Random Ramblings from a Republican
I had been for five or six years previously in correspondence with Professor Eugene O'Curry. I had a long talk with them. John O'Donovan asked me to tea next night at his home, No. 136 North Buckingham Street; "and you" said he to O'Curry, "you try and come up." "No", said O'Curry, "but let Rossa come to my house the night after." I told him I would not be in Dublin the night after, as I should leave for home. O'Curry was a big stout man over six feet tall. O'Donovan was a small man. Those two men were dead, one year after that day I was speaking to them. They were married to two sisters of the name of Broughton - "of Cromwellian descent," as John O'Donovan says to me in one of his letters wherein he speaks of the mother of his seven sons - Mary Anne Broughton.
I went to John O'Donovan's house that evening, and met there Father Meehan, the author of that book called "The Confederation of Kilkenny." We talked of Fenianism, or of the cause for which I had been lately in Cork Jail. I, as well as I could, justified my belonging to that cause - not that my host or the priest said anything in condemnation of the cause - but I was surprised when I heard John O'Donovan say in the priest's presence - "the priests won't let the people fight." The priest said nothing.
About twelve o'clock a coach came to take him home. I went in the coach with him, and he let me down at my hotel in Lower Bridge Street. His chapel in the parish of Sts. Michael and John is near that street. I had been at John O'Donovan's house on some other occasions on which I visited Dublin before this time of the McManus funeral. The seven sons would be around us He would send John and Edmond to the library to bring some rare Irish books to show me. "Are those boys studying Irish language?" said I. "No", he said. I cannot get them to care anything about it, though they are smart enough at Greek and Latin." I fear that my early acquaintanceship with those boys had something to do with disturbing the serenity of their lives in after years; because when I came to live in Dublin in 1863, I used to visit their house, and they used to come to the Irish People
office to see me. They got initiated into the IRB movement,a nd got into prison the time of the arrests. John, the eldest was drowned in St. Louis; Edmond, the second, the famed war correspondent, was lost in Asia or Africa; and I saw William, the third son, buried in Cavalry Cemetery, New York.
I have among my papers twenty or thirty of the letters of John O'Donovan, that I received from him between the years of 1853 and 1863. They are among my old papers. I cannot get them now. I may get them before I put these Recollections in book form. If I do, I will print a few of them in the book. One letter in particular has some passages in it that I cannot thoroughly understand. It speaks of the Irish people and the Irish cause; of Daniel O'Connell and of Doctor Doyle, and it says:
"There have been no two Irishmen of this century that despised the Irish race and the Irish character more than did Daniel O'Connell and the late Doctor Doyle, bishop of Kildare and Leighlin. Doctor Miley, in whose hands O'Connell died, told me this at this table, and I firmly believe it."
Now, the puzzle to me is: Why was that so? Why did they despise the Irish race and Irish character? I make many guesses at answering the question, and the only answer reasonable to myself, that I can get, is, that the Irish people made it a sin to themselves to do anything that could be done in the way of striking down English rule, and striking down everything and every one that belonged to English rule in Ireland.
*More of Rossa's Recollections tomorrow
Continued from yesterday
In the year 1861 came ont he funeral of Terence Bellew McManus in Ireland. He was one of the '48 men who died in San Francisco. His body was brought to Ireland. I had a letter from James Stephens asking me to be one of the delegation who would accompany the remains from Cork to Dublin.
The funeral procession in Cork City was on a Sunday. There was an immense gathering of people. Passing along the quay, a ship in the river was flying the English flag, and a little boy caused a little commotion by running and clambering up the ship's ropes and poles and tearing down that flag.
Coming on nightfall wer were on board the train for Dublin. The delegation having charge of the coffin were in the train compartment next to the coffin. We were armed with pistols, as it was rumored that there might be some necessity for using them. Some men were, it seems, in favour or making the funeral the occasion of a "rising"; they thought it would arouse the country if the remains were taking to Slievenamon or some such historic place on the way between Cork and Dublin, and the people called upon to rally around, for God and for country. James Stephens was averse to that being done, and this is why he thought it well to have and armed guard to prevent its being done. I saw, a few nights after, that one of the men who favoured the project, was James Roche, of Monaghan, who came from New York to Ireland the time of the funeral. The delegation from America and some others went to Shelburne hotel in Dublin to see William Smith O'Brien on some matter. Smith O'Brien was not in when we called. We were waiting in the coffee-room; the subject of the "rising" came to be spoken of, Maurice O'Donoghue, or Killmallock, one of the Dublin Centres, charged James Roche with being the prime mover in the project of the "rising". Hot words passed between them. Maurice moved angrily toward Roche; Roche drew a cane sword. Some of us rush between the two angry men, and matters were soon quieted down.
But on the railway route between Cork and Dublin, something occurred that I may make note of. When the rain came to the Limerick Junction, there was a stop there of several minutes. A large crowd was on the platform. If there was an attempt to be made anywhere to take away the body, it was thought that would be the place most likely for it. James Stephens would was in the coach with us. He had previously given orders that the men of Tipperary town be there to prevent such a thing being done. As the premonitory bell rang for the starting of the train, Stephens called on the men to kneel down and say a Pater and Ave for the dead; and, while the whole crowd was on their knees, the train rolled out from the depot.
Arriving in Dublin I attended a banquet given to Colonel Smith, Colonel O'Reilly, Colonel Doheny, Michael Cavanaugh, Jerrie Cavanaugh, and Captain Frank Welpley, the members of the American delegation, and I called upon some friends I had been in correspondence with. The dinner had been at Coffey's or Carey's Hotel in Bridge Street. Father Conway of Mayo, who was staying at the hotel, attended it. When the toasts and speech-making commenced, he was called upon to speak. He spoke of the sad state of his part of the country, and said that he was then traveling on a mission to collect funds for some parishioners of his who were under sentence of evictions - dwelling particularly upon one case, that of a man and his wife who had eight young children. "Put my name down for ten pounds," said Michael Doheny. The priest taking his notebook, commenced to write. "Hold", said Doheny. "The ten pounds is to buy a gun, powder, and a ball for the man who is evicted, that he may shoot whoever comes to put him out of his house." The priest shut up his notebook.
Coming on the year 1860, the men of Skibbereen took up the threads of the organisation that were let slip thru the arrest of the Phoenix men of '58. We met James Stephens in Bantry, and Mr Dan McCartie, Morty Moynahan, and I with the Bantry men, Denis Cullinane, and some others went in Denis O'Sullivan's yacht to Glengarriffe, where we had dinner at Eccles' Hotel. Stephens paid for the dinner. Sailing thru Bantry bay, Stephens was smoking a pipe. I remember his taking the pipe in his hand and saying he would not give the value of that dudeen for the worth of Ireland to England after the death of the Queen Victoria; that she, in fact, would be the last English reigning monarch of Ireland.
I don't know if he is of that opinion today. I do not know did he speak that way that day in Bantry bay, from the strong faith he had in the success of his own movement. Anyway, the way he always spoke to his men seemed to give them confidence that he was able to go successfully thru the work that was before him, and before them. That was one of his strong points, as an organiser.
About the beginning of the year 1861, a letter from Jason O'Mahony of Bandon, announce to us that he and John O'Mahony would be in Rosscarbery on a certain day. Dan McCartie, Morty Moynahan and I went to Ross in Moynahan's coach. We met them; they had come to town in Banconi's long car. James O'Mahony returned to Bandon, and John O'Mahony came on to Skibbereen in our coach. He remained in town a few days. We called in from the country some of the most active workers we had in the organisation, and introduced them to him. He was very much taken with the McCarthy-Sowney Centre, who told him he would not be satisfied with getting back his lands from the English, without getting back also the back rents that the robber-barons had been drawing from his people for the past 200 years.
That was the first time I met John O'Mahony. He made the impression on me that he was a man proud of his name and of his race. And I liked him for that. I liked to see an Irishman proud of his people. It is seldom you will find such a man doing anything that would disgrace any one belonging to him. In my work of organising in Ireland, I felt myself perfectly safe in dealing with men who were proud - no matter how poor they were - of belonging to the "Old Stock". I trusted them, and would trust them again.
Three years ago, in the summer of 1894, I was traveling with Michael Cusack, John Sarsfield Casey )since dead), and some others, by the Galtee Mountains, from Mitchelstown to Knocklong. We stopped at a village called Kilbehenny. We strolled into the graveyard, and there I saw a large tomb, on the top slab of which were cut the words:
"THIS IS THE TOMB OF THE O'MAHONY'S"
That was the tomb of John O'Mahony's family. Some days after, I stood within the walls of the ruins of Muckross Abbey in Killarney, and there I saw another tomb, (just like the one in Killbehenny) on which were graven the words:
"THIS IS THE TOMB OF THE O'DONOGHUES."
That was the tomb of the family of the O'Donoghue of the Glens. That showed me that in old Irish times John O'Mahony's family had the same standing among the people as the other family. In those graveyards, I thought of that Shane O'Neill of Tyrone who, when offered and English title, said he was prouder of the title of "The O'Neill" than of any title England could give him.
**More tomorrow: J. O'Donovan Rossa's memory of T. Bellew McManus' funeral.
You Stand Accused of Murder
The Men of 81
The mists of time will honour this, the year of ‘81
When ten brave gallant Irishmen, a hunger-strike begun,
You might as well have shot them like the men of Easter week,
You knew they wouldn’t bend their knee, you knew they wouldn’t break
You stand accused of murder their blood is on your hands,
Of Francis Hughes, Ray McCreesh, Joe McDonnell, Bobby Sands,
Martin Hurson, Kevin Lynch, Thomas McElwee,
Mickey Divine, Patsy O’Hara and Keiron Doherty.
Time will never sanctify the reasons why,
In prison cells, in lonely hells our hunger-strikers died
Show me an English man who’d starve until he died,
But Irishmen have done it with honour and with pride.
800 years is far too long the time has come to leave,
You’ve butchered and you’ve plundered, you’ve murdered and deceived,
But we promise we will never give up our human rights
To defend the men of ’81 in their final lonely fight.
Hungerstriker: Raymond McCreesh
In 1957, Raymond McCreesh was born in Camlough, South Armagh
as the seventh of eight children to a adamantly nationalist family. He involved himself in the Republican movement in his adolescence, joining Na Fianna Eireann
at 16. Not long after that, he joined the 1st Battalion of the IRA.
McCreesh was employed as a milkman and learned the streets and countryside of his area while performing his routes. This intelligence would greatly aid his comrades activity in that region.
Almost no one save the men he ran operations with knew that Raymond was a Republican. He was always discreet about his involvement. This is amazing when one considers the number of operations Raymond was involved in.
As a part of a four person ASU (active service unit), McCreesh carried out operations against occupying British forces. He was captured after an operation in 1976 and sentenced to 14 years in a star-chamber trial. As many volunteers who were arrested, he refused to accept the validity of the court he appeared in.
In a strange bit of coincidence, the SAS man who first opened fire on McCreesh would later be killed during the wounding and capture of Francis Hughes in South Derry. And also in late 1979, Hughes and McCreesh shared a cell together while on the blanket.
Raymond was not chosen as one of the seven who commenced hungerstrike in 1980, but he was one of the thirty to participate for the last for days of that protest. Hi reputation as a determined Republican soldier put him in the forefront of the Volunteers to be chosen for the 1981 strike. He was the fourth man to join the strike, the same day as his INLA comrade Patsy O'Hara.
He sought strength from his brother, Father Brian McCreesh during his hungerstrike and his brother did not fail him. His brother, to the dismay of the Catholic Church, supported his hungerstrike from day one. In Raymonds final days, Fr. Brian sent an urgent telegram to 10 Downing St. reading:
"My Brother has gone two months without food, and four and a half years without clothes or washing. All he has left now is his pride as a young Irishman, and his loyalty to his fellow prisoners both living and dead" He asked her to respect his dignity and to move to save his life."
Prime Minister Thatcher sent no reply to Brian McCreesh and Raymond died shortly after. After 61 days, Raymond gave his life for his cause; Irish Freedom. He was unbroken and resolute in his strike.
The IRA planted a tribute in Raymond's hometown, Camlough, shortly after his death. This tribute was a 1,000lb bomb that disintegrated a British Army Saracen.
McCreesh fought and died for what he believed was just. This fight is still continuing both in the prison cells and on the streets of the occupied counties. Don't forget about what these men died for, their ideals are not being achieved thru the so-called "mainstream" channels.
INLA Volunteer Patsy O'Hara
Patsy O'Hara was born on July 11, 1957 in Derry city. He was to follow in his brothers' footsteps by joining the Republican movement. His brother, Tony, was also a prisoner in the H-blocks during his Patsy's hungerstrike. Also, the eldest son in the family, Sean Seamus was imprisoned in Long Kesh for a period of four and a half years for Republican activities.
Mrs. O'Hara believes that it was the riots of early 1969 in Derry that first sparked Patsy's fierce nationalism and the Battle of the Bogside
in August of that year helped to firmly seal his feelings. He joined na Fianna Eireann
At the beginning of internment, the eldest O'Hara brother Sean Seamus was arrested. Shortly after this, Patsy was on his way past a barricade when, without warning, the Brit soldiers at the checkpoint opened fire. Hit in the leg, he spent a month and a half in the hospital recovering. These events greatly affected the O'Hara family and helped even more to fuel Patsy's fervor.
January 30, 1972 would be a day that would stew in Patsy's mind until the day he died. His father took him to watch the civil rights march in the city center. They watched the massive march from a distance for a while, as it wound down into the Brandywell portion of Derry. Once it was in the distance, Patsy went back to his house and listened to the hell unfold on the radio broadcast. The horror of the murder of civilians struck him as it did many young men around his age.
His parents knew that date was the culmination of Patsy's bitterness regarding the occupying forces. They knew and supported his obvious decision. Mrs. O'Hara said of her sons: "I thought that that was the right thing to do. I am proud of him, proud of them all."
He became active in the "Republican clubs" in Derry city and was interned in late 1973.
In 1975, at the age of 17, Patsy joined the newly formed Irish Republican Socialist Party (IRSP)
and also the ranks of the INLA. At the young age of 21, he was elected to the ard chomhairle of the IRSP and began to campaign against the star-chamber, juryless courts that Republican prisoners faced.
Patsy was arrested for the fifth and final time in May of 1979 for possession of a grenade. He was tried and sentenced to 8 years by the British judge.
As the leader of the INLA prisoners in the H-blocks, he was the first INLA member to put himself forth for the hungerstrike. He joined his PIRA comrade Raymond McCreesh
on the 22 March 1981. 61 days later, both men succumbed to death by starvation; asking only for five simple things:
1. not to have to wear a prison uniform;
2. not to have to do prison work;
3. to freely associate with other prisoners
4. to organize their own educational and recreational facilities;
5. one visit, one letter and one parcel per week. *
During the Blanket protests Patsy was quoted as saying: "We stand for the freedom of the Irish nation so that future generations will enjoy the prosperity they rightly deserve, free from foreign interference, oppression and exploitation."
May this dream be realised on the ideals of these brave men. In the words of Patsy O'Hara; "Let the fight go on!" Do not let the Provisional Sinn Fein
leadership walk across the graves of some of Ireland's bravest men and straight into Stormont
. This treaty of surrender is not what the Volunteers died for.
IRSCNA Piece on Patsy
IRSM Commemoration Statement 2000
*These demands are still being sought by the Republican POWs. Support them in their struggle.
The Boy From Tamalaghtduff.
As I walked through the Glenshane Pass,
I heard a young girl mourn.
"The boy from Tamalaghtduff," she cried,
"is two years dead and gone.
How my heart was torn apart,
for this young man to lose.
O! I'll never see the likes again
of my young Francis Hughes."
For many years his exploits were,
a thorn in England's side
The hills and glens became his home
And there he used to hide.
Once when they surrounded him,
he quietly slipped away.
Like a fox he went a ground
and kept the dogs at bay.
Moving 'round the countryside
he often made the news
But they could never lay their hands
on my brave Francis Hughes.
Finally they wounded him and
captured him at last
From the country side he loved
they took him to Belfast.
From Musgrave Park to the Crumlin Road
and then to an H-Block cell.
He went straight on the blanket
and on hungerstrike as well.
His will to win they could never break
No matter what they tried
He fought them everyday he lived and
he fought them as he died.
As I walked through the Glenshane Pass,
I heard a young girl mourn.
"The boy from Tamalaghtduff," she cried,
"is two years dead and gone."
And how my heart was torn apart
for this brave man to lose
O I'll never see the likes again
of my brave Francis Hughes.
Francis Hughes: Unwavering Republican
Born on the 28th of February, 1956, to a large Catholic family, Francis Hughes
grew up in the town of Tamlaghtduff, Bellaghy in South Derry along with his cousins and fellow Volunteers, Benedict and Thomas McElwee
. All three of these men were to serve long stints in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh; two of them were to never come out alive.
When Francis left school at the age of sixteen, he took up an apprenticeship as a decorator and painter. Upon completing this apprenticeship, he went on the run.
As a Volunteer he was brazen and fearless in the face of danger. His first stint of active service was with the Stickies
, but after their unilateral ceasefire, Francis became disillusioned and began running his own unit of men in independent operations. Rightly impressed, the Provos recruited the group as a whole in early 1973.
In the years to come, Francis' reputation as a courageous and bold Volunteer began to build amongst both the Nationalist community and the security forces in the Six Counties. The pressure to catch him came to a full head of steam in the spring of 1978, when he and another Volunteer had a gun battle with two SAS members, killing one and wounding another. The wounded soldier got off a burst of automatic sub-machine gun fire, wounding both Volunteers. Francis was hit in the thigh, preventing him from escape. He bade his comrade to flee and told him he'd fare for himself.
Francis was captured the next morning, having crawled nearly a half mile with a shattered leg. He was weak from exposure and blood loss, but was as defiant as ever. While they carried him away on a stretcher, he screamed "Up the PROVIES!" at the top of his lungs. At the time of his capture, Francis was being called "the most wanted man in the North[sic]"
Put on trial after a period of recovery from his injuries, Francis was put on trial and found guilty of murder as well as nearly a dozen other charges. He was sentenced to life for the killing of the SAS soldier; the other charges totaled 69 years in prison.
Arriving in Long Kesh, he immediately involved himself in the campaign for political status. On the blanket, he continued to build his reputation, defying the screws. They would do little to stop him; they were in as much awe of Francis as the POWs. He hobbled around on his crutches, yelling slogans and pick-me-ups to his comrades. Very few other prisoners in the history of the struggle could have gotten away with this without regular torture from the screws.
Francis was one of the 30 POWs who took part in the last stages of the 1980 Hungerstrike
. This strike was called off when an apparent deal for political status was struck with the Brits. The British reneged on their original deal and the no-wash protest went on.
A second hungerstrike began on March 1st, 1981 when Volunteer Bobby Sands
refused his meals. Two weeks later, Hughes joined his comrade on the strike. On May 12th, after 59 days refusing food, Francis Hughes died, unbroken. He died for Ireland.
Francis Hughes: Ireland's Own
Francis Hughes: Scourge of the UDR: Ireland's Own
Hungerstrike Commemorative: Francis Hughes
Irish Hungerstrike Page
Noraid Hungerstrike Page
The Funeral of Bobby Sands
9th May 1981
Bobby Sands, as representative of the blanket men and women in Armagh, died rather than be branded a criminal. The hungerstrike was embarked on for five just and reasonable demands, (to give testimony to the world that Irish republican prisoners will never wear British prison uniforms or do prison work and must have right to associate with each other and communicate with their families and have remission restored). The callous intransigence of the British government has made the hungerstrike a symbol of the struggle for freedom and Bobby Sands and his comrades are symbols of Irish resistance to British rule in Ireland.
Bobby Sands is a symbol of hope for the unemployed, for the poor and oppressed, for the homeless, for those divided by partition, for those trying to unite our people. He symbolises a new beginning and I recall the words of his manifesto to the Protestant people: "The Protestant people have nothing to fear from me." They too have their part to play in building a new future, a new Ireland.
We have the moral right to struggle for freedom and self-determination. Britain has no right in our country and has no faith in her pretence because the moral right she pretends to have has to be backed up by a monstrous war machine of guns and tanks and the torture chambers of Castlereagh and the H-Blocks and by creation of division within the Irish people.
Bobby Sands has not died in vain. his hungerstrike and the sacrifice of his life is a cameo of the entire resistance movement. He symbolises the true Irish nation which never has surrendered and never will. Let us picture him lying all alone in his cell, hisbody tortured and twisted in pain, surrounded by his enemies and isolated from his comrades and nothing to fight with but his will and determination.
The big British murder machine assisted by those in high places in church and state tried to break his spirit. There was those in power in Dublin who could have saved him but as Liam Mellows said in 1922: "Men will get into positions and hold power and will desire to remain undisturbed."
"They tried to compromised Bobby Sands, they tried to compromise his supporters, but they failed. Around the world Bobby Sands has humiliated the British government. In Bobby Sands' death they have sown the seeds of their of destruction. Bobby once wrote about Britain that "her actions will eventually seal the fate of her rule in Ireland for they may hold our bodies, but while our minds are free victory is assured."
They people of Fermanagh and South Tyrone stood by the prisoners and gave them a mandate for political status. This has been rejected by the arrogant British government. We, the people who supported Bobby Sands and the blanket men and women of Armagh and who have tried everything to get the British to give the five demands, that though we have not got the tanks and guns (and please God this will no always be so) we can only conclude, along with PH Pearse that we must take what they will not give and that there is no way in which freedom can be obtained, and when obtained, maintained, except by armed men.
Finally, I salute you, Bobby Sands. Yours has been a tough and lonely battle but you have been victorious. Your courage and bravery has been an inspiration to us all and today we take strength from your example. The courage of your family has been an inspiration to us. You have the consolation of knowing that your son died, with all of you assembled at his death bed, free in conscience and now free from the hardships of the H-Blocks.
Bobby Sands, your sacrifice will not be in vain. We re-dedicate ourselves and our struggle and pledge ourselves not only to win the five demands but to drive England out of our country once and for all Bua do Shaighduiri Arm Phoblacht na hEireann!
The Funeral of Bobby Sands
9th May 1981
A chairde, a muintir na hEireann, is mor an bhron ata orainn go lear an la inniu is muid inor seasamh ag an uaigh seo. Maraiodh Bobby sands ag na Sasanagh.
Irishmen and women, it is hard to describe the sadness and sorrow in our hearts today as we stand at the grave of Volunteer Bobby Sands, cruelly murdered by the British government in the H-Blocks of Long Kesh. Four weeks ago to this very day, the people of Fermanagh and South Tyrone, on behalf of the whole Irish nation, elected Bobby Sands as their MP, and I was very happy to accept victory on his behalf. Many people had high hops of saving Bobby's life and little did I think that in one short month we would all be standing at his graveside.
Bobby has gone to join the ranks of Ireland's patriotic dead. I have no doubt that the name of Bobby sands will mark a watershed in Irish history and will be a turning point in the struggle for Irish freedom. Bobby Sands as the bravest man I ever met. He faced death calmly and with confidence. Indeed, Bobby Sands is a hero and I would like first of all to express on behalf of the Republican Movement our sincere sympathy to his family and to pay tribute to them for standing by him courageously to the end. Someone once said it is hard to be a hero's mother and nobody knows that better than Mrs. Sands who watched her son being daily crucified and tortured for sixty-six long days and eventually killed. Mrs. Sands epitomises the Irish mothers who in every generation watched their children go out to fight and die for freedom.
Despite the vilifications and slanders of some guttersniper media and despite the hypocrisy of scribes and pharisees of high churchmen and establishment politicians who condemned him, Bobby Sands will be remembered by freedom loving people throughout the world as freedom fighter out the world as a freedom fighter and a political prisoner hungering for justice. As he wrote himself: "Of course I can be murdered, but I remain what I am, a political POW and no-one (not even the British) can change that."
I never knew Bobby Sands until March 31st, 1981, which was also the thirty first day of his hunger strike. Added together all my visits were but a few short hours, but still I believe that I got to know his heart and mind. Bobby was just my own age with many hopes and ambitions to fulfill.
Although he left school and an early age, it was obvious that he was an intelligent person, who through a process of self-education had advanced his learning. He became fluent in the Gaelic language and was enthusiastic about his native culture. His determination and resolve were remarkable and his commitment and dedication total and without compromise. Always evident was his sincerity and compassion despite his own situation. Even his enemies would agree there was no hatred in him.
Bobby Sands was a very ordinary young man from this city, who through a process of events, became politically educated and at eighteen decided he no longer would accept the injustice of a partitioned Ireland with all its inherent evils. No longer could he accept second class citizenship in his own country. So he joined the IRA and embarked on a life of hardship and suffering and in the end made the supreme sacrifice of his life for the cause he believed in.
(*Last part of the speech tomorrow.)
The Funeral of Bobby Sands
9th May 1981
The body of IRA Volunteer Bobby Sands was bought to his Twinbrook home in Belfast on Tuesday evening when a steady stream of thousands of mourners filed past his open coffin which was alternatively flanked by guards of honour from Oglaigh na hEireann, Na Fianna Eireann
and Cumman na mBan.
Bobby’s seven-year-old son, Gerald, was brought to the Sands family for a sad reunion with his grandparents. It had been over two years since they or Bobby had last seen him. On Wednesday night, Bobby’s remains were flanked by six uniformed IRA Volunteers and an officer who marched alongside the coffin on the short journey to St Luke’s chapel. On Thursday, the day of the funeral, over fifty thousands people marched in pouring rain from St Luke’s chapel, after requiem mass, to the republican plot in Milltown cemetery.
St Luke’s was thronged and the congregation were uneasy when the parish priest, Fr Mullan, delivered a sermon on violence despite a consensus that the politic of the Ira had stopped at the church door with the removal of the tricolour from the coffin and the dismissing of the guard of honour, so the politics of the church could, for the sake of harmony, have been foregone. But not so. Every time Fr Mullan spoke about peace an old man in a front pew echoed emphasis on a “just peace.”
Around two o’clock the funeral set out for the four mile journey to the cemetery and most of the time the sea of people resembled Tehran scenes from the Iranian revolution. The Iranian charge d’affaires in London, Abdolrahim Gavhahi, had been assigned by his government to attend the funeral but because of flight difficulties he arrived in Belfast two hours late. A telegram to the Republican press centre from Tehran’s municipality announced that “a street on the western side of the British Embassy building in Tehran was renamed after Bobby Sands” to “honour the heroic death of the IRA freedom fighter.”
Men, women and youths wept as the funeral went by. People blessed themselves with the sign of the cross and some old men gave a military salute to the republican martyr. At Suffolk the procession turned up and round into Lenadoon to avoid the small Protestant enclave opposite Woodburn barracks.
A piper played one of the H-Block songs, the words of which are:
“But I’ll wear no convict’s uniform,
Nor meekly serve my time,
That Britain might call Ireland’s fight
Eight hundred years of crime”
The funeral stopped close to the Busy Bee shopping centre and Bobby’s coffin was removed from the hearse and placed on tressles. Then, from among the people emerged three IRA Volunteers armed with rifles who were called to attention in Gaelic by a fourth uniformed man. They delivered three sharp vollies over the coffin, removed their berets and bowed their heads in silence for a full minute. The impressive trbute captured the hearts of the huge numbers of people on the road and was eagerly filmed by the world media.
At the gates of Milltown cemetery those assembled on the pavement spontaneously burst out into a recitation of the rosary as the hearse, the guard of honour and the funeral cars carrying Mr and Mrs Sands, their daughter Marcella and son John and others of the family, slowly passed through.
Gerry Adams officiated at the graveside ceremony which began with the playing of the Last Post. The tricolour was then removed from the coffin and along with beret and gloves presented to Mrs Sands. The coffin was finally carried to the grave by the uniformed Volunteers who had been the guard of honour. It was lowered into the grave and a number of priests athen led the prayers. Mr Sands and Bobby’s younger brother John spaded some soil on to the coffin and then little Gerald was brought forward and given a hand with the heavy spade so that he too could help bury his murdered father.
Among the hundreds of wreaths were one from the GHQ Staff IRA, Belfast Brigade IRA, Cumman na mBan, Na Fianna Eireann, Sinn Fein, the Republican POWs in the H-Blocks and Armagh, and the families of the remaining three hunger strikers.
The oration was given by Fermanagh republican, Owen Carron, who was Bobby Sands’ election agent. He was given roaring applause when he said that armed struggle was the only way forward.
(Full text of the graveside oration tomorrow …)
RIP Volunteer Bobby Sands
1954 - 1981
THE RHYTHM OF TIME
There's an inner thing in every man,
Do you know this thing my friend?
It has withstood the blows of a million years,
And will do so to the end.
It was born when time did not exist,
And it grew up out of life,
It cut down evil's strangling vines,
Like a slashing searing knife.
It lit fires when fires were not,
And burnt the mind of man,
Tempering leandened hearts to steel,
From the time that time began.
It wept by the waters of Babylon,
And when all men were a loss,
It screeched in writhing agony,
And it hung bleeding from the Cross.
It died in Rome by lion and sword,
And in defiant cruel array,
When the deathly word was 'Spartacus' Along with Appian Way.
It marched with Wat the Tyler's poor,
And frightened lord and king,
And it was emblazoned in their deathly stare,
As e'er a living thing.
It smiled in holy innocence,
Before conquistadors of old,
So meek and tame and unaware,
Of the deathly power of gold.
It burst forth through pitiful Paris streets,
And stormed the old Bastille,
And marched upon the serpent's head,
And crushed it 'neath its heel.
It died in blood on Buffalo Plains,
And starved by moons of rain,
Its heart was buried in Wounded Knee,
But it will come to rise again.
It screamed aloud by Kerry lakes,
As it was knelt upon the ground,
And it died in great defiance,
As they coldly shot it down.
It is found in every light of hope,
It knows no bounds nor space
It has risen in red and black and white,
It is there in every race.
It lies in the hearts of heroes dead,
It screams in tyrants' eyes,
It has reached the peak of mountains high,
It comes searing 'cross the skies.
It lights the dark of this prison cell,
It thunders forth its might,
It is 'the undauntable thought', my friend,
That thought that says 'I'm right!'
Collection of Bobby Sands Net Resources
Bobby Sands @ Ireland's Own
Bobby Sands Trust
Diary of Bobby Sands
Other Related Information:
(*More on Bobby tomorrow)
**Some selections of Ciaran Carson and Seamus Heaney over the next few days. Hope everyone enjoys and is well.
Cont'd from previous entry
But the Unknown Factor, somewhat like the Unknown Soldier, has yet to take
The witness box. As someone spills a cup of tea on a discarded Irish News
A minor item bleeds thru from another page, blurring the main story.
It's difficult to pick up without the whole thing coming apart in your hands,
But basically it involves this bunch of cowboys, who, unbeknownst to us all,
Have jumped on board a Ford Sierra, bound for You-Know-Where.
They're Ordinary Criminals: you know them by the dollar signs that shiver
In their eyes, a notion that they're going to hit the jackpot of the GPO.
Unbeknownst to themselves, they'll be picked up in the amplified light
Of a Telescope Starlight II Night Observation Device (NOD) - Noddy for short,
But not before the stoolie-pigeon spool is reeled back; amplified,
Its querulous troughs and peaks map out a different curve of probability.
My newly-lowered ears in the barber's mirror were starting to take on a furtive look.
A prison cut- my face seemed Born Again - but then, I'd asked for short
And I've this problem, talking to a man whose mouth is a reflection.
I tend to think the words will come out backwards so I'm saying nothing.
, says he, - he's staring straight into my eyes, the scissors poised -
It seems they think they're just about to nail your man O'Reilly
When a bunch of hoods pulls up in a Ford Sierra and jumps out with the sawn-off
Shotguns, plastic masks they must have got in Elliot's - Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck
And Pluto - too much watching TV, if you ask me - so of course they Brits let go
He snips at my right ear. But now hear this:
This Post Office van bombs out from Tomb Street loading bay, its side door open
And they've got this effing Gatling gun or something going full blast -
Dot dot dot dot - and the Brits are all shot up - could you move your head a bit -
Right - so the Mad Dog, he jumps in the back and him and the boys are of like a shot.
So what do you think? It looks to me, it was a set-up job, though who exactly
Was set up, God only knows. You can see it for yourself - they've been checking out
That Ford Sierra for the past two hours, just as soon as it was light.
Seems they think the Disney characters were in on it. If you ask me,
With these confidential telephones, you never know who's doing who, or why.
Better to keep your mouth shut, that's what I say. Haircut OK, sir?
He held a mirror to my neck. I nodded. He shook out the cloth and curls
And snippets writhed like commas on the chessboard tiles. Now that I could see
Myself without the hair and beard, I looked like someone else. He brushed
My shoulders, and I left him to a row of empty mirrors, sweeping up
The fallen swathes. Turning into Tomb Street, I began to feel a new man.
Perfume breathed from somewhere, opening avenues of love, or something deja-vu.
**Some selections of Ciaran Carson and Seamus Heaney over the next few days. Hope everyone enjoys and is well.
Cont'd from previous entry
It's so hard to remember, and so easy to forget
the casualty list-
Like the names on a school desk, carved into one another til they're indecipherable.
It's that frottage effect again: the paper that you're scribbling on is grained
And blackened, til the pencil-lead snaps off, in a valley of the broken alphabet
And the streets are a bad photostat grey: the ink comes off on your hand.
With so many foldings and unfoldings, whole segments of the map have fallen off.
It's not unlike the missing reel in the film, the blank screen jittering
With numerals and flak, til the picture jumps back - a bit out of sync,
As soldiers A and B and others of the lettered regiment discuss the mission
In their disembodied voice. Only the crackly Pye Pocketfone sounds real,
A bee-in-the-biscuit-tin buzzing number codes and decibels. They're in the belly
Of a Saracen called "Felix", the cartoon cat they've taken as a mascot:
It's all the go, here, changing something into something else, like rhyming
Kampuchea with Cambodia. It's why Mickey Mouse wears those little white gloves -
Claws are too much like a mouse. And if the animals are trying to be people,
Vice versa is the case as well. Take "Mad Dog" Reilly, for example, who
This instant is proceeding to the rendezvous. A gunman, he isn't yet; the rod
Is stashed elsewhere, somewhere in a mental block of dog-leg turns and cul-de-sacs.
He sniffs his hand, an antiseptic tang that momentarily brings back
The creak of a starched coat crushed against his double-breasted gaberdine.
After the recorded message, the bleep announces a magnetic silence
Towards which she's drawn as a conspirator, as towards a confessional, whispering
What she knows into the wire-grilled darkness: Names, dates, places;
More especially, a future venue, Tomb Street GPO.
She wants the slate wiped clean, Flash or Ajax cutting a bright swathe
Through a murky kitchen floor, transforming it into a gleaming checkerboard.
Tiles of black and white on which the regiments of pawns move ponderously,
Bishops take diagonals, and the Queen sees dazzling lines of power.
Or, putting it another way, Operation "Mad Dog", as it's known now,
Is the sketch that's taking shape on the Army HQ blackboard, chalky ghosts
Behind the present, showing what was contemplated and rubbed out, Plan A
Becoming X or Y; interlocked, curved arrows of the mortgaged future.
The raffia waste-paper bin is full of crumpled drafts and cigarette butts,
And ash has seeped through to the carpet. There's a smell of peeled oranges.
*Last of this tomorrow.