13.7.06

Martin Hurson: Maintaining humanity

INA/Irish Hunger Strikes Chapter 8

Irish Hunger Strikes Chapter 8
Maintaining Humanity Inside the H-Blocks:
The "Craic"


Martin Hurson, who died on 13 July, 1981, after 46 days on hunger strike, was typical of most of the men. He had a lousy singing voice. Only a few of the men could sing a passable song much less get the words right, but in an environment like the H-blocks where there were no books, no newspapers, no TV, no radio and no exercise -- and the Blanketmen were locked up 24 hours a day -- the only entertainment was what the men could provide for each other.

"Singsongs"

Singsongs were perhaps the easiest way for the men to entertain themselves. Often they derived more fun from "slaging" the awful singers than from praising the good ones. Martin Hurson was so bad, the whole wing would give up a spontaneous, communal moan at the clearing of his throat. And for the most part he knew only one song. At least he had the courage to blast away.

Tom Holland's cell was next to Martin's. "Well, what did you think of that, Dutch?," Martin shouted to Tom after singing a song, who replied, "Martin, I've heard the words before but I can't recognize that tune."

Once Hurson announced when it was his turn to sing that he would pass because he was singing the same song over and over again and wouldn't sing until he learned a new one. A sigh of relief was heard around the wing, until he was ordered by the wing OC to sing the new song that was handed to him at mass. But Martin replied that he hadn't memorized it, and because it was near midnight, there was no light to read from. At that a particularly sadistic screw on night duty turned Martin's cell lights on and walked off to the safety of his room. The words to a crackling, off-tune "Sean South" rang throughout the wing. The screw was cursed for his cruelty.

Even though the men would howl and carry on during these "performances", no matter how bad the singer was, he always got applauded at the end, with banging and yelling across the cells.

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