Another Face From Childhood

Guest writer Davy Carlin with the final extract from Part 1 of his story about life in West Belfast where as a black child he was exposed to the racist violence of the British Army.


‘Ok, away you go’ came the voice of the Peeler, a voice that shook me again into present reality as the taxi was waved through the police stop. ‘About time’ came a reply from within the Hack of 2004. The peeler was in a nice fluorescent yellow coat and even tried a smile at us passengers within, as we went by. Now we were on our way down the final stages of the Rock and for a brief moment I thought about that peeler’s attempt to be civil, however fake it may have been. Therefore, for that brief moment I drifted again in time back to the late seventies, and this time back to the very Road in which I presently was being taxied in 2004.

‘Get your fucking hands up against that wall’ the Brit had said to my relative as they stopped us, while another aimed a gun at his head. My uncle’s legs were kicked open while the Brit roughly searched him. The Brit then made a remark about me and the resemblance he thought I had to a monkey. My uncle’s reply in defence of me won him a rifle butt to the side of the head and blood began to trickle down. I prayed in my mind that my uncle would not say anything else no matter what the Brit said about me. Another Brit then grabbed his colleague sleeve and told my uncle, and therefore I, to go on our way. That day taught me two lessons that I would take into my childhood understanding in the short time ahead.

I gave my head a shake and looked out the taxi as we neared the bottom of the Rock. Looking ahead and to the right I saw the house that has a plaque over it which acknowledges that James Connolly had lived on the Falls Road. James Connolly was a great Socialist and trade union organiser who was executed following his role in the 1916 Easter Rising, and much has been and no doubt will still be written about him. I had just come on to the Falls Road deep in thought as to the man and what he stood for when I looked directly to the left of me.

I had been thinking about how the Falls Road also holds so much history of struggle when my eyes met Sean Graham’s bookmakers which is at the junction of the Rock and the Falls Roads. Sean Graham’s bookmakers on January 13th 1990 had seen three men go into it to do a robbery. Undercover Brits from 14th Intelligence Company apparently aware of the robbery in advance waited until they had come out of the bookmakers then gunned them down. Eye witness state that the men were again shot as they lay on the ground while wounded. The driver was the first to die with no warning given. He, also unarmed, was shot at very close range through the window of the car. One of the three men had remained inside the shop and so survived. Those that were killed were the getaway driver, John Joseph McNeill, as well as Edward Hale and Peter Thompson. I had looked at that time at each of the faces in the paper until I set eyes on the face of Peter Thompson, and in doing so, I had seen another face from childhood.


  1. Davy,

    a good read. The only thing that stops it being an enjoyable read is that it is so tinged with sadness.

  2. From Davy Carlin

    Hi Mackers

    I agree it would be a more enjoyable read if it was not tinged with sadness.

    Yet that was how I had deeply felt, and more, at the time of writing it.

    Indeed that is how I had felt for a very long time within my life, and writing those thoughts for the Blanket and for myself, while it gave my part account of such times, it nevertheless also, in part, helped me come to terms with some things in a way.

    I have no doubt that if I was to write the same series today that it would be different and more upbeat, but I think it was important to do at that time.

    Now as I reread some of my earliest writings I can see not only that my writing has improved {hopefully} but it also shows how I have changed my outlook to life and as to how I personally see this life as less brutal and now try to live it within a more positive way.

    A later series {Part 3} will be written in that way.

  3. Davy,

    not all good writing makes easy reading. You did a great job here.

  4. Davy,

    Are you going to put your pieces into an Ebook type format or other or just for here..?

    What I like about you articles is it gives me an insight to life in west Belfast during the conflict..

    As I said on here several times, I have never been further up the Falls Road than Divis Flats..

    Some of the things you experienced are totally alien to me. I honestly don't ever remember being 'spead eagled', insulted or other by the state forces. I know it happened but I guess I was one of the lucky ones..

    I look foward to part 2..

  5. Davy, I too remember the racism of the British Army. One day in the mid to late 1980s they left a black soldier behind when they got in their vehicles to go back to base. I assumed he wasn't simply 'forgotten about'.

    He had to board our bus, rifle and all and ask in a panic to be left further down the Glen Road at the barracks.

  6. One of my memories growing up in Belfast during the conflict went liike this...It was a Sat night lied to my parents about where I as crashing etc. (got away with that).

    Anyhow went to an all nighter, somewhere in East Belfast; 1988 (100% 50's rock'n'roll), got very drunk, fell asleep, woke up sometime on Sunday with half my head shaved. I learnt very quickly never to fall asleep at any party again.