A Tribute to the Late Volunteer Ken Owens



Ken Owens was a totally humble, unassuming, Volunteer of the Red Hand Commando, who departed this life on the 10th April 2015. Ken didn’t leave behind any academic pearls of wisdom, or profound one liner parables for the academic dissectors of sincere Ulster Loyalism to squabble over.

However to the rapidly dwindling, surviving Ulster Volunteers of the early seventies, Ken left behind the priceless  memories of a sincerely served record of actual military service, on behalf of Ulster, before, during and after incarceration that was surpassed by very few.

Below is the tribute paid to Ken, by his old Comrades, during Kens Funeral Service.


Ken Owens was a totally sincere, Ulster Volunteer and Red Hand Commando, of the early seventies. He gladly stepped forward and served his Country at a time in our Country, when civil war seemed certain.

Ken took up arms in defence of the democratic right of the people of Northern Ireland to determine their own destiny, free from the constant sectarian attacks, by bitter twisted Irish Republican terrorists.


Ken Owens sacrificed his freedom in defence of his Family, his Faith and his Country, at a thankless time and for a thankless future, when the only reward for sincere military Loyalism was either imprisonment or death.

Today, we all have the privilege of thankfully and respectfully, acknowledging that sacrifice.


Ken was an old ex-shipyard caulker, which meant that he was as deaf as a door nail,( although Ken always maintained that his deafness was due to other large bangs in his life.) How ever regardless of the cause, the one thing that we can be sure of is that, Kens undefeatable, fighting spirit, is still with us here today listening to every word we have to say about him.


Ken Owens was an old school Northern Ireland Loyalist, he was totally Loyal to his God, his Family, his old Comrades and the Authentically Original, Founding Principles of Northern Ireland Loyalism.

Kens cause and principles in life were simply and unquestionably, For God and Ulster. He made these sincerely held principles the unshakable Foundation Stones of his Family, his Faith, his Country and his Cause.


Ken Owens wasn’t a big man in physical stature, but he had a massive heart, massive reserves of courage and a totally undefeatable determination. If ken decided he wasn’t going to be moved, then it was always going to take much more than one massive man to move him. This resolute courage and immovable determination stood Ken in good staid, during our numerous confrontations with the army and the prison authorities, in Crumlin Road prison and in Long Kesh.


Ken was a proud East Belfast shipyard man, born and raised in East Belfast at a time when the front door of every house in street lay open until bedtime. Neighbours looked after neighbours, Children respected their elders, marriage was for life, our Protestant Faith was respected by all and the only drugs on the streets were totally un-tipped woodbine and parkdrive cigarettes.

Ken firmly believed that, we all became far better adults than the adults of today, because of our Christian based childhoods in East Belfast.

Kens life was cast iron proof that, he was right.


Back in the early seventies, the IRA, embarked on an indiscriminate, sectarian, no warning bombing campaign of slaughter and destruction. They attempted to by the use of terrorism, to overthrow democracy here in Northern Ireland and sought by the use of force, to deny the ordinary decent people of Northern Ireland the democratic right to decide their own destiny.

The main targets of the IRA’s cowardly campaign of no warning slaughter and destruction were, Protestant Working Class Heartlands, isolated and defenceless border Protestant villages and farms, and Belfast City Centre.


All over Northern Ireland, in response to this sectarian slaughter by the IRA and the dithering lack of serious action by the British Government, Loyalist Working Class area’s were forced to form local Volunteer Defence Forces.


In their pathetic attempts to contain by repeated appeasement, the unappeasable, bitter twisted, sectarian terrorists of the IRA, the British Government capitulated even further. They suspended the democratically elected Government of Northern Ireland. They disarmed the Royal Ulster Constabulary. They abolished the B Specials,( Northern Irelands Legitimate first line of defence against the IRA, especially in remote border areas.) They also barred the Northern Ireland Regiments of the British Army, from serving in Northern Ireland. They even unsuccessfully attempted to ban Northern Ireland resident British Soldiers, from coming home on leave.

It was apparent to the ordinary decent people of Northern Ireland, that the British Government would soon capitulate completely to the IRA.

Urgent counter action was required and the Loyalist Working Class People of Northern Ireland responded accordingly.


Ken Owens actions as an Ulster Volunteer on 26th March 1973, resulted in an

8 year prison sentence.

Kens immediate response to the Judge, the Court and the cowardly British Government was, a totally defiant shout of NO SURRENDER, UP THE RED HAND COMMANDO.


Ken spent the first 10 months of his sentence in Crumlin Road prison and the remainder mainly in Compound 18 Long Kesh, Ken had no cause for sleepless nights nor sessions of self-pitying cultural, political, nor ancestral self-reflection, in pursuit of excuses to blame anyone, or anything other than himself for his own totally unrepentant actions against the belligerent

sectarian terrorism, of the IRA,     Ken proudly accepted personal

responsibility for his actions in defence of democracy.

That unyielding spirit of NO SURRENDER became even more evident, during the last few years of Kens life, as he battled through illness after illness with a complete absence of complaint or self pity.


Ken cared sincerely about his old Comrades from Compound 18 and despite his own ill health, he never failed to turn out on parade to pay his sincere respects, at the usually premature final parades of many of his old Comrades.

A few years ago when Ken was informed of the death of his much younger Comrade Edmund McKay, Kens immediate response was to inquire if Edmund had made himself right with God before he died.

Ken often brought up the subject of God, he made no secret of his belief in God as his Creator and in Jesus Christ as his saviour.


A few days before Ken departed for his final holiday in Benidorm, he handed over his old Somme Society uniform to his old Comrade Gorman McMullan, as a free donation for some other Somme Society member who didn’t have a uniform.

Ken had realised that due to his serious ill health, he would never again be able to properly and respectfully parade, with his Comrades of the Somme Society.

Today we can all celebrate together the fact that, in much the same way as Ken gladly discarded his old Somme Society uniform, because it was no longer of any earthly use to him, he also on the 10th of April in Benidorm, discarded the old worn out uniform of an earthly body, in which his totally undefeatable spirit had been clothed for the past 73 years.


Today that totally undefeatable, fighting spirit, of our old friend and Comrade, is still very much alive and well, in fact I strongly suspect that, as we all trudge up to Roselawn Cemetery to give Kens old worn out uniform of a body the military funeral that, Kens active service on behalf of his

Country deserves,   Kens old undefeatable fighting spirit will probably be

dancing and skipping up the Newtownards Road and into the bookies.


On the 10th of April 2015, I believe that our old Friend and Comrade Ken Owens, gladly exchanged the temporarily relaxing sun of Benidorm, for the eternally relaxing Son of God, our Saviour Jesus Christ.


Charlie Freel.




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