The Windows Of The H-Blocks

Thomas Dixie Elliot with a piece on the H-Blocks of Long Kesh.

Our imagination took us beyond the view from those windows to wherever our minds wished to take us.

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To see the waves crashing against the Cliffs of Moher, the winds sweeping across the Sperrins, the rain falling on the Grand Canal or sheep sheltering against the snow in the Ring of Kerry.

We watched as wretched people died along country lanes while the rich passed by in their carriages. Food was plentiful but greed prevailed and we witnessed the genocide from those very windows as Bobby told us of their fate.

We could see Fiach McHugh O'Byrne crossing the Wicklow Mountains from those windows, fighting both the English and the weather. We watched with other Volunteers as the Sherwood Foresters approached Mount Street Bridge and our hands sweated on the butts of our rifles.

We saw Tom Barry take command as the day faded in Kilmichael and wondered who would live to see the new day dawning.

At night we looked to the stars from those windows and Ernie O'Malley lit another cigarette seemingly not caring that Free Staters might see the glow in the darkness of a heather clad hillside.
We saw all this while Tommy retold the stories of courage and sudden death.

The long summers of our youth were not far from those windows back in the late 1970s and early 1980s, the memories came streaming in with the sun accompanied by bird song.

In our own minds we were as free as the birds which flew beyond those windows.


  1. Indeed Dixie

    the capacity to imagine different worlds is a tremendous resource. Especially so in the circumstances such as you and so many others found yourselves. Flights of fantasy were and are both useful and appropriate under such circumstances.

    On the other hand, as with all resources, the imagination can be misused also. Idealist machinations which are contrary to all evidence of successful completion are futile squanderings of what is an otherwise valuable mental application. Unfortunately so many Irish Republicans still have a literal adherence to a concept proclaimed a hundred years ago and that was even by then already dodgey.

    To most reasonable and rational people it will appear as if some Republicans still insist on applying their imagination in a dysfunctional way. To an ever increasing majority it will seem that such Republicans would be as well going off and sticking feathers in the ground and imagining they're growing hens!

  2. Dixie, your piece is truly inspired and so deeply moving. This is an absolutely stunning piece of writing, and all the more so because it's true.

  3. Words cannot express the sheer brilliance of this article. Thank you mo chara...