Friday, September 4, 2009
Message in a Book.
4ú MEÁN FÓMHAIR. 2009.
MESSAGE IN A BOOK.
Regular readers will recall that in May I wrote about Big Marshall 'Mick' Mooney. Big Mick had just died of cancer. He and I shared many fine experiences and none more memorable than one of my doomed efforts, to escape from internment in Long Kesh on Christmas Eve 1973.
There were four of us on this occasion, myself, Big Mick, Toddler and Marty and we ended up in court before Diplock Judge Kelly. We had, among other things, the distinction of being on remand and interned and soon to be sentenced prisoners all at the one time.
I decided, as we sat in the dock at Belfast Court House and as Mr. Kelly was telling us what bad people we were for daring to try to escape from an internment camp in which we were being held without charge or trial or due process, to write a little note to another old comrade Dickie Glen' who was interned at the time.
I had a book which I was going to give him as a going away present and I scribbled in the flyleaf : “Dickie, I don’t know what the date is but Toddler, Mick and Martin are to my right, the Judge is to my front and I am on my behind. He is about to give us three years each and he looks very serious. I don’t think he likes me writing like this while he is summing up. Yahoo only eighteen months each. Yahoo, Yahoo!! Todller is crying his eyes out, Mick is thanking the Judge (a Mr. Kelly). Martin’s staunch. It’s time to go again back thru’ the Crum. Be good. Me”
And then it was back through the tunnel between Crumlin Road courthouse and on to Long Kesh where I found myself in Cage 11 along with Marshall, Toddler and other sentenced Republican prisoners.
The book was forgotten about. I don't know if Dickie ever got it and he, being in his dotage, can't recall either. The book was Peter McInerney’s biography of Peadar O Donnell, ‘Irish Social Rebel’ But the story doesn’t end there. Recently, I received from Louise Ferguson, wife of the late Mickey Ferguson MLA a photocopy of the inside cover of the book and the message I scribbled in late 1974.
Where was it all of these years? How did she get it? The intrepid RG set out to investigate.
It turns out that Patricia O Doherty, a friend of Mickey's, had the book in her home in Carrickmacross in County Monaghan.
Michael and Patricia’s husband Cahir had both been in the sentenced cages in the 1970’s. Patricia was regularly asked, like many other relatives, to bring books and magazines up on visits for the prisoners.
Previously, on another visit an over zealous and arrogant screw had challenged her after he discovered that one of the books she was sending in was a library book. She was taken into a side office and shouted at, at some length by this guardian of our library system.
Subsequently, Patricia carefully checked books to avoid repeating that experience. On this occasion when she was taking books in for Mickey they included the Peadar O Donnell one. She opened it and read my note. She didn’t know who it was for or who had written it and for a time she considered tearing it out and sending the book on into the prison. But she didn’t. She put the book to the side.
Patricia meant to show it to Michael Ferguson when he and Cahir were released but she never did. But when Mickey died she showed it to Louise. They figured out the note was mine and then sent a photocopy of it for me. I gave a belated copy to Dickie who had patently waited for 35 years for a note he never knew had been written to him.
So there you are.
As your man keeps telling me, its a funny old world. Incidently the drawing of Peadar O Donnell is not mine. It was part of the original publication. You will also have noted by now that I didn't get the book back. Neither did Dickie.