Another little example—if any more are needed–to de-bunk the seemingly widely held pre or mis conception that we Loyalist prisoners passed our time by swallowing steroids and watching pornographic movies.
Studying in the Kesh.
When I went to Compound 21 in 1977 I already had a head start I suppose by being a Full time student at the then Jordanstown Polytechnic undertaking an HND course. However I had already gained 2 A levels at grammar school and 7 O levels. As they were then.
I was surprised when I was in c. 21 of the focus on education. But as I was somewhat good at art I had a choice to make between art and education It was people like Gusty Spence, David Ervine and Billy Mitchell that directed me towards education as I had a very long sentence and was going to be staying for a while.
This was the first time I had been told of some guy called Descartes I think therefore I am. Well I was thinking these guys had lost the plot. One man was studying philosophy and talking about existentialism. I’d never heard of it never mind what it meant. So my first dive into education was an art class. Pretty simple and a good interest. Because men were already studying the Open University I was pointed in that direction. At this time none of the Republicans were studying full time education through the prison, as it was against their policy. The H Blocks were just coming online with all the subsequent events that would take place there.
As I wasn’t much into maths or computers I plumped for the Social Sciences Degree which would take in effect some 8 years to complete to an Honours level. However along the way I decided to make as much use of the education as I could. So along the way I gained A levels in Biology and Statistics. I’m not sure how I got the A level Statistics but it is amazing when you have the time and motivation what you can achieve. I gained the O levels in statistics, biology and art. I then also was able to gain qualifications in football coaching, boxing coaching and weightlifting. I had also had my first taste of yoga. I couldn’t stop studying. I undertook Irish history something blatantly missing from my secondary and grammar school education. I completed a short course on the structure of the European Union.
The education gave me a purpose and structure to my day. As well as completing my running, football and weights I was into writing letters, reading anything (bar romance and westerns) and watching TV. As the years rolled on and I gained my degree I could go no further so I took what I thought was a logical step and started the next degree. Science this time. However enough time has elapsed and I was seeing the start of the end game. On being released in 1990 I obviously thought I hadn’t enough of the education lark and I enrolled in two courses at Queens. Firstly a small Creative Writers course and then a MSc Course in Computer Science. Since then I have kept studying and have completed Diplomas and Certificates. At the grand age of 57 I hope to complete more education as long as I can.