4.5.05

TEN MEN DEAD

CAIN

This chapter is taken from the book:

Ten Men Dead:
The Story of the 1981 Irish Hunger Strike


by David Beresford (1987)

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Chapter 3

SOLDIER: You mean to starve? You will have none of it?
I'll leave it there, where you can sniff the Savour.
Snuff it, old hedgehog, and unroll yourself.
But if I were the King, I'd make you do it
With wisps of lighted straw.
- The King's Threshold, by W. B. Yeats

The day was marked by Sinn Fein with a march through West Belfast. It was a cold Sunday and it was raining. Four months before, about 10,000 had taken part in the march which had marked the beginning of the first hunger strike; Bernadette McAliskey, watching it, had had tears running down her face, of pride and excitement, believing she was watching the birth of another mass movement like the civil rights demonstrations eleven years before. Today only 3,500 were taking part and giving little cause for excitement; more for regret at lost opportunities, and a reflection of the sense of déja vu in a tired community. There were some fine statements, of course. One was read out to the demonstrators on behalf of the prisoners, declaring: 'We have asserted that we are political prisoners and everything about our country, our interrogation, trials and prison conditions show that we are politically motivated and not motivated by selfish reasons for selfish ends. As further demonstration of our selflessness and the justice of our cause, a number of our comrades, beginning today with Bobby Sands, will hunger-strike to the death unless the British Government abandons its criminalization policy and meets our demands.'

* * *

Inside H3 Sands was preparing his statement for posterity, a diary which the external leadership had asked him to try and keep. 'I am standing on the threshold of another trembling world,' he carefully wrote on a scrap of toilet paper. 'May God have mercy on my soul.'

He also made a present for one of his friends among the prisoners, Ricky - in the Irish, 'Risteard' - O'Rawe, who had taken over as public relations officer for the IRA men. The gift was the lyrics of a song he had written, which he carefully etched on cigarette paper. 'A Sad Song for Susan', it was called - a song replete with his own feelings of emotional loss.

I'm sitting at the window, I'm looking down the street
I'm looking for your face, I'm listening for your feet.
Outside the wind is blowing and it's just begun to rain
But it's being here without you that's causing me such pain.
My mind is running back again to when you were here
And I wish I had you now, I wish you were near.
Remember the Winter nights when you warmed me from the cold
And the Spring when we walked through green fields and skies of gold
You're gone, you're gone, but you live on in my memory.

At the end of it he scribbled a note to O'Rawe: 'There you are Risteard, fresh from the heart for what it's worth. I wrote it one rainy afternoon on remand in H1 when I had the fine company of a guitar to pick out the tune. So Sine e.'

>>>READ ON


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