My Father John And My Sister Rita On Her Wedding Day
This month of November my memory returns to my father John and my sister Rita who both at great cost to themselves worked hard all off their lives, worked for a Republican united Ireland of justice ,equality and freedom from British rule :
My father when he married my mother was a printer with the Irish news paper in Belfast that was in the early 1930s , they had 9 children 4 girls and 5 boys.
My father was a very quite man but a very brave man as I was to learn later in his life as his whole life was about his children and my mother , yes they struggled being a catholic family in the north of Ireland but the big thing that drove them, was that all their children would be educated for the world off their time, never would the bigoted state-let of the unionist /British/ anti catholic ruled North of Ireland hold them back as it did in his time, where they suffered discrimination because of where they went on a Sunday morning or in his case every morning and the fact that they are Irish in body and mind, who believed in the principles of 1916 and the proclamation of freedom, in fact he and my mother lived it until they both died
As I was born in 1948 and the youngest in the family my first memory of my father was in 1954 as he took me by the hand to St Patrick’s CBS school in Donegall street Belfast . He was to take my hand to safety many times after that
Like the night of 26th December 1960 when my oldest Brother John who was a republican prisoner in Crumlin Road Jail Belfast where he was serving a 8 year sentence tried to escape along with a fellow prisoner Danny Donnelly while Danny made it John fell back down into the yard.
Danny arrived at our home in Adela street off the Antrim Road which was close to the jail, As I answered the door to Danny and as it was my 12th birthday , the only other people in our home that night was my sister Rita and my mother and father.
As my mother and Rita got Danny to a safe house my father and I went up around the Jail and the Mater Hospital grounds looking for John we were not sure if John fell back into the jail or outside off it but to no avail he fell back .
As he held my hand that night I saw a father who cared for his son and republican ideals, he made sure we were all safe before the the RUC /B’Specials arrived at our house were he with my mother were put under house arrest for almost a week.
All through the late fifties and sixties he was the quite strength to all of us , but as the trouble off 1969 started even tho he was suffering from serious heart disease for a number of years he was still there making sure we looked after our neighbours and friends as he sent us to man the barricades
As all this trouble raged and his two oldest sons Billy and John where at the forefront in organising the defence of the nationalist areas from the loyalist, the RUC, and the B’Specials he was always there when we would come home the teapot was on he never went to bed until Oliver and myself came in from the barricades
In April 1970 my brother John was arrested in Dublin by the fianna fail party and Jack Lynch as he was organising arms from Europe a episode that was sanctioned by the Irish government and became known as the arms trial.
This was a very testing time for him as we as a family were now pointed out as leading republicans John went on trial in May of that year and he was found innocent , but we lost our wholesale green grocery business and all of us were in danger of being murdered at any time by loyalist gun men or the RUC/B’Specials
On the night of the 3rd of November 1970 Oliver was home before me he found daddy dead in the coal yard as he was filling the coal bucket.
Because of the Arms Trial in Dublin John who was a wanted man in the north and was to be charged with conspiring to over throw the state ( northern Ireland) he arrived to our home under cover of darkness escorted by his comrades
My father was one of the unknown victims of the troubles
May you rest in peace Father and thank you for looking after me for all these years always in my thoughts and prayers as I ask you for guidance and protection
Even thou his father who was a member if the Irish volunteers, he joined the Munster’s and followed Redmond on to the green fields off France where he died in 1916 he would never allow any poppies into our home as his father did not die for the British but a promise that by going to war he was promised home rule for the island off Ireland,
A PROMISE BROKEN BY THE BRITISH