In the spring of 1975 the decision was taken to tunnel out of Cage F Magilligan. As one of those ‘cleared’ volunteers I was asked to help in the dig. The mouth of the tunnel was in the half hut. I was apprehensive about entering such a confined space. It was bad enough to be in jail without volunteering to be squeezed into an even tighter space. Yet when I got down it there was a sense of freedom.
Wood coming in for handicrafts was ‘liberated’ and used for shoring up the tunnel in order to prevent a cave-in. So sporting only a pair of football shorts beneath which I had already taken the precaution of shaving my pubic region, down I went. The mouth was wide enough to allow me to get down and turn round so I faced into the tunnel. Lights had been rigged up so that we could see along it. There were a few of us down it. The person working at the face would pass back the dirt in one of the steel containers that delivered the dinner. There was a pulley type system whereby the trays were passed along and beneath our bodies down to the end. After that people would bag the dirt and walk over to the showers where it was concealed in the wall cavity.
As the tunnel progressed towards the perimeter wall a large chamber was dug well up its course. It was equipped with a light and enabled a person to sit comfortable. It allowed us to store our digging implements and refreshments there. It also meant a longer stay beneath ground was possible. I would go down and sit for ages, once taking a porn book down.
One of our greatest fears was the fart. Once that happened down the tunnel the smell lingered forever and the rest of us would mumble and grumble. But not shout too loud just in case a screw was on patrol in the yard above.
The experience I got after becoming accustomed to the closed space was the sense of freedom. I was in jail but out of it at the same time. In a space both forbidden and unknown about by the authorities I felt outside of their control. It was to be short lived.
Our endeavours came to an end before the perimeter wall could be reached. The screws during a cage search would tap the floor with a hammer. If a sound more hollow than normal was emitted the suspicion was that a tunnel was in the course of being made. And so our tunnel plan collapsed to the touch of a hammer.