Of course being in prison was anything but a bed of roses!
There were very occasional ‘picture-shows’ but one’s absence from the cells would be taken advantage of by the screws.
One time on my return to my cell I sensed something was up – that perhaps they were lying in wait fore me. And so it proved to be.
I swiftly – as if in one movement – switched off the lights and for protection, grabbed my poe which was by the door.
I can tell you I got in a brave few wallops with it before the screws, whose only intent was to beat me up, could overpower me!
On ‘report’ the next morning I was charged with assaulting two prison warders and two prisoners.
Fortunately for me the Deputy Prison Governor was on duty that morning. Under interrogation I enquired as to where the alleged assault took place. The two screws said that it was ‘on the tier’. When I challenged this I was told to be quiet.
At that point Dickie Dawe spoke out and confirmed that it was in my cell. They were waiting there for me. The discrepancy of evidence was noted and taken into account.
On reflection the Deputy Governor was probably worried that there would be a riot in the prison. But as a side-effect I earned respect from an unusual quarter.
Silver McKee, a noted Loyalist hard-man was on the landing above. On that morning he leaned over the top banister and shouted down a warning that anyone who dared to touch the ‘Newry boy’ would answer to him!
I never actually got the chance to meet him but it was good to know that he was there in the background for me! This was the first across-the-divide cooperation I had known.
…….. more later ……..