Seando Moore - Another Spartan Down

Around the middle of last month I opened an email telling me that the former IRA activist Seando Moore had died. Although I had met him only once my response was simple: one more good guy gone. I explained to Sean, the bearer of the bad news, that Seando had been one of the blanket men who had sustained the arduous H-Block protest of 1976-81. Sean, in his follow up was concise but deadly accurate - another Spartan down. It was the reason he had emailed me in the first place.

Richard O’Rawe in his book Blanketmen termed the men who wore the blanket ‘Spartans’ because with nothing but their naked bodies and steel will they mounted that long resolute defence of the gap through which British criminalisation policy would not pass. Ten were carried home on their shields. Now Seando Moore, like the many blanket men who have predeceased him, joins them.

In a prison letter to his mother-in-law made public by the Bobby Sands Trust, Seando Moore conveyed something of the deprivation protesting prisoners endured, denied the most basic of amenities the rest of the prison population took for granted.

Ma McCabe I want you to get a parcel ready for Patricia to bring up on the visit. You will have to make it around 3ins long. That’s tobacco. Make it round and put in a lot of headache tablets and painkillers also, as we don’t get any medical treatment. Make it round like a hair roller, put red match heads up it also and papers for the fags. I hope I haven’t mixed you up there. I’m writing this and I’m mixed up!… If you see my mum please tell her that I had a letter for her but couldn’t get it smuggled out.

Seando Moore was one of the stalwarts of the blanket protest. He endured it for years, refusing to bend to the brutality of the screws or the harshness of the regime. Earlier he had been interned and it was known on the blanket that he had undergone serious torture at the hands of his captors eager to put him away for as long as they could.

If my memory is right – these days it is no longer as reliable as it was years ago – he was released immediately after the 1983 escape from Long Kesh and instantly told the media about the brutalisation being dished out by a prison service with egg on its face and hatred in its heart.

There were many who did the blanket protest whom I never got to meet during it. Seando Moore was one of them. It was like that on the blanket. Often kept in separate blocks, almost never outside the cell they were held in, there were men who shared the same hardships but never got to share each other’s company during the protest. Different blocks, different fronts, yet we stewed together in the same cauldron of hate where bonds of commonality were forged. Blanket men all.

My first recollection of meeting him was when he gave me a lift back to Belfast from the funeral of a Sinn Fein member in Tanderagee 12 years ago. He knew my misgivings and while we discussed them he showed no signs of nausea at hearing opinions he was not reconciled to. Not all republicans at odds with Sinn Fein found him that way. An evening or two ago a former blanket man said to me that on occasion he was blanked by Seando because of his outspoken views on the handling of the 1981 hunger strike, a traumatic event Seando was emotionally close to. Perhaps it was the event that was in it. Certainly the experience of the former republican prisoner, Nuala Perry, who knew him well showed a much more amenable side:

One thing I truly liked about him was, although he lived and breathed Sinn Fein, he took everyone else’s view point into consideration … how Seando conducted himself with 'alternative thinking republicans' would have been the exception rather than the rule.

In any event he and I, on that hour or so we spent returning from the funeral, stuck in traffic on the MI, talked party politics the whole way before he dropped me off at the Whiterock home of the other Sinn Fein member travelling with us.

His battle with the cancer that finally proved too powerful for him was a long one. I was still living in Belfast when Brendan Shannon, another former blanket man, first told me that Seando Moore had the illness. It seems such a long time ago.

Yet in spite of his serious illness he persisted and remained with Sinn Fein to the end, long after it had abandoned any semblance of the republicanism that had driven the sense of purpose behind the blanket protest. He gave a lot of his time and energy to commemorative projects; the past alone holding the raw but real minerals that made up the republican project prior to its decomposition. Honouring the republican dead has an authentic feel to it that digging for fools’ gold in the PSNI and the DUP could never have.

Former IRA volunteer and veteran of the blanket protest, in the end he has passed into the hearts of those who loved him most –his immediate family. That love was encapsulated in emotively potent words from his wife Patricia:

My husband, my best friend, and soulmate. What we had no millionaire could buy and wonderful memories no one can take away. I know in my heart you will look after me and walk beside me every step I take. Wait for me and walk beside me every step I take. Wait for me.


  1. Heartbreaking and whats more sickening is that w###ers like O Muilleoir are living of such misery endured,Walter Mackins saying is true,its easy to live on another mans wounds

  2. Mackers, that was lovely and truly fitting. I knew Seando all my life. Seando, to me he was a person who just ploughed on.

    Seando was just a very ordinary and unpretentious person.
    He ploughed on because he believed one hundred percent in the Sinn Fein.

    I believe our lives were so much richer for having known him.

  3. Heart goes out regards and respect.

  4. I apoligise the author of that quote should have read Ernie O Malley, must be the thoughts of what sort of sprog the bearded one and Babs would produce

  5. Marty, think you are on the wrong page!

    You seem to be all over the place since Marie left.

    Think Seando would understand though.

  6. Nah Nuala top of the page hon I made a quote and refered it to W Makin instead of Ernie O Mallie, Marie is still away and the bread is starting to go a funny greenie blue colour and it doesnt taste that good either, the washing is now up to the roof I,d probably put a wash on but now I cant get near the washing machine because of the discarded carry out boxes. and I cant do anything about them as the skip the council left is now full, thank f##k for my local psf mla Sue the dyke shes getting me a bigger house!!!down yer way,

  7. Marty, will you accept my sincere apologies.
    I just thought seing this blog was dedicated to Seando you might have gotten mixed up.
    All that green bread can do funny things to you.
    Albert maintains you can eat anything as long as you cut the bad bits of.
    Seriously, he never pays attention to the sell by or be extremely sick by dates.
    Marty, you and I know what happened to him.

  8. Another Spartan Down
    A fitting homage Anthony one I am sure all who suffered a prison term could identify with and respect the unbreakable will of those who endured the Blanket Protest and the hell years of the Hunger Strikes.
    The Spartan analogy is appropriate very moving in a poetic sense as perhaps the Hunger Strike was the “Last Stand” “Ten were carried home on their shields.”
    Much to the disappointment of the Immortals the power of the screws could not break the will of those who would not concede. I assume Thatcher like King Xerxes suffered with their shame and embarrassment how the mighty could not crush the meek.

    The narrative is well penned a very emotional journey both tragic and inspirational the one thing that stands alone in my mind is you captured the essence of republicanism.
    As for aging memories we all have that problem though clearly the one thing you have not forgot is the comradeship and bond forged in the prison struggle.

  9. Tain Bo,

    'the comradeship and bond forged in the prison struggle' is the most we can cherish. There were few victories at the end of it all, just good people, shafted and lied to.