Only the foundations remain of those hellish structures wherein barbarism reined supreme. Where man's inhumanity to man was practiced by sadistic screws led by even more sadistic administrators.
Years later, my mother described the visit to me in some detail. Why she did not tell me about it at the time can be explained by her concern for my own position as a protesting prisoner. A mother's basic instinct is to protect her offspring from the harsher realities of life. Both women were shocked by Micky's physical appearance after years on the protest and weeks of self-starvation. Being small in stature with glasses and receding hair, Micky belied his numerical age in good times. I can only imagine how he must have looked that day with his body showing the rigours of years of deprivation and torture. It was more than a year from I last set eyes on him in H-5. I was moved to H-4 in the first-half of 1980.
Mickey was quite, intelligent, totally committed to the working class. In the shorter term, though, he sought an end to the brutal conditions of our imprisonment at whatever personal cost. Most of the conversation on the visit was focused on the Hunger Strike itself, as well as, what was being done outside of the prison by hundreds of activists, who left no stone unturned in their endeavour to garner support for the five demands.
Both women were prominent figures in the National H-Block Committee, so they knew a lot about the national campaign. His thirst for information was wholly understandable in the extant circumstances. After all, his survival was dependent on enough public pressure being brought to bear on the British government for it to grant the five demands. However, he was not so naïve as to believe this could be achieved within the short time he had left.
'Red Mick' (a nickname that related to his red hair rather than his brand of radical politics) knew the hunger strike would claim his life before Maggie Thatcher would grant political status to the prisoners. A hopeless romantic he was not.
When the visit ended and it was time for the women to leave, my mother felt a strong urge to wrap her arms around the young man. A mother's natural instinct when faced suffering. Instead, she struggled to hold her emotions in check for his sake. An unbreakable bound had formed between the prisoners and their supporters over the years.
The journey home was overshadowed by feelings of sadness and despair. For Maura McCrory ( my mother's life name) the Hunger Strike had just became very personal. A young man's survival now weighed heavily on her mind. She cried herself to sleep that night exhausted by five long years of campaigning. In the morning, she entered the battle once more with renewed vigour and commitment.
Who was Maura McCrory? What influences and events shaped her personality? One day, I will attempt to answer these questions in a book about her life. Perhaps her story would be better wrote from a woman's perspective rather than that of a loving son. I will talk to a few friends who are published and ask their advice on this.
Suffice for me to say, I went to the well to draw strength and found it plentiful. Like a child vampire, I fed on her life's blood: A selfish, needy son. An unselfish, devoted mother. What is important would be that a biography would do her justice.