YOU ARE 1066!

Bobby Sands (Roibeard Gearóid Ó Seachnasaigh), 27 years young when he died on the 5th of May 1981, after sixty-six days on hunger strike.

“…they all glare at me , and then begin to shout at me : “I am a Sir, I am a Sir, you will conform, conform, conform”. They all grab me and start to beat and kick me while screaming : “You will conform, you will conform in H-Block 5”. I awake, shouting and rolling on a filthy mattress on the floor. “Where am I?”. “Are you alright?”, asks my cell-mate. “Where am I?” “You are in your cell, you must’ve been having a nightmare,” he says.
Our cell door opens and a black uniformed figure stands there, “Food”, he says. “What was that, Mister?” I ask. “You call me Sir. You’re in the H-Blocks now! You’re in H-Block 5. Don’t forget it, 1066…”
– Bobby Sands, from an article entitled ‘I am Sir, you are 1066’, which was first published 37 years ago on this date (1st July, 1978) :

‘I must have died last night, because when I awoke this morning I was in hell. I don’t really know how I got here. I don’t think I’ve done anything to deserve being here. But I am here, and I am suffering terribly. I think I am in some sort of tomb. I can not see, as everywhere is in total darkness. I have no clothes on, except some sort of rag around my waist. The floor of my tomb is covered in a wet mushy substance, the source or nature of which I don’t know. There is a revolting stench lingering in the darkness and the air is warm, heavy and humid. There is something soft and damp lying in the corner, which seems to be some sort of bedding to lie upon. I can hear heavy booming noises echoing all around me like thunder. Somehow it reminds me of heavy doors closing. I check the four walls of my tomb; there appears to be some sort of a door in one of the walls. I can’t understand my being here. What, I wonder. will become of me? I know I am a human being, although I’m naked and bearded. I can think and breathe. Am I in hell or some sort of limbo? I can hear heavy footsteps approaching. They stop quite near to me. There is someone or something nearby. I can hear it moving and breathing. It is watching me. More noise directly outside my tomb, a rattle of metal against metal. A square form of light begins to materialise. revealing an entrance as a door swings open. A figure stands in the grey dim light of the doorway. It is a human figure, dressed in what appears to be some sort of black uniform.

It stands scrutinising me in silence for several seconds, before letting out a terrifying yell that sends shivers through my body. “I am Sir.” The words echo around my tomb. “I am Sir” it bellows again. “I am Sir, you are 1066.” The door slams shut with a loud explosive boom, killing the dim light where the entrance had been. Still afraid to move, I stand in the total darkness. What is 1066, I think? Obviously it is me, but I can think, speak, smell and touch. I have all my senses, therefore I am not a number, I am not 1066. I am human, I am not a number, I am not 1066. Who, or what, is a ‘Sir’? It frightened me. It was evil. I sensed its hatred of me, its eagerness to dominate me, and its potential violent nature. Oh, what will become of me? I remember I once hid a family. Where are they now? Will I ever see or hear of them again?

It’s watching me. Once more the door opens. The dim light gives off an illumination, revealing the black uniformed figure at the doorway. “I am Sir”, it says, “here is your food, 1066.” A bowl is thrust into my hands as the door slams. Before the light dies I catch a glimpse of the floor. It is covered in filth and rubbish. There are several maggots clinging to my legs. The walls are covered with a mass of fat bloated flies. Once again I am terror-stricken. I pace the floor, aghast at my surroundings. The bowl in my hand is cold, it contains some sort of porridge or gruel. The smell from it revolts me. I set it down on the floor. Pacing the floor in total darkness, I become engulfed with depression and despair. I wish I was dead. “But I am dead.” I say aloud I can’t even kill myself.

A breeze, I feel a breeze coming from the wall behind me. Feeling about, I touch a piece of cloth. I tug it and it falls. A light of great intensity hits my eyes, temporarily blinding me. My tomb becomes illuminated with light, revealing a window divided with concrete bars. Stepping closer, thousands of lights of every size and colour appear in my view. These lights are perched upon mountains of barbed wire that glitter and sparkle on the black horizon. Another step forward, and stiII looking straight ahead, a small building looms up in front of me, displaying a dozen or so windows all of which are brightly lit up. Several naked figures appear at the windows. The building is thirty yards away. I can see that all the figures are bearded, they all seem to be fairly young, but all their faces are pale and haggard. They are young men, but have old men’s faces. Am I gazing at death? These figures keep staring out at nothing, or pacing to and fro. Footsteps again! I turn, apprehension again gripping me, to await my door being opened. My new-found curiosity having diminished, I fall deeper into the depths of depression and despair. The thought of what lies on the other side of that door tortures me. The door swings open, and several black uniformed figures stand there, surrounding a very small, fat, evil-looking person who evidently is their leader. They all glare at me, and then begin to shout at me: “I am a Sir, I am a Sir.
You will conform.” They all grab me and start to beat and kick me while screaming “You will conform, you will conform in H-Block 5.” I awake, shouting and rolling on a filthy mattress on the floor. Where am I? “Are you alright?” asks my cell mate. Where am I? “You are in your cell, you must’ve been having a nightmare,” he says. Our cell door opens and a black uniformed figure stands there “Food,” he says. “What was that, Mister?” I ask. “You call me Sir. You’re in the H·Blocks now. You’re in H·Block 5. Don’t forget it, 1066…”

The sectarian realities of ghetto life materialised early in Bobby’s life when at the age of ten his family were forced to move home owing to loyalist intimidation… (and that was in 1962, before ‘the Troubles’ started, according to the ‘official’ version of our history). Bobby recalled his mother speaking of the troubled times which occurred during her childhood ; “Although I never really understood what internment was or who the ‘Specials’ were, I grew to regard them as symbols of evil”. Of this time Bobby himself later wrote: “I was only a working-class boy from a nationalist ghetto, but it is repression that creates the revolutionary spirit of freedom. I shall not settle until I achieve liberation of my country, until Ireland becomes a sovereign, independent socialist republic…” (from here.)

Bobby Sands joined the PIRA in 1972, at 18 years young, and was arrested that same year and charged with possession of four handguns which were found in the house that he was staying in. He was convicted in April 1973 and sentenced to five years but was released in April 1976, returning immediately to active service for the PIRA. In October that year, the Balmoral Furniture Company in Dunmurray was attacked (an economic target) but as the (P)IRA men left the scene there was a gun battle with the RUC. Leaving behind two wounded, Seamus Martin and Gabriel Corbett, the remaining four (Sands, Joe McDonnell, Seamus Finucane, and Sean Lavery) tried to escape in a car, but were arrested. One of the revolvers used in the attack was found in the car. In 1977 the four were sentenced to 14 years in the Maze (Long Kesh) for possession of the revolver. They were not charged with explosive offences.

REMEMBERING BOBBY SANDS.

Things are loud and getting louder
so I don’t have a lot to say
if I did you wouldn’t hear me
so what’s the use anyway
go fight your war and hide your whore
I’m sure Jesus understands
leave me in my own head
where I’m remembering Bobby Sands

Washington fought the British
they put him on a bill
an Irishman does the same
and special forces shoot to kill
while Amerikay looks the other way
among those who know firsthand

the price of freedom is tears and blood
and remembering Bobby Sands
the price of freedom is tears and blood
and remembering Bobby Sands

When a soldier lays down his life
so his comrades can be free
is it not us who forced his hand
by ignoring tyranny?
when men sit by and let others die
the killing will expand
so I’d like to take a moment here
to remember Bobby Sands

Tonight I’ll tuck my children into bed
under liberty’s flame
and soldiers will go off to kill
so ordered in my name
how do I sleep with a price so steep
and a government so bland

maybe it’s time to hit my knees
and remember Bobby Sands.

Bobby Sands was born in Rathcoole, North Belfast, in 1954. He ‘celebrated’ his 27th birthday on the ninth day of his sixty-six-day hunger strike. He died on the 5th May 1981, the thirteenth Irish republican hunger-striker to die since 1917, and will always be remembered by Irish republicans.

THE PRICE OF PEACE……

Last month, 28 women who protested peacefully in the Phoenix Park, Dublin, against US President Ronald Reagan’s visit to Ireland received £1000 each arising from their action for wrongful arrest. Gene Kerrigan recalls the weekend when another State determined Irish security requirements and details the garda action which could cost tens of thousands of pounds. From ‘Magill’ magazine, May 1987.

In the cells of the Bridewell, Mary Phelan was being taken out of her cell as were Nina Quigley, Phillipa Robinson, Toni Ryan, Sue Russell, Scotlyn Sabean and Catriona Ni Shiacuis. “…thank you again for this great honour..”, said Ronald Reagan, “…and God bless you all.” Then, at 12.50pm, he went to lunch with President Hillery at the US Ambassador’s residence in the Phoenix Park from where he spoke again of human liberty, to which President Hillery replied – “Ireland shares with the United States a profound respect for the rights of the individual.”

“I HAVE MY ORDERS.”
The woman were kept waiting for about two hours before being brought up to District Court Number Four at 2.30pm ; they were bedraggled and exhausted, and were brought up in batches and formally charged , and were remanded on £10 bail for two weeks. The mysterious ‘edict’ which had incarcerated them had still not been produced.

While this was happening President Reagan had been taken to Dublin airport and Pat Kenny was doing the RTE commentary on Reagan’s departure. Kenny chatted to a friend from his college days who was now working in the Department of Foreign Affairs and he (Kenny) had seen the US Secret Service agents clearing journalists from the concourse in Shannon and had seen gardai standing by as the Americans directed security. But it wasn’t like that at all, said Kenny’s friend from ‘Foreign Affairs’ ; the gardai were in charge and the Americans were under garda orders! (MORE LATER).

KNOWN FOR RESIGNING FROM HIS RESIGNATIONS!

This hasn’t made the same headlines that it would have made a few years ago, and not just because it’s not seen as such a big deal nowadays – as it seems to happen every other Tuesday – but the politician in question this time, (ex-)Dublin North Inner City PSF councillor Jonathan Dowdall, is known for , as stated in our headline , ‘resigning from his resignations’.

Jonathan now claims that “…bullying is allowed go on in certain parts of (Provisional) Sinn Fein…there were numerous attacks on myself from a certain element within [the party], and there were attacks on my team members…I reported them, team members of mine reported them, and nothing happened…I was given a mandate by the people to represent them in the area and at the end of the day I couldn’t continue to represent them because of what I was subjected to – it was getting really nasty at the end….I could no longer stand over and watch certain attacks from certain elements within the party…”

However, a PSF spokesperson has denied the claims made by Jonathan Dowdall, saying that there is no problem with bullying in the party and that “a robust mechanism” exists to prevent same from surfacing. So – whether you believe the company director is correct or Aengus knows better then just don’t forget that paper doesn’t refuse ink….!

“WE HAVE WORN DOWN THEIR WILL…..”

Ed Moloney speaks to a leading member of the Provisionals who has been authorised to speak on behalf of the (P)IRA Army Council.
From ‘Magill’ magazine, September 1980.

Ed Moloney : Have the tough security policies of Charlie Haughey contributed to those, ‘circumstances forced on you’?

IRA : No. The majority of our operations are carried out by personnel who live within the Six Counties. Belfast, for instance, is the spearhead of our campaign. People there don’t run back across the Border. The Volunteers who set up road blocks in Carrickmore last October didn’t run back across the Border. Our people are based in the North and our attacks occur there. What is happening is that Charles Haughey, without the sanction of the Irish people, is spending over £80 million of their money making sure that attacks from his side of the Border on occupation forces are inhibited.

These occupation forces infringe the sovereignty of the 26 Counties, these are the people who have fired across the border and killed people, these are the people who go over in plain clothes and are blocking off border areas, hindering the farming communities there. The 1000 troops and Garda Special Task Force are there on the Border to suppress the people and to collaborate with the Brits. But that is not the reason for the lower level of operations this year. (MORE LATER).

ON THIS DATE (1ST JULY) 45 YEARS AGO : ‘MY COUNTRY FOR A SCOTCH…’!

Reginald Maudling (pictured, left) the British ‘Home Secretary for Northern Ireland’ at the time, didn’t enjoy his visit here on the 1st July 1970…

On Tuesday, June 30th, 1970, the British puppet-‘parliament’ at Stormont, in Belfast,passed into ‘law’ the ‘Criminal Justice (Temporary Provisions) Act’ which, among other injustices, decreed that a mandatory prison sentence of six months be imposed on anyone found guilty of rioting. Two days before that ‘law’ was signed into being (ie on Sunday June 28th) about 500 nationalist workers at the Harland and Wolff shipyard were violently rounded-up by their unionist/loyalist co-workers and told to leave the job or face the consequences. Protests, pickets and marches were held on that Sunday and also on the following day (Monday 29th) over the forced Harland and Wolff expulsions and, coincidentally, (!) a new ‘anti-rioting law’ was introduced within hours.

On Wednesday, 1st July 1970, Reginald Maudling, ‘Secretary of State for the Colonies’, flew in from England on a visit to Belfast to assure British subjects that the ‘mammy parliament’ in Westminster was prepared to ‘protect’ them from the nasty nationalists. However, Maudling obviously felt that he himself needed ‘protection’ (or something stronger!) because, on Wednesday 1st July 1970, as he was boarding a plane to take him back to what he considered ‘the mainland’, he is reported to have declared – “For God’s sake bring me a large Scotch. What a bloody awful country!”

The cheek of the man – to use one Irish city , Belfast, as a yardstick for the whole of Ireland. A mistake, to be sure, that is often made in relation to, say, politicians : just because one of them is said to be ‘dodgy’ doesn’t necessarily mean that they all are!

ON THIS DATE (1ST JULY) 148 YEARS AGO : ‘MEAGHER OF THE SWORD’* DIES ON THE MISSOURI RIVER.

Born on the 3rd August 1823, died (in mysterious circumstances) on the 1st July, 1867 :’Does the world even have heroes like Ireland’s Thomas Francis Meagher anymore? After fighting for Irish independence (“I know of no country that has won its independence by accident”) ,then condemned to death, pardoned and exiled, Thomas Francis Meagher escaped to America,where he became a leader of the Irish community and commanded the Irish Brigade during the Civil War. General Meagher’s men fought valiantly at some of the most famous battles of the Civil War, including Antietam, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville. After the war, Meagher served as Acting Governor of the Montana Territory. In 1867, Meagher disappeared on the Missouri River ; his body was never found…’ (from here.)
(*”Abhor the sword – stigmatize the sword? No, for in the passes of the Tyrol it cut to pieces the banner of the Bavarian, and, through those cragged passes, struck a path to fame for the peasant insurrections of Innsbruck! Abhor the sword – stigmatize the sword? No, for at its blow a giant nation started from the waters of the Atlantic, and by its redeeming magic, and in the quiverings of its crimsoned light, the crippled colony sprang into the attitude of a proud Republic – prosperous, limitless, and invincible! Abhor the sword – stigmatize the sword? No, for it swept the Dutch marauders out of the fine old towns of Belgium – scourged them back to their own phlegmatic swamps – and knocked their flag and sceptre, their laws and bayonets, into the sluggish water of the Scheldt.”)

Thomas Francis Meagher was born in Waterford City (near the Commins/Granville Hotel) on August 3rd, 1823, into a financially-comfortable family ; his father was a wealthy merchant who, having made his money, entered politics, a route which the young Thomas was to follow. At 20 years young, he decided to challenge British misrule in Ireland and, at 23 years of age (in 1846), he became one of the leaders of the ‘Young Ireland’ Movement. He was only 25 years of age when he sat down with the Government of the Second French Republic to seek support for an uprising in Ireland. At 29 years ‘old’, he wrote what is perhaps his best known work – ‘Speeches on the Legislative Independence of Ireland’, of which six editions were published. He unveiled an Irish flag (which he had based on the French Tricolour) in his native city, Waterford, on the 7th March 1848, outside the Wolfe Tone Confederate Club and, on the 15th April that same year, on Abbey Street, in Dublin, he presented the flag to Irish citizens on behalf of himself and the ‘Young Ireland’ movement, with the following words : “I trust that the old country will not refuse this symbol of a new life from one of her youngest children. I need not explain its meaning. The quick and passionate intellect of the generation now springing into arms will catch it at a glance. The white in the centre signifies a lasting truce between the ‘orange’ and the ‘green’ and I trust that beneath its folds, the hands of the Irish protestant and the Irish catholic may be clasped in generous and heroic brotherhood…”

He was arrested by the British for his part in the 1848 Rising, accused of ‘high treason’ and sentenced to death (‘…to be hanged, drawn and disemboweled..’) but, while he was awaiting execution in Richmond Jail, this was changed by ‘Royal Command’ to transportation for life. Before he was deported, he spoke in Slievenamon, Tipperary, to a crowd estimated at 50,000 strong, about the country and the flag he was leaving behind – “Daniel O’Connell preached a cause that we are bound to see out. He used to say ‘I may not see what I have labored for, I am an old man ,my arm is withered, no epitaph of victory may mark my grave, but I see a young generation with redder blood in their veins, and they will do the work.’ Therefore it is that I ambition to decorate these hills with the flag of my country….”

In July 1849, at only 26 years of age, he was transported from Dun Laoghaire on the S.S.Swift to Tasmania, where he was considered, and rightly so, to be a political prisoner (a ‘Ticket of Leave’ inmate) which meant he could build his own ‘cell’ on a designated piece of land that he could farm provided he donated an agreed number of hours each week for State use. In early 1852, Thomas Francis Meagher escaped and made his way to New Haven, in Connecticut, in America, and travelled from there to a hero’s welcome in New York. This fine orator, newspaper writer, lawyer, revolutionary, Irish POW, soldier in the American civil war and acting Governor of Montana died (in mysterious circumstances – he drowned after ‘falling off’ a Missouri River steamboat) on the 1st of July 1867 at 44 years of age. Asked about his ‘crimes’, he replied – “Judged by the law of England, I know this ‘crime’ entails upon me the penalty of death ; but the history of Ireland explains that ‘crime’ and justifies it.” This brave man dedicated twenty-four of his forty-four years on this earth to challenging British misrule in Ireland and, while it can be said without doubt that Thomas Francis Meagher did his best, a ‘crime’ remains to be resolved.

Thanks for reading, Sharon.




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About 11sixtynine

A mother of three and a political activist , living in Dublin , Ireland.
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