Crumlin Road Jail, Belfast (pictured) – known for its good quality bed sheets…

In November 1971, there were more than 700 IRA prisoners being held in Crumlin Road Jail in Belfast, with at least the same number again ‘housed’ in Long Kesh and other prisons. All had access to an exercise yard and, in Crumlin Road Jail, the escape committee decided to use that yard as part of their plan to free three of their number – Martin Meehan, Anthony ‘Dutch’ Doherty and Hugh McCann. The plan was for the three men to hide themselves under a sewer manhole in about two feet of ‘water’, which they did – on the 2nd December 1971, 49 years ago on this date – for about five hours.

As luck would have it, when they eventually let themselves out, a thick fog had settled in the area, giving good cover. They ran for the prison wall and, using bed sheets which they had roughly fashioned into a rope ladder, with a home-made ‘hook’ tied to the top of the ‘ladder’, they managed to scale the wall. Within hours, Martin Meehan and Hugh McCann were in a safe house in the Free State and their comrade, Anthony Doherty – who stayed in Belfast following the escape – joined them two weeks later.

Incidentally, on the 17th November 1971 – about two weeks before the above-mentioned ‘rope ladder’ escape – nine other IRA prisoners had also escaped from that same prison with the use of rope-ladders! The nine were Thomas Kane, Seamus Storey, Bernard Elliman, Danny Mullan, Thomas Fox, Tom Maguire, Peter Rogers, Christy Keenan and Terrence ‘Cleaky’ Clarke and all of them escaped in two cars which were waiting for them on the near-by Antrim Road. To add further to the distress caused to the then British ‘Home Affairs Minister’, Brian Faulkner, and his side-kick, ‘Sir’ Edmund Compton (“…torture would never happen in a British jail..”) by those jail breaks, they were referenced in a popular song of the time –


In Crumlin Road Jail all the prisoners one day

took out a football and started to play,

and while all the warders were watching the ball

nine of the prisoners jumped over the wall!

Over the wall, over the wall,

who would believe they jumped over the wall?

over the wall, over the wall,

It’s hard to believe they jumped over the wall!

Now the warders looked on with the greatest surprise

and the sight that they saw brought tears to their eyes,

for one of the teams was not there at all

they all got transferred and jumped over the wall!

Now the governor came down with his face in a twist

and said “Line up those lads while I check out me list,”

but nine of the lads didn’t answer at all

and the warder said “Please Sir, they’re over the wall.”

The ‘security forces’ were shook to the core

so they barred every window and bolted each door,

but all their precautions were no use at all

for another three prisoners jumped over the wall!

Then the news reached old Stormont, Brian Faulkner turned pale

when he heard that more men had escaped from his jail,

said he – “Now we’ll have an enquiry to call, and we’ll get Edmund Compton to whitewash the wall.”

Ah, whitewash : the second-favourite liquid used in Westminster, after Earl Grey, of course…!


From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, June, 1955.

A camp under the auspices of the Dublin Brigade was held over the Whit weekend in the Glencree Valley, County Wicklow – it was graced with very fine weather and was attended by 30 scouts. Officers from GHQ supervised a vigorous programme of scout training, embracing semaphore, knots, campcraft etc. An enjoyable campfire was held on Sunday with the surrounding hills echoing to the sound of marches and ballads after which tired and happy scouts turned in to sleep like the logs in the nearby woods!

Note – new Headquarters address : all correspondence should be addressed to Fianna Eireann, Sean Tracey House, 94 Sean Tracey Street, Dublin.

(END of ‘Fianna Éireann Ard Fheis’. NEXT – ‘Sinn Féin Victory Rally’, from the same source.)


Ireland, 1920 : a flavour of the chaos inflicted here by the British political and military presence : in January that year, the 1st Cork Brigade of the IRA captured Carrigtwohill ‘Royal Irish Constabulary’ (RIC) barracks, in February the ‘Home Rule Bill’ was published, in which Westminster voiced its intention to establish a 128-member ‘parliament’ in Dublin and a 52-member ‘parliament’ in Belfast despite knowing, from previous partition experiments, that two ‘parliaments’ in one country was a receipe for political disaster, Sinn Féin Lord Mayor of Cork, Tomás Mac Curtain, was murdered in his house by British forces in March, in April a hunger-strike began in Mountjoy Prison in Dublin by IRA prisoners who were demanding POW status, in May that year forty IRA prisoners who were on hunger-strike in Wormwood Scrubs in London, England, were released and in June an armed British militia in Ireland, the RIC, got the go-ahead from Westminster to‘officially’ shoot republicans dead.

In July 1920, those deemed not fit for the regular British forces in Ireland were given a new home in the ‘ADRIC’ (‘Auxiliary Division Royal Irish Constabulary’) and in August Terence MacSwiney went on hunger-strike in Brixton Prison in England. In September the ‘Black and Tans’ destroyed more than fifty properties in Balbriggan town in Dublin, a British militia, the ‘USC’, was established in October, in November fourteen British spies were executed in Dublin by the IRA and in December 1920 Westminster declared ‘Martial Law’ in Cork, Kerry, Limerick and Tipperary.

Questions re ‘the Irish situation’ surfaced occasionally in the grand halls of Westminster and, on the 2nd December 1920 – 100 years ago on this date – the following exchange took place in that venue but was dismissed by the chairperson as ‘the wrong question having been asked’ :

Lieut-Commander KENWORTHY asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland how many prisoners in Ireland have been shot dead while trying to escape, according to police reports, up to the end of November of this year and during the present year; how many have been wounded; and how many of these were handcuffed at the time of their death or wounding?

Mr. GALBRAITH asked the Chief Secretary for Ireland what is the total number of persons who have been shot at in Ireland when attempting to escape from custody; and how many of such persons have been wounded and killed, respectively?

Mr. HENRY : According to the police reports the number of prisoners fired at while attempting to escape from custody within the period from 1st January to 30th November, 1920, is 11. Of these nine were killed and two wounded. One of the prisoners killed and one of those wounded are stated to have been handcuffed while attempting to escape.

Lieut-Commander KENWORTHY : Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that when the bodies have been given to the relatives that in many cases those men have been found to be riddled with bullets through the head: how does he think that men can try to escape from police lorries; and can he inform me if all these cases have been investigated by a court of inquiry?

Mr. HENRY : I must have notice of that question.

Mr. MacVEAGH : Can the Attorney-General say whether the figure he has quoted includes those shot dead on the allegation that they were attempting to resist arrest?

Mr. HENRY : The question put to me was as to the number of men shot whilst attempting to escape from custody.

Lieut-Commander KENWORTHY : Surely the right hon. and learned Gentleman can say whether there has been an inquiry into these cases, in view of the very serious allegations made and reported in the newspapers throughout the country?

Major O’NEILL : Is the right hon. and learned Gentleman aware that when General Lucas was captured, the officer who was captured with him attempted to escape, and was shot by the Sinn Feiners?

Mr. MacVEAGH : Also does the right hon. and learned Gentleman know that when General Lucas was released he stated that he had been treated with the greatest consideration by his captors?

Mr. SPEAKER : We are getting a long way from the question on the Paper…

(HANSARD 1803–2005 ? 1920s ? 1920 ? December 1920 ? 2 December 1920 ? Commons Sitting ? IRELAND. ESCAPING PRISONERS [SHOOTING]. HC Deb 02 December 1920 vol 135 cc1410-1 1410.) (From here.)

That was 100 years ago and shows that those political defenders of British imperialism were as quick then as they are now to use obfuscation in an attempt to ‘neutralise’ an embarrassing situation. But Irish republicans had been fighting the British writ in Ireland centuries before the Westminster parliament was established and – no obfuscation here – will continue to do so, in one form and/or another, until they remove themselves, politically and militarily, from our country!


Confidence in the Garda Siochana continues to erode as more incidents of questionable Garda ‘evidence’ emerge.

By Sandra Mara.

From ‘The Magill Annual’, 2002.

At the time of the transfers, Garda Commissioner Pat Byrne said that they were “..in both the public interest and the interests of the Garda Siochana and should not be seen as an indication of any wrongdoing by those directed on transfer.” Fine Gael TD Alan Shatter said the Commissioner’s statement and actions in transferring the officers did not adequately address public concern over events in Donegal.

In the course of proceedings at Letterkenny District Court, no less than five gardai had, on oath, denied the existence of such a document. Following the circulation of these orders, the summonses became “a cascade”, according to Martin Giblin SC, and it became apparent that certain members of the force were intent on accusing the McBreartys of involvement in the death of Richie Barron, despite the lack of evidence.

Frank McBrearty cites unlawful arrest, slander and false imprisonment in a detailed affidavit setting out the extent of the harassment campaign against his family. He says his life and that of his family has been a “living hell”, and that they “will never get over it – it’s destroyed our lives for the past five years”.

To date, despite several garda inquiries, including the long running Carty Inquiry, the report of which has been with both the Commissioner and Justice Minister John O’Donoghue for some considerable time, the outcome of these inquiries has not been made public. During the Carty investigation, senior politicians such as Labour TD Brendan Howlin and Fine Gael’s Jim Higgins, who raised the issue of garda corruption allegations in the Dail (sic), spoke of their concern at the manner in which the inquiry was being conducted. Brendan Howlin told ‘Magill’ that, following his contact with the Minister for Justice on foot of new information he had received about the internal garda investigation, detectives from the ‘National (sic) Bureau of Criminal Investigation’ called to his home in Wexford, and questioned him. Howlin was concerned about the course of the inquiry… (MORE LATER.)


In March 1973, IRA leader Joe Cahill was arrested by the Free State Navy in Waterford, aboard the Claudia, a ship from Libya loaded with five tons of weapons, and was sentenced to three years imprisonment, and another IRA leader, Seamus Twomey (pictured), was appointed IRA Chief of Staff.
In early October that year, Twomey was caught and arrested by the Free Staters and imprisoned in Mountjoy Jail, which meant that three top IRA operatives (Twomey, J.B. O’Hagan and Kevin Mallon) were now housed in the one location – and the IRA wanted them back!

An ‘American businessman’, a ‘Mr. Leonard’, approached the manager of the ‘Irish Helicopters’ company at Dublin Airport and discussed hiring a helicopter for an aerial photographic shoot in County Laois and, after being shown the company’s fleet of helicopters, this ‘businessman’ booked a five-seater Alouette II helicopter for October 31st.

‘Mr Leonard’ arrived at Irish Helicopters on the day and was introduced to the pilot of the helicopter, a Captain Thompson Boyes, who was instructed to fly to a field in Stradbally, County Laois, to pick up photographic equipment.

After landing, the pilot saw two armed and masked men approaching the helicopter from nearby trees and he was held at gunpoint and told he would not be harmed if he followed instructions. ‘Mr Leonard’ left the area with one gunman, while the other gunman climbed aboard the helicopter armed with a pistol and an Armalite rifle. Captain Boyes was told to fly towards Dublin following the path of railway lines and the Royal Canal, and was ordered not to register his flight path with Air Traffic Control. As the helicopter approached Dublin, Boyes was informed of the escape plan and instructed to land in the exercise yard at Mountjoy Prison.

On Wednesday, 31st October 1973, at 3.40pm in the afternoon, the Alouette II helicopter landed in the ‘D Wing Exercise Yard’ of Mountjoy Prison in Dublin, when a football match was taking place between the prisoners, and Twomey, O’Hagan and Mallon jumped aboard, but were quickly spotted (!) by an alert (!) prison screw who used his training and power of intuition to take immediate action – he called on the screws at the gate to close them over as he feared the helicopter was trying to escape (according to the RTE ‘Scannal – Prison Break’ programme!).

Another IRA prisoner who was in the yard at the time recalled how an embarrassed screw told him that he had apologised to the prison governor in relation to the incident, saying that he thought the helicopter contained a visiting (Free State) Minister for Defence (and well-known publican) Paddy Donegan : the IRA prisoner replied that , in fact, “..it was our Minister of Defence leaving…!”

All three men reported back to the IRA and continued their work for the Movement but, after a few weeks of freedom, Kevin Mallon was recaptured at a GAA Dance in the Montague Hotel in Co. Laois on 10th December 1973, J.B.O’Hagan was recaptured in Dublin in early 1975 and Seamus Twomey managed to remain uncaptured until December 2nd, 1977 – 43 years ago on this date – after the Special Branch came across him in a ‘suspicious car’ parked in Sandycove, in Dublin. He had managed to evade the forces of ‘law and order’, North and South, for fifty months, despite been hunted by the best that Leinster House and Westminster could throw at him!


From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, November 1954.

Mr Sean Ryan, Tralee, in his oration, said “We are assembled here today to unveil this little limestone memorial to a republican soldier who gave his life so that Ireland might be free. Ireland still remains in the hands of that tyrant England, and while this is the position the young men of Ireland must be prepared to carry on the fight for freedom and die if necessary in its defence, like the man they were honouring today.

There will always be men found in Ireland to challenge the might of England. In the last decade we had Charlie Kearns, Sean McCaughy, Maurice O’Neill and several others and we had, the other day, a unit of the IRA carrying out such a daring raid in the strongest military barracks in occupied Ireland and stripping it completely of all its equipment.”

The meeting then closed, and Jeremiah Donoghue thanked all those who attended. Mr E. Looney, Sculptor, Killorglin, appealed for financial support for the East Kerry Memorial Committee.

(END of ‘Kerry Honours Her Patriot Dead’ ; NEXT – ‘Alice French RIP’, from the same source.)


The 44th successive Cabhair Christmas Swim (1976-2020) will, as usual, be held – later on this month – on Christmas Day at 12 Noon at the 3rd Lock of the Grand Canal, in Dublin (opposite the Kelly’s/Blackhorse Inn building in Inchicore, Dublin 8), but a ‘Plan B’ has been put in place by the organisers to take account of the circumstances brought about by the Covid 19 issue.

There are, as stated already on this blog, two possible scenarios regarding this event : it either goes ahead in full ‘party’-type mode ie music, dancing, ‘soup’ for the adults (!), crowds etc etc, presuming that, by the 25th December 2020, Covid will have been dealth with, or the Swim will take place in a restrained manner to take account of Covid-enforced social distancing (‘Level 3’, at the time of writing) and other common-sense guidelines ie just the ‘bare bones’ – a reduced number of swimmers, one family member with each swimmer, a much-reduced Cabhair Crew on the ground and the public being asked to observe from a safe distance (ie the bridge, or further up the canal), with no foodstuffs, no ‘lemonade or soup’ (!) , no music etc on site, which should help to prevent a crowd from gathering at the actual Swim spot.

What is certain, however, is that, for the 44th successive year, the Swim will be going ahead, in one format or the other!

Thanks for reading – Sharon and the ‘1169’ team.

On Monday last, 30th November 2020, at 12 Midnight, the regime in Leinster House introduced a change for the State in relation to Covid restrictions ; we went from ‘Level 5’ to ‘Level 3’. It is an IBEC/business-requested/instructed change, purely for economic reasons rather than health reasons and will no doubt lead to more draconian measures in late January/early February 2021. Indeed, the quango established by the Leinster House institute to advise on those issues has itself voiced concern over going from ‘5’ to ‘3’ but, due to the fact that our society is geared towards capitalism, the concern expressed was ignored
(not for the first time, either).

Capitalism, the attitude it spawns and those who gladly and greedily operate within and agree with its structures will cause more harm and destruction to every society than any other virus could. We need a new political system, before it’s too late.

About 11sixtynine

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