The Middle Hut.
The middle hut in Compound 21 also known as Passchendaele. Here was Special category Status in Long Kesh. All the huts had place names from the First World War. (There was also the end hut and the half hut) Can anyone recall what the other huts in 21 where called? Had not seen this photo before so it brought a back a few memories. Stayed here for a decade of my life. On the left would have been Flints cube when I first arrived. On the right (I think) were Davy Mc and Ginger Top the footballer. LOL. The chairs in the foreground, handmade by the men from whatever scraps and material they could glean. There were some craftsmen and tradesmen in that place. We painted this hut on the inside and kept it very clean. It’s a fond memory when I think back to taking the bars off the windows, painting and then putting the bars back on.
I painted the wall mural that is second up on the left. It is the Thiepval tower that stands outside the town of Albert. (The tower oversees the area that the 36th rushed on the morning of 1st July.) On the right hand side of the photo but out of view I painted a mural celebrating Lt Col Blair Mayne. The rest of murals where done by proper artists like Freddy Stevenson. Sadly now gone, like so many. Over the ten years I moved about the hut numerous times and had quite a few cube mates. Big Vic from Coleraine and myself shared a cube mid way up on the right. Young greener and myself shared a cube while on bail. While sharing was OK it was a treat and privilege to have a cube of your own. Myself and Swanner from the east shared a cube at one time. Wee Jimmy C’ and I shared another cube on the left.
But not all cube mates where fun. I had the dubious privilege of sharing a cube on the left hand side with the bold Wilfie from Portadown. Not exactly a bucket of fun but then again you never knew what fantasy story he was going to deliver next. In terms of the cage men; can you recall the best cube mate you shared with? Can you recall the biggest eijit in a hut? The biggest messer?
X Ray Mc Crea was in this hut. One memorable night he caught a wild cat in a trap and brought it into the hut after lock up. But the thing got free and went crazy. It lacerated Stevie and then raced round the hut like a dervish. Never realised that cats could smell so bad or jump so high. It eventually got back out. Unscathed. So many people, so many names. Bob the Hat was in this hut at one time. Shaky, Hawsky, Herbie, Dickie R with his missing finger. Blacker and Frankie C. All gone. But there were good laughs at times. 2 young men who were practised at the ‘Waa Waas’. They could play tunes with their farts! Wonder could they have got onto BGT?
The hut was opened in the morning for a head count and locked at 9pm with another head count. Everyone had their own routine after lock up. Lights would go out at 12 but you could read on. After lock was a time of TV, letter writing, handicrafts and just plain shooting the breeze. The middle of the hut would often be a hive of activity with people doing leather work. The material around the outside of wallets and purses (thonging) would be flying about the place. You can just about see the tables that where in the middle of the hut. These were used for everything. Groups of 2 or 3 men or more would use the tables in the evenings for the main meals. Heating was nonexistent and one year I was able to scrape ice of my window that had formed on the inside. Tomatoes, milk etc had all froze solid. But as the saying went, it hardened you. The hut could be quiet or very noisy at times. There were many types of birds that men had. The cockatiels, grey and lemon. The Indian Ringnecks and the ‘meep meeps’. (Don’t know their real names. Small finch type birds?) Possibly there was one African Grey at a time.
A weekly cube inspection seen each of us standing to attention outside the door to the cube. The cubes were scrubbed, clean and dusted (bunged out). If it wasn’t clean then you had ‘fatigues’, a British Army tradition which involved manual work as a punishment.
At the far end of the hut were a boiler and toaster. Behind the photograph taker and to the left were 2 toilets and one small sink. There was also one TV, black and white of course, until the ‘80s when we eventually got a real colour TV. All this for 30 men. In the foreground we watched the world through the TV. The big days, like Cup finals, World cups, the troubles, Live Aid in 85, Stoner at Milltown. Watched series like Boys from the Blackstuff, Miami Vice and Hill Street Blues to name a few. There were a few rows over what to watch which would come down to a show of hands. Majority ruled.
It was a strange feeling in 1988 when the day came to leave this place and go across to H Block 2. This was prison but as places went, it certainly wasn’t the worst place to live our lives as best we could. If you couldn’t do your time here, you couldn’t do it anywhere. Anybody else recall any of their favourite stories from their hut?