Random Ramblings from a Republican
Monday, February 02, 2004
  *I am going to take a break from the chronological history and do a few days of an autobiographical article published in AP/RN 4 April 1981, written by Bobby Sands.

The Birth of a Republican

From a nationalist ghetto to the battlefield of H-Block

by Bobby Sands, MP

From my earliest days, I recall my mother speaking of the troubled times that occurred during her childhood. Often she spoke of internment on prison ships, of gun attacks and death, and of early morning raids when one lay listening with pounding heart to the heavy clattering of boots on the cobble-stone streets, and as a new day broke, peeked carefully out of the window to se a neighbour being taken away by the Specials.

Although I never really understood what internment was, or who the Specials were, I grew to regard them as symbols of evil. Nor could I understand when my mother spoke of Connolly and the 1916 Rising, and of how he and his comrades fought and were subsequently executed - a date suffered by so many Irish rebels in my mother's stories.

When the television arrived, my mother's stories replaced by what it had to offer. I became more confused as the "baddies" in my mother's tales were always my heroes on the TV. The British Army always for the "the right side" and the police were always the "good guys." Both were to be heroised and imitated in my childhood play.


At school I learned history, but it was always English history and English historical triumphs in Ireland and elsewhere.

I often wondered why I was never taught the history of my own country and when my sister, a year younger than myself, began to learn the Gaelic language at school, I envied her. Occasionally nearing the end of my school days, I received a few scant lessons in Irish history. For this, from the republican-minded teacher who taught me, I was indeed grateful.

I recall my mother also speaking of the "good old days". But of all her marvelous stories I could never remember any good times, and I often thought to myself "thank God I was not a boy in those times", because by then - having left school - life to me seemed enormous and wonderful.

Starting work, although frightening at first, became alright, especially with the reward at the end of the week. Dances and clothes, girls and a few shillings to spend, opened up a whole new world to me. I suppose at that times I would have worked all week, as money seemed to matter more than anything else.


Then came 1968 and my life began to change. Gradually the news changed. Regularly I noticed the Specials, whom I now knew to be the 'B' Specials, attacking and baton-charging the crowds of people who all of a sudden began marching on the streets. From the talk int he house and my mother shaking her fist at the TV set, I knew that they were our people who were receiving end.

My sympathy and feelings really became aroused after watching the scenes at Burntollet. That imprinted itself in my mind like a scar, and for the first time I took a real interest in what was going on.

I became angry.

It was now 1969, and events moved faster as August hit our area like a hurricane. The whole world exploded and my own little world just crumbled around me. The TV did not have to tell the story now, for it was on my own doorstep. Belfast was in flames, but it was our districts, our bumble homes, where were burnt. The Specials came at the head of the RUC and Orange hordes, right into the heart of our streets, burning, looting, shooting and murdering.

There was no-one to save us, except "the boys" as my father called the mean who defended our district with a handful of old guns. As the unfamiliar sound of gunfire was still echoing, there soon appeared alien figures, voices, and faces, in the form of armed British soldiers on our streets. But no longer did I think of them as my childhood "good guys", for their presence alone caused food for thought.

Before I could work out the solution, it was answered for me int he form of early morning raids and I remembered my mother's stories of previous troubled times. For now my heart pounded at the heavy clatter of the soldiers' boots in the early morning stillness and I carefully peeked from behind the drawn curtains to watch the neighbours' doors being kicked in, and the fathers and sons being dragged out by the hair and being flung into the backs of sinister-looking armoured cars.

This was followed by blatant murder: the shooting dead of our people on the streets in cold blood. The curfew came and went, taking more of our people's lives.

(More tomorrow) 
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Ta ar la anois.

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