Alex McCroryon the 1981 escape from Crumlin Road Prison by eight IRA volunteers. 

A friend suggested I should listen to a podcast which Robert ‘Fat’ Campbell did on the 1981 escape from Crumlin Road Jail. Not knowing much about Podcasts, I am unable to source it. However, this does not prevent me from commenting on the subject.  As ‘Fat’ is a personal friend, I have heard the story first hand. And what a story it is too.

However, I want to talk about the uplifting effect the escape had in the H-Blocks at a very dark time in our history. It happened when we were engaged in a life and death struggle with the British government over it’s attempts to enforce a criminal regime upon political prisoners. The Blanket men and women, as we were known by our closest allies, were compelled to embark on a hunger strike after a gruelling five-year protest consisting of us living in our own excrement wearing only blankets.
 
To all intents and purposes, we had reached the end of our tether with the daily brutality and hardship, as had our loved ones outside. Therefore, we had deployed the weapon of last resort against an entrenched British government led by a belligerent Prime Minister. As a result, we lost our ten bravest comrades between May and August of 1981.
 
The spectacular breakout from Crumlin Road Jail of eight highly regarded IRA Volunteers - described by the Brits at the time as the “most dangerous” - came as a massive morale boost when we were in desperate need of it.

I have said before that, in my opinion, it is generally the most dedicated and innovative volunteers who pull off daring escapes. And since I was not challenged on this assertion, I am happy to repeat it.
 
The men who escaped in 1981 formed the nucleus of the M60 squad, the most feared IRA unit in Belfast at the time. The odd man out was Pete Ryan, a legendary Volunteer from Tyrone. Unhappy to while away their time in jail as hapless casualties of war, the lads hatched a brilliant plan to escape using weapons smuggled into the jail. No plan is ever perfect and glitches were encountered along the way. 

But improvisation and quick thinking were not in short supply with the like of ‘Fat’ Campbell on board.

So if someone could post the podcast, I would be very grateful indeed.

Alec McCrory 
is a former blanketman.

Escape From The Crum

Alex McCroryon the 1981 escape from Crumlin Road Prison by eight IRA volunteers. 

A friend suggested I should listen to a podcast which Robert ‘Fat’ Campbell did on the 1981 escape from Crumlin Road Jail. Not knowing much about Podcasts, I am unable to source it. However, this does not prevent me from commenting on the subject.  As ‘Fat’ is a personal friend, I have heard the story first hand. And what a story it is too.

However, I want to talk about the uplifting effect the escape had in the H-Blocks at a very dark time in our history. It happened when we were engaged in a life and death struggle with the British government over it’s attempts to enforce a criminal regime upon political prisoners. The Blanket men and women, as we were known by our closest allies, were compelled to embark on a hunger strike after a gruelling five-year protest consisting of us living in our own excrement wearing only blankets.
 
To all intents and purposes, we had reached the end of our tether with the daily brutality and hardship, as had our loved ones outside. Therefore, we had deployed the weapon of last resort against an entrenched British government led by a belligerent Prime Minister. As a result, we lost our ten bravest comrades between May and August of 1981.
 
The spectacular breakout from Crumlin Road Jail of eight highly regarded IRA Volunteers - described by the Brits at the time as the “most dangerous” - came as a massive morale boost when we were in desperate need of it.

I have said before that, in my opinion, it is generally the most dedicated and innovative volunteers who pull off daring escapes. And since I was not challenged on this assertion, I am happy to repeat it.
 
The men who escaped in 1981 formed the nucleus of the M60 squad, the most feared IRA unit in Belfast at the time. The odd man out was Pete Ryan, a legendary Volunteer from Tyrone. Unhappy to while away their time in jail as hapless casualties of war, the lads hatched a brilliant plan to escape using weapons smuggled into the jail. No plan is ever perfect and glitches were encountered along the way. 

But improvisation and quick thinking were not in short supply with the like of ‘Fat’ Campbell on board.

So if someone could post the podcast, I would be very grateful indeed.

Alec McCrory 
is a former blanketman.

7 comments:

  1. I remember the jubilation when hearing of the escape from Crumlin Gaol. A massive moral boost during the dark days of the hunger strikes,

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    1. There was the same sensation in the blocks Lou. In one decisive action it extended the prison resistance to another site and deeply embarrassed the Brits. The prisoners had hit back and hard. We were expecting them to arrive on the Blanket the following day but that night they were drinking cans of beer on the Falls Road. The team that has taken out the SAS had now taken themselves out of captivity.

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  2. Vol. Pete Ryan, fearless to the very end.........that's a story the State doesn't wish for you to know.

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  3. I was walking in lower Manhattan a few years ago, near Wall Street. I noticed a street named after one of the escapers. My memory told me it was Joe Doherty Avenue, but Google told it was Joseph Doherty Corner:

    https://wp.nyu.edu/specialcollections/2015/03/13/joe-doherty-corner-the-troubles-in-america/

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  4. Thought about the Crumlin Road boys last week while walking by the building that housed Clancy's Bar in Manhattan where Joe Doc was arrested by the FBI in 83. I wonder what happened to them, where they all are now. Wherever they are hope they're doing well. It was quite an escape.

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    1. it was an amazing escape. When you listen to the interviews with some of the men, you realise just how close it came to not succeeding. Determination - and Fat holding his nerve when faced by every counter assault by the screws, and then the cops when the men were trapped behind a wall across the road from the jail - carried it through. It was a serious boost to morale in the jail.

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  5. @ AM - where could these interviews be accessed? I read Martin Dillon's book about it a long time ago.

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