46 years ago on this date (17th January 1972), seven IRA prisoners escaped from an ‘escape proof’ British prison ship, which was anchored in Irish waters : the ship had three decks, the top one of which was sometimes used as an ‘exercise yard’ for a few hours each day by the republican POW’s, with the other two ‘converted’ into living quarters. Approximately 850 people were present on the ship at any one time, consisting of around 700 British military personnel and 150 prisoners, including Provisional and Official IRA members and some others that were not involved with either group.

James Emerson Bryson, Tommy Tolan, Thomas Kane, Tommy Gorman, Peter Rodgers, Martin Taylor and Sean Convery, a group of Irish republicans that became known as ‘The Magnificent Seven’ because of the nature of their escape from the Maidstone prison ship (pictured, above) on January 17th, 1972, were determined that their ‘stay’ on the ship would be a short one.

Of the 226 men detained following the introduction of internment in August 1971, 124 were initially held in Crumlin Road Jail while the remainder were held on the Maidstone, a prison ship moored at the coalwharf in Belfast docks. The prison ship, used as an emergency billet for British troops who arrived in 1969, was totally unsuitable as a prison – it was cramped, stuffy and overcrowded, with the ‘lock-up’ section located at the stern below the deck, which was used twice a day for exercise. On January 16th, 1972 , fifty men were transferred from the ship to the new camp at Magilligan : this sudden move spurred on some of the internees who were planning to escape.

One of the group had spotted a seal slip through a gap in the barbed-wire draped around the ship and it was decided that if the seal could come in, then they could go out! The men used black boot polish to camouflage themselves and smeared each other in butter, to keep out the cold. They had already cut through a bar in a porthole which they now slipped through, and clambered down the Maidstone’s steel hawser and entered the water. Several of them were badly cut by the barbed-wire, but they all managed to get through it. In single file, they swam the 400 yards through the ice-cold floodlit water to the shore : it took them twenty minutes, as some of the men could not swim and had to be helped by the others. On the bank, Volunteers of the Andersonstown unit of the IRA’s Belfast Brigade were waiting with four cars to transport the escapees to safety, but the escapees landed at the wrong spot, approximately 500 yards away.

The men realised their mistake and made their way to Queen’s Road bus terminus where they commandeered a bus and drove across the city to the Markets area. During the journey, the bus was spotted by a British Army Land Rover which attempted to stop the vehicle ; however, the British soldiers backed-off when the bus entered the staunchly republican Markets district, which was then surrounded by British reinforcements. A search of the area was carried out by the British Army and RUC, but none of the escapees were found – the ‘Magnificent Seven’ were long gone to a different part of Belfast and, days later, gave a press conference in Dublin. That P.O.W. swim with a difference took place on the 17th January 1972 – 46 years ago today.


From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, October 1954.

It was an army of soldiers that England first sent over to conquer our Nation. It is with an army of soldiers that England today maintains the conquest of our Nation. What established the conquest and what maintains the conquest – FORCE – is the one effective weapon that we can use to undo it.

An active civil organisation backed by a strong military arm can smash England, but not without your help. Will we fail to win tomorrow because you failed to win today? Today is the time for YOU to join the Republican Movement : here are some contact details –

BELFAST, Tom Heenan, 17 Violet Street.

ENGLAND, Padraig MacSuibhne, 10 Ravenscroft Avenue, Wembley Park, Middlesex.

SCOTLAND, Michael McDermott, 22 Jean Armour Drive, North Drumry, Clydebank, Glasgow / Felix Jordan, 9 Huntingdon Place, Springburn, Glasgow.

USA, Clan na Gael Club, 112 West 72nd Street, New York 23

TYRONE, Art MacEochaidh, Killymon Road, Dungannon.

DERRY, Charles Laverty, Rainey Street, Magherafelt.

ANTRIM, Pat McCormack, Tigh Ard a’ Chuain, Cushendun.

LAOIS, P McLogan, Main Street, Portlaoighise.

CLARE, Martin Whyte, Fern Hill, Lisdoonvarna.

KILKENNY, Séan Dunne, Inistioge.

TIPPERARY, Dan Gleeson, Ballymainey, Nenagh.

DUBLIN, Rossa O Broin, c/o ‘United Irishman’, Séan Treacy House, 94 Talbot Street.

CORK, Derek McKenna, Thomas Ashe Hall, Cork City.

LIMERICK, Paddy Mulcahy, Dublin Road, Limerick.

KERRY, Maitiu Laoithe, Gortag Hollan, Muc-Ros, Cill-Airne.

ROSCOMMON SOUTH, Thomas McDermott, Lismaha, Mount Talbot.

ARMAGH, Paddy O’Hagan, Lathbirget, Mullaghbawn.

DOWN, Dan Sheridan, 2 Caulfield Place, Newry.

LOUTH, Seamus Rafferty, Lower Faughart, Dundalk / Brendan Quigley, Trinity Gardens, Drogheda.

SLIGO, Seamus Dolan, Martin Savage Terrace.

LEITRIM, John J McGirl, Main Street, Ballinamore.

ROSCOMMON NORTH, Patrick McKeon, Croghan, Boyle.

(Next – ‘SINN FÉIN SOCIAL AND ECONOMIC PROGRAMME’, from the same source.)



Venue : The GPO in Dublin’s O’Connell Street, from 12 Noon to 1.30pm.

After a peaceful Civil Rights march on January 30th, 1972 – from Creggan to Free Derry Corner – units of the British army Parachute Regiment opened fire with automatic rifles and shot dead 13 unarmed civilians, injuring many more. It was later revealed that some days prior to the massacre, the British soldiers involved had been briefed to “shoot to kill” at the march : “This Sunday became known as ‘Bloody Sunday’ and bloody it was. It was quite unnecessary. It strikes me that the (British) army ran amok that day and shot without thinking of what they were doing. They were shooting innocent people. They may have been taking part in a parade which was banned, but that did not justify the troops coming in and firing live rounds indiscriminately. I would say without reservations that it was sheer unadulterated murder. It was murder, gentlemen.” – the words of British Major Hubert O’Neill, Derry City Coroner, at the conclusion of the inquests on the 13 people killed by the British Army.

On Saturday January 27th next, a picket to mark that massacre will be held at the GPO in Dublin, from 12 Noon to 1.30pm. All welcome!


From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, February 1955.

But will the men of Leinster House say today that the men of 1916 were unchristian and immoral and that their action was illegal and unjustified? How could they? Didn’t they take part themselves?

Again, will the men of Leinster House say that the men of Armagh and Omagh acted against the will of the majority of the people? In the face of the facts they cannot. One outstanding and undeniable political fact is that in every election held in the 26 County State since its establishment, the party returned to power was given a mandate to re-unite the Nation. In fact, no political party could go before the people with any chance of election unless it stated that it would strive to “end Partition”.

This means that every government in the 26 counties has been entrusted by God, through the people, with the task of achieving the freedom and independance of the Nation. For over 30 years every government has refused to carry out this God-given duty… (MORE LATER.)



By Jim McCann (Jean’s son). For Alex Crowe, RIP – “No Probablum”. Glandore Publishing, 1999.

On awakening the next morning the horse was gone. Normally, it would have stood propped up against the walls of one of the cubicles in the middle hut in Cage 11, Long Kesh, but not anymore. Had he bolted? We thought not! Was he not happy with us? We just didn’t know. Had that rat-faced and mustachioed bastard of a prison officer exacted his revenge on us?

For the first time in the two years he had been on our Cage, the prison officer had a smirk on his face and, standing by the gate, he gloated at us. We stood glaring at him, and the more we glared, the more he gloated. He was totally unprepared for the set-up when it was launched : Honky and me stood right in front of him to block his view, and the first idea he got that something was amiss was when the barking from behind us got louder and closer.

We stepped aside at a prearranged verbal signal and it was at that instant that the ferocious ‘Floorboards’-made-hound leapt up into the prisoner officers face – he dived to the ground clutching his throat, and wrestled with the ersatz ‘hound’ for about three seconds until the penny dropped. The ‘hound’ lay ripped to pieces on the ground as we walked away, laughing at the top of our voices.

‘Trigger’ the horse and ‘Bullet’ the dog have passed into Cage 11 history. The last I heard of ‘Floorboards’ was that he was living on a farm somewhere outside Belfast. I wouldn’t recommend whatever meat he might offer you! (MORE LATER).

Thanks for reading,

About 11sixtynine

A mother of three (and a Granny!) and a political activist , living in Dublin , Ireland.
This entry was posted in History/Politics. and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.