Monthly Archives: November 2014

Rupert Brooke: The Soldier

Rupert Brooke: The Soldier



Rupert Brooke was born in Rugby, Warwickshire in August 1887.  He was schooled at Rugby Independent School before taking up a residency at Kings College Cambridge.  Whilst there he was elected president of the Fabian Society.  Quite quickly he became an established poet and subsequently became part of both the Bloomsbury set and the Georgian Poets.  By1914 he had also become known for his war poetry.  In early 1915 he was given a commission as a temporary Sub Lieutenant within the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve.  He sailed to the Mediterranean as part of the British Mediterranean Expedition Force.  He was bitten by a mosquito and developed sepsis from which he never recovered.  He died on the 23rd April on board a French Hospital ship whilst on route to Gallipoli.  The boat had been moored near the island of Skyros.  Because the ship had to sail immediately Brooke was buried in an olive grove on the island.
Brooke’s younger brother William was a Second Lieutenant in the 8th Battalion of the London Regiment.  He had only been with the battalion for 3 weeks when he was killed in action at Le Rutiore farm in Northern France in June 1915-two months after Rupert’s death.
Rupert Brooke is remembered as one of the greatest of World War One poets and below is possibly his greatest poem.

Rupert Brooke

The Soldier

IF I should die, think only this of me:
That there’s some corner of a foreign field
That is forever England. There shall be
In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
A body of England’s, breathing English air,
Washed by the rivers, blest by the suns of home.

And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.




Who Shall Unite Us?: Cicero

Quae Iungant Nos

Who Shall Unite Us?



It was a warm summer. It was the year the Queen was in Belfast as part of her Jubilee celebrations. Man United where beating Liverpool in the FA Cup Final.  The Peace People were up and running. But I was in the Crum. It was packed and gone were the segregated wings. C wing was loyalist in 1974 when I was there for a sleepover.  The Crum was mad at the best of times but this was an eventful year.  The place was packed due to Paisleys failed strike. The Shankill butchers were in.  And Lenny M was coming down from the Maze. We were packed 3 and 4 to a cell.  The heat made for long days. There was a massive search of the prison for explosives.  There had been an explosion in one cell.

The routine was day in day out. What that meant was with republicans we alternated the 3 periods of getting out. One day we were out 3 times,  the next day we were locked up all day in the cells while they got out.  But news would come in from the outside.  We had heard of the deaths of two loyalists. It was decided to hold a joint event for both.Tommy- ‘Da’ -Mawhinney was a serving UVF prisoner in the Kesh compounds. He was from the Woodvale.  Tommy was an extremely popular person, both inside and outside the jail and the nickname was testimony to this.  Being one of the older generation, he was someone many of the young volunteers looked up to.  It was a simple heart attack and he was dead.  On the outside a UDA volunteer from Monkstown, William Hobbs, died from burns after a bomb  exploded prematurely.
It was the afternoon session and we all trooped out to the ‘C’  wing yard. The sun struggled to find its way into the yard but it was warm.  We started walking round in the usual way. Suddenly an order was barked out and we all went into the centre of the yard. ‘Line up in threes’.  Many of us had experience of marching. There were over 300 of us and we filled the yard.  When you get the order heads will bowed for 1 minute. QUIET! Suddenly the yard was very quiet. We knew that the Provos on the north side of C wing could watch. Some prisoners from A wing at our backs were also watching.  Our heads were bowed to remember our dead. From the screws box I could hear them talking. They were reading out all the names of the men taking part ‘in an illegal parade’. We didn’t care.  We would all be punished. We were all remand but under Diplock we were guilty under proved innocent. It was long minute. UDA standing side by side with UVF and Red Hand.  In fairness to the Provos and ODCs they didn’t cat call or show disrespect. With head bowed I studied the ground beneath my feet.  I heard the cooing pigeons on the roof and then the chatter of a starling.

‘Heads up.  Dismiss’.
And suddenly we went back to our normal routine. Walking and talking.  It was a change to a boring routine. A remembrance of the troubles outside and what the cost was to ordinary people. This was a show of solidarity.  It’s now 37 years ago.  Remember them also next week .   Remember when loyalists stood together.



Alan Seeger: I Have A Rendezvous With Death


Alan Seeger was born in New York City in 1888.  His family moved to Mexico City when he was 10 years old and it was this period of his young life that was to influence much of his poetry.  By the time he was eighteen Seeger had enrolled in Harvard University.  Seeger’s brother Charlie was the father of the famous Seeger siblings…Pete, Mike and Peggy..pioneers of the American Folk music scene.

In late 1914 and at the start of the First World War Seeger enlisted in the French Foreign Legion in order to fight for the Allies..the US hadnt entered the War at this stage.  On the 4 July 1916 Seeger was wounded a number of times by machine gun fire at Belloy en is claimed that he continued to shout encouragement to his fellow troops as they mounted an offensive-despite his grave wounds.  he died from those wounds.  All of Seeger’s poetry was published posthomously-his first book being published in December 1916.  By the next year his most famous poem was released for the first time and remains a standard almost one hundred years later.  By now the quality of his poetry attracted great acclaim and drew comparison with the great British poets of the time, in particular Rupert Brooke.
In 1923 the French government erected a monument to the 24 members of the French Foreign Legion who died during the conflict between 1914-18.  On the monument are inscribed these words..from the pen of Alan Seeger……….

They did not pursue worldly rewards; they wanted nothing more than to live without regret, brothers pledged to the honor implicit in living one’s own life and dying one’s own death. Hail, brothers! Goodbye to you, the exalted dead! To you, we owe two debts of gratitude forever: the glory of having died for France, and the homage due to you in our memories.

I Have a Rendezvous with Death

Alan Seeger
I have a rendezvous with Death   
At some disputed barricade,   
When Spring comes back with rustling shade   
And apple-blossoms fill the air—   
I have a rendezvous with Death
When Spring brings back blue days and fair.   

It may be he shall take my hand   
And lead me into his dark land   
And close my eyes and quench my breath—   
It may be I shall pass him still.
I have a rendezvous with Death   
On some scarred slope of battered hill,   
When Spring comes round again this year   
And the first meadow-flowers appear.   

God knows ‘twere better to be deep 
Pillowed in silk and scented down,   
Where love throbs out in blissful sleep,   
Pulse nigh to pulse, and breath to breath,   
Where hushed awakenings are dear...   
But I’ve a rendezvous with Death
At midnight in some flaming town,   
When Spring trips north again this year,   
And I to my pledged word am true,   
I shall not fail that rendezvous.


Inside Man:by William Plum Smith-a review by Balaclava Street.

“Inside Man” by William “Plum” Smith: a review


Inside Man, the prison memoir of former Red Hand Commando and Progressive Unionist Party chairman William “Plum” Smith is, foremost, a necessary book. The fact that it is the first, and indeed only, serious-minded first-hand account from a loyalist paramilitary perspective is evidence enough of that. Until now the only available accounts have come in the form of decidedly less credible offerings, tabloidesque cash-ins from the pen of ghostwriters “without whom this book could not have been written”. Johnny Adair’s Mad Dog reads more in the style of true crime, with its focus on vendettas and reliance on a persecution narrative where the protagonist is endlessly threatened by enemies out to get him. None Shall Divide Us gave us a frequently less than reliable version of Michael Stone’s life story, as when playing urban myth as straight fact with its the hoary tale of Stone having to execute a German Shepherd Dog to pass initiation into the UDA (the story usually involves the US Marines or SAS).

With a 200-year history of incarceration, the republican as prisoner is a well-established archetype, a vital component of the movement’s self-image and one which is carefully guarded (Bobby Sands dinnerplates notwithstanding). IRA prisoners were held, and continue to be held, in high favour within the communities from which they came due not just to support for the actions which led to their imprisonment, but because a republican’s deportment within prison was seen as noble in itself. Resistance to authority, education in confinement, and maintenance of The Army’s discipline were the ideals to be upheld. Depressingly, however, the regard held by republicans for their paramilitary prisoners is often accompanied by a tendency to denigrate or outright dismiss the experiences of their loyalist counterparts. For example, the elderly bigot Jude Collins flatly refuses to believe that loyalist prisoners were even capable of attaining qualifications. Indeed if certain individuals are to be believed republicans floated out of Long Kesh in the lotus position, preaching enlightenment in fluent Gaelic, weighed down with degrees and doctorates and ready to perform brain surgery or build particle accelerators. Loyalists meanwhile are alleged to have passed the time heaving weights and gobbling steroids like Dolly Mixture, while reading materials were supposedly restricted to publications of the one-handed variety. This is a foul and pernicious lie, and one which Smith successfully challenges.


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Football in the Compounds: Reminisces of a Hankie Ball Player

Football in the Compounds-Reminisces of a Hankie Ball Player



There was no Queens Park Strangers.  Certainly no Borrussia Munching Barnbrack.  And definitely no Real Madrid Street.  What we did have was Compound 21…or 16..or 18B…and the immortals—at least in their own minds– 19A.  In Magilligan, because compounds were given letters instead of numerals we had, on occasions AA playing against CB..or HB up against FA .  The Crumlin Road set-up was different again-less formalised football meant no leagues against other wings.  So it may have been landing against landing or just 2 teams made up from within whatever particular Wing being occupied at any one time.  In the early days football was a very haphazard affair.
You got it infrequently and there was little or no organisation involved.  Basically two teams were picked to play and it was more about getting out of the compound..sometimes in order to visit someone else at the wire.  There were always good players of course.  Some would have been known from outside before their incarceration.  As time moved on and football did become an important factor in jail life then of course it became more serious.  Too serious at times.
If someone was in remand who had a reputation of being a good footballer there was an effort from the different camps within the Kesh-or Magilligan-to get him in to a certain compound.  Now and again a mix would have been put in though and someone who was rumoured to be the next Charlie George and eagerly waited on turned out to be more like Charlie Drake when it came to football.  It was around 1976 that the soccer became a big thing in Long Kesh.  This was the year of the first inter-compound football tournament.
In Magilligan a similar venture had been in place from late 75.  Four Loyalist compounds-2 UDA and 2 UVF-formed 8 teams and played a league.  It was ultra competitive and had a record number of sending-offs.  The four elected sports reps-1 from each compound, myself included-took up the refereeing duties and this was a job in itself.  A bookie-in fact a number of them was in place in Magilligan-and this too made for some very combative and spirited encounters.  If I’m not mistaken the A team from Compound A-UVF-won that first tournament, finishing ahead of E compounds first team-UDA-and they had a number of good players in the team.
Some of those who spring to mind from the victorious A team were Bobby Rodgers-Victor Thompson-Rab McIntyre who had been for trials at Old Trafford and Davy Barr..who had been with a number of Irish League clubs including Portadown.  The other cages held other good players..Shane Hamilton (Chico ) and Guffer Liggett out of E–Danny Black and a couple of Rathcoole guys from Compound C and Jim Rossborough –a rumbustious and marauding centre forward out of H.  If this inaugural tournament was a success the initial one in the confines of Long Kesh was less so.

After many months of wrangling between the jail authorities and the representatives from the compounds the go ahead was given to commence.  Barely minutes into the first game in which the pre tournament favourites were playing each other-19 against 16—UVF against UDA—a deliberate tackle broke a players leg and the game was hastily abandoned—as was the league.  Although inter compound football continue in Magilligan until it’s closure in October 1977 it would be a long time before the idea was resurrected in Long Kesh.  In Magillgan in particular—perhaps because many of the matches were being bet on—there was a great interest from outsiders.  It wasn’t unusual to see the pitch ringed with a large number of screws—who of course would have had their own bets running—or indeed the IRA prisoners—lined along either D compound wire or along the fence of the other pitch-F.
Eventually it did kick off again and although there was the usual problems it never got out of control and by and large it was quite successful.  Spectator numbers were limited in an attempt to quell potential trouble and the notion that the next major incident could stop the mixed soccer for good seemed to work.


The truth is there was only a few inter compound leagues or cups in total and dwindling numbers—people getting out and the advent of the H Blocks which stopped others coming to the cages-meant that no longer could compounds field 2 teams.  By the time the mid eighties came around each compound was dependent on recruiting other players from different compounds to make the numbers up, otherwise the football would have ceased completely.
I played football behind many walls and wires in a “career” that stretched from 1973 until early 1990.  Many a professional would have been proud of that or the fact that conservatively those of us who served a heavy sentence and played an average of 2 games a week—EVERY week-would have racked up around 1500 appearances!!  Some going on all weather pitches—and many of us still have the scars and bumps-bruises and limps to show for it.  There was many hankie ball players but very few prima donnas in those days.  The stick would have been too much to take.  Magilligan led in many ways by supplying us with good quality kits and on occasions the proper balls.  For a long while Long Kesh trailed behind in this department and many of the kits were threadbare..hand me downs and distinctly second rate.  Boots were almost nonexistent for many years and unless you had your own sent in you were reduced to playing in trainers—old fashioned gutties—or at the start of proceedings just whatever you had.  Eventually, after many years the jail started supplying cheap Mitre boots and these became like gold dust.  They also went missing quite a bit so became much sought and looked after items. They also at one time supplied a brand of “trainer” that I believe were manufactured in D Wing in the Crum, and these were deadly.  They were the nearest thing you could get to a steel toe capped trainer and a hefty boot on the shin with one was sure to put you out of action for the next few matches.
Despite all these obvious drawbacks-manufactured or otherwise-many’s a good player graced the—well not turf—but the hard core of Long Kesh.  It is impossible to remember let alone mention them all but there are quite a few stick out in my mind.  Everyone will have a particular favourite and always with good reason.  There was the stylish players—the ball players—the Hardmen—the psycho’s who thought nothing of slide tackling on the gravel—or the goalkeepers who had to be mad to dive full length on basically concrete.  Then there was the dribblers—the selfish players—one’s it was rumoured you would need a Board paper to receive a pass from—the dry weather players—the ones who were legends—in their own mind.  There was huffers-and puffers and slabbers and wasters.  There was strokers and jokers and big girls blouses.  There was dead eye dicks and those who couldn’t hit a cow on the arse with a banjo.  But to all those who crossed the line thanks for all the memories.  I recently conducted a wee straw poll.  Contacted between thirty and forty ex prisoners—those fortunate enough to still be alive—and asked a simple question-“ Who was the best player you seen in prison”  To me the result wasn’t surprising.  I knew a lot of different names would crop up-and they did.  I knew a couple of names would appear near the top—and they did. Not surprisingly.  In the end only a vote or two separated two great footballers.  I was lucky enough to play with-and against-both.  One for far longer than I would have liked.. But-that’s Life.
The person who finished top of the pile in this particular poll was Geordie McKimm.  Geordie was only there for a couple of years but whilst he was he stood out-head and shoulders.  In modern day football he would be called a box to box man—he was a fantastic passer of the ball..great vision and could basically do what he wanted with the ball.  He was only a young man-20/21 and extremely fit.  A worthy winner I feel.  Only a vote or two behind was Jimbo Tipping.  Jim was a Shankill Road man and had passed through Magilligan before arriving in Compound 19.  It’s no exaggeration to say that Jimbo was one of the best strikers of the ball I have ever seen.  When he hit them they stayed hit.  In the end it was hard to get goalkeepers for the other team when Jimbo was playing!!  Jim was strong—six foot plus—and a great header of the ball.  He had a superb all round game and for want of a better word was extremely “competitive”.  These two were comfortably clear of the rest of the field in the poll.  There were many other mentions but I would prefer to do is pick the eleven players who I think would make up the best team..going by the many hundreds of players I played with or against during my time behind the wire.  It is a personal opinion and is not definitive–neither right or wrong.  I stand to be challenged and would welcome some debate on it.  So here goes.  11 subs.

Eddie Martin. Former goalkeeping apprentice at Notts County and went on to play for 5 Irish League clubs…as a striker.

Rab. McCreery.  Glentoran legend.  His brother Paul was also a smashing player..but no room for him in this team.

Clifford Healey.  Powerful centre half..very aggressive and unbeatable in the air.

Victor Thompson.  Assured and steady..could play as stopper or sweeper.

Cliff Whiteside.  Classy full back-great left foot and impossible to get past.

Bobby Rodgers.  Two footed—Good in the air for a small man-and great goalcorer.

Jimbo Tipping.

Geordie McKimm.

Shane Hamilton.  Hard to get the ball of..good passer and fantastic ball skills.

Colin McCurdy.  Colin went on to play for Linfield-Fulham and Northern Ireland.  Great athlete and super finisher.

Sammy Frickleton.  Sammy was a Scotsman I remember from the Crum.. He had played for Ballymena before imprisonment and went on to play for East Fife and Sligo Rovers—despite having a large King Billy tattoo on his chest!!


*** The poll also included some ex Block men and the names put forward there included Noel Large and the aforementioned Guffer Liggett.