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,

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In October 1980, protesting POW’s in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh began a hunger strike for political status ; on the 1st December, 1980, they were joined by three republican women prisoners in Armagh Jail – Mairead Farrell, Mairead Nugent and Mary Doyle. These were the only three women weighing more than eight-and-a-half stone :

‘One of the notable figures of the dirty protest, Pauline McLoughlin, was a 19-year-old from Derry when she was arrested and held on remand in Armagh before being sentenced in 1978 for complicity in the killing of a British soldier…as an initial member of the protest, Pauline lived in the unsanitary conditions from the first days and, because of a previously existing stomach condition, became increasingly ill as time went on.

After having lost all of her prison privileges as a member of the dirty protest, Pauline was suddenly unable to receive the packages of food which had kept her sustained and began to vomit continuously after every prison meal…between the poor food and the grotesque conditions she found herself living in, her weight quickly dropped from 9.5 stone to around 6 stone…on 18th March, a prison doctor cautioned that, should she not be given medical attention immediately, she would most likely die and she was subsequently declared unfit for punishment and sent to the hospital to recover (but) after an incomplete recovery, she was returned to Armagh where her condition worsened again, causing her to be sent back to the hospital; this was a pattern that would continue for multiple trips…

Upon hearing of Pauline’s condition, the public immediately began to protest the treatment of her poor health, which was blamed on her “voluntary” involvement in the dirty protest by prison officials and doctors. The activists group called the ‘Women of Imperialism’ issued a pamphlet advocating for Pauline’s return to health and an improvement of prison conditions by juxtaposing a picture of a healthy Pauline, pre-arrest, with the following description of her condition : ‘She landed in the hospital so dehydrated that eight bags of special fluid had to be drip fed into her to stop her heart [from] collapsing. Yet one week later Pauline was back in her cell in Armagh prison. Her condition was
still undiagnosed and untreated. At the age of 23 her hair is grey, her teeth rotting and falling out (and) she has dizzy spells and blackouts if she tries to walk. Weighing just over 5 stone, she looks like the victim of a famine —too thin even to sit in one position for any length of time..'(from here).

In October 1980, the ‘British Socialist Feminist Conference’ (which was attended by 1,200 women) supported the demand for political status and pledged its aid to campaign for the release of Pauline McLoughlin from Armagh Jail. The ‘no wash’ protest was halted as the hunger strikes began, putting Westminster under political pressure and, fearful of a Christmas bombing campaign, which hunger strike deaths could have sparked off, on December 18th, 1980, a 30-page document was released outlining proposals and assurances from the British Government that, step by step, the five demands – the right not to wear a prison uniform, the right not to do prison work, the right of free association with other prisoners and to organise educational and recreational pursuits, the right to one visit, one letter and one parcel per week and the full restoration of remission lost during the protest – would be met. The hunger strike was called off and the fulfilment of promises was awaited. They were never fulfilled.

‘Sentenced before 1976, McLaughlin qualified for special prisoner status, but was denied this. She originally joined the protest movement inside the Northern Irish prisons to gain this special status, but became ill and according to some sources, ‘blackmailed by the prison doctor to end her action’..she suffered from stomach problems and was unable to digest food, which caused her to rapidly lose weight. Shuffled between prison hospital and Armagh, her condition was viewed as potentially fatal and there were calls by the anti-H-Block movement for her to be released on compassionate grounds. However the Thatcher government refused to do so, with Northern Ireland Secretary Humphrey Atkins claiming that her condition was “Not at present critical…while Miss McLaughlin’s health does give cause for serious concern, it is considered in the light of all the advice available that there are insufficient grounds for taking the exceptional course of releasing her on licence from the indeterminate sentence and using the Royal Prerogative to remit the balance of the fixed terms..” (from here).

However, after a sustained campaign in Ireland and Britain, Pauline McLoughlin was released, on licence, on the 10th January, 1981 – 37 years ago on this date. Hopefully, in the (near) future, myself or some other blogger will be able to write about the release of our other political prisoners, including Gabriel Mackle and Tony Taylor, present-day victims of continuing British injustice.

‘IN IRELAND’S CAUSE’ by Alice French.

From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, October 1954.

‘Oh! Give me a gun and a stout, strong arm,

instead of a feeble pen,

when the rallying call to break the thrall,

resounds from glen to glen.

Bringing back the joy of the yesteryears,

when Ireland’s sons were men,

and taking the sadness from all the tears,

that blinded her eyes since then.

Oh! Give me a gun and a stout, strong arm,

instead of this shaky hand,

and the joy of helping to lift our flag

above this glorious land.

And the strength of heart, and the steely nerve,

that befits a soldier’s task!

Ah me! But, dear Lord, ’tis against Your rules,

and I know it’s too much to ask.

But give me the light – wherever I can – my country and You to serve,

to love You first, and my country next,

from this duty not to swerve.

Decree, dear Lord, and destine, for our land,

that her sons be as strong and brave,

as those who are pleading on High for her,

who call from their martyr’s grave.

May the call of her dead be not in vain,

when they plead before Your throne,

may the call of her dead be not in vain,

when it’s “Arms for her alone!”

Oh give to her sons such a pure proud joy,

a Terence MacSwiney heart,

that their arms may live in their country’s love,

of Ireland’s soul be a part!

(Next – ‘DRIVE ENGLAND OUT!’, from the same source.)


From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, February 1955.

The military actions at Armagh and Omagh were so manifestly justified and so bravely carried out they immediately won popular approval among Irishmen everywhere. Apart from their military significance they have had a most marked effect on political thoughts and have been spectacularly successful in pinpointing the root of the whole political problem eg British occupation of part of Ireland. But there have been criticisms in high places –

1)- that the young men of Omagh were brave but foolish and did not realise the consequence of their actions.

2)- that their action was unchristian and immoral.

3)- that their action was illegal and unjustified as they had not the support of the majority of the Irish people.

The first slander has been made by public men but I think it has been adequately answered by no less a person than Lord Chief Justice MacDermott, who stated that the eight felons sentenced by him in Belfast were highly intelligent young men and seemed to realise fully the consequences of their actions.

The second slanderous accusation was made by Mr Costello and endorsed by Mr de Valera in that marathon debate in Leinster House last October shortly after the battle of Omagh. These men have little qualifications for preaching to us of christianity and morality as they only succeed in raising up ghosts from the 1920’s and 1930’s who accuse them of the killing of their former comrades. But yet they dare call the young men of the IRA who were captured at Omagh “unchristian and immoral”.

The third charge is one which is being played up most at present but it is the one which we expect will boomerang and obliterate nearly every political party in Leinster House today. This is the charge that military action is illegal and unjustified as we have not the support of the majority of the people. This is exactly the argument put forward by the Irish Parliamentary Party in 1916 when it supported the British Government in its slander of the men of Easter week… (MORE LATER.)



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

Biographical Note : Jim McCann is a community worker from the Upper Springfield area in West Belfast. Although born in the Short Strand, he was reared in the Loney area of the Falls Road. He comes from a large family (average weight about 22 stone!). He works with Tús Nua (a support group for republican ex-prisoners in the Upper Springfield), part of the Upper Springfield Development Trust. He is also a committee member of the ‘Frank Cahill Resource Centre’, one of the founders of ‘Bunscoil an tSléibhe Dhuibh’, the local Irish language primary school and Naiscoil Bharr A’Chluanaí, one of the local Irish language nursery schools.

His first publication last year by Glandore was ‘And the Gates Flew Open : the Burning of Long Kesh’. He hopes to retire on the profits of his books. Fat chance!


The prison officers parade-ground swagger must have cut quite a dash in his army days but, because of his age, he missed all the major world conflicts of the twentieth century. I always thought that this weighed heavily on him – all that anger and no outlet for it except maybe the prison service. This, plus the fact that he was constantly derided in front of his subordinates who all took great pleasure from our playful banter which made a laughing stock of him in everyone’s eyes but his own!

The fact that all the other screws got great delight from our efforts was a matter of complete indifference to us. In those days we were given to bouts of sizism.

“You stupid bastard!” roared the prison officer to one of his men who claimed to have seen the horse, as both horse and jockey neared the prison officer’s hut through the deteriorating light of day. I’m sure that when the prison officer saw the horse he thought he had been kicked by a Honky/donkey. Or is it the other way round?

Anyway, Honky made jockey-like noises with a Lady Godiva-like accent – “You perverted Peeping Tom, avert your gaze, you cad!” he cried with all the demure he could muster. “Go back to England, sicko, and stop ogling my beautiful wife!”, I shouted at the prison officer, who was nearly choking himself looking for the correct rebuke. “You fucking Irish bastards, I’ll have the lot of ye…” he articulated, pushing the parameters of his abridged vocabulary to the limits. Honky Godiva rode off into the sunset laughing his head off, his honour intact. I pleaded with the screw for a bale of hay. Request loudly denied… (MORE LATER).

Thanks for reading,

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In Cork, in 1920, Irish republican Tomás MacCurtain was elected as ‘Lord Mayor’ of the city, just one of the many changes that resulted from the 15th January local council elections that were held in Ireland that year, in which Sinn Féin won control of 11 out of 12 cities and boroughs – the only municipal council in all Ireland left under Unionist control was in Belfast ; out of 206 councils elected on the island, 172 now had a republican/nationalist majority.

The British had ‘outlawed’ Dáil Éireann (the 32-county body, not the pretend ‘Irish parliament’ in Kildare Street, in Dublin, which Free Staters claim, falsely, to be the same institution) which had directed all local council’s in Ireland to break their connection with the (British) Dublin Castle system of local administration and, within months, most of the local councils in the country were reporting to the republican administration. Incidentally, that All-Ireland (32 County) Dáil continued to function underground until 1938, when it delegated its executive powers to the Army Council of the IRA, in accordance with a resolution of the First Dáil in 1921. With the 1969 split, Tom Maguire, the last and faithful survivor of the All-Ireland Dáil, stated that the Provisional IRA was the successor of the 1938 body – similarly, following the 1986 split, he nominated the Continuity IRA as the legitimate IRA. Tom Maguire died in 1993, aged one-hundred-and-one (101).

Tomás Óg MacCurtain (pictured, above) who, in the year that his father was elected as ‘Lord Mayor’ of Cork, was only five years of age. He developed an interest in all things Irish, encouraged as much by his mother, Eibhlís Breathnach, as well as his father and, as an adult, became every bit as active in Irish republicanism as was his father, and quickly became a trusted and leading republican, sitting on the Executive of the IRA. This, plus his family history, marked him out to the Free State ‘authorities’ as ‘a person of interest’.

On Wednesday, 3rd January 1940 – 78 years ago on this date – in St. Patrick Street in Cork, Tomás Óg was jumped-on by a number of Free State Special Branch men, who had decided to ‘arrest’ him – he fought with them and, in the scuffle, a gunshot was fired. A Free State detective by the name of Roche, from Union Square Barracks, who in particular had been harassing Tomás Óg for weeks, fell to the ground – he was fatally wounded and died the next day. On the 13th June 1940, the Free State ‘Special Criminal Court’ sentenced Tomás Óg MacCurtain to death, to be carried out on the 5th July 1940. An application for ‘Habeas Corpus’ was lodged and the execution was postponed for a week, but the Free State Supreme Court then dismissed the appeal. The whole country was divided over the issue – some demanded that he be put to death immediately as a ‘sign’ from the Fianna Fail administration that they were serious about ‘cracking-down’ on their former comrades in the IRA, while others demanded that he be released.

Finally, on the 10th July 1940, the Free Staters issued a statement – “The President, acting on the advice of the government, has commuted the sentence of death on Tomás (Óg) MacCurtain to penal servitude for life.”
It has since been alleged that a sister of Cathal Brugha’s widow, who was then the Reverend Mother of an Armagh Convent, had requested that her ‘boss’ , Cardinal MacRory, should ‘speak to’ Eamon de Valera about the case. This, if indeed it did happen, and the fact that Tomás Óg’s father had actually shouldered a gun alongside many members of the then Fianna Fail administration
(before they went Free State, obviously), saved his life. Tomás Óg MacCurtain died in 1994, at 79 years of age. An interview he gave in connection with the IRA’s ‘Border Campaign’ can be accessed here.


From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, October 1954.

The Kerry County Board, GAA, in a moment of absent-mindedness, apparently, allowed themselves to be persuaded to invite ‘Senator’ Liam Kelly to throw in the ball at the County Championship Final in Tralee on Sunday, 19th September, and the proposal received widespread publicity inspired by those who are trying to capitalise on the new ‘star’.

However, before the 19th September, some Kerry republicans notified the County Board that they disagreed very much with the idea, while the Kerins-O’Rahilly Band arranged to lead the parade of the teams round the field before the match, realising the obvious inconsistency of a band named in memory of Charlie Kerins turning out to honour a man who is so loud in his praise of the Constitution under which Charlie was executed, informed the County Board they could have the Senator or the band, but not both.

In the end the County Board decided to drop the throwing-in ceremony. A public meeting for Saturday night was hurriedly arranged as a consolation for Mr Liam Kelly by some of his political friends. (Next – ‘In Ireland’s Cause’ ; a poem by Alice French, from the same source.)


From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, February 1955.

‘In the name of God.

By Christ his only Son,

by Mary his gentle mother,

by Patrick the Apostle of the Irish,

by the loyalty of Columcille,

by the name of our race,

by the blood of our ancestors,

by the murder of Red Hugh,

by the pitiful death of Hugh O’ Neill,

by the desire of Sarsfield at the point of death,

by the groaning of the oppressed Fitzgerald,

by the fate of Owen Roe,

by the dripping wounds of Emmet,

by the corpses of the famine

by the tears of Irish exiles.

We swear the Oath our forefathers swore,

that we will burst the bondage of our Nation,

or fall side by side.

(Next – ‘Unchristian? Immoral? Illegal?’, from the same source.)



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

Biographical Note : Jim McCann is a community worker from the Upper Springfield area in West Belfast. Although born in the Short Strand, he was reared in the Loney area of the Falls Road. He comes from a large family (average weight about 22 stone!). He works with Tús Nua (a support group for republican ex-prisoners in the Upper Springfield), part of the Upper Springfield Development Trust. He is also a committee member of the ‘Frank Cahill Resource Centre’, one of the founders of ‘Bunscoil an tSléibhe Dhuibh’, the local Irish language primary school and Naiscoil Bharr A’Chluanaí, one of the local Irish language nursery schools.

His first publication last year by Glandore was ‘And the Gates Flew Open : the Burning of Long Kesh’. He hopes to retire on the profits of his books. Fat chance!


Screws by their nature are creatures of unthinking routine. The cages of Long Kesh were designed to keep people in. Their design and construction insured that things could be kept out as well. The idea that someone could smuggle a horse into a cage is ridiculous, but because of the screw’s intensive training (which strangles logical thought and common sense), we obviously had a horse. There could be no other possible reason. Honky’s opportunity to gain us a victory had come!

The dinner trolley was adapted into a conveyance that could hold both the horse (this was the easy part) and Honky. This was before calculators were invented, so forty of us took off our shoes and socks and estimated the correct displacement of Honky’s weight, so as the horse wouldn’t collapse until the optimum moment. Honky stood about in the nude as we readied his impotent stallion. It was just getting dark as he mounted the horse, and he toured the cage in what has now entered the annals of republican folklore as ‘Honky Godiva’s Last Gallop’. With Honky on its back, the magnificent beast made his way to the gate, where the PO waited to find out what was causing the commotion.

The PO was short, English and an ex-British Army sergeant major, and the uniform he wore was immaculate. The ‘Prison Rules and Regulation Book’ was his bible. He had the bearing of Colonel Blimp, the attitude of a French Foreign Legion martinet, but the scoutmaster of St Peter’s Divis Street Belfast Branch of the Boy Scouts of Ireland had more experience of conflict than he had. He was small in stature, intellect and sense of humour and, in his regulation prison officer boots, he stood a good four feet one inch off the ground, which still left him on average one foot five inches below the rest of us. And he had a rat-loke face and dead eyes and a thin razor-like waxed moustache, which he obviously took great pride in… (MORE LATER).

Thanks for reading, Sharon.

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As dark clouds rumbled, wondered I:

How come this grumble from the sky?

The dark clouds clashed and tore asunder,

This very sky that we stood under!

Cold and dark was that Christmas day,

In that awful, blustery, wintery way ;

And hot air and sunshine thought it wise,

To take their peaceful clouds and rise…
((‘adjusted’ from Kathleen’s original, here.)

There’s a good reason why ‘rain’ is a four-letter word, ‘spelt’ with one syllable- drenched! The ‘Cabhair Crew’ told me that as they were loading the tables, flag, banners, and the ‘goodies’ etc for transportation at 8am that morning, they done so in a heavy, consistent downpour and, whatever about 8am that morning (!) I can confirm, as can about 30 other people, that that same weather stayed with us from the time we got to the site, at about 10am, until about 1pm, when we left, only easing for a few minutes now and then, to be replaced by a heavy, consistent drizzle. Then it was back to a heavy, consistent downpour!

But, of course, the ‘gig’ went ahead, mostly as planned (with a smaller turn out than usual, but the same amount of support audibly ‘visible’ from dry people in passing vehicles!), all five sponsored swimmers were on site and earned their keep and, although the temperature was low, our spirits were high! Santa got detained in a dry spot somewhere else but another ‘S’ man flew in to join us, coming down to earth in a splashtacular (groan!) fashion…

Anyway – enough about the weather and the ‘S’ men : taken with a specially-adopted waterproof camera (!), the following pics were emailed to ‘1169 Towers’ this afternoon and we were asked to put a few words with them and post them here :

Our incredible pic shows how the ‘S’ man – ‘Superman’, of course – flew in to take part in the Cabhair Swim, just one of the many attractions that day (!) ; his costume apparently burned off during re-entry into Earth’s atmosphere except, obviously, for his underpants – unfortunately, as our next pic shows, his landing gear must have been frozen…

..OUCH! After he was dragged out of the canal, he was quickly revived with a bottle of kryptonite and escorted from the site.

An early pic of some of the ‘goodies’ on offer, before they got washed away. That pic was taken during one of the few drizzle interludes, otherwise the scene would have been just a blur…!

The five swimmers, getting as wet out of the water as they did in it.

One of the swimmers, Míchéal, seconds after being told he has to get in for a second time…

..but he was dragged back returned and somewhat begrudgingly agreed to pose for this pic while, at the same time, looking for a more secure exit point!

Four of the five swimmers. The missing man just couldn’t be persuaded to get out of the freezing-cold water as he was enjoying the experience too much. Either that, or the ‘Cabhair Crew’ were out and about searching all the local hiding places for him..!

Ahh! Isn’t that nice? A helping hand. No truth to the video doing the rounds that seconds after that pic was taken, the swimmer in the water yanked the other fella in, shouting – “Ya smug git ya. If ya think your job is just to help us out, yer mistaking…”

And that’s it, for now. If any other pics surface (!) we’ll post them here but, given the day that was in it, we’re not expecting a deluge of them (!). Top marks to Cabhair, the five swimmers and the thirty-or-so crowd that assembled with us on the banks of the Grand Canal or on the near-by bridge and footpaths to observe the proceedings on such a wet day – much appreciated! Our next function in Dublin is the Dáithí Ó Conaill commemoration on New Year’s Day in Glasnevin Cemetery at 12.45pm. And, whatever the weather, we’ll be there!

Thanks for reading,

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‘Seamus Dwyer was christened James and took the Irish form of his name in later life. He was the younger of twin boys ; he and his elder brother, Luke, were born on the 15th November 1886…(he became) increasingly active in Sinn Féin politics and was recognised as a very prominent member of Sinn Féin in the Rathmines and South Dublin areas. Cahir Davitt, a Judge in the Dáil Courts in 1921 and later the first Attorney General of the Free State, recalled sitting as a judge in the District Court in Rathmines around this time where the other two judges were Erskine Childers and James Dwyer (neither judge was to survive the Civil War)…Dwyer also become involved in the military struggle for Irish independence and served as the Intelligence Officer (I/O) for G Company, 4th Battalion, Dublin Brigade IRA during the War of Independence. He was arrested and imprisoned by the British for a time in 1920.

He worked with Michael Collins on policy material, rather than military operations (and) was a member of the Second Dáil, which sat on August 16, 1921 (until 8th June 1922)…the controversial Anglo-Irish Treaty (was) signed on 6th December 1921 (and) Dwyer was a strong Pro-Treaty member. Oriel House, a prominent building in the centre of Dublin located on the corner of Fenian Street and Westland Row, was the headquarters of the Free State Intelligence Department which comprised of three sections – the Criminal Investigations Department (CID), the Protective Corps and the Citizen’s Defence Force….though there is no record of Dwyer having an official position in the CDF*, it is clear that he was strongly associated with it in the minds of republicans…On the evening of Wednesday 20th December 1922 (95 years ago on this date), as the day’s trading drew to a close (in his shop) Marie was upstairs in their accommodation while her husband, Seamus (37), served customers and spoke with friends in the shop below…it was only five days before Christmas, no doubt trade was brisk and Dwyer was looking forward to the Christmas break.

It was also the day after seven republican prisoners had been executed in Kildare following their capture carrying arms, one of the largest single executions during the Civil War…standing less than a yard away from his victim, (the IRA man) reached into the inside breast pocket of his overcoat and whipped out the revolver, pointed it directly at Dwyer’s chest and fired two shots into him from point blank range. Dwyer was hit in the heart and died instantly, falling behind the counter…his death was noted in the records of Blackrock College by Fr John Ryan CSSp, College historian and archivist: ‘Shot 1922..political assassination – connected with his attitude re killing of Rory O’Connor?’ (From here.)

*To declare that Seamus Dwyer “had no official position in the CDF” is questionable – “Dwyer was also the head of a shadowy organisation called the Citizens Defence Force which operated out of Oriel House alongside the infamous CID and it is likely that this is the reason why he was killed, probably as a reprisal for the executions which the Free State had started shortly beforehand…” (from here), and then there’s this, which also counters that declaration – ‘The CDF was was set up to protect private property. One of it’s first leaders, Seamus Dwyer, was shot dead in his own shop. Leadership of this body passed on to Harrison*, a former British Army officer. There were 101 members in this body, mostly former BA men, probably recruited from the British Legion. It was a very secretive organisation and used numbers instead of names when writing reports and communicating. Three of it’s members were killed during it’s existence. It was the first body to be abolished after the ending of the civil war…’ (from here / *Captain Henry Harrison, O.B.E., M.C. secretary of the ‘Irish Dominion League’). Finally, this – ‘Seamus Dwyer, killed in his own business premises, is reported to have been in overall charge of the CDF but Dáil records show although considered for the post he did not take it up..’ (from here.) The man was obviously predisposed towards the objectives of the CDF and that was apparently recognised by the then State ‘authorities’.

A local (Clondalkin, Dublin) connection re the above-mentioned execution of Seamus Dwyer –

Dwyer was shot by (anti-Treaty) IRA Volunteer Commandant Robert ‘Bobbie’ Bonfield (pictured) who, at the time, lived on Moyne Road (number 103) in Ranelagh, Dublin.
He was a member of the Fourth Battalion, Dublin Brigade, IRA.

Robert Bonfield was born in Youghalarra, Nenagh, County Tipperary in 1903 (he was only 20 years of age when he was kidnapped and killed by the Staters) and was a member of the Fourth Battalion, Dublin Brigade, IRA. He
was educated by the Christian Brothers at Synge Street, Dublin and, at the age of 17, entered University College, Dublin, to study dentistry. He joined the IRA through contacts in that College. A number of weeks before his death
(29th March 1923) he was arrested at his home by the Staters, but he escaped from their custody (in Portobello Barracks) and went on the run, and remained a free man until his recapture and subsequent ‘disappearance’. He was visiting the Seven Churches on Holy Thursday and it would appear was accompanied by another man when he was picked up (visiting the Seven Churches was a custom in Dublin during that period, when its citizens would visit all seven churches during Holy Week).

After being captured he was dragged towards the Baggot Street corner of Stephen’s Green, near the Shelbourne Hotel, and in the direction of both Oriel House and the new CID Headquarters which was just a few hundred yards away on Merrion Square. He was assaulted on several occasions by his escort in full public view and this was the last time he was seen alive ; his dead body was discovered the following day, Good Friday, by a shepherd at Clondalkin, Dublin – the previous day (Thursday, 29th of March 1923, between 6.30pm and 7pm), a young girl named Bella Brown, who lived near the Red Cow in Clondalkin, heard six shots as she was bringing milk to a neighbour’s house. The following day, Friday 30th March 1923, the body of Robert Bonfield was discovered in a field close by – he had been shot several times in the head.

According to testimony given by several witnesses at the inquest there is no doubt that Commandant Bonfield was arrested by members of (Free State) President Cosgrave’s personal body guard and later murdered, either by them, or their associate detectives operating out of Oriel House. He was discovered lying on his side at the bottom of a ditch at Dowling’s Farm, Newlands Cross – he had been shot a number of times. He was aged 20 years. His remains were refused admission to his local Parish church in Ranelagh and he was buried in the family plot, St. Paul’s section, Glasnevin Cemetery :

‘Bonfield was arrested on 07th March 1923 by a Lieut. Bolger after his house at 103 Moyne Road, Ranelagh was raided and a veritable arsenal (including a Lewis Gun and three revolvers) were seized. He was taken to Portobello Barracks from where he subsequently escaped a couple of nights later. He went to the house of schoolmates of his, Brendan and Kevin Mangan, at Albany Terrace, Ranelagh and had a wash and some food before going on the run. A ‘servant girl’ who had helped give him the meal probably reported him to the authorities. The following night the Mangan’s house was raided by “a group of men in plain clothes accompanied by a man in the uniform of an Army Lieutenant” who were looking for Bonfield. Brendan Mangan was taken to the back garden and interrogated. His parents attempted to intervene and when his mother asked why he was not arrested and charged in the ‘proper way’, the chilling reply was “We are out to execute, not make arrests”.

Mangan’s excuses were believed and the group left, which was rather lucky as Bonfield had hidden arms under the floor of the Mangans henhouse and Brendan was aware of this. The Mangans kept the guns hidden for many years and later when the family moved house Brendan transferred the guns to the hen house at their new address. It was only years later when there was an amnesty that his brother Kevin handed in the guns. On the 29th of March 1923, about 2 weeks later, Bonfield was lifted by Cosgraves bodyguard which included Joe McGrath, John O’Reilly (who was either a Colonel, a Commandant or a Superintendent) and an unnamed guard. Two of these men took Commandant Robert ‘Bobbie’ Bonfield to Clondalkin and shot him…’ (from here.)

However, in her book ‘Four roads to Dublin: the history of Rathmines, Ranelagh and Leeson Street’, Deirdre Kelly came across sources who suggested that the then State ‘authorities’ believed that a different IRA man had executed Seamus Dwyer – ‘(IRA man) Frank Lawlor was aware that CID agents were looking for him. He was tracked down to a friends house in Ranelagh and taken from there by the CID. His body was recovered at Milltown Golf Club. Nothing was heard of Lawlor until the 1st of January 1923 when his body was found on Orwell Road…if Frank Lawlor was killed (he was killed by Staters on the 29th December 1922) in revenge for Dwyers death, it appears..that they got the wrong man, as according to IRA officer Séan Dowling it was another man, Bobby Bonfield who shot Dwyer, for which Bonfield was himself assassinated by pro-Treaty forces in March 1923..’, and yet another IRA man, Thomas O’Leary, had his name linked by Staters to the Dwyer execution ; both IRA men were shot dead by Leinster House operatives, either because of the whispered ‘Dwyer link’ or simply due to the fact that they continued to be Irish republicans, unlike those that shot them.

Seamus Dwyer, a member of the Free State political establishment – whether or not he was a member/supporter or leader of the anti-republican CDF organisation, he was a poacher-turned-gamekeeper – was shot dead by the IRA on this date – 20th December – 95 years ago.


From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, October 1954.


Commander Len Burt, Special Branch Chief of Scotland Yard, and Inspector Gale, also of Scotland Yard, visited Dublin on August 12th where they met Chief Superintendent P. Carroll, head of the Special Branch, Dublin. The visit was described as “purely routine”, whether that means there is a routine police inspection similar to the military inspection of General Woodall at the Curragh is not clear.

It is also said that the police in Northern Ireland (sic), in conjunction with Scotland Yard, had been taking extensive precautions against the possibility of hostile demonstrations on the occasion of the English Queen’s visit to Belfast, and the visit of the Scotland Yard men may have been to gather information on the likelihood of protests organised from the 26 Counties.

It is interesting to note that Kevin McConnell, who was sentenced in Belfast for having copies of ‘The United Irishman’, was first arrested on Friday 13th August, taken to the barracks for questioning and then released. The following evening Special Branch men called to his home in Dublin and questioned his parents, at the request, as they admitted, of Belfast. About three hours later Kevin was again arrested in Belfast, and this time held for sentence.

Another interesting item is that since the Scotland Yard men’s visit, the Dublin Special Branch have started a check-up on those men and women who had been deported from England during the Bombing Campaign in 1939-1940. A number of deportees have already been visited, questioned as to their own movements, whether they were going back to England, whether any of their comrades had already gone back, where they were and so on. How’s that for cooperation?

(Next, from the same source : ‘SLIP – AND RECOVERY.’)



Hopefully (!) we’ll be able to keep to our usual Wednesday schedule and, if so, it will more than likely just be a post featuring pics of the Cabhair Swim, which will be taking place – for the 41st consecutive year – on Christmas Day, at 12 Noon, at the 3rd Lock of the Grand Canal in Inchicore, Dublin. The ‘Cabhair Crew’ have, as always, gratefully received all the donations from local and near-by shops, pubs and supermarkets etc and this blog can verify that all the usual ‘goodies’ will be available – we’ve seen dozens of cans, bottles, boxes of crisps, boxes of Christmas crackers, tubs of assorted sweets etc ; guaranteed, as always, to put adults and kids alike off their dinner that afternoon/evening! So if you’re in the area on Christmas morning and/or early afternoon, and if you, too, want to get a bollocking for not being able to eat your dinner, then do, please, join us for the Swim. As an observer, I mean…!


From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, February 1955.

Any attempt now by political factions to cut across Sinn Féin policy and divide republicans and separatists can only be regarded as support for British occupation and domination.

The main purpose of the Sinn Féin election campaign is to organise the Irish people into a United Nation. The Six Counties is an integral part of Ireland. Our candidates seeking election there will have the same programme as our candidates, at a latter stage will present to the electorate of the 26 Counties – a Republican Government for the 32 Counties.

The unity and independence of the nation can never be a matter for plebiscite or referendum. It is a God-given right that may not be bartered. It is, however, very important that every man and woman who believes that Ireland should be united and free must vote for the Sinn Féin candidates to demonstrate their solidarity, and determination to wrest our freedom from the invader.

(Next, from the same source : ‘PEARSE’S OATH’.)


6th May, 1882 – the scene of the executions in the Phoenix Park, Dublin (pictured), of two top British officials, ‘Lord’ Frederick Cavendish, and his under secretary, Thomas Henry Burke, by members of ‘The Invincibles’.

The killings were condemned by both the Irish establishment and the churches, but months went by and no arrests were made. Then, in one day, twenty-six men (all members of the ‘Invincibles’) were arrested and charged with the ‘Phoenix Park murders’. The men soon realised that this was no ‘desperate face-saving’ expedition by the British ; one of the top members of the ‘Invincibles’, James Carey, had turned informer and his brother, Peter, also told the British all he knew about the group. The other jarvey (cab-driver) Michael Kavanagh, also agreed to inform on the ‘Invincibles’. Between May and December 1883, fourteen ‘Invincibles’ passed through Green Street Courthouse – five of them were hanged (some of them not ‘properly’ so), they were then decapitated and their remains were ‘gifted’ to be used for ‘medical science’ purposes. One of those spared the death penalty but who was sentenced to life imprisonment instead was James ‘Skin-the-Goat’ Fitzharris, who was arrested on the evidence given by the other driver, Michael Kavanagh.

When he was first arrested, the British offered Fitzharris a deal if he, too, would turn informer, but he refused. His ‘trial’ actually ended with him being acquitted by the jury but the judge then halted proceedings and ordered that he be re-arrested ; he was then charged with being an ‘accomplice’ in the deed, found guilty, and sentenced to life. During both of his ‘trials’, ‘Skin-the-Goat’ made a mockery of the proceedings and refused to recognise the so-called ‘authority’ of the British to carry-out such functions in Ireland. James ‘Skin-the-Goat’ Fitzharris was fifty years of age when he began his life sentence – he was sixty-five when he got out of (Portlaoise) Prison, and things had changed ; his comrades were either dead or had moved away and, to the eternal shame of the Republican Movement, it turned its back on the man.

He had no job and no-where to live, he knew no-one and no-one wanted to know him. His choice now was to live on the street or sign himself into the workhouse – he chose the latter, and survived for the next twelve years as a pauper, between the gutter and the workhouse. He died in 1910 (on 7th September) aged seventy-seven. He was jobless, homeless and friendless when he died, alone, in the South Dublin Union Workhouse in James Street, Dublin. James ‘Skin-the-Goat’ Fitzharris was twenty-five years young when he joined the Movement in 1858 and stayed true to his republican principles for fifty-two years, until he died. He had a hard life, in hard times, but he came through it and never recanted his actions or his beliefs. And, to his credit, he was working for a noble cause, unlike the two British agents/officials he encountered in the Phoenix Park in Dublin, on the 6th May, 1882.

And, hopefully, republicans today will not ‘turn their backs’ on his comrades :

‘The Invincibles Reinterment Committee was established by and is under the auspices of the National Graves Association. The aim of the committee is to have the remains of five members of the Irish National Invincibles exhumed from the yard in Kilmainham Gaol where they were executed and buried in May 1883.
Joseph Brady, Daniel Curley, Michael Fagan, Thomas Caffrey and Timothy Kelly were convicted of assassinating the British Chief Secretary for Ireland, Lord Frederick Cavendish and the Under Secretary, Thomas Herny Burke, in the Phoenix Park in May 1882. The five martyred Invincibles were members of the Irish Republican Brotherhood and were inspirational figures to later generations who fought for a 32 county Irish Republic. These men deserve a proper burial in a proper cemetery…’

More information on this noble cause can be found here. Sign a petition, make a donation, and/or attend a rally/meeting. Let’s not turn our backs again.



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

Biographical Note : Jim McCann is a community worker from the Upper Springfield area in West Belfast. Although born in the Short Strand, he was reared in the Loney area of the Falls Road. He comes from a large family (average weight about 22 stone!). He works with Tús Nua (a support group for republican ex-prisoners in the Upper Springfield), part of the Upper Springfield Development Trust. He is also a committee member of the ‘Frank Cahill Resource Centre’, one of the founders of ‘Bunscoil an tSléibhe Dhuibh’, the local Irish language primary school and Naiscoil Bharr A’Chluanaí, one of the local Irish language nursery schools.

His first publication last year by Glandore was ‘And the Gates Flew Open : the Burning of Long Kesh’. He hopes to retire on the profits of his books. Fat chance!


This was a plan that everyone in the cage was waiting for. When the opportunity arose, however, it was not the plan Honky had in mind, but came about entirely due to the ‘intelligence’ of the screws. From afar, this noble steed could be mistaken for a real horse. The light had to be right, as well. “We don’t know how you did it, but Regulation 6/8 and Prison Rule N.I.P.S. sub-section 14 states categorically – ‘No livestock or pets of any kind or description are permitted in the cages’ “ said the Principal Officer (that is a screw just above ordinary screw and senior officer, but beneath contempt).

The Officer Commanding Cage 11 looked at the Principal Officer quizzically and asked him what he was talking about. “The horse”, replied the screw. “What horse?”, asked the OC. “Don’t give me that. We know you have a horse in there. It was spotted.” “Let me get this right,” said the OC. “You think we have a spotted horse in here and some of your men saw it – is that it? You really must keep your men away from the medicine cabinet.” “Are you denying that there’s a horse in there?” said the screw, by this time getting frustrated. Or was it embarrassed?

“Would you go away and give my head peace, ye buck-eejit” said the OC, pretending to get annoyed. He then turned and walked away, chuckling to himself. He knew exactly what was happening because with the remnants left from the horse that Floorboards had, he had made a dog for the OC… (MORE LATER).

Thanks for reading,agus Beannachtaí na Nollag ; we’ll be back here before the end of the year with, as mentioned above, a few pics from the Cabhair Swim. Or we hope to be, as the ‘Swim Party’ afterwards is some craic and is well worth eating your Christmas dinner on Stephen’s Day for!

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One of the leaflets (pictured) distributed by Irish republicans in late 1921 to counteract anti-republican propaganda that the ‘Treaty (of Surrender)’ was “a stepping stone” to that which they had fought for – indeed, one of those who accepted that Treaty, ex-republican Arthur Griffith, declared, in a press release immediately after signing same – “I have signed a Treaty of peace between Ireland and Great Britain. I believe that treaty will lay foundations of peace and friendship between the two Nations. What I have signed I shall stand by in the belief that the end of the conflict of centuries is at hand.” Yet historian Nicholas Mansergh noted that, at practically the same time as Griffith had penned the above, the British were talking between themselves of “…concessions (from the Irish) wrung by devices..some of which can be described at best as devious..every word used and every nuance was so important…”

On Monday 5th December 1921 – the day before the Treaty of Surrender was signed – the then British Prime Minister, Lloyd George, announced to the Irish side in the negotiations that he had written two letters, one of which would now be sent to his people in Ireland ; one letter told of a peaceful outcome to the negotiations, the other told of a breakdown in the negotiations – Lloyd George stated that if he sent the latter one “it is war, and war within three days. Which letter am I to send?”

That ‘war letter’ meeting took place on the afternoon of Monday 5th December 1921 ; at around 7pm that same evening, the Irish team left the Downing Street meeting to discuss the matter between themselves and returned to Downing Street later that night. At ten minutes past two on the morning of Tuesday 6th December 1921, Michael Collins and his team accepted ‘dominion status’ and an Oath which gave allegiance to the Irish Free State and fidelity to the British Crown – the Treaty was signed (and it should be noted that Collins and his team did not consult the [32-County] Dáil, the institution on whose behalf they were acting, before they signed it) :

On the 16th December (1921), the British so-called ‘House of Commons’ (by a vote of 401 for and 58 against) and its ‘House of Lords’ (166 for, 47 against) ascribed ‘legitimacy’ to the new State and, on the 7th January 1922, the political institution in Leinster House voted to accept it, leading to a walk-out by then-principled members who, in effect, were refusing to assist in the setting-up of a British-sponsored ‘parliament’ in the newly-created Irish Free State. But, at an IRA convention on the 26th March (1922), at which 52 out of the 73 IRA Brigades were present – despite said gathering having been forbidden by the Leinster House institution (!) – the ‘Treaty’ was rejected and a statement issued deriding Leinster House for having betrayed the Irish republican ideal.

Within six months, a Civil War was raging in Ireland, between the British-supported Free Staters and Irish republicans who did not accept the ‘Treaty’ and that vicious fight continued until the 24th May 1923 when the IRA were ordered by their leadership to “..dump arms (as) further sacrifice on your part would now be in vain and the continuance of the struggle in arms unwise in the national interest…military victory must be allowed to rest for the moment with those who have destroyed the Republic..” , but, ‘unofficially’, Free Staters continued to exact revenge on republicans for some time afterwards and, indeed, are still doing so today, albeit in a different manner.

On the 11th July 1924, the Treaty was registered at the ‘League of Nations’ by the Free State authorities which, in our opinion, would have been the ideal occasion for a legal challenge to it, based on the fact that, when Michael Collins and his supporters were attempting to ‘sell’ it to their own side, they made a big deal of the ‘Boundary Commission’ clause and in particular the part of it which stated that the ‘border’ could be adjusted “in accordance with the wishes of the inhabitants”, which is precisely why Westminster ‘took’ only six of the nine Ulster counties – a built-in ‘majority’. Also, the British actually took it on themselves to amend the 1921 Treaty of Surrender to allow themselves (ie Westminster) to unilaterally appoint a representative to speak on behalf of the Stormont ‘Parliament’. That Boundary Commission clause (‘Article 12’) was not properly adhered to by the signatories of the 1921 Treaty thereby, legally, negating the Treaty itself but deep pockets would be required to take such an action. And the only grouping in this State in a position to mount a challenge like that is the same (Free State) grouping which benefited then and continues to benefit today from that Clause and that which spawned it. For now they do, anyway…


From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, October 1954.

A new type of campaign has recently made its appearance in Ireland, and it does not need much thought to realise its origin. It is a campaign to deface or mutilate republican memorials.

Its first effort was in Tralee a few years ago when the inscription on the memorial to Charlie Kerins was destroyed. More recently the statue of Seán Russell in Fairview Park, Dublin, has been the target for repeated attacks – the last resulting in the breaking off of an arm.

Now the scene shifts to Dundalk and in the first week of August this year the memorial in the Republican Plot there was defaced. This memorial was erected by the National Graves Committee in 1935 and was unveiled by the late Miss Mary McSweeney. On it was inscribed the names of those Dundalk men killed in the Tan and Free State wars. The name of Richard Goss was added, with the date of his execution, 9-8-1941. His name has not been interfered with, but the date of his execution has been completely obliterated. Why? Is it not obvious that some consciences are very uneasy. Defacing a memorial will not set them at rest.

(Next, from the same source : ‘SCOTLAND YARD MEN IN DUBLIN.’)


Con Houlihan, pictured, a sports writer who sometimes strayed into other subjects, was born on this date – 6th December – in 1925.

One of those ‘other subjects’ that Con occasionally visited was politics (he was a Fine Gael supporter, it seems) which prompted us to post a piece on this blog a few years ago in connection with a highly coloured article (!) that the man wrote after he happened to share street- space with Ruairí Ó Brádaigh –

‘Not so much (or at all, even) ‘speaking ill of the dead’ in this piece as highlighting the straws an ‘artist’ will clutch at when they attempt to stray onto another ‘canvass’. And Mr. Houlihan was indeed an ‘artist’ when it came to discussing and dressing-up/colouring in matters of the field and had wonderful turns of phrase which he employed with great timing.

But he done himself no favours when he attempted to ‘stray’ on to the well-trodden anti-republican ‘canvass’, where he was not as sure-footed as he was ‘on the field’ – indeed, the only way he could sustain an ‘away trip’ of that nature was to use a straw man argument in the hope that those as unfamiliar with that particular ‘turf’ as he was would consider him to be as good a ‘pol corr’ as he was a sports writer. The first fault with Mr. Houlihan’s effort in this piece is that a radio station would not be played through the same loudspeakers on the same stage at the same time as an Irish republican was addressing an Irish republican gathering. It just wouldn’t happen, simple as and, whilst some might dismiss this example as ‘nit picking’, it is from such ‘little acorns’ that mighty deceptions spring from. It was a ‘straw man’ introduction that the author invented in order to ‘colour’ the gathering as “inflamed with hatred.. indoctrinated by bigots in pubs and cafes or by mob orators..”, before bringing in the standard ‘Nazi’ comparison.

All standard fare for any ‘straw man’ author – invent a ‘connection’ then rage against it. Mr. Houlihan got his answer days later from that particular “bigot (of a) mob orator” but the damage had been done : through deliberate misrepresentation, one anti-republican had ‘confirmed’ to others of that ilk just how right they were to despise Irish republicans and republicanism in general and, job done, Con parked his ‘straw weapon’ (in the back of the net, no doubt) to be (ab)used another day. Which he did, by the way – and often – but I’ll not go into that here , as I have no desire to ‘speak ill of the dead’..’ (from here.)

Mr. Houlihan died on the 4th August, 2012, at 86 years of age. He was a fantastic sports writer, so I’m told (regular readers will know that I’m not big into sports or those that write about it etc) but I knew Ruairí, and I know how republicans carry themselves at rallies and protest marches etc and considered it fitting to repeat the above piece on the ‘Con Almighty’s’ birthday.


From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, February 1955.

The Unionist candidate for South Antrim in the forthcoming general election to Westminster, Mr O’Connell MP, expressed the opinion at a meeting of his supporters that Sinn Féin was using the election machinery for a referendum. The fact that Sinn Féin was contesting constituencies where it would be impossible to have their candidates elected was, he thought, very significant.

He appealed to all Unionists, official and unofficial, to sink their differences and present a united front against the menace of Sinn Féin, and urged the importance of every Unionist vote being recorded in order to keep the Sinn Féin percentage of the total poll as low as possible.

It is obvious that the Unionists consider the Nationalist and Separatist policy of Sinn Féin a real danger to British powers in Ireland. They realise that Sinn Féin’s programme has the elements of unity that has been lacking in sectional political parties since the inception of Stormont and the Treaty… (MORE LATER.)



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

Biographical Note : Jim McCann is a community worker from the Upper Springfield area in West Belfast. Although born in the Short Strand, he was reared in the Loney area of the Falls Road. He comes from a large family (average weight about 22 stone!). He works with Tús Nua (a support group for republican ex-prisoners in the Upper Springfield), part of the Upper Springfield Development Trust. He is also a committee member of the ‘Frank Cahill Resource Centre’, one of the founders of ‘Bunscoil an tSléibhe Dhuibh’, the local Irish language primary school and Naiscoil Bharr A’Chluanaí, one of the local Irish language nursery schools.

His first publication last year by Glandore was ‘And the Gates Flew Open : the Burning of Long Kesh’. He hopes to retire on the profits of his books. Fat chance!


I knew him years before by reputation. I didn’t like him. He knew me years before by reputation also. He didn’t like me. He wasn’t strikingly handsome, but he had a presence about him. His honesty was at times overwhelming and most of the time embarrassing. As my granny used to say “There’re no back doors in him.”

Most of all Honky was a showman – he didn’t enter into conversations, he hijacked them. He was a notorious storyteller, and his stories nearly always started with “Our Jimmy…”. He made horror stories out of a trip to the local corner shop. This particular story revolves around his shocking exhibitionism and ‘Floorboards’ ingenuity and skill with a sewing machine and a creative imagination.

It wasn’t much of a horse as horses go, but it was the size and shape of a horse maybe fourteen hands and, given the fact that ‘Floorboards’ hadn’t much to work with, it was a fine effort. The skin was made out of standard Long Kesh blankets stuffed with old newspapers – he had worked for days creating this jaded palomino and the applications, although limited, were not impossible. Given Honky’s habit of taking his clothes off it was just a matter of waiting for the right moment to put his plan in motion… (MORE LATER).


It’s not because we’re taking an early Christmas break or heading off to New York for the shopping (we wish!) that we won’t be here next Wednesday (13th December) – that would be due to the last 650-ticket raffle for this year, which will be held on Sunday 10th December in the usual venue, on the Dublin/Kildare border.

And not only that – we’re also in the middle of helping to organise this gig, which takes a fair bit of effort by a few people but is always well worth it and ‘pays’ for itself, in more ways than one. We’ll be back posting on Wednesday 20th December, all going well : the raffle, the Cabhair swim, the Christmas shopping, the Christmas dinners, the decorating etc etc! Breakfast at Tiffany’s next year, maybe..!

Thanks for reading,

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Pictured, left – the remains of two Galway IRA Volunteers, Patrick and Harry Loughnane, who were tortured and killed by the Black and Tans in November 1920.

“HAND GRENADES WERE PUT IN THEIR MOUTHS AND THESE EXPLODED..” – part of the comments made by the doctor who examined the remains of the Loughnane brothers.

Pat and Harry Loughnane were well-known and equally well-liked and respected in their neighbourhood of South Galway. Pat (the eldest), was an IRA man and Secretary of Sinn Féin in the area ; he was also active in GAA circles. His younger brother, Harry, played in goal for the local Beagh Hurling Club, was an IRA Volunteer and was also a member of the local cumann of Sinn Féin ; both brothers worked on the family farm in Shanaglish, County Galway, and were working in the corn fields on Friday, 26th November 1920, when the Black and Tans surrounded them. The two brothers were thumped around a bit in the corn fields by the Black and Tans and then thrown into the back of the lorry belonging to the Tans – they were pushed off the lorry outside the Bridewell Barracks in Gort and put in a cell. People in near-by cells later reported hearing the brothers being battered by the Tans, who were well aware that the Loughnane brothers were active in the struggle for Irish Freedom.

After three or four hours of beating , the brothers were dragged out to the courtyard of Gort Bridewell and tied to each other ; the other end of the rope was then tied to the back of the truck, which drove off, heading for Drumharsna Castle, which was then the headquarters of the Black and Tans in that area of Galway. Both Pat and Harry Loughnane were at that stage too weak to run behind the truck, and ended up being dragged on the ground behind it and, on arrival at Drumharsna Castle, the rope was untied from the truck and the two men were dragged into another cell and beaten again. At around 10.30 or 11pm that same night (Friday 26th November 1920) the Loughnane brothers were removed from the cell and put in the back of the truck ; they were pushed out of the back of same after travelling a few miles – the brothers would have been too dazed to realise it, but they were now in Moy O’Hynes Wood, and were being taken deep into the thicket of it by the Black and Tans.

Locals later reported hearing four shots and, the following day (Saturday, 27th November 1920), rumour was rife in the neighbourhood that Pat and Harry Loughnane had been dragged into the Moy O’Hynes Wood and shot dead by the Black and Tans but that rumour also insisted that Harry Loughnane somehow survived the ordeal – and the Tans heard that same rumour. It was early on Sunday morning (28th November 1920) that the Black and Tans again entered the Wood – they were observed loading something into the back of their lorry and driving off at speed towards the small town of Umbriste (near Ardrahan, on the Gort to Clarinbridge road) ; it later transpired that the Black and Tans burned the bodies of the Loughnane brothers when they arrived at Umbriste but even then they were not satisfied – so they dug a hole and threw the bodies into it. However, because of the rocky terrain, the Tans were unable to fully cover their tracks and were convinced that the charred remains would be found. They dug them up and carried them to a near-by pond, weighted them down, and threw them in – they then apparently poured a couple of gallons of dirty engine oil into the pond at that same spot.

That happened on Sunday, 28th November ; the following day – Monday 29th November, 1920, 97 years ago on this date – they called to the Loughnane home and told the boys’ mother that they were looking for her two sons – that they had escaped from custody and were “on the run”. The Tans knew well enough where the two brothers were but, as well as deliberately giving false hope to the family, they were in the process of concocting an alibi for themselves. However, at this stage, the family and friends did not know any better and search-parties were organised to look for Pat and Harry, two ‘fugitives on the run from British injustice’, as it was thought at the time.

In the middle of December that year, the remains were found. Before the brothers were given a proper funeral, a local doctor was asked to examine the remains and his report showed that both men had, at first, been sadistically battered ; the eldest of the brothers, Pat, had both wrists and legs broken, while Harry had had two fingers removed by a saw, while he was still alive, and his right arm was only attached to the remains of the charred body by sinews. The doctor stated that the damage to the head, neck and upper-chest area of both men was caused, in his opinion, by “hand grenades (which) were put in their mouths and that these then exploded”. The remains of both men showed that the Black and Tans had attempted to ‘write’ on them, using knives or bayonets – sets of initials were carved into both bodies.

There was a heavy presence of Black and Tans at the funerals of Pat and Harry Loughnane, but the IRA called their bluff just as the burial ceremony was coming to an end – six armed IRA Volunteers stood over the grave and a three-volley shot was given. The kidnap, torture, abuse and manner of death suffered by Pat and Harry Loughnane is the most horrific incident that this author has come across in researching articles for this blog. Even in times of war, the fate deliberately inflicted on the brothers was inhuman. At the risk of sounding like we are trying to score a cheap political point, we remind our readers that the military kin of the Black and Tans are still in this country. And they receive their instructions from the same political institution which gave the Tans their orders. Think of that, next time you hear talk of “dissident republicans” in Ireland, and ask yourself how could you be but “dissident” to British rule in any part of this country? And ask yourself when have true Irish republicans ever been but “dissident”?


From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, October 1954.


Alice French came from a family which has become almost synonomous with republicanism in County Louth. Her father’s house at Smarmore, Ardee, was well known to the active members of the IRB, long before 1916 and was still available in 1916 and during the Black and Tan and the Free State wars. Her brothers were active Volunteers and her sister Maire suffered imprisonment in Kilmainham, the North Dublin Union and other jails for her work for the Cause.

Two days before the Truce on the 11th July 1921, the house at Smarmore was invaded by a mixed band of Auxiliaries and Black and Tans and, although the signing of the Truce was already publicly known, the house was ransacked and it and the barn were set on fire. Later, like so many other families in Ireland, the French family had the galling experience of having their home raided and searched by men who had formerly been given food and shelter there, but who were now *doing the work of the enemy. In spite of all this, Alice French kept the spirit of hope alive, hope that one day our people would side with the right side again, that they would return to their old allegiance – to Ireland, a Nation from centre to sea – and united on that basis, would take up the struggle where it was left off at the Truce and this time carry it to victory.

For this she earnestly worked, for this she ceaselessly prayed and we may be sure, now that she is gone to her Heavenly reward, that she will continue to pray for help and guidance for all who strive to serve the Cause which was so dear to her heart. Solus na bflaithis da h-anam. Her funeral was attended by her brothers, sisters, relatives and a large circle of friends. At the graveside, Tomas O Dubhghaill, Uachtaran, Sinn Féin, paid a short tribute to her memory on behalf of the Republican Movement. (*..history repeats itself, unfortunately.)

(Next, from the same source : ‘Memorials Defaced – Why?’).


“Warriors are not born. Warriors are forged in the crucible of adversity. Warriors without fear are warriors without courage. We are men destroying stigma and stereotypes. We are a band of brothers because in brotherhood there is strength. Our weapons are strength, empathy and honesty. We are Mental Health Warriors and this is our voice..” (from here.)

‘Ireland has the fourth highest rate of suicide amongst teenagers in the EU, according to a new report. Unicef, the United Nations’ childrens’ arm, has released its latest report card on child well-being which shows that Ireland’s rate for teens losing their lives by suicide is above the international average. Ireland’s rate is 10.3 amongst adolescents aged between 15 and 19 per 100,000 population, which ranks it 34th out of 37 wealthy nations surveyed..’ (from here.)

A march to highlight the lack of action from those in Leinster House to the high rate of suicide in this State will be held in Dublin on Monday, 4th December next, at 5pm. We will be assembling at St. Patricks Cathedral and marching to City Hall, where a petition will be handed in. A few words will be delivered, a song or two will be sung, pics of lost loved ones will be on display, and pairs of shoes – now empty – will be lined-up on the street to represent those no longer with us. The political will to do something serious about this issue is not there, and it won’t be unless we can bring enough pressure to bear on those who, for example, would rather spend taxpayers money to help secure their own political futures in their own constituències than spend it where it could do more good.

Deeming that I were better dead,

“How shall I kill myself?” I said.

Thus mooning by the river Seine

I sought extinction without pain,

when on a bridge I saw a flash

of lingerie and heard a splash..

so as I am a swimmer stout

I plunged and pulled the poor wretch out.

The female that I saved? Ah yes,

to yield the morgue of one corpse the less,

apart from all heroic action,

gave me a moral satisfaction.

Was she an old and withered hag,

too tired of life to long to lag?

Ah no, she was so young and fair

I fell in love with her right there…
(more here.)

Please show your support – Monday, 4th December 2017, 5pm, St. Patricks Cathedral, Dublin.

A FEW HOURS IN 2017, 8,760 in 2018!

The few hours in 2017 are in relation to the Annual Cabhair Christmas Morning Swim – the 41st such successive Swim (1976-2017) – which will be held on Christmas Day next at 12 Noon at the 3rd Lock of the Grand Canal, in Dublin, opposite the ‘Blackhorse Inn’ pub (‘Kelly’s on the Bridge’) and, although the Cabhair Crew and the swimmers and on-lookers are only ‘on site’ for a few hours on Christmas Day, there is actually a few weeks of work done beforehand in organising those very successful ‘few hours’! As usual, the local shops and pubs etc have donated the goodies (‘lemonade for the kids, ‘soup’ for the adults…’!) including mince pies, packets of crisps, drums of mixed sweets etc, all of which will be consumed around the mini-bonfire, with stereo speakers blasting out a few tunes! If you can’t make it on the day but would like to contribute a few quid, then give the RSF Dublin Office a ring on (01) 8729747.

The 8,760 hours represents the number of hours there are in 2018, which is nearly upon us, which means that your 2017 calendar will be out of date, which means that you’ll need an up-to-date one. And you can get one of them for a fiver in the RSF Dublin Office when you get in touch with them to make a donation to the Swim fund! Now that’s multitasking..!

“AFTER 32 YEARS – AN OPEN LETTER,” by POW Philip Clarke. From ‘The United Irishman’ newspaper, February 1955.

‘Under the title ‘After 32 Years – an open letter’, the following article was written for ‘THE UNITED IRISHMAN’ newspaper by Philip Clarke (pictured, right), shortly before his arrest in connection with the Omagh Raid on October 17 last (1954). The circumstances surrounding the arrest and trial of Phil Clarke and his comrades are ample proof that there are young men in Ireland today who have taken the words of Pearse to heart : “It is not enough to say merely ‘I believe’, one must also say ‘I serve’ “.


Of the outcome we are in no doubt. That the balance of the physical strength lies more with you than with us little daunts us, for we are heartened by the fact that the Cause we serve cannot fail. The struggle is coming – the issues themselves are clear. Either we shall succeed in re-establishing the Irish Republic or you shall succeed in keeping us slaves ; either we shall break the connection for ever or you shall weather another storm of militant nationalism.

In a word, either we shall overthrow you, or die.”

(END of ‘After 32 Years – An Open Letter’ : Next – ‘Alarm In Unionist Camp’, from the same newspaper.)


Pictured – British Army troops attempting to maintain their border in Ireland.

On the 29th November 1957 – 60 years ago on this date – three Irishmen were ‘arrested’ near the border by British Army troops. Liam Gleeson, Limerick, Seán Daly, Clonakilty, Cork and Kevin McCooey from Monaghan, were each sentenced to six months imprisonment at a sitting of County Cavan District Court – that sitting of the court was kept secret, as indeed was the ‘arrest’ of the three men, as the media was not notified that anything at all had happened, or was happening. The three men were removed after sentencing to a secure location in Monaghan and then forced into the back of a lorry, accompanied by Special Branch men armed with sub-machine guns, and driven to the Bridewell Prison in Dublin, where they were placed in solitary confinement until they were moved to Mountjoy Jail.

Interviewed later by republican sources, Liam Gleeson repeated the statement he had read aloud during his ‘court case’ – “We are not ashamed of our actions and activities that are the causes of our being here today – indeed we consider it a great honour and a great privilege to have tried in some small way to free our country of the Imperial forces of occupation. We are sorry that we are being tried by fellow Irishmen. We think it a great tragedy, Irishmen putting Irishmen behind bars and England laughs at us. We have been sentenced for unlawful possession of arms. We don’t think it an unlawful act to use arms against our enemy, England.

We don’t require ‘firearms certificates’ to fire on members of the forces of occupation in the Six Counties. We are not breaking the peace, we are attempting to restore peace – a just peace based on justice for everyone. England has broken every pact and treaty we made with them. They have no word, they have no honour, when dealing with us. They have shown an utter disregard for the continued demand of the Irish people for freedom. But there is one thing they fear and dread – young Irishmen with guns in their hands ready to fight for the freedom they demand.”

Words that echo as true today as they did when Liam Gleeson and his comrades were ‘arrested’ by fellow Irishmen on this date – 29th November – 60 years ago.


Pictured, left – a ‘secret’ letter from the British War Office, dated 29th November 1921, confirming the deaths of certain officers who were “put to death by Sinn Féin..” (sic).

‘Capt M H W Green – removed and shot. Capt S Chambers – removed and shot. Lt W S Watts – removed and shot..there were 4 officers in mufti in a 3rd class compartment travelling from Cork (they thought it less conspicuous to travel 3rd class). There were 10 people in the compartment. The officers were en route to Bere Island. The soldiers were Lt R R Goode (inspector of Army Schools), Capt Reedy R.E. Chambers and Green. The train stopped at Waterfall, 6 miles from Cork. 3 armed civilians entered their compartment. Looking at Chambers one of these armed men said “That is one of them” and looking at Green said “That is the other”. Chambers and Green were then marched out with their hands up and were last seen at the bridge over the railway..Watts had decided to travel First Class and was by himself. Reedy only realised Watts was missing when the train got to Kinsale Junction and he could not find Watts..Goode added to his statement that he knew that Chambers had been responsible for the arrest of Father O’Donnell (Chaplin to the Australian Forces) in Oct 1919 for seditious language..Goode also said that Chambers and Green had the previous week been witnesses to the murder of 2 RIC constables at Ballybrack in the course of a railway journey..Goode believed that Green was carrying an automatic pistol, but believed that the others were unarmed..1921 Nov 29 – the IRA confirm that the men were executed, but details of their burial place did not emerge..’ (from here.)

“Capture of British Intelligence Officers at Waterfall. On 17th November 1920, as a result of information received, a few of our lads armed with revolvers were watching the trains. Four British Intelligence officers were seen to enter a first class compartment and the boys got on the train with them. When the train stopped at Waterfall Station, which is the first station on the way to Macroom, our lads ordered the British officers out and shot them there and then…” – Michael Murphy, Cork Commandant IRA.

The lesson, whether it should have been learned in 1921 (if not centuries earlier!) or will be learned even at this late stage by those who think they have secured their political future and that of this Free State, is a simple one : ‘Ireland unfree shall never be at peace’.



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

Biographical Note : Jim McCann is a community worker from the Upper Springfield area in West Belfast. Although born in the Short Strand, he was reared in the Loney area of the Falls Road. He comes from a large family (average weight about 22 stone!). He works with Tús Nua (a support group for republican ex-prisoners in the Upper Springfield), part of the Upper Springfield Development Trust. He is also a committee member of the ‘Frank Cahill Resource Centre’, one of the founders of ‘Bunscoil an tSléibhe Dhuibh’, the local Irish language primary school and Naiscoil Bharr A’Chluanaí, one of the local Irish language nursery schools.

His first publication last year by Glandore was ‘And the Gates Flew Open : the Burning of Long Kesh’. He hopes to retire on the profits of his books. Fat chance!


The hair on his head was sandy and strong. It used to be long in his hippie days, but when the hippies became commonplace, he moved on. His main physical characteristic was his bulk – he was solid, not fat, about twelve stone. His bulk was muscle. I remembered him from his youth when he wore bell-bottomed tailored trousers, a caftan overcoat with a cloth handbag draped over his shoulders on a long strap, and almost singularly walked about the back streets of the Falls Road in this fashion.

It seemed that this Falls Road iconoclast was daring anyone to pass a remark, not so much about his clothes, but about the fact that he was wearing them. Few did! On first appearances he was brash, loud and wickedly impish and, when you got to know him, it was clear that he was brash, loud and wickedly impish! His image was that of a hard man ; he came from a place and a time where if you weren’t a hard man then you had to give the impression that you were. Both these traits were important, but as long as you exhibited either one of them, you were rarely tested, although he tested them in others like a gunfighter who has to know who’s the fastest.

He didn’t hide behind any facade, he wasn’t that superficial, but he wasn’t deep, either. He didn’t choose his friends carefully, but he jettisoned false friends quickly – his friendship wasn’t hard-fought for, but he coveted it like a farmer would his prize bull. He was totally genuine, generous and absolutely honest. His sense of humour was a surprise to me. It was mine! It took me about two days to realise I had a friend for life… (MORE LATER).

Thanks for reading,

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