People Persevered

Guest writer Davy Carlin with a further instalment in his story about life as he grew up in West Belfast under the shadow of British military repression.

I felt a shiver in my bones, which came from my sitting there in the Black Hack of 2004. Someone had pulled the widow down as I glanced through one lazy eye before closing it again and also with folding my arms across my chest I then returned to the Murph of the seventies.

It was around winter time and the cold was nipping at my heels as I sat at a cribby {Kerb} on the street, the Brits were about. As they came past in the street I spat at them. I had not yet been driven by their actions to pick up childhood weaponry. Nevertheless like the dogs on the street you had an automatic reaction against them.

The thing with the dogs and the Brits I never did get, but every dog barked at them. Anytime the Brits where around the dogs barked at them or attacked them. When the Brits were not around the dogs still barked as they smelt them. In fact they in many cases were an early warning system: ‘watch out the Brits are about’. And the Brits hated them. I had through my childhood right up to my adulthood seen the Brits shoot at them or shoot them dead. I even heard the tale of one such dog from the Murph getting buried in the colours such was its contribution to the cause. Whether or not that is true I do not know but to be honest I wouldn’t be surprised. Especially seeing the force of the attacks and the chucks of flesh some dogs got out of the Brits’ legs.

The Brit did not see me spitting but I knew I had spat at him and so I felt good. I hopped and skipped my way along glad that I ‘had done my bit’ for ‘the Cause’. Then it started to snow ever so slightly, cold drops hit my face. I looked up and could see the flakes dropping and so I ran about with my head held to the sky trying to catch the big flakes in my mouth. With that, other kids had seen what I was doing and joined in. Now with our mouths open and heads to the sky every time the big snowy flakes landed in our mouths we said ’ body of Christ’, to a reply from someone of ‘Amen’. ‘The body of Christ’ term is what the priest said when he puts the communion host in your mouth at Mass, while you said Amen in reply. The communion host was a small round piece of white bread which was to symbolise the body of Christ within the Catholic faith. Therefore as these huge white flakes fell it was a case of ‘body of Christ -ing’ until we felt ill.

‘That’s it’, I’ve had enough’. I opened my eyes just in time to see the Hack door close beside me and the young man getting out. It seemed although for a differing reason that he too had had enough of the Peelers. He paid his fare and started to walk off in great urgency still hoping to make it in time for work. I looked around at the Hack, it was one of the newer ones. The Black Taxi Association was set up to provide a service in the local community against the backdrop of the height of the troubles and the inadequate public transport system. The Black Hacks eventually became known as the People Taxis and they have serviced the length and breath of the West and Ardoyne over those decades. Over time though, many of its drivers were targeted by loyalist death squads and harassed by the Brits and Peelers with therefore seeing a number of the Taxi drivers murdered. Despite this the West Belfast Hacks continued to provide that vital service for the local community and have grown and flourished. A number of my closest relatives and friends have driven the cabs over those decades, with some still so today.

I remember as a kid we used to literally cram into the Hacks, on the seats, on the floors, maybe even in the boot if we had of got away with it. As virtually the only means of transport for many especially out in the sticks in those days {out in the sticks would have been Twinbrook} where I had moved to in early 81, it was essential. On those cold winter days and nights though it was sometimes impossible to get into some of our estate because of the snow but nevertheless the People Taxi’s, for the People persevered.


  1. " The thing with the dogs and the brits "

    I think that the dogs picked up that their masters hated the brits
    so they hated the brits-i have seen a few dogs attacking the brits-saying that I wonder how the dogs reacted towards the brits in a loyalist area or were they just as cross at them as our dogs-

    " one such dog from the Murph getting buried in the Colours "

    There was a grenade thrown at the brits one day during a riot but the grenade throwers dog chased after the object- picked it up by the jaws and saved the brits- then come running back towards the people who scattered as the dog blew up-

  2. Michaelhenry,

    this dissection of the behaviour of Catholic dogs vis a vis Protestant dogs is funny!

    I think the last bit about the dog running back is in one of Adams' books

  3. Davy,

    I am surprised at how much I am enjoying this excursion you are taking us on. Normally, this type of thing does not grab my imagination or what is left of it. But this is really good. Good job mate. Hope all is well with you.

  4. Davy:

    As I read this pice, I went into a dream of the past, Sitting in One of those Black Jo Baxis, on my way to the new lodge, we got stopped by the brits on the Antrim Road, we were all searched, Driver included, I was arrested, The brits ask me, Whats in the Bag, I replied, My Tools, They ask me, Whats your Trade, I Replied, Plumber, They said to me Open it up, So I did. When they seen what was in the bag, The OC of them brits said, What has two ak47s have to do with plumbing, I replied, To send a burst up to clear the water mains!. Suffice to say, I ended up in diplock land. For what?. after that i never delivered a package for anyone. that's when I woke up.

    I have to say, your story made me think about it. Did you not know, Our dogs are different from the Brits, There dogs aren't allowed to bark , they just whisper, Just like our cats on the yard walls, everyone thought they were banshees.

    Hope yourself and family are doing okay, stay out of trouble and keep writing. I'm still a plumber, Sorry, Its now called, Corgi Registered, ffs, They even named it after lizzies DOGS.

  5. Davy,

    Thanks for this. I rarely use Black taxis these days but they were a godsend in the 80s & 90s getting us there when few could afford cars and buses were a target for barricades, bomb transport or bricking by some of our local reprobates and often stopped services for days on end.

    I learnt to my surprise recently that the community in Suffolk relied on them as much as the republican community in West Belfast.

    You also brought back to memory my few experiences of using the Black taxis that served loyalist areas - sitting in the back chanting a mantra 'next stop please driver' in fear of a lapse and knocking the window with a coin.

    It also brought back to mind many a drunken wait in the early hours at the old Castle St stop and the different fear of ending up squashed in beside a fighting couple, a nasty looking a fight or on one memorable occasion stopping a driver at Andytown to drag a drunk out and explain to him with my fists why you don't touch the bottom of another man's date.

    As someone that always hated mindless small-talk I avoided sitting with the driver when possible. Those lads had too much gossip and stories to tell and I've an awful pretending to look interested face.