British Soldiers And A Cup of Tea

Bad Moon Rising by Credence Clearwater Revival was released in April 1969, four months before the release of their album ‘Green River’. In July, Neil Armstrong walked on the Moon, and ‘Something in the air by Thunderclap Newman went to number one with lyrics very applicable to the changing times in the North East of Ireland.

On August 15th, Woodstock took place for the first time on a New York farm. It was the most famous music festival of the times, with over 500,000 people in attendance, and it echoed the ‘make peace not war’ statements that had been at the very fabric of the anti-war demonstrations continuously through the 1960s, due to America’s involvement in Vietnam.

While the music played out on the other side of the Atlantic. Catholic areas in the North of Ireland were still smoking from burning homes and buildings, having hours earlier come under attack from sectarian mobs led by the R.U.C, and their reserve constables known as the B Specials. Launching a sanctioned local-government Pogrom in an answer to equal rights for all.

The Government of the Irish Free State, once again to their shame – looked on as they had done for years since the partition of Ireland. It’s also a fact that the English Government’s failure to end Apartheid in the six counties encouraged that Pogrom. However, the British PM and his cabinet, embarrassed by what had occurred and the consternation of many countries throughout the world, decided to act, and the first batch of British Soldiers soon began to arrive in the Northeast of Ireland, to the delight of the families in the Catholic ghettoes.

Yet, as the soldiers were arriving to be greeted by mugs of tea and biscuits from Catholic mothers, more families were joining those who had already departed for the refugee camps in the Irish Republic. Camps set up as a last-minute concession by the Free state lackeys, in order to appease the demands of a number of very unhappy nationalist politicians there, who viewed it as a weak apology for failing to act and protect their citizens in the North of the Island.

The procession of refugees was reminiscent of old Second World War newsreels, including many elderly and sick in what was a mass exodus from many areas of Belfast, some, too frightened to stay, some forced from their humble abodes by the racist mobs who then torched their homes.

It was that sectarian Pogrom that created the War known as The Troubles, and from that sectarian act came the rebirth of republicanism, and of course a split that saw two IRAs emerge, The Officials, who became known as The Sticks and The Provisionals, who became known as The Provos. However, when August handed over to September, no one could have envisaged how quickly things would go from bad to worse.

Bad Moon Rising made it to Number One in the UK singles chart that month, and like Something in the Air, held lyrics of bad times ahead, and The Times They Were A-Changing, and the North of Ireland was not going to get any better for a long, long, time, and while living in that little enclave below the spires of St Peter’s Chapel, we had enjoyed like many others, in places like Carrick hill, the innocence of a childhood, that naivety would be lost to the political transfusions that would inevitably become donated into many, slowly dissolving any childishness we had from our wonderland minds.

I remember those times when streets were still lit by old gas lamps and every shadow was a ghost. A cats wail on the yard wall was the banshee crying as she combed her hair, and I buried my head in the pillows to hide and drown out those mournful sounds.

Sometimes I think, just maybe it really was the banshee crying for what was to visit our homeland, something we never expected, after all, we were just kids, and when1969 handed over to 1970, and an escalating political climate that became a war, and in that war terrible things occurred that was man’s inhumanity to man. Murder you see is still murder irrespective of how you dress it up, and it cannot be excused in a reaction to an action, or they did that, so we did this, and no one can claim any high moral ground of those times.

Most nights I lie in bed and think about those streets where I played as a boy, before the war, and weigh up the pros and cons of those streets with the balconies of Divis Flats and the teenager I became. I have good memories of both, but the Flats is where I was at my happiest in this life.

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