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Tartan Gangs and ParamilitariesThe Loyalist Backlash$

Gareth Mulvenna

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9781781383261

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2017

DOI: 10.5949/liverpool/9781781383261.001.0001

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Convergence (1972)

Convergence (1972)

Chapter:
(p.144) 5 Convergence (1972)
Source:
Tartan Gangs and Paramilitaries
Author(s):

Gareth Mulvenna

Publisher:
Liverpool University Press
DOI:10.5949/liverpool/9781781383261.003.0006

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter explores the convergence between the nascent loyalist paramilitaries, most notably the Red Hand Commando and Young Citizen Volunteers, with the Tartan gangs which had been so prominent throughout 1971. The ‘backlash’ which had been mentioned so often in the press began to become a reality as the loyalist assassination campaign began in earnest and a forceful and frightening subculture gained momentum. A large number of militant loyalists took to the streets and were given the approval of politicians such as William Craig, the former Stormont Minister of Home Affairs.

Keywords:   Young Citizen Volunteers, Tartan gangs, Red Hand Commando, Subculture, Loyalism

One salient fact stands out from the events of last week-end; the Tartan were right to fight. In doing so, not only did they strike a brave blow for the Loyalist cause but have shown the way forward … Only when Ulster adopts the fierce partisanship of her young sons and is prepared to fight as they are prepared, will our land be restored to us.

Loyalist News (6 May 1972)

It is not a struggle for one man one vote, full employment, non-discrimination, new housing etc. It is a struggle for domination over N. Ireland with its eventual absorption into an all Ireland Roman Catholic Republic. Nothing less will satisfy the enemies of Northern Ireland, and with the aid of O’Niellite [sic] Unionists, the Alliance, P.A.C.E., N.U.M. and other kindred ‘peace at any price brigade’ our enemies are rampant and ready for the final struggle. And this will be THEIR final struggle because the Loyal Protestants who desire peace and prosperity for their country, will ensure that once and for all this continuous rape of our tiny State will be stopped. If we stand alone then we will fall alone or go on to victory alone. We will not betray the blood of murdered people.

Loyalist News (13 May 1972)

(p.145)

Convergence (1972)

8. The Loyalist News celebrates the events in East Belfast.

(Source: Loyalist News, 6 May 1972)

The ‘backlash’ gains momentum

While the Red Hand had formed in 1970 and the UDA mobilised in the autumn of 1971, the young Tartans had for the large part of 1971 and early 1972 been the most striking manifestation of Protestant militancy on the streets of Belfast. Despite some low-level clandestine organising there had been little in the way of concerted loyalist violence by the beginning of 1972. This would change dramatically as the year progressed, Thomas Hennessey observing that ‘Despite the dismissal of it by some, a Protestant backlash had already begun, and would accelerate in 1972’.1 Guardian journalist Simon Winchester, based in Belfast at the time, noted that in the three years prior to the internment crisis of August 1971,

The Loyalists of the Shankill had, by and large, been remarkably tolerant … They had rioted, and they had bombed and they had killed: but in all conscience one would never say that their total reaction to (p.146) the steady destruction of their society’s bastions, the steady apparent weakening of their government, the debility and ambivalence of Westminster and the callous brutality of their extremist opponents was wholly unreasonable.2

While the sporadic and often reactive violence carried out by loyalists prior to 1972 was viewed by Winchester and other journalists as perpetrated by ‘a deserted people’ who felt ‘let down, humiliated, alone’,3 operations by militant loyalists would soon become more proactive than reactive. The UVF bombing attack on McGurk’s pub early in December 1971 had been a foreboding and disturbing warning of what armed loyalism was capable of when it concentrated its energies into hostilities against the Catholic community.

There was an increasingly hostile esprit de corps permeating the atmosphere within many Protestant working-class communities in Belfast during the season of Vanguard rallies in early 1972. Nevertheless, there were those who felt that any ‘backlash’ emanating from their young men could be quelled by maintaining the structures of a communal spirit. While the women of East Belfast may have enthusiastically pointed out to Max Hastings and the BBC that the young Tartans were taking the lead in defending their areas, many mothers were keen to make it clear that they felt they had undercut the militant subculture and stemmed the emerging tide of retaliation to preserve the fraying threads of the civic fabric.

In early April 1972 the News Letter reported that ‘The women of the Shankill have been remarkably successful in their efforts to stop the dreaded Protestant backlash breaking out in their district’. Conveniently ignoring the emergence of masked men on the streets and the severe rioting that had occurred on the Shankill over the previous three years, the article stated that ‘They have done this by seeing to it that their menfolk, old and young, are kept off the streets’.4 Highlighting the importance of community organisations in the area, the reporter noted that ‘Up and down the Shankill Road and in the many streets off it, again and again I heard women praising the churches in the area for the work they have done and for the facilities they have provided’.5

The Bishop of Down and Dromore, the Right Rev. George Quinn, speaking on behalf of the Church of Ireland, lauded what the News Letter described as the ‘courageous and dignified restraint … that Protestants in Ulster had shown … in the face of terrible and deliberate provocation of violence and destruction’,6 stating that ‘This restraint is worthy of the (p.147) highest praise and I commend it wholeheartedly, but it would be tragic if the behaviour of some in our midst were now to jeopardise all the good which has been achieved by this truly courageous restraint’.7 Despite their praise for the work of the churches in the Shankill, it appeared that it was the women themselves who were struggling most on a day-to-day basis to ensure that their young lads avoided the hostile environment that had begun to dominate loyalist areas in late 1971 and 1972. One woman stated:

Look, my boy is 13 years old. One day he came to me and said his mates wanted him to go into a gang which would fight against the ‘micks’. I told him I wouldn’t let him and if he went into any crowd like that I would put him out of the house. I meant it. He didn’t join.

Another mother was even more direct in her approach: ‘I gave my young fellow a skelping when he told me he had to join a gang to prove he was tough’.8 A woman from Richmond Street risibly considered that a settled domestic situation would keep boys out of trouble. Referring to the ‘little palaces’ that house-proud Shankill women maintained, the woman, whose ‘home … positively shone with cleanliness’ according to the reporter, stated: ‘If a lad has a comfortable home, he’ll be less likely to go off wandering around and getting involved in fights’.9

In the early 1970s respectable home lives did not equate to a lack of interest in loyalist militancy. Henry Sinnerton, writing about the formative experiences which led David Ervine, Eddie Kinner and Martin Snodden to join the ranks of the UVF and YCV, underlines this: ‘already they shared similar bonds: they were working class, from stable families, had attended secondary-intermediate schools which they had left without any sense of achievement and did not have criminal records’.10 It wasn’t only in the Shankill that women were eager for peace. Women in Andersonstown were at the forefront of trying to gauge the level of desire for peace in the Catholic parishes of the republican heartland through a ‘petition organised by lay members of the Church’,11 which showed that ‘Between 85 and 90 per cent of the Roman Catholic population would like to see peace restored in the community’.12

Despite this informal poll and Bishop Quinn’s declaration that republican violence would be ‘swept aside by the rising tide and longing for peace’,13 it would soon be proven that he had sorely misjudged the mood of the loyalist working class in Belfast. Catholics, whether supporters of republican violence or not, were by 1972 increasingly regarded by loyalists as collaborators in an overall project which sought to undermine the British presence in Northern Ireland. The mantra that any Catholic ‘would do’ for assassination (p.148) informed loyalist violence where intelligence was not available. The aim was crude, simple and ultimately sectarian: strike fear into Catholic working-class communities in the belief that Catholics would then put pressure on the IRA to cease militant activities.

Whose job to liquidate the enemy?

The first emphatic visual indicator of a ‘Protestant backlash’ can be traced back to the huge numbers attending the Vanguard fanfares in the late winter of 1972. As the loyalist mood darkened in the weeks leading up to the proroguing of Stormont on 30 March 1972 there was a surge in demonstrations aimed at highlighting the strength of feeling among Protestants about current events. Vanguard was at the forefront of this movement. Ulster Vanguard was formed by Bill Craig in February 1972 as a protest against the pro-Faulkner wing of the Unionist Party.

Craig often entered the Vanguard rallies in an open-top touring car flanked by motorcycle outriders. These events were reminiscent of the kind of demonstrations organised by Edward Carson and his unionist followers during the early part of the twentieth century. In a further nod to the Carson era, Vanguard staged a large march and rally in England (London’s Hyde Park) in April 1972; this being similar in sentiment to the anti-Home Rule protests staged in places such as Liverpool and Tyneside during 1912–13.14

Crucially Bill Craig saw the potential of the Tartan gangs in providing a large-scale and threatening visual presence during political rallies. He often inspected them as a military general would inspect his troops.

One rally at Ormeau Park in Belfast on 18 March 1972 attracted between 60–80,000 loyalists and could be considered the visual apex of Protestant discontentment at the political and security situation in Northern Ireland. Similar to other provincial Vanguard rallies, the Ormeau Park rally was a malevolent, menacing affair full of foreboding political rhetoric. Craig stood atop a podium and stated that:

There can be no compromise or concession to the enemy that assails our province today. We must build up the dossiers on the men and women who are a menace to this country because one day, ladies and gentlemen, if the politicians fail it may be our job to liquidate the enemy.15

In the crowd, and marshalling the speakers at Ormeau Park, were the Tartans – they had come from all across Belfast to hear the latest loyalist messiah. (p.149) In the Sunday News the following day a reporter described the intoxicating atmosphere at the rally as being like ‘the Twelfth, a family reunion and the football match of the year, all rolled into one’.16 The report further stated that:

Small knots of Tartan gangs clustered here and there, resplendent in their tartan scarves, bleach-faded denims and big boots.

‘I came to show I’ll be shoulder to shoulder all the way,’ said one lad of 14. ‘Not another inch.’ The boys around him echoed his pledge.

‘I came here because my friends came,’ said a boy of about 10 with startling candour.17

At the outset the Vanguard movement was dismissed by Northern Ireland’s Prime Minister and Craig’s former Unionist Party colleague Brian Faulkner as a ‘comic opera’18 but by the end of 1972, with his previous talk of ‘liquidating the enemy’ at Ormeau Park and courtship of the Tartans and other militant loyalist factions, Craig’s behaviour was beginning to be talked about with grave concern at Westminster Cabinet meetings. During a speech to the right-wing Monday Club at the House of Commons in October 1972 in which he boasted of being able to mobilise 80,000 men in opposition to British policy, Craig stated that the men under his charge ‘are prepared to shoot and shoot to kill. Let us put bluff aside. I am prepared to kill and those behind me have my full support’.19 The day after Craig’s speech he was interviewed for ITN’s late evening news, during which Michael Brunson was forthright in questioning Craig’s judgment. Craig’s sober reiteration of his declaration at the Monday Club was remarkable and aptly summed up the dire mood within loyalist communities:

Brunson:

  • Mr Craig, the impression seems somehow to have got about that you made the speech last night after you’d had too much to drink.
  • Craig:

  • That is absolute rubbish. I have since last May, in fact, really stopped drinking. I’ve even cut out social drinking. I do take an odd glass of wine with a meal; apart from that, I do not drink.
  • Brunson:

  • I’m bound to say, Mr Craig, that I was at the meeting and we met afterwards, and you seemed to be far from well.
  • Craig:

  • Well, of course, I was very tired. As you know, I’m more involved than most people in what is happening on the ground at home; and you can’t do what I’m doing without really getting exceptionally tired.
  • (p.150) Brunson:

  • Can we get it quite clear, Mr Craig, you’re saying that you in no way take back anything you said last night and you don’t regret the manner in which you said it?
  • Craig:

  • No, it was done to shake people out of the complacency … what I am saying now, so there can be no miscalculation, [is that] no one need think they can impose upon the people of Northern Ireland a solution aimed at appeasing the republican terrorist campaign. We will, quite rightly, if we have to, fight to defend the democratic process. Decisions must have the consent of the majority.
  • Brunson:

  • Let’s get this clear – when you say fight, do you mean take up arms? Kill people?
  • Craig:

  • Yes, this is what I said last night. To get this very point home, we’ve been saying since last February at all these enormous Vanguard rallies that we will fight for our rights. Now, people have got accustomed to the word ‘fight’. I want them to realise when they say ‘fight’ it does mean killing.
  • Brunson:

  • And you’re quite clear nothing of what you said last night is going to change; you want to stand by every word and you believe you have support for it?
  • Craig:

  • Yes, I do, and I hope it will destroy this horrible complacency that exists here in Britain. You read about bombs and guns; they’re experiences for us. People here must realise that their fellow citizens in Northern Ireland are suffering, and they’ve suffered for a long time. Their anger is spilling over into deplorable actions. All of us are shocked that loyalists fought with the army, that loyalists have attacked police – but there’s no use condemning it. You’ve got to realise and appreciate why it’s happening.
  • Brunson:

  • Mr Craig, I wonder how you will feel in your own conscience if, as a result of what you’ve said, there is a great deal more killing in Northern Ireland.
  • Craig:

  • Well, my speech is saying that we only fight when our democratic rights are denied. I’m saying to people now – there is a firm intent, if we have to – not to get frustrated now and do things in moods of temper.
  • (p.151) Brunson:

  • So this is not an immediate call to arms for people to go onto the street, because this is a very important distinction isn’t it?
  • Craig:

  • Far from it. I am not trying to say to the people of Northern Ireland, don’t let your tempers run away with you. Don’t feel for one moment that if the crunch comes that we will not be prepared to make the stand. We WILL make the stand, so don’t get angry and frustrated now.
  • 20

    The following week, a confidential annex to a Cabinet Office discussion on Northern Ireland stated that there were ‘grounds for considerable concern about the effect on Protestant extremist opinions of recent public statements by Mr Craig, the leader of the Vanguard Movement including his recent inflammatory speech in London to the Monday Club’.21 The annex also claimed that ‘Urgent consideration was being given to further steps to counter the activities of the Tartan gangs and other extremist groups whose violent behaviour received additional encouragement from such utterances’.22 Over a year previously, in June 1971, John McKeague and two associates – Hugh Johnston and Hugh Close – had become the first individuals to be charged under the Incitement to Hatred Act after publishing a ‘Loyalist Song Book’ which included references to murdering Catholics.23 McKeague might have felt justifiably vexed at becoming what he himself described as a ‘guinea pig’24 for a year later Craig would escape the clutches of the same law, despite the Cabinet Office stating that ‘It was obviously objectionable that individuals who were clearly guilty of public incitement to violence should escape the legal consequences of their speech’.25 McKeague was undeterred by his charge in 1971, and in 1972 the new edition of his song book caught the mood music of loyalist areas in a verse entitled ‘Back-Lash’:

    • Now all us Prods are getting real sick,
    • Of all this shooting by I.R.A. mick.
    • His methods, his funerals, his dealings in arms,
    • His capers in Stormont, his real Fenian yarns …
    • … The Short Strand will be so easy to do,
    • The Woodstock Tartan can take care of you.
    • The Markets will have no reason to crow,
    • Cause you will be faced by the Old Sandy Row …
    • … So take this as a warning your day will come,
    • We’ve taken enough from you ‘rebel’ scum.
    • (p.152) For using the gun the bomb and the knife,
    • One day your payment, shall be with your life.26

    In early April 1972 Hilary Morris of the News Letter had ventured onto the Shankill to speak to a group of SYT members. Morris explained that ‘A new piece of graffiti has been appearing on gable ends in Belfast in the past year. It is “Tartan Rules”’.27 Morris’s article outlined how the persistent violence in Belfast had increasingly forced the community to look inwards, stating that the Tartans’ readiness to defend their district from outside threat was easy to understand ‘In the present peculiar situation’, noting that the Shankill, due to its location and its facilities for recreation, ‘has tended in the past three years to become almost a village. The people shop, go to bars and to clubs in the area and are not inclined to venture out’.28 Focusing on the deleterious effect that the prevailing urban redevelopment of the Shankill was having on the lives of young people, Morris remarked that ‘since the closing of the baths youngsters have been deprived of the joys of swimming. For obvious reasons, they don’t use the Falls Road ones and going to the Grove baths on the Shore Road means a trip through the “enemy territory” of the Bone’.29

    The SYT members reserved particular disdain for the RUC: ‘We hate them. We’d rather have the Army. At least they have the guts to stand and fight. The peelers just run away when we stone them. You’d never have been the Specials doing that’.30 Intriguingly, the article was accompanied by a photograph showing the arms of two SYT members and their Tartan tattoos:

    Some are just a simple Red Hand surrounded by the letters SYT. Others are more elaborate with the actual pattern of the Stuart Tartan surmounted by a crown and bearing the full title of Shankill Young Tartans. This last one costs £1 from a tattooist in the neighbourhood who must be working overtime to keep up with the demand for his services.31

    Convergence (1972)

    9. Shankill Tartan tattoos.

    (Source: News Letter, 6 April 1972)

    (p.153) Hidden curriculum II

    Teachers in Belfast during this period faced an uphill struggle to quell the influence of figures like McKeague and Craig as well as the associated ‘peer subcultures’ and ‘political rallies’ observed by John Malone in his ‘Schools project in community relations’ report. Schools in working-class loyalist areas were particularly badly affected by the turmoil, which was beginning to influence boys’ behaviour. David Smyth, a former YCV prisoner who was a pupil in Park Parade Secondary School on the Ravenhill Road in East Belfast in the early 1970s, remembers witnessing the UDA parading along the main road outside the school during mathematics class one day. While the teacher was out of the class, the majority of the boys climbed out the window and crossed the playground to join the parade.32

    Henry Sinnerton, a teacher and first year counsellor under John Malone at Orangefield Boys Secondary School, recalls the manner in which pupils’ behaviour was changing in the period 1971–73: ‘I noticed that there were youngsters who were coming in [to school] late. Youngsters who you could perfectly rely on – who were going to be prefects when they were older weren’t handing in home-works … you’d see them walking about maybe with [their arm in] a sling or hobbling’.33 Sinnerton states that these occurrences, which ‘raised his antenna’, were to him akin to a ‘rash coming out’ in the school.34 Noticing that pupils were less and less inclined to move round the school in a casual manner, Sinnerton began to observe

    little knots of people standing about … they’d be people from the same year who maybe weren’t talking to one another, which I found strange. Then I noticed that that group might have their cuff bent up the sleeve of their jacket, or their tie would be away off to one side or something35 … these guys were subdividing themselves into little groups within their Tartan gang.36

    If the teachers in schools attended by Tartans found discipline and order increasingly difficult to maintain, many of the civic institutions in Protestant working-class areas of Belfast found themselves on the brink of collapse. In April 1972 Robert Fisk suggested to readers of The Times that Willowfield Youth Club, near the Ravenhill and Woodstock Roads, had about a hundred Tartans in its membership, the chairman of the club – Norman Black – declaring that the police had not taken enough interest in the local youths.37 Willowfield and any other youth clubs in areas where Tartans were popular would have struggled to operate in the manner of such enterprises before the (p.154) early 1970s. Black stated that the Tartans associated with Willowfield ‘help to paint the club and keep it in order [and] help any Protestants who have been intimidated out of their homes’.38 By the end of 1972 those in charge of Willowfield Youth Club had given up any pretence of having a grip on the activities of the young men in the area. The club leader’s end-of-year report in November 1972, contained in Willowfield Community News, demonstrated a growing awareness of the situation which seemed to be underlined by a tragic hope that the conflict would soon be over:

    The growing situation at the moment has kept most of our boy members away from the club, and I only hope that they will return to us shortly, as we have various activities organised – boxing, Judo, keep fit, to mention a few. Our snack bar is progressing rapidly and by the time of this printing, we should be in full operation.

    We have purchased a 22” colour TV and at present the attending members are really enjoying it!39

    Many of the young men who had become involved in the Tartan and the loyalist paramilitaries in 1972 would in all likelihood never have stepped inside Willowfield Youth Club again. This was a trend that was emerging all over Belfast in both loyalist and republican areas. In the mid-1970s the Rev. John Smeaton wrote an article for the UVF magazine Combat which reflected the problem of militant youths becoming disconnected from the civic fabric. He bemoaned the serious issues facing Saint Saviour’s Youth Club in the Nick district of the Shankill:

    Not everyone wants to become involved with a youth club in the particular area in which we are dealing, especially during the period 1971/1973 when there were barricades and a certain amount of violence … We … appeal to all interested parties to respond to this appeal both on the basis of our own particular problems … and on the wider basis of the whole future and direction of working with young people in an area where there are obvious signs of increasing alienation with old styles of youth activity.40

    Behind the barricades

    In the early summer of 1972 the designation of ‘no-go’ areas in Belfast’s loyalist communities had provided journalists and thus the public with an insight into the form the paramilitary manifestation of the much-vaunted (p.155) Protestant backlash was actually taking. The ‘no-go’ areas were created as a protest response to similar initiatives by republicans in Derry; loyalists would only dismantle their barricades when the authorities were seen to take action against republicans. In May, Simon Winchester gained access through the loyalist barricades and into the streets in which those manning them lived. Initially it appeared to journalists who witnessed training sessions and unarmed combat behind the barricades in the Belfast area that the loyalist paramilitaries were oafish and amateurish. Their opinion changed rapidly; a frightening and forceful subculture was beginning to emerge.

    Two separate recollections of this period from Simon Winchester capture the unvarnished but increasingly sinister nature of the growing loyalist militant resistance. Initially, Winchester had watched the UDA patrolling their barricades and dismissed their presence on the streets, describing them as looking ‘more than a little ludicrous … Grown men and spotty youths, crammed into jeans three sizes too small for them wearing sunglasses in the dead of night … it all seemed too pathetic for words, like Toytown gone mad’.41 A few weeks later, Winchester had changed his mind, gravely recalling that:

    A girl from one of the loyalist women’s groups, who provided a convenient passport into the by now quite frightening Protestant back-streets, took me across the river. In Willowfield as we walked down the road all the signs pointed to trouble: lorries were being stolen and pushed across the narrow street entrances: half-bricks, ‘clod stones’, angle iron and bottles were being stockpiled in strategic positions behind the barricades …42

    In areas like Willowfield and the nearby Woodstock and Ravenhill Roads in East Belfast, a disparate assortment of Tartans, UDA, UVF and RHC volunteers could be found in the narrow terraced streets behind the hastily assembled bulwarks. Winchester described the scene he encountered in Willowfield: ‘hundreds of crudely uniformed men were marching and wheeling, practising karate chops into the cold night air, flourishing their rubber bin lid shields and waving axe handles as clubs … There was a subdued, sombre, but violent note in the antics of the men: it was comedy no longer’.43 During this period the Sunday News published a photograph of the ‘Special Services Command, Red Hand Action Group’ on foot patrol in Beresford Street. Leading the group and pointing forward is Ronnie McCullough. Plum Smith and Jim Tipping are among the others in the line-up. At around the same time, ITN news broadcast footage of leading RHC members demonstrating the unarmed combat they had practiced in (p.156) the Bricklayers Arms, going through the routines during daylight hours on the main Shankill Road while crowds of men, women and children watched. Additional scenes filmed at night in the Woodvale area showed a volunteer demonstrating how to cut a man’s throat SAS-style, imitating severing the jugular vein. Jim Wilson was one of the Woodstock Tartan members who manned the barricades across the city in the Willowfield area and remembers that: ‘The fear was there … it was a touchable fear; I do remember going in and out the barricades and saying to people, “Let’s get ready for this, let’s get ready for this”’.44

    Life behind the barricades could often throw up unusual scenarios for young men and their families, situations presenting themselves which would have proved unfathomable only a few years previously. Robert Niblock, who at this stage was on the cusp of leaving the Tartan behind and joining the RHC, remembers in the early summer of 1972 being on the back of a hijacked curtain-sided fruit lorry at Bendigo Street the night before his older sister’s wedding:

    It was manned only by our Tartan squad … in between stints where we patrolled the area we had card games to relieve the boredom. My mother, sister and brother-in-law to be all came looking for me at various times but I only left the barricade around 5 a.m. and walked to my brother-in-law’s house in Ardgowan Street.45

    Niblock’s family, worried that he might not show up in time for the wedding the next day, had passed the lorry on a few occasions throughout the night but were unable to recognise him as he was wearing a balaclava. A family photograph from the wedding shows a fresh-faced Niblock dressed in a formal suit, seemingly unaffected by the long night spent patrolling the streets. The young and restless loyalists who were involved in paramilitary activities had, like their republican counterparts, almost limitless energy. Double lives were often lived on adrenaline alone during the violent early 1970s.

    Similar displays of loyalist militancy could also be seen beyond the increasingly sealed confines of Protestant working-class streets in Belfast. By the end of May it was becoming sorely apparent to anyone in Northern Ireland who happened to be shopping in town centres or the main thoroughfares of Belfast, reading newspapers or watching television bulletins that a major mobilisation of loyalist paramilitarism was occurring.

    During the Home Rule Crisis some 60 years previously the UVF members who marched under the gaze of James Craig and Edward Carson were smartly dressed in matching military uniforms, reflecting the martial (p.157) discipline that had been instilled in members from a young age through the BB and the YCV. The picture in spring 1972 was quite different as a coalition of disaffected loyalists, young and old, male and female, took to the streets to demonstrate their strength of numbers attired in an array of military surplus clothes and the familiar Wrangler jeans and jackets with appended loyalist badges of various allegiances.

    On Saturday 27 May 1972 ‘Company after company of loyalists marched through Belfast’s city centre’ from Sandy Row to Woodvale Park, ‘in an impressive display of Protestant strength and organisation’ reported the News Letter in an article the following Monday. ‘The men’, the article continued, ‘dressed in combat jackets and wearing bush hats or berets, wore white armbands of the Ulster Defence Association. Some wore UVF hat badges, and many had dark glasses and handkerchief masks’.46 The spectrum of militant loyalists who had been manning the barricades of the no-go areas was reflected in the parade, the Irish Times noting that after members of the LAW [Loyalist Association of Workers] had marched, setting off from Linfield Road:

    Next in the parade were groups of Tartan gangs, sporting blue denim outfits and the obligatory dark glasses, who also marched in military formation. As the units of the U.D.A. from many different areas of Belfast trooped past, there were continual raucous commands of ‘Left, right’ and ‘Get those arms swinging’ from their commanders. Onlookers applauded and cheered the marchers.47

    It was not only men who had assembled for the parade which had been arranged by the UDA, LAW and Vanguard: the News Letter printed a picture of an impressive phalanx of young girls and women wearing scarves, sunglasses and boots marching past the bottom of North Street.48 On route towards the Shankill the procession ‘wound its way through the city centre and up past the Unity Flats … Some marchers jeered and chanted “U.V.F.”’.49

    Army surplus suppliers in Belfast made hay out of the new desire among loyalists to dress in paramilitary clothing while patrolling the barricades or marching in public. The Sunday News stated that W.J. Gilfillan and C. McCann and Son in Smithfield Market had been particularly busy in May and June 1972: ‘stores have become quartermasters to the quasi-military organisations that have sprung up in recent months’, noting that in the past the shops had a ready, but smaller, market in the shape of ‘the IRA gunmen and their militant Fianna Eireann youth wing’, but that ‘To-day, the same gunmen order new berets and rub shoulders with militant Loyalist youths who are buying combat jackets in batches of up to 50 at a time’.50

    (p.158) On Sunday 21 May 1972, soldiers from the Parachute Regiment moved to dismantle the barricades in the Beersbridge and Castlereagh Road area. A confusing melee ensued near Douglas Street and an army report claimed that a crowd of ‘around 300’ began throwing ‘stones and bottles’51 at the troops. In response the Paras fired rubber bullets before ‘half a dozen rounds were fired at them’; in the fire which was returned, John Black, a 32-year-old member of the UDA’s D Company, was hit in the neck and rushed to hospital.52 Black passed away a month later, on 26 June. He was afforded a full military UDA funeral three days later; the News Letter reported that ‘The UDA yesterday replied to the IRA’s “police” forces, now in action in republican areas of Belfast and Londonderry, by publicly parading representatives of its own security corps … The organisation took advantage of the opportunity provided by the funeral of a UDA man … to display its own particular brand of “police” force’.53 Distinguished from the rest of the ranks of UDA members by their ‘stiff, peaked khaki caps, dark blue epaulettes striped in gold braiding on their jackets, red arm tags marked “UDA Police” and sunglasses’, the ‘25-strong company of “constables”’54 proved a striking presence in the huge cortege.

    The UDA ‘police force’ was becoming a common sight in some of Belfast’s loyalist enclaves during this period. Supervising areas such as the Shankill and East Belfast in jeeps marked ‘UDA Patrol’, its members enforced their own brand of ad hoc justice on the members of their communities. Robert Niblock recalls an incident at this time in which he and a friend stopped at a popular burger bar on the Castlereagh Road after pub closing time. On reaching the corner of Euston Street and the Beersbridge Road, Niblock and his friend stopped to eat their food; the combination of the burger and the alcohol he had consumed during the evening caused Niblock to be sick on the pavement. He describes what happened next:

    A UDA police patrol came along; about half a dozen of them, with a woman as their leader. They all wore combat jackets and white hard hats. They asked who had been sick. I told them me. They told me that I was being fined for anti-social behaviour. I refused to pay; they told me I was under arrest and would have to accompany them to their headquarters; in reality, someone’s house in the next street – Douglas Street.55

    While these sorts of heavily disciplinarian action would have proved immensely unpopular among those young loyalists who had no affiliation to the UDA, the emergence of hard hat and scrim scarf-wearing individuals on (p.159) the streets did at least reassure some frustrated working-class Protestants that loyalists were beginning to mobilise in reaction to republican violence. One woman in Willowfield who spoke to Peter Taylor for a television news report during a WDA operation to erect barricades in the east of the city echoed the sentiments of the loyalist women who had praised the actions of the Tartans in front of Max Hastings and the BBC cameras earlier in the month: ‘I’m glad to see them. It’s time “ours” did something’. Taylor, a journalist not prone to hyperbole, suspected that she most likely ‘spoke for tens of thousands of loyalists’.56

    While this may have been the case, there were probably many within the Protestant working class who bemoaned the sight of masked men in their communities as a sign that civic cohesion had finally faltered as a result of the general breakdown of law and order in Northern Irish society. Reasonable voices such as Sandy Scott, who had provided strong civic leadership to working-class Protestants up until 1969, had been suddenly pushed to the margins in favour of more militant trade union enterprises such as the LAW as the early 1970s became characterised by the guerrilla and martial rhetoric of the streets.

    For ordinary Catholics the sight of loyalist masses in army surplus fatigues parading the streets of Belfast city centre, coupled with dark rumours in the press about the ‘men in black’ – the UVF – and the by now familiar experiences of the Tartan excesses, pointed to something very disturbing on the immediate horizon. The Protestant backlash, which had been in the making for over a year at least, was moving beyond the ‘window dressing’ of barricades, karate chops and swagger sticks.

    The barricades and ‘no-go’ areas were a mere bridging point in an upsurge in loyalist killings which Taylor states ‘began slowly and spasmodically at first and became chillingly more frequent as day by day loyalists saw the security and political situation apparently getting worse’ … Most of the killings were purely sectarian and at this stage seldom claimed directly by the organizations responsible’.57 The lack of clarity about which organisations were responsible for certain killings led to a number of rumours about who was perpetrating the loyalist violence. Conjecture within the Catholic working class of Belfast often led to the Tartans being blamed for some of the early sectarian assassinations.

    An example of this occurred in the week leading up to the Vanguard rally in Ormeau Park in March 1972 when 19-year-old Catholic Patrick Pearse McCrory was shot dead on the doorstep of his family home in Ravenhill Avenue on Monday 13 March. The house was yards from the gates of Ormeau (p.160) Park. McCrory had reportedly suffered two beatings at the hands of Tartan gangs – one of which had occurred nine months previously, the other happening on the Cregagh Road only three weeks prior to his death.

    On the evening of his killing McCrory had been in the living room of his house with a relative. The relative’s deposition described what happened, giving an idea of the horror of a political assassination:

    About 7.30 p.m. the door bell rang and Patrick, who was in the process of going out, said that he would answer the door. He picked up his jacket and left the room to answer the door. He closed the living room door as he did so. The television was on at this time. A short time after Patrick left the room I heard a loud crack. I did not pay particular attention to this, as I thought it was a car back-fire. The next thing Patrick entered the living room where I was … He was holding his neck with his both hands. He went into the working kitchen, lifted a face cloth and held it to his neck. I asked him what had happened or who had done this and Patrick replied, ‘A gang.’ I then ran out up Ravenhill Avenue to … a few doors up the street and asked her to phone for an ambulance, which she did. I then went back to the house and Patrick was then lying in the living room of the house. I bent down over him to try and comfort him. He told me not to be crying as he would be alright.58

    Speaking to The Irish News, McCrory’s grief-stricken father stated ‘I have no doubt … that the people who killed my son were members of a Tartan gang. Nine months ago my son was waiting for his girl friend in Hope Street when he was attacked and beaten by a gang of youths’.59 Referring to the more recent attack the father stated, ‘Three weeks ago he came into the house in a very distraught state and told me that he had been attacked again, by a gang on the Cregagh Road a short distance from his home’.60 Police denied that the shooting was a ‘Tartan operation’61 but on 23 March, Fortnight magazine, which sought to investigate the rationale behind the recent spate of shootings of Catholics, of which McCrory was the only person to be mortally wounded, stated:

    the security authorities have let it be known that they believe that there is a certain amount of Protestant gang activity going on which might account for at least some of these incidents. The implication is that there is nothing particularly serious in the development. Gangs using guns on their fellow citizens are now apparently to be expected (p.161) in Belfast … Whatever the strength of the organisation behind the incidents, in the present state of communal tension it can only thrive and grow if it is given the chance.62

    No group admitted to the killing but aside from the Tartan link the murder has been attributed to the UDA.63 In a newspaper interview shortly before his death, former RHC member Frankie Curry claimed that he had carried out the shooting.64 Curry also claimed to have been involved in the murder of Bernard James Rice, a member of the Catholic Ex-Servicemen’s Association who had been killed outside Ardoyne Fire Station on 8 February 1972. At the time the killing was claimed by the RHC.65

    The killing of McCrory is, at first glance, symptomatic of the chaotic nature of early loyalist operations; however, it was perhaps far from a random assassination. At the time of his killing, McCrory’s uncle had cause to deny strenuously that his nephew had been a member of the IRA, and although police suggested that McCrory might have been shot dead for failing to join one or other of the IRA’s wings, the uncle described the allegation as ‘absolute nonsense’, reiterating that the family had been living in Ravenhill Avenue since 1964 and had ‘got on well with their Protestant neighbours’.66 Despite this, speculation and accusation regarding McCrory’s possible involvement in militant republicanism would have spread rapidly in the Willowfield area where UVF intelligence officer Ken Gibson lived.

    In the midst of the touring Vanguard rallies, such conjecture inevitably raised tensions, Craig’s talk of ‘dossiers’ at Ormeau Park the Saturday following the McCrory killing sounding all too real. Fortnight was quick to put the events of March 1972 into perspective for its readers:

    In the same period of three weeks the various wings of the IRA have probably been responsible for killing six members of the security forces, and wounding many more, a number of them in a peculiarly cold-blooded manner; they have also been responsible for the deaths of 2 civilians and if the Abercorn and Donegal [sic] Street bombs were their work, for eight more deaths and for injury to hundreds more; and to complete the tally they have killed at least four and probably five of their own members. In the face of this list the backlash looks pretty small.67

    (p.162) The return of the man in the black soft hat

    Another pivotal moment in the development of loyalist paramilitarism in 1972 came on 1 July, when Gusty Spence was released on parole from Crumlin Road Gaol to attend the wedding of his daughter Liz, who was to marry Winston Rea.68

    Waiting for him at the main gate were Ronnie McCullough and Plum Smith.69 Throughout the preceding months McCullough had been visiting Spence in jail. Spence, knowing of McCullough through his Orange association with his brother Billy, considered him and others of his age to be enthusiastic young activists. On the day Spence was due to return to prison his car, was hemmed in by two other motors on the Springmartin Road and rammed off its course. Spence was taken to County Down. His ‘abduction’ was the work of fellow loyalists: a combined effort of RHC and UVF personnel. Spence later recalled that ‘They told me they had lifted me because of my intimate knowledge of the old UVF in 1912 and because of my grasp of military structure and so on’.70

    The Loyalist News reported that Spence had been taken into ‘custody’ by a UVF unit, stating that they would hold him ‘until such times as the Government guarantee a re-trial’.71 Talk of a retrial was a bluff. Spence was called upon to restructure the UVF, and did so in earnest. He encouraged young men like Billy Hutchinson to take the lead in reconstituting the YCV, which was to be based on the organisation that had been formed some 60 years previously on 10 September 1912. Hutchinson was also said to have appreciated Billy Spence’s advice on recruitment for the YCV.72 Hutchinson spent a lot of time with Gusty Spence during this period, and was one of a chosen few young loyalists entrusted with the duty of acting as his bodyguard. Spence’s name was all over the television and newspapers; for the young Hutchinson he was the closest thing to ‘royalty’ in the area and a UVF ‘folk-hero’.73

    During a documentary made by David Boulton for World in Action, an ITV television crew gained incredible access to Spence and those in and around the Shankill who knew him, including family members. John McKeague was interviewed on a backstreet and, like a man who was in on a joke that no one else understood, he smirked as he stated that on the Shankill ‘Gusty is king’.74 The Red Hand had been close to the UDA during the period of the no-go areas, but Spence was eager to bring the organisation and thus familiar young men like McCullough as close as possible to the UVF as part of his restructuring plan. Of course Spence also now had a son-in-law who was a member of the RHC, as well as his nephew Frankie Curry. Two weeks after Spence had (p.163) gone ‘on the run’ a document emerged, stating that ‘Senior Officers of the Red Hand Commando and Officers of the Ulster Volunteer Force Brigade Staff sat in discussion of various points relating to the UVF and RHC in [sic] 15th July 1972’.75 The document had been agreed by Spence and John McKeague, leading to an enduring if sometimes difficult alliance between the UVF and RHC. It would be reinforced by an official update in 1976.76

    The day after his ‘abduction’, the UVF promoted Spence’s thinking when it issued a statement that read in part:

    To the majority of the Catholic population we would say, Unite and join us in defeating the IRA as a means of keeping sectarian warfare from becoming a reality. Sectarianism plays no part in our policy and we contend that the working class people of whatever creed are the real inheritors of peace and prosperity.77

    Despite Spence’s protestations that sectarian killings were wrong, Hutchinson recalls that the context of July 1972, with the breakdown of an IRA ceasefire and the rising intensity of republican violence, meant that:

    one of the difficulties was that the levels of sectarianism were so high that I think that the strategy at that time was that you drive the IRA out by killing Catholics … the Catholic community will turn on them and put them out. It didn’t work; in fact, it actually encouraged Catholics to join the IRA.78

    During this period many of the young loyalists who joined the YCV saw no distinction between Catholics and the IRA. The context was reminiscent of the confrontations between the Shankill Young Tartan and their Catholic foes at Unity Flats, but by 1972 the content was much more vicious, fists and stones being replaced by bullets and bombs.

    Jim Magee has explained that the UVF in East Belfast had also decided that it needed to utilise the energy of the young Tartans over whom it had so far maintained a watching brief:

    at that time then we noticed the way the young fellas were all running about and a lot of us decided then that what we needed to do is to try and bring these wee lads under some sort of control because we felt … that if they’d been left to their own devices then they would have got … into a position where they became unruly and if they done something really stupid, were we going to have to go and crack down on our own kids? So the idea was … let’s try and get them formulated (p.164) … at that time the UVF was very much pushing the YCV end of the organisation and we thought if we could get these kids involved and then bring them under the YCV banner as young recruits hoping then to move up into the parent organisation of the UVF, and that’s exactly what happened. Now, some of the lads came into the YCV, some of them went into McKeague’s Red Hand Commando …79

    From tartan to terror

    Since late 1971 the Woodstock Tartan had been unofficially courted by East Belfast men who later transpired to be the local UVF. At the time the young loyalists assumed that these were just older local men who had guns for hunting. As the days and weeks progressed through late 1971 and early 1972, with a rise in republican activities and the collapse of Stormont, the militant loyalist groupings had begun to increase in number and groups such as the Woodstock Tartan became highly coveted by the fledgling organisations, as well as by some of the abstruse ‘doomsday’ militias.

    Robert Niblock recalls that in the immediate aftermath of the winter/spring Vanguard rallies where the Tartan had been so prominent, ‘it was expected … that we would go wholesale into the UDA … we didn’t, and there was a lot of trouble around that’.80 There were attempts by the UDA to coerce the Tartans in East Belfast: ‘They more or less came to us and says – yous are coming in with us; they said to Bimbo [Jim Wilson] – this is going to be your squad … we fought with them … and stayed out of it’.81 Jim Wilson remembers the approach and its ramifications for relations in East Belfast at the time: ‘Whenever one of their commanders came to me … he asked me could I and a handful of others join the UDA. I said to him – why a handful? We’re all the Tartan, we’re all together’.82 Wilson didn’t have to think about it for long; almost immediately he came back with a response for the commander, who was a subordinate of East Belfast UDA leader Tommy Herron’s and also a family friend: ‘Sorry, it’s all or nothing; we all go together or we don’t. The whole idea was to get the leadership of the Woodstock Tartan and then they could control the Tartans, and then they could switch it on and off when it suited them’.83 This was also the feeling in the army. Later in the year, after a clash between the UDA and British troops led to rioting, Lieutenant Colonel Simon Bradish-Ellames told ITV news: ‘I believe the UDA can turn the Tartans on and off like a tap’.84 By that stage Wilson, Niblock and others close to them had largely left the Tartan behind, although another contingent of the Woodstock group had fallen in with the UDA.

    (p.165) From spring to early summer 1972, further contact was made by various loyalist groups, ranging from the credible to the highly esoteric. Niblock recalls:

    In between that time and July, we had approaches from the UVF officially, approaches from the Red Hand, from Tara … two older guys who came and played tape recordings and gave us a presentation, and also the Orange Volunteers who brought a couple of us for weapons training as well.85

    As these approaches were being made, the political and security context had declined to such an extent that the Methodist Minister Reverend John Stewart from Woodvale was compelled to describe the emerging situation as the ‘Protestant majority’s high noon’. The Sunday News stated that on Sunday 11 June, Stewart had said ‘that from the Christian point of view to speak of restraint sounds hollow and unrealistic to those who live in the streets of uncertainty, disappointment and discontent’.86 Nevertheless, he called for people not to be discouraged or afraid, stating that ‘They must strive by love and understanding to preserve within their own street the basic Christian values’.87

    For many working-class Protestants prayer was not enough and as the Twelfth celebrations approached a bellicose, anti-authoritarian mood prevailed in many of the terraced streets. In the second week of July the Sunday News took the pulse of loyalist Belfast during the start of the first post-Stormont summer. The article stated that ‘The Union Jack will be taking a back seat in this year’s Twelfth celebrations. For in the Loyalist areas of Belfast … the Ulster flag has scooped the popularity poll and is flying high in a ratio of five to one with the Union Jack’.88 It was also claimed that the Vanguard flag, with its six-pointed star design, had emerged as more popular than the Union Jack, shopkeepers noting that they had sold around 200 Ulster flags per week as customers showed their preference for the symbol of the prorogued Stormont parliament.

    One Sandy Row shopkeeper told the Sunday News that ‘They tell me they are protesting against the Westminster administration and some are deliberately not flying the Union Jack’.89 The paper visited nine streets in the Shankill, East Belfast, Sandy Row, Suffolk and the coastal town of Bangor where its reporter found a total of 169 flags flying; 110 of which were Ulster flags, 38 Vanguard and only 21 Union Jacks. Several streets in the East Belfast area were found to fly only Ulster flags.90 Many streets in East Belfast saw a ‘dramatic splah [sic] of colour’ with ‘“ceilings” of red, white and blue bunting’.91

    (p.166) It was against this colourful and dramatic backdrop that on the evening of Thursday 20 July some of the original members of the Woodstock Tartan made their involvement in loyalist paramilitarism official by agreeing to be sworn into the RHC. In early February 1972 John McKeague had caused outrage by stating in an interview with David Frost that ‘Bloody Sunday’ should have been called ‘Good Sunday’.92 Even by McKeague’s controversial standards this statement was newsworthy but it was exactly the rhetoric that appealed to the young Tartans. It was around this time that some of the Woodstock Tartan first came into contact with McKeague. Like Ronnie McCullough in 1970, young men like Niblock and Wilson viewed McKeague as the sort of leader that militant loyalism needed. Niblock recalls:

    he had the shop at the time, the Tartan were back and forward to the shop because he was doing t-shirts, the Loyalist News. So some of the Tartan would have taken turns and guarded the shop93 … stood outside it ’til two or three in the morning. I didn’t connect McKeague with the Red Hand at the time; it was later that the connection became apparent to me [but] at the time McKeague was seen as a hard-liner.94

    The decision to join the RHC had been made as a group on the previous Thursday, 13 July. Niblock remembers: ‘All our meetings were held on Thursday nights … in the Raven Bar. We had … decided unanimously that the RHC suited us best. There were no special arrangements, other than be there – don’t be late – try and look a wee bit tidy – no drinking’.95 Niblock recalls the scene in the Raven Bar on 20 July: ‘There was a lounge up the stairs with a sort of raised area where they played darts … we were called up before the other people arrived. They had set up the table with a Union Jack, and a bible and a Luger gun. We just took our seats’. The senior members of the group who had arranged the table then went downstairs, reappearing after 15 minutes with two other young men, Ronnie McCullough and another Shankill RHC, Sammy Neill. ‘The two guys, I’d known them to see … they put on pilot jackets and berets and swore us in’.96 Niblock describes his emotions in the immediate aftermath:

    You felt as if you’d achieved something; certainly it was a dividing line – you were going from something where maybe you could have been fucking about, to … this is serious now. Certain ground rules were laid down. You were told here’s why you’re joining the organisation, here’s the reasons you should be joining the organisation, (p.167) and here’s what’s expected of you … it was formal then, whereas there was none of that in the Tartan. There was a line we knew we’d crossed, and things were going to take a more serious turn.97

    If anyone had witnessed these initiation ceremonies, which were taking place with increasing frequency, they would have been left in little doubt that a large number of young loyalists who had previously been in run-of-the-mill street gangs and then the more politically charged Tartans were now willingly committing themselves to fully fledged paramilitarism. Ronnie McCullough, who would be arrested for attempted murder exactly a week later, has stated: ‘the Tartans did represent a fruitful recruiting base’.98 The RHC quickly grew in East Belfast. Jim Wilson recalls the youthful nature of the organisation: ‘Out of 78 people we had signed up in the first three to six months, I was the second oldest, and I was 19’.99 A number of recruits joined from the Lord Street area of the Albertbridge Road, contributing to the relatively large number of RHC members in the east of the city. Wilson states that the age range of the RHC in Lord Street ‘was about 14 to about 16 … 17 at the oldest’.100

    The day after Niblock’s recruitment into the RHC has become notorious as a landmark in the Troubles: ‘Bloody Friday’. That afternoon, Friday 21 July 1972, the IRA launched its ‘biggest ever bomb offensive’101 across Belfast. Peter Taylor stated that the ‘carnage was horrendous: eleven people killed and 130 injured. The IRA claimed they had never intended to kill civilians, which is what they always said, but the excuse sounded hollow amid almost unbearable television pictures of the slaughter’.102 At the bus station in Oxford Street television cameras captured unforgettable scenes of men shovelling human remains into bags. The movement from Tartan to RHC appeared to be vindicated as the IRA once again stepped up its campaign. Robert Niblock was enjoying a day off during the traditional two-week summer break and recalls his memories of Bloody Friday:

    The next day was just a normal day … in the afternoon I’d went to Ormeau Park which I lived beside. I had a dog which had a broken leg, [I] carried the dog to the park … [I had a] transistor radio. What I always remember was there was a sort of slope that took you down to the football pitches.103

    Like so many other people in Belfast, Niblock was enjoying the good weather:

    a lovely day … you weren’t far from the [River] Lagan. Across the river, over towards the Markets area there was a boat club; there (p.168) must have been a group practising for a performance [there]. I couldn’t see them, but the doors of the boat club were open … they were playing a song which was out at the time called ‘I Can See Clearly Now’, Johnny Nash and another real ‘pop’ song, ‘I’m Mad About You’104

    All of a sudden the care-free atmosphere of the summer day was broken:

    It wasn’t unusual but because of the stillness of the day and the good weather I can remember a bomb going off and thinking, ‘That’s a fair bang there’. And then another. And then another, and another. At one stage I can remember saying to myself, ‘Time I wasn’t here, there’s something serious happening’. So, I took the dog back home and left it in. Straight out, round to the corner and by that stage all the boys started to arrive. I think it was around 4.30ish or 5.00 p.m. we decided to have an impromptu meeting in one of the guy’s houses. By this stage the news was coming through of what had actually happened. A lot of us wanted to go out and do something that night. At that stage the revenge we were looking to do was maybe go to Short Strand or Lower Ormeau and shoot a couple of Catholics, but the hierarchy decided no, we’ll not do that; we’ll wait and see what happens. Nothing happened that night. I actually went to the pictures. We were put on a sort of ‘stand-to’ situation. It [Bloody Friday] was a big turning point in my life.105

    David Ervine remembers Bloody Friday as being one atrocity too far, stating that he had been ‘increasingly getting fed up with attacks on my community … That culminated on the day of my nineteenth birthday, witnessing ‘Bloody Friday’. The following Sunday I joined the UVF’.106 Ervine was never much associated with the Tartan, but Brian Dawson, who was a member of the Woodstock Tartan at the time, recalls a triple killing earlier in July which reinforced his feeling that the IRA were not the anti-imperialist ideologues they wished to portray themselves as:

    Sectarian murders weren’t just committed by loyalist groups; they were also committed by the IRA. They like to put themselves across as an army who take the moral high ground when it comes to murder and bombings. I remember an incident one time of three men … going out for a drink … They left a party to go and buy drink; they were found murdered in Distillery Street … I think one was found in the front of the car and the other two men in the boot. The IRA have (p.169) committed sectarian murders; they’ve killed women and children; they’ve maimed women and children and also maimed thousands of people.107

    The murders to which Dawson refers were particularly gruesome and occurred on 9 July, shortly after an IRA ceasefire had broken down earlier in the evening. No. 6 Excise Street off Distillery Street was where Dawson had grown up before he moved to the east of the city. The killings thus had an emotional impact on him. The victims were James Joseph Fleming (29), Brian McMillan (21) and Charles Alan Meehan (18). Fleming was a Territorial Army staff sergeant from Barnstable in Devon, while McMillan and Meehan were Protestants from West Belfast. When a milkman came across an abandoned car at 6.30 a.m., he discovered Fleming and Meehan in the back seat, covered with a coat and alive but with bullet wounds to the head, while McMillan was later discovered in the boot with similar injuries. The TA staff sergeant and Fleming died later that day while McMillan passed away in hospital on 11 July. According to the authors of Lost Lives, ‘there seems little doubt that the organisation [PIRA] was responsible’.108 An attempt had been made to set fire to the car. A policeman revealed at the time: ‘Whoever shot these men was not content with that – they also tried to burn them alive’.109

    David Ervine has stated that when he joined the UVF on Sunday 23 July he did so having ‘made a judgement that the UVF were more likely to do the business’:

    Around that time you had the growth of the UDA … they did a lot of marching, they did a lot of drilling, they did all of that, and that looked great … but I wanted to sort of hit back, I wanted to hit back with an absolute ruthlessness and I perceived that the UVF was the vehicle that I was most likely to do that with …110

    While many of the Woodstock Tartan joined the RHC or UVF in the spring and summer of 1972 for the reasons Ervine described, there was a contingent who fell in with the local UDA. Possibly lured by the offer of rank and the prestige which came along with it, ‘Harry’, one of the young Tartans who had spoken to Max Hastings, brought together a group of teenagers and became the commander of a UDA team at the age of 16. The brigadier of the UDA in East Belfast during this tumultuous period was Tommy Herron. As an individual, Herron sharply divided opinion even among those members of his own organisation. For those watching events unfold in East Belfast in (p.170) 1972 and 1973 it seemed clear why Herron was attracted to the power that accompanied the position he found himself in. Reg Empey was involved with Vanguard at the time and recalls:

    you had the Tommy Herrons of this world, who were strutting around with their henchmen, beginning to appear like Mafia-type figures locally … they’d have been drinking in the Park Avenue and he’d have the girls with him … the corduroy jacket and all the rest of it. That began to grate on people because instead of fighting the cause they appeared to have loads of money and were not the type of people who ran with the grain in East Belfast.111

    Brian Dawson was close to ‘Harry’ and, despite being involved with the UDA at this stage, he remembers that there was little love for the organisation among the young Tartans who joined up. Despite having the same reservations as Jim Wilson about the UDA, friendships from the Tartan often proved the deciding factor when senior or more mature members decided to join a paramilitary grouping. Dawson, remaining in the Woodstock Tartan, went with ‘Harry’ into an association with the UDA but found the experience an unhappy one. Reflecting the experiences of some young loyalists at the hands of groups such as the UDA police, Dawson recalls: ‘There were UDA men who stepped over the mark and abused their authority … interfering in things that had nothing to do with the UDA’, stating that at this time:

    there was a room known as the romper room … people would be brought there and rompered … Mates of mine had their jaws broken and others badly beaten-up. If they couldn’t get the person they wanted, the family members of the person would be attacked. There were people living in more fear of the UDA than the IRA.112

    Dawson is also keen to highlight that not all UDA members took liberties with their newly found authority: ‘I can remember a lot of good UDA men who were in the organisation for all the right reasons’.113

    The experiences of those former Woodstock Tartans who had joined the UDA in spring 1972 had been a forewarning of the severe physical discipline that the organisation meted out. Robert Niblock remembers a mini feud erupting between the RHC and UDA in the east of the city in late 1972: ‘They took some of our guys away and broke their arms, stuck their heads down toilets, gave them the wet towel treatment’.114 Soon after, the UDA came to Mitchells and sought out the RHC contingent. Niblock explains how the (p.171) RHC dealt with the problem: ‘We went into the club and chased them out with guns’.115

    Blood follows blood

    After Bloody Friday, loyalist anger increased. For all the horrors that had been visited by republicans on the Shankill in late 1971, Bloody Friday was another watershed in the seemingly never-ending descent towards the depths of an all-out sectarian war. The Secretary of State William Whitelaw was seen by loyalists as incapable of mobilising enough military power to destroy the IRA. The week after Bloody Friday, the Loyalist News summed up the feeling among the young men who had joined the RHC or established the YCV when it stated:

    After what has happened on ‘Bloody Friday’ it has been proved to all those who at an earlier stage had some doubts, that the only way to beat the terrorists is to hit them hard again and again. We know where they operate from and who they are, so lets [sic] go and get them, before another outrage happens … ATTACK NOW … CLEAR THEM OUT …116

    Loyalists may have known where the IRA operated from, with Ardoyne, the Falls and the Markets being particularly notorious at the time, but there is little to suggest that, aside from some carefully collected intelligence, they knew where to find those responsible for atrocities such as Bloody Friday. Prior to this period the tactic had been to target isolated Catholics for intimidation; this had been the blunt raison d’être of the Tartan during 1971. By July 1972 intimidation was no longer enough. Random sectarian assassination would be the sharp overriding loyalist tactic as the paramilitaries sought to dissuade Catholics from giving ‘succour’ to the IRA. Plum Smith retrospectively described the modus operandi of the RHC in the summer of 1972 in an interview with Alan F. Parkinson, underlining the sectarian nature of random assassination:

    The problems faced by Loyalist groups in those early days were a lack of intelligence and information, which meant that we ended up seeing any Nationalist as a legitimate target. I would often set off from the Shankill with a driver and sometimes an accomplice, occasionally with the name and address of the target but more often than not, we would just open fire on any young male we would spot (p.172) on the street in a Nationalist area. Afterwards, I didn’t dwell on it too much, as we felt we were at war and it wasn’t a personal thing.117

    It was during one of these operations that Smith, Ronnie McCullough and a fellow loyalist were apprehended by the authorities. On the night of 27–28 July, while driving near the Unity Flats complex in a stolen van, the group spotted a man walking along the pavement. Drawing the van to a halt, McCullough opened the door and put one foot to the ground, engaging the man in small talk about street directions. The young man was a Catholic named Joseph Henry Hall. In their account at the time, Dillon and Lehane stated: ‘A few words were exchanged before one of the men in the van emptied the contents of a revolver into Hall and left him for dead. He had been hit by at least ten bullets from virtually point-blank range’.118 As Joseph Henry Hall lay on the pavement with severe but not fatal injuries, McCullough and his comrades sped back towards the Shankill. Before they could reach their destination they came upon a security force patrol from Glenravel Barracks which had been alerted about a stolen car in the city centre. On hearing the gun shots, the patrol had lined up across Clifton Street and in the ensuing panic the unit’s driver, Thomas Reid, ducked for cover and lost control of the van, crashing it. Reid bore the full force of the collision, the steering wheel penetrating his stomach. McCullough and Smith were also injured. McCullough recalls that a woman from Unity Flats, thinking that he had been shot, rushed to his side and said an Act of Contrition. When McCullough arrived at the hospital a doctor was tasked with extracting the pieces of windshield glass which had become embedded in his face during the crash, and stitching up the wounds. Perhaps understandably, the doctor was not gentle in his endeavour; he was more concerned with Hall’s fate.

    Although the Woodstock Tartan members who had joined the RHC only seven days previously had been told by McCullough about the eventualities a paramilitary could expect to face, it must still have surprised the young men to find out that a leading member of the organisation, who had been integral in their passage from Tartan to militant loyalism, had been arrested so quickly. For many a young man, this may have acted as a sign or a warning of the dangers inherent in the lifestyle they had chosen, but in the context of July 1972 such timidity did not and could not exist. Niblock remembers that more than anything McCullough’s arrest at the scene of an attempted sectarian assassination actually galvanised him and his cohorts to ‘carry on the fight’:119

    It was a bit of a shock, but it also in many ways … hardened our belief in what we were doing was the right thing … he was leading (p.173) by example … this is what attracted us to the Red Hand, you know – that most people done things. They weren’t a big organisation, so more was expected of you. Everybody pulled their weight. And this is what we were led to believe; so a week later, [we were] sort of saying, he’s setting the scene for what we should be doing … when he appeared in court on remand we were all there to see him and he became a bit of a figure then. It also gave us that sort of impetus to say, well at least we don’t have bullshitters here and we don’t have people who’s going to ‘swing the lead’ – he’s obviously a leader in the best possible way and that’s the way we want to go.120

    While loyalists would increasingly target random Catholics for assassination on the streets of Belfast from 1972 onwards, there were many others who found themselves dragged into cars and taken to romper rooms. The ‘rationale’ behind ‘rompering’ was brutal, horrific and simple. Steve Bruce has outlined that some loyalists assumed ‘that any Catholic knew something about the IRA, and sufficient brutality would release that knowledge’.121 This was particularly true in the four-week period following Bloody Friday, when Catholics Francis Arthurs,122 Patrick O’Neill,123 Rose McCartney,124 Francis McStravick125 and Thomas Madden126 were subjected to torture of various kinds before being killed. Madden, 48, was murdered in the early hours of 13 August in the Oldpark area after a long session of unimaginable torment. His body, bearing 110 stab wounds, was found dumped in a shop entry at 5.45 a.m. by local women returning from a disco. A woman who lived nearby had heard a man repeatedly screaming ‘Kill me, kill me’ at around 4 a.m.127

    Such brutality would become a hallmark of some loyalist paramilitary teams in the 1970s, most notoriously the ‘Butcher’ gang from the Shankill UVF. The IRA had already demonstrated with the murders of McFarland and Kells in late 1971 that they were capable of similar depravity.

    Constitutional angst

    One of the ongoing anxieties for loyalists during 1972 as young men flocked to join the paramilitaries was the loss of Stormont. Coupled with the IRA offensive, the spectre of Stormont hung heavy as a symbolic defeat for Protestants. Billy Hutchinson recalls: ‘Stormont had lost – completely – control of what was going on and that the British Government were not interested in doing what they needed to do, they weren’t going to put down any rebellion – they were [just] going to manage it’.128 For loyalists, containment was not (p.174) enough. Stormont would have to be resurrected on their terms and the IRA defeated completely: ‘I think that’s why the UVF and other paramilitary organisations were [in existence] because they [the British Government] gave people no confidence that they were going to deal with [the IRA]’.129

    On Saturday 30 September 1972 Craig convened yet another massive demonstration. On this occasion Parliament Buildings Stormont was the venue and once again thousands of people turned out to hear their modern-day Carson speak. The atmosphere was overwhelmingly militant, with banks of UDA men lining up the mile to the parliament. On the steps of the grand old building RHC members in the by now familiar navy pilot jackets and Wranglers, and wearing binoculars around their necks, formed a guard of honour for an Orange Volunteer colour party. On the balcony sat prominent politicians including Bill Craig alongside Winston Rea and UDA representatives.

    Bobby Rodgers was among the Red Hand members that day: ‘The Red Hand lined up down both sides and across the front. That was a privilege … I was actually walking about with a pair of binoculars and a.45 pistol under my arm in a shoulder holster … that was protection for the people on the balcony’.130 Rodgers states that there was specific reasoning for the RHC being given this role, particularly at large demonstrations like this one at Stormont: ‘if you had have asked for a team of, say, a hundred people, they were ready-made … they [the RHC] were all very definitive in the berets and the pilot jackets’.131 The RHC were closely allied to Craig, and had provided security and guard duty at the Vanguard headquarters. Craig was in typically bullish mood and with Direct Rule six months old he told the crowds who had gathered: ‘To-day we are knocking at the door, asking for our rights. One day … if there’s so [sic] other way of getting our rights, we’ll storm this door and establish in this country a government of the people that governs with the consent of the people’.132

    Initially there had been plans for the Stormont rally to be the launching pad for a takeover by a conglomerate of loyalists. The previous evening the RHC had attended a training camp at Crawfordsburn Country Park which was overseen by McKeague. Bobby Rodgers remembers that these could be feisty occasions with the sort of rivalry that would have been prevalent between the various Tartan gangs rearing its head, albeit on another level:

    What you actually had was the different teams from the different areas. Now, there was always a tension there, especially with the East Belfast team and the Shankill team. Teams think they’re better than (p.175) the other teams; they get on alright with each other but it wouldn’t have taken all that much for them things to kick off.133

    Robert Niblock was one of the East Belfast members there:

    We had been aware for a couple of weeks [that] on Friday night after work you bring … your pilot jacket, but we also had combat jackets. You brought your boots … combat trousers … you’ll be doing unarmed combat, you’ll be doing weapons training, you’ll be doing some explosives training … some manoeuvres. On the Saturday – up early, reveille and get washed, done a wee bit of marching … [then] you drove to Stormont in cars.134

    In this tense atmosphere it was planned that the loyalist paramilitaries would be part of a coup d’état organised by Paisley, Craig and other loyalist politicians. Jim Wilson recalls:

    Everyone had to be prepared to move in and take over … the police and army were going to be challenged and weapons taken off them and all sorts of things. I don’t know who the leadership actually agreed this with, but we were told to prepare. And we prepared. We had women bringing prams up laden with guns … The only instructions we were told was whenever people move to go in to Stormont and take it over, to go in and use force of arms if needed.135

    Niblock remembers what his instructions were that day:

    I’d been asked to take part in an operation with three other guys; we were led to believe [there would be] some sort of takeover of parts of Belfast. The four of us who were there were asked to drop out of Stormont and we went, got into a car … travelled to meet another group of people who would then tell us where we were going and what we had to do. It was at that point that the operation that I was supposed to be involved in … was called off.136

    When the insurgency was cancelled at the eleventh hour it was much to the frustration of the paramilitaries, and in particular the young members of the RHC: ‘That was part of my early days, saying to the likes of the Paisleys … of the world, “It’s the Grand Old fuckin’ Duke of York”’, recalls Wilson explaining that the standing down of the coup was an influential factor in Paisley being given the famous nickname by disgruntled militant loyalists: ‘I think the term the Grand Old Duke of York, he got it for that time … (p.176) marching us up the hill. The risks that our people took in carrying weapons … ready to do a coup d’état, and for fuckin’ their balls to drop off was a disgrace’.137 Niblock felt a similar sense of anticlimax: ‘Disappointed, because you were up for doing something, you wanted to do something. The vast majority of people I knew at the time who were in the Red Hand would have been glad to have been asked to do it, and I was no exception’.138

    Paisley’s reputation would disintegrate further among loyalists as the decade went on as he first attempted to steal the limelight after calculatingly missing the early days of the UWC strike before attempting an embarrassing imitation charade of the 1974 victory in May 1977.

    Some of the young RHC and other loyalists did, however, retain an admiration for the likes of Ernest Baird and Bill Craig based on a perceived mutual sense of loyalty. Wilson recalled:

    I felt that Craig never once betrayed us … by saying, ‘Don’t be going down this road’; anything that he ever said, he stood by it, and he didn’t backtrack … he didn’t try and deny us in later years … he knew that the loyalist people were risking their lives for to save this country.139

    No soft approach

    In early October Tomás Mac Giolla, speaking at a Sinn Féin conference in Co. Monaghan, had called on the UVF to disassociate itself from 60 assassinations in Northern Ireland over the previous two months. In response the 1st Belfast Battalion stated that it would have been best to ignore Mac Giolla, but to do so would allow the truth to be ‘turned completely upside down’. The organisation further declared:

    For far too long the world has listened to accounts of how Roman Catholics were killed because they happened to be ‘in the wrong place at the wrong time’. Too few words have been related about the unfortunate Protestants in the same predicament. Of course we condemn the sectarian killings. Our own people have suffered as much as anyone else through these hideous crimes, but are not these acts a positive result of the bigoted actions of the I.R.A.? Has it not been the I.R.A. who have created the strife and the alienation among all the working class people? Has it not been the activities of the I.R.A. that have resulted in the formation of the U.D.A. and the enormous recruitment in the ranks of the Ulster Volunteer Force?140

    (p.177) Referring to atrocities carried out by republicans over the past year, the UVF statement continued by asking, ‘Where was MacGiolla’s condemnation of the murders at the Four Step Inn, and the Balmoral Showrooms, or the killings of Ranger Best, Senator Barnhill or Marcus McCausland?141 So, MacGiolla, get your priorities right. You are no more interested in the working class Protestant than the man in the moon!’142 While Gusty Spence had espoused the idea of ceasing sectarian assassination, there was little evidence of this in practice and after his rearrest by the Parachute Regiment in early November his younger charges had an even looser reign.

    Hutchinson, McCullough, Kinner, Niblock, Wilson, Rodgers and many other young men had no jail experience to blunt the edges. On the contrary, their calcified attitude had been formed by the experiences of growing civil disorder and an increasingly intense level of republican violence on the streets of their city. Spence understood that the collapse of Stormont was no great tragedy for the working class of Northern Ireland, stating in his television interview in July that, ‘In so far as people speak of fifty years of misrule, I wouldn’t disagree with that. What I would say is this, that we have suffered every bit as much as the people of the Falls Road, or any other underprivileged quarter, in many cases more so’.143 While such politicking might have impressed those who would wish for a more radical form of loyalism based on class politics and issues, the concerns of the women in East Belfast and many other working-class Protestants could not be ignored. They demanded action against the IRA. The security forces were increasingly seen as impotent and it was expected that the young men do their bit.

    With the backing of large sections of their community and the militant rhetoric of Vanguard politicians like Bill Craig, eager young loyalists took up arms with increasing regularity as the early years of the decade progressed.

    Notes

    (1) Thomas Hennessey, The Evolution of the Troubles, 1970–72 (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 2007), p.349.

    (2) Simon Winchester, In Holy Terror: Reporting the Ulster Troubles (London: Faber and Faber, 1975), p.179.

    (3) Winchester, In Holy Terror, p.179.

    (4) ‘How Shankill Mothers Checked the “Protestant Backlash”’, News Letter (10 Apr. 1972).

    (5) ‘How Shankill Mothers Checked the “Protestant Backlash”’.

    (6) ‘Bishop Warns against “the Backlash”’, News Letter (7 Jun. 1972).

    (p.178) (7) ‘Bishop Warns against “the Backlash”’.

    (8) ‘How Shankill Mothers Checked the “Protestant Backlash”’, News Letter (10 Apr. 1972).

    (9) ‘How Shankill Mothers Checked the “Protestant Backlash”’.

    (10) Henry Sinnerton, David Ervine: Uncharted Waters (Dublin: Brandon, 2002), p.35.

    (11) ‘75,000 RCs Sign Petition for Peace’, News Letter (2 Jun. 1972).

    (12) ‘75,000 RCs Sign Petition for Peace’.

    (13) ‘Bishop Warns against ‘the Backlash’.

    (14) D.M. Jackson and D.M. MacRaild, ‘The Conserving Crowd: Mass Unionist Demonstrations in Liverpool and Tyneside, 1912–13’, in D. George Boyce and Alan O’Day (eds), The Ulster Crisis 1885–1921 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), pp.229–246.

    (15) Speech by William Craig, Ulster Vanguard leader at rally in Ormeau Park (18 Mar. 1972).

    (16) Sunday News (19 Mar. 1972).

    (17) Sunday News (19 Mar. 1972).

    (18) Graham Walker, A History of the Ulster Unionist Party (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004), p.195.

    (19) Fortnight (20 Oct. 1972).

    (20) ITV News at Ten (20 Oct. 1972), United Kingdom, Independent Television [news broadcast].

    (21) TNA CAB/128/48.

    (22) TNA CAB/128/48.

    (23) Orange-Loyalist Songs (Belfast: Shankill Defence Association, 1971).

    (24) Loyalist News (Jun. 1971).

    (25) TNA CAB/128/48.

    (26) Loyalist News: Jokes, Cartoons, Songs (Belfast: Shankill Defence Association, 1972).

    (27) ‘Writing on the Wall’, News Letter (6 Apr. 1972).

    (28) ‘Writing on the Wall’.

    (29) ‘Writing on the Wall’.

    (30) ‘Writing on the Wall’.

    (31) ‘Writing on the Wall’.

    (32) Author interview with David Smyth, (26 Sept. 2013).

    (33) Author interview with Henry Sinnerton, (19 Sept. 2013).

    (34) Author interview with Henry Sinnerton, (19 Sept. 2013).

    (35) Desmond Morris, The Soccer Tribe (London: Jonathan Cape, 1981). (p.179)

    (36) Author interview with Henry Sinnerton (19 Sept. 2013).

    (37) ‘Parents’ Frustrations behind Tartan Rioters’, The Times (1 May 1972).

    (38) ‘Parents’ Frustrations behind Tartan Rioters’.

    (39) PRONI CREL/5/3/39, ‘Willowfield Youth Club 1971–1974’.

    (40) ‘The Problems Facing Youth Workers in the Shankill District’, Combat (no date, c.1974).

    (41) Winchester, In Holy Terror, p.242.

    (42) Winchester, In Holy Terror, p.243.

    (43) Winchester, In Holy Terror, p.243.

    (44) Author interview with Jim Wilson (26 Jun. 2015).

    (45) Author interview with Robert Niblock (9 Sept. 2014).

    (46) ‘The Hidden Faces of Ulster’, News Letter (29 May 1972).

    (47) ‘Loyalist Groups Demonstrate: Para-military Parade’, Irish Times (29 May 1972).

    (48) ‘The Hidden Faces of Ulster’.

    (49) ‘Loyalist Groups Demonstrate: Para-military Parade’.

    (50) ‘Para-military Uniforms Mean Spending Spree’, Sunday News (11 Jun. 1972).

    (51) David McKittrick, Seamus Kelters, Brian Feeney and Chris Thornton, Lost Lives: The Stories of the Men, Women and Children Who Died as a Result of the Northern Ireland Troubles (Edinburgh: Mainstream, 1999), p.206.

    (52) McKittrick et al., Lost Lives, p.206.

    (53) ‘UDA ‘Police’ Go on Parade’, News Letter (30 Jun. 1972).

    (54) ‘UDA ‘Police’ Go on Parade’.

    (55) Author interview with Robert Niblock (9 Sept. 2014).

    (56) Peter Taylor, Loyalists (London: Bloomsbury, 1999), p.104.

    (57) Taylor, Loyalists, p.105.

    (58) PRONI BELF/6/1/1/37/107A, ‘Coroner’s Inquest Relating to the Death of Patrick Pearse McCrory Who Died 13 March 1972’ (7 Sept. 1972).

    (59) ‘Belfast Father Says Tartan Gang Killed his Son’, The Irish News (15 Mar. 1972).

    (60) ‘Belfast Father Says Tartan Gang Killed his Son’.

    (61) ‘Start of the Backlash’, Fortnight (23 Mar. 1972).

    (62) ‘Start of the Backlash’.

    (63) McKittrick et al., Lost Lives, p.165.

    (64) ‘Trail of Tears’, Sunday Life (21 Mar. 1999).

    (65) McKittrick et al., Lost Lives, p.152.

    (66) ‘Belfast Father Says Tartan Gang Killed his Son’.

    (67) ‘Start of the Backlash’.

    (68) Roy Garland, Gusty Spence (Belfast: Blackstaff Press, 2001), pp.138–139.

    (p.180) (69) William ‘Plum’ Smith, Inside Man: The Loyalists of Long Kesh (Newtownards: Colourpoint, 2014), pp.54–55.

    (70) Garland, Gusty Spence, p.142.

    (71) Loyalist News (8 Jul. 1972).

    (72) Roy Garland, Gusty Spence, p.52.

    (73) Author interview with Billy Hutchinson (21 Jun. 2013).

    (74) World in Action, ‘In Search of Gusty Spence’ (10 Jul. 1972), United Kingdom, ITV [documentary].

    (75) The Ulster Volunteer Force/Red Hand Commando Agreement (1972), Box 1, Folder 9, Gusty Spence Papers, MS.2013.008.

    (76) The Ulster Volunteer Force/Red Hand Commando Agreement (1972), Box 1, Folder 9, Gusty Spence Papers, MS.2013.008.

    (77) David Boulton, The UVF: An Anatomy of Loyalist Rebellion, 1966–1973 (Dublin: Torc, 1973), pp.170–171.

    (78) Author interview with Billy Hutchinson (6 Mar. 2015).

    (79) Author interview with Jim Magee (30 Apr. 2014).

    (80) Author interview with Robert Niblock (6 Nov. 2013).

    (81) Author interview with Robert Niblock (6 Nov. 2013).

    (82) Author interview with Jim Wilson (14 Mar. 2014).

    (83) Author interview with Jim Wilson (14 Mar. 2014).

    (84) ITV News at Ten (17 Oct. 1972), United Kingdom, Independent Television [news broadcast].

    (85) Author interview with Robert Niblock (6 Nov. 2013).

    (86) ‘Protestant “High Noon” is Near’, Sunday News (12 Jun. 1972).

    (87) ‘Protestant “High Noon” is Near’.

    (88) ‘Union Jack Takes Back Seat for the Twelfth’, Sunday News (9 Jul. 1972).

    (89) ‘Union Jack Takes Back Seat for the Twelfth’.

    (90) ‘Union Jack Takes Back Seat for the Twelfth’.

    (91) ‘Union Jack Takes Back Seat for the Twelfth’.

    (92) ‘Another Demonstration Set in Ireland Sunday’, Sumter Daily Item (12 Feb. 1972).

    (93) McKeague’s flat, which was above his shop, had been attacked in May 1971 by fellow loyalists. McKeague was at a RHC training camp in Portrush but his elderly mother Isabella, who had mobility problems, was in the flat and was burned to death.

    (94) Author interview with Robert Niblock (12 Aug. 2015).

    (95) Author interview with Robert Niblock (12 Aug. 2015).

    (96) Author interview with Robert Niblock (12 Aug. 2015).

    (97) Author interview with Robert Niblock (12 Aug. 2015).

    (98) Author interview with Ronnie McCullough (7 Nov. 2014).

    (p.181) (99) Author interview with Jim Wilson (26 Jun. 2015).

    (100) Author interview with Jim Wilson (26 Jun. 2015).

    (101) Taylor, Loyalists, p.108.

    (102) Taylor, Loyalists, p.108.

    (103) Author interview with Robert Niblock (12 Aug. 2015).

    (104) Author interview with Robert Niblock (12 Aug. 2015).

    (105) Author interview with Robert Niblock (12 Aug. 2015).

    (106) Ed Moloney, Voice from the Grave: Two Men’s War in Ireland (London: Faber & Faber, 2010), p.306.

    (107) Author interview with Brian Dawson (8 May 2015).

    (108) McKittrick et al., Lost Lives, p.214.

    (109) McKittrick et al., Lost Lives, p.214.

    (110) Moloney, Voice from the Grave, p.306.

    (111) Author interview with Sir Reg Empey (28 Feb. 2014).

    (112) Author interview with Brian Dawson (8 May 2015).

    (113) Author interview with Brian Dawson (8 May 2015).

    (114) The ‘wet towel’ was a form of water boarding in which a towel soaked in water was placed over a person’s face, rendering them incapable of breathing.

    (115) Author interview with Robert Niblock (6 Nov. 2013).

    (116) Loyalist News (29 Jul. 1972).

    (117) Parkinson, 1972 and the Ulster Troubles (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2010), p.290.

    (118) Martin Dillon and Denis Lehane, Political Murder in Northern Ireland (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973), p.272.

    (119) This phrase was often shouted by loyalists and their supporters as an act of defiance and encouragement in courtrooms.

    (120) Author interview with Robert Niblock (12 Aug. 2015).

    (121) Steve Bruce, The Red Hand (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), p.173.

    (122) McKittrick et al., Lost Lives, p.234.

    (123) McKittrick et al., Lost Lives, p.234.

    (124) McKittrick et al., Lost Lives, p.234. The murders of Arthurs, O’Neill and McCartney all took place in the early hours of the morning following Bloody Friday.

    (125) McKittrick et al., Lost Lives, p.238.

    (126) McKittrick et al., Lost Lives, p.247.

    (127) McKittrick et al., Lost Lives, p.247.

    (128) Author interview with Billy Hutchinson (21 Jun. 2015).

    (129) Author interview with Billy Hutchinson (21 Jun. 2015).

    (130) Author interview with Bobby Rodgers (30 Apr. 2015).

    (131) Author interview with Bobby Rodgers (30 Apr. 2015).

    (132) ‘Thousands of Loyalists Hear Craig pledge: We’ll Defend our Heritage’, Sunday News (1 Oct. 1972).

    (p.182) (133) Author interview with Bobby Rodgers (30 Apr. 2015).

    (134) Author interview with Robert Niblock (12 Aug. 2015).

    (135) Author interview with Jim Wilson (26 Jun. 2015).

    (136) Author interview with Robert Niblock (12 Aug. 2015).

    (137) Author interview with Jim Wilson (26 Jun. 2015).

    (138) Author interview with Robert Niblock (12 Aug. 2015).

    (139) Author interview with Jim Wilson (26 Jun. 2015).

    (140) ‘Sectarian Killings Are Hideous, Says U.V.F.’, Irish Times (9 Oct. 1972).

    (141) McCausland was a Catholic who had joined the UDR on its formation to set an example to his fellow co-religionists. He resigned from service in protest at internment but retained his mess card. See McKittrick et al., Lost Lives, pp.160–161.

    (142) ‘Sectarian Killings Are Hideous, Says U.V.F.’.

    (143) Boulton, The UVF, p.172.

    Notes:

    (1) Thomas Hennessey, The Evolution of the Troubles, 1970–72 (Dublin: Irish Academic Press, 2007), p.349.

    (2) Simon Winchester, In Holy Terror: Reporting the Ulster Troubles (London: Faber and Faber, 1975), p.179.

    (4) ‘How Shankill Mothers Checked the “Protestant Backlash”’, News Letter (10 Apr. 1972).

    (6) ‘Bishop Warns against “the Backlash”’, News Letter (7 Jun. 1972).

    (8) ‘How Shankill Mothers Checked the “Protestant Backlash”’, News Letter (10 Apr. 1972).

    (10) Henry Sinnerton, David Ervine: Uncharted Waters (Dublin: Brandon, 2002), p.35.

    (11) ‘75,000 RCs Sign Petition for Peace’, News Letter (2 Jun. 1972).

    (14) D.M. Jackson and D.M. MacRaild, ‘The Conserving Crowd: Mass Unionist Demonstrations in Liverpool and Tyneside, 1912–13’, in D. George Boyce and Alan O’Day (eds), The Ulster Crisis 1885–1921 (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006), pp.229–246.

    (15) Speech by William Craig, Ulster Vanguard leader at rally in Ormeau Park (18 Mar. 1972).

    (16) Sunday News (19 Mar. 1972).

    (17) Sunday News (19 Mar. 1972).

    (18) Graham Walker, A History of the Ulster Unionist Party (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2004), p.195.

    (19) Fortnight (20 Oct. 1972).

    (20) ITV News at Ten (20 Oct. 1972), United Kingdom, Independent Television [news broadcast].

    (21) TNA CAB/128/48.

    (22) TNA CAB/128/48.

    (23) Orange-Loyalist Songs (Belfast: Shankill Defence Association, 1971).

    (25) TNA CAB/128/48.

    (26) Loyalist News: Jokes, Cartoons, Songs (Belfast: Shankill Defence Association, 1972).

    (27) ‘Writing on the Wall’, News Letter (6 Apr. 1972).

    (32) Author interview with David Smyth, (26 Sept. 2013).

    (33) Author interview with Henry Sinnerton, (19 Sept. 2013).

    (34) Author interview with Henry Sinnerton, (19 Sept. 2013).

    (35) Desmond Morris, The Soccer Tribe (London: Jonathan Cape, 1981). (p.179)

    (36) Author interview with Henry Sinnerton (19 Sept. 2013).

    (37) ‘Parents’ Frustrations behind Tartan Rioters’, The Times (1 May 1972).

    (39) PRONI CREL/5/3/39, ‘Willowfield Youth Club 1971–1974’.

    (40) ‘The Problems Facing Youth Workers in the Shankill District’, Combat (no date, c.1974).

    (44) Author interview with Jim Wilson (26 Jun. 2015).

    (45) Author interview with Robert Niblock (9 Sept. 2014).

    (46) ‘The Hidden Faces of Ulster’, News Letter (29 May 1972).

    (47) ‘Loyalist Groups Demonstrate: Para-military Parade’, Irish Times (29 May 1972).

    (50) ‘Para-military Uniforms Mean Spending Spree’, Sunday News (11 Jun. 1972).

    (51) David McKittrick, Seamus Kelters, Brian Feeney and Chris Thornton, Lost Lives: The Stories of the Men, Women and Children Who Died as a Result of the Northern Ireland Troubles (Edinburgh: Mainstream, 1999), p.206.

    (53) ‘UDA ‘Police’ Go on Parade’, News Letter (30 Jun. 1972).

    (55) Author interview with Robert Niblock (9 Sept. 2014).

    (56) Peter Taylor, Loyalists (London: Bloomsbury, 1999), p.104.

    (58) PRONI BELF/6/1/1/37/107A, ‘Coroner’s Inquest Relating to the Death of Patrick Pearse McCrory Who Died 13 March 1972’ (7 Sept. 1972).

    (59) ‘Belfast Father Says Tartan Gang Killed his Son’, The Irish News (15 Mar. 1972).

    (61) ‘Start of the Backlash’, Fortnight (23 Mar. 1972).

    (64) ‘Trail of Tears’, Sunday Life (21 Mar. 1999).

    (68) Roy Garland, Gusty Spence (Belfast: Blackstaff Press, 2001), pp.138–139.

    (p.180) (69) William ‘Plum’ Smith, Inside Man: The Loyalists of Long Kesh (Newtownards: Colourpoint, 2014), pp.54–55.

    (73) Author interview with Billy Hutchinson (21 Jun. 2013).

    (74) World in Action, ‘In Search of Gusty Spence’ (10 Jul. 1972), United Kingdom, ITV [documentary].

    (75) The Ulster Volunteer Force/Red Hand Commando Agreement (1972), Box 1, Folder 9, Gusty Spence Papers, MS.2013.008.

    (76) The Ulster Volunteer Force/Red Hand Commando Agreement (1972), Box 1, Folder 9, Gusty Spence Papers, MS.2013.008.

    (77) David Boulton, The UVF: An Anatomy of Loyalist Rebellion, 1966–1973 (Dublin: Torc, 1973), pp.170–171.

    (78) Author interview with Billy Hutchinson (6 Mar. 2015).

    (79) Author interview with Jim Magee (30 Apr. 2014).

    (80) Author interview with Robert Niblock (6 Nov. 2013).

    (81) Author interview with Robert Niblock (6 Nov. 2013).

    (82) Author interview with Jim Wilson (14 Mar. 2014).

    (83) Author interview with Jim Wilson (14 Mar. 2014).

    (84) ITV News at Ten (17 Oct. 1972), United Kingdom, Independent Television [news broadcast].

    (85) Author interview with Robert Niblock (6 Nov. 2013).

    (86) ‘Protestant “High Noon” is Near’, Sunday News (12 Jun. 1972).

    (88) ‘Union Jack Takes Back Seat for the Twelfth’, Sunday News (9 Jul. 1972).

    (92) ‘Another Demonstration Set in Ireland Sunday’, Sumter Daily Item (12 Feb. 1972).

    (93) McKeague’s flat, which was above his shop, had been attacked in May 1971 by fellow loyalists. McKeague was at a RHC training camp in Portrush but his elderly mother Isabella, who had mobility problems, was in the flat and was burned to death.

    (94) Author interview with Robert Niblock (12 Aug. 2015).

    (95) Author interview with Robert Niblock (12 Aug. 2015).

    (96) Author interview with Robert Niblock (12 Aug. 2015).

    (97) Author interview with Robert Niblock (12 Aug. 2015).

    (98) Author interview with Ronnie McCullough (7 Nov. 2014).

    (p.181) (99) Author interview with Jim Wilson (26 Jun. 2015).

    (100) Author interview with Jim Wilson (26 Jun. 2015).

    (103) Author interview with Robert Niblock (12 Aug. 2015).

    (104) Author interview with Robert Niblock (12 Aug. 2015).

    (105) Author interview with Robert Niblock (12 Aug. 2015).

    (106) Ed Moloney, Voice from the Grave: Two Men’s War in Ireland (London: Faber & Faber, 2010), p.306.

    (107) Author interview with Brian Dawson (8 May 2015).

    (111) Author interview with Sir Reg Empey (28 Feb. 2014).

    (112) Author interview with Brian Dawson (8 May 2015).

    (113) Author interview with Brian Dawson (8 May 2015).

    (114) The ‘wet towel’ was a form of water boarding in which a towel soaked in water was placed over a person’s face, rendering them incapable of breathing.

    (115) Author interview with Robert Niblock (6 Nov. 2013).

    (117) Parkinson, 1972 and the Ulster Troubles (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2010), p.290.

    (118) Martin Dillon and Denis Lehane, Political Murder in Northern Ireland (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1973), p.272.

    (119) This phrase was often shouted by loyalists and their supporters as an act of defiance and encouragement in courtrooms.

    (120) Author interview with Robert Niblock (12 Aug. 2015).

    (121) Steve Bruce, The Red Hand (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992), p.173.

    (124) McKittrick et al., Lost Lives, p.234. The murders of Arthurs, O’Neill and McCartney all took place in the early hours of the morning following Bloody Friday.

    (128) Author interview with Billy Hutchinson (21 Jun. 2015).

    (129) Author interview with Billy Hutchinson (21 Jun. 2015).

    (130) Author interview with Bobby Rodgers (30 Apr. 2015).

    (131) Author interview with Bobby Rodgers (30 Apr. 2015).

    (132) ‘Thousands of Loyalists Hear Craig pledge: We’ll Defend our Heritage’, Sunday News (1 Oct. 1972).

    (p.182) (133) Author interview with Bobby Rodgers (30 Apr. 2015).

    (134) Author interview with Robert Niblock (12 Aug. 2015).

    (135) Author interview with Jim Wilson (26 Jun. 2015).

    (136) Author interview with Robert Niblock (12 Aug. 2015).

    (137) Author interview with Jim Wilson (26 Jun. 2015).

    (138) Author interview with Robert Niblock (12 Aug. 2015).

    (139) Author interview with Jim Wilson (26 Jun. 2015).

    (140) ‘Sectarian Killings Are Hideous, Says U.V.F.’, Irish Times (9 Oct. 1972).

    (141) McCausland was a Catholic who had joined the UDR on its formation to set an example to his fellow co-religionists. He resigned from service in protest at internment but retained his mess card. See McKittrick et al., Lost Lives, pp.160–161.