic relatives again.

The division in my family reflected the religious segregation that was ripping Northern Ireland apart. At four years old my political and religious destination was decided, as I left the children’s ward and headed home to my new life without mum in Glencairn.

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Glencairn was a violent, ultra loyalist estate in the West of the city built in the sixties and was controlled by the UDA, the largest protestant paramilitary group in Northern Ireland. The estate is cut into the mountains and is surrounded by glens and forest and from the top you can look down over Belfast City, with the giant cranes Samson and Goliath dominating the horizon of the east of the city. On my first day home I fell in love with Glencairn and I knew immediately that I would like living there. Previously we had lived in a built up area of Belfast and now I was surrounded by vast open spaces and fields and mountains as far as the eye could see. There was only one road into Glencairn and due to this isolation it became a dumping ground for loyalist murder squads

St. Andrews

Our new house was on the Forthriver Road, half way up the estate and two minutes walk from the local and only shopping complex in Glencairn, which was made up of a VG , a Chinese takeaway , paper shop , a wine lodge and a UDA drinking club called Grouchos, which dad worked in. Home for us was a ground floor house in a two story maisonette, with two bedrooms between five of us. It was a bit cramped and when I first came out of hospital I got to sleep with dad in his double bed and the others shared the other room. But we were all happy and I was excited about all the sudden changes in my young life. Just facing our house was St. Andrews church, which was to play a huge role in my future life,

Granny and Granddad lived just around the corner from our place and Granny practically lived in our house as she helped dad look after us. About 10 minutes away from our place, at the top of the estate dad’s two younger brothers and their wives and children lived. Like a lot of deprived area’s of Belfast, Glencairn was a tribal community and the Protestant people of the estate stuck together through thick and thin with their hatred of their Catholic counter parts throughout Belfast and Northern Ireland with a passion.

But the best thing for me was dad’s dog Shep, a temperamental Alsatian, who terrorised the area. We quickly became inseparable and before long we were the best of friend’s. After unpacking my things and settling me in, Dad and Granny called me into the front room and asked me to sit down. They explained that mum had gone away and that I would never see her again. If anyone were to ever ask where she was, I was simply to say she had died and leave it at that. Also from then on I was to call Gerard David and Mary Margaret. Due to the ultra Loyalist nature of Glencairn and the people we now lived amongst, all traces of our Catholic heritage and mum had to be eradicated from our past and we were told never to mention mum or her family again. This was done also for our own safety, because had the truth been known we would have been ostracised and picked on.

Within a short space of time I had really settled in and for the first time in my short life I was spending a lot of time with dad’s side of the family and I was getting to know my brother and sisters properly. Due to my leg, I got to sleep with dad in his huge double bed and every night he would carry me upstairs because, due to my caliper’s I was still unable to get up them by myself. Whist I had been in hospital I was surrounded by other children in wheelchairs, plaster and caliper’s and I had thought nothing of it. But now back at home with all those trees and never ending fields I began to feel self conscious about my caliper and the way I walked. When I had to visit the physiotherapist I pushed myself as hard as possible in my efforts to strengthen my leg muscles, so I could climb trees and run with the other kids. But I was getting stronger everyday and within a year of leaving hospital I could walk and run unaided, although I was to have a limp for the rest of my life and suffer multiple fractures due to the weak bones in my bad leg.

me and dad
Dad and me

As the weakling of the family I got special attention from Dad and my Grandparents and during my first few months at home dad took a lot of time off work as a gardener to look after me and help me settle into my new life. Dad had always been a special person in my tiny world , but now that I was home and spending so much time with him , he soon became the centre of my universe and I must have been a right nuisance as I followed him around like a love sick puppy getting under his feet all the time. Within a few weeks after coming home I was enrolled in the local school, Fernhill which was just behind our home on the perimeters of the park and glens. I was lucky in that aspect that my sisters and brother and all my cousin’s attended the same school and from my first day there I loved every minute I spent there.

After school we would all head off to the vast Glencairn park and when we got bored with playing on the swings or climbing trees we would go down the glen to the river and play for hours following the river as far as we could and catching rainbow trout with pieces of string attached to branches and our bare hands. It was an idyllic place to grow up and had it not been for the absence of mum and the madness going on around us, it could have been the perfect childhood.

Before moving to Glencairn I had not been aware that Dad, along with his brother was a member of the UDA. This was nothing out of the ordinary, as most of the adult men and many of the women in Glencairn and the surrounding areas were members of one of the many loyalist paramilitary groups. The UDA played a very active role within the community and if someone had a problem that needed solving or were short of cash and needed a loan they would turn to the UDA. Like a lot of the paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland, the UDA were looked upon as protectors of the people they governed. Although he was a member of the UDA, like many others dad did not get involved with the military actions of the active units and was a pacifist who hated violence. He had been a practising Christian for most of his teenage years.

Dad played a very active role within the UDA and apart from running the local UDA club, Grouchos, he was responsible for setting up and running the Glencairn Accordion band. From my point of view this was excellent. My sisters and cousins were all members of the band, the younger ones played the triangle or symbols and then like my sisters Margaret and Jean, working their way up the ranks until they were taught how to play the accordion. The band was the pride of Glencairn and won many competitions throughout Northern Ireland. They practiced on Thursday nights and I use to go with dad up to the practice hall at the top of the estate and sit mesmerised in the corner, surrounded by 40 females of various ages. There was one girl who played the accordion and I feel in love with her the first time I set eyes on her. Of course she never knew as the girls went through the rehearsals, playing various loyalist tunes and anthems, I would sing along and pretend to be the leader of the band and march up and down the hall. The girls’ found this absolutely hilarious and in order to gain some control back, dad would tell me off and I would have to sit quietly in the corner again, until a personal favourite of mine was played and I would be off again. During the protestant marching season and the build up to the 12th, the most important day in the loyalist calendar, the band was hired to march with various orange lodges throughout Northern Ireland. On the day of the march our house would be in complete chaos as my sisters and dad got themselves dressed in the uniforms for the march. Granny would come round to help and gradually all our cousins would arrive with various instruments and get in some last minute practice. All the members of the band would meet outside the shops and a large crowd always gathered to see them off. I would almost be bursting with pride as they all fell in together and led by dad would start marching down the Glencairn Road towards the meeting point on the Shankill Road.

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Dad and Margaret

David and I would follow the band down to the bottom of the road and wave them off before heading home for a snack and then out to play until tea time. The band would normally arrive back in the estate between six and seven and we would wait eagerly near the Road until we could hear the distant sound of them approaching and rush to greet them. When we finally got home granny would prepare dinner and after eating we would all sit down and watch telly, exhausted by the day’s events.

At this stage of my life I was as happy and normal as an eight –year old boy could be in my circumstances and was blissfully unaware that my life was so different from others. Life with dad and the others was a happy life and I now had a routine to my life that was missing when I was in hospital. I still occasionally thought of Nurse Brown and missed her, but I was to see her again in the not too distant future. On Tuesday David and I went to the BB and Sunday school on Sunday’s. Although I really believed that god had created the earth and sacrificed his only son for the good of mankind, my god had become a Protestant god and I did not love my Catholic counterparts. Reverend Lewis, our vicar, was a patient and tolerant man but he occasionally became exasperated at our hardcore Protestant approach to religion and tried hard to teach us the concept of love, not hate.

Although dad did go to church himself it was expected of us kids to attend and religion played a very important role in my early life and teenage years. Also I think dad liked to get us all out of the house for a while, so he could have some peace and quiet time to himself and a rest from looking after us. Sometime’s dad would be on sentry duty outside the UDA club and David and I would go and visit him on the way home. In these early years I used to think of mum only occasionally and once when I asked granny about her she made it clear that mum was gone forever and I was not to mention her again and forget all about her. So I did exactly that and pushed mum to the back of my mind and got on with my new exciting life in Glencairn.

One day after weeks of anticipation Margaret’s cat Smoky give birth to a little of five kittens. We were all allowed into Margaret’s bedroom to watch the birth, including dad’s dog; my best friend Shep, who was told off a few times by Smoky for getting a little too close to the action.

After letting David, Shep and I have a supervised look at the five kittens Margaret banished us from the labour ward, as she needed to spend time alone with her five new charges. I was very thoughtful and to be honest jealous of Margaret having five brand new kittens to her name and I wanted some for myself. There was obviously no quick way for me to find five brand new kittens for myself, so I decided there and then that Shep would have to give birth to five puppies for me before the day was out. The major problem there was that Shep was a he! This bit of fundamental biological necessity wasn’t going to put me off.

After a quick strategy plan with David we headed to our secret den in the park, with an unexpected Shep in tow. My plan was a simple one, I needed a miracle and I was going to ask God to help. Reverend Lewis had instilled in us a firm believe that if you wanted and needed something bad enough god would answer your prayers. Surely god and baby Jesus in their wisdom would recognize the importance of me having five puppies for myself before the end of the day. When we got to the den Shep was more than happy to lay down on the grass and rub his belly and wait for the miracle that god was about to perform. I had little knowledge of how kittens were born and how miracles worked, but I was not to be put off. After a chat with David and stroking Shep’s belly with what I felt was a miracle stroke, I lead David behind a nearby bush, sank to my knees and began a marathon prayer to god and Jesus, outlining the desperate importance of Shep giving birth and me having my puppies. Needless to say nothing happened and after about an hour David and Shep were beginning to give me strange looks and were obviously bored and becoming alarmed at my enthusiasm for the lord’s intervention and after a while I too got bored and disillusioned and decided to throw the towel in… for now at least. It was obvious to me that god in his wisdom had decided not to grant me a miracle today but this did not diminish my faith and I would continue to seek gods help in all matters big and small.

See autobiography page for the first 7 chapters of my story Belfast Child

 

 

 

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The Shankill – A Community Scarred By IRA Terrorism – Where my Soul was Forged!

The Shankill

A Community Scarred

By

IRA Terrorism

Shankill Road

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Shankill history mural

 

 

The Shankill Road (from IrishSeanchill, meaning “old church”) is one of the main roads leading through west Belfast, Northern Ireland. It runs through the predominantly loyalistworking-class area known as the Shankill. The road stretches westwards for about 2.4 km (1.5 mi) from central Belfast and is lined, to an extent, by shops.

The residents live in the many streets which branch off the main road. Much of the area along the Shankill Road forms the five wards of Court district electoral area.

 

History

Ulster loyalist banner and graffiti on a side street building off the Lower Shankill, early 1970s

 

The first Shankill residents lived at the bottom of what is now known as Glencairn: a small settlement of ancient people inhabited a ring fort, built where the Ballygomartin and Forth rivers meet.

A settlement around the point at which the Shankill Road becomes the Woodvale Road, at the junction with Cambrai Street, was known as Shankill from the IrishSeanchill meaning ‘old church’. Believed to date back to 455 CE,

it was known as the “Church of St Patrick of the White Ford” and in time had six smaller churches, known as “alterages”, attached to it across the west bank of the River Lagan. The church was an important site of pilgrimage and it is likely that the ford of the River Farset, which later became the core of Belfast, was important because of its site on the pilgrimage route.

As a paved road the Shankill dates back to around the sixteenth century as at the time it was part of the main road to Antrim, a role now filled by the A6.

The lower sections of the Shankill Road were in former times the edge of Belfast with both Boundary Street on the lower Shankill and Townsend Street in the middle Shankill taking their names from the fact that at the time they were built they marked the approximate end of Belfast.

The area expanded greatly in the mid to late 19th century with the growth of the linen industry. Many of the streets in the Shankill area, such as Leopold Street, Cambrai Street and Brussels Street, were named after places and people connected with Belgium or Flanders, where the flax from which the linen was woven was grown.

The linen industry, along with others that had previously been successful in the area, declined in the mid-20th century leading to high unemployment levels, which remain at the present time.

 

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The Harland and Wolff shipyard, although on the other side of Belfast, was also a traditional employer for the area, and it too has seen its workforce numbers decline in recent years. The area was also a regular scene of rioting in the nineteenth century, often of a sectarian nature after Irish Catholic areas on the Falls Road and Ardoyne emerged along with the city’s prosperity.

One such riot occurred on 9 June 1886 following the defeat of the Government of Ireland Bill 1886 when a crowd of around 2,000 locals clashed with Royal Irish Constabulary police attempting to stop the mob from looting a liquor store. Local law enforcement officers had to barricade themselves in Bower’s Hill barracks where a long siege followed.

Bower’s Hill was a name applied to the area of the road between Agnes Street and Crimea Street.  The West Belfast Division of the original Ulster Volunteer Force organised on the Shankill and drilled in Glencairn and many of its members saw service in the First World War with the 36th (Ulster) Division.

A garden of remembrance beside the graveyard and a mural on Conway Street commemorate those who fought in the war. Recruitment was also high during the Second World War and that conflict saw damage occur to the Shankill Road as part of the Belfast Blitz when a Luftwaffe bomb hit a shelter on Percy Street, killing many people. The site of the destruction was visited by the Duke and Duchess of Gloucester soon after the attack.

The Troubles

UVF mural in the Shankill

 

During the Troubles, the Shankill was a centre for loyalist paramilitarism. The modern Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) had its genesis on the Shankill and its first attack occurred on the road on 7 May 1966 when a group of UVF men led by Gusty Spencepetrol bombed a Catholic-owned pub. Fire also engulfed the house next door, killing the elderly Protestant widow, Matilda Gould (77), who lived there.

This was followed on 27 May by the murder of John Scullion (28), a Catholic, as he walked home from a pub.

On 26 June a Catholic civilian, Peter Ward (18), a native of the Republic of Ireland, was killed and two others wounded as they left a pub on the Shankill’s Malvern Street. Shortly after this attack, Spence and three others were arrested and later convicted.

The UVF would continue to be active on the Shankill throughout the Troubles, most notoriously with the Shankill Butchers led by Lenny Murphy, as well as the likes of William Marchant and Frankie Curry, the latter a member of the UVF’s Red Hand Commando.

UDA mural in the Shankill (removed June 2006)

 

Similarly the Ulster Defence Association, established in September 1971, also began on the Shankill when vigilante groups such John McKeague‘s Shankill Defence Association and the Woodvale Defence Association merged into a larger structure.Under the leadership of initially Charles Harding Smith and later Andy Tyrie the Shankill Road became the centre of UDA activity with the movement establishing its headquarters on the road and leading members such as James Craig, Davy Payne and Tommy Lyttle making their homes in the area.

The Shankill was covered by the West Belfast Battalion of the UDA which was divided into three companies A (Glencairn and Highfield), B (middle Shankill) and C (lower Shankill). During the 1990s C Company under Johnny Adair became one of the most active units in the UDA with gunmen such as Stephen McKeag responsible for several murders.

C Company would later feud with both the UVF and the rest of the UDA until 2003 when they were forced out. Following the exile of Adair and his supporters, as well as the murder of some such as Alan McCullough, the lower Shankill UDA was once again brought into line with the rest of the movement under former Adair supporter Mo Courtney.

Scene of the Shankill Road bombing, as of 2011

 

 

The Greater Shankill and its residents were also subjected to a number of bombings and shootings by Irish republican paramilitary forces. During 1971 two pub bombings took place on the Shankill, one in May at the Mountainview Tavern at which several people were injured and a second at the Four Step Inn in September which resulted in two deaths.[21] A further bomb exploded at the Balmoral Furnishing Company on 11 December that same year, resulting in four deaths, including two infants.

Another pub attack followed on 13 August 1975 when the IRA opened fire on patrons outside the Bayardo Bar and then left a bomb inside the crowded bar area, killing four civilians and one UVF member. Brendan McFarlane was given a life sentence for his part in the attack.

The Shankill Road bombing occurred on 23 October 1993. A bomb exploded in Frizzells Fish Shop, below the UDA’s Shankill heaquarters. The bomb exploded prematurely as it was being planted. Nine people were killed in addition to one of the bombers, Thomas Begley. None of the loyalist paramilitaries targeted were hurt, as they had postponed a planned meeting. Begley’s accomplice, Sean Kelly, survived and was imprisoned.

Areas of the Shankill Road

Lower Shankill

Jackie Coulter, a member of C Company of the UDA, commemorated on a mural on Hopewell Crescent

 

The Shankill Road begins at Peter’s Hill, a road that flows from North Street in Belfast city centre and quickly merges into the Shankill itself at the Westlink. Peter’s Hill is adjacent to the Unity Flats/Carrick Hill, a small nationalist area to the north of the city centre. The area of housing on the lower Shankill around Agnes Street was known colloquially as :

“The Hammer”, one of a number of nicknames applied to districts that included “the Nick”.

The Hammer name is recalled in the Hammer Sports Complex, the home ground of amateur football side Shankill United F.C. The Lower Shankill has been redeveloped in recent years although during the 1960s the housing was ranked as the worst in Belfast. A Lower Shankill Community Association is active in the area whilst the Shankill Leisure Centre is also located here.

The Shankill Women’ s Centre, a women’s educational initiative established by May Blood (now Baroness Blood) in 1987, is also located on the lower Shankill.George McWhirter, a writer and first Poet Laureate of Vancouver, B.C., Canada, also came from the area originally.

The “Diamond Jubilee Bar”, a popular UDA haunt

 

Several streets link the Shankill Road to the neighbouring Crumlin Road with the area around North Boundary Street formerly the stronghold of Johnny Adair’s C Company. Several members of C Company who have died are commemorated on murals around the area, notably Stephen McKeag, William “Bucky” McCullough, who was killed by the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) in 1981 as part of a series of tit for tat murders between that group and the UDA and Jackie Coulter, killed by the UVF during a loyalist feud in 2000.

The Shankill theoretically links to the neighbouring Falls Road at a few locations although most of these exits are blocked by peace lines. The entrance at Northumberland Street is sometimes open although it has lockable gates at the midpoint. The Lower Shankill is home to many loyalist pubs, the most notable being the “Malvern Arms”, associated with the UVF, and the “Diamond Jubilee” – a UDA haunt which became notorious as the main meeting place of “C Company” during the early 1990s.

The “Long Bar” and the “Windsor Bar”, both frequented by the UVF in the 1970s, have since vanished. According to investigative journalist Martin Dillon, the latter was used a centre of operations for a UVF platoon led by Anthony “Chuck” Berry.

Middle and upper Shankill

Grave of W.A. Sterling, amongst the youngest people killed on active service during the First World War

 

Although there is no precise dividing line between the Lower, Middle and Upper Shankill locally it is usually said that the lower Shankill ends at Agnes Street. The area was redeveloped some time before the lower Shankill leading to feelings locally that those in the upper part of the road were better off compared to the “Apaches” of the lower Shankill as they were colloquially known.

A number of Protestant churches are situated in this area including the West Kirk Presbyterian Church, the Shankill Methodist church and the independent Church of God.

The West Belfast Orange Hall is located near the top of the Road. This building, which houses the No. 9 District Orange Lodge, has been revamped by Belfast City Council.[36] The same is true of the nearby Shankill Cemetery, a small graveyard that has received burials for around 1000 years. The graveyard is noted for a statue of Queen Victoria as well as the adjacent memorial to the members of the 36th Ulster Division who died at the Battle of the Somme.

Amongst those buried in the graveyard is Rev Isaac Nelson, a Presbyterian minister who was also active in nationalist politics. Nelson lived at Sugarfield House on the Shankill, which has since given its name to Sugarfield Street.

Also buried here is 2nd Private W.A. Sterling, killed in action with the Royal Air Force on 5 November 1918 at the age of 14.

The “Lawnbrook Social Club” in Centurion Street, one of the drinking dens used by Lenny Murphy and the Shankill Butchers

 

The area includes Lanark Way, one of the few direct links to the neighbouring nationalist areas, which leads directly to the Springfield Road (although the street is gated close to the Springfield Road end and these are locked at night). A regular route for UDA gunmen seeking access to the Falls during the Troubles, it was dubbed the “Yellow Brick Road” by Stephen McKeag and his men.

A number of pubs frequented by UVF members were located in the area. These included the “Berlin Arms” at the Shankill and Berlin Street junction, and the “Bayardo”, which was situated on the corner of Shankill and Aberdeen Street. The pub was close to “The Eagle” where the UVF “Brigade Staff” had their headquarters in rooms above a chip shop bearing the same name at the Shankill and Spiers Place junction. The “Brown Bear” pub which loyalist Lenny Murphy used as his headquarters to direct his notorious murder gang – the Shankill Butchers – was located on the corner of the Upper Shankill and Mountjoy Street.

The pub, which went out of business, has since been demolished. Another drinking den in the area used by Murphy and his gang was the “Lawnbrook Social Club” in Centurion Street. The “Rex Bar” on the middle Shankill is one of the oldest pubs on the Shankill Road and frequented by members of the UVF. This bar was attacked by members of the UDA’s C Company in 2000 to launch a loyalist feud between the two groups.

Greater Shankill

Mural depicting James Buchanan on Ainsworth Street

 

The terms Greater Shankill is used by a number of groups active in the area, most notably the Greater Shankill Partnership, to refer to both the Shankill Road and the unionist/loyalist areas that surround it. The main areas identified within this area are Woodvale, Glencairn and Highfield. The Greater Shankill as a whole has a population of around 22,000.

Woodvale

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Woodvale Park

The Woodvale area begins after Ainsworth Avenue when the road changes from Shankill Road to Woodvale Road. As well as extensive housing the Woodvale area also contains the Woodvale Presbyterian Church, a building on the corner of the Woodvale and Ballygomartin Roads that dates back to 1899.

The area takes its name from Woodvale Park, a public gardens and sports area that was opened in 1888. Also found locally is St. Matthew’s Church of Ireland, which was rebuilt in 1872, taking its name from the original church which had sat in the grounds of the graveyard. The architecture of this church is called trefoil, which means it is built in the shape of a shamrock. The shamrock is the national emblem of Ireland and was supposedly used by St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland to explain the Holy Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

There is a book about the church which says that St. Matthew’s is actually a copy of a church in Salonika, as the rounded “leaves” do not have the indentations of the leaves of the shamrock. The water in the stone outside the front door was thought to cure warts and, certainly up to the 1990s, was considered to cure colic if a new, open, safety pin was thrown in.

The oldest stone in the Shankill graveyard was known locally as the “Bullaun Stone” and was traditionally said to cure warts if the effected area was rubbed on the stone. It was removed to the grounds of St Matthews in 1911.

Glencairn

Ballygomartin Road, as viewed from Springmartin Road, showing its largely rural nature

Glencairn is an area based around the Ballygomartin Road, which runs off the Woodvale Road, as well the Forthriver Road. It is bordered by the Crumlin Road. As well as a large housing estate the area also includes Glencairn Park, a large woodland area at the bottom of Divis Mountain. Previously the estate of the Cunningham family the area was open to the public in 1962.

The park features Fernhill House, the ancestral family home, which was not only used by Edward Carson to drill his Ulster Volunteers but was also the setting for the announcement of the Combined Loyalist Military Command (CLMC) ceasefire on 13 October 1994.

It subsequently became a museum but closed down in late 2010-early 2011. A further area of housing, known as the Lyndhurst area after a number of local streets, lies to the west of Glencairn Park (with the Glencairn estate to the east of the woodland area). The Lyndhurst area hit the headlines in 2003 when two leading loyalists, Jim Spence of the UDA and Jackie Mahood of the Loyalist Volunteer Force, were reported as brawling in the streets of the Lyndhurst area where they both lived.

The Ballygomartin Road extends as far as the nationalist Upper Whiterock Road although after Springmartin the area is mainly countryside. The estate was the scene of the killings of two prominent loyalists. In 1982 Lenny Murphy was shot and killed by the Provisional IRA close to his girlfriend’s house on the estate.

In 2001 William Stobie was killed by members of the UDA, a group to which Stobie had formerly belonged, after intimating that he would testify at a public inquiry into the death of Pat Finucane. Stobie’s killing, which occurred near his home on Forthriver Road, was publicly claimed by the Red Hand Defenders, a cover name used by various loyalist groups on ceasefire.

Highfield

The Springmartin barrier, with New Barnsley police station at one end

 

Highfield is a housing estate situated around the West Circular and Springmartin Roads, both of which run off the Ballygomartin Road. Highfield comes close to the nationalist Springfield Road and there is limited access between the two areas through West Circular and Springmartin. Due to its location parts of the area are sometimes known as the Springmartin estate.

Highfield is seen as an enclave and has been the scene of frequent sectarian tension. As a consequence the Springmartin Road is home to an 18-foot-high (5.5 m) peace line that runs for the length of the road from the junction with the Springfield Road until near that with the Ballygomartin Road.

In May 1972 the area was the scene of a two-day gun battle between republican and loyalist paramilitaries and the British Army, although a combination of the peace lines and demographic changes meant that such open conflict was not repeated later in the Troubles.

Politics

Democratic Unionist Party office, Woodvale Road

 

The Shankill has been traditionally unionist and loyalist, albeit with some strength also held by the labour movement. Belfast Shankill was established as a constituency of the Parliament of Northern Ireland in 1929 and existed until the body was abolished in 1973. During that time the seat was held by three men, Tommy Henderson (1929–1953), Henry Holmes (1953–1960) and Desmond Boal (1960–1973). Of these only Holmes belonged to the mainstream Ulster Unionist Party for the entirety of his career with Boal a sometime member who also designated as both independent Unionist and Democratic Unionist Party and Henderson always and independent who for a time was part of the Independent Unionist Association.

Henderson was a native of Dundee Street on the Shankill. A Belfast Shankill constituency also returned a member to the Parliament of the United Kingdom from 1918–1922, with Labour UnionistSamuel McGuffin holding the seat. Further up the road there was also a Belfast Woodvale seat at Westminster and a seat of the same name at Stormont. Robert John Lynn of the Irish Unionist Alliance represented the seat at Westminster for the entirety of its existence (1918–1922).

The Stormont seat was held by John William Nixon (independent Unionist) from 1929 to 1950, Ulster Unionists Robert Harcourt (1950–1955) and Neville Martin (1955–1958), Billy Boyd of the Northern Ireland Labour Party until 1965 then finally John McQuade, who was variously Ulster Unionist, independent Unionist and Democratic Unionist until the seat was abolished in 1972. The Shankill is currently part of the Belfast West constituencies for the Northern Ireland Assembly and Westminster. As a consequence the Shankill is represented by five Sinn Féin MLAs and one from the Social Democratic and Labour Party whilst from 1966, when the seat was lost by the last sitting unionist member Jim Kilfedder, it has also always had a nationalist or republican MP.

The abstentionist policy of Sinn Féin MP Gerry Adams, who was West Belfast’s MP until his resignation in 2011, led to an attempted legal challenge by local councillor Frank McCoubrey who argued that Shankill residents were being denied their right to representation.

The case was not a success. On Belfast City Council the Greater Shankill area is covered by the Court electoral area. At the 2011 election the five councillors elected were William Humphrey, Naomi Thompson and Brian Kingston of the Democratic Unionist Party, the independent Frank McCoubrey (who is a member of the Ulster Political Research Group) and the Progressive Unionist Party‘s Hugh Smyth.

Robert McCartney, who led his own UK Unionist Party and represented North Down at Westminster, is also originally from the Shankill.

Sport

Boxing mural, Hopewell Crescent

 

Wayne McCullough, a gold medalist at the Commonwealth Games and a world champion in the Bantamweight division and an olympic silver medalist at the 1992 Summer Olympics representing Ireland is a native of the Shankill. He is one of a number of boxers from the area to be featured on a mural on Gardiner Street celebrating the area’s strong heritage in boxing.

The image has since been moved to Hopewell Crescent. McCullough trained in the Albert Foundry boxing club, located in the Highfield estate where he grew up.

Other locals to make an impact in the sport have included Jimmy Warnock, a boxer from the 1930s who beat world champion Benny Lynch twice, and his brother Billy. Football is also a popular sport in the area with local teams including Shankill United, Albert Foundry, who play on the West Circular Road, Lower Shankill, who share the Hammer ground with United and Woodvale who won the Junior Cup in 2011.

All four clubs are members of the Northern Amateur Football League. The main club in the area however is Linfield with a Linfield superstore trading on the Shankill Road despite the club being based on the Lisburn Road in south Belfast.

A Linfield Supporters and Social Club is situated on Crimea Street. An Ulster Rangers club is also open on the road, with the Glasgow club widely supported amongst Northern Irish Protestants. Norman Whiteside, the ex Northern Ireland and Manchester United midfielder, lived on the Shankill. Whiteside also lends his name to the Norman Whiteside Sports Facility, a community sports area used by Woodvale F.C.

he facility is located on Sydney Street West between the Shankill and the neighbouring Crumlin Road. The Ballygomartin Road is also home to a cricket ground of the same name which in 2005 hosted a List-A match between Canada and Namibia in the 2005 ICC Trophy. The ground is the home of Woodvale Cricket Club, established in 1887.

Education

Secondary schools serving the Shankill area include the Belfast Boys’ Model School and Belfast Model School for Girls due to their location in the Ballysillan area of the neighbouring Crumlin Road. Pupils from the area also attend Hazelwood College or Malone College which are both integrated schools, as well as Victoria College and the Royal Belfast Academical Institution both of which are grammar schools. Prior to its closure, and before several changes of name, Cairnmartin Secondary School also served the greater Shankill area. Famous pupils include footballer Norman Whiteside[66] and boxer Wayne McCullough.

The school, by then known as Mount Gilbert Community College, closed permanently in 2007 after a fall in pupil numbers. Primary schools in the greater Shankill area included Forth River Primary School on the Ballygomartin Road. Established in 1841, the original building was cramped and inspection reports over the years commented on the high standard of teaching despite the inadequacy of the building.

During the 1980s and 1990s, closure and amalgamation were both suggested and vehemently opposed by everyone connected with the school. Ultimately a new £1.4m state-of-the-art school was announced as a replacement for the old building and this new school, which is on the adjacent Cairnmartin Road, was officially opened by Prince Andrew, Duke of York in 2005.

Others primary schools in the area include three on the Shankill Road itself in Glenwood Primary School, established in 1981, Edenbrooke Primary School on Tennent Street and Malvern Primary School as well as Black Mountain Primary School and Springhill Primary School on Springmartin Road.

Shankill Graveyard

About the cemetery

Shankill Graveyard is one of the oldest cemeteries in Belfast.

It has been used for burials for more than 1,000 years and, although they no longer take place in the graveyard, it remains an important historical site. One of the oldest legible stones belongs to George McAuley who died in 1685.

A memorial stone book is located in a special landscaped portion of the cemetery, which includes an area of grass where cremated remains can be scattered.

The site’s gates and railings are listed due to their historical significance.

Another feature is the sculpture of Queen Victoria by artist John Cassidy, which you can see from the main entrance. The statue was originally located at in Durham Street, before being moved to the cemetery in 2003. It was carved from Portland stone in 1897 to celebrate the queen’s diamond jubilee and shows her wearing a dress of Nottingham lace.

History

The earliest church on this site, dating back to around 1306, is believed to have been the White Church of the Chapels of the Ford.

Although the name ‘Shankill’ means ‘old church’ (from the Irish ‘séan chill’), the name did not come into common use until the 17th century.

During the 18th century, most burials were of local people but, during the 19th century, residents from the nearby linen settlements of Glenalina, Ligoniel, Oldpark and Springfield were also buried in the cemetery. During this time, the site changed from a rural community graveyard to a town cemetery.

Many paupers and victims of the plague and other diseases are also buried in Shankill Graveyard, in unmarked graves. In fact, the Black Death sparked such fear, the ground surrounding the victims’ graves was ordered to be closed over and never reopened, in case the disease was ‘released’.

In 1834, a watchtower was built by William Sayers and Israel Milliken so families could guard new graves for a small fee. The idea was to prevent bodysnatchers from stealing ‘fresh’ remains for use in medical research.

Shankill Graveyard was handed over to the public in 1958, after it had fallen into disrepair following the decision to no longer accept new burials. Belfast Corporation (now the council) cleared and renovated the site, turning it into a ‘rest garden’ for local residents to enjoy.

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The Legend of Margorie McCall ~ 1705

mar mccall headstone

Lived Once , Buried Twice

Shankhill Graveyard

 

Times were hard in the 1700s, and people made a penny wherever they could. Some trades were frowned upon, however, and rightly so. One such trade was that of the resurrectionist, also known as a grave robber or ‘sack-em up’. These unsavoury types provided cadavers to the many private medical schools throughout the UK, and at the start of the 18th Century business was booming. Probably the most famous of the practitioners of this particular trade were Burke and Hare, who found infamy almost 100 years later. Their notoriety wasn’t really due to their grave-robbing, but more to do with their fresh supply of corpses to order. They were both originally from Ireland, but they met in Edinburgh, from where they went on to supply students of anatomy with more than their quota of cadavers.

The resurrectionists weren’t unique to Edinburgh. In Ireland, surgeons were prepared to pay a fair price for the newly deceased and this provided employment opportunities for the local resurrectionists. This practice was however to prove a hair raising experience for once such band of greave robbers in Lurgan in 1705.

Margorie McCall was wed to a doctor. They lived in Church Place, Lurgan, Co Armagh and by all accounts were very happy. When Margorie fell ill, her husband John was beside himself with worry – in the early 1700s many illnesses we consider minor today could be fatal and ‘the fever’ was a great catch-all for many of these ailments. Sadly, Margorie succumbed to her bout of fever and was buried in Shankill Church of Ireland Cemetery, not far from her home in Church Place. She was hastily buried for fear of the fever spreading, and that should have been the end of that; however, she was to become one of the most famous women in Lurgan – and is still talked about today.

There was quite a lot of commotion at the wake concerning a valuable ring that Marjorie was wearing. Many of the mourners tried in vain to prise the ring from her fingers – perhaps because they anticipated the possibility that grave robbers would desecrate Marjorie’s resting place in order to steal the ring. Margorie was buried still wearing her beautiful gold wedding ring. Due to her husband’s inability to remove it from her finger, which had swollen considerably since her death, but news of the treasure leaked out to the resurrectionists. They spotted the opportunity to gain themselves a bonus.

After the wake – which was traditionally an attempt to avoid premature burial as the family of the deceased would sit and watch over the body for a few days to see if the person awakened – Marjorie was duly interred in Shankill Graveyard.

That evening, before the soil had time to settle on Margorie’s coffin, the grave-robbers paid a visit. Working under cover of darkness they grappled in the dirt until they reached and opened her coffin. True to the rumour, the ring was still on her finger. Before removing the body, they attempted to purloin the valuable item, but it wouldn’t budge. Being businessmen, they weren’t about to allow such a prize to make its way to a surgeon’s slab, and since she couldn’t get any deader, they agreed to cut off her finger to free the ring.

See:  Lurgan Ancestry for full story

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More Details on Shankill Graveyard

Cemetery location

Shankill Road, Belfast,

BT13 3AE

Enter from Shankill Road.

Bereavement Services

Our Bereavement Services Office is located on the Ground Floor, Cecil Ward Building, 4-10 Linenhall Street, Belfast, BT2 8BP.

Our phone number is 028 9027 0296.

Contact our Bereavement Services Office if you have a query about our cemeteries.

Office opening hours

 Day  Time
Monday and Friday 8.30am – 4pm
Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday 9am – 4pm
Saturday 8.30am 11.30am

Cemetery opening hours

From 7.30am to dusk daily. 

Access information

Take Metro 11A/B/C/D from Belfast city centre. There is no car parking available at the cemetery, which is fully accessible to those with disabilities.

 

 

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Extreme World – Northern Ireland – Ross Kemp

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

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Ross Kemp Extreme World travels to Northern Ireland to look at the state of play fifteen years after the Good Friday agreement visiting communities meeting with the people who live in them and speaking with both Loyalists, Republicans and the police as he explores the issues in one of Northern Ireland’s most divided societies.

The Shankill Butchers – Documentary & Background

Click here to buy the book

During the 1970s a group of Protestant paramilitaries embarked on a spree of indiscriminate murder which left thirty Northern Irish Catholics dead. Their leader was Lenny Murphy, a fanatical Unionist whose Catholic-sounding surname led to his persecution as a child for which he took revenge on all Catholics.

Not for the squeamish, The Shankill Butchers is a horrifying detailed account of one of the most brutal series of murders in British legal history – a phenomenon whose real nature has been obscured by the troubled and violent context from which it sprang.

These guys were active when I was a teenager and dumped some of their  poor victim’s brutalised bodies at the back of the community centre  and waste ground facing were I lived on Forthriver Road , Glencairn. I use to have to pass this area  on the way home and on dark winter nights I was terrified if I heard the sound of a Black Taxi climbing the hill towards me. I should have felt safe in the heartlands of Loyalist West Belfast , but although they were protestant,  the Butchers struck feared into everyone and their victims included protestants  and other loyalists who made the mistake of  upsetting Murphy.

Also I lived around the corner from  where Murphy was killed and on the night he died I heard  the shots that killed him and was one of the first at the scene……

Visit the autobiography section of this blog to read more…

See  Below for full details on the Shankill Butchers

Disclaimer

The views and opinions expressed in this post and page 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

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See Lenny Murphy

With 19 murders between them, the Shankill Butchers were the most prolific gang of serial killers in UK history. With unique access to thousands of pages of evidence and exclusive interviews, Stephen Nolan goes back to the patch where he was brought up to ask how the Shankill Butchers got away with murder for so long. The programme also helps to build a psychological profile of the “ruthless and sadistic” gang leader, Lenny Murphy who, even though jailed for six years for an unrelated offence, would continue to direct the murders from his prison cell.

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The Shankill Butchers

IRA execute Shankill Butcher leader Lenny Murphy | Belfast | 17th November 1982

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The Shankill Butchers was an Ulster loyalist gang—many of whom were members of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)—that was active between 1975 and 1982 in Belfast, Northern Ireland. It was based in the Shankill area and was responsible for the deaths of at least 23 people, most of whom were killed in sectarian attacks. The gang was notorious for kidnapping and murdering random Irish Catholic civilians; each was beaten ferociously and had his throat hacked with a butcher’s knife. Some were also tortured and attacked with a hatchet. The gang also killed six Ulster Protestants over personal disputes, and two other Protestants mistaken for Catholics.

Most of the gang were eventually caught and, in February 1979, received the longest combined prison sentences in United Kingdom legal history. However, gang leader Lenny Murphy and his two chief “lieutenants” escaped prosecution. Murphy was killed in November 1982 by the Provisional IRA, likely acting with loyalist paramilitaries who perceived him as a threat.[1]

The Butchers brought a new level of paramilitary violence to a country already hardened by death and destruction.[2] The judge who oversaw the 1979 trial described their crimes as “a lasting monument to blind sectarian bigotry”.

Timeline

Background

Much of what is known about the Butchers came first from Martin Dillon‘s The Shankill Butchers: A Case Study of Mass Murder (1989 and 1998). In compiling this detailed work, Dillon was given unlimited access to the case files of the Royal Ulster Constabulary (now the Police Service of Northern Ireland), which eventually caught the gang. Eventually Dillon had to leave Northern Ireland for his safety.

The commander of the Shankill Butchers gang was Lenny Murphy. At school he was known as a bully and would threaten other boys with a knife or with retribution from his two older brothers. Soon after leaving school at 16, he joined the UVF. Murphy often attended the trials of people accused of paramilitary crimes, to become well acquainted with the laws of evidence and police procedure.

On 28 September 1972 Murphy (aged 20) shot and killed William Edward “Ted” Pavis (32) at the latter’s home in East Belfast. Pavis was a Protestant whom the UVF believed was selling weapons to the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA). Murphy and an accomplice, Mervyn Connor, were arrested shortly afterwards and held on remand in Belfast’s Crumlin Road prison. After a visit by police to Connor, fellow inmates suspected that he might cut a deal with the authorities with regard to the Pavis killing. On 22 April 1973, Connor died by ingesting a large dose of cyanide. Before he died he wrote a confession to the Pavis murder under Murphy’s duress.

Murphy was brought to trial for the Pavis murder in June 1973. The court heard evidence from two witnesses who had seen Murphy pull the trigger and had later picked him out of an identification parade. The jury, however, acquitted him due in part to Murphy’s disruption of the line-up. Murphy’s freedom was short-lived: he was re-arrested immediately for a number of escape attempts and imprisoned, then interned, for three years.[3]

Formation

A UVF mural on the Shankill Road, where the gang was based

In May 1975, Murphy was released from prison, where he had been married to Margaret Gillespie and during which period a daughter had been born to the couple. He spent much of his time frequenting pubs on the Shankill Road and assembling a paramilitary team that would enable him to act with some freedom at a remove from the UVF leadership (Brigade Staff). Murphy’s inner circle consisted of two people whom Dillon was unable to name for legal reasons but whom he called Murphy’s “personal friends”. These were a “Mr A” and John Murphy, one of Lenny’s brothers (referred to as “Mr B”). Further down the chain of command were Lenny Murphy’s “sergeants” William Moore and Bobby “Basher” Bates, a UVF man and former prisoner.[4] Moore, formerly a worker in a meat-processing factory, had stolen several large knives and meat-cleavers from his old workplace, tools that would later be used in more murders. Another prominent figure was Sam McAllister, who used his physical presence to intimidate others.

On 2 October 1975, the gang raided a drinks premises in nearby Millfield. On finding that its four employees (two females and two males) were Catholics, Murphy shot three of them dead and ordered an accomplice to kill the fourth. By now Murphy was using the upper floor of the Brown Bear pub, at the corner of Mountjoy Street and the Shankill Road near his home, as an occasional meeting-place for his unit.

Cut-throat killings

On 24–25 November 1975, Murphy adopted the method that gained the Butchers infamy far beyond Belfast. Using the city’s sectarian geography (which remains to this day) to identify likely targets, Murphy roamed the areas nearest the Catholic New Lodge in the hope of finding someone (likely to be Catholic) to abduct. Francis Crossen (34), a Catholic man and father of two, was walking towards the city centre at approximately 12.40 a.m. when four of the Butchers, in Moore’s taxi, spotted him. As the taxi pulled alongside Crossen, Murphy jumped out and hit the man with a wheel brace to disorientate him. He was dragged into the taxi by Benjamin Edwards and Archie Waller, two of Murphy’s gang. As the taxi returned to the safety of the nearby Shankill area, Crossen suffered a ferocious beating. It is clear that he was subjected to a high level of violence, including a beer glass being shoved into his head. Murphy repeatedly told Crossen: “I’m going to kill you, you bastard”, before the taxi stopped at an entry off Wimbledon Street. Crossen was dragged into an alleyway and Murphy, brandishing a butcher’s knife, cut his throat almost through to the spine. The gang dispersed. Crossen, whose body was found the next morning (Tuesday) by an elderly woman, was the first of three Catholics to be killed by Murphy in this “horrific and brutal manner”.[5] “Slaughter in back alley” was the headline in the city’s major afternoon newspaper that day.[6] A relative of Crossen said that his family was unable to have an open coffin at his wake because the body was so badly mutilated.[7]

The Lawnbrook Social Club (1979)

A few days later, on 30 November 1975, an internal feud led to the deaths of two members of a rival UVF company on the Shankill and to that of Archibald Waller, who had been involved in the Crossen murder. On 14 October of that year, Waller had killed Stewart Robinson in a punishment shooting that went wrong.[8] With the sanction of the UVF Brigade Staff, he in turn was gunned down by one of Robinson’s comrades in the UVF team based in the “Windsor Bar”, a quarter of a mile from the Brown Bear pub. Enraged, Murphy had the gunman, former loyalist prisoner Noel “Nogi” Shaw, brought before a kangaroo court in the Lawnbrook Club, one of his Shankill drinking-dens. After pistol whipping Shaw, Murphy shot him in front of his whole unit of about twenty men and returned to finish his drink at the bar. John Murphy and William Moore put Shaw’s body in a laundry basket, and Moore dumped it half a mile away from the murder scene.[9]

Murphy’s other cut-throat victims were Joseph Quinn (55) and Francis Rice (24). Both were abducted late at night, at the weekend, in the same area as Crossen. Quinn was murdered in the Glencairn district of the Upper Shankill in the early hours of 7 February 1976 and Rice a few streets from Murphy’s home at about 1.30 a.m. on 22 February 1976, after a butcher’s knife had been collected from a loyalist club. Quinn’s body was not found until mid-evening, after a phone call to a Belfast newspaper, while Rice’s was found about six hours after his murder. Murphy’s main accomplices on both occasions were Moore and Bates, while Edwards was party to the killing of Quinn. Another man and two women, whom Dillon did not name, were accessories to Murphy in the murder of Rice.[10]

By this time the expression “the Butchers” had appeared in media coverage of these killings, and many Catholics lived in fear of the gang. Detective Chief Inspector Jimmy Nesbitt, head of the CID Murder Squad in Tennent Street RUC base and the man charged with tracking down the Butchers, was in no doubt that the murders of Crossen, Quinn and Rice were the work of the same people. Other than that he had little information, although a lead was provided by the woman who found Rice’s body. The previous night she had heard voices in the entry where the body was later found and what she thought might have been a local taxi (those in Belfast being ex-London type black cabs). This had led to William Moore’s taxi being examined for evidence, as were all other Shankill taxis; however, the Butchers had cleaned the vehicle thoroughly and nothing incriminating was found.[11] Under Murphy’s orders, Moore destroyed the taxi and bought a yellow Ford Cortina, which was to be used in subsequent murders.

Early on 11 March 1976, Murphy tried to kill a Catholic woman in a drive-by shooting; arrested later that day, he was put on remand on an attempted murder charge. Shortly after Murphy’s arrest, he began to receive visits from “Mr A” and “Mr B”. He told “Mr A” that the cut-throat murders should continue in due course, partly to divert suspicion from himself. In a subsequent plea-bargain, Murphy pleaded guilty to a firearms charge and was sentenced on 11 October 1977 to twelve years’ imprisonment.

Another Catholic man killed by the gang was Cornelius Neeson (49), attacked with a hatchet by Moore and McAllister on the Cliftonville Road late on 1 August 1976. He died a few hours later. A brother of Mr Neeson’s, speaking in 1994, declared: “I saw the state of my brother’s body after he was butchered on the street. I said, ‘That is not my brother’. Even our mother would not have recognised him”.[12]

Later that year “Mr A” informed Moore, now the Butchers’ de facto commander, of Murphy’s orders to resume the throat-slashings. Three more Catholic men from North Belfast were subsequently kidnapped, tortured and hacked to death in the same way as before. The victims were: Stephen McCann (21), a Queen’s University student murdered on 30 October 1976; Joseph Morrissey (52), killed on 3 February 1977; and Francis Cassidy (43), a dock-worker who was killed on 30 March 1977. Moore proved himself an able deputy to Murphy, committing the throat-cuttings himself and encouraging the gang to use extreme violence on the victims beforehand. In particular, Arthur McClay attacked Morrissey with a hatchet; Moore had promoted McClay after Murphy had been jailed. The three victims were dumped in various parts of the greater Shankill area. The other gang members involved in one or more of these cut-throat murders were Sam McAllister, John Townsley, David Bell and Norman Waugh.[13] “Mr A” played a prominent part in the planning of Moore’s activities.

Capture and imprisonment

Late on Tuesday, 10 May 1977, Gerard McLaverty, a young Belfast man whose family had recently left the city, was walking down the Cliftonville Road. Two members of the Butchers approached him and, posing as policemen, forced him into a car where two of their comrades were seated. The gang, who had spent the day drinking, drove McLaverty to a disused doctor’s surgery on the corner of Emerson Street and the Shankill Road where he was beaten with sticks. He was stabbed, had his wrists slashed a number of times by Moore and McAllister, using a smallish knife, and was dumped in a back entry. Uncharacteristically, he had been left for dead by the gang but survived until early morning, when a woman heard his cries for help and called the police. In compliance with previous orders, news of the assault was given to Inspector Nesbitt. At first he did not attribute particular significance to this message, as the Butchers had left no one alive before; but on discovering the nature of the assault and the use of a knife, he came up with an idea that was to permanently change the course of his inquiries.

Taking advantage of the aftermath of a loyalist paramilitary strike and local elections, Nesbitt had the recovered McLaverty disguised and driven by police around the Shankill area on Wednesday 18 May to see if he could spot the men who had abducted or attacked him. Within a short time he identified McAllister and Edwards, and Nesbitt had a breakthrough that enabled him to widen his net. The next morning he initiated a large arrest operation and many of McAllister’s associates, including Moore, were taken into custody. At first under intense interrogation, the suspects admitted only to their involvement in the McLaverty abduction but Nesbitt, seizing on McAllister’s references to the size of a knife used on McLaverty, had his team of detectives press the case, and eventually most of the gang admitted their part in the activities of the Butchers. Further arrests followed and the overall picture became clearer.

The salient point emerging was that Lenny Murphy, the commander of the unit, was the driving force behind the cut-throat murders and other criminal activities. A number of the Butchers implicated him and his close associates “Mr A” and “Mr B” (John Murphy) in numerous paramilitary activities but later retracted these claims for fear of retribution from the UVF Brigade Staff. Lenny Murphy, in prison, and Messrs “A” and “B” were interviewed several times in connection with the Butchers’ inquiry but revealed nothing during interviews. Without corroborative or forensic evidence, the state prosecution service decided that they would not face charges.

The rest of the Butchers came to trial during 1978 and early 1979. On 20 February 1979, eleven men were convicted of a total of 19 murders, and the 42 life sentences handed out were the most ever in a single trial in British criminal history. Moore pleaded guilty to 11 counts of murder and Bates to 10. The trial judge, Lord Justice O’Donnell, said that he did not wish to be cast as “public avenger” but felt obliged to sentence the pair of them to life imprisonment with no chance of release. However, Bates was freed two years after the paramilitary ceasefires of 1994 and Moore released under the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. Martin Dillon’s own investigations suggest that a number of other individuals (whom he was unable to name for legal reasons) escaped prosecution for participation in the crimes of the Butchers and that the gang were responsible for a total of at least 30 murders. In summing-up, Lord O’Donnell stated that their crimes, “a catalogue of horror”, were “a lasting monument to blind sectarian bigotry”. After the trial, Jimmy Nesbitt’s comment was: “The big fish got away”, a reference to Murphy (referred to in court as “Mr X” or the “Master Butcher”) and to Messrs “A” and “B”. At this time Gerry McLaverty lived under Northern and Republican police protection in Dublin, where he had been given a cover name.[14]

Murphy’s release and death

His sentence for the firearms conviction complete, Lenny Murphy was released from prison on 16 July 1982. One day later, his killing spree resumed when he beat to death a local Protestant man with a learning disability in the Loyalist Club in Rumford Street. His body was dumped in a back alley over a mile away. Murphy began to assemble a new gang.[15]

On 29 August 1982, Murphy killed Jim Galway (33), a part-time Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) soldier from the Lower Shankill area who had been passing information to the UVF and was involved with its Ballymena units. When suspicions of being an informer fell upon Galway, Murphy decided to kill him. Galway was shot in the head at a building site in the village of Broughshane near Ballymena and buried on the spot. His decayed body was not found until November 1983; he had not been seen since leaving for a short holiday at the end of August 1982. The location of the body was pointed-out in 1983 by someone in custody for other charges.[16][17]

On 5 September, Murphy killed a former UVF prisoner, Brian Smyth (30), in a dispute over money owed for a car. Murphy poisoned the man in a Shankill club before shooting him from the rear of a passing motorcycle as he sat in a car driven by Murphy’s friend and leading Red Hand Commando member Sam “Mambo” Carroll.[18]

The Shankill Butchers’ last victim was killed off Brookmount Street (pictured), where Lenny Murphy owned a house

Early on Friday 22 October, UDR soldier Thomas Cochrane was kidnapped by the IRA. The next evening, although he had been warned by the UVF Brigade Staff against abducting anyone, Murphy kidnapped a Catholic, ostensibly to demand Cochrane’s release in exchange for the Catholic hostage. He hijacked a black taxi, which one of his men drove to the Falls Road. Joseph Donegan, a middle-aged Catholic man on his way home, hailed the vehicle and got in. Murphy immediately attacked the man as the taxi was driven back to the safety of the Shankill. At a house owned by Murphy in Brookmount Street, Donegan was tortured sadistically by Murphy, who according to Dillon, pulled out all but three of his teeth with pliers. Murphy’s associate, Tommy Stewart, battered Donegan to death with a shovel. “Mr A” was party to these events. Murphy telephoned a prominent Catholic politician, Cormac Boomer, to demand that Cochrane be set free. Murphy ordered that Donegan’s body be removed from his house, but the plan was disturbed by passers-by and the victim had to be dumped in an entry behind the house. After discovery of the body on the morning of Monday 25 October, Murphy and two others were arrested; but without evidence that Murphy had been party to this crime, it was not possible to charge him. Cochrane’s body was found a week later.[19]

Murphy was assassinated by a Provisional IRA hit squad early in the evening of Tuesday 16 November 1982 outside the back of his girlfriend’s house in the Glencairn estate (where four of the Butchers’ cut-throat victims had been dumped). No sooner had he parked his car than two gunmen emerged from a van that had been following him and fired a hail of more than twenty bullets, killing him instantly. After several days’ speculation as to those responsible for the shooting, the IRA issued a statement claiming responsibility for what it termed Murphy’s “execution”:

“Lenny Murphy (master butcher) has been responsible for the horrific murders of over 20 innocent Nationalists in the Belfast area and a number of Protestants. The IRA has been aware for some time that since his release recently from prison, Murphy was attempting to re-establish a similar murder gang to that which he led in the mid-1970s and, in fact, he was responsible for a number of the recent sectarian murders in the Belfast area. The IRA takes this opportunity to restate its policy of non-sectarian attacks, while retaining its right to take unequivocal action against those who direct or motivate sectarian slaughter against the Nationalist population”.[20]

The location of the murder, in a loyalist stronghold, and the timing of the shooting to coincide with Murphy’s movements suggest that the IRA received help from UVF members who deemed Murphy “out of control” or, equally plausibly, that information had been given by an enemy of Murphy’s. Dillon suggests that Jim Craig, a leading Ulster Defence Association (UDA) godfather whose protection rackets had made him rich and feared in equal measure, fitted the bill. He was known to have clashed with Murphy on the latter’s release from prison earlier that year and may have wanted him out of the picture. In support of this theory, Craig was later executed by his UDA colleagues for “treason”, an inquiry having found some evidence of his part in the murder of other top loyalists by the IRA.[1][17]

Murphy’s family denied that he had a violent nature or was involved with the Butchers: “My Lenny could not have killed a fly”, said his mother Joyce.[21] She also accused the police of continual harassment of her son since his recent release from prison and said that he was planning to leave the country as soon as his divorce came through. The UVF gave Murphy a paramilitary funeral attended by thousands of loyalists and several unionist politicians, at which Mr A and John Murphy played prominent roles.[22] On his gravestone in Carnmoney cemetery were inscribed the words: “Here lies a soldier”.[23] Murphy’s headstone was smashed in 1989 and had to be replaced.[17]

Other activities

Moore, Bates and McAllister shot and wounded a member of the Windsor Bar UVF unit a few hours after the murder of Noel Shaw in November 1975.[24] Murphy and Moore shot dead Edward McQuaid, a Catholic man, on the Cliftonville Road on 10 January 1976. On 9 February 1976, Murphy and three of his gang shot and killed two Protestant men, Archibald Hanna and Raymond Carlisle, wrongly believing that they were Catholics on their way to work across the Shankill. Bates was involved in a gun attack on a bar in Smithfield, not far from the Shankill, that killed several people, both Catholics and Protestants, on 5 June 1976.[25] Other Protestants who met their deaths at the hands of the gang included two UDA men. The first was Thomas Easton, who made the mistake of becoming involved in an argument with McAllister, and died after being hit by falling beer-barrels on 21 December 1976. McAllister’s guilty plea to a manslaughter charge was accepted by the Crown.[26] The second was James Moorehead, a former police reservist,[27] beaten to death by McAllister, Bates and Moore in the toilets of the Windsor Bar on 29 January 1977. McAllister received a minor punishment shooting for the murder of Easton.[28] Members of the gang also carried out a bombing mission on the Falls Road that killed a 10-year-old Catholic boy on 10 April 1977.[29] Murphy’s brother John was heavily involved in the latter incident, along with “Mr A”. The gang used the services of the UVF’s leading bomb expert James “Tonto” Watt to plant the device, although Watt was not a member of the Brown Bear platoon.[30] Several of the Butchers, including John Murphy, were questioned about a serious assault in April 1977 in Union Street, near Belfast city centre, on a man they believed wrongly was a Catholic. John Murphy received three years’ imprisonment for his part in this incident.

Aftermath

Several sources indicate that Mid-Ulster UVF’s brigadier, Robin “The Jackal” Jackson from Donaghcloney (now deceased) contacted members of the gang in the Shankill, “Mr A” in particular, and had them make an attempt on the life of journalist Jim Campbell, northern editor of the Sunday World newspaper, in May 1984. Campbell, whose investigations put the spotlight on Jackson’s activities, was very seriously wounded but survived.[31]

All members of the Butchers gang were released a number of years ago. The first to be freed was John Townsley, who had been only 14 when he became involved with the gang and 16 when arrested. In October 1996, Bates was released;[32] he had reportedly “found religion” behind bars. Bates was shot and killed in the upper Shankill area on 11 June 1997 by the son of the UDA man he had killed in the Windsor Bar.[33][34] “Mr B”, John Murphy, died in a car accident in Belfast in August 1998.[35] In July 2000, Sam McAllister was injured in an attack during a loyalist feud.[36] William Moore was the final member of the gang to be released from prison in August 1998, after over twenty-one years behind bars. He died on 17 May 2009, from a suspected heart attack at his home and was given a paramilitary funeral by the UVF.[37][38] With Moore now deceased, the only senior figure still alive is “Mr A”.[39]

In November 2004, the Serious Crime Review Team in Belfast said they were looking into the unsolved death of Rosaleen O’Kane, aged 33 at the time of her death, who was found dead in her home in September 1976. Her family and authorities believe the Shankill Butchers may have been involved in her death.[40]

See Lenny Murphy

Gang members

Lenny Murphy

The following were members of the gang and were convicted of various crimes.[41]

  • Lenny Murphy (1952–1982)
  • John Murphy (1950–1998)
  • William Moore (1949–2009)
  • Robert Bates (1948–1997)
  • Sam McAllister (1955–)
  • Benjamin Edwards (1951–)
  • John Townsley (1961–)
  • Norman Waugh (1952–)
  • Arthur McClay (1953–)
  • David Bell (1953–)
  • Edward McIlwaine (1953–)
  • Edward Leckey

List of victims

The following is a list of known and suspected victims of the Shankill Butchers.

Date Name and age Status
2 October 1975 Marie McGrattan (47) Catholic civilian Shot dead at her workplace; Casey’s Bottling Plant.[42]
2 October 1975 Frances Donnelly (35) Catholic civilian Shot dead at her workplace; Casey’s Bottling Plant.[42]
2 October 1975 Gerard Grogan (18) Catholic civilian Shot dead at his workplace; Casey’s Bottling Plant.[42]
2 October 1975 Thomas Osborne (18) Catholic civilian Shot dead at his workplace; Casey’s Bottling Plant.[42]
25 November 1975 Francis Crossen (34) Catholic civilian Found badly beaten and with his throat slashed in an entry between Wimbledon Street and Bisley Street, middle Shankill.[42]
30 November 1975 Noel Shaw (19) UVF member Found shot dead in a taxi on Nixon Street. The killing was the result of an internal dispute.[42]
10 January 1976 Edward McQuaid (25) Catholic civilian Killed in a drive-by shooting while walking along Cliftonville Road.[43]
6 February 1976 Thomas Quinn (55) Catholic civilian Found with his throat slashed on a grass bank off Forthriver Way.[43]
9 February 1976 Archibald Hanna (51) Protestant civilian Shot, along with Raymond Carlisle, while sitting in a lorry on Cambrai Street. They were assumed to have been Catholics.[43]
9 February 1976 Raymond Carlisle (27) Protestant civilian Shot, along with Archibald Hanna, while sitting in a lorry on Cambrai Street. They were assumed to have been Catholics.[43]
23 February 1976 Francis Rice (24) Catholic civilian Found with his throat slashed in an entry between Mayo Street and Esmond Street, Shankill Road.[43]
2 August 1976 Cornelius Neeson (49) Catholic civilian Found beaten to death at the junction of Manor Street and Cliftonville Road.[43] A hatchet had been used in the attack.
30 October 1976 Stephen McCann (20) Catholic civilian Found with his throat slashed and shot near the community centre off Forthriver Road.[43]
20 December 1976 Thomas Easton (22) Protestant civilian Found beaten to death behind St Andrew’s Church on Forthriver Road. The killing was the result of a personal dispute.[43]
31 January 1977 James Moorehead (30) UDA member Found beaten to death on Adela Street. The killing was the result of a personal dispute.[44]
3 February 1977 Joseph Morrisey (52) Catholic civilian Found badly beaten and with his throat slashed near the community centre off Forthriver Road.[44] A hatchet had also been used in the attack.
30 March 1977 Francis Cassidy (43) Catholic civilian Shot and found with his throat slashed on a grass verge off Highfern Gardens.[44]
10 April 1977 Kevin McMenamin (7) Catholic civilian Killed in a bomb attack on a Republican ClubsEaster Rising Commemoration Parade’, Beechmount Avenue.[44]
10 May 1977 Gerard McLaverty Catholic civilian Found in a back alley off Emerson Street. He had been beaten and stabbed, and his wrists had been slashed. He was the only victim of the Shankill Butchers to have survived his injuries.
17 July 1982 Norman Maxwell (33) Protestant civilian Found beaten to death on waste ground off Alliance Road.[45] He had suffered from a learning disability.
29 August 1982 James Galway (33) Protestant civilian Shot dead and found buried on a building site in Broughshane.[45] He was suspected of being a police informer.
5 September 1982 Brian Smyth (30) UVF member Poisoned in a loyalist club before being shot from a passing motorbike on Crimea Street.[45] The killing was the result of a personal dispute.
24 October 1982 Joseph Donegan (48) Catholic civilian Found beaten to death in an entry off Brookmount Street.[45]

See Lenny Murphy

See Robert ” Basher ” Bates

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Belfast Child Chapter Two. Glencairn

CHAPTER TWO

GLENCAIRN

On a sunny day in 1970 my osteomyelitis was finally given the all clear and I was on my way home from the hospital, for a couple of years at least. I was so heartbroken to leave Nurse Brown, that on the day of my discharge I hid in a broom cupboard, in the childish belief if they couldn’t find me they would let me stay in the children’s ward with Nurse Browne. The day before dad had explained to me that we had a new home and that‘s where I would be going to live when I left hospital. He explained that we had moved to Glencairn to be near his family, so that our grandmother could help look after us. We all loved my grandmother dearly and although I was grief stricken at the thought of leaving Nurse Brown, I was also excited at the thought of living in a new home and being surrounded by my grandparents and cousins. When I had first gone into hospital we had lived in a mixed area of the city and spent as much time with our catholic family on mum’s side, as we had with dad’s family. When mum and dad had first parted dad forbade any of mum’s family from visiting me in hospital and as a result when they parted for good we were never to meet any of our catholic relatives again. The division in my family reflected the religious segregation that was ripping Northern Ireland apart. At four years old my political and religious destination was decided, as I left the children’s ward and headed home to my new life without mum in Glencairn. Glencairn was a violent, ultra loyalist estate in the West of the city built in the sixties and was controlled by the UDA, the largest protestant paramilitary group in Northern Ireland. The estate is cut into the mountains and is surrounded by glens and forest and from the top you can look down over Belfast City, with the giant cranes Samson and Goliath dominating the horizon of the east of the city. On my first day home I feel in love with Glencairn and I knew immediately that I would like living there. Previously we had lived in a built up area of Belfast and now I was surrounded by vast open spaces and fields and mountains as far as the eye could see. There was only one road into Glencairn and due to this isolation it became a dumping ground for victims of loyalist murder squads. My brother, cousins and I came across the mutilated bodies of innocent Catholics whom had been tortured, murdered and dumped on the waste ground behind our house. Our new house was on the Forthriver Road, half way up the estate and. two minutes walk from the local and only shopping complex in Glencairn, which was made up of a VG , a Chinese takeaway , paper shop , a wine lodge and a UDA drinking club called Grouchos, which dad worked in. Home for us was a ground floor house in a two story maisonette, with two bedrooms between five of us. It was a bit cramped and when I first came out of hospital I got to sleep with dad in his double bed and the others shared the other room. But we were all happy and I was excited about all the sudden changes in my young life. Just facing our house was St. Andrews church, which was to play a huge role in my future life,   Granny and Granddad lived just around the corner from our place and Granny practically lived in our house as she helped dad look after us. About 10 minutes away from our place, at the top of the estate dad’s two younger brothers and their wives and children lived. Like a lot of deprived area of Belfast, Glencairn was a tribal community and the protestant people of the estate stuck together through thick and thin and their hatred of their catholic counter parts throughout Belfast and Northern Ireland with a passion. But the best thing for me was dad’s dog Shep, a temperamental alisation, who terrorised the area and we quickly became inseparable and before long we were the best of friends. After unpacking my things and settling me in, Dad and Granny called me into the front room and asked me to sit down. They explained that mum had gone away and that I would never see her again. If anyone were to ever ask where she was I was simply to say she had died and leave it at that. Also from then on I was to call Gerard David and Mary Margaret. Due to the ultra loyalist nature of Glencairn and the people we now lived among, all traces of our catholic heritage and mum had to be eradicated from our past and we were told never to mention mum or her family again. This was done also for our own safety, because had the truth been known we would have been ostracised and picked on. Within a short space of time I had really settled in and for the first time in my short life I was spending a lot of time with dads side of the family and I was getting to know my brother and sisters properly. Due to my leg , I got to sleep with dad in his huge double bed and every night he would carry me upstairs because , due to my calibre I was still unable to get up them by myself. Whist I had been in hospital I was surrounded by other children in wheelchairs, plaster and calibres and I had thought nothing of it. But now back at home with all those trees and never ending fields I began to feel self conscious about my calibre and the way I walk and when I had to visit the physiotherapist I pushed myself as hard as possible in my efforts to strengthen my leg muscles, so I could climb trees and run with the other kids. But I was getting stronger everyday and within a year of leaving hospital I could walk and run unaided, although I was to have a limp for the rest of my life and suffer multiply fractures in my right leg due to the weak bones in my bad leg. As the weakling of the family I got special attention from Dad and my Grandparents and during my first few months at home dad took a lot of time of work as a gardener, to look after me and help me settle into my new life. Dad had always been a special person in my tiny world , but now that I was home and spending so much time with him , he soon became the centre of my universe and I must have been a right nuisance , as I followed him around like a love sick puppy getting under his feet all the time. Within a few weeks after coming home I was enrolled in the local school, Fernhill, which was just behind our home on the perimeters of the park and glens. I was lucky in the respect that my sisters and brother and all my cousin’s attended the same school and from my first day there I loved every minute I spent there. After school we would all head off to the vast Glencairn park and when we got bored with playing on the swings or climbing trees we would go down the glen to the river and play for hours following the river as far as we could and catching rainbow trout with pieces of string attached to branches and our bare hands. It was an idyllic place to grow up and had it not been for the absence of mum and the madness going on around us, it could have been the perfect childhood. Before moving to Glencairn I had not been aware that Dad, along with his brothers was a member of the UDA. This was nothing out of the ordinary, as most of the adult men and many of the women in Glencairn and the surrounding areas were members of one of the many loyalist paramilitary groups. The UDA played a very active role within the community and if someone had a problem that needed solving or were short of cash and needed a loan they would turn to the UDA. Like a lot of the paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland, the UDA were looked upon as protectors of the people they governed. Although he was a member of the UDA, like many others dad did not get involved with the military actions of the active units and was a pacifist who hated violence. He had been a practising Christian for most of his teenage years.   Dad played a very active role within the UDA and apart from running the local UDA club, Grouchos; he was responsible for setting up and running the Glencairn Accordion band. From my point of view this was excellent. My sisters and cousins were all members of the band, the younger ones played the triangle or symbols and then like my sisters Margaret and Jean, working their way up the ranks until they were taught how to play the accordion. The band was the pride of Glencairn and won many competitions throughout Northern Ireland. They practiced on Thursday nights and I use to go with dad up to the practice hall at the top of the estate and sit mesmerised in the corner, surrounded by 40 females or various ages. There was one girl who played the accordion and I feel in love with her the first time I set eyes on her. Of course she never knew .As the girls went through the rehearsals, playing various loyalist tunes and anthems, I would sing along and pretend to be the leader of the band and march up and down the hall. The girls found this absolutely hilarious and in order to gain some control back, dad would tell me off and I would have to sit quietly in the corner again, until a personal favourite of mine was played and I would be off again. During the protestant marching season and the build up to the 12th, the most important day in the loyalist calendar, the band was hired to march with various orange lodges throughout Northern Ireland. On the day of the march our house would be in complete chaos as my sisters and dad got themselves dress in the uniforms for the march. Granny would come round to help and gradually all our cousins would arrive with various instruments and get in a last minute practice. All the members of the band would meet outside the shops and a large crowd always gathered to see them off. I would almost be bursting with pride as the fell in and lead by dad would start marching down the Glencairn Road towards the meeting point on the Shankill Road. David and I would follow the band down to the bottom of the road and wave them off before heading home for a snack and then out to play until tea time. The band would normally arrive back in the estate between six and seven and we would wait eagerly near the Road until we could hear the distant sound of them approaching and rush to greet them. When we finally got home granny would prepare dinner and after eating we would all sit down and watch telly, exhausted by the day’s events. At this stage of my life I was as happy and normal as an eight –year old boy could be in my circumstances and was blissfully unaware that my life was so different from others. Life with dad and the others was a happy life and I now had a routine to my life that was missing when I was in hospital. I still occasional thought of Nurse Brown and missed her, but I was to see her again in the not too distant future. On Tuesday David and I went to the BB and Sunday school on Sunday’s. Although I really believed that god had created the earth and sacrificed his only son for the good of mankind, my god had become a protestant god and I did not love my catholic counterparts. Reverent Lewis, our vicar, was a patient and tolerant man but he occasional became exasperated at our hardcore protestant approach to religion and tried hard to teach us the concept of love, not hate. Although dad did not go to church himself it was expected of us kids to attend and religion played a very important role in my early life and teenage years. Also I think dad like to get us all out of the house for a while, so he could have some peace and quiet time to himself and a rest from looking after us. Sometime dad would be on sentry duty outside the UDA club and David and I would go and visit him on the way home. In these early years I use to think of mum only occasional and once when I asked granny about her she made it clear that mum was gone forever and I was not to mention her again and forget all about her. So I did exactly that and pushed mum to the back of my mind and got on with my new exciting life in Glencairn. One day after weeks of anticipation Margaret’s cat Smoky give birth to a little of five kittens. We were all aloud into Margaret’s bedroom to watch the birth, including dad’s dog and my best friend Shep, who was told of a few times by Smoky for getting a little too close to the action. After letting David, Shep and I have a supervised look at the five kittens Margaret banished us from the labour ward, as she needed to spend time alone with her five new charges. I was very thoughtful and to be honest jealous of Margaret having five brand new kittens to her name and I wanted some for myself. There was obviously no quick way for me to find five brand new kittens for myself, so I decided there and then that Shep would have to give birth to five puppies for me before the day was out. The major problem there was that Shep was a he! This bit of fundamental biological necessity wasn’t going to put me off. After a quick strategy plan with David we headed to our secret den in the park, with an unexpected Shep in tow. My plan was a simply one, I needed a miracle and I was going to ask God to help. Reverent Lewis had instilled in us a firm believe that if you wanted and needed something bad enough god would answer your prayers. Surely god and baby Jesus in their wisdom would recognize the importance of me having five puppies for myself. Before the end of the day. When we got to the den Shep was more than happy to lay down on the grass and rub his belly and wait for the miracle that god was about to perform. I had little knowledge of how kittens were born and how miracles worked, but I was not to be put off. After a chat with David and stroking Shep’s belly with what I felt was a miracle stroke, I lead David behind a nearby bush, sank to my knees and began a marathon prayer to god and Jesus, outlining the desperate import ants of Shep giving birth and me having my puppies. Needless to say that nothing happened and after about an hour David and Shep were beginning to give me strange looks and were obviously bored and becoming alarmed for my enthusiasm for the lord’s intervention and after a while I got bored and disillusioned and decided to throw the towel in, for now at least. It was obvious to me that god in his wisdom had decided not to grant me a miracle today, but this did not diminish my faith and I would continue to seek gods help in all matters big and small.

Belfast Child Chapter Two. Glencairn – A loyalist stronghold

 This chapter touches on live in Glencairn, a violent ultra loyalist area of West Belfast and my new home.

CHAPTER TWO

GLENCAIRN

On a sunny day in 1970 my osteomyelitis was finally given the all clear and I was on my way home from the hospital, for a couple of years at least. I was so heartbroken to leave Nurse Brown, that on the day of my discharge I hid in a broom cupboard, in the childish belief if they couldn’t find me they would let me stay in the children’s ward with Nurse Browne. The day before dad had explained to me that we had a new home and that‘s where I would be going to live when I left hospital. He explained that we had moved to Glencairn to be near his family, so that our grandmother could help look after us. We all loved my grandmother dearly and although I was grief stricken at the thought of leaving Nurse Brown, I was also excited at the thought of living in a new home and being surrounded by my grandparents and cousins. When I had first gone into hospital we had lived in a mixed area of the city and spent as much time with our catholic family on mum’s side, as we had with dad’s family. When mum and dad had first parted dad forbade any of mum’s family from visiting me in hospital and as a result when they parted for good we were never to meet any of our catholic relatives again. The division in my family reflected the religious segregation that was ripping Northern Ireland apart. At four years old my political and religious destination was decided, as I left the children’s ward and headed home to my new life without mum in Glencairn.

Glencairn was a violent, ultra loyalist estate in the West of the city built in the sixties and was controlled by the UDA, the largest protestant paramilitary group in Northern Ireland. The estate is cut into the mountains and is surrounded by glens and forest and from the top you can look down over Belfast City, with the giant cranes Samson and Goliath dominating the horizon of the east of the city. On my first day home I feel in love with Glencairn and I knew immediately that I would like living there. Previously we had lived in a built up area of Belfast and now I was surrounded by vast open spaces and fields and mountains as far as the eye could see. There was only one road into Glencairn and due to this isolation it became a dumping ground for victims of loyalist murder squads. My brother, cousins and I came across the mutilated bodies of innocent Catholics whom had been tortured, murdered and dumped on the waste ground behind our house.

Our new house was on the Forthriver Road, half way up the estate and. two minutes walk from the local and only shopping complex in Glencairn, which was made up of a VG , a Chinese takeaway , paper shop , a wine lodge and a UDA drinking club called Grouchos, which dad worked in. Home for us was a ground floor house in a two story maisonette, with two bedrooms between five of us. It was a bit cramped and when I first came out of hospital I got to sleep with dad in his double bed and the others shared the other room. But we were all happy and I was excited about all the sudden changes in my young life. Just facing our house was St. Andrews church, which was to play a huge role in my future life,

Granny and Granddad lived just around the corner from our place and Granny practically lived in our house as she helped dad look after us. About 10 minutes away from our place, at the top of the estate dad’s two younger brothers and their wives and children lived. Like a lot of deprived area of Belfast, Glencairn was a tribal community and the protestant people of the estate stuck together through thick and thin and their hatred of their catholic counter parts throughout Belfast and Northern Ireland with a passion.

But the best thing for me was dad’s dog Shep, a temperamental alisation, who terrorised the area and we quickly became inseparable and before long we were the best of friends. After unpacking my things and settling me in, Dad and Granny called me into the front room and asked me to sit down. They explained that mum had gone away and that I would never see her again. If anyone were to ever ask where she was I was simply to say she had died and leave it at that. Also from then on I was to call Gerard David and Mary Margaret. Due to the ultra loyalist nature of Glencairn and the people we now lived among, all traces of our catholic heritage and mum had to be eradicated from our past and we were told never to mention mum or her family again. This was done also for our own safety, because had the truth been known we would have been ostracised and picked on.

Within a short space of time I had really settled in and for the first time in my short life I was spending a lot of time with dads side of the family and I was getting to know my brother and sisters properly. Due to my leg , I got to sleep with dad in his huge double bed and every night he would carry me upstairs because , due to my calibre I was still unable to get up them by myself. Whist I had been in hospital I was surrounded by other children in wheelchairs, plaster and calibres and I had thought nothing of it. But now back at home with all those trees and never ending fields I began to feel self conscious about my calibre and the way I walk and when I had to visit the physiotherapist I pushed myself as hard as possible in my efforts to strengthen my leg muscles, so I could climb trees and run with the other kids. But I was getting stronger everyday and within a year of leaving hospital I could walk and run unaided, although I was to have a limp for the rest of my life and suffer multiply fractures in my right leg due to the weak bones in my bad leg.

As the weakling of the family I got special attention from Dad and my Grandparents and during my first few months at home dad took a lot of time of work as a gardener, to look after me and help me settle into my new life. Dad had always been a special person in my tiny world , but now that I was home and spending so much time with him , he soon became the centre of my universe and I must have been a right nuisance , as I followed him around like a love sick puppy getting under his feet all the time. Within a few weeks after coming home I was enrolled in the local school, Fernhill, which was just behind our home on the perimeters of the park and glens. I was lucky in the respect that my sisters and brother and all my cousin’s attended the same school and from my first day there I loved every minute I spent there. After school we would all head off to the vast Glencairn park and when we got bored with playing on the swings or climbing trees we would go down the glen to the river and play for hours following the river as far as we could and catching rainbow trout with pieces of string attached to branches and our bare hands. It was an idyllic place to grow up and had it not been for the absence of mum and the madness going on around us, it could have been the perfect childhood.

Before moving to Glencairn I had not been aware that Dad, along with his brothers was a member of the UDA. This was nothing out of the ordinary, as most of the adult men and many of the women in Glencairn and the surrounding areas were members of one of the many loyalist paramilitary groups. The UDA played a very active role within the community and if someone had a problem that needed solving or were short of cash and needed a loan they would turn to the UDA. Like a lot of the paramilitary groups in Northern Ireland, the UDA were looked upon as protectors of the people they governed. Although he was a member of the UDA, like many others dad did not get involved with the military actions of the active units and was a pacifist who hated violence. He had been a practising Christian for most of his teenage years.

Dad played a very active role within the UDA and apart from running the local UDA club, Grouchos; he was responsible for setting up and running the Glencairn Accordion band. From my point of view this was excellent. My sisters and cousins were all members of the band, the younger ones played the triangle or symbols and then like my sisters Margaret and Jean, working their way up the ranks until they were taught how to play the accordion. The band was the pride of Glencairn and won many competitions throughout Northern Ireland. They practiced on Thursday nights and I use to go with dad up to the practice hall at the top of the estate and sit mesmerised in the corner, surrounded by 40 females or various ages. There was one girl who played the accordion and I feel in love with her the first time I set eyes on her. Of course she never knew .As the girls went through the rehearsals, playing various loyalist tunes and anthems, I would sing along and pretend to be the leader of the band and march up and down the hall. The girls found this absolutely hilarious and in order to gain some control back, dad would tell me off and I would have to sit quietly in the corner again, until a personal favourite of mine was played and I would be off again. During the protestant marching season and the build up to the 12th, the most important day in the loyalist calendar, the band was hired to march with various orange lodges throughout Northern Ireland. On the day of the march our house would be in complete chaos as my sisters and dad got themselves dress in the uniforms for the march. Granny would come round to help and gradually all our cousins would arrive with various instruments and get in a last minute practice. All the members of the band would meet outside the shops and a large crowd always gathered to see them off. I would almost be bursting with pride as the fell in and lead by dad would start marching down the Glencairn Road towards the meeting point on the Shankill Road. David and I would follow the band down to the bottom of the road and wave them off before heading home for a snack and then out to play until tea time. The band would normally arrive back in the estate between six and seven and we would wait eagerly near the Road until we could hear the distant sound of them approaching and rush to greet them. When we finally got home granny would prepare dinner and after eating we would all sit down and watch telly, exhausted by the day’s events.

At this stage of my life I was as happy and normal as an eight –year old boy could be in my circumstances and was blissfully unaware that my life was so different from others. Life with dad and the others was a happy life and I now had a routine to my life that was missing when I was in hospital. I still occasional thought of Nurse Brown and missed her, but I was to see her again in the not too distant future. On Tuesday David and I went to the BB and Sunday school on Sunday’s. Although I really believed that god had created the earth and sacrificed his only son for the good of mankind, my god had become a protestant god and I did not love my catholic counterparts. Reverent Lewis, our vicar, was a patient and tolerant man but he occasional became exasperated at our hardcore protestant approach to religion and tried hard to teach us the concept of love, not hate.

Although dad did not go to church himself it was expected of us kids to attend and religion played a very important role in my early life and teenage years. Also I think dad like to get us all out of the house for a while, so he could have some peace and quiet time to himself and a rest from looking after us. Sometime dad would be on sentry duty outside the UDA club and David and I would go and visit him on the way home. In these early years I use to think of mum only occasional and once when I asked granny about her she made it clear that mum was gone forever and I was not to mention her again and forget all about her. So I did exactly that and pushed mum to the back of my mind and got on with my new exciting life in Glencairn.

One day after weeks of anticipation Margaret’s cat Smoky give birth to a little of five kittens. We were all aloud into Margaret’s bedroom to watch the birth, including dad’s dog and my best friend Shep, who was told of a few times by Smoky for getting a little too close to the action.

After letting David, Shep and I have a supervised look at the five kittens Margaret banished us from the labour ward, as she needed to spend time alone with her five new charges. I was very thoughtful and to be honest jealous of Margaret having five brand new kittens to her name and I wanted some for myself. There was obviously no quick way for me to find five brand new kittens for myself, so I decided there and then that Shep would have to give birth to five puppies for me before the day was out. The major problem there was that Shep was a he! This bit of fundamental biological necessity wasn’t going to put me off.

After a quick strategy plan with David we headed to our secret den in the park, with an unexpected Shep in tow. My plan was a simply one, I needed a miracle and I was going to ask God to help. Reverent Lewis had instilled in us a firm believe that if you wanted and needed something bad enough god would answer your prayers. Surely god and baby Jesus in their wisdom would recognize the importance of me having five puppies for myself. Before the end of the day. When we got to the den Shep was more than happy to lay down on the grass and rub his belly and wait for the miracle that god was about to perform. I had little knowledge of how kittens were born and how miracles worked, but I was not to be put off. After a chat with David and stroking Shep’s belly with what I felt was a miracle stroke, I lead David behind a nearby bush, sank to my knees and began a marathon prayer to god and Jesus, outlining the desperate import ants of Shep giving birth and me having my puppies. Needless to say that nothing happened and after about an hour David and Shep were beginning to give me strange looks and were obviously bored and becoming alarmed for my enthusiasm for the lord’s intervention and after a while I got bored and disillusioned and decided to throw the towel in, for now at least. It was obvious to me that god in his wisdom had decided not to grant me a miracle today, but this did not diminish my faith and I would continue to seek gods help in all matters big and small.