ON THIS DATE (28TH FEBRUARY) 218 YEARS AGO : 'SHEEPSTEALERS' SON BUTCHERED BY THE BRITISH.
From farmstead and from fishers' cot, along the banks of Ban;
They come with vengeance in their eyes. Too late! Too late are they,
For young Roddy McCorley goes to die on the bridge of Toome today...' (From here.)
'Upon Friday last, a most awful procession took place here, namely the execution of Roger McCorley who was lately convicted at a court-martial, to the place of execution, Toome Bridge, the unfortunate man having been born in that neighbourhood. As a warning to others, it is proper to observe that the whole of his life was devoted to disorderly proceedings of every kind, for many years past, scarcely a Quarter-sessions occurred but what the name of Roger McCorley appeared in a variety of criminal cases. His body was given up to dissection* and afterwards buried under the gallows...thus of late we have got rid of six of those nefarious wretches who have kept this neighbourhood in the greatest misery for some time past...' - from the 'Belfast Newsletter' newspaper, 4th March 1800 (*..a 'politically correct' way of attempting to describe what had actually happened - Roddy McCorley's body was removed from the scaffold and, in front of the hundreds of on-lookers, was disembowelled. The various parts were swept up and disposed of in a hole under the scaffold, at the rise of the bridge, where those going from Antrim to Derry and back again would be forever minded that such was the fate of those "nefarious wretches" who dared stand up to Westminster. Those body parts lay there for fifty-two years). However, the British exposed their own 'nefariousness' by presenting McCorley as a common criminal, a 'felon', yet prosecuting him at a military court martial rather than through the 'assizes' criminal system, which was where those they considered to be 'common criminals' were given 'justice'.
Anyway - that same 'newspaper' ('The Belfast Newsletter') had, one month earlier, published a 'letter to the editor' (signed as being from 'A Christian') in which Roddy McCorley was mentioned as being one of "..a knot of ruffians, who so lately infested the neighbourhood of Ballymena..(guilty of)..murders of the deepest dye, robberies and burglaries of the most calamitous kind.." No change there, then, from those pro-British elements in this country - destroy the character first to make it easier to 'destroy' the person.
Roddy McCorley was an Irish republican activist who was active in 1798 (considered to be "a common rebel", not a leadership figure, and is known to have continued on the fight afterwards until he was captured), a part he would have played even if he had not witnessed his father being put to death by the British for allegedly stealing sheep - the man was one of many hungry Irish 'peasants' murdered by Westminster as an 'example to other Irish troublemakers' : this 'sheepstealer' was a miller by trade, and was proud of his membership of 'The Defenders' - after he was 'given justice' by the British, his wife (a Protestant woman, from the McErlean family) and children were evicted from their hovel.
Roddy McCorley was unfortunate enough to be 'arrested', as he attempted to flee the country, in what the 'authorities' called "a clampdown on a notorious band of outlaws" which, they claimed, was led by Thomas Archer, from Ballymena in Antrim, who had left the notorious 'Antrim Militia', a proper 'band of outlaws' which had been assembled by Westminster in 1793 to 'put down' any inkling of rebellion by the Irish or, as the British put it - "the horrible and unnatural rebellion" (!)
'The aged persons were telling the tales of bygone feuds and their consequences, and of chiefs who fell victims to their own folly. They were telling of the valiant youths hanged at Toome in those days, and pointed to the very trees on which they had atoned for their rebellious crimes. The young, with the interest peculiar to their years, were listening attentively, and gazed with awe as the stones were removed and the bones presented to view, of him who has been the subject of song, which has kept fresh in his country's memory the events of his short life and his sad end, having been cut down in maturity and vigour of life, before the eyes of those nearest related to him in this world...' And so it continues to this day - the lives and times of those who stood here before us being relayed to those who will stand here after us.
From 'The United Irishman' newspaper, October 1954.
THE SAME GOSPEL.
Today the aim of Sinn Féin is no more and no less than that. New difficulties and new pitfalls have arisen, but they are no more insurmountable than those which faced our fathers, when Sinn Féin was a new gospel looked upon with suspicion.
That gospel must be preached anew and with no less vigour, for the politics of latter years have induced what we might call a 'sophisticated' attitude in the minds of many people who confuse politics with nationalism and they can only be won over, if at all, by the utter sincerity and transparent honesty of those who teach the doctrine of Sinn Féin. (Next : 'NEED FOR PROPAGANDA' , from the same source.)
From 'The United Irishman' newspaper, February 1955.
Mr. J. E. Warnock, Northern Ireland's (sic) Attorney General, has said that he is not particularly anxious about the size and progress of the Irish Republican Army - for that I am sure we are glad. We would indeed be sorry to cause the gentleman any anxiety.
We would like him to know that, and also the people to whom he was speaking at the 'Northern Ireland (sic) Unionist Headquarters' but, since 'The United Irishman' newspaper is considered unwholesome reading for people of the Six Counties, they cannot know how we feel. (MORE LATER).
GROWING UP IN LONG KESH...
By Jim McCann (Jean's son). For Alex Crowe, RIP - "No Probablum". Glandore Publishing, 1999.
Two days after the match, Cage 13 officially requested to withdraw from the league! Their request was turned down. They would have to take their medicine. Some screws volunteered to join the 'Sewers Escape Search Team' rather than 'guard' us while we played football.
I was talking to a friend recently who told me that when they played these 'games' in the internee end of Long Kesh, they used to have ambulances at the ready. I suppose that I should make an attempt to say something about the football match, but it's a funny thing - if you ask anyone who played in those matches not one, including myself, can remember anything about the actual playing. No one remembers the scores of the matches but they have all got a story about the fighting. Alas, the football itself is a blur.
The closest I can get to reporting on the actual matches is the not so subtle practice of face collecting - that is not a new kind of tackle in GAA circles, but the likes of Bloggs, Honky, Big Juice and Snakehips Stone elevated it to a level that before then could only be dreamt about and spoken about in the abstract.
I remember a comrade called Lettuce Barnes who, for three days after one of those matches, still had Bloggs' fingerprints clearly visible all over his face. 'Face Collecting Should Only Be Used As A Last Resort' - Geneva Convention, General Council's Office Order 22/64836/73. But in Cage 11 it was used with a reckless abandon. Everyone was at it. As a tactic, we loved it.
The actual execution (for want of a better word) of 'Face Collecting' was that when a player from the opposite team got past you with the ball - or without it - you just stuck out your hand and grabbed him by the face and in one quick flick of the wrist tried to render him unconscious. The recorded cases of whiplash in Long Kesh rose some 356% within the first three months of the start of the inter-Cage matches... (MORE LATER).
Thanks for reading, Sharon.