On Saturday 31st August 2019, the Bundoran/Ballyshannon H-Block Committee will be holding a rally in Bundoran, Donegal, to commemorate the 38th Anniversary of the 1981 Hunger Strike and in memory of the 22 Irish Republicans that have died on hunger strike between 1917 and 1981 ; those participating have been asked to form-up at 3pm at the East End.

Hunger Strikers.

By Pádraig Ó Tuama.

And there was banging on the bins that night

and many frightened people woke

and noted down the hour.

The clock of hunger-strikers dead is not ignored with ease

and ‘please, God, please keep loved ones safe’ was then

repeated round and round and round

like rosaries told upon a bead,

or shoes upon the ground of orange walking.

The five demands, the five-year plan

that saw a blanket round a man,

the dirty protest, Thatcher stance,

that gave a new and startling glance

at just how deep a people’s fury goes.

And God knows each single mother’s son

was sick of hunger,

all those younger faces became stripped and old

eyes shrunk back and foreheads cold & bold

with skin that’s limp and paper thin,

barely separating blood and bone from stone.

And some did say ‘enough is now enough’

and others said that ‘never, never, never will a martyr die,

he’ll smile upon us long from mural’s wall.’

And others said ‘what nation’s this?

we’re abandoned on our own —

all this for clothes to warm some dying bones.’

And some said ‘that’s a traitor’s talk’

and others bowed their heads and thought that they

would hate to go that way.

Then Bobby Sands was dead

and there was banging on the bin lids on the Falls

echoed through to Shankill gospel halls.

And there was trouble on the street that night

and black flags started hanging while

people started ganging up,

black flags marking out the borders of belonging

the thin black barricade

that’s been around for thirty years

and stayed a fragile point up till today and cries

of how ten mothers’ sons all starved and died

when all they ate was hope and pride.

‘Hunger Strikers’ ; originally published in ‘Sorry for your Troubles’ (Canterbury Press, 2013).


From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, December 1954.

Grant me a place with the heroes, lord,

Who have gone through strife to Thee,

For Erin’s cause, in Erin’s name,

To guard or make her free.

I’d take that place, whate’er my lot,

Betwixt the earth and You ;

All pain would be as bliss to me,

Could I, like those, be true.

Grant me a place with the heroes, Lord,

Who fell in Easter fray,

‘Mid bayonets flash and firing squad,

At dawn of year and day.

I’d gladly share the battle pangs,

And die as brave Malone ;

Or face the ranks by rising sun,

For hopes of Pearse or Tone.

Grant me a place with the heroes, Lord,

Who kept the flame ablaze,

With august blood, and their sacrifice,

In their strong unbending ways.

I’d cherish death like Treacy’s share,

And bless the hand that dealt

the blow, that wrote with Ashe’s name,

Mine own, for God and Celt…



Colonel Frederick Hugh Crawford CBE (pictured), was born on the 21st August, 1861, in Belfast – 158 years ago on this date.

The UVF (pictured, in the early 1900’s) was a politically-minded organisation when it was first formed, on the 31st January 1913 by the ‘Ulster Unionist Council’, with support from the ‘Ulster Reform Club’, but transformed itself into a drug-fuelled mini-mafia in later years. One of the (original) UVF’s better-known leadership figures (apart from ‘Sir’ George Richardson, a retired British Army general) was Colonel Frederick Hugh Crawford CBE, who viewed himself as a breed apart from others who shared the planet with him – “From these settlers sprang a people, the Ulster-Scot, who have made themselves felt in the history of the British Empire and, in no small measure, in that of the United States of America. I am ashamed to call myself an Irishman. Thank God I am not one. I am an Ulsterman, a very different breed..” (from here).

‘His official title read Director of Ordnance of the HQ Staff of the UVF…he had first rate Protestant credentials for he had been one of those who signed the Ulster Covenant in his own blood. He had travelled the world, fought for a time in South Africa and returned to throw himself tirelessly into the fight against Home Rule for Ireland…’ (from here). Colonel Frederick was born in Belfast on the 21st August 1861, and died in his 92nd year on the 5th November 1952. His father, James, was a factory owner in Belfast (manufacturing starch, which is said to be good for a stiff upper lip..) but Frederick struck out on his own, becoming an engineer with a shipping firm before taking to a military life, which brought him into the Boer War.

On the night of the 24th April, 1914, Frederick Crawford, the ‘Director of Ordnance HQ Staff UVF’ (who was cooperating re acquiring arms with, and for, the ‘Ulster Unionist Council’) and the main instigator in an operation in which over 25,000 guns were successfully smuggled into Ireland, witnessed his plans come to fruition – for at least the previous four years, he and some other members of the ‘Ulster Reform Club’ had been making serious inquiries about obtaining arms and ammunition to be used, as they saw it, for ‘the protection of fellow Ulstermen’. Advertisements had been placed in France, Belgium, Germany and Austrian newspapers seeking to purchase ‘10,000 second-hand rifles and two million rounds of ammunition..’ and, indeed, between August 1913 and September 1914, it is known that Crawford and his colleagues in the UVF/URC/UUC obtained at least three million rounds of .303 ammunition and 500 rifles, including Martini Enfield carbines, Lee Metford rifles, Vetterlis and BSA .22 miniature rifles, all accompanied by their respective bayonets, and six Maxim machine guns, from the Vickers Company in London, for £300 each.

The ads were placed and paid for by a ‘H. Matthews, Ulster Reform Club’ ; Crawford’s middle name was Hugh and his mother’s maiden name was Matthews, an action which some members of the Ulster Reform Club objected to, leading to Crawford resigning from that group and describing the objectors as “a hindrance” : he described that period in his life as being “so crowded with excitement and incidents that I can only remember some of them, and not always in the order in which they happened..”. Crawford and his UVF/URC/UUC colleagues had ordered some munitions from a company in Hamburg, in Germany, and had paid a hefty deposit up front but, months later, as they had not heard from the company, Crawford was sent there to see what the delay was and discovered that the German boss, who was in Austria while Crawford was in Germany, had informed Westminster about the order and was asked by that institution not to proceed with same – the deposit would not be returned and the deal was off, as far as the company was concerned.

Crawford tracked him down, in Austria, and called him and his company swindlers and was then told of a similar ‘deal’ involving that arms company regarding Mexican purchasers who also got swindled but, on that occasion, words and bullets were exchanged, the latter from gun barrels! At 60 years of age (in 1921) he was named in the British ‘Royal Honours List’ as a ‘CBE’ (‘Commander of the Order of the British Empire’) and he wrote his memoirs in 1934 at 73 years of age. He died, in his 92nd year, in 1952, and is buried in the City Cemetery in the Falls Road in Belfast. The then British PM, ‘Sir’ Basil Brooke, described him as “..a fearless fighter in the historic fight to keep Ulster British..” but, whatever about his ‘successes on the battlefield’, he was apparently less successful in his family life –

“What sort of man was my Father? As a boy and as a man he was never very intelligent. He was an unconscious bully and for that reason unloved by his children. Each in turn left the home as soon as we became adults and were able to do so. The U.V.F rifles – I think about 15,000 – were stored and kept in good condition in a shed in the grounds of Harland and Wolff where I once saw them. For legal reasons they were in my father’s name. After the retreat from Dunkirk, Britain was desperately short of arms and wanted to purchase the U.V.F rifles. As you are now aware my father was not a very intelligent person and was a hopeless business man. My father’s chartered accountant sent word to him to say that Sir Dawson Bates wanted to meet him about something important. Accordingly, my father went to the accountant’s office where his old friend Sir Dawson Bates was waiting for him – “Ah Fred, so glad you’ve come”. The three, my Father, the accountant and Sir Dawson Bates sat down at a table.

There Sir Dawson carefully explained the desperate need Britain had for arms and asked my father, for patriotic reasons, to release the rifles – it would only be a simple matter of signing a prepared document. My father, in the presence of the accountant and Sir Dawson Bates, for patriotic reasons, signed the document without reading it. It conveyed ownership of the rifles from my father to Sir Dawson Bates who sold them to the British Government for, I believe, £2 a barrel. But there was something equally disgusting to discover ; during the Second World War because of a failed eye operation my father became blind whereupon I was appointed his Attorney and in that capacity I had to take over his financial affairs. I was horrified that his bank was about to foreclose which would have meant that he would have been declared a bankrupt. An unholy trio had been cheating him for years ; his estate agent who collected all revenues due to my father was keeping most of it, his chartered accountant was presenting false figures for income tax purposes and all this skulduggery was made legal by the co-operation of his trusted friend, his solicitor..” (from here).

Colonel Frederick Crawford CBE proudly worked for, and aided and abetted, British imperialism, only to be used, abused and cheated by that same system. A lesson (which will no doubt continue to go unheeded) to be learned, even at this late stage, by those who, today, work that imperialist system in this country, north and south.

The ‘modern day’ UVF, meanwhile, are a self-sustaining criminal outfit, using politics as a disguise for their continued existence – ‘Loads of youngsters were recruited…but the only thing these kids are good for is blocking the street. They wouldn’t know the difference between Edward Carson and Frank Carson..drug dealers and housebreakers have also been recruited. They are given the option of having their arms broken for anti-social behaviour or joining up…nearly everyone joins up. I know of a few fellas who have been out of work and deliberately allowed to run up tabs in UVF pubs. The UVF comes to them at the end of the month and says “pay up lads”. When they cannot they are given the option of a beating or signing up…’ (from here.)

Colonel Frederick Hugh Crawford CBE was born on this date – 21st August – in 1861, 158 years ago and, although he’s gone, the organisation he helped to establish is still with us but, as stated, it does not now operate to a political agenda.


Colm Keena reports on a new survey on low pay and talks to workers caught in the trap.

By Colm Keena.

From ‘Magill’ Magazine, May 1987.

A job in the civil service has for long been considered something desirable, yet a large number of those jobs too are actually low paid. John Blackwell (UCD) found 11,000 workers working in such grades as of May 1986 – that is, slightly under one-fifth of all workers in the central civil service. The union representing clerical workers in the civil service, the CPSSU, is currently seeking a 10 per cent or £15 increase ; a survey carried out for the ‘Postal and Telecommunications Workers Union’ last year found that two-fifths of the union’s members , formerly direct employees of the Department of Posts and Telegraphs, had take-home pay of less than £120 per week.

The survey made detailed enquiries into the workers’ household circumstances and found that many had difficulty making ends meet, and that over half could not afford to take holidays. The An Post workers are now looking for ‘substantial’ increases, involving flat rate increases, percentages and ‘floors’, methods designed specifically for the low paid. These negotiations are now at a ‘delicate stage’, according to PTWU General Secretary, David Begg.

The indications are that the number of low paid workers in the economy is on the increase ; since 1979, the total number of people working in Ireland has been falling but the number of women working has actually risen. The main areas showing significant increases in the number of women at work are insurance, finance, professional services, public administration and commerce. The proportion of the total workforce receiving low pay has grown in parallel… (MORE LATER.)


In Ireland, a few years before the Easter Rising of 1916, it would not be far-fetched at all to state that women were ‘doubly oppressed’ : by ‘the State’ (a British institution, at the time [now just a pro-British one!] ) and by, in the main, male society, although not all women accepted that that was the way it should be.

A number of social and cultural organisations had been established by women and for women, including the ‘Conservative and Unionist Women’s Franchise League’, the ‘Munster Women’s Franchise League’, the ‘North of Ireland Women’s Suffrage Committee’, the ‘Irish Women’s Suffrage Society’ and the ‘Irishwomen’s Suffrage and Local Government Association’, most of which worked independently of each other.

Two ‘troublesome’ Irish women, Louie Bennett and Helen Chenevix, thought it would be to the benefit of the overall objective if those separate organisations were to be coordinated into a more effective campaigning body and, on 21st August 1911 – 108 years ago on this date – the ‘Irish Women’s Suffrage Federation‘ was formed “..to link together the scattered suffrage societies in Ireland in the effort to obtain the vote as it is, or may be, granted to men (and) to carry on more propaganda and education work throughout Ireland than has hitherto been possible…to form the basis of an association which will continue to exist after enfranchisement, and whose purpose will be to work, through the power of the vote, for the welfare of the country..” .

In that same year, (1911), the ‘Munster Women’s Franchise League’ was formed in Cork and the ‘Irishwomen’s Reform League’ was established in Dublin. It appears that women, then, were not only more aware of the injustices foisted on them by an unequal and oppressive society, but were more prepared than we are now to do something about it. Time for more drastic action, perhaps…


From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, January 1955.

Cathal Goulding (Dublin) Stafford Prison, 8 years penal servitude (ps),

Seán Stephenson (London) Wormwood Scrubs Prison, 8 years ps,

Manus Canning (Derry) Wormwood Scrubs, 8 years ps,

Joseph Campbell (Newry) Crumlin Road Jail, 5 years ps,

Leo McCormack (Dublin) Crumlin Road, 4 years ps,

J.P. McCallum (Liverpool) Stafford, 6 years ps,

Kevin O’Rourke (Banbridge) Crumlin Road, 5 years ps,

Eamon Boyce (Dublin) Crumlin Road, 12 years ps,

Philip Clarke (Dublin) Crumlin Road, 10 years ps,

Paddy Kearney (Dublin) Crumlin Road, 10 years ps,

Tom Mitchell (Dublin) Crumlin Road, 10 years ps,

John McCabe (Dublin) Crumlin Road, 10 years ps,

Seán O’Callaghan (Cork) Crumlin Road, 10 years ps,

Seán Hegarty (Cork) Crumlin Road, 10 years ps,

Liam Mulcahy (Cork) Crumlin Road, 10 years ps,

Hugh Brady (Lurgan) Crumlin Road, 3 years ps.

(END of ‘In Jail For Ireland’ ; Next – ‘Students Historic Demonstration’, from the same source.)

Thanks for reading, Sharon.

About 11sixtynine

A mother of three (and a Granny!) and a political activist , living in Dublin , Ireland.
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