But as the political situation in the North worsened after 1969 with the burning of Bombay Street and the arrival in our town of refugees from Belfast, estates in Newry – such as Derrybeg – began to feel vulnerable from possible attack, not just from the British Army and the RUC but from loyalists from Bessbrook, Kilkeel and other parts.
The Catholic Ex-Servicemen’s Association appeared and offered advice and support. Various Defence Associations appeared at the same time. Often barricades were erected at the entrances to our estate.
I recall at one well-attended public meeting at the Community Centre the late Joe Henry addressed the audience giving instructions on how to prime a bomb and to assemble a Bren sub-machine gun!
Another night, arriving home from the night-desk at The Irish News where I worked I discovered a hijacked lorry, now manned by masked men, blocking the entrance to the estate. I parked by car above in Hospital Road and walked across the Camlough Road into the estate. I was very conscious that hidden British soldiers were probably at that moment training their rifles on me from the top of the Egyptian Arch – and also that the estate’s residents were keeping an eye on everything.
On reaching the barrier, I offered a hearty ‘Good morning, gentlemen’ to the masked men and proceeded on my way to my home at Fifth Avenue, some 50 metres onwards.
… more later ….