Ardoyne: The Untold Truth - Testimonies
Both the parents of Sammy McLarnon came to Ardoyne in the 1930s and were amongst the first families moved into Glenard. They had six boys, of whom Sammy was the second youngest, born in 1942. Sammy did well at the Holy Cross school and when he left at 16, he got a job as an invoice clerk for a firm in St George’s fruit market. He worked ‘with bananas and stuff like that’. This earned him the nickname ‘Slippery Sam’. But, as his brother Patsy would say, Sammy ‘didn’t mind what you called him as long as you didn’t call him too early!’ The family was living in Herbert Street when Sammy met his future wife Ann, from nearby Kingston Street. In 1966 the two married and moved into their home in Herbert Street not long after. Ann worked in the mills whilst Sammy moved on to become a bus conductor. It was a job more suited to his sociable nature. Sammy was always a ‘jokey, happy-go-lucky bloke’. Working the buses afforded him ample opportunity to chat and ‘sleg’ with all the people from ‘old Ardoyne’ that he knew as his own. That was in 1968. By 1969 Sammy and Ann had two children, young Sam and Ann-Marie, with a third (Samantha) on the way. It was a young family looking toward the future at the outbreak of the conflict. On the night of 14/15 August Sammy McLarnon was shot dead in his own living room by the RUC. He was 27 years old and the first person from Ardoyne killed in the conflict.
Ann McLarnon (wife)
Sammy had been up the street helping to put out a fire at a house just before he was shot.The Protestants had come across the Cnimlin Road and attacked three Catholic houses. John’s shop was also ablaze. As the Catholics were defending the houses they came under attack. There was a number of shots fired from the Protestant side of the Crumlin Road.So everybody went back into their own homes and Sammy came into our house. At about 11 pm I heard shooting but I thought it was blanks. Sammy said to me, ‘We’ll take the kids over to my mammy’s’. I said, ‘But it could start in your mammy’s street tonight’. Sammy’s mammy lived in the top half of Herbert Street. Things started to get bad and we brought the kids (Ann-Marie and young Sammy) downstairs. But I thought it was getting too bad to take them out so I put them back up in their cots again. Then Sammy and me were standing at the right hand side of the window. I remember that there was an awful bright light. There must have been a light on down the street because we didn’t have a light on in the house. The TV was not on either. There was just this bright light coming from outside the house. We saw these two fellas kneeling down in the street. Then the RUC went over and talked to them. I thought at the time that it was our ones and the RUC was going to arrest them. But it wasn’t. The RUC said something to them and then the two fellas and the RUC went away. The ‘B’ specials, loyalists and the RUC were together at the Crumlin Road that night. Then I walked away to go into the working kitchen. I came back into the living room again and then the shots came through the window. There were three bullets, very close together. The RUC tried to say at the inquest that they were ricochets but they were head height. They were obviously intended to kill. He was shot through the window. He was pulling down the blind because he must have seen something. The glass actually hit me in the face. Then I ran back into the working kitchen again. When I came out Sammy was on the ground of the living room. I thought he had dived to the ground. But then I realised he had been shot and I just screamed, ‘My husband’s shot, my husband’s shot’. After that, all I can remember is someone saying turn on the light. Then a load of fellas came into the house. Up until the point that Sammy was killed the only shots that had been fired had come from the Protestant end of the road. There was only about five minutes between the time Sammy had been helping to put the fire out at the top of the street and his murder. Afterwards the RUC never came near the house. They were up the street in their armoured cars. At no stage did the RUC ever come to talk to me. They never asked me for a statement or anything. At no stage did the RUC admit what they had done. There was no apology or anything else. The only help I was given at the time was from the people of the district. Nobody from the state gave me any assistance or advice. I was four months pregnant at the time with Samantha. She was due in January. After Sammy’s death I ended up leaving the district and stayed with my sister before going to Gormanstown for a week.
Sam McLarnon (son)
I was the eldest child in our family. At the time of my father’s death Ann-Marie was a year and a half and Samantha was in my mother’s womb. I was just two and a half years of age. So I have no memory as such of what my father was like. But you tend to build up a picture of what he looked like and the sort of man he was from photographs and what people tell you. You try to fill that void yourself. Because of the picture you built up in your mind it is as if he was a person you had actually encountered. But the one thing I can see of him in my memory is one time when he carried me across the brickyard. But I am not sure that even that actually happened.
When I grew up I always felt guilty when I visited my father’s grave. That was because I felt that I did not know an awful lot about the circumstances of his death and had not done anything to help his memory. I felt that I had not done anything to try and get justice for my father. So I just blotted it out and tried to forget about it. But it just constantly came back to the fore. In the end there was a chain of accidental circumstances that made me think that I could do something to get some justice. I got involved with an organisation called the North Belfast Survivors of Trauma. Through that I began to talk to kids who had lost their parents through the conflict. We got on well because I had lost my father in similar circumstances. We seemed to know what we were going through together. They said that I was easy to talk to because they had suffered what I had suffered. We had the same thoughts, angers and fears. I found I was really good doing that. So things just got better and better in the place. We had an exhibition and a book which travelled the country. It was all about young people’s experiences of growing up in the conflict. The organisers asked me if I would like to contribute something and I did. But when it went to Cultra [Folk and Transport Museum] the RUC removed my piece in the exhibition. So I had written a piece that started off, ‘My father was shot dead in the house by the police when I was two and half years of age’. The RUC had it removed from the exhibition saying that no one had ever been murdered in the house by the police. My name was not even on the quote, so the RUC was denying that they ever murdered anyone in a house. The museum withdrew the piece at the request of the RUC. But when the museum checked the authenticity of the piece with the organisers they replaced it. It was at that point that I said to myself, apart from denying me my father, they would deny me the memory of my father as well. That is when I decided to go and ask people questions and find out more. I had always wanted to ask my family about my father and the circumstances and details of what happened. Then I plucked up the courage and went and did it. It was hard to talk about something that had never been discussed before.
Up until this point I knew that my father had been murdered by the RUC; I knew he had been murdered in his own home and that they had got away with it. I knew they lied in court. One of the RUC men took deliberate aim and shot him dead. That is in the Scarman Tribunal. But they put it down to a ricochet. The Scarman Tribunal established that my father was killed by a 15mm bullet fired out of a Sterling sub-machine gun. They also said that the RUC did kill my father. But they still recorded an open verdict. That was even though one of the RUC men told them that one of the RUC officers did take careful aim. So it was a calculated action. There was no gun battle that night in Ardoyne. There were only a couple of rusty guns and seven bullets in the district at the time. There were 12 men shot by the RUC that night and two were shot dead. All the men shot were Catholics from Ardoyne. There were no RUC injuries, no bullet marks or holes in their vehicles. There were no bullet holes at the positions where they were standing. This was all checked out by the Scarman Tribunal. These facts speak for themselves. The RUC have never admitted shooting my father. The head of the RUC in the district at the time was District Inspector Montgomery. He said the RUC never did anything like that. He said that my father was probably shot by the IRA. That was even though the bullets used were standard RUC bullets from standard RUC weapons at that time and that they were the only ones firing that night facing our house. A large number of people living in Herbert Street that night saw the RUC firing. All that and they still deny it. But although I was aware of all this I wasn’t angry when I used to see the RUC patrolling the streets of Ardoyne. I used to be afraid. They had put fear into me. Instead of feeling like throwing a petrol bomb at them I used to just get out of the road. I would never ever have stood at a window when there was trouble going on.
My quest now is to establish the truth behind what happened that particular night. The question that burns in my head now is what was different on the 14/15 August 1969 that the RUC went out and shot six Catholics dead? Before they had been content with beating people, harassing them, kicking their doors in and running them over in land rovers. Why all of a sudden did they start shooting? What order came from the barracks on 14 August? Were they told to keep down a republican uprising? Did some sort of directive go out? Were they told to quell this ‘civil rights shit’ once and for all? Were they told to use whatever force was necessary and not to worry about being made accountable for their actions? I just want it to be publicly known that the British government have sanctioned massive human rights abuses in this country. I want them to admit it. I don’t want to hear it from Ronnie Flanagan. If he said anything it would just be part of a PR exercise. I want to hear it from the British government in the British parliament or in Europe. I want to hear them admit that they have committed serious human rights violations in the past and that they apologise for them. As for people who actively took part in any way in the murder of my father and the other actions against the people in Ardoyne that night, they should play no part in any new policing service. Neither my son nor my grandchildren will ever be putting on any police uniform until the hurt and the damage that they have caused to our community has been acknowledged. When I started to ask questions about my father’s death my mother didn’t really want me to dig things up again. She said, ‘Sammy, just leave it’. It probably would be easier to leave it. But it wasn’t easy for me to leave it. I have waited 30 years for this moment and I am not going to wait another 30 years. What is the alternative? Do we just let things go so that any new police service can do exactly the same as the last one? Sometimes you just have to stand up and say that these things must not be allowed to happen again.
A large part of my mother died the day my father was killed. As we were children growing up she didn’t like us to be out playing any time there was trouble or shooting. That was a regular occurrence in Ardoyne. Even when we were well away from any type of trouble she would still come out and drag us off the streets. She would always imagine the worst possible scenario. That took a toll on her nerves. She had to have a lot of treatment to shut out the memory of what happened that night. In a way I am hoping that maybe what we have been doing might bring a bit of closure. I don’t mean that she will forget about my father. My mother will never forget my father, but that she will be able to forget about the circumstances of his death. Sometimes I imagine what it was like when my father was killed but my mother was there. She saw him lying on the floor. She heard the shooting and saw the bullet holes in the windows. She saw us crying, ran into the street and screamed for help. People shouldn’t see those things. No one should see that.
‘We will pray for the people who took her life’.
Margaret McCorry’s father William and mother Catherine Nalty grew up in Chatham Street, Ardoyne. William’s aunt, Cassie Myles, reared him. As teenagers, Catherine and William started courting and were married in Holy Cross chapel on 24 June 1945. They eventually had eight children: Francis, Fidelma, Danny, Margaret. Catherine, Anne, Damien and Laurence. Margaret was born on 23 October 1951. She attended Holy Cross Girls school and later progressed to Oranges Academy. She was a diligent student and left school with a number of qualifications. She worked as secretary in Brookfield Mill and as clerk in the Mater Hospital. While on a visit to Kerry, the year before she was killed, Margaret met her future fiancée, an American, Michael McCarthy. The couple started dating and made plans to marry the coming year. On 20 December 1971 the IRA accidentally killed Margaret when they opened fire on a British army convoy on the Crumlin Road. Margaret was 20 years old at the time of her death.
Frank/Catherine/Ann (sisters and brother)
Margaret’s school friend was Cathy McCallum. They were both very close. Cathy lived in old Oakfield Street, just a street away from where we lived in Fairfield Street Margaret was a very timid person, very quiet, but there were times when she was out going. She loved dressing up when we were younger and she had a lovely singing voice. We were all members of the Holy Cross choir and we were in a number of musicals organised by St Gabriel’s youth club. Catherine and Margaret occasionally went to the Ulster Hall to hear bands like The Dubliners.
Margaret went to Kerry with my aunt Clarice. She stayed there for about three months and that’s where she met Michael McCarthy, the fella she was engaged to. She was coming home to plan the wedding and to tell my parents. She wrote a letter to me beforehand and she asked me not to tell anyone until she came home. Michael had gone back to America and she was planning to follow. When she applied with her Irish passport, they wouldn’t accept it. That’s what happened; it just didn’t work out. That’s why she was applying for a job in Queen’s University. She went for the interview that Monday morning in University Street. The professor that interviewed her actually came over after he heard about her death because he just couldn’t believe it. He came over and spoke to my mum and dad. He said what a lovely girl she was and that he could'nt believe it. She had actually got the job.
Anne: The day that Margaret died was the 20th of December. It was quite a dark afternoon and I can remember Margaret and I walked up Butler Street together. That was our natural route. We met my aunt Francis at the top of the street and funny enough, I can remember her saying ‘Be careful’ and that’s all I can remember. Margaret was going to visit my aunt Bridget who lived in Mountainview to tell her about the wedding arrangements. She walked up to the front of the Crumlin Road and I crossed over to the Ardoyne Hall to go to my dancing class. That was the last I saw her. I think we just said, ‘I’ll see you later’. The next thing I knew I was up on the stage dancing and shooting started. A little later I can remember my cousin coming up to the hall and I knew there was something wrong. I ran out of the hall and across the road. I remember seeing blood. I just ran down into Butler Street and I remember Fr. Fernando grabbing me as I went into the house. My mummy was sitting on the settee. I just fell at her knees and that was it. That’s what I can remember of that day.
Catherine: I remember the day Margaret died; I worked in Holy Cross monastery and heard shooting. Fr. Augustin came in and he said ‘There has been shooting on the front of the road, stay in’. I don’t know what made me feel I had to go out but I went to the gate of Holy Cross church. I heard somebody shouting, ‘Somebody has been shot’. I looked over towards the bus stop and then I ran over. I did first aid so I thought at least I’d be able to help somebody or do something maybe. But then I realised it was Margaret; I recognised her scarf and her coat and she wasn’t moving. I remember saying, ‘She’ll be alright, I hope she will be alright’. Then I was taken away and all of a sudden there were a lot of priests on the scene. I was brought back in to the monastery and then I had to go home. I couldn’t stay, I had to get home. I went home and my mummy and the rest of the family were there just sitting.
Frank: I heard of Margaret’s death very late on. I was on the buses at that particular time. I remember one of my last journeys, I was sitting in Castle Street. I don’t know what happened but at 4.55 pm I wanted to go up to Ardoyne. Naturally people were trying to talk me out of it and I said, ‘Look something has happened’. But nobody could find out what had happened. As the night went on, I had to go to different meetings and different things happened and nobody knew anything. My three uncles informed me at about half past ten that night. That’s the only recollection I have. I had a feeling that something had happened to her or something had happened to someone in my family.
Margaret was killed in crossfire. There had been shots fired from a house at a passing British army convoy. How they were going to hit anybody was beyond me because the pillar was right in front of the window. My sister just happened to be on the wrong side of the pillar and that’s what happened. We were told by my father that there was an apology sent to the family. My mother and father did not broadcast anything; they were very private. My father didn’t mention any organisation. They should have given a written apology; that was the policy of the day and we never got one. I don’t think if we got one now it would heal anything.
Frank/Catherine/Ann: The men that were in Long Kesh at the time sent us a cross and lovely handkerchiefs; they were fellas that knew Margaret. There were a lot of people that knew the family and they were stunned. I think the district was stunned, to be quite honest. It wasn’t because of the way that it happened; it wouldn’t have mattered who pulled the trigger in my opinion. But there were a lot of twists and a lot of things that had been said in Ardoyne afterwards. I remember Fr. Fernando saying, ‘These people don’t matter because they don’t know the family; they don’t know the roots that you come from so ignore them’. But sometimes it was hurtful because things were said that should never have been said. People were under the impression that the funeral was paid for by certain people and that did not happen. Things like that are hurtful to the family because my parents had never taken any money off anybody. The money that my parents got from the government was actually given over to my two younger brothers because it was classed as blood money.
My mum asked us all to forgive them because she forgave them, no matter who it was. It wouldn’t have mattered who it was. That’s what they couldn’t understand about my mother and father: how could they forgive? They were brought up that way. It wouldn’t have mattered who it was because it wouldn’t have brought her back. I’m sure a lot of people think that way too about the deaths of their sons and daughters. It wasn’t easy; it was my sister and it’s an awful thing; it’s the worst thing that can happen to you. My mum told the newspapers, it was the Irish News, or the Daily Mirror, ‘I’ll pray for the people who killed my daughter. But I blame the people in Stormont who put the boys and the men onto the streets to defend the areas. They are the people that caused this. I am not the first mother nor will I be the last mother to lose a child’. The newspapers never printed a word of it. I’m very proud of my mother and father, great people and that’s what really hurt because they were.
We were just devastated by Margaret’s death, devastated, totally shocked, very hurt. It wasn’t just a sister, it was the family circle shattered. Our family shattered after that; my mummy died four years afterwards, well before her time. Then my aunt Eileen, my father’s sister was killed by a British saracen tank on Black’s Road three months after mummy died. So within four years we lost Margaret, mummy and my aunt Eileen. The only thing, I think, that kept mum and dad going was their faith. Our own children keep asking about their aunt Margaret, so there’s always a constant reminder and having to explain what happened and the importance of the family staying together. The family circle is very, very important.
There was an inquest into the killing; my daddy went down but I don’t know who went with him; I think it was my uncle Joe. I didn’t go down, I couldn’t. We didn’t ask what the outcome of the inquest was. Those were questions you just didn’t ask. Everybody just clammed up. My mother would never have uttered she wanted justice for what happened to Margaret. To me she would have said, and rightly so, that we’ll pray to Margaret to help us and we’ll just pray for the people who had taken her life. That to me is what we always did in our own different ways. Because we respected mum and dad, to us there was no other way because she was killed by mistake and it was accidental. Margaret was only 20 years old when she died.
I have fond memories of her; all I can say is we loved her. When we were children we used to go to all the weddings on a Saturday to collect the confetti. Then we always took turns at being the bride and we would have thrown the confetti over each other. The main thing was we were all together as a family growing up and we were very close. We mightn’t have had an awful lot but we had a happy family; we had everything. We are not materialistic; we lived in number one Fairfield Street and we just had what we had. It was a happy family. I can look back on my childhood and say, ‘Yes, we enjoyed it’. To me Margaret was always jolly. She had a favourite song and sometimes I get a wee bit emotional when I hear it. She sang it in the GAA club that Sunday night before she died. It was ‘Four Green Fields’. Margaret went down to the GAA with a couple of others that Sunday night and thank God they did because when you look back on it, she left us with a smile and that was great.
Paul Di Lucia (eyewitness)
I knew Margaret to see but not personally. I knew the whole family; they are a fairly well-known family. They lived in the corner house in Fairfield Street. I can remember that day she was killed. It was a weekday and it was near Christmas. Myself and a couple of mates, including Sean McKee [killed by the British army in Fairfield Street, 18 May 1973] were going round to the League to have a game of snooker. We walked round past where the ex-prisoner's centre is today, at the top of Brompton Park; it was after 4.30 pm. It was dark because the lighting in the street then wouldn't have been great. As we got outside where the ex-prisoner's center is now we heard a number of shots. It was a burst of gunfire and we stopped. We saw a British army lorry going up past the top of Brompton Park (up the Crumlin Road heading towards the Ligoneil direction) just before the shooting. The shooting stopped and cars started coming up the road. So we thought maybe it was safe to go on. We walked on and we came round the top of the Crumlin Road. I think there were two people at the bus stop. We saw someone lying on the ground. When we got up we realised it was a girl and I recognised her right away as one of the McCorrys. I didn’t know if it was Margaret. There weren’t many people about, maybe one or two when we got there. We were one of the first people on the scene.
At the time I was 14 years old and big Sean McKee was just going on 16 years old; we didn’t know what to do; shooting was all new to us then. I remember she had a wee mark on her forehead and there was no movement from her. It didn’t look to us as if she was dead. But obviously she was; she was unconscious. At that, people started to come on the scene and the priest came from the chapel and sort of took over things. One of the priests said an ambulance was on its way. But there was no sign of the British army or RUC at the scene. The ambulance came and we left. We still weren’t aware that she was dead because it didn’t look serious at the time and then we heard on the news there had been a girl shot dead. We didn’t go round to the family. We wouldn’t have known what way to approach things or what to say; we were very young.
It was devastating to see a young girl lying shot on the ground. I would say she was only about 18 or 19 years old at the time. It was as if she was waiting on a bus, or else she was walking down the road. It was right at the bus stop she fell. There was a burst of gunfire and obviously she was hit. It looked to me like the British army patrol had been attacked, and it looked very like she was in the line of fire. I’m not sure if there was any return fire. But the shooting happened that quick, we stopped and life seemed to start going again; cars started moving and so we just went on round the corner and there was Margaret lying on the ground.
The Glennon family were originally Markets people; most of them were traders and dealers. David Glennon was born on 7 April 1922 in Riley Street. The family had a long tradition of basket-making which David took on after leaving school. He had three brothers and four sisters: Paddy, Barney, Jimmy, Alice, Lily. Mary and Ann. The family moved to Ardoyne and that’s where David was reared. He married Maureen Quinn from Stratford Gardens in Holy Cross chapel. They lived in a room in 39 Stratford Gardens and eventually had six children: Davy, Theresa, Francie, Martin, Maureen and Geraldine. In 1968 the family moved to 36 Divismore Crescent, Ballymurphy.
In 1973 David Glennon was abducted and killed by loyalists in a brutal sectarian attack. His mutilated body was found in the boot of a car, hooded, with his feet bound and shot in the head. Although no one has ever claimed responsibility, the killing is attributed to the Shankill Butchers.
Francie Glennon (son)
My father’s mother and father came from Eskdale Gardens in Ardoyne. In 1968 he and his sister, my aunt Alice, moved from Ardoyne to Ballymurphy because there was a new estate built there. My daddy still frequented Ardoyne regularly and knocked about with my uncle Barney, Dan McGaughey and Neilly Shevlin from Holmdene. He drank in the old Shamrock club, which was then at the bottom of Jamaica Street. My daddy was a very quiet man, but he was also a very strict man. He used to tell us that he was in the old IRA, and one day he said, ‘Son, don’t you be turning to those Provos. There is only one IRA and that is the Official IRA’. He told me about doing time in the Curragh; he was interned, and I think he got sentenced during the 1956 - 62 campaign. My daddy was an old republican; he still had his connections. One day, after he had moved to Ballymurphy, he saw a wee man getting beaten by the paras and he ran out of the house and got into them. He had mates from the Murf, like Billy Weir, Mr Black, Frankie Donnan, Tommy Reid and Billy McElwaine. They all came out and backed him up and they all ended up getting into the paras in a big field on the front of the road. My daddy read books on republicanism and he was aware of civil rights issues and discussed politics. He tried to teach us what to do and what not to do, but I never listened to him. I just went and did my own thing. If I had listened to my daddy I think I would have been more aware of the conflict. He taught me one thing for sure: you keep your mouth shut when you get into the barracks and say nothing. My daddy was on the committee of the Ballymurphy Defence Association in the early stages of the conflict.
The day my daddy was murdered I was hiding in a house; I had done an armed robbery of an old bakery to get a few quid and I got away with it. I was hiding in my daddy’s mate’s house when my mummy came up and said that my daddy had not come home. I told her not to be worrying about him as I thought he was probably somewhere in Ardoyne. She told me that a body had been found on the Oldpark Road. She had big bags of washing; she was going to the laundrette. We helped her with the bags and went back down to my mate’s house. The next minute she came running down, squealing, ‘It’s him, it’s him’. She said they described his shoes; ‘His shoes have a wee buckle on the slip’. We went into the house and her neighbour Bella McElwaine came over and sat with her. Eventually, the cops came and took her to identify the body. I was waiting for a couple of hours looking out the window and I saw the saracen coming down the street. It pulled up at our door and the door flew open; I thought it was a raid coming up. I saw Bella McElwaine come up the path first, and then I saw my mummy stumble out, crying. I ran down the stairs to my mummy and a British soldier grabbed me and said, ‘Francie Glennon, you are under arrest’. I whacked him, but the major came over and said, ‘Come here, son, it wasn’t us who killed your father. We are going to have to arrest you’. I got charged with robbery of the bakery, which had happened a few weeks earlier. I eventually got bail because my daddy had been killed.
The day he was murdered he was in McGlade’s Bar with what he had left from his bru. He had a couple of pints with his mates. People say he left and went to see his sister Alice between 6.00 pm and 7.30 pm in the evening. He was picked up in the vicinity of the Oldpark area. My daddy was found on Summer Street in the boot of a car. I don’t know how long they had him before they killed him. The cops said he had been tortured and that he must have put up one hell of a fight; he didn’t go down easy. They tied his feet his neck, his hands and his testicles with barbed wire, and they shot him three times. They killed my daddy because he was a Catholic. It was Bella McElwaine who identified his body; my mother was too distressed. Bella was a tower of strength and a great help to my mother. What happened was a fella and a girl were walking down Summer Street to work and they saw blood running down the street; they noticed it was coming from the boot of a car. The Brits were sent for and they thought it was booby-trapped so they blew the car boot open and dragged my father’s body out with a rope. No one ever claimed responsibility for his killing because of the way he was tortured and the way his privates were tied with wire; it was widely associated with the Shankill Butchers. My daddy’s cousins are the McCartans from the Markets and between the McCartans and the Glennons there have been 17 people killed as a direct result of the conflict.
Davey Glennon (son)
We lived in one room in a house in Stratford Gardens. I can remember the room; in it were beds, wardrobes and clothes everywhere. When I was a kid growing up, I used to try and pick a friend who had a TV and when there was a programme I wanted to watch we just headed up to whoever’s house had the TV. My mummy and daddy then decided to move to Ballymurphy; it was a breath of fresh air for nationalists because it was an estate where they had their own house and a garden. I think if the house had been in Timbuktu they would have gone because you just can’t rear a family in one room. My parents had six children. The house in Ballymurphy was like a mansion after living in Ardoyne in one wee room.
When I was 14 I ran away to London. I fell in with a couple of other Irish people. It was coming to the end of the ‘flower power’, the dope, the long hair and all. We lived in a squat; it was a real ‘chill den’. Eventually, at the end of all of this, I finished up in jail. The only contact I had with home was when I sent a postcard after a couple of years saying that I was okay. I think I was actually away so long I was terrified of going home. I wish now, when I look back, that someone had caught me and brought me home. A week went into two months and it got really hard to go back and then it went into a year and it just kept getting harder and harder. Deep inside I wanted to go home, I wanted to be back with my family, but I was afraid. I was about 14 or 15 years old, so the years just went on and I didn’t go home. When I came home I asked if anyone remembered ever getting a card but nobody could ever remember a card landing in the house.
I finished up in prison doing a six months sentence for stealing a car and driving without insurance. I was actually a wee lad in a man’s gaol. The gaol was for over-18s, but I wasn’t even 18 at the time. One day a fella from Ballymurphy came in and he said to me, ‘That was terrible about your daddy. I am sorry to hear about him’. I asked him, ‘What do you mean? What about my daddy?’ He said to me, ‘Your da was murdered; the loyalists killed him’. When I think back I remember that I walked away from him, and I don’t think it sunk in at the time. It didn’t register. I was sort of in a trance about it. Two days later, just by the biggest of coincidence, I was reading the Sunday paper in my cell and one of the stories was, ‘Heartbroken grandmother dies’. The story was about Mrs McCartan, old granny McCartan, who died from a broken heart after seeing so many of her family murdered. It listed all her family who were murdered and one of her family members was my father, David Glennon. I think this happened roughly a year after my father died. That is when it hit me. I can always remember that it was as if the curtains had been pulled back and everything was out in the open and I realised that he was dead.
I was emotionally devastated and was crying in my cell. I hadn’t seen my father since I had run away; I didn’t have the time to tell him anything and I was full of guilt. I went to the doctor the next day. He was standing with an M.O at each side of him and he didn’t even look at me; he was just writing something and he said, ‘What do you want?’ or ‘What is wrong with you?’ I said that I had received a bit of bad news and that I was having trouble sleeping and asked could he give me something to help me sleep. He said, ‘Well, what bad news did you get?’ and I said to him, ‘My father died’ but I never told him in what circumstances. He just looked at me and put his head down again and said, ‘Sure, they have all to die sometime’. I just flipped; I must have been emotionally stressed out. I can remember landing on him over the table and punching him and the M.O.s pulling me off. I remember getting dragged out of the office and I was taken to the hospital cells where you get fed through a trap door and there were grills on the door. I was in there for about seven days and they were giving me a heavy sedative. I was roaming about the cell doped up. I remember getting in touch with a priest and I told him who I was and what age I was and I explained to him that I had found out that my father had been murdered back home in Ireland. The priest then got in touch with a priest back home and they got in touch with my mother. My mother and younger sister, Maureen, came over to visit me; I was just out of the hospital. This was the first time I had seen my mother since I had run away from home. I can remember going into the visiting area and seeing my mummy and my sister and my mummy was crying. I just went over and hugged her and that was us back in contact again as a family.
My daddy always went to Ardoyne because his family was there, his brothers and sisters. He always brought us to visit them. From the time my daddy was killed our family was never really the same; my mummy went heavy on the drink and she changed drastically. The day my daddy was murdered he was in town like any ordinary person and wherever he was, he didn’t do anybody any harm. He was an innocent victim. The people who killed him didn’t care how innocent he was because the belief among those people is, if you are a Catholic you are not innocent. There was a photograph of my father published in the paper; it was of the car he was dumped in and it showed his bound body and all... That photograph brought much heartache to my mother because in the aftermath of my father’s death, she had all of the newspaper cuttings of all the different angles of the scene of the crime and newspaper cuttings of the stories about it. Every now and again she took them out until she drove herself absolutely mental. She turned into a very heavy drinker and those photographs didn’t help. Not only did his death affect everybody in the family but the photographs of his death haunted the family for years after it. Those photos only got destroyed when my family decided enough was enough and they took the photos from my mother and burnt them.
Later, when I was in gaol doing time for political activity, I did a bit of self-education. The situation here put me in mind of countries likes El Salvador where the regime there was involved in just lifting people of the streets and killing them. The situation in El Salvador is similar to here in that it was done to terrorise people. In the north it was kill Catholics and hopefully it will instil so much terror into us as nationalists that we wouldn’t either fight the regime that was in Ireland, or the IRA would collapse round it. They had this thing in their head that, if we kill Catholics we will defeat the IRA and that was utter madness. For years I was just an ordinary Catholic, just a nationalist youth or boy; I never had any concept of politics in Ireland. When I was in gaol, I realised how little I knew and how little time I actually spent thinking about things. I can look at things now with a clear head, and I can say loyalism, by its very nature, is always going to turn on the innocent Catholic. It is because they are the easiest targets. It is a warped sense of politics and strategy, but it still hasn’t changed from the seventies until now; they still have that same mentality. There have been hundreds of pipe bombs thrown into Catholic homes within the last two years and the thinking behind the pipe bombs is no different from the thinking behind the sectarian murders of the seventies.
My father was just a hard-working, honest man who genuinely liked people. The thing that I always remember and the thing that I will always hold dear to me is that he was genuinely liked and that he was a likeable character. Anytime I talk to anybody about him, they all have had a good word to say about him, though very few people speak ill of the dead. But there is genuineness among people when they say that he was a nice fella. I have met thousands and thousands of people and there are very few who have the quality of being liked by most people or near enough everybody. My father’s death was a terrible loss for all of our family.
Anthony was born to Con McDowell and Marie (née Allen) on the 13th June 1960. He was the eldest in a family of four but since his death the family has extended to four sisters Annemarie, Samantha, Hannah and Sarah - and six brothers Con, Gabriel, Alan, Michael, Mark and Robert. His grandparents Sadie and Bobby McDowell reared him at their home Duneden Park. Like most boys in the area he went to Holy Boys School and did all the normal things young lads do. He was a good child and never caused any trouble for the family. He was a cadet in the Knights of Malta and played in his school football team. On 19 April 1973 as he and his uncle Michael drove back into Ardoyne after spending a weekend in Craigavon, the British army shot and fatally wounded Tony. He was only twelve years old when he died.
Patsy McArdle (friend and neighbour)
I knew Tony McDowell well because he lived next door to me with his grandparents. I never had any children of my own so Tony would come to my house regularly and do messages for me. His mother and father are Marie and Con McDowell; his grandparents were Sadie and Bobby McDowell who reared him. He had just joined the Knights of Malta a few weeks before he was killed. He was a wee boy who kept very much to himself. To be honest, he was always afraid of the British army. He was afraid to be anywhere near where they were. I don’t know why; I only know if there was a foot patrol he would run to get out of the way. I was in the Knights of Malta; that was reason enough for Tony to join as he went everywhere with me.
The night Tony was shot dead I was actually looking for him at about 6.30 pm to go to Davidson’s shop for me. His granda came to my door to tell me he was away for the weekend to Craigavon with his uncle Michael. The next thing, the soldiers came running down our street and I went out to see what was going on. Someone shouted. ‘There’s a child shot’. I grabbed my first-aid bag and when I was running down the street, somebody said to me, ‘It’s Tony McDowell. That was as good as telling me it was my own son. I ran round the corner; the place was thronged with people. I just kept shouting, ‘Where is he?’ A car stopped and I remember well, it was Paul Shevlin. He got out of the car. He said to me, ‘Patsy, if you are looking for young McDowell, he’s dead’. I said, ‘Where is he?’ and he said, ‘Round in Stratford Gardens’. Well, with that all hell broke loose and I never got anywhere near the child. But I do know that two of my first-aid workers went to him, Kay and Frankie Boyle.
Later I spoke to his uncle Michael; apparently what happened was they were driving down Alliance Avenue and instead of the British army stopping them and telling them there was shooting ahead, they were allowed to go on. As they got to between Jamaica Street and Etna Drive Tony said to Michael, ‘I’ve been hit’ and Michael said to him, ‘Stop acting the eejit’; but he looked at Tony and saw the blood draining from him. He drove into Etna Drive and up Stratford Gardens; he jumped out of the car and ran round to the passenger door. There was a bullet hole in it and he then realised Tony had been shot. He opened the door to lift him and the only words Tony spoke were, ‘Where’s my mammy and where’s Patsy?’
Later on that night, I know the British army came in full force to his grandmother’s house, next door. They arrested Pascal O’Hare, the solicitor. They opened fire with rubber bullets and shot Tony’s uncle Joe on the wrist. His watch was nearly burnt into his arm. I think Joe and Michael were arrested that night too. There was hand-to-hand fighting with soldiers in the street. I was literally fighting myself. As I said before, it might as well have been my own child that was killed. Everybody was so angry because the talk was the British army were saying, ‘We got the wee one anyway’. Knowing Tony the way I did, like a son, there is no way he would ever be involved in anything, no way. As far as I can remember, they were trying to imply that the shooting was coming from the car, but believe me it wasn’t. As far as I remember, there was shooting that day. The British army should have stopped cars driving into the area, but they allowed Michael to drive into an ambush or crossfire.
I don’t know whether the British army ever admitted shooting Tony; I don’t honestly think they did. When Tony’s granny was told she passed out. Marie, Tony’s mother, came in to my house. As quick as my house filled it just as quickly emptied, leaving Marie, Rose Craig and myself. Rose asked should she make tea and I said, ‘Yes’. As Rose was making the tea Marie asked me who was shot. It suddenly hit me, ‘She doesn’t know’. I got up and put my arms around her and said, ‘Marie, do you not know? It’s your Tony’. She started crying. I think Fr. Fernando then came in and tried to console her.
I remember quite vividly things about Tony because he was like my child too. He lived next door and came in and out of my house. His granny and granda never got over it.
Joe McDowell (uncle)
Tony lived with his grandparents Sarah and Bobby McDowell. He was always a good child and never caused any trouble for the family. He was a cadet in the Knights of Malta along with one of his grandparents’ neighbours, Patsy McArdle. He always said Patsy could make him better if he ever hurt himself. His Knights of Malta meetings were held weekly in Ardoyne Hall and Patsy and Tony would be seen going up the street each week to attend their meeting. Patsy’s knowledge of first-aid throughout the early years of the troubles was of tremendous help to the people of Ardoyne and they always encouraged all age groups to join the Knights of Malta.
On 19 April 1973, Holy Thursday, Tony had been visiting his uncle Michael. His uncle Michael had been forced out of Rosapenna Street and had moved down to Craigavon. Earlier that day there had been some shooting in Ardoyne. Michael drove Tony home; they drove into Etna Drive from Alliance Avenue and were turning up to go into Stratford Gardens. There was a British army patrol at the top of Jamaica Street. The Brits opened up and a bullet went through the passenger door and hit Tony in the back. Michael stopped the car outside Sean McFarland’s house and got out. A few people had run to the car and someone sent for an ambulance. Tony kept asking Michael to get his mammy and Patsy. Michael left to get his parents but he only got a short distance to Estonl Park when the Brits (paras) pulled him into a side garden and started to beat him. At this point the ambulance had taken Tony to hospital. The Brits let Michael go. He ran towards the family home and met his sister-in-law Joanie and told her what had happened. They went to get the rest of the family. Tony’s uncle Tommy and Michael got into the car to follow Tony to hospital. They got as far as Flax Street and they were stopped outside the Brit post. They were arrested and taken to Tennent Street. Even though the Brits knew they were heading to hospital they were held for a few hours. During this time word had filtered around Ardoyne about Tony and fierce rioting had broken out. Michael and Tommy were released and went straight to hospital. Tony was already dead when they arrived.
Throughout the night rioting continued and at one point the Brits tried to enter the wake house, claiming the IRA had been seen entering it. Scuffles broke out as the family refused to allow them in. Tony’s uncle Joe was shot with a rubber bullet; his aunt Joanie was threatened that she would also be shot. Tony’s body was brought home on Good Friday and his funeral took place on Easter Monday. A close family friend, Elizabeth Williams, was being married on the same day; she was totally devastated as Tony’s coffin passed her home. She was preparing to get ready to be married and guests of the wedding were attending the funeral. It took a lot of persuasion from Tony’s family and her own not to call off her wedding.
Hundreds attended Tony’s funeral. He had the Knights of Malta flag and his cadet beret on his coffin. All his school friends and practically the entire community of Ardoyne walked behind his coffin. The IRA met Tony’s family and gave their condolences to them. No one was ever charged with Tony’s murder. His family were granted £700 compensation, which they immediately refused. The British army insisted it was an IRA bullet that killed Tony but Michael and Tony’s family know the bullet was fired from the British army post at the top of Jamaica Street.
Michael McDowell (uncle)
Tony was a gem. He was just a kid that was so, so, innocent. He never got into mischief. He got a Grifter bike from my mummy and I think that was his life. He just loved that bike. He was totally unreliable; anything you sent him for it took him an hour doing it. Patsy and Paddy McArdle just loved him. I think everybody loved Tony. We were living in Craigavon at the time and Tony had been down with us. On the way home I left my wife off at her mother’s in Gracehill Street and went on down to leave Tony over to my mother’s. On the way across there was shooting. We came down Deerpark Road. The British army said they stopped me. But they definitely didn’t stop me; they definitely didn’t, no way. If they had stopped me, I wouldn’t have gone any further: but they didn’t stop me. I drove on down and as we got to Jamaica Street to turn down Etna Drive, bullets were fired from my right, from an old billet where the soldiers were billeted. I wanted to get into Ardoyne very quickly. So I just turned the corner and that’s when Tony was hit, on the corner turning into Etna Drive, just on the bend. He started to cry beside me and I just turned in and went up Stratford Gardens. He didn’t even jump; he sort of looked round at me and he said to me, ‘Uncle Michael, I’m hit, I’m hit’ and I said, ‘Don’t be silly, son’ and then he said. ‘No, no, get my mummy, get my mummy’. That was all he said. Then I turned into the street and I got out of my side of the car and whenever I put my hand round his back, I felt the blood and I shouted. People came out and sat with Tony. I never ever got their names. I ran to get my mother because I thought he was just wounded. But apparently he died after I left him.
The paras were at Estoril and they pulled me over the first wall. I kept telling them that a child had been shot and I wanted to get my mother for him. They were questioning me. But the women came out and in the commotion I got up and ran off again to get my mother, to bring her round, because he just adored my mother. Whenever I got up to the house I told my brother Tommy and he said, ‘Don’t be telling mummy; I’ll go round and see’. But by the time he got round apparently Tony was already in an ambulance and on his way to hospital. He brought the car back round to my mummy’s and me and him and somebody else got into the car. We only got as far as Flax Street, coming down the Crumlin Road and we were stopped by the paras because they saw the blood on the seat of the car and they took us out and put us against the wall. They arrested us and then took us to Tennent Street for questioning. One of the things I always remember in Tennent Street was they said, they shot the wee bastard who was shooting out of the car and now they had got the other fucker, meaning me. We were separated then; I was questioned in one place and Tommy was questioned in another. I just gave the statement as it is. The next thing the three of us were taken in a car, hours later and thrown back into Ardoyne. We walked down to the house and that’s when we found out Tony was dead and he was in the morgue. Tommy my brother went and identified his body and I’m not sure whether Con went or not.
There was an inquest and we all went. But at the inquest they said they stopped us and it was death by misadventure because the uncle drove on. Who drives on past the paras, let’s face it? As I said, if they had stopped us, I would have stopped. I have a book somewhere in the roof space, Contact you call it; it’s written by a para, a colonel. I actually have the words underlined, it mentions Tony being shot and he says something like the silly little bastard was in the wrong place at the wrong time. He was put out of the paras for writing the book but he was actually in command of the post at the time Tony was killed.
Tony was just an innocent wee child; he was no more. But as I said, they kept on saying that they knew there was gunfire coming from the car, which is a load of rubbish. Because whenever they did the forensics, there was nothing ever found in the car. There was never anything found on Tony and there was nothing found on me. But at the end they still said that it was death by misadventure. They said there was an IRA man at the bottom of Jamaica Street. They said that he could have fired the shot and he was using the same type of weapon as the British army, an SLR. This was said at the inquest. This was their explanation and washing their hands of it. I would love to see justice done. I don’t accept the verdict of the inquest. I never did accept it. I categorically stated that I was never stopped, never, ever stopped.
He was a fantastic kid. He was just like any other kid; he hated going to school. The Knights of Malta did a wee guard of honour at the funeral. I never saw as many children crying in my life; it was sad, truthfully. All the kids from the district were there. I think every one of us kept something belonging to him; we have a wee coat of his, wee odds and ends and his wee purple shirt and his jeans. We were all like brothers. We all still think of him as a brother rather than a nephew; he is a brother to me.
Paddy McKenna was 43 years of age when he was shot dead by loyalists in front of undercover British army soldiers on the Crumlin Road in 1989. Paddy was the son of Catherine and Joseph McKenna. He had five sisters and one brother. The family origina1ly lived in Carolina Street in Sailortown before moving to Cranbrook Gardens in the 1950s. An exceptional goalkeeper, Paddy played for a host of local teams in the area, as well as winning trophies with other Belfast clubs. In the years before he died, Paddy was living in the family home with his mother Catherine and cousin Stephen Murphy. He had been working for the Corporation but had been forced to give up the job due to loyalist intimidation. Paddy had been seriously injured in the 1970s when loyalists posted him a booby-trapped Valentine’s Day card, which blew up in his face.
Paddy was shot dead as he walked along the Crumlin Road on the morning of Saturday 2 September 1989. He was shot 11 times by UVF gunman Brian Robinson, who was a pillion passenger on a motorbike. An undercover British army unit was in the immediate vicinity of the shooting and witnessed Paddy’s killing. Minutes later Brian Robinson was shot dead by a female undercover soldier, dubbed the Angel of Death, who was herself later questioned during investigations into a number of killings involving collusion between loyalists and the British army.
Joe McKenna (brother)
Paddy was the youngest of the family; there was Peggy, Sally, Tina, Bridget, Alice, myself and then Paddy. We were burnt out of our house in Cranbrook Gardens during internment in 1971. Everyone that was burnt out stayed in the school until they found somewhere to live. Paddy and my mother eventually moved to Farringdon Court. As a teenager Paddy spent a long time in hospital; he had a hair lip and no palate but they could’nt do much for him in those days. Paddy had a lot of friends. He was a great goalkeeper. A lot of the teams he played for were mixed religion. Paddy was football crazy; he would have played football 24 hours a day. He played for Crumlin Star, John Paul and Ardoyne Youth Club. When he was with Dunmurry Rec, they won the league. He had loads of medals and trophies for football, but they were all lost when my mother’s house was burnt in Cranbrook.
Ewarts Mill was Paddy’s first job. When we were burnt out in 1971, Ewarts sent him his cards saying that they had to get somebody in to take his place. They were looking rid of him because he was a Catholic; it’s as simple as that. Then he got a job in the Corporation as a bin man. He swept the streets around Smithfield. Paddy never married, although I think he always had an eye for one girl in particular. After we all grew up and my mother and father died, it was only Paddy in the house. Around this time the loyalists were giving Paddy a terrible time. A lot of them knew him from when we were living in Cranbrook and they were always hassling him. He eventually had to give up his job street cleaning because they were always deliberately sending him to loyalist areas. In 1974/75 the loyalists sent Paddy a bomb in a Valentine’s Day card. It exploded and he was badly scarred around the face.
Paddy was shot at 10 o’clock, Saturday morning. My son-in-law phoned to tell me and I ran round to the shops. I lifted Paddy up, but as soon as I lifted him I knew he was dead. Paddy had been helping Tina Gallagher in her fruit shop. He had just left the shop when he was shot. He gave her a hand every Saturday morning to put out her stall. The two loyalists were on a motorbike. A loyalist called Robinson jumped off the motorbike and shot Paddy dead. Two undercover British soldiers sat and watched the whole thing. The woman soldier, who was dubbed the Angel of Death, was sifting at Brompton Park in an Astra, the other undercover soldier was sitting at the roundabout, covering the Shankill. The two of them watched the whole thing happening. When Robinson and the other guy sped off on the motorbike, the Angel of Death went after them. There were roadworks at Flax Street and the motorbike slowed down to go into Cambria Street. Her car hit the bike and they came off and she shot Robinson as he lay on the ground at the bus stop. Days after, they had a shrine set up at the spot where Robinson was shot. On the Monday the cops closed, the road off; when they were asked why, they said that a VIP clergyman was coming to pray at the spot where Robinson was shot; you can guess who the clergyman was.
I have no doubt that the British army and RUC could have prevented Paddy being killed. I think anybody on the front of the road that morning was getting it. Later they said it was just a passing patrol that came on the scene, but it wasn’t. The Angel of Death was sitting at the top of Brompton Park and the other undercover agent was at the roundabout. The British army had information that a UVF squad was going to hit somebody at the front of the road that morning, but instead of preventing it, they decided to let them kill someone.
Tina Gallagher (friend)
I knew Paddy from we were kids. Paddy just lived across the street. He always helped me out in the fruit shop, weighing out potatoes, lifting veg in and out. He was a good friend. On the Saturday morning he was killed I asked Paddy to help me out. At the time he was shot Paddy, myself and my daughter Carly were just coming out of our shop. Paddy and Carly had walked out of the shop and I was talking to someone on my way out the door. The next minute I heard noises; then the gunman just seemed to be there. He had a helmet on...and the next minute bang, bang. But it was like everything had slowed down and I saw Paddy falling. Paddy wasn’t even moving and the gunman came right over and shot him another ten times. Then he just jumped on the motorbike and sped off and a car followed them. We had noticed a particular car moving around all morning. We didn’t think; we just noticed the car: you were always aware of unusual things because you were on the front of the road. I think that the Brits and RUC knew what was going to happen, maybe not to Paddy, but to someone. I don’t think they meant to kill Brian Robinson but I think they did it to say, ‘Look, we’re here, we’re on the ball; we are looking out for the Catholics’. But they allowed the loyalists to shoot Paddy and did nothing.
Patricia McClaferty and Una Smith (friends)
I first met Paddy when he was helping rebuild the houses in Farringdon that were burnt out by the loyalists. Paddy was a kind person; if he won in the bookies he would always share his winnings. I remember when the loyalists sent him a Valentine’s Day bomb. His mother kept the card in the house all day until he came home. He opened it at the door and it blew up in his face. After that he was living on his nerves. He seemed to think that they were coming back to get him. Paddy loved music; he loved Linda Rondstat and country music. He had thousands of LPs. He was very self-conscious because of his speech impediment but he was relaxed with us. About nine months before Paddy was killed, we were in the youth club and we had a stupid argument. He asked me, ‘Will you come to my funeral?’ Then he just said, ‘I’m going to be killed soon’.
Paddy was a good friend, he really was; you didn’t realise it until he was gone; you didn’t realise how good he was. The night after Paddy was killed, we were driving out on the Crumlin Road for petrol and the loyalists were making a shrine where Brian Robinson was shot, but there wasn’t a thing about Paddy being killed, just Robinson.
Community, 'Truth-telling' and Conflict Resolution
CAIN contains information and source material on the conflict and politics in Northern Ireland.
CAIN is based within Ulster University.
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