Derrybeg : 5

On another occasion I came upon a group of British soldiers busy digging in my back garden. I identified myself and enquired of a sergeant whether they had received intelligence that something was buried there – arms and explosives or whatever.

He reported that aerial photographs had identified a suspicious mound of stones in the garden.


I hastily explained that they were paving stones that my wife intended to use to make a path to the clothes line!


Internment Day was most traumatic. There was a loud knocking at my front door at an unearthly hour. It wasn’t the police or Army but neighbours: I spoke to them from the bedroom window: I was told to bring my camera to the police station as a large number of men from the estate had been ‘lifted’. 


By the time I made a move, a Protest March had been assembled and proceeded through the Meadow at 5.30 am, rattling bin lids and calling out for volunteers to swell their ranks. 


After a short protest at the Corry Square Police Station, addressed by the then Chairman of Newry Urban Council, Dromalane man Pat McMahon, the March moved on heading for the UDR Centre on Downshire Road. 


At the barrier a line of mothers – wives and sisters of internees – harangued those few on duty. Eventually the protest moved on but their was no dispersal plan and some elements within the protest joined others intent on destruction, now conscious of the mere skeleton garrison left in the town after the earlier swoop, and determined to take advantage, they began to systematically smash and burn commercial premises on Hill Street and The Mall. 


By eight o’clock, when some few workers were plodding wearily into town to begin their day, there hung a huge pall of smoke over the town centre. 


Parking at Kildare Street I entered Hill Street and was amazed at the sight that met me. From the Town Hall to Margaret Square shops were ablaze. Even as fire-fighters tackled the blazes, more were begun around them. 


There was a young British soldier armed with a rifle standing alone and seemingly lost beneath the Golden Kettle. The rioters glanced in his direction before resuming their terrible work! He was alone. He did not intervene!


…. more later …

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