That was 46 years ago. I had just been sentenced to 12 years, which was nothing compared to some of the heavy sentences being handed down by the British judiciary at that time.
Check-in was at the reception area known as 'The Circle'. Why it was called that I'll never know, maybe because it sounded better than 'The Rectangle'.
Having failed to persuade me to check into, what he tried convincing me was 5 Star accommodation if I only conformed, the unfriendly receptionist, who wore a white shirt, told his staff to show me to my new lodgings.
I passed through the bar area, known as, 'The Grills' and found myself on a wing with guys yelling at me all at once about one thing or another.
I had never stayed in a hotel before, but I knew from the time I had spent on remand that I wouldn't be given a room with a sea view.
I was right. The only view I could see, through the concrete bars in the window, was the wing opposite. The men on that side were at their own windows shouting at the men on our side of the block and they in turn were shouting back. Having experienced a check-in during which I was shouted at, I wondered if everyone shouted at each other in this place.
The wing and the cells were all nice and clean at that time, we had bunk-beds, a table and plastic chairs, even a nice piss pot and a clean water gallon.
My first cellmate on the Blanket Protest was a lad called Bailus Boyle, he was from either The Markets or The Short Strand in Belfast. Bailus seemed to know the words of almost any song you could mention. He often sang Jesamine by The Casuals, a group from the 1960s which was only around the corner from the 1970s back then. I suppose it still is.
The only two songs I had in my repertoire were the Elvis songs, 'Jailhouse Rock' and 'Wooden Heart' (I even knew the German part of that one).
Later that night after the screws had left us the wing OC called everyone to silence as the shouting was to begin in earnest, this time it would be official shouting. The best shouters in each block would shout to each other in Gaelic, passing on the events of that day, like who got beat up by the screws, the names of the latest men to join the protest, plus orders and sceal, if there was any.
I realised at that point what all the shouting, during the day, had been about; the men were practicing their shouting, hoping to be selected as the block shouter.
After it was all over, bar the shouting from wing to wing, it was time for the entertainment of the night. There would be the retelling of books out the side of cell doors which, more often than not, were told totally different to the actual books themselves.
There was of course the sing-songs, which consisted of, The Good, The Bad and The Atrocious. I was neither good nor bad and when my time came, after some persuading, I got up and belted out 'Jailhouse Rock' which I shouted rather than sang. To my utter surprise the wing went crazy, I had achieved stardom.
A few months later, in August 1977, a screw called me up to my door to tell me that Elvis had died. It had nothing to do with me, I might have murdered two of his songs but I had an alibi, which put me in jail at the time of his death.
Scuby Brown and Willie Hogan (Hogay) were in the cell next to mine, friends who were also from Shantallow and we had yarns out the windows which lasted long into the night. Over time the same yarns were being retold, having run out of new ones, so our conversations eventually got to the stage in which we ended up talking shite, little knowing what lay ahead of us.
An incident which still stands out in my memory was hearing a fracas coming from a cell just across but up a bit from mine. I juked out the side of my cell door just in time to see a big screw known as, 'The Beol Mór' landing on his back out in the wing. The Beol Mór was one nasty piece of work. He was a big man with lips like the inner-tube of a tractor tyre, thus the nickname, which meant, 'Big Lips'.
He had been in with big Peter Bowe messing him about when he got what had been coming to him, a fist in the mouth. Seeing that big bastard staggering back across the wing, with arms flailing like a young bird trying to fly, before he hit the floor really made my day.
After a month or so I was moved further up the wing into a cell with Sam Marshall from Lurgan, who would later be shot dead by a British murder gang after he left a local RUC barracks.
Not too long after that I was moved to H4. I never got to see Sam again nor have I ever come across Bailus since our time together in H5 that summer in 1977.
Strangely enough I often get called out by family and friends to this day for shouting instead of talking . . .