Sunday, December 20, 2015

Cork Volunteers Pipe Band No. 5 (Supplementary edition )

    The following is a supplementary edition of Jim Lane's series on the Cork Volunteers Pipe Band with various photos and bits from over the decades, including the funeral of James Crossan, and band members/ Cork brigade volunteers from the 50's.

Parts 1-4 are posted here:

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Vol. Seamus Murphy -RIP

 IRA prisoner on life sentence who escaped from Wakefield prison
Séamus Murphy: August 8th, 1935 - November 2nd, 2015

Sat, Nov 28, 2015, 01:00

IRA man Séamus Murphy, who has died aged 80, was the only man to succeed in escaping from Wakefield prison in west Yorkshire on February 12th, 1959, when republicans staged a daring rescue attempt.

“There were five men that had been earmarked for the escape. Two of them were Eoka men [George Skotinos and Nicos Sampson], another two were IRA, myself and Joe Doyle, while there was also a fifth with us, Tony Martin, who had deserted the British army in Cyprus and fought on the side of Eoka before he was arrested,” Séamus Murphy said afterwards.

Murphy had been serving a life sentence for an IRA raid on an arms depot at Arborfield in Berkshire in 1955. The raid, which was part of Operation Harvest, intended to obtain arms to use against the British army in Northern Ireland, had succeeded, and the main party, including Ruairí Ó Brádaigh, escaped. Séamus Murphy had stayed behind to tidy up loose ends and he and Joe Doyle and Donal Murphy were arrested, charged and given life sentences.

‘Freedom fighters’
Already in Wakefield prison then was Cathal Goulding, IRA chief of staff, along with a future chief of staff, Seán Mac Stiofáin. The Irish quickly made common cause with Greek Cypriot Eoka members, the two groups seeing in each other fellow freedom fighters.

In prison Murphy played chess with Klaus Fuchs, a German scientist jailed for giving atomic secrets to the Russians, while his fellow IRA prisoner Marcus Canning learned Greek from the Cypriots. Another Cypriot prisoner, George Ioannau, translated the writings of James Connolly into Greek.
The IRA had failed in an earlier attempt to get Goulding out, and the Séamus Murphy escape was the work of a splinter group associated with maverick republican Joe Christle, working with Eoka sympathisers living in London.

Outside the prison, republicans Aine and Séamus Grealey acted as decoys by pretending to be a courting couple, while Hughie Farrell and Pat Farrelly threw a rope over the prison wall. In the event only Séamus Murphy made it to freedom. The operation, which involved the rent of flats and the hire of two cars, was paid for by a Cypriot woman, Katerina Pilina, with her £500 wedding dowry.

Fake interview

Murphy hid in a flat in Manchester for three weeks, while a Sunday Press “interview” in Dublin proclaimed his return to Ireland. He eventually made his way home via Glasgow.
Séamus Murphy, Jim to his parents and younger sisters, was a native of Castledermot, Co Kildare, where his mother was the postmistress. His father, a baker, died young. While boarding at Terenure College, Dublin, he joined the IRA.
On his return to Ireland, he had difficulty finding work, eventually working on a baker’s delivery round. He met a young woman, Betty O’Donoghue, also from his home county of Kildare, and they married in 1963. They settled in Bray, Co Wicklow with their son, and Séamus Murphy worked in the nearby Solus light bulb factory.
His days of active service were over, but he remained a member of the republican family, did not embrace Goulding’s move to socialism and opposed the Belfast Agreement.

When Vivas Lividas launched the Greek language edition of his book Cypriot and Irish Prisoners in British jails 1956-59 in 2007, Séamus Murphy visited Cyprus and met many old friends from prison days, including Nicos Sampson, by then a highly controversial, some would say suspect, figure.

There he also got to thank in person Katerina Pilina, who had donated her dowry to get him out of jail. He is survived by Betty, his son, Pearse, and his sisters, Carrie and Chris.


Brian Hanley:

I first met Seamus at a reunion of Border Campaign veterans in 2005. At the time Scott Millar and I were working on the Lost Revolution and Semaus immediately agreed to help in any way he could. Seamus did not support the Officials after the split but he remained on good terms with people on all sides of the various fractures in republicanism. When I interviewed him at his home in Bray he gave me access to his vast collection of photographs and permission to use them as I saw fit. He also gave me a DVD of home movie footage he had shot during the 1960s. It included footage of the pre-split Bodenstown commemoration in 1969, the Official republican Bodenstown in 1970 and various protests in Dublin and Wicklow. Some of the footage has since found its way onto the internet, much to my embarrassment as Seamus never gave me permission to allow that. However when I rang him to apologise he was his usual goodhearted and generous self. He was a gentleman. My condolences to Betty and his family.

Des Dalton:

Seamus remained a committed Republican over the succeeding decades. Seamus Murphy was a man of erudition and intellect as well as action. Seamus was a very private man who did not boast of his exploits yet in private was generous, both with his time and his extensive knowledge of Irish and international revolutionary history.
Time spent in the company of Seamus Murphy was always a rewarding experience.
In 2008 Seamus honoured me with an invitation to join him and other IRA and EOKA veterans for a private dinner which was a marvellous night of stories and great comradeship, one truly felt in the presence of living history and privileged to be there.
To his wife Betty, his son Pearse and the rest of his family I wish to express my deepest sympathy. His like will never be seen again. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

Manus O'Riordan:

Seamus Murphy was a great friend and supporter of International Brigaders, and attended many commemorations in both Ireland and Spain. My brigadista father Micheal O'Riordan was on a visit to Seamus and Betty Murphy in January 1996 when the news came through that the Spanish Parliament had voted to give the right to claim Spanish citizenship to all surviving brigadistas, and it was in the Murphy home that he was filmed for RTE News welcoming that vindication. Sincere condolences from all the O'Riordan family to Betty and family.
(He was also an acquaintance of Bob Doyle-Ed.)

From the National Graves Assoc. FB page:

Seamus died on 2 November 2015 and his many friends assembled in the Victorian Chapel of Mount Jerome Cemetery to celebrate his life. Fr. Piaras Ó Dúill recited prayers in Irish and Sean O’Mahony, author, acted as master of ceremonies. Manus O’Riordan sang in Spanish in tribute to Seamus’s deep interest in the Spanish Civil War and his participation in commemorating it over many years. He also sang ‘The Galtee Mountain Boy’, while Johnny Morrissey and daughter performed traditional music. Anna Barron read “The Wayfarer” by Patrick Pearse. Operatic arias and “die Internationale” (in Russian) sounded among the Victorian monuments to the British establishment in tribute to Seamus’s other interests.

A defining moment of Séamus’s early life was his participation in the Arborfield raid in Berkshire on 13 August 1955, which was well planned and executed; the following weapons were seized according to Hansard, the official parliamentary record in Britain:

Rifles, 2; Bren Light Machine Guns, 10; Sten Carbines, 55; Sten Magazines, 359; and Pistols .38, 1.
Ammunition—52,315 rounds .303; 30,899 rounds 9 mm.; 1,332 rounds .38; and 1,300 rounds .22.

A zealous policeman spotted one of the loaded vehicles returning to London, investigated and arrested its passengers, leading to the seizure of their cache and the arrest of Seamus, Joe Doyle of Bray and Donal Murphy. They were sentenced to life and Seamus found himself in Wakefield Prison, a grim institution, schooling Irish prisoners in the Fenian tradition. There he mingled with Klaus Fuchs, the German-born Atomic spy, and Greek Cypriot EOKA prisoners, in whom he found life-long friends. Escape was plotted, part-funded by a Cypriot lady, who donated her dowry. Pat Donovan transformed himself into a troublesome criminal to enter Wakefield to assist from the inside.

When the jail break came off, Nicos Samson and Joe Doyle were left behind, while the cautious Fuchs declined. Only Seamus crossed the wall and was spirited away to Manchester. In Castledermot, his Mother pretended that he had arrived safely to mislead the authorities and he finally flew home on Aer Lingus to a hero’s welcome.

Seamus and his wife Betty made a great team with a warm welcome to their home in Bray. Their Cypriot friendships of fifty years culminated in the publication of a book by Vias Livadas in Greek and English about Cypriot and Irish Political Prisoners held in British prisons 1956-1959. Cypriot messages of condolence were read aloud in Mount Jerome. Seamus was invariably reading or discussing political theory with friends, but he was also devoted to his son Pearse and three beloved grandchildren.

Fíor Ghael, a fhulaingt a ualach gan gearán. Chun tosaigh ag déanamh an íobairt. Mhothaigh sé comhbhrón le gach muintir, pé áit sa dhomhain, a bhí faoi chos an tíoránach. Sheas sé, i gcónaí, leo siúd a bhí faoi míbhuntáiste. Beidh an saol níos measa ina easpa. Ní bheidh a leithéid linn arís.
Go mbeidh suaimhneas air. May he rest in peace

George Ioannou- "Greek Cypriot Fighter who fell in love with Ireland"

 Greek Cypriot fighter who fell in love with Ireland and Irish history
George Ioannou: August 23rd, 1933 - April 8th, 2015

George Ioannou, who has died aged 81, was one of the leading figures in the Eoka struggle against British rule in Cyprus between 1955 and 1959.

Ioannou had been imprisoned in Nicosia central prison. but due to the large number of Eoka men in that prison and the rioting that followed hangings there he was among those transferred to England, where he met IRA prisoners and his relationship with Irish republicanism developed.

Ioannou immersed himself in Irish literature and history and was particulary impressed by the writings of James Connolly, which he translated into Greek for the benefit of his fellow Cypriot prisoners.

These books later took pride of place in the library of his Nicosia home following his release in 1959, when the Zurich agreement ended the hostilities in Cyprus.

Among the Irish prisoners Ioannou met were Cathal Goulding and Sean Mac Stiofáin, later to become leaders of the Official and Provisional IRA respectively.

His brother Nicola, an 18-year-old student, came to Dublin to meet Seán Cronin, then chief of staff of the IRA, to plan a joint escape attempt from Wakefield prison but was killed in mysterious circumstances on his return to England. Archbishop Makarios, president of the newly independent state, was to officiate at his burial at home in Cyprus.

Open house
Following his release, George Ioannou returned to Nicosia and took up a position with the new administration. He married an English woman, Betty Jane Davis, and they kept open house for many years for Irish and Palestinian activists.

Ioannou and his family made many trips to Ireland and he was particularly moved by his visit to Kilmainham Gaol. He also loved going to Tara and the Boyne Valley.

An animal lover and keen gardener, he spent many hours tending to his exotic plants and fruits. A man with a big heart, he is survived by his son, Nicola, daughter, Elena, grandchildren, and many brothers and sisters.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Marion Steenson, CnamB (RIP)

    Marion Steenson of North Strand Dublin, a veteran of the Cumann na mBan since the 1940's and a valuable assistant to the movement in every decade since, died on November 18th 2015. (You can read about her husband Leo here

   Marion Steenson was of the old breed of republicans whose beliefs transcended the many splits of later years; upon her death tributes came in from all sides, from dissident groups to PSF to the Workers Party.

The following articles from An Phoblacht sum up her life very well:

 (Marion was also a lifelong member of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association (and a non-smoker) and a Third Order Fransiscan, proof that, in one republican's words, you can be a staunch republican and still be a devout Catholic.)

‘I was born into republicanism. It was a great life. I never changed my principles for anybody’
MARION STEENSON (neé Murphy) is a formidable woman. She had to be. As a youthful 87-year-old, the most striking thing about meeting her is the clarity with which she recalls her upbringing in a republican household steeped in history and the fearless way in which she still espouses her beliefs without fear or favour.

Ní h-aon ribín réidh í Marion. Laoch imeasc laochra sa ghluaiseacht poblachtánach – a bhfuil tuairimí láidre fós aici faoin streachailt leanúnach.

When we meet in the home near Fairview Park in Dublin which she has lived in all her life, Marion tells me that she is proud of being a republican. “I was born into it. It was a great life. I never changed my principles for anybody.”

It was inevitable that Marion would become involved with republicanism. She talks particularly about the influence her mother had on her.

“My mammy was in Cumann na mBan, the Citizen Army and the Red Cross corps and she worked with Nurse O’Farrell in the Pro-Cathedral. She was an amazing woman. She was only 17.”

Marion’s mother, Martha Kelly, was active in the Irish Citizen Army in the GPO. Her father was Captain Michael Murphy, who fought in Bolands Mill, in 1916. Both are listed as taking an active part during Easter week 1916 and they are reported to have met in Kilmainham Jail while being held as prisoners.

On release they married and moved into the house which Marion still occupies. They both died relatively young, leaving 16 children (eight boys and eight girls) behind, of whom Marion raised the younger.

Marion recollects those early days and particularly the formative influence her mother had on her.

“There was always politics here. The [Irish Republican] Army used to use our front room at night. She never spoke of anything else. It was always politics. We were on our own here (in North Strand). But we had lovely neighbours. Actually, this was real Church of Ireland because a lot of the houses down there, artisan dwellings, they built them for the Church of Ireland.

“Everything was culture,” Marion continues. “Coiste na bPáistí for the youngsters. Get them ready for the Gaeltachts. I was wreath bearer in Clann na nGael and I danced for commemorations. Used to dance in ‘Bulfin’ for the craobh.”

Míníonn si dom go raibh dlúthbhaint ag an am sin idir an dream a bhí gníomhach sa ghluaiseacht agus an dream a bhí gníomhach ó thaobh na Gaeilge de.

“It was the same people in both. We were all just connected. I was out of school at 14. We used to go to Irish classes. My parents didn’t speak Irish. We used to go to the ceilis. Outside I always spoke Irish. We’d go out to the mountains with friends on a Sunday and it would be all Irish. I did my fáinne exam with Máirtín Ó Cadhain. He was a lovely man.”

During this time Marion was also becoming immersed in the Republican Movement and the activities that would shape her future life and political philosophy.

“When I was young, Clann na nGael was the first thing. They were the girl scouts. When we were in Clann you went to anything that was on – Irish on a Monday night, something else on a Thursday. That’s the way we were brought up. Some of my sisters were in Cailíní when they were young and you could go into Cumann na mBan afterwards but they didn’t. I was in Cumann na mBan. You didn’t do that much really because that was after the 1940s and it was banned. They brought out internment then.”

She explained to me what role Cumann na mBan played at that time.

“I was involved up to the time I was married really. We had a meeting every week. We used to do collections for the internees and then we used to get food parcels ready for them to send down, somebody went down every Saturday. And we’d have concerts and different things for them. We were very well supported locally.”

Marion met her husband, Leo Steenson, another dedicated republican, at a public meeting. A Belfast man, Leo was involved in the IRA campaign of the 1950s and eventually settled in Dublin, where he met Marion through her brothers.

She talks about her husband and the effect the republican struggle had on the family.

“Leo was involved and when you have a family you had to look after them. There were no babysitters then. I had five children: four boys and a girl. That changed the whole thing. I didn’t know much [about Leo’s prominent role in the IRA]. It’s only when he died that some of the fellas would tell you how he was involved.

“I still went to anything I could. We used to go up with Cumann Carad, to Joe Cahill’s father. They had a little shop on the Falls Road and [Leo] used to go up on a Saturday morning and have breakfast there.

“My youngest brother was in Belfast in the ‘56 campaign. He was last to be released and another one was interned here. After all that Mammy done and they were jailing us, the Special Branch gave her an awful time.”

State forces were a constant shadow over the Steenson household also, but Marion recalls with great humour that she and her family always got the better of them.

“They raided the house regular alright. I was in hospital with the second one, Pádraic, and a sister of mine was here and they came to raid. It was a false alarm but they shovelled all the coal out of the back. There was nothing there and when they wanted her to put it back she wouldn’t and they were looking for soap to wash their hands she wouldn’t give it, saying: ‘I didn’t send for you and ask you to do that.’”

The house was always a safe haven for republicans and they would outfox the authorities in helping out comrades in need throughout the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

I ask Marion what she thinks of the current crop of Sinn Féin representatives and the move away from the armed struggle towards democratic politics.

“You are better in it trying to do something than outside. I must say I like Mary Lou McDonald a lot. She speaks very well.”

The Cumann na mBan veteran still aspires to a united Ireland but isn’t sure that the unionist rump will ever be ready to agree to equality.

“And while we have that [Fine Gael/Labour] Government we still have the element of the Blueshirts about the place. Enda Kenny says we’re closer to Britain now than we ever were. And sure they have given everything away. Look at the ESB, the fishing, the farmers, the turf. I think they’ve sold us out, to be honest with you.

“I asked [Labour Party minister and local TD] Joe Costello the other day, how could the Labour Party go with the conservative party, Fine Gael. Two different policies. Do you know what he said to me? That Clann na Poblachta went with Fianna Fáil.

“Another thing I go mad about is Seán Kelly. He brought the GAA down. And he walked out and joined Fine Gael – two different policies. And there”s another thing with Cumann Lúthchleas Gael, they seem to have lost an awful lot. They never use ‘Cumann Lúthchleas Gael’. And the way they stand for Amhrán na bhFiann, they’re a disgrace. I mean, whoever taught them to stand with their arms around each other?”

Croke Park was also the catalyst for a former Taoiseach being reprimanded by Marion.

“Bertie Ahern was going around here for the election at the time the English queen was coming or the rugby match with England was on. He shook my hand and I said I’m going to watch you tomorrow to see if you’re going to stand for God Save the Queen and he said to me, ‘Well what do you want me to do?’

“I said ‘I don’t care what you do’ but I showed him that photograph of Bloody Sunday in Croke Park and said ‘Croke Park wasn’t built for that.’”

The influence of Marion’s mother is ever-present, even as she explains why she still fights against unfair policies being imposed by this Fine Gael/Labour Government.

“She was an amazing woman. She was only 17 and that’s why you’ll be coming to see me in jail. I wouldn’t pay my Property Tax. So I got a letter a month ago saying I had to have it paid by March, and all the things they can do. They can dock it out of my pension and I’m waiting to see if they do because they have no right to – it’s illegal. I’m still battling.”

Agus níl aon dabht orm go bhfanfaidh Marion ag troid ar son a cuid prionsabail  poblachtánacha fad agus is féidir léi. Eiseamláir iontach is ea í do phoblachtánaithe an lae inniú agus sampla iontach do na mná, ach go h-áirithe i mbliain seo comórtha céad bliain ar bhunú Chumann na mBan. Go mairfidh Marion céad agus ós a chionn

Eight decades of republicanism

Dublin woman Marian Steenson (neé Murphy) is a lifelong republican and next February marks her 80th birthday. Here she talks to ELLA O’DWYER about her life, the republican home into which she was born and growing up in the 1930s and ‘40s.

Marian Steenson (neé Murphy) was born in 1927. She has a vibrancy that defies her years and a determination that comes with experience. Her parents took part in the 1916 Rising, the Tan War and Civil War and are said to have met while both were prisoners Kilmainham Jail.

Her father was Capt Michael Murphy, C Company, 3rd Battalion. He was the O/C of A Company 2nd  Batt at Boland’s Mill in 1916. Her mother was Martha Kelly of the Irish Citizen Army, F Company 2nd Battalion.
The couple later married and moved to the house at Leinster Avenue, North Strand where Marian still lives today. She was part of a large family, some of whom she helped raise herself.

“My parents came to this house in 1918 and I was born here in 1927. I was one of 17 children, one of whom died at birth. My father went with the Free Staters and my mother with the republicans.

“My Mammy was in the Irish Citizen Army with James Connolly in 1916 – the Imperial Hotel which is Cleary’s shop now, and in Croke Park on Bloody Sunday. She encouraged us to join the Movement. My mother remained republican till the last. Her parents threw her out because she wouldn’t have anything to do with a British soldier. Her name then was Martha O’ Kelly but she dropped the ‘O’ when Sean T O Kelly/Ceallaigh was made president. This was because he had gone with the Free State. She was very bitter against the Free Staters. That was at the time when the ‘40s men were interned in the Curragh – Tin Town they called it then. My mother was very good to all the lads in the ‘40s. They used to use the front room in this house for their drilling.
“Maggie Doyle who was over Cumann na mBan and her husband used to come to the house. I remember my mother going to Bodenstown when De Valera banned it. They went down in a lorry.

On growing up in Dublin at the time she says: “It was a very hard life but we had fun too. We used to play among ourselves. We’d play a game called ‘buttons’, we’d do skipping and we’d another game called ‘kick the can’. And of course we were in the Republican Movement.

“There was Clan na Gael, Cumann na gCaílini, Cumann na mBan and the Fianna. Clann and Fianna were more or less amalgamated. Basically the girls went with Clan na Gael.

“At that time Sinn Féin headquarters was at number 9 Parnell Square. We used to go upstairs there and do our drilling or marching, preparing for parades and after that we’d go to the Ceilidh.

 “My mother insisted we understood Irish culture. They all spoke Irish. I’m a fluent speaker myself. I was active in Conradh na Gaeilge and in the Irish dancing circle.” Marian got her fáinne after being taught by Mairtín Ó Cadhain.

 “I love traditional Irish music. We had Ceilidhs and the like. The Fianna boys used to go camping at the weekend and the girls would go with the Clan. We always had sing-songs, dance classes and Irish classes. We had outings on Sundays. There’s nothing like that for young people now. Young people should be taught Irish history too.

“The Headquarters of the Gaelic League was in 14 Parnell Square at that time. Easter Sunday was a big event and we’d cycle to Bodenstown for the Wolf Tone commemoration.”

Most of the eight boys in the Murphy family – all now deceased – were involved in the struggle as volunteers and her brother Eamon Murphy was one of the last to be released from Crumlin Road jail after the IRA’s 1950s Border Campaign and another brother Bertie was interned during the campaign.

The house in North Strand where Marian lives has always been known as a republican house. It was a stop-off for many republicans including Sean Sabhat who stayed there on the Christmas Day in 1956 before he was killed along with Fergal O’Hanlon in a raid at Brookeborough in the New Year.

“There were about ten men staying in the house that night. I remember Seán Sabhat playing a violin up in the room and teaching the children to play cards through the Irish language. I remember the lads leaving by degrees in order not to draw attention to themselves.”

Marian Murphy was of the Sean Russell Cumann, Sinn Féin.  The Russells were her neighbours. She was also involved in organising the unveiling of the Sean Russell statue in Fairview and  still attends commemorations at the monument.
Marian met her husband Leo, another dedicated republican, at a public meeting. A Belfastman, Leo was involved in the IRA campaign of the 1950s and eventually settled in Dublin where he met Marian through her brothers.
  Marian Steenson’s children are all republicans and one son, Pádraig went to prison for his republican beliefs in the late  1990s: “Naturally I worried about him when he was imprisoned but at least I knew where he was”, she says.
For Marian Steenson, republican unity is very important, even if in the context of differing opinions:“We’re all –  as republicans – entitled to our views but whatever about splits in the past, the families knew each other and were friends and should always remain so. We should always talk to each other.”
The house has often been the target of Garda raids: “We only learned we had an attic after one of the raids when the Guards found it. I remember another raid when they dug out all the coal in the shed. They found nothing and my sister made them put it all back in again. They must have thought we were eejits. There was never, ever, anything found in this house”
She also remembers men on the run escaping out of the house. She remembers that her “neighbours were great.”
During several raids the house also received a visit from the clergy.  On one occasion the priest came to the house to tell the family to excommunicate themselves for their republicanism.
“I told him he was a servant of God and he should remember that”, she says. Marian believes that the nationalist community in the North have a greater awareness of their Irishness and points to the growth in the Irish language and culture there.
She remembers the  1981 Hunger Strike as a particularly sad period: “It was very sad. DeValera and the rest should have finished what they started. If they had dealt with it then those ten young men wouldn’t have had to die. Them that started it all should have finished it and it’s not finished yet.”
Marian says that being a republican makes her happy. Her favourite song is The Patriot Game. She  remains an unrepentant republican and says that her policy was always to ‘burn everything British except their coal’.
“I never changed my principles for anyone.  I enjoyed my life”, she says. And long may it last.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

Pat Leo O'Doherty

    This past August saw the death of Pat Leo O'Doherty of Derry- artist, Gaeilgeoir and one of several "cultural hostages" who were interned during the 50's simply for speaking Irish.

PRESS RELEASE [issued by CRN - Civil Rights Network]

Bogside Gaeilgeoir dies in London

After a short illness, aged eighty, Patrick 'Pat' Leo O'Doherty, born at 134 Bogside, sadly passed away on Thursday afternoon, at the Marie Curie Hospice in Hampstead, London.

Mr. O'Doherty was an active promoter of the aims of Conradh na Gaeilge (the Gaelic League) over the past six decades. He became widely acknowledged as an enthusiastic tutor to countless Irish language students.

'Pat Leo' or "P.L", as he preferred to be called, attended the Christian Brothers 'Brow-of-the-Hill' primary school and technical college. He was one of the earliest beneficiaries' of the Eleven Plus examination process. Such enabled him to befriend many other young scholars, including some who later became world-renown figures, then enrolled at St. Columb's College.

Coming home, on a break from studying art in Belfast, he and another Gaeilgeoir, who hailed from nearby Rossville Street, where stopped by B' Special police, before being taken to Strand Road RUC barracks, under provisions of the draconian Special Powers Act. Both had been conversing in their native tongue at the time. Within hours, and without their families being informed, the two young friends were interned without charge or trial.

Irish language media referred to those who endured a similar fate as being “cultural hostages” while welcoming the fact that native language classes defyingly continued in spite of incarceration..Alongside hundreds of other detainees, who considered themselves to be Irish citizens, “P.L” refused to sign what was known as “the paper”. He was held at HMP Crumlin Road, Belfast, from the summer of 1957 until eventually being released in the spring of 1960.

His keen educationalist characteristics remained intact reflected in his decision to join the teaching profession. Past pupils describe him as "a quiet, popular and dedicated teacher". He taught a number of subjects, locally and in London, where he resided most of his remaining life. His last known local post was at St. Colman's High School in Strabane, after being engaged by its principal, Mr. J.E.P. 'Rusty' Gallagher, in the early 1960s.

"P.L" is also remembered by surviving contemporaries as "a brilliant cartoonist". His art work also included illustrations, particularly for Irish language publications. They also point to a diversity of talents including being "quite an actor and stage-hand” in a number of Irish language drama productions.

He was the eldest of five sons and a brother of four sisters whose well-known late parents were Harry (1899-1989) and Mary Ellen O'Doherty, née Hegarty, Strabane (1908-2007). Mrs. O'Doherty is often referred to, by 1968 veterans, as the “Mother of Civil Rights”. Pat Leo's remains will return to Derry to be met by twin sister and brother, Deirdre and Fionnbarra as well as surviving siblings living abroad.

Irish language enthusiast Pat Leo O'Doherty
22 August, 2015 01:00
Irish language enthusiast Pat Leo O’Doherty was a man with many claims to fame, from cartoonist to stained glass artist, actor to singer, and even a 'cultural hostage'.

While he spent a lifetime in London, Pat Leo never lost his love of Ireland and in particular his native Derry.

He was a member of one of the city’s best known families and a brother of civil rights activist Fionnbarra O Dochartaigh, one of the organisers of the original Duke Street march on October 5 1968.

Pat Leo, or PL as he was often known, attended the Belfast College of Art where he studied stained glass art among other things.

While on a visit home in 1957 he added another entry to his growing CV, compliments of Crumlin Road jail.

As he walked with a fellow Gaeilgeoir along Derry’s Rossville Street, he was stopped by a 'B Special' who had overheard the two young men speaking Irish.

According to another friend, Dermot Kelly: “Within hours and without their families being informed, the two young friends were interned without charge or trial. Irish language activists all over Ireland took up their cause, describing them as 'cultural hostages'."

While in 'the Crum', Pat Leo would while away the hours honing his skills as a cartoonist, invoking the anger of one particularly belligerent warder with his mocking sketches of the guard.

After three years as an internee, Pat Leo trained as a teacher and secured a job at St Colman’s high school in Strabane.

During this time his talents as a cartoonist were employed by a range of Irish language publications.

He later moved to London where he worked with the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Movement.

Following the shooting dead of Seamus Cusack and Dessie Beattie in Derry’s Bogside in 1969, Pat Leo was one of the organisers of a major demonstration at Trafalgar Square.

Dermot recalled: “Leo and another member stood to attention, 10 metres apart in the clear area in front of the speakers’ platform, holding black flags vertically erect until the silence commenced. The flags were then lowered to the ground. The thousands present erupted into prolonged applause.”

A native of the Bogside, Pat Leo died in London on August 5. He was 80 years old.

He will be waked on Monday and Tuesday at the family home at Crawford Square in Derry and his funeral will take place on Wednesday morning to Derry city cemetery following Requiem Mass at St Eugene’s Cathedral.

Pat Leo is survived by his partner Lynnette Broomhead, his brother Fionnbarra and sister Deirdre.

Pat Leo O'Doherty.
By Dermott Kelly

10:36 Tuesday 08 September 2015
Pat Leo O’Doherty who passed away recently was a man of many talents, a cartoonist, stained glass artist, political internee, Gaelic actor and singer.

His cartoons were contemporary, relevant and humorous. One such was drawn when the Londonderry Corporation were discussing the erection of the high rise Rossville flats which was opposed by the Anti-partition party. One member of this opposition declared that this development would destroy the traditional Irish architectural ambience of the Bogside area. The architecture referred to consisted mainly of rows of one storey red brick slated houses with outside toilets. Pat Leo’s version of traditional Irish architecture was a drawing of the ancient Grianan Fort with clothes lines radiating in every direction carrying a variety of shirts, combinations, other underwear and drawers.

During his studies at the Belfast College of Art the curriculum covered a wide variety of artistic forms but stained glass design became his speciality.

In his coursework he produced many fine examples of leaded glasswork but his talent was shown most clearly when one of his tutors bought his entry for an end of term examination.

While Pat Leo was interned in the Crumlin Road jail he put his cartoon skills to accurate critical use on the prison walls. The most hated warder was a bullying loudmouth with big feet who Leo depicted as a huge pair of boots topped with a large mouth and a balloon caption of the warder’s latest comment.

The subject of the cartoons recognised himself but despite roaring and bullying he never succeeded in identifying the artist.

On release Pat Leo spent a period at home trying to reinvigorate his artistic career. During this period he was a keen promoter of the Irish language in Derry and a member of the Craobh. In the annual Feis Doire Cholmcille he competed in the traditional singing competitions and earned himself the title of ‘The Feis Perry Como’ because of his relaxed and confident style.

In the 1950s a period of high unemployment and religious discrimination, Pat, like many others emigrated.

He went to London and lived in Hampstead where he socialised in ‘The Bunch of Grapes’ with a group of journalists and artistic types which included the late Seamus McGonagle from Derry. It was there that he met his life partner Lynette who was a graphic artist.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Edentubber Commemoration- Sunday, Nov. 8th 2015

Oration to be given by Mick Ryan (Dublin), seen below speaking at last year's comm, flanked by fellow Op. Harvest veterans Oliver McCaul and Dan Moore.

                                                          The high cross at Edentubber:

Monday, September 28, 2015

Men of the North


Part One: The Cause of Campbell 
"We men of the north had a word to say
And we said it then, in our own dour way
And spoke as we thought was best."
- "The Man from God Knows Where"



      In July 1953 the Savoy Cinema in Newry was destroyed in an explosion.
The posters on the outside had been proclaiming the arrival of a documentary about the recent crowning of Queen Elizabeth II, "A Queen is Crowned." The documentary condensed the 8 hour coronation proceedings into 79 minutes, thus providing to those who could not see the event in person an opportunity to watch it in their local cinema, in crisp and then-expensive technicolor, accompanied by Lawrence Olivier's narration. The pomposity of the script, no less than the grandiose coronation itself, elicited cringes from nationalists, for whom the coronation was a cause for protests across the country against partition and the general misery of their lot in the North.
      The Newry town council, with a large Nationalist majority, was the only one in the North to refuse to pass a resolution congratulating the Queen. Nationalist Councilor Matt Cunningham made a short speech opposing any such bill, saying: “As an Irishman I am proud of my birthright. The British government imposed partition, against the wishes of the Irish people; and there is no need to tell you about the treatment, which minority has received from the Northern government. We should tell the British government to withdraw their forces, and let the people of the Six Counties join with the rest of Ireland.” There was no protest or opposition to the above from the Unionist councilors.(1)
      None of the cinemas in the south would show the film, so the "shoneens" -anglophilic Irishmen, who were mostly in Dublin- who wished to see it had to go north to cinemas in County Down and Belfast. To remedy the latter, the railway which acted as the primary link between the two capitals was cut. To remedy the former, the cinemas were destroyed thus, the IRA hoped, rendering the island coronation-free.
      The Savoy was the loyalist owned theater in Newry; the other two in the city were owned by nationalists. It sat close to 800 people, and the showings were heavily booked ahead by the southern shoneens.(2) The IRA first sent a warning, or a threat, to the cinema not to show it. The owners ignored it, though a 24-hour police guard was put on the premises.(3)
      One Sunday night while a movie was being shown, "some person or persons" concealed themselves in the theater. When it was finished and viewers had vacated, they planted a bomb on the frame supporting the balcony. Avoiding the police, they vacated the scene and awaited the explosion; but there was none. The fuse would not ignite. There was nothing to do but return inside, once more dodging the police, and reset it, a dangerous task during which at any point the fuse could gave gone off.(4)
      When it did explode, the balcony collapsed, the roof was blown apart, the seating area was destroyed, the screen badly damaged, and the front wall and foyer were blown in. The police, in a different section, were unharmed although the building was gutted inside.
      The owners did emergency repairs and announced the proverbial show would go on, even if not in time for the scheduled opening. The damage was initially put at £3000. When it was rebuilt, a wide screen was installed and the general consensus was the new cinema was a great improvement on the old one.(5).
      Sectarian divisions were "not rigid," as can be discerned from the conciliatory attitude of the Unionist councilors, but they did become more visible at times like this. One local remembers the reaction: "When the Savoy Cinema was blown up by the IRA, I came racing home for dinner to my granny’s house and burst into the tiny living-room shouting “the Catholics blew up the Savoy!” Kathleen Hughes, her Catholic next-door neighbour, who, unknown to me, was sitting behind the opened door, firmly informed me that the dire deed had been done by the IRA, not by “the Catholics”. This was a distinction which had not occurred to my seven-year old brain. Looking back, I think that it was a formative moment."(6)
      The bombing was widely reported in the papers. The IRA worked a similar explosion at a cinema in nearby Banbridge, following the same technique, but like most sequels it did not live up to the original either in damage caused or public stir elicited. There was no onslaught of condemnations; in fact, rather than outrage, the public reaction seems to have been one of mild amusement or ridicule. The attitude was well summarized by one commentator who, writing about the attacks, described up the IRA and its operations as merely " expression of bad taste, an eruption of Irish exuberance that went a bit too far." Additionally, no one was hurt, something which we shall see later on was a defining factor.
      The IRA's internal newsletter, An t-Oglach, painted a more sophisticated picture and was glowing in its description of the skill that went into the operation:
"That the Headquarters training classes in engineering are proving successful in turning out efficient Engineers was clearly demonstrated in some recent Army operations, e.g the destruction of Newry cinema, extensive damage to Banbridge cinema and the blowing up of the railway bridge and cutting of the line on the Armagh/Louth border.
"The section which carried out the operation on the Newry cinema did a splendid job of engineering by causing the maximum amount of damage to their objective whilst doing a minimum of damage to adjoining property.
"Given the materials, almost anyone can cause an explosion; it is only the trained Engineer who can estimate the amount of explosives to use and place the charge where it will be most effective." They further said the unit was to be "commended" for avoiding detection by the police.
      All volunteers received a course in the dangerous art of engineering as part of their basic training, which was organized locally. But a chosen few were taken to the IRA's haunts in the country and given special training; a cut above the usual courses, run by the army headquarters, and taught by men experienced in the field. A bomb-battered Armagh veteran of the late 30's, Seamus Trainor, did valuable work training engineers in the North during this period. The new engineers would then use their knowledge at home and pass it on during local training sessions.
Police searches commenced throughout the city.(7)


 Joe (center) and two of his brothers at home. (Photo from Cúisle Na nGael)

      Joe Campbell worked as a cobbler repairing shoes at the family business, "Campbell's" on Castle Street. In his 30's, he lived at home with his father Patrick, sister, and brothers Teddy, Lennie, and Bobbby, who also worked as cobblers. "Wee Joe," he was known to the locals, with a signature "(walk) with a roll like an overweight jockey"
      Besides the daily business of helping new school children and First Communicants (their staple customers) with their shoe needs, "Wee Joe" and Teddy were both members of the IRA. Joe in particular- "A man of immense courage and energy" a friend described him in this regard- had fought in the IRA's campaign during the early 1940's and spent 3 years in Crumlin Road Jail. Upon release from the dungeon-like "Crum" he was unphased by the Army's near-disintegration and signed up again, the IRA's equivalent of re-enlistment. He become one of their engineers, for which he attended the training spoken of in An-tOglach. He operated within the few kilometers of Newry proper; "My republic starts up at Cloghoge bridge," he told Sam Dowling, "and finishes somewhere about the far side of Derrybeg estate. Let them call it whatever the hell they like." (8)
      While probing the area following the Savoy explosion, the police found 12 sticks of gelignite hidden in the chimney flue of "Wee Joe's" bedroom. Joe, his father, and brother Lennie were all arrested along with a Michael Hollywood who was on the premises.
      Judge Curran presided over the trial. When asked how he pleaded, Joe stood up and to spare his family the pain of a trial, or mistrial, dismissed the proceedings with a short statement:
"I have taken responsibility for the stuff found. I exonerate from all blame these other people who could not possibly have known I had the stuff. Furthermore, as a soldier of the Irish Republican Army I take no further interest in this case."
The rest were dismissed. The trial was as good as over; Joe had resigned himself to the obvious and did not call any witnesses or offer a defense. "You are a destructive agent," Curran said as he sentenced him to 5 years of penal servitude in Crumlin Road Jail. (9)
      Joe Campbell had the dubious honor of being the first sentenced Republican prisoner of the 1950's. Other volunteers and activists had been interned, but internment by nature was applied to both innocent and guilty alike and the Army was not inclined to justify the government's actions by claiming them. Being sentenced made an otherwise secret membership into a public badge of honor.
      While "Wee Joe" lost five years of his life to yet another sentence in "the Crum", and the army lost a valuable volunteer, the political movement gained a valuable public relations opportunity. Sinn Fein and the IRA had just merged into one movement, and during the next Sinn Fein meeting in Dundalk he was put forward as their candidate for the upcoming Co Louth election. (And it was decided if there was any problem in approving Joe, another man from around the border, Arthur McKevitt would step in as their candidate.)
      While not his native area, co. Louth is widely considered to be Ireland's El Paso and in this aspect Joe was familiar with the place. Lying directly across from South Down, separated by a river that creates the border, it is a haven for volunteers going into and out of the North, arms dumps, "dead drops" in the fields at which explosives were left and picked up, and all forms of nefarious activity directed at removing the border, and the Newry unit played a central role in the Northern side of these operations. Just the Easter prior to his arrest he was part of a color party the South Down brigade sent to Dundalk's Easter commemoration.


           As candidate he did not have to exert himself in any way; all he had to do was be in prison, and the people in SF would do the rest. And they did with gusto.  "The cause of Ireland is the cause of Campbell" became a slogan proclaimed by supporters and scrawled on walls.(10) "Joe Campbell... is a living symbol of Ireland's demand for unity and independence," an appeal read, "Show your support for this demand by helping in every way you can to have him elected..."(11). Dan Sheridan, an Old IRA man and still the official contact for those wishing to join the movement in South Down, was "one of the most active campaigners." But for all their work, he only received 1400 of the votes, the majority going to Fine Gael.
      His imprisonment also precipitated the creation of an informal group to collect funds for the dependents of Republican prisoners, called the Republican Aid Committee ("An Cumann Cabhrach"). As the number of POWS increased, the group morphed into an official charity that operated well into the 60's and at its height collected tens of thousands of pounds from various quarters.
      Ideally, a secret army's membership and its activities should be a secret. But in the static, close knit nationalist communities of the North secrets had a way of getting out. Or in local jargon, "the dogs on the street know...," meaning everyone knows it, or think they know it. The dogs on the street knew Wee Joe the cobbler was also an IRA man. They thought he was responsible for the bombing, and, somehow, some even knew about the bomb having to be reset and admired his courage doing so. The Special Branch concurred with his responsibility, but had nothing to prove it. Many came to the conclusion he was in jail for it except, legally, Joe was only guilty of having explosives. A Dublin Sinn Fein campaigner, Thomas O Dugbhall, wrote a letter to the Irish Times lamenting the perception, saying: "I should be obliged if you would note that Joe Campbell was not charged with the cinema explosion. Some gelignite had been found in his father's house and his father and brother were arrested. Joe accepted responsibility for it . . .The cinema explosion had taken place some time previously but Joe was not charged In connection with it." (12)
      The incident had an interesting economic sequel. The damages in the end totaled £8,200. These were levied on the people of Newry and Warrenpoint, to be paid at an extra 1/4 to 1/2£ each. It was a Glasgow newspaper, the Scots Independent, which pointed out "Either the citizens are innocent, in which event they are being unjustly punished, or they are guilty, in which event the case for partition falls apart at the seams." But perhaps significantly there was no public protest from those paying it.

                                                                 Part 2: Kevin and the Queen


      While Wee Joe languished, unelected, in prison, Newry's drama with the Queen was not over. On August 17, 1954, a year after the coronation, she paid a visit to the North to launch a merchant ship in Belfast, the first time a reigning Queen had made such a move. In the preceding weeks large round-ups were made of republicans, particularly in Belfast, and "thousands" of police were on duty the morning of her arrival.(14)
      In the wee hours around 3 am that morning, the O/c of the Newry brigade, Jim Rowntree, met with a couple of young volunteers, Matt Loy and Seamus Kearns, and Kevin O'Rourke from Banbridge who had brought along 3 electrical fuses and a fuse box. As they walked along Upper Margaret Street (a nationalist section) they split into two pairs to avoid suspicion. The little group strolling around at night aroused the interest of a policeman, Sgt. Aiken, and two others making their rounds in the car with him. Particularly a bulge in O'Rourke's pants- in addition to the fuses, he had brought along a loaded .38. (15)
Aiken already knew Rowntree; he passed over the others and approached O'Rourke, who gave his name as Patrick Delaney.
 "I'll have to search you" Aiken said.
      O'Rourke replied in the negative and pulled out his wallet (which was not that of a Patrick Delaney) to explain the bulge. He was caught unprepared, and no doubt frightened at the increasingly realistic prospect of going to prison. While the policeman looked over his wallet, he stepped back and then ran away.
      Aiken gave chase but O'Rourke was a good distance ahead; Aiken fired a warning shot past him and shouted "Come quick" to those in the car. O'Rourke ran down Water Street to a short wall where he dumped the fuses and the .38. The policemen in the car, watching this, were faster than he was and as they pulled up, one grabbed hold of him while another proceeded to search him. Aiken walked over to the wall and found the gear.
"I now know why you ran away." He said.
"I take no responsibility for that" O'Rourke declared.
A couple streets away they found his Austin in which - most telling of all- was a copy of the United Irishman and one of Wee Joe's election leaflets. (16)

     Rowntree and the two others had slipped away in the confusion but they were all lifted in an intense series of house raids afterwards. At almost exactly the same time this happened, a bomb went off outside a barracks in Belfast, but it was claimed by a one-man breakaway group, Laochra Uladh. What Rowntree and co had planned to do is unknown. No explosives were discovered on them or in the ensuing searches. The police announced that there was "no question" they were on their way up to Belfast and the papers concluded the four mostly unarmed men, 50 miles away, were a threat to the Queen (which, given the IRA's modus operandi at the time, was out of the question.) Meanwhile the Queen had blissfully "carried on" in spite of a drizzle and christened the ship the "Southern Cross" before heading home.(17)


      The authorities were afraid of display that would be created by a public trial, so it was moved at the last minute to the Newry RUC barracks. "The dogs on the street" found out and a crowd formed outside, raising a commotion and trying to peek through the drawn shades (barracks were a far more informal institution in 1954). Had the shades been open they would have watched a five minute scuffle between Kearns and O'Rourke, who refused to stand when required, and the guards trying to make them do so. When charged, they one by declared they had nothing to say until it came to O'Rourke.
"I take all responsibility for the stuff found" he announced.
      Unlike Wee Joe's case, it was not as simple as that, as the circumstances in which the stuff was found was quite different from hiding them in a chimney. The four looked like IRA men doing IRA business but, incapable of charging them with that fact alone, the prosecution was pinning possession on all four. "Under the law, possession by one means possession by all" one of the detectives explained to them. The three others made it quite clear they would have none of this.
      Seamus Kearns declared: "I am...charged with having the articles with intent to endanger life or cause injury to property. If you admitted that I had none of the arms except the two that God gave me, how could you explain that I could do these things?"
(They noticed some women outside peeking through the windows and for the first time realized why their trial was in the unusual surroundings.)
Jim Rowntree: "The prosecution witness already admitted that I bad none of this stuff in my possession Therefore I could not endanger life. This is the third time that he has asked for a remand, and, as yet, not one basic piece of evidence has been submitted to substantiate these charges. Am I held on suspicion or on evidence?"
Det.-Sergt.—I have to await further instructions in the case
Rowntree: In other words, you are just a stooge or a puppet.
The Magistrate: I cannot allow that as a question.
Rowntree: This is supposed to be a fair trial but it is just a mockery and a complete denial of human rights.
The District-Inspector: This man is making a platform of the proceedings.
Rowntree: I cannot help it If he has not the intelligence to answer the questions.
"With this, the proceedings ended..."(18)
      One afternoon in early September, Rowntree, Kearns, and Loy were told to get their things together. They were taken to the head office of the prison where rail vouchers awaited them.
"Why are we being released?" Rowntree asked.
"Don't ask any questions."
      When the press inquired the police denied they had been released. In reality the Attorney General ordered it, in so doing bypassing whatever the "possession by all" laws were, saving them from a prison sentence and the government from a disastrously unpopular case.(19)
      Convoluted and sometimes ridiculous legal battles like this were a fact of life for northern Republicans. They came and went and were quickly forgotten in the grand scheme of things. It would not be the last time young Loy saw the inside of the Crum. Rowntree was never again arrested and remained O/c until he stepped down in 1958.
      That left O'Rourke in the belly of the beast. At 30 years old, he was living at home with his widowed mother and siblings on a 25 acre farm, which he helped run. For extra income he occasionally worked as a bricklayer. He had no trouble with anyone, no history of arrests, republican or otherwise, and this incident came as an anomaly in the record of an otherwise placid citizen.
      At his first trial by himself in September, supporters packed the courthouse steps and cheered with shouts of encouragement as he entered. He had to be lifted to his feet and held there when the charge was read, to which he was silent. The court declared him mute by malice although the judge ordered that a plea of "not guilty" be put in. O'Rourke announced for the record: "This is a foreign court, sitting here trying to administer the law in the six north-eastern counties against the will of the majority of the Irish people." The jury found that there was not enough evidence to prove the revolver and fuses were actually his, and he was bundled into the police van for another trial while the crowd cheered him.(20)
      He had a total of 6 hearings, all following a routine of refusing to stand up, being "mute by malice," and protesting the illegitimacy of the court. He refused to question the witnesses- the policemen who arrested him- although he did occasionally address the jury. And not without some effect; at his final hearing at the Belfast Assizes in early December the jury took over 90 minutes to reach a verdict and came to the conclusion that there was not enough evidence to prove the .38 belonged to him. The prosecution conceded this point, and proceeded on the second charge, relating to the detonators ("unlawful possession of articles), for which another trial was held within the week and a new jury was brought in which found him guilty.
      A constable mentioned Kevin's quiet home life in his favor. The judge, Justice McDermott, seemed favorably inclined with this, but decided:
"I cannot leave out of account the use which could be made of a pistol, fully loaded, like this, and the use to which detonators of this kind can be put. It seems to me you were on some errand of an unlawful kind, and it is necessary to show quite clearly that this kind of conduct will not be tolerated."
Kevin is said to have smiled when his sentence was pronounced, and as he was led away he asked the judge "Is that all you can do?" (21)


       Wee Joe was alone, in status as a republican prisoner at least, until early '54 when a movement organizer from Dublin, Leo McCormack, was sentenced and they were now joined by Kevin and the 8 volunteers arrested in the wake of the failed arms raid at Omagh. "There was great comraderie" amongst the small group of prisoners in those days remembers Eamonn Boyce, one of the eight.(22)
       In 1955 Sinn Fein had enough confidence to contest the Westminster elections and the republican prisoners would be their candidates, as the mere sight of Irishmen in English prison aroused sentiments of support. The two Down men stood for their county: Joe for North Down, and Kevin for South Down. While a small area in size, North Down is to this day one of the strongest, most uncontested bastions of Unionism. Joe received only 1600 votes, which was considerable given the size of the nationalist community. His opponent, George Currie, took 50,000. Kevin on the other hand, took 19,000 from the nationalist area of South Down and made a considerable challenge to his opponent, Unionist Lawrence Orr. (23) Elsewhere the prisoners won their seats and Danny Donnelly insightfully points out that "the fact that thousnds of respectable people...voted not once, not twice, but three times for a convicted felon...should have told the government that there was, to paraphrase the bard, 'something rotten in the state of Northern Ireland.'"(24)


     In 1957 Joe should have been released, but given the outbreak of the IRA's campaign the powers that be decided he was instead to be interned for the duration of the campaign and transferred to D Wing to prevent him from contributing to the war effort. His two brothers soon joined him as internees. The experience in the Crum during the 40's had mellowed him and like most from that era who found themselves in prison again, he kept a low profile. Joe impressed his comrades inside as "such nice fellow" and "a gentleman." One of his hobbies in prison was playing chess, particularly with a volunteer from the south, Jack McCabe. "Their games could go on for days at a time and we always knew when one of them had been check mated, because we would see the chess board being tossed up in the air and one of them walking away in disgust." (25)
     As for Kevin, a volunteer from Cork remembers that he too "was a gentleman by nature." While on A Wing (for the long term sentenced men) he shared space with some volunteers from the Cork brigade for whom "he was a tremendous help to us during the remainder of his time explaining the do’s and dont’s of prison protocol, what was safe to eat, how to deal with the screws and in general keeping us up to date with the prison routine."(26) He also was eventually interned, and was joined by his brother Enda.
     They ran once more for Sinn Fein in North and South Down in 1959. The one thousand faithful few turned out for Joe, but Kevin's popularity shrank to 6,000 votes, Orr once again coming ahead. Sinn Fein's poor showing is generally attributed to disappointment with the way in which the campaign progressed.
     As the campaign, and support for it, ramped down the government felt comfortable enough to release some of the internees, leading to freedom for Wee Joe and Kevin in November and December 1960 respectively. (27).
Upon imprisonment, all rank was lost and the men went back to being "only" volunteers. But understanding the personal ordeal prison entails, the IRA has always afforded members the option of either reporting back to their unit, or going their own way, and nobody thinks less of them if they choose the latter. Kevin returned to work on the family farm, and we hear of no more republican activities from him.
     Joe returned to work at the cobbler shop on Castle street. He also reported back to the Newry unit, which had been whittled down by arrests (over 2 dozen members were interned or sentenced) but was nonetheless intact and in need of experienced men as always. He had missed most of Operation Harvest but republicanism was his life and there were larger undertakings.

In an interesting postscript, one of Queen Elizabeth II's acts on the 50th anniversary of her coronation in 2003 was to bestow the status of "city" on Newry.

(To be continued)

*-There is a disparity in accounts. The newspapers and IRA documents unanimously hold that it was blown up before the film was shown. Locals seems to remember it happening after the film was shown. It was blown up after a film concluded, which may have led to the confusion.

Many thanks to Oliver McCaul and Brian Patterson.

Photo at top: Joe Campbell's beret and gloves, harp he made while in the Crum, and Croppy boy statuette presented by comrades from Operation Harvest in recognition of his service.



Friday, September 11, 2015

Tony Magan Obituary- Irish Press 1981

Former IRA chief to be buried today

Irish Press, Wednesday July 8th, 1981 pg 4
MR. ANTHONY MAGAN, from Lower Dodder Road, Rathfarnham, Dublin, who has died, was a former chief-of-staff of  the IRA. Mr. Magan was active in the Republican movement during the 1940s and 1950s and was chief-of-staff when preparations, including arms raids in Britain and the North, were made for the 1956 to '62 Border campaign. Following his release from internment in The Curragh after the "Emergency" he presided over the re-oxganisation of the IRA and was regarded as a strong disciplinarian. 
Mr. Magan was arrested in Dublin in 1956 and imprisoned for IRA membership. He was subsequently interned in The Curragh. 
Mr. Magan, who worked as a taxi driver, was a batchelor and is survived by his sisters. His body was taken to the Church of: the Annunciation, Rathfarnham, yesterday evening, and the funeral takes place after '10 o'clock Mass to Mount Jerome Cemetery today. 


Mass Notice - Irish Independent, 1982
MAGAN — First Anniversary Mass for, Anthony J. (Tony), late of 45 Dodder Rd., Rathfarnham, will be 'offered in the Church of the Annunciation, Rathfarnham, on J uly 3, at 7.30 o'c.'at thp request of his sisters.

"The Dream" - January 10th, 1957

The Dream

(Published in the Irish Catholic, January 10th, 1957, after the deaths of Sean South and Fergal O'Hanlon)

When a young man dies for his country, what does he die for? He dies not for green fields, silvery lakes, purple mountains, white farmhouses or city streets of pleasant memory. He dies for a people. You may question his wisdom. You may condemn his methods. You may hint that he was, in his own way, seeking excitement or that he was dreaming romantic dreams of glory. But in these days there are plenty of ways of seeking excitement without seeking death. And in these d...ays the romance of swirling flags and glittering swords is gone. When young men risk death they do so for what they consider a worthy cause, the cause of their nation. And in that word nation they wrap up the ideas of "a people". They want those people to have liberty to govern themselves properly. They want those people to live in comfort in their homeland, enjoying justice and equality of opportunity. You may question the wisdom of a young mans methods. You may condemn them. But you cannot question or condemn the dream for which he died. If you are anything other than a complete self-centred moron, or a despairing cynic, you too have that dream in your heart for your people and your children. And whilst you discuss the young man who dies does it occur to you to examine your own attitude to the dream. You may praise or criticise him. But what, beyond discussion, are you doing for the dream? You watch the young people moving out to England, Canada, Australia and America. You fume about the over-all disease of "patronage" and "influence". You rant about governments and civil service. You complain bitterly about the country's lack of money, of production and prestige. You talk and debate energetically. But how much do you do? When young men die how guilty do you feel? How much have you done or sacrificed to remove the obstacles to the dream-the obstacles which build up complete frustration in so many young people? The obstacles and the sense of frustration which cause some of our best youngsters to emigrate in despair and which cause others to seek drastic solutions. When a young man dies for his country, he dies for a dream that is your dream. If you believe his methods are wrong, it is for you to demonstrate what methods are right. How far have you progressed or even tried?
GALLOWGLASS Foilsiodh san 'Irish Catholic'10 Eanair 1957

Go raibh mile maith agat to Seamus Linnehan for posting this on his FB page, "A Rebel Spirit"

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Book Review: The Irish in Early Virginia 1600-1860

 A slight intermission from our usual material to give a little shout out for comrade Kevin Donleavy and his new book on Irish America.

     Much has been written about Irish America in the north of the US; there is less about the Irish in the south, and even less about the Irish in the state of Virginia. Kevin Donleavy's new book, "The Irish in Early Virginia 1600-1860" the only one on the subject, explores new ground that will be of interest to both Virginians and Irish everywhere.
    The book is 200 some pages, and in it Kevin covers quite a bit of ground. Among the highlights are:
   Irish slaves and indentured servants who were transported to the colony. Like their African-American counterparts, they endured harsh transatlantic crossings, cruel overseers, and were hunted down when they tried to escape. The presence of Irish slaves in VA is little known- less known than those in the Caribbean, whose story is told in the classic "To Hell or Barbados." Virginia, Kevin shows, was equally hellish for the thousands of Irish that were enslaved there. This is a field of research that hopefully others will be inspired to look further into.
    It also tells of the many United Irishmen and political exiles who settled in VA, and their contributions to the state. Men like John Neilson, who designed parts of James Madison's and Thomas Jefferson's homes, John Burke, John Glendy, the United Irishman and Protestant minister who gave a wildly popular oration for George Washington, and many others. True to his revolutionary sensibilities, Jefferson kept contacts among the Irish rebels and his various acts or statements of sympathy is an interesting dynamic to both the man and Virginia's history.  
   The book also tells the story of the Irish railroad workers who built the railways in the Shenendoah mountains. This grueling and historic task is the subject of a larger research enterprise of Kevin's called the "Clann Mhor Project" and you can read about it here:

   There are also of course lighter moments, and the background to the 90+ places with Irish names or history is covered. Printed by Pocohontas Press, the book is very nicely formatted as well. Casual readers will not be bored, and researchers will not be left wanting.

    In conclusion, a unique and highly informative addition to Irish American history.

The price is $12.95 including shipping; make checks payable to

Kevin Donleavy
105 Minor Road
Charlottesville, VA 22903

Message from Kevin Donleavy:

"Here is a note about Kevin Donleavy's new book. The title is The Irish in Early Virginia 1600-1860, and the book is aimed at the general reader. This little 200-page paperbound work is the first and only study of those Irish, and also the first to clarify the strong revolutionary link between Thomas Jefferson and Ireland.

Kevin is offering this new production to U.S. friends and sympathizers for $12.95, and there will be no postage cost to you. You can simply send your cheque or a money order (made to his name) thusly:

Kevin Donleavy
105 Minor Road
Charlottesville, Va. 22903

Your copy will be shipped to you the day I get your order.

You will read of some lighter items in this history. There were several Irish exiles who were known for keeping black bears and owls in their Charlottesville houses, and the new Irish in Winchester Va. saw their first elephant in 1808 in that fair town.

But how to account for the Irish who came to Va? Historian Kerby Miller calculated that some 7 million Irish came to N. America over the past four hundred years, and perhaps 20,000 of them came to Va. Why ? The most telling reason is the awful slaughter in Ireland over the centuries by the ferocious soldiery of the English ruling class. In the 1500s, some ten thousand died; in the 1600s, 504,000 perished; and in the late 1700s, about thirty thousand were killed. Loads of those who became emigrants and exiles would have known of and feared such horrors. Political oppression produced appalling economic deprivation and poverty.

In Va., there are some ninety or so scattered places with Irish names, such as Lynchburg, Kinsale, Doylesville, Foley Hill, Dungannon, and Casey Hollow. These names are found on modern maps and gazetteers.

Enough. I hope to hear from you soon, and I sincerely hope you enjoy this wee book.


Monday, March 2, 2015

Richard Behal's War: Part 2

 Richard Behal continues his story:

See here for part 1:

"The 1956-1962 Campaign...Can We Learn a Lesson from What Went Wrong?"

Interesting strategic and political critique of the Border Campaign and its influence on events of the 60's.

See also here:

  "The 1956-1962 Campaign...Can We Learn a Lesson From What Went Wrong?"

 From An Eochair, 1977*

    The republican movement, as it reached the initial stages of the present troubles, had in a decade of political development removed itself light years from half a century of stagnation which cost so much but achieved so little.

Only those who can identify revolutionary struggle understand the great progress made inside our Movement; of course there have been those who do not understand and have consequently fallen by the wayside. One may ask what prompted this new development inside our movement. To help answer this question, the period prior to. It must be examined; this period is popularly known as the '56 IRA campaign, which ended discouragingly in 1961.

When the IRA struck at targets in the Six counties on the night of 12th December 1956,the attack caught the security forces by surprise. At that time, these forces comprised the British Army, RUC, B. Specials; later a terror type force known as the Police Commandos were organized for special anti-guerrilla operations. But at the beginning of the campaign, the IRA was so underground and secretive that little of its plans were known to its enemies.

However the stance of the IRA in relation of the people left it at a grave disadvantage; even though it had the advantage initially of being strong security wise. While some of the population knew that IRA men existed among them, and some of them gave sympathy, nobody knew anything else of the IRA except that it proposed to unite Ireland by force. It was in isolation from the masses, its role causing it to appear as a sinister, dark, and secretive force that made people shy away from it because it did not seem part of the people and its objectives did not relate to everyday life; freeing Ireland was seen just as a dream, a sort of fantasy, pursued by a lunatic fringe.

The famous quotation that a guerrilla should move among its people like a fish in the water was a revolutionary sense of the freedom fighter's role; but unfortunately the IRA of the 50's was not a real revolutionary movement for it had no real base among the people outside of fringe emotional support. The IRA guerrilla was often then more akin to a fish in a desert. Generally strategy was hopeless and political policy almost non. It was not a people's struggle.

The campaign was more a premature adventure than anything else, discounting the idealism involved. Premature because of a competitive republican organization named Saor Uladh which had a political wing, Fianna Uladh. Organized in the early fifties and with strongholds established in Mid-Tyrone and in a few other areas, Fianna Uladh won two seats in a Storemont parliamentary election. Sinn Fein would not contest such elections because candidates were requested to sign an undertaking that, if elected, they would take their seats. Since it was not the question of an oath, the candidates of the slightly more radical Fianna Uladh signed the undertaking to enable them to contest, but still did not take their seats in Storemont because of the oath to the queen. Fianna Uladh was pushing a more progressive political policy establishing co-opts. And advocating other self-help projects such as Credit Unions. A bitter argument developed between the two republican organizations. The more politically sterile Sinn Fein/ IRA movement resorted to militant adventure to prove its superiority.

Encouraged by its support from among the people, Saor Uladh began armed action, burning and blowing up border Custom huts, futiley attacking Roslea police barracks, where they lost a volunteer, and made other attempts for arms. Its main supply of arms and funds came from the Irish exiles in the USA.

But in this period, the early 50's, the IRA did prove they were militarily superiopr. Their daring raids on Armagh, Omagh, Arbourfield, and other military establishments hit the headlines of the world news media. It takes success, even if it is based on a false premise, to bring support. As the Sinn Fein/ IRA was in the ascendant, the Fianna Uladh/ Saor Uladh star was on the wane. In the middle fifties, this situation intensified the competition between the two groups.

To sustain and improve its support, Saor Uladh began escalating its military activity hoping this would, with increasing support, become a fulll blown resistance campaign that would end British military presence in Ireland and unite it. The IRA, riding high on the crest of the wave, and enjoying an influx of young volunteers; increasing its support and funds with a considerrable quantity of arms at its disposal, though pathetically short of ammunition, brought forward the date of its intended campaign because of the increased Saor Uladh activity.

Prior to the '56 Campaign, Sinn Fein had two imprisoned IRA men elected as M.P.s in the Westminster elections, being returned in the constituencies of Mid Ulster and Fermanagh and Tyrone. Stong supporting votes were cast in other constituencies. After the start of the IRA campaign, Fianna Uladh/saor Uladh faded away.

The type of IRA guerilla campaign conducted in the '56 campaign was derived from romantic, idealistic, but mistaken concepts. 12-15 and 20 man flying columns were supposedly to find bases and increase support for their struggle. The flying column idea was a nostalgia for the successful Tom Barry Flying Column days in West Cork. In the later fifties these numbers of men, often marching across country, armed with light infantry weapons, moving mainly through darkness and storm, and ill fed and sometimes ill clothed, found their task discouragingly, especially when the greater part of the population Unionist Supporting, was hostile and the Nationalist population largely indifferent and unresponsive. Police informers found it easy to carry out their dirty work without repercussions.

The flying Columns operatinf deep inside the Six Counties were to a large degree neutralized in the early stages of the campaign. Enemy pressures restricted the column's intended role, and the capture of men and arms belong to the columns was debilitating. There were no proper bases established, first because they were not pre-planned and secondly because the people did not relate the fight to their interests. A little local sympathy here and there gave some lease of life to the IRA activity.

The campaign fared better in the border areas. Flying Columns based in Southern Ireland received to a certain extent from the authorities a blind eye, at the early stages of the campaign. A weak coalition government ruled then. In 1958 elections in the south caused a change of government, the anti-republican Fianna Fail party achieving power. Sinn Fein had 4 deputies elected. But the new government severely cracked down on the IR based along the border, redicing the border attacks on Brtish installations and ambushes. Several hundred internees were now incarcerated in the Curragh camp and there were many sentenced republican activists in Southern jails

In the North, internment was introduced by the Storemont regime after the IRA campaign began. Many republicans came before the courts and received lengthy sentences. These political prisoners, and internees also, included a few Fianna Uladh members, whose organization was now in demise but (which) still had a more progressve political outlook. Also their members could recognize courts and sign a document to obtain their release from internment. These freedoms meant the enemy. Was not able to use mere technicalities to keep people imprisoned for years. Sinn Fein/ IRA was still bogged dowwn by what they called republican principles. Such things as abstentiionist policies, non-recognition of courts, no signing out of prisoners (were) merely tactics devised at certain stages of out historical freedom struggle and had nothing whatsoever to do with principles.

Political activity by Republican membership had been mostly confined to selling the movement's paper, The United Irishman, and some electoral work. The movement, sterile of progressive and radical policies, was doomed to another failure...It was straitjacketed in tradition without wisdom. The dying martyr or the folk hero gunman ideas had no relation to the realities of our age; yet the realities existed without being recognized for there was no concept of our people's historic role, the social inequalities, the true nature of oppression and freedom, these the lessons of history could only point the way forward.

The '56 IRA campaign frittered out and died a natural death. All over the north, as soon as a few local activists or leades were arrested, military style action died out. Activity lingered a little longer in the border areas, while this was sporadic and futile, and of such small value, it did serve to prolong internment and the incarceration of prisoners.

Eventually the IRA leadership issued an order suspending hostilities. The release of internees began; they were all released by the end of 1969. In 1964 the last of the sentenced men were all released. Many of these sentenced men were not compelled to end their sentences.

As the men released from prison drifted disconsolately back into a society little changed since they left it, certainhome truths stuck them; local organization had collapsed; the sympathetic fringe in the people were demoralized and frustrated, although no more so than the returning prisoners. Unionism and its institutions were never stronger, especially in its armed wings the B specials and the RUC, and so in turn British imperialism was never better consolidated; sectarianism was always its main prop. The bazeless threat of the '56 campaign helped this consolidation. Never again will such an episode occur, determined the faithful few who assessed what had taken place; they turned their minds toward the future. Most certainly new thinking was needed.

And so the true terms of revolution were examined and consequently political education was established. Reorganized cadre had difficulty grasping the correct revolutionary line; they still thought in "traditional" terms and did not realize an alternative was open to them. However, there were those who did understand and through their work a new awareness developed.

As political education increased the new awareness among the Movement members, in turn, created new directions of activity; the role of the gun was seen in a different context, it was no longer the tool of nationalist reaction but seen as the means of protecting the working class and what belonged to them. At least it was seen that the economic factor determined all politics and the people's very existence. Political organizations like the Republican Clubs and social justice rights organizations like the Civil Rights movement sprang up. The struggle for democracy, which embraces true freedom, was on, and our movement today forges ahead on the correct path.

But the important thing to remember is that this progress was determined by the lessons of history along which the '56 campaign has a worthwhile place.

*- An Eochair ("The key") was a newspaper published by the Official Republican Movement for a few years in the mid 70's and focused on their POWs. Content (usually written by the prisoners) included poems and satirical stories about prison life, appeals for books, parcel guidelines, ads for POW crafts, messages to families and friends, tributes, and articles on political theory and the movement's positions on events on the outside in Ireland and abroad. (The editor, Tommy "Janty" Johnson, died in February 2015.) It ended around 1979-1980, though the name is now used as the title of the OIRA ex-pows group.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Vol. Mick Buckley (Cork)

  Mick Buckley died on 20 February 2015 and was buried Monday 23 February at St. Joseph's Cemetery, Cork City.
  At the outbreak of Operation Harvest, Mick was O.C. of IRA operations in Armagh City. Those under his command were local Armagh men and included '40's veteran and future Official IRA O/C in Armagh, Seamus Trainor, future North Armagh PIRA O/C, David Kennedy, and local activist Willie Reilly. On the opening night of the campaign, a gun battle broke out in the city between two volunteers in a van and the RUC, in which an RUC man was wounded. Both men were arrested and some bombs were discovered. Nearby Gough Barracks was also briefly and (unsuccessfully) attacked, the encounter with the RUC having ruined the element of surprise.
    Mick was arrested a few days later across the border when the Garda raided a disused cottage he and 7 others (from Munster and Armagh) were meeting at in county Louth. He was sentenced to 6 month's imprisonment in Mountjoy Prison for illegal possession of a weapon. After his release he reported back to Cork. Then a GHQ officer, Séan Daly (from West Cork but living in Dublin), who had just been released after being lifted in the same arrest, met Mick in Cork and told him GHQ required him back on active service in the North again. Mick was ready to go, but the Cork IRA leadership overruled this and ordered him to stay put in Cork. The Cork leadership by that time felt too many volunteers had been lost to prison decided to opt-out of sending more on active service. This policy stopped Mick, and many others, from seeing further action in the north. Some went North independently and many just drifted away.
     "Up to the moment Mick died," former comrade Seamus O'Lionachain recalls, "he remained steadfast and committed to the principles we all held during Operation Harvest, to drive the foreign occupying army out of our 6 counties in British occupied Ireland."

(Thanks to Jim Lane and Seamus O'Lionachain (Linnehan) for the above. Any more info will be posted)

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Paddy O'Callaghan (Kerry)

 Paddy O'Callaghan, recruited into the IRA during the 50's by Joe Christle through cycling activities, died this past August 2014. He is as much a loss to the republican movement as the cycling world:

Other tributes here:
And here:


  1933 – 2014

Paddy O`Callaghan was a renowned Kerry activist, well-known as a sportsman, republican, and community activist.
Paddy O'Callaghan was born in County Kerry in 1933. As a youth he became active in the National Athletic & Cultural Association of Ireland (NACAI, now known as Cycling Ireland) and particularly in the sport of cycling.

Paddy began racing on the local grass-track circuit in the early 1950s and quickly became involved in the development of road-racing at that time. He is best remembered as a cyclist for his role in a number of Kerry teams that won the Rás Tailteann in the 1950s, but he also had other achievements to his credit, including the National Cycling Association 100-mile Time Trial Championship of 1955 with a time of 4 hours and 27 minutes.

Paddy was well known throughout Ireland for his role in the administrative side of cycling and this began in 1954. He later went on to become President of the National Cycling Association (NCA). He was International Secretary of the NCA, travelled widely and had important contacts across world – he once counted the number of countries he had visited on cycling-related work and it came to 52.

Paddy’s contribution was immense, spanning six decades. And his influence and legacy traversed the local, national and international scenes and indeed outside the world of cycling.

He was involved in the promotion of cycling throughout his life. He ran bicycle shops in Killorglin and Killarney. He nurtured and supported many cyclists at every level. He ran a bicycle shop in Killarney for many years where emerging cyclists found work. Many developing riders, needing equipment or other supports at key stages of their careers, found themselves quietly ‘sorted’ by Paddy without him ever claiming credit for the business.

Having initially worked as a psychiatric nurse in St Finan’s Hospital, Killarney, Mr O’Callaghan pursued a variety of careers, including acting as manager of the Castlemaine Harbour Fishermen’s Co-op. He was a board member and chairman of South Kerry Development Partnership, was committed to the work of Kerry Life Education, and served on its board for a number of years. He was also a director of Radio Kerry.

“Paddy was passionately committed to everything he was involved in and gave himself 100% to every cause he espoused. He wanted to make Ireland a better place for everybody,’’ said broadcaster Frank Lewis at his funeral.

He had an engaging personality and was pleasant company, and the intensity of debate and negotiation was always mingled with a sense of fun.

Paddy O'Callaghan was a former Irish amateur cycling champion and a onetime Official Sinn Fein member of Kerry County Council. He is a second cousin of former United States vice-president Dick Cheney but differed strongly with his political point of view being a member of the Workers Party for many years.

Paddy was a committed republican throughout his life and his beliefs permeated all aspects of his life. He was, therefore, centrally involved in the political and ideological debates and differences in Irish cycling, but he ultimately became a central figure in the reconciliation movement.

At the time one of the NACAI's most prominent members and a national cycling champion was Dublin born Joe Christle who was also an active member of the Irish Republican Army. Under Christle's influence O'Callaghan joined the Irish republican movement however he remained a member when Christle was dismissed from the movement in the mid-1950s for taking unofficial action against British forces in Northern Ireland.

Paddy O'Callaghan became a member of the Ard Comhairle (national executive) of Sinn Fein in the early 1960s and was close to the leadership of President Tomas Mac Giolla and IRA Chief of staff Cathal Goulding. When the movement split in 1969/70 O'Callaghan remained loyal to the Goulding leadership and was influential in swaying the majority of his South Kerry comrades in the IRA and Sinn Féin to remain in the movement.

He was also very active in local community development issues in the South Kerry area and was a founding member of both Killorglin Credit Union and Kerry Mountain Rescue.

In the 1967 local elections O'Callaghan was elected for Sinn Fein in the Killorglin ward.

In the early 1970s O'Callaghan was elected to Kerry County Council representing Official Sinn Féin. He also contested a number of general elections in the Kerry South constituency and was a substitute candidate under the list system for the party in a number of elections to the European Parliament