John Duice McMullan

He had great presence and was renowned for laughing in the face of adversity, with the tendency to see the funny side of things, even in the most tense or dangerous scenarios with many comrades on the receiving end – Sean Spike Murray
Around Christmas it is customary to think of old friends and comrades who have died during the year. One in particular was John ‘Duice’ McMullan. He was one of the stalwarts of the Dogs, Cage 11 and the H Blocks. Tall and tough Duice was a defender in many of the soccer games played on the pitches of Long Kesh. A difficult opponent to get around, being thrust into the role of centre forward against him was not a coveted position.

How he came to be called Duice I don’t know but he was also known as John the Joiner because joinery was where he found his feet in the world of employment, working on the construction of Divis Flats in the late 1960s.

He was the H-Blocks camp intelligence officer in the early 1980s and went about his business displaying nether fear or favour. We were on the same block and I was his subordinate in charge of intelligence in H Block 1. It was then that I really got to know and like him. Earlier I had met him in Cage 11 of Long Kesh where we were never particularly close. Then Duice was a great believer in left wing politics and revolution. An avid watcher of documentaries, like others in his hut, he was into revolution and strategists like the Vietnamese military leader, General Giap. An inveterate slagger he spared no one with the speed and punch of his wit and I was often on the receiving end of it, but he was funny and never malicious.

In Cage 11 along with those he knocked about out with he was in the avant-garde of a musical thrust. Other cages seemed to value Top of the Pops, but not the middle hut in Cage 11. Their big thing was the Old Grey Whistle Test presented by Bob Harris. Old Whispering Bob was their man and as rapidly as an act appeared on the Whistle Test an album quickly appeared in Duice’s hut. It was through them that I first became familiar with Lynyrd Skynyrd, Southside Johnny and the Asbury Dukes, Wild Willy Barrett and John Otway, and Billy Joel. They were most certainly not into Abba or the Bay City Rollers.

Duice was a committed IRA volunteer. Arrested in 1972 and sentenced to seven years the time behind bars accumulated as he was additionally sentenced to other terms for trying to escape. Once, if memory stands by me, he tried escaping from the cages of Long Kesh in the company of other volunteers dressed as armed British soldiers. For this he found himself in Newry Courthouse in 1975 where along with others he again made the bid for illicit freedom only to be recaptured in the company of the late Terence Cleeky Clarke. Larry Marley, also deceased, was one of those who successfully made it across the border after the Newry escape. Duice was finally released in 1978. Even with the benefit of 50% remission he spent much longer in the jail that he ought to.

To those who knew him it was no surprise when just over a year later he found himself captured with two other volunteers near Belfast city centre after a high speed RUC chase. He continued his journey from there to the blanket protest via the remand jail on the Crumlin Road in Belfast.

When I spoke to him at a funeral a few years ago we had a bantering match and the conversation eventually made its way around to the state of republicanism. I had known Duice was far from persuaded of the strategy. At the worst of times he would not pull back from talking with critics of the Sinn Fein strategy when the done thing was to ostracise them. At the funeral he told me I was wasting my time publicly commenting on the way things had gone. ‘It’s all about money now’ was his summation of things. He also raised the Stakeknife issue. It was not the first time we had been in touch about it. A number of years earlier when Freddie Scappaticci had been publicly identified as Stakeknife and Sinn Fein was busy shielding him from the accusation, Duice sent word to me through a mutual friend. Hs advice was terse; I should not stick my neck out on it; he had known the truth behind Scappaticci for many years. At the funeral he asked me when I had first discovered that Scap was the man. I explained to him that it was shortly before the actual outing in the Sunday papers. He told me he had known it for about a decade. Whether he actually knew or had narrowed it down to one suspect I never got to ask him. But I did press him on why the knowledge was never made more widespread. He shrugged. I was later to find out – again at another funeral – that Scappaticci was indeed identified by IRA colleagues as the most likely candidate for being an informer long before he was actually outed. It all caused me to reflect on the song and dance Sinn Fein created at the time in its insistence that Scappaticci was the victim of a securocrat plot. Only idiots believed that.

Duice McMullan was no idiot. An intelligent and resourceful IRA volunteer it was an honour to have worked with him and to spend time in the company of his memory on this most special of days.


  1. Ah well said Anthony ,Duice was a really nice big lad ,a gentleman,a rep in the proper sense,this place is the loser for his passing, thank you for remembering him, good man.

  2. Excellent article on Duice i knew him slightly only meeting him a few times in the blocks he was a good man and a fine republican. On a lighter note regarding your article one night in the blocks during a quiz the quizmaster asked the question "name a group 6 letters and 7 letters with no vowels" the answer was Lynyrd Skynyrd, i see you spelt it Lynard Skynard please tell me after all these years our quizmaster was not wrong.

  3. Paddyjoe1169, you are right about the spelling. The quizmaster in the blocks was right. What quizmaster there was ever wrong?!!! I was too busy seeing that I had the Asbury thing spelt right to pay proper attention to Lynyrd Skynyrd. It is corrected now. Thanks for the heads up.

    As both you and Marty point out Duice was a fine guy.

  4. A Antóin, an fhaca tú an chlár teilifíse Redlegs: Sclábhaithe Siúcra na hÉireann ar TG4 an Luain seo chaite? Measaim gurb fiú ard do léitheoirí a tharraingt ar an scéal seo mar shampla beo de ghránnacht coilíneachas Shasana taobh amuigh de na Sé Chontae agus an tSaoir-Stáit.

  5. Tantalus, Ta bron orm ach ni fhaca me an clar sin. Mas mhaith leat scriobh rud eigin faoi agus cuirfidh me thuas e ar an bhlog. Mura miste leat ba mhaith liom bearla a chuir ar cad a duirt tu de thairbhe nach dtuigeann achan duine gaeilge.

  6. Sorry for digging up an old post Anthony but see you like Skynyrd here, excellent taste! Have you heard The Outlaws? First couple of albums are superb southern rock. The singer Henry Paul also made some good records with his own Henry Paul Band. Also recommended is the Allman Brothers guitarist Dickey Betts first few solo albums. And for straight ahead southern boogie the first two records by Molly Hatchet!

  7. MartyDownUnder

    I do like Skynyrd. Duice was a great music fan and much of the music I grew to like came via him, including Skynard.

    Haven’t listened to The Outlaws? Or the others! My wife puts me onto any new musical tastes I acquire these days.

  8. Trust me Anthony if you like Skynyrd you'll love The Outlaws. Favorite Skynyrd song is That Smell, at the minute anyway!

  9. John Duice McMullan


    Know the song but for me it is Sweet Home Alabama and Freebird