The Kesh

  This great photo has only recently come to light. There have been a series of reunions of loyalist ex- prisoners  which has prompted the emergence of photographs and stories.  It is amazing to see the friendships that still exist between ex-prisoners, in some cases after a break of over 35 years.  This photo was taken from the roof of the middle hut in compound 21 in the early 1980s. The UVF/RHC huts were named after World War 1 battles. The middle hut was named Passchendaele and was the best hut in the whole camp.  Also, in 21 were Messines and St Quentin. This photo was taken looking north across Phase 6; the top of the compound system of the Kesh.  To the left of the photo and out of view is the wall that separated us from the H Block complex.  The photo gives a good idea of the tangle of wire fences, wooden posts, hundreds of lights, barbed wire and huts.

    In the left foreground is cage 20. This at one time (1976?) was UDA. It was left empty before bringing the small number of ‘sticks’ or Official IRA from Phase 5. After their numbers dropped they departed for the Crum and the cage went empty until it was made into a study centre. The pre fab building with peaked roof is the shower/toilet block. All built to the same spec it consisted of toilets down one side, free standing wash hand basin in the middle and showers on the other side. At one end of the block would be a drying room.  Every day in the UVF/RHC cages there would be a group of men that cleaned the block.  Having looked at this photograph for a while I was left wondering who designed this layout?  When Long Kesh was being planned who decided on this wire and hut set up? The army? The prison service? A civil servant? I only ask because it was later claimed in official papers that the place was not secure. Quite ironic given the huge escape from the ‘much more’ secure H Blocks? 

                  In the top right of the picture one can see one of the huts in cage 17. This, and cage 16 behind it, were UDA.   It was here that one of the saddest events in the phase took place. Benny Redfern and Ned Pollock attempted an escape but getting into the bin lorry. While Ned was physically unharmed Big Benny was horribly crushed and died soon afterwards.  Sadly Ned, one of the nicest prisoners I had ever met, died after his release.   During the late ‘80s when the prison system was making life harder for long term prisoners all the UDA prisoners were taken from this cage for punishment. There was a protest over the arbitrary and punitive strip searching of special category prisoners.  The search team were left with an empty cage which they promptly started to take apart. The hammering and banging went on for most of the day and the day after.  Soon after most of the UVF/RHC prisoners would also be in the punishment wing.

     One can see the huge concrete wall that surrounded the phase. In the distance is the hills with the Colin Glen road running along side.  We could see these low hills as we walked around the cage. A subtle reminder of the free world.





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