Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Noel Kavanagh Oration for Fergal O'Hanlon- 1957

Oration at the Graveside of Fergal O'Hanlon by Noel Kavanagh - 1957 (Printed in the United Irishman) "A chairde, It is a great privilege to pay tribute to Fergal O'Hanlon today on behalf of his fellow volunteeers. Any person here today who does not understand why Fergal fought and died is standing here offering an insult to him. Having educated himself in the history of his country and the present situation, he decided to join his fellow countrymen in remedying the wrongs which have been inflicted upon our country. Fergal, whom we all know, died fighting for the freedom of his country. It is easy to die when one is at peace with God, and Fergal you may be sure was at peace with God. He left home with his mother's blessing and that surely is the greatest of all blessings. As Pearse said of Mothers, "They suffer in our coming and in our going." So on behalf of his fellow-volunteers, I wish to express sympathy to his father, mother, brothers, sisters, and to all those dear to him. If you wish to erect a monument to this volunteer I ask that you erect a monument that can be seen all over the world. I have in mine a monument which Fergal would like and that monument is the Irish Republic. I ask you to erect that monument. Fergal would like it."

Vol. Paddy Doyle- O/c Belfast

     In 1956 Belfast received a new O/c by the name of Paddy Doyle. Doyle was a veteran of the 40's, a former internee, and a close friend of the "3 Macs." He had been on the governing council in 51 such was their trust in him that while almost two dozen organizers were sent across the North to prepare for the Operation Harvest, Belfast was left entirely in Doyle's hands.
   Under Paddy's direction a more vigorous investigation to uncover an informer- whose presence was obvious but whose identity was not- was carried out by Joe Cahill and another volunteer. They conducted a thorough investigation and narrowed it down to one man. They informed Paddy Doyle; "He didn't want to know the name of the suspect at that stage," Cahill said, "but he said he wanted us to begin our investigation all over again and see if we came to the same conclusion."  In such cases, Cahill afterwards noted, one had to be 110% sure of the conclusion.
     A general convention was held that October to which the O/c's and organizers were supposed to report. Doyle was unable to attend so he sent Joe Cahill and the other volunteer in his place. They informed Tony Magan of the situation with the informer. Magan gave the same reply but told Cahill to transfer all the arms dumps under his control out of the city.
     In November Doyle was arrested with a copy of An-tOglach on him and received 3 months in Crumlin Road, which was commuted to internment until the campaign was almost over. His arrest so close to the commencement of the campaign, and the presence of the informer, sealed the lid on Belfast's non-involvement. The informer continued to inflict damage after his arrest and was never uncovered.
     Paddy Doyle was among the first 15 prisoners released in 1961. Like many others of his generation, he retired from active politics and what became of him in later years has not been recorded by the usual Republican historians.

Sources: "Joe Cahill: A life in the IRA" by Brendan Anderson; "The Insider" by Eamonn Boyce and Anna Bryson. If anyone can, for posterity's sake, fill in some details on his life please contact at: lublog@hushmail.com
GRMA in advance.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Liam McMillen and the 1964 Election 50 years on

(above: Liam McMillen, front, and one of his staff,  Bobby McKnight, back)

(McMillen outside a mural with one of his election slogans, taken from the poem "Spirit of the Nation/ Song for July 12th" by Thomas Davis or John de Jean Frazer. *

(above: Election flyer)

Scenes from his Election HQ:

(Thanks to GB, J O'B, PJD, and all who originally posted the above)

 *- The Full poem is worth posting. It becomes all the more poignant when one recalls the chain of events  in the years following the elections.

Come—pledge again thy heart and hand—
 One grasp that ne'er shall sever;
Our watchword be—"Our native land"—
Our motto—"Love for ever."

 And let the Orange lily be
  Thy badge, my patriot brother—
 The everlasting Green for me;
And—we for one another.

 Behold how green the gallant stem,
  On which the flower is blowing;
 How in one heav'nly breeze and beam
 Both flower and stem are glowing.

 The same good soil sustaining both,
Makes both united flourish:
But cannot give the Orange growth,
  And cease the Green to nourish.

 Yea, more—the hand that plucks the flower
Will vainly strive to cherish:
The stem blooms on—but in that hour
The flower begins to perish.

 Regard them, then, of equal worth
While lasts their genial weather;
The time's at hand when into earth
The two shall sink together.

 Ev'n thus be, in our country's cause,
Our party feelings blended;
Till lasting peace, from equal laws,
  On both shall have descended.

 Till then the Orange lily be
Thy badge, my patriot brother—
 The everlasting Green for me;
 And—we for one another.

 An account of the riots from Andrew Boyd's "Holy War in Belfast": 1964: THE TRICOLOUR RIOTS

 RIOTING and terror returned to the City of Belfast on Monday 28 September 1964. That evening a detachment of the Royal Ulster Constabulary, acting on the explicit instruction of Brian McConnell, Northern Ireland’s Minister of Home Affairs, attacked the Divis Street headquarters of the Republican Party in West Belfast. Their mission was to remove an Irish tricolour. This took place during a general election for the British House of Commons, an assembly in which Northern Ireland has twelve seats, besides having its own parliament of 52 members. The Republicans had nominated Liam McMillan to contest West Belfast; the other candidates in the constituency were Unionist, Republican Labour and Northern Ireland Labour. When McConnell, himself a Unionist, ordered the police to move against the Republican headquarters he was responding to pressure from Ian K. Paisley, leader of the Free Presbyterians. Paisley had threatened that if the RUC did not remove the tricolour he would lead a march of his followers to Divis Street and take it down himself. For several days before this threat was uttered, the RUC and the Ministry of Home Affairs had been pestered by anonymous telephone callers, all complaining about the tricolour and demanding its removal. Anonymous callers had also warned the Republicans that their headquarters would be burned if they continued to display the Irish flag. James Kilfedder, the. Unionist candidate in West Belfast, complained about the tricolour too, and sent this telegram to McConnell: "Remove tricolour in Divis Street which is aimed to provoke and insult loyalists of Belfast."

 McConnell acted, even though Divis Street is in a part of Belfast where few of those people whom Kilfedder described as "loyalists" are to be seen. He held a conference of his senior police officers on Monday morning and ordered that the flag be removed. His authority to do this was the Flags and Emblems (Display) Act. At the same time, exercising the power given to him by the Public Order Act of 1961, he restricted a Paisleyite protest march to an area within the vicinity of the City Hall. This was a part of Belfast which the minister considered to be a safe distance from Divis Street. Traffic was brought to a standstill on Monday night of 28 September when it became known that the RUC were coming to seize the flag. More than 2,000 Republican supporters blocked the roadway and scores of constables were rushed to the scene in armoured cars.

The constables, though armed with sten-guns, rifles, revolvers, riot-batons and shields, were made to look ridiculous by groups of little boys who ran about with miniature tricolour emblems which they stuck on walls, trolley-buses, police-cars and the windows of the Republican headquarters. Meanwhile, at the City Hall, Paisley had decided not to march; but he held a meeting which he opened with prayers and readings from the Bible. Then he read a telegram from an organisation of people calling themselves the Ulster Loyalist Association. The telegram congratulated him "on his stand against the tricolour."

After that the meeting became the familiar Paisleyite medley of prayers, anti-popery and political invective. By this time the RUC, using pickaxes, had smashed down the doors of the Republican headquarters and taken possession of the flag. They carried it away through a barrage of stones and empty bottles, and to the prolonged jeers of crowds of youngsters.

 Next day Liam McMillan telegraphed Harold Wilson, leader of the British Labour Party: "armed police using crowbars smashed into Republican headquarters, Belfast, without warning. Seized Irish flag. Demand you clarify attitude to this violence against democracy." He also announced that unless the police returned the tricolour by noon on Wednesday another would be put in its place.

The confiscated flag was not brought back so McMillan hoisted a new one, and, as he did so, 300 people cheered and sang "A Soldier’s Song," national anthem of the Irish Republic. The nearest policeman, fifty yards away, was directing traffic. Shortly after two o’clock that afternoon the RUC cleared Divis Street to make way for an armoured car. When the car stopped outside the Republican headquarters eight policemen emerged and began another attack on the place, with crowbars and pickaxes. They failed to break down the door, but one of them smashed the window, reached in and pulled out the second tricolour.

 By Wednesday news of the events in Divis Street had spread throughout the world. Belfast became the hub of the general election campaign, attracting television reporters, camera teams and newspaper men from many countries. That night thousands of Republicans, armed with petrol-bombs, sticks, stones, rotten vegetables, and some with loaded firearms, gathered outside their headquarters to sing Irish patriotic songs. A battle began at eleven o’clock when police tried to disperse them.

The television teams and the commentators were on the spot to record all that happened. For the first time ever, people in many parts of the world were able to watch, on their television screens, the intensity of sectarian violence in Northern Ireland. At the first indication that the Republicans would fight, some fifty RUC men, who had been held in readiness in the small streets between Falls Road and Shankill Road, were rushed into Divis Street. But the Republicans, who seemed to be acting in accordance with a pre-arranged strategy, drove them back into the side-streets. They attacked them with stones, bottles, chunks of metal and petrol-bombs.

 In Divis Street a Belfast Corporation trolley-bus was set on fire. Eight RUC men jumped for their lives when a petrol-bomb was thrown into their car. Bottles, stones, sticks and heavy iron gratings were hurled in all directions. Plate-glass from the windows of wrecked shops crashed to the ground. By midnight the police had succeeded in sealing off Divis Street and in clearing it for several hundred yards on both sides of the blazing trolley-bus.

 Order was largely restored, but thirty people, including at least eighteen members of the RUC, had been injured seriously enough to require urgent hospital treatment. Next day it became evident that events in Northern Ireland were being regarded with astonishment throughout the world. In vain did Terence O’Neill, Prime Minister and leader of the Unionist Party, appeal for restraint and a return to law and order. His appeal brought only sneers and insults from the Paisleyites. They looked upon him as a liberal weakling and believed that his policies of reform and reconciliation between Catholics and Protestants were destroying the Protestant Ascendancy. Since 1963, when O’Neill had secured the premiership by outwitting his nearest rivals within the Unionist Party, the Paisleyites had been demanding his removal from office. "O’Neill Must Go" became the policy of their newspaper, The Protestant Telegraph. Their campaign was intensified when he met Sean Lemass, An Taoiseach (Premier) of the Irish Republic, in January 1965.

 On 6 October, five days after the Divis Street riots, Professor Robert Corkey, Unionist senator and former Moderator of the Presbyterian Church in Ireland, indicted Paisley as the man mainly responsible for the disturbances. "His loud protestations of Protestant principles," said Professor Corkey, "have attracted a considerable following of thoughtless people." Next day, in the Northern Ireland Parliament, Harry Diamond, a Republican Labour MP, also blamed Paisley and described him as "a half-demented exhibitionist." Diamond alleged that a caucus of the Unionist Party in Belfast Corporation had urged Paisley to complain about the tricolour and threaten to pull it down. The involvement of members of the Unionist Party might explain why O’Neill refused an official investigation into the events which resulted in the Divis Street disturbances. He pleaded in the House of Commons that there "was no precedent for such an inquiry." The Unionists won West Belfast and the eleven other Northern Ireland constituencies. When the count closed on 15 October, Kilfedder was declared elected with a 6,000 majority. His first words, after the result had been announced, were directed to Ian Paisley without whose help, he said, "it could not have been done." 

Nevertheless, the Republicans had their own victory.
On Sunday 5 October they carried the tricolour, in public and in broad daylight, at the head of a parade of 5,000 people who marched from Beechmount on Falls Road, through Divis Street, to an election rally near Smithfield. Police lined the route but made no attempt to seize the flag. The same day a congregation of 2,000, in Belfast’s Ulster Hall, heard Ian Paisley accuse "many Ulster Protestant leaders of showing weakness in the face of Republican pressure." If they did not stand firm their Protestant faith was in jeopardy, he warned. This alleged threat to Protestantism in Ulster and the weakness of certain Unionist political leaders were the main points on which Paisley was to base his campaigns and rally his followers after the battle for the Divis Street tricolour.

Vol. Paddy McLogan

    This past July marked the 50th anniversary of the death of Paddy McLogan, 1916 veteran and one of the "Three Macs" who led the Republican movement in the 50's.

   I cut the first half of this account little short so as not to take away from a much better detailed biographical booklet that McLogan's nephew, Len, is putting together. Hopefully this will stir up some interest.
    If anyone knew him or has any information, stories, memorabilia, photos, etc etc- get in touch with Len at paddymclogan@outlook.com
    He wrote a short write up on Paddy which was published in Saoirse in July 2014. Its well worth reading if you're interested and can get a hold of it.

Paddy McLogan

Padraig McLogan was born in Armagh in 1899 and emigrated to England at an early age. While there he joined the IRB (in 1913) under the influence of his uncle, who swore him in.
    During 1916 he fought in the GPO under James Connolly, and after the surrender was interned in Frongoch like the rest. He served as Contess Markceives' chauffeur during the internees' return to Dublin.
    In 1917 he went to Belfast to work with the IRB and volunteers there. "He was appointed captain of a new company of volunteers, D company 1st Battalion and he worked hard to bring it up to strength. They trained on Saturday nights, and returned to Belfast in time for 7am Mass." He helped acquire and redistribute arms, and form new companies. For one reason or another he headed south later that year and ended up fighting in Bray under Desmond Fitzgerald whilst working as a milkman to support himself. He was captured and imprisoned in Mountjoy during which time he went on hungerstrike with Thomas Ashe. Ashe died from force-feeding and while McLogan survived it, he was plagued by ill health for the rest of his life. He was released on medical grounds.
    During the 1918 elections he protected speakers and supporters in South Armagh from attacks by soldiers and rose to be O/c of the brigade there. The subsequent years during the Tan War were full ones for Paddy, filled with clever arms raids and brushes with death, the police, and prison. He would be in leadership positions most of the time, and throughout his life. That he rose to do so quickly, in diverse places, and from early on is testament to his qualities as a leader of men. He was asked to help lead the North Antrim/ East Derry Brigade upon its formation, which he did until he was arrested once more in 21. Though as he was arrested under an assumed name the police continued to hunt for him on the outside.
     Paddy was appointed one of the IRA's "Evacution Officers" but resigned after it was clear the 6 Counties- including his native Armagh- were to remain under British rule. He was imprisoned by the Free State at the outset of the Civil War. While inside he became O/c of his wing and under his watch a daring escape plan was hatched in which the guards were overpowered, their keys taken, and dozens of cells were opened. The escape was ultimately unsuccessful.
      He was released in 1923. He married and in '26 he moved to Portlaoise and bought a pub on a corner of 34 Main Street which he was to run for over 30 years. "Time keeping was meticulous," writes Tim Pat Coogan, "no drunkenness or swearing was allowed." He was deeply religious and kept a personal altar in his home- behind which he stored republican documents.
    He remained on the Republican scene, both under and above ground. From 1933-38 he was a nationalist MP for South Armagh, and in 1936 chairman of Cumann Na Phblachta Eireann, whilst simultaneously still at work within the IRA. In 1924, the dark years of postwar rebuilding, he was chosen as one of the IRA's principle organizers and from then on remained a quiet but prominent and consistent figure on the army council. He was an opponent of Sean Russell and the S Plan, and stepped back, like many others did, as a result. That did not stop the Free State from interning him on account of selling Easter Lillies, and he remained in the Curragh for most of the 40's.
     Whilst inside the Curragh he met Tony Magan and Thomas og MacCurtain, and a friendship was formed that would both preserve the movement and at the same time change it. They stood out from the others for their discipline and serious commitment. For this reason, after a string of meetings and conventions in the latter half of the decade, Tony Magan was elected as Chief of Staff as it was felt he could restore the crumbling movement. McLogan and MacCurtain would help him do so.
     McLogan's first task to this end was to bring Sinn Fein under the control of the IRA, making it their much-needed political arm (links had been severed in the 20's). McLogan served as president with other volunteers in positions under him, and headed a committee that coordinated the workings of the two organizations. He was president from 50-52, and from 54-60.
    He also brought "The United Irishman" under the IRA's control. It had been set up as an independent newspaper run by republicans, mostly ex-prisoners from the 40's. It quickly gained in readership and in '48 McLogan went on their editorial board. A split ensued when he advocated blowing up customs posts and the others did not. They subsequently resigned and as a result the "United Irishman" became the IRA's press arm ("The official organ of irish Republicanism" its subhead read) up to and beyond the split in 69/70. McLogan contributed many articles and editorials to the paper. These two coups made the IRA politically stronger and in many ways defined their existence for decades to come, up to the present day.
    McLogan refused to be on the army council of the 50's and, for the most part, focused his attention on politics. He was nonetheless an important military advisor during the Border Campaign and his experience in the North during the Tan War was valuable. "He knew his people and his situation," recalls Ruairi O'Bradaigh. At one meeting he had suggested discontinuing the practice of drilling in favor of "battle schools" and in 57 McLogan felt the traditional "flying columns" were too cumbersome and should be broken down into smaller units of 5 men or so. Both of these were eventually adopted. He was also an early proponent of the idea that no action should be taken in the Free State. "He was a very resourceful person who believed he always had options. He faced difficult situations, examined his options, and then acted." Joe Cahill recalled that he believed in staging "spectaculars"- high profile operations- as a way of drumming up support and the reaction to events like the Armagh barracks raid would seem to prove his view correct.
    In 1957 he was arrested at a Sinn Fein Ard Feis. With a single exception, the entire Sinn Fein leadership was now in the Curragh, and most of the Army Council as well. McLogan was re-elected president by an Ard Feis held inside the camp. Dispatches typed on toilet paper became his primary means of communication with the outside world.
     He was released in early 1958 on account of his health (he had almost died while in the Curragh a decade earlier). In April that year he went to America to raise support, and laid groundwork for an arms smuggling network with George Harrison and a "30's man," Liam Cotter.
   In 1960 he was replaced as president of Sinn fein by Thomas Mac Goilla. The same year he was allegedly behind a campaign against Sean Cronin for, it was claimed, being a communist. Cronin was found not guilty by the Army investigation but he resigned to keep peace within the movement. An unfortunate incident but hardly unusual given the very conservative political atmosphere McLogan's generation hailed from.
   He was against the stand down in 62 and resigned from the Sinn Fein leadership as a result. He did not let this dampen his involvement though: he still remained a member of Sinn Fein and in his own capacity continued to arrange arms shipments from America in expectation of the next campaign. Though he sold his pub and retired to Blanchardstown, he did not show any signs of retiring from the struggle.
    In 1964 he was found dead in his back garden (others say his hallway) with a revolver beside him. The coroner listed his death as accidental, and indeed the revolver in question- a Walther 9mm- is prone to misfiring. However Paddy had dealt with weapons all his life and was a bit of an expert. Suicide was out of the question as he was both a devout Catholic and in high spirits. On the other hand some Republicans claimed, and still claim, he was murdered by the new leadership. An anonymous republican quoted in Sean Swan's book says people said the deed was done by him and Cathal Goulding "but it wasn't." Others suspected MI5 was involved. 50 years later his death continues to intrigue.
   He was buried in Mulhuddart, Dublin and within a year his friends had a fitting memorial erected over his grave.
   It is said McLogan did not want his arms to "fall into the hands of his ideological enemies," and what plans he did have for them he took to his grave. However under the direction of Harrison and Cotter (himself murdered in 76) the American network operated well into the 70's and 80's and was very successful in its purpose.
    Paddy Mclogan led what his former commander James Connolly would have called "a great, full life." (A friend from the 40's, Jack McCabe, was working on a biography of Paddy but it was cut short by McCabe's death.) Comrades recall him as a stern man, the result of decades of war, hardship, and loss. J Bowyer Bell describes him as "the traditional Irish conspirator...quietly weaving involved nets, placid in temperament, ice cold in contention, but easy to trust." A fellow internee recalled, "If Paddy ever went to heaven he would cause trouble there; it was in his nature to cause trouble." Paddy would have taken that as a compliment if done in the service of the Republic, to which his life was devoted.

"They drilled" and info on his Tan War activities from Saoirse, July 2014.
"The IRA" by Tim Pat Coogan
"The Secret Army" by J Bowyer Bell
"Resourceful person..." Quote from "Ruairi O'Bradaigh: Life and Politics of an Irish Revolutionary" by Robert White.
"He knew..." From http://www.freewebs.com/saoirse/record/record08.htm
"Spectaculars" Joe Cahill, A Life in the IRA
"But it wasn't, etc" Sean Swan, "Official Irish Republicanism"
"He didn't want his weapons...." And info on arms ring from "The American Connection by Jack Holland.
"If paddy ever went..." Quote from "The IRA in the Twilight Years." Also has a several-page tribute to him from Ruairi O'Bradaigh.

Meanwhile in Scotland: Ian Hamilton and the Stone of Scone (1950)


"Scotland is a Nation
Interview with Ian Hamilton
It was the heist to end all heists. Four twentysomethings, two cars and the most unusual booty of all time. Backed with only their burning passion, a ramshackle group of idealists ventured into the heart of the British Empire to reclaim Scotland's Stone of Destiny, and settle a seven-hundred year old row. BooksfromScotland.com sent Tony Black to talk to ringleader Ian Hamilton about the 'crime' that rocked the world.

TONY BLACK: Firstly, for our readers who aren't up on their Scottish history, perhaps you could explain what the Stone of Destiny is?
IAN HAMILTON: The Stone has a long tradition. It is supposed to have been brought by the migrating Gaels from the east via the hands of Pharaoh’s daughter Scota... but that's just tradition. It was for hundreds of years kept at Scone, hence its alternative name of Stone of Scone. This was to keep it from Viking pirates in the 800s to the 1200s. As Stone of Destiny it was used by the Scottish Kings as their Coronation seat. The English call it the Coronation Stone. In 1296, when Edward of England invaded Scotland he took it away as he attempted to erase any sign of Scottish nationality. There followed the Scottish/English wars... Wallace (Braveheart) and Bruce... in which the Scots were victorious. Peace was finally made by the Treaty of Northampton in 1328. There was a clause in this by which the English undertook to return the Stone but they never did. It traditionally belongs to the Scottish people themselves not to their rulers hence the popular feeling for it. I think this latter is most important.
Edward had a special Coronation Chair made for it with a shelf underneath it to take the Stone; at present it is agreeably empty and forlorn.

TB:And you reclaimed it at a time (1950) when public feeling in Scotland, and I take this from reading your book, wasn't exactly filled with pride... you wanted to change that didn't you?

IH:1950 was still the very height of the British Empire. The Scots benefited financially from it but very nearly lost their identity to it. Ever since I was a child I had wanted to do something to try to waken the Scots to ensure that they hadn't lost their identity. The sudden and overwhelming response to the return of the Stone astonished everyone including me.

TB:One of the hallmarks of the book is the sense you convey of a young bloke caught up in momentous events -- it was one hell of an adventure wasn't it?

IH:It was a great adventure. I was a young man who had just missed action in the War by a hairsbreadth. I was a volunteer, not a conscript. I was nearly a pilot but I was just too young. Looking back we rode our luck and were carried along by the whole breathless adventure of the thing. I was caught by a night watchman and had to talk my way out, and twice we had to talk our way free of the police. We would never have used violence but four resolute youngsters, pressing on regardless, can achieve quite a lot. That's what we did. We pressed on regardless.

TB: You were a university student, and risking your entire future on this weren't you.

IH: Yes. We were risking our futures, and jail too. We were banking on the ordinary people of Scotland supporting on us. We thought it might be a forlorn hope but as always they supported their own.

TB: What did it feel like being in Westminster Abbey, in the wee hours of Christmas Day 1950, to finally get your hands on the Stone for the first time?

IH: I was too full of adrenaline to remember much. When I went back into the Abbey on my own for the fourth or so time that night, looking for the car keys which had been torn from my coat pocket as we used the coat as a sledge to drag the Stone, I stopped for a moment. I remember the utter black darkness of the place and sensed its vaulted ceiling 100ft above me, then I noticed a light at the far end, stationary, far away and tiny. Someone, an ex-serviceman from the First World War, later told me what I was looking at was the light, never extinguished, at the tomb of the Unknown warrior. This was told me by Professor Dewar Gibb my Scots Law Professor, who had been Churchill's adjutant in the trenches.

TB: And then the Stone spilt... your heat must have sank.

IH: Breaking Stone. No panic. It just made it easier to carry. I have never treated the Stone as something holy... merely as a symbol.

TB: There were a number of occasions when the wheels just about fell off your plans, when it looked like the attempt to reclaim the Stone would simply collapse; I'm thinking of the times you literally ran into police.

IH: Police. Gypsies... Yes, it was all strange, but I do underline the "press on" quality. One professional screenplay writer left out the gypsy scene saying it was too incredible for the cinema... I nearly went mad. 'The whole bloody story's incredible,' I shouted at him. The screenplay writer was Charles Martin Smith who did a great job.

TB: It's safe to say that there was a massive groundswell of support for your actions when you got back to Scotland, but how did it feel to be in the thick of it?

IH: We just played a part. I was enormously amused to hear one student 'friend' say, 'The only person who would suspect Ian Hamilton is Ian Hamilton' so we hid ourselves pretty well in our own identities.

TB: Interestingly, the powers that be never charged you and your partners in 'crime': Gavin Vernon, Kay Matheson, and Alan Stuart; what do you put that down to?

TB: To this day the authorities say that they couldn't prosecute us because they couldn't prove who owned the Stone. This is nonsense. Just think if your car is stolen the police don't have to make enquiries about its true ownership. It may be your employer, or an HP company. All they have to prove is whose possession it was in at the time. It was in possession of the Dean of Westminster. All they needed was evidence of an official to say that.
It was the people of Scotland who saved us. They made it abundantly clear that there would be riots if they attempted to prosecute us.

TB: You say you never really saw Gavin, Kay and Alan after the event.

IH: Never saw them again. We weren't close friends. People have tried to couple my name with Kay Matheson's. I had addressed envelopes with her in a political office and taken her to one dance/ball. That was all. I haven't seen her for 55yrs. The others? Can't see why we should. We joined together. We did what we set out to do. We were young. We had our different ways to make in life. We went our ways. I was glad to see Alan Stuart back for the film. He was always pleased with my book. Said it was very accurate. He has always lain low... not ashamed... just a very private person.

TB: We have the Stone back in Edinburgh Castle now, returned by Tory Government in 1996, but what few people realise is, it's on loan. They've a cheek have they not?

IH: I was invited to the Stone's return on loan. I refused to go. When the woman next door returns the washing she's stolen from your line you don't drink her champagne.

TB: What do you think the Scottish people will say when they try to take it back for the next coronation?

IH: I don't know. That's one for your generation, Tony.

TB: There's a movie of your exploits now - starring Robert Carlisle - did you like it?

IH: I loved the movie. Typically the Scottish critics did everything they could to kill it. However it got standing ovations at Cannes (where it wasn't even entered in the official Festival) and likewise at Toronto Film Festival, the biggest English-speaking Festival in the world. It opens in England on December 19 and in Canada early next year. I've forgotten all the places it has been chosen for distribution. It has been extremely well received by the audiences here in Scotland.

TB: In the fifty-plus years since you reclaimed the Stone, Scotland has changed immensely. We have a devolved government, a sitting government seeking independence and a renewed sense of national pride... I think the country has much to thank Ian Hamilton for, do you think independence is on the cards?

IH: At most we spoke for our generation but we hand on a better Scotland to you than we got from our parents, but there is still much to do. We are the only nation who struck oil and became poorer as a result. We are a wealthy country yet a third of us live in poverty. Over to your generation, Tony.
Independence is inevitable. Scotland is a nation.

"The Spectator"- 28 MAY 1959, Page 29



The longer I live out of Scotland, the more vivid is my awareness of its own individual 't self. Or so I imagine. Even in my lyrically nation- alist adolescence, when I had never been across the border, and no farther over the sea than to Ireland, even then I never held the country so clearly in mind and imagination as I do now. As I write these words I can hear the incredulous guffaws with Which a few professional zealots, very properly laking a virtue of whatever necessity has kept them pure and undefiled by Sassenach ways, feel obliged to greet any statement by someone less virtuous than they. But no matter : if there is amething despicable in pursuing a vocation impossible of realisation at home, at least I shoulder my guilt in the company of some scores of millions of fellow-countrymen, Irishmen, Sicilians, and others of small nationalities provid- ing much ambition but little room.

No doubt this clarity is partially illusory, in some degree the product of the exile's sentimen- tality; but not very much so; otherwise I must be curiously adept at deceiving myself, for I never feel cheated when I return. On the contrary, on each successive visit I find the country even more attractive than I had remembered it, more various, more stimulating; more saddening. I know of no other country which holds in such small compass such rich and subtle variety of landscape, accent, manner, attitude, atmosphere. In Glasgow, magnificent monster of the west, one can sense more energy to the acre than to the square mile else- where. Glasgow, in this, is closer to some of its sister-cities in America than to any in Britain, but this is no mere superficial resemblance : the people of greater Glasgow—that is, the majority of the population of the entire country—are far closer in feeling to America than is generally realised. No one could say anything so alarming of Edinburgh, scarcely fifty miles to the east across the smudged midland plain. Edinburgh still retains a Victorian, North British sort of charm, stiff with a slightly dowdy, Trollopian snobbishness and froideur, and its nineteenth-century stays creak touchingly whenever it unbends. The modern Scottishness' of Edinburgh is always slightly suspect to me : a rather genteel baakward-looking, the carefully correct kilt in Princes Street, a dally- ing with old forms emptied of their wild content. Yet I love it, westerner though I am, the handsome old North British frump, and its dogged provincialism saddens me (far more than the 'Americanisation' of the west alarms me), its envy of London so mawkishly expressed in so many ways.

There is a sense of incompleteness in the air there, a feeling of loss which is easily identified and which can indeed be recognised in one form or another throughout the entire country. No amount of festivalising will lessen it; Holyrood- house could be occupied all the year round by the entire Royal Family, and it would be nowise diminished; the bureaucracy under the direct control of Scottish Ministers could be doubled, St. Andrew's House made four times more impres- sive, and it would not matter a tinker's damn. No doubt about it : Edinburgh is an empty shell so long as it does not house a national legislature.

There was a time when I would have said as much a good deal more vigorously. There was also a later time when I should have denied it with almost equal vigour. But minds are for changing; and now, without being any the wiser, I am at least aware that in such matters there is neither black nor white but only the infinite gradations of grey between. Dilemmas and contradictions abound in all directions, and since (happily) there is a lack of blessed martyrs to sweep them into insignificance by forcing the issue on purely and fanatically nationalist grounds, we must take them into account.

The present arrangements are bound to go on provincialising Scotland, body and spirit. This is the inevitable outcome of a situation in which a nation has submerged its political identity in that of a more powerful neighbour and yet maintains with a passionate stubbornness a number of forms which clearly distinguish its nationhood and which make a continuing reality of the border.

There is no doubt at all about Scottish national sentiment. The Covenant campaign proved, not very scientifically perhaps but well enough, what most people must have already known: that a great majority of Scots would 'like to see' a parliament in Edinburgh, a sufficient political expression of their strong sense of national identity. It is unlikely, though, that many seriously think in terms of separation from England. All this is extremely vague and unformed, and there is often a strong element about it of mere play with words. Liberals, for example, are Home Rulers, but they can safely promise the moon for all the likelihood of their being called on to deliver. In the General Election of 1945 most of the Labour candidates in Scotland had Home Rule as a plank in their platforms, but they shut up smartly when they were told, once they had been sent to Westminster. The Covenant campaign petered out, but not before Westminster had taken some note of the state of mind which it represented. National senti- ment has certainly not been anywhere near the point of crystallising into effective political terms, but that is not to say that it never will. The temper of opinion is often shown more obliquely, as when the use of agents provocateurs to break up small 'republican' organisations caused a certain revul- sion of feeling. Then there was the complete reversal of public opinion during the weeks when Scotland Yard searched in vain for the Stone of Destiny and failed to get their hands finally on the undergraduates who had taken it. As time passed the initial feeling of pious outrage (as expressed in the newspapers) was replaced by something very different, and repeated assurances of alarm and despondency among the very highest in the south did nothing to arrest the trend : on the contrary, when the truth was out at laSt it was politically impossible for the police to take any action at alL.

    I know very little, God knows, but that little is quite enough now to prevent me from saying that this or that is the line to take, and all others be damned. I know that I have a loyalty to that co plex which I call my country, and that it is not in my nature to think of it either as a recreation ground bright with Ye Olde Tartanne or as an industrial area into which North American capital can increasingly pour. If somebody at this point in time were to get me into a corner and force me to express myself positively I should say : (1) Nationalism is an abhorrent force; (2) London's preponderance is far too great and is draining the spirit out of Scotland, and not only Scotland; (3) The rational solution in the end will be a federation which will restore to Scotland its national dignity, allow Wales to be itself, and make possible (when the last representa- tives of the old intransigent generations have gone to better things) a breaking of the Irish deadlock; (4) In that happy event we should make some attempt to be 'Scottish' with as little conscious effort as the English are 'English,' for there are few things more painful than the two basic attitudes—on the one hand, 'Him; I kcnnt his faither!' and, on the other, 'Wha's like us?'

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Volunteer Frank Morris

 Volunteer Frank Morris
By Miceal

      One of seven children (including a priest), Frank Morris was born in Greencastle Tyrone, but at an early age moved to Convoy, Donegal where he spent most of his life. He joined the IRA in 1942, while the 40's Campaign was in full swing. He was recruited by one of the Tyrone brigade O/c's, Eoin MacNamee, (while the latter was OTR) at a time when there were very few volunteers in the area, as the population was free from British rule, unlike their neighbors, and saw no reason to get involved. But Donegal, with its wild terrain and neutral authorities, was an important asset; and Morris, "one of the few reliable men"(1) in the area, and his knowledge of it would prove invaluable.
    His first noteworthy activity, he later recalled, was attending a court martial of a suspected informer. His first assignment though was to spirit volunteers across the border into the safety of co Donegal after an operation. "Carrickmore area was good to us in those days." Morris said in an oration for one of the volunteers, Jimmy Clarke. "Police cordons were extended but with the help of local people we managed to get through and make our way to Greencastle. Help was never refused by Protestant or Catholic."
     After he dropped the volunteers off and was returning, while approaching the Strabane bridge over the Foyle into Donegal, Morris’s car was stopped by a RUC guard. This was a routine stop and search checkpoint the RUC were increasing. Eoin MacNamee's strategy in response was to attack these whenever possible in hopes of discouraging the practice. Morris downed the guard with two shots, but he didn’t realize he had friends in the area: shots came from behind the car while another officer blocked the road with his bicycle and started firing. Seeing there was no chance of surviving a shoot out, Morris got out of the car, charged through the bushes along the riverbank and leapt into he river. Here too he faced a problem as he could not swim; for ten hours he hugged the riverbank until he was discovered after an exhaustive manhunt.
     In line with IRA policy, he refused to recognize the court and he was given the “Cat O Nine Tails” 15 times as a punishment for the escapade.* He was the last person in Ireland to receive the dreaded punishment. “The pain was dreadful, you couldn’t imagine it.” He recalled for Ireland Daily. “The tail ends of the whip cut my flesh to the bone and I bit my lip to stop screaming."(2) He received ten years in prison for attempted murder. Before he was released he would spend 18 days on hunger strike while in Belfast's Crumlin Road Jail. He was not released until 1949
     He was dismissed from the IRA in the 50's and was recruited by fellow Tyrone republican, Crumlin inmate, and 40's veteran Liam Kelly into Saor Uladh. Frank Morris became an active volunteer with the group, fighting in many of its engagements. He was on Saor Uladh’s executive committee, consisting of himself, Kelly, Joe Christle, and several others. The committee functioned like a loose version of the IRA’s GHQ, directing operations and overseeing finances.
     He gave the oration at the funeral for Saor Uladh volunteer Alo Hand, with whom he fought, declaring: “Let there be no talk of vengeance, no idle boasting. The cause is not lost, the struggle is not over. With God’s help, what we have begun we shall finish.”(3)
     He also gave the oration for Saor Uladh volunteer and Cork socialist Kevin Neville, who died in 1964. While he is speaking about Kevin, his words say something about himself as well as he found these qualities in a volunteer worth holding up for emulation: "He was a progressive revolutionary, a man who preached the doctrine of James Connolly, that the fight was useless if we merely changed flags and masters and did not change the whole social and economic system. He also believed that a revolutionary's main principle should be the achieving of his object, that his hands should not be tied by petty principles and that he should change his tactics to meet changing situations."
   While he was separated from the "mainstream" movement, Morris continued to be a valuable local asset in sheltering volunteers. He found lodging for units from Cork during the outbreak of the campaign in 56-57. One of them, Jim Lane remembers that "he gave great help to us at the time, as did Saor Uladh people earlier in Co. Tyrone." Later on he helped a flying column under Terry O'Toole find hiding spots and safe houses around Donegal. "It was to him they looked for guidance rather than Dublin," writes Tim Pat Coogan.(4)
    After the campaign the new leadership sidelined him as the old one did, but this time on a perception he was too conservative. He sought nomination as the candidate for Mid-Ulster but was rebuffed for being too right wing (the nomination went instead to Bernadette Devlin) When Cathal Goulding called a general convention to discuss the rising tensions in the north, the Army Council representative for Donegal (Ruairi O’Bradaigh thinks it was Seamus Costello)(5) blocked Morris from attending despite his critical role in the area. Daithi O’Connell walked out in support of him.  Around the same time he helped find billets for independent volunteers from Cork who went up to help defend the newly formed Free Derry no-go zone.
    After the split, he became one of the area’s first organizers for the Provisional IRA and stood on their army council. He abhorred sectarianism, and when rioting broke out in Donegal against an Orange Order march he described the OO and their marches as "a great tradition in east Donegal." The Donegal PIRA followed suite, saying they were not only not involved in the clashes, they "deplored" them and offered their protection to local protestants. (6)
    The respect he had and his influence over the PIRA can be seen in the fact that British Generals Steele and Ford contacted him in 1972 to find out where the IRA stood on certain issues. Morris replied that the IRA and British army could fight each other for years but neither by itself alone could defeat the other, adding that because of this a ceasefire should be declared. Tim Pat Coogan tried to arrange a meeting between Morris and David Hume as well. He was outed as Provisional O/c of Donegal by Martin McGuinness in 72.
    He turned his hand to politics again in the 80's, standing as an independent candidate, but lost.
    In spite of being a volunteer his entire life, Morris was above all a devoted family man. He ran a grocery store which became very sucessful under his direction. A comrade of his recalled for An Phoblacht "He was the sort of man who was successful at anything he turned his hand to."(7) Brendan O'Neil, a relative of one of Jim Lane's group, recalls upon visiting him as a "slight, trim man with a faint voice." He and his wife Mary looked back "kindly but unsentimentally" on the days when on the run volunteers were crammed into their home. (8)
     He died peacefully on June 4th, 2006 at the age of 86 after a long illness. Republicans of all shades from all over the country attended his funeral.

* A writer for Saoirse (August, 1996) gives a graphic description of this punishment: "These tails were knotted and they tore the flesh from the prisoner's back. To receive this treatment the prisoner was stripped to the waist, a towel tucked into his waistband to absorb the blood and he was stretched on a "triangle", bound from the wrists and the ankles...Where the poles met at the top was a rotating wheel over which a rope was thrown. This was attached to the bound wrists of the prisoner and pulled until he was standing on tip-toe. The legs were spread apart and the ankles secured to the lower ends of two of the poles. The wielder of the "cat", whom the prisoner rarely got a glimpse of, was masked, like the executioner of old who used an axe to behead his victims on the block.
    The prison governor was present along with the prison doctor. The number of lashes to be inflicted was counted out, "One, Two, Three, etc", as the cat whistled through the air and descended on the unfortunate man"s back. Afterwards the prisoner was cut down and medical attention was rendered immediately to his bleeding back."


1. Tim Pat Coogan, "The IRA."
2. An Phoblacht obituary
3. AP Article, "Plaque to Alo Hand Unveiled in Clones."
4. Coogan
5. Ruairi O'Bradaigh, by Robert White
6. "The impact of the Troubles on the Republic of Ireland, 1968-79: Boiling volcano?" By Brian Hanley
7. AP Obit
8. Joseph O'Neil, "The Blood Dark Track"
Photo Credits: Photo of Frank, An Phoblacht.
Oration for Jimmy Clarke, the Irish Republican Marxist History Project. Oration for Kevin Neville, Rebel Cork's Fighting Story.

(Apologies for one or two other rather sloppy versions of this floating around out there. This version- and any subsequent additions to it- is the official one. If any family or comrades would like to get in touch about it the e-mail is lublog@hushmail.com. Tom Mitchell gave the oration at his funeral, if anyone has that, or any of Frank's orations, I will certainly post. - Miceal)