1943 Escape Wanted Poster

Another version of the well known wanted poster from the January 1943 escape.

Jimmy Steele was to find himself face to face with the poster outside Castledawson RUC Station on 19th March in a furniture lorry from Currans. The lorry driver had got lost and stopped to ask for directions to the Derry road. The lorry had been hired to go to Derry to transport prisoners who were going to escape through a tunnel from the jail the next morning. The driver hadn’t yet been told he was being hijacked. When he was told, he helped out. While Jimmy sat looking at the poster, he gripped his parabellum thinking the driver was telling the RUC he had a man with a £3,000 price on his head in his lorry outside.

The 1946 hunger and thirst strike

This is a brief account of a hunger and thirst strike that two prisoners staged in 1946. One involved David Fleming, a southerner imprisoned by the northern government, the other Sean McCaughey, a northerner imprisoned by the southern government (more precisely, De Valera’s Military Tribunal). While Fleming’s hunger strike began first, the agony of McCaughey’s death after a thirst strike is still almost beyond description. Fleming ended his hunger strike but a further protest later the same year was to some extent successful, although the price of gaining his early release was catastrophic damage to his body and he never returned to good health, dying in 1970 at the early age of 51.

Fleming, imprisoned in 1943 for IRA activities, had been at the receiving end of brutal beatings in Crumlin Road prison and had petitioned for his release in February 1946. That he petitioned for release rather than political status was confirmed in Stormont on 21st May that year (all internees had been released in 1945). The petition fell on deaf ears in the northern government so Fleming’s response was to decide to go on hunger strike again (he had previously taken part in a hunger strike for political status in 1944). He started to refuse food on the 16th March 1946. Clearly, statements by the Nationalist and Socialist MPs in Stormont imply that some of the IRA prisoners in A wing felt the conditions in A wing, and in his case, the beatings and 40 days on hunger strike in 1944 had taken a psychological toll on Fleming.

When he was twenty six days on hunger strike, Fleming was taken to the prison hospital on Thursday 11th April[1]. At around 4.30 am the next morning, he was carried from the hospital to his cell on A1. At 3.30 pm, prison officer Morrison and the deputy governor walked along A1 together, towards the grill gate from the circle. After the deputy governor left the wing, Morrison called to another warder, Adair, to join him and, together with another warder called Foster they went to David Fleming’s cell. There were raised voices in the cell and the sound of violence and groans from Fleming. Another warder, Noble, also went to the cell. Foster left the cell carrying Fleming’s pyjamas while Adair emerged, reportedly looking very pale and excited. Clearly, Fleming, even after a month without food, had refused to subject himself to a strip search and been forcibly stripped by the prison staff. As he insisted on continuing with his protest, Fleming had to again be returned to the hospital.

On the 19th April, while Fleming, a Kerryman, was testing the resolve of the northern government to hold him in Belfast prison, a northerner, Sean McCaughey, decided to put De Valera’s government to the test, demanding his release from Portlaoise. According to Liam Rice, McCaughey’s decision to go on hunger strike came out of the blue. On the 16th April, in the Caidreamh, the indoor space afforded to the republican prisoners in Portlaoise for their short periods of exercise, McCaughey informed his colleagues and handed a letter to the prison governor stating that he would go on hunger strike that Friday (19th), unless he was released. Another prisoner shouted at McCaughey, “What have you done, they will let you die”.

The conditions in Portlaoise were brutal. In June 1943, a level of political status had been given to a small group of IRA prisoners who had been refusing to wear prison clothing since 1940. As they had been sentenced by the Military Tribunal rather than a court, they claimed they were political prisoners not convicts. The punishment regime was severe and was believed to be directed straight from the Fianna Fáil government and De Valera[2]. Other than being brought out of their cell for a bath once a week, the strikers were never allowed outdoor of their cells or and at no time were able to go outdoors. They received no letters, had no access to the news, newspapers or radio and no visits. Limited association and letters were permitted from June 1943[3] although the protest continued and the prisoners were still not permitted to go out in the fresh air, receive visits, newspapers etc. Those conditions were to persist until 1946.

For the next few weeks, the two hunger strikes unfolded in tandem[4]. Externally the two protests were linked together in the public eye, yet in both cases McCaughey and Fleming were even, to a large extent, acting independently of their colleagues within the prisons. Indeed, in both cases, the other IRA prisoners were concerned as to their mental well-being having seen them endure the conditions of the two prisons over a number of years. How far McCaughey was aware of Fleming’s case, and vice-versa, isn’t clear. Certainly, there was no outside direction of their protests by the IRA.

In Belfast, the prison authorities began to attempt to force feed Fleming on Friday 19th April, the day McCaughey began his hunger strike. The timing suggests the two events are linked, even though there is no immediate evidence to suggest that is the case. While the northern government may have decided to force feed Fleming rather than allowing him to continue with the hunger strike, the fact that McCaughey had advised of the start date of his protest a couple of days earlier seems to reduce the chance that the timing can be merely coincidental.

As Fleming was now in the prison hospital, the other IRA prisoners on A1 could not monitor his condition or listen in on the prison staff trying to force feed him. He was also kept on a punishment regime of isolation, with no books or newspapers. When Harry Diamond, as chairman of a National Amnesty Committee, was granted access to Fleming, though, Fleming was able to tell him he was being badly manhandled when being force fed[5]. Diamond reported that, by 23rd April, Fleming was very weak. The IRA prisoners were rumoured to be threatening to go on hunger strike en masse if Fleming died. Outside, other groups, like the Green Cross, were also calling for Fleming’s release on medical grounds. After Diamond’s visit the force feeding was stopped, with Warnock (Minister of Home Affairs) later stating that the last day Fleming had been force fed was 25th April after which it was discontinued due to “…attacks made by the convict on the medical officer and prison officers who were assisting him”. Warnock also later claimed that Fleming was put into a padded cell for three hours and ten minutes after that the last attempt at force feeding him on 25th April[6]. By that date, it was forty days since the start of Fleming’s protest. He was hardly in a condition to attack anyone.

Subsequently the northern government tried to claim that Fleming had only been on the protest since the 23rd April (contradicting even its own dates). International media reporting the hunger strike cite information from the Home Office, in London, saying his strike began on 23rd April (and not 20th March). Similar disinformation had persuaded the IRA to end the 1944 hunger strike rather than risk deaths.

McCaughey, only a few days into his protest, was nowhere near as weak as Fleming. He then announced that he was also going on thirst as well as hunger strike, shouting from the hospital to Liam Rice who was in a cell nearby, “Liam, I am going off the water wagon”. This raised the stakes as both his life, and Flemings, were now under imminent threat from their protests. Again, the timing is curious. That morning, 24th April, Irish Times and other papers carried stories about Diamond’s visit to Fleming in the prison, and that Fleming was very weak. Someone among the prison staff must have told MacCaughey what was being said in the press and that prompted him to accelerate his protest.

MacCaughey would have known that in 1940 Tony D’arcy had died after 52 days on hunger strike and Jack McNeela had died after 55. David Fleming was then 39 days on hunger strike and would soon be at risk of death. Refusing liquids would mean the two protests would reach the critical stage at the same time. Prison hunger strikes rely on embarrassing the authorities into concessions, usually by one of two methods. The protest tests the patience of the authorities with regard to the smooth operation of the prison service with all the associated disruption that comes with a hunger strike, and the potential to further sour warder-prisoner relations. On the outside, good publicity and a protracted protest can build the weight of public opinion into pressure to give concessions and resolve the dispute before a death occurs. MacCaughey clearly understood the timings and must have believed the combined crises would work to his and Fleming’s advantage.

In a hunger strike all food is refused and all liquids except water (although salt is often allowed to regulate the body). In a hunger and thirst strike, water is also refused. The body slowly deteriorates during a hunger strike although initially it uses up any reserves it can find within the body including fats and muscle. Beyond a certain point, though, the body begins to break down with the risk of permanent damage and death. Most deaths, in Ireland, have occurred well beyond 50 days. However, without taking water, the body deteriorates rapidly during a hunger and thirst strike and leads to a horrific death within a couple of weeks. The impact on the striker’s health and stamina would be a rapid deterioration with sight loss by ten days, the tongue shrivelling up and the body practically reduced to a skeleton. Death would follow within days[7].

Sean MacCaughey would also have been familiar with the use of thirst strike as a tactic in 1936 in Belfast prison. Then, IRA prisoners began a protest as a thirst strike, effectively to force the prison authorities to take the protest seriously from the start, then slowed it down by taking liquids but continuing as a hunger strike. They achieved some political recognition and ended the strike. None showed long term damage arising from the initial five days on thirst strike (although the protest appears to have had an adverse effect on Jimmy Steele’s health leaving him with congested lungs). That lesson appeared to have been lost on MacCaughey.

Outside the prisons there was some momentum behind public pupport for the protests. A demonstration was held in Clonard in Belfast calling for prisoner releases, and specifically Fleming’s, on Sunday 28th April, which was addressed by various Stormont MPs. It received a cable of support from 2,000 Irishmen at an Easter week ceremony in New York[8]. The two prison protests were also starting to be seen as reflections of each other, both casting shadows and light across the northern and southern governments. On the night of Friday 4th May, a meeting was held in O’Connell Street in Dublin, organised by Ailtiri na hAiserige demanding the release of both Fleming and MacCaughey. By the 5th May, despite the force feeding episode, Fleming had been on his protest for fifty days and urgent requests for intervention to save his life were starting to be be made. He was by now being described as very weak, but while his family were allowed to visit him twice over the weekend, he was still being refused his demands or removal to an outside hospital[9].

On the 7th May, 1946, Cahir Healy raised the condition of Fleming in Stormont and asked if Warnock was going to let him die rather than release him on humanitarian grounds. Warnock dismissed the question. The prison authorities or the Ministry of Home Affairs also circulated a story that Fleming had now been taking vitamin tablets and orange juice for the last few days. The next day, 8th May, Harry Diamond raised those statements saying that they were erroneous, and that Fleming had not gone off his hunger strike. Warnock also appeared to be delaying the end of debate on the budget to avoid discussing the prisons issue. Diamond’s motion, that the International Red Cross should be invited to set up an independent inquiry into prison conditions and ill-treatment of political prisoners and internees, was finally heard on the 21st May. But, in between, Sean MacCaughey died.

On the 11th May, having been on hunger strike since the 19th April and thirst strike since 24th, MacCaughey died at 1.10 am. Liam Rice saw him three days before he died. He said “It shocked me, for the 19 days had taken a terrible toll of his body. He was no more than a skeleton covered by a parchment of skin, that, were I to touch, I felt I would break. His eyes were dried holes, his sight gone. His tongue was no more than a shrivelled piece of skin between his jaws, while his body and his hands, from what I could discern, were those of a skeleton.[10]” Towards the end of his thirst strike, to stop him choking, a warder had to sit holding a teaspoon on his shrivelled tongue, so it did not fall back and block his airways. De Valera had been receiving daily updates on his condition at least since 2nd May and knew both that he was dying, and how he was dying. The Fianna Fáil government tried to quickly and quietly hurry through the inquest into MacCaughey’s death by holding it in the governor’s office in the prison on the same day. Sean MacBride was ready for them, and, despite the attempts by the Deputy Coroner, used the inquest to ask questions about the regime inside the prison. The publicity around the inquest, the conditions in Portlaoise and MacCaughey’s death saw changes in the prison regime and is believed to have contributed to McBride’s political rise and De Valera losing the next election.

Fleming ended his hunger strike a short time later, only to resume in autumn when, on the verge of death, he was released (Stormont being sensitive to prisoners dying in prison, as opposed to the health of the prisoners per se).

The afternoon of MacCaughey’s death, the undertakers at work and MacCaughey’s sisters sobs were heard in the prison corridor. The protesting prisoners, Liam Rice, Tomás MacCurtain, Jim Smith, Eamonn Smullen, Mick Walsh, Jim Crofton, Willie Stewart, Paddy Murphy, Frank Kerrigan and Joe O’Callaghan were all confined indoors in their cells, and naked apart from a blanket due to their refusal to accept the criminal status prison clothing signified. At the sounds of the coffin being carried by the door of their cell, each stood to attention in salute as MacCaugheys remains passed.

[update] you can read more about Sean McCaughey and Stephen Hayes here, and more on David Fleming here and here.


[1] Irish Times, 12th April 1946.

[2] At a later stage, De Valera was receiving daily reports on the strike.

[3] MacEoin 1997, 536.

[4] The two hunger strikes, the north-south aspects to them, and the background, were being reported as far away as, eg The Milwaukee Journal (see 11th May 1946).

[5] Irish TimesI, 24th April 1946.

[6] Irish Times, 22nd November 1946.

[7] See McEoin 1997, 538 for a horrific account of a hunger and thirst strike.

[8] Irish Times, 29th April 1946,

[9] Irish Times 7th May 1946.

[10] MacEoin 1997 538 (this account of the events inside Portlaoise on 11th May is largely based on Liam Rice’s account.

IRA in Ardoyne, Carrickhill and New Lodge


Further to the previous post on names of IRA volunteers in Belfast, here are the listed names for companies in North Belfast, namely C Company of 1st Battalion in Carrickhill, A Company in 2nd Battalion (Ardoyne and the Bone) and D Company in 2nd Battalion (North Queen Street and New Lodge). The same issue apply to the lists as in the previous post. The lists were prepared in the 1930s for two dates, July 1921 and July 1922.

There is no list for D Company on the latter date and list for that date for C Company is hidden among other papers (in MA/MSPC/RO/402 in the Military Archives in Dublin – thanks to Gerry Smith for that information). The D Company list appears incomplete and others from the district appear in other returns (eg Jimmy Steele appears under B Company of the 1st Battalion, based on the Falls Road). The meaning of the code used for some addresses, c/o 118 Leeson Street, isn’t clear either.

Street names and names are as given on the lists and those marked * appear on the July 1921 and July 1922 return, while those marked ** only appear on the July 1922 return.

C Company, 1st Battalion (Carrickhill)

Brady, Pat (deceased); **Brannigan, T. Drumkeen, Ballinahinch; Brennan, Robert 3 Beechmount Street (2nd Lieut); Burns, Pat 9 Pound Street; Bartlett, J. c/o 118 Leeson Street; **Brown, Patrick Annesboro, Co Down; **Burke, Wm. 8 Ross Street; Burns, M Durham Street; **Burns, James 10 Earlscourt Street; Burns, Peter Wall Street; **Burns, Patrick 25 California Street
Campbell, D c/o 118 Leeson Street; **Casey, P. 8 Linden Street; **Cassidy, Joseph 3 Ardilea Street; **Close, H. Braniel, Castlereagh; Crothers, J.  c/o 118 Leeson Street; Creighton, John c/o 118 Leeson Street; Cole, J (Scotland); Crawford, J (USA); *Carroll, J. 38 California Street; Croke, J. c/o 118 Leeson Street; **Crossey, H. 38 Blacks Court, Lurgan; Carville, J. (Scotland); **Cunningham, Edward Winetavern Street; Cunningham, James c/o 118 Leeson Street
Daly, Mick 20 Cape Street; Dunne, Louis Antrim Road; Donnelly, Gerard c/o 118 Leeson Street; Donnelly, Dan c/o 118 Leeson Street
Eastwood, John (Dublin)
Fahy, P. (Dublin); **Ferris, William 6 Osman Street; *Flannagan, John 26 Kildare Street; Fitzpatrick, ? (Free State); Fleming, Patrick 94 Clowney Street; Fogarty, P. c/o 118 Leeson Street; Finnegan, M. c/o 118 Leeson Street; Farrelly, Pat c/o 19 Kildare Street
Gunn, J. (Free State); Gibson, ? (Cork); Geehan, Thomas Glenard, Belfast; Galligan, J. (deceased); Guilar? J (deceased); Geoghan, Sean (Dublin)
Henry, D Arnon Street; Hughes, John (Cavan); Hamill, A. c/o 118 Leeson Street; Heaney, Henry (Derry)
Kelly, Thomas (deceased); Kelly, John c/o 118 Leeson Street; Kennedy, Thomas (Dublin); Kearns, C. c/o 118 Leeson Street; Kelly, C. c/o 118 Leeson Street; **Kelly, P. Annesboro, Co Down; Keenan, Pat Tyrone Street; Kane, Howard c/o 118 Leeson Street; Kane, Alan (USA); **Kavanagh, William 92 Antrim Road; *Largey, Sam 34 California Street; Largey, J (USA); Loughran, Pat (deceased); Leonard, J. c/o 118 Leeson Street
Monaghan, J. Wall Street; Maguire, J. (Free State); Morton, W. California Street; Murray, Joseph (Dublin) Capt; Montague, J. (Dublin); Maguire, Phil (deceased); Magee, Frank (Dublin); Magee, Hugh (deceased); Morrissey, Victor (Dublin); Morgan, J. c/o 118 Leeson Street; Mullen, F. c/o 118 Leeson Street; Murray, M. Rockdale Street; *Morgan, J. 13 Wall Street; *Megran, D. 13 Upton Street; **Mawhinney, Charles 118 Upper Library Street; McAuley, S. (Dublin); McErlain, Pat (deceased); McKinney, D 32 Ross Street; McDowell, S (deceased); McAleese, Robert Wall Street; McManus, J. c/o 118 Leeson Street; McNally, A. Alton Street; McDevitt, Sean (Dublin) 1st Lieut; McDevitt, Brendan (Dublin); McAuley, P.J. Grove Street; McAleese, F. (Canada); McMahon, P.J. 48 Bombay Street; McRory, Sean Harrogate Street; McCotter, J. Upton Street; McCann, S. (Free State); McManus, Joseph c/o 118 Leeson Street; *McGuinness, James Arnon Street; McIlvenny, C. (USA)
Nolan, James McCleery Street
O’Brien, James (Carrickmacross); *O’Hara, James 13 Alton Street; O’Connor, P. Tyrone Street; *O’Neill, H. 42 Arnon Street; **O’Neill, Patrick 15 Wall Street; **O’Toole, John 12 Spinner Street
Quinn, John Emo Villa, Falls Road
Reilly, John c/o 118 Leeson Street; Ryan, Joseph 92 Divis Street; Redmond, P. (Free State); *Russell, Joseph Stanhope Street; Rainey, Thomas 22 Clonard Street
Smith, Patrick (USA); Stevenson, J. (deceased); Strachan, P. (Free State; *Scott, Henry 42 Alton Street; Steele, Patrick (deceased); Smith, Sean Gresham Street
Tumelty, J. c/o 118 Leeson Street; *Trainor, Thomas 12 Park Street
Walsh, Pat (deceased)

A Company, 2nd Battalion (Ardoyne and the Bone)
O/C Michael McAnearney, Herbert St
1st Lieut Henry McCollum (Australia)
2nd Lieut Patrick Taylor 40 Havana Street

(1922 staff)
O/C Franics Toolan (Dublin)
1st Lieut Thomas Duffy Elmfield Street
2nd Lieut James Duffy Butler Street
**Barrett, Edward Brookfield Street; Braden, J. Butler Street; Braden, J. Chief Street; *Bradley, Arthur Butler Street; *Bradley Robert Butler Street; Bradley J. Butler Street; *Bradley, James Herbert Street; Burns, F. Butler Street; Burns, O. Butler Street; Byers, J. Jamaica Street.
*Callaghan, Edward Oakfield Street; Callaghan, B. Oakfield Street; *Carmichael, W. Parkview Street; Carmichael, R. Parkview Street; Carolan, A. (Dublin); Cassidy, J. Ardilea Street; Collins, B. Ardilea Street; Collins, J. Whiterock Road; **Collins, W. Whiterock Road; Connor, P. Butler Street; *Cosgrove, P. Parkview Street;  **Corry, Thomas Australia
*Deans, J. Herbert Street; Duffy, F. Butler Street; **Duffy, James Butler Street; *Duffy, Thomas Crumlin Street.
Ferran, J. Parkview Street; Forsythe, T. Ardoye Avenue.
Green, P. Butler Street;
Heaney, T. Havana Street; Hughes, J. Butler Street; *Hughes, Peter Legoniel Street; *Hughes, Edward Crumlin Street; Hughes, P. (deceased); Hunter, J. Ardilea Street.
Kane, J. Havana Street
Mackin, J. Ardilea Street; Megaghey, P. Flax Street; Miles, T. Chatham Street; **Millens, William Parkview Street; Mills, W. Parkview Street; Mills, O. Chatham Street; Morrison, D. (deceased); *Morrison, W. Parkview Street; Moore, J. Havana Street; *Mulholland, J. Butler Street; Mulholland, M. Butler Street; Mulholland, W. Free State; Murray, J. Chatham Street; Murphy, F. Parkview Street; *Murphy, J. Parkview Street; Murphy, T. Parkview Street; Montgomery, ? Glenview Street; Magillicuddy, ? Mayfair Street; *McAllister, W. Greencastle; *McAllister, J. Ardliea Street; McAnerney, M. Herbert Street; McAnerney, H. Herbert Street; McAnerney, J. Herbert Street; *McCaffery, Samuel Chatham Street; McCallum, H. Havana Steet; McCurry, A. Elmfield Street; McDonald, J. Ardliea Street; McDonald, T. Butler Street; McGee, J. Chatham Street; McGrath, P. Ardilea Street; McGribben, E. Parkview Street; McGowan, O. Parkview Street; *McGuinness, William Herbert Street; *McGuigan, Charles Crumlin Street; McKeown, F. Butler Street; McKeown, A. Dublin; McKenna, J. Crumlin Street; **McKenna, Thomas Crumlin Street; McIlkenny, T. Parkview Street; McMahon, J. Dublin; McNeill, R. Havana Street; McNeill, H. Flax Street; McNally, J. Ardilea Street; McCann, D. Ardoyne; McPhillips, J. Ardilea Street; McLarnon, P. Butler Street; **McBriarty, Michael Glenard; **McDonnell, John Chatham Street; **Myles, John Australia.
O’Connor, P. Butler Street; O’Hare, P. Oldpark Road; *O’Hanlon, James Herbert Street; *O’Neill, Robert Chatham Street; O’Neill, A. Butler Street; O’Shea, T. Crumlin Street; O’Shea, P. Crumlin Street; **O’Shea, John Crumlin Street.
Quinn, J. Herbert Street
*Rafferty, P. Falls Road; Rafferty, P. Butler Street; Reid, J. Chatham Street; **Reid, T. Chatham Street; Riley, J. Butler Street; Riley, J. Chatham Street; Rolleston, J. Herbert Street
Sheridan, N. Brookfield Street; Shearer, P. Falls Road; *Shields, P. Parkview Street; Shepperd, H. Glenard; Skillen, J. Glenard; Southwaite, J. Chief Street; Southwaite, L. Chief Street; *Stewart, Charles Parkview Street; Stewart, C. Ardilea Street
Taylor, P. Havana Street; Taylor, J. Havana Street;Taylor, E. Havana Street; *Toolan, Francis Dublin; Toolan, P. Butler Street; Topping, S. Mayfair Street
*Wales, J. Elmfield Street; Wallace, J. Jamaica Street; Warsfold, P. Brookfield Street;
*Young, J. Butler Street.


D Company, 2nd Battalion (North Queen Street and New Lodge)
O/C Hugh Donnelly (Dublin)
1st Lieut B O’Neill (Dublin)
2nd Lieut James Nolan 9 McCleery Street

Cassidy, J. c/o 118 Leeson Street
Coffey, C. (Dublin)
Donnelly, Hugh (Dublin) Capt (O/C)
Devine, J (Dublin)
Doherty, Phil c/o 118 Leeson Street
Edwards, B. (USA)
Griffen, F. Hardinge Street
Hudson, B. New Lodge Road
Hayes, S. c/o 118 Leeson Street
Heffernan, P. (Scotland)
Hunt, P. (USA)
Gough, H. c/o 118 Leeson Street
Kavanagh, B. c/o 118 Leeson Street
Legg, J. c/o 118 Leeson Street
Nolan, James. 9 McCleery Street (2nd Lieut)
O’Neill, B. c/o 118 Leeson Street (1st Lieut)
McGinness(?), J. Pinkerton Street
McFadden, H. c/o 118 Leeson Street
McKinstry, D. (USA)
McKeating, S. Great Patrick Street
Scott, J. Pilot Street
Feeney, J. c/o 118 Leeson Street

Paddy McGrath: an Easter Rising veteran executed by De Valera

Paddy McGrath

It is well known that those who saw service during the Easter Rising in 1916 and were executed, were summarily tried by a military tribunal, shot, then buried in unmarked graves. What is less well known is the last such execution of an Easter Rising participant was that of Paddy McGrath, ordered by De Valera’s Fianna Fáil cabinet in 1940.

Despite being founded long after both events, according to the party’s plans to commemorate 1916:

It would be logical that an organisation that was so connected to the Rising and the War of Independence would commemorate its own history.

If that is the case, it might want to revisit its treatment of at least one participant, Paddy McGrath. On 16th August 1940, Special Branch officers, led by Denny O’Brien, stormed 98a Rathgar Road, guns blazing, hoping to get reward money from a slush fund used to encourage similar raids against known IRA bases. In the ensuing gun battle, two branch men were killed, Sergeant McKeown and Detective Hyland, and a third wounded. An IRA staff officer, Thomas Harte from Lurgan, was wounded and captured along with a senior IRA officer Paddy McGrath who had broken free but returned to assist Harte (eg see the account given in Bowyer Bells The Secret Army).

According to Donnacha Ó Beacháin (in Destiny of the Soldiers), there were no autopsies held on McKeown or Hyland. An internal inquiry into the shooting was reportedly suppressed by Gerry Boland, the Minister for Justice. Nevertheless, McGrath and Harte were tried by the Military Tribunal, which could only impose a death penalty, and, had just had its right of appeal removed. Without an autopsy or forensic evidence, there was no attempt to establish who had fired shots (and the suppressed internal inquiry was claimed to have identified that McKeown and Hyland were killed by ‘friendly’ fire). Regardless of the lack of due process, McGrath and Harte were condemned to death four days after the shooting, on 20th August. De Valera’s Fianna Fáil cabinet met the next day and confirmed the sentence. It met again on the 23rd and re-affirmed its decision while postponing the decision for a few days (Harte’s family in Lurgan were never even formally advised of his death sentence). On 4th September, De Valera convened his Fianna Fáil cabinet yet again and, despite the fact that no attempt had been made to identify who had actually shot McKeown or Hyland, and, presumably, through Gerry Boland, aware of what was being suppressed from the internal inquiry, they decided that McGrath and Harte should be executed two days later on 6th September 1940.

Paddy McGrath, a veteran of the Easter Rising, a Frongoch internee, who still had a bullet near his heart from a shooting by the British in 1920, was shot along with Thomas Harte, and interred in an unmarked prison grave, just as were the Easter Rising leaders 24 years beforehand. This time, though, the executions had been ordered by De Valera and his Fianna Fáil cabinet.

Their remains were finally released for formal burial in 1948, the 150th anniversary of the 1798 rebellion. Speaking at McGrath’s burial, Brian Ó’ Higgins was scathing:

Make believe and insincerity have been loudly vocal on the battlefields of ’98 this summer. Those who condemned to death the IRA of their own generation, have been praising the IRA of 150 years ago…

Neither is the case of McGrath and Harte unusual among the executions carried out in the 1940s. No court would realistically uphold almost any of the death sentences imposed by De Valera’s Military Tribunal. Notably, another 1941 execution has recently been revisited and is to be overturned due to prosecution failures (indeed some Fianna Fáil TDs had campaigned for it). Perhaps, among the Fianna Fáil events for 2016, should be a campaign to address its ‘history’ and overturn Paddy McGrath’s sentence, and others, for lack of due process.

You can read more articles and follow the Treason Felony blog here on Facebook.

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List of Belfast IRA O/Cs from 1924 to 1969

The speech that split the IRA, July 1969

Belfast and 1916

The 1943 strip strike.

In the late spring and summer of 1943, there was continued debate within the IRA in A wing of the Belfast Prison (Crumlin Road) over how to challenge prison authorities and mount a suitable protest against conditions within the prison. The successful January 1943 escape (and March escape from Derry Jail) had ended a policy of unofficial recognition of the political status of the prisoners outside D wing. John Graham, as O/C, and others on his staff, like David Fleming, were unhappy with the idea of a hunger strike since they felt it pushed the authorities into a position where they had to make a decision on whether to meet their demands for more humane conditions and recognition of their political status.

David Fleming gives an idea of what the IRA prisoners deemed to be political status: “…political treatment and the option of work, a weekly parcel, a letter and a visit each week, better rations, and in view of the fact that there are no prisons in Northern Ireland suitable for long-term, penal servitude prisoners … facilities should be granted to the long-term prisoners in Crumlin Road Prison for more freedom of movement than they have at present between 7 o’clock in the morning and the putting out of lights at 8 pm … light should not be put out until 10 pm … and there should also be provided more facilities for forms of sport and indoor amusements.[1]

Graham and Fleming thought the northern government would not back down, would disregard any negative publicity or external pressure and happily let prisoners die. This was likely based on their experience of the authorities’ attitude towards the individuals who had already died due to conditions in the prison, and the way the northern government had resisted pressure not to execute Tom Williams.

As the authorities effectively recognised the political status of the internees in D wing, the IRA prisoners in A wing thought that political status was an achieveable goal. During June 1943, a level of political status was given to the small group of IRA prisoners in Portlaoise. They had been refusing to wear prison clothing since 1940. As they had been sentenced by the Military Tribunal, on that basis they claimed they were political prisoners not convicts. The punishment regime was severe and was believed to be directed straight from the Fianna Fáil government and De Valera[2]. Other than being brought out of their cell for a bath once a week, the strikers were never allowed out of their cells or and at no time were able to go outdoors. They received no letters, had no access to the news, newspapers or radio and no visits. Limited association and letters were permitted from June 1943[3] although the protest continued and the prisoners were still not permitted to go out in the fresh air, receive visits, newspapers etc.

The admittedly limited achievement of the Portlaoise strip strike suggested the tactic had some merit to it, although in Portlaoise the campaign had taken more than two years (Tomás MacCurtain had been on the strip strike since 1940[4]). The fact that two of the striking prisoners were Belfast Battalion men, Sean McCaughey and Liam Rice, would have ensured that information made its way to Crumlin Road from Portlaoise. This makes the timing of the success that the Portlaoise strike did achieve and the start of the Crumlin Road strike appear to be no mere coincidence.

Another factor which may also influenced the timing of the strip strike was the confirmation that six prison staff were being dismissed over the escape earlier in the year[5]. While this was largely expected, it was not going to improve the overall atmosphere inside A wing.

As it happened, John Graham hurt his knee so badly that he had to be moved to an outside hospital for treatment. Seamus Brogan, from Tyrone, took over as O/C in Graham’s absence. It was then agreed that a strip strike would take place and would begin in mid-June. A strip strike is, in effect a publicity stunt, since it largely requires external pressure to identify the protest action as denoting a significant issue that the authorities should address. To the prison authorities, refusal to work simply means confing a prisoner to his cell on a reduced, punishment, diet. A strip strike, where the prisoner symbolically refuses to even wear prison uniform, is an escalation of the same tactic. However, it similarly can be simply ignored by the prison authorities since it poses no additional strain on resources, although at the expense of relationships and the atmosphere within the prison. As a confrontational tactic it relies on publicity and public pressure on the authorities to agree a satisfactory solution. To the IRA prisoners, it had eventually produced some sort of result in Portlaoise and was a tactic worth trying.

In mid-June, the following men embarked on the strike: Seamus Brogan and Frank Morris (both from Tyrone), David Fleming (from Kerry), John McMahon and Ned Tennyson (both from Portadown), Sean Gallagher and Patrick Hegarty (both from Derry), and thirteen Belfast men, including Joe Cahill, Dan McAlister, Gerry Adams, James Bannon, Joe Myles, Robert Dempsey, Hugh O’Hara, Sean McParland, Patrick Corrigan, Charles McCotter, Tony Marley, Liam Doyle and J. McCusker. Others joined the strike as it progressed. In the morning they refused to leave their cells and took off their prison uniforms.

While it was officially the summer, little sunlight entered A wing and the blackstone walls prevented the interior heating up in any meaningful way. The heating was always turned off in the prison at this time of year. The striking prisoners felt the cold immediately. They were also put onto a punishment diet for refusing to work and received just one pint of tea, eight ounces of bread, and half an ounce of margarine for breakfast at 8 am, a dinner of one pint of soup, two ounces of meat, one ounce vegetables and about three small potatoes at 12 pm, and one pint of tea, eight ounces of bread, and half an ounce of margarine, a pint of porridge and a half pint of milk at 4.30 pm. Church attendance, visits and letters were all banned. Prisoners were confined to their cells for 24 hours a day, except for their weekly bath. The cell doors were left open for half an hour each morning (nominally to air the cell, but effectively allowing any heat that had built up overnight to escape). The striking prisoners weren’t even allowed out when the cell doors were open.

The combination of cold and hunger had an immediate impact. Joe Cahill describes the first day of the strike, “…after the screws had removed everything from my cell, I was left wth a towel about two foot square to cover myself.” Within a day of the start of the protest, Joe Cahill collapsed from exposure and was found face down on the floor of his cell. He woke up to find himself dressed and on the bed, being fed whiskey by a warder. That was the end of the strike for Cahill[6].

Within a couple of weeks of the strike starting, Jack Beattie raised the issue in Stormont. He framed a question to William Lowry, the Minister of Home Affairs in the context of the unsuitability of Crumlin Road for the long-term prisoners being sent there by the northern government. Lowry was not likely to be in any way sympathetic. In one Stormont discussion of the use of an Orange Hall by Catholics in the US army, Lowry told Stormont that preparations were being made to have it fumigated[7]. On the 6th July, he asked:

Is the Minister of Home Affairs prepared to issue a statement on the state of the convict wing of Belfast Prison? Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that a large number of the convicts are walking about the cells in the nude? Is he aware of the reasons for this state of affairs? Will he issue an order that in Northern Ireland the King’s Regulations in regard to the protection of convicts will be carried out? Under the King’s Regulations, although a man may be classified as a convict, there are certain measures of protection afforded him. The first is that he must have his daily exercise within a specified area. The Regulations also state that he must be employed at the type of work which is likely to keep him physically fit and in a healthy condition; in other words, that he may, when his period of detention is ended, come out a fitter and better man than when he went in. The King’s Regulations are not being carried out in so far as conditions in the jail are concerned.

Is the Minister satisfied with the penal conditions operating in Crumlin Road Jail? Do they conform to the regulations laid down for penal settlements in accordance with the King’s Regulations? If they do not will he have the convicts transferred to a penal settlement, and then proceed to erect a penal settlement for which the Imperial Government allocated a sum of £240,000? Will the right hon. Gentleman tell the House what the Government of the time did with the £240,000? A penal settlement was not erected and the prisoners are suffering. The state of affairs at present existing is likely to have an adverse affect on the lives of those present in Crumlin Road if the right hon. Gentleman does not tackle the question immediately.

Lowry responded:

I am aware that there are 20 convicts in the convict wing of Belfast Prison who for a considerable time past have refused to put on their clothing in the day time. That is done as a form of strike-it is on the same lines as a hunger strike-in order that they may be treated as political prisoners. There are no political prisoners in Belfast Prison. There are 115 convicted prisoners, and they will not coerce the prison authorities or this Ministry into according them political treatment by simply refusing to put their clothes on. They endeavour to evade the matter by wrapping themselves in blankets during the day time. The blankets are only necessary for their comfort at night. The blankets are removed in the morning and their outdoor clothing is placed in their cells. If they wish to put on their clothes there is nothing to prevent their doing so. I do not propose, as at present advised, to direct the prison officers to dress these men as if they were children. If they care to sit in their cells in a naked state during the day that is their affair. If they care to put on their clothes they will get the prescribed exercise in a proper place, but they will not be allowed to perambulate to the exercise ground in a naked state. Their clothes are there, and they can put them on. I do not even intend to ask the governor of the jail to search for fig leaves in the jail gardens.

The initial prospects of a deal with the authorities looked bleak. After being sentenced on the 3rd August, Jimmy Steele was returned to A wing. When he returned to the wing, he had to go to the governor to get permission to get a new jacket from the tailors shop providing an odd moment of humour. The governor, with a wry smile, replied: “What happened? You had a perfectly good jacket on when you left here.[8]

Pat McCotter had taken over as O/C in A wing when Brogan joined the strip strike. McCotter and Jimmy discussed what to do when Jimmy arrived in A wing, although it was pretty much understood that he would join the strike. The prisoners on the protest were all housed on A3, while Jimmy had once again been returned to A1. Despite being isolated from the other prisoners on the protest, Jimmy immediately joined the strip strike. He published an account of the strip strike in 1954[9].

The prison bell goes at 7 o’clock. You awake with a start. No nice slow leisurely wakening here but before the last clang you are wide awake. The cold bare walls stare back at you and you realize that you have another long day to spend naked. You ponder how long it is until you will see that bed again – 13 hours – 780 minutes – 46,800 seconds and you have to live thru’ every second. But you have a half hour yet for the warders do not come until 7.30. How you treasure that last half hour. The old lumpy fibre mattress, the army blankets, and the hard worsted sheets feel like down. For soon you hear the clang of keys and the rush of feet. The warders have arrived. They are laughing and joking and full of the ordinary joys of life. You wonder if the fight is really worth while. But this passes very quickly and you get the courage to at least last another day. The slops are removed and door is banged in your face again. You still have another minute or two and you get back into bed again. When the bed is moved you stand naked in your cold bare cell.

At eight o’clock the breakfast arrives. This consists of one pint of tea, eight ounces of bread, and half an ounce of margarine. Your table and chair have been removed so you take your treasure to the old bedstead. You try to eat it slowly as you know it will do you more good and it will last longer, but the hunger is so great that you eat i.t very quickly. Any stray crumbs are quickly retrieved. You drink the tea and all is finished and you are nearly as hungry as ever. It will be four and a half hours before you get any more.

Now the day has really begun. You hear the prisoners going out to work. How you envy them their warm clothes. They are happy people. Neverthessless the fight must go on. The day must be spent. You begin the parade again. Eight paces up, one at the turn, and eight paces back again. You begin this parade and people wonder what is the matter with you. Perhaps you make a football out of an old pair of socks and try to get the blood to circulate. You think on how cold it is even though it is the month of June. What will it be like in January? You put this out of your head at once. The sun is shining outside but this does not reach your cell. What is that? A knock on the wall and then a knock on the pipes. It is the signal that your next door neighbour wants to speak to you. You listen at the door and all is quiet. You get your enanmel mug and use it as a kind of telephone on the pipes. Perhaps there is some news. But no! Your pal is finding it hard also and you try to encourage him. Stick it a little longer and there is no knowing what will happen. Suddenly the spy-hole is opened and an unfriendly eye looks and gives a sharp order to get off the pipes. Even this small luxury is denied us. Well, on it must go. You begin the parade again and perhaps read a few pages of the Bible. You read but you do not take anything in. There is such a vast difference between what you read and the position you are in. Perhaps if you read the part on Job you get a little comfort. He has done his suffering for God, you are suffering for a principle. It helps a lot if you offer to God, too.

It is usual for them to search your cell. What do they expect to get in your empty tomb? Perhaps a small butt of a cigarette that you managed to get. At any rate everything is gone through, even at times your hair and beard. You will have a beard by this time for you are not allowed a razor. Perhaps if they did the death of Tone could be re-enacted. You cannot see this beard for your mirror has also been removed.

The dinner arrives and you are just ravenous. This consists of one pint of soup, two ounces of meat, once ounce vegetables and about three small potatoes. If one potato is bad it is a calamity. There is no use asking for another one for you will in all probability get another bad one and draw down the enmity of a warder on your defenceless shoulders. Well, you eat everything – potatoes, skins – every scrap, no matter how unpalatable it is it fills an empty space. It is now only twelve o’clock and you think it is only four and a half hours from the morning, that is another eight and half hours to go until you get into that bed again. You lie on the cold bedstead and try to rest for you have been on the constant move since the morning trying to keep warmth in your body. You are so cold that you begin the whole parade again. Perhaps you have a visit from the prison chaplain. You are delighted to see him and at the same time feel embarrassed and ashamed. You do not like to detain him too long as he has to visit all the other fighters and perhaps some of the other prisoners as well. He has a very difficult job. You can see the light of sympathy in his eyes and at athe same time he gives you to understand that he thinks you are striking your head against a stone wall. Perhaps you are too. You are in the grip of a mighty machine. What is the use? Others fought against it for years. Some went to an early grave, while others went mad. What was to be your fate? Neverthless you must not slet your comrades down. We are all in this to the end.

At two o’clock the noise starts again. The other prisoners go out to work and you have simply nothing to do. In these circumstances a man realises how incomplete he is on his own and how much a social creature he really is. How content you be doing anything. Even the hateful monotonous task of sewing mail bags that you were doing before the strike began. Perhaps you climb on the back of your bed and look out of your window. There is very little to be seen. Perhaps some hapless creatures marching around a ring in the courtyard awaiting trial. Perhaps some of your own comrades who will get the same kind of a trail that you got and a savage sentence. If you are caught it will almost certainly mean a report followed by a sentence of ‘bread and water’. They cannot confine you any closer but your diet will be reduced to a total of eight ounces of bread and one pound of potatoes per day. These morsels make you fell more hungry than if you get nothing at all.

At four o’clock the prisoners return from the shops and the tea arrives which consists of the same as the morning with one pint of porridge and half a pint of milk. This has to keep you going till eight o’clock the next morning. You could eat it at once and still be hungry but you must keep a little for later in the evening. Even though there is still four hours left you have the day’s back broken. You have done nine hours and every hour you do leaves one more down and one less to do. If you get a chance now you try to get something from the prisoner next to you. This is done by using a string, which you had concealed, and a weight. Perhaps you have a few booklet to exchange that will while away the monotony of the evening. If you are caught it will mean punishment but it is worth the risk. Look at the satisfaction you get if you succeed. Even if it is only a small thing you have a feeling you have beaten them.

Perhaps the prisoner below you who is in sympathy with your ideals sends you some of his food on the line. His own food is little enough and if he is caught it will mean punishment for him but he knows you are fighting his fight too. The time is passing but will 8.30 never come? At long last you hear the rattle of the keys. How welcome is that sound now. They start at the top. Will they never reach your length? The door opens and you get your bed. You are under the clothes in a few minutes. You are asleep in a few more. It does seem a pity to go to sleep as you don’t find the time until that awful bell goes again.

While Jimmy emphasises the solidarity of the protestors, this account is written as if he was housed on A3 with the other prisoners on the strike. It refers to the month of June, when Jimmy himself joined in August and also has him talking to his neighbour through the pipes and getting food from the prisoner below him when he was actually on the ground floor. Rather than making the account more bleak, Jimmy is reflecting the collective experience of the striking prisoners on A3 and how they were able to support each other. He spent the protest alone and isolated on A1, giving his own experience when he writes: “In these circumstances a man realises how incomplete he is on his own and how much a social creature he really is”. Other than that, the account must reflect Jimmy’s long experience of strkes in the prison and motivations that went through his head during the various protests. But the published account seems to have been written for the others that participated on the strike.

In mid-August Graham returned to A wing and seems to have resumed his position as O/C. There was a difference of opinion on whether he should rejoin the strike. Due to the precarious nature of Graham’s knee, and the fact that the cold and punishment diet would put his recovery at risk, some pleaded with Graham not to join the strike. All of Graham’s battalion staff were now on the strike, which may have influenced his decision to ignore those asking him to not participate in the strike. As it was, on his return to A wing, Graham joined the strike two weeks after Jimmy.

The protest did not discourage the prison staff from continuing to dole out beatings to prisoners. James Bannon was one of three or four prisoners who were punished for shouting from windows. In Bannon’s case this included being batoned in his cell by Prison Officer Boyd during August. The strike continued for a further four weeks into mid-September. Then, Graham’s knee gave way again and he would have to abandon the strike if he wanted to get treatment. Since the strike was failing to garner much public support, Graham feared leaving the strike, even for medical treatment, would suggest the protest was weakening. Since Graham wasn’t convinced that the strike would be successful, he appears to have been the main voice pushing for the strike itself to be ended[10]. What Graham needed was a staff meeting, yet there was no chance of that happening while the striking prisoners were kept isolated from each other without even an exercise period or any opportunity for association in which to meet up. He then, optimistically, requested that the prison authorities permit him to meet five other prisoners to discuss the strike. To Graham’s complete surprise, the request was granted.

Much to their amusement, Jimmy and the other four members of Graham’s staff were brought to an empty cell so they could meet and discuss the strike. Prison officers discretely gathered outside but kept the meeting secret. The IRA staff discussed their options, to keep going without Graham or to call a halt, but failed to agree on a course of action. What they finally did agree was that they would put the options to the other strikers. The remaining strikers, sitting cold, naked, hungry and isolated in their cells preferred to end the strike. With war time censorship, there was no public campaign of support on the outside and the rationale behind the strike had not been realised. To carry on would simply continue to erode the strikers’ health to no avail.

Jimmy Steele was critical of the ending of the strike, when he wrote about it in Resurgent Ulster ten years later. Whether this reflects his views, and the views of others, immediately after the strike isn’t clear[11]. The criticisms identified a number of key issues, such as Graham’s decision to join the strike while not in full health, with Graham being described as the weak link in the strike. It also identified a number of failings of Graham’s staff (which included Jimmy himself). The latter focussed on two specific points, the first being the indecision around whether Graham alone should end the strike for medical treatment, or, that the strike itself should end. That the IRA staff failed to come to a decision and put it directly to the strikers was regarded as unfair, since the purpose of electing an O/C and staff was to make those sort of decisions. By 1954, when Jimmy wrote about the strike, these points had clearly become divisive among those who had took part. Indeed, Jimmy’s account of the strike may have been written to try and heal those wounds.

Most pointedly of all, Jimmy was also critical of how he, Graham and the IRA staff had failed to grasp a more fundamental point. The prison authorities had rapidly agreed to a meeting of the IRA staff, allowing six striking prisoners on punishment to meet in a cell, to discuss ending the strike. The official position was that these were six penal convicts who were currently being punished for failure to comply with prison regulations. In that logic, to permit such a meeting was extraordinary. But the request by Graham was surely communicated to the Ministry of Home Affairs for instruction. So clearly the authorities wanted an end to the strike and no longer were as relaxed about it as implied by the dismissive public position given by Lowry in Stormont in July. In effect, despite the public position, facilitating an IRA staff meeting while the participants were on punishment was tantamount to recognising their political status. But the IRA staff overlooked this point and the strike ended when, in retrospect at least, it appears that the authorities were beginning to feel under pressure to respond. While this may seem like a very minor point, in prison, as Jimmy was to later write about the strike, “Even if it is only a small thing you have a feeling you have beaten them”.

To the regime, though, the prison authorities’ tactics had been a success. In 1945, speaking in Stormont as Attorney-General, William Lowry said “…we broke the strike.

[1] Stormont Hansaid, check date.

[2] At a later stage, De Valera was receiving daily reports on the strike.

[3] MacEoin 1997, 536.

[4] Eg see War News, No. 9, October 1940.

[5] Reference from PRONI escape report file.

[6] Anderson 2002, 93-4.

[7] Stormont Hansard, 2/2/1944.

[8] Story related by Billy McKee

[9] There were a number of items on the 1943 strip strike published in Resurgent Ulster from February to May 1954.

[10] There is an account, apparently by Jimmy, of the end of the 1944 strip strike in Resurgent Ulster, March 1954. It is the basis of the story given here, alongside other sources as indicated. The account gives the sequence of O/C’s and implies Jimmy was on the staff.

[11] On balance, given the later protests that took place, it seems more likely that this was how the strike was to be regarded later, with the benefit of hindsight.

Photo of McKelveys GAC


The above photo was published in Ray Quinn’s history of the IRA in Belfast after 1924, A Rebel Voice. It is a group photo of Joe McKelvey GAC including some of the playing staff. The photo isn’t dated but two individuals are identified, Jimmy Steele in the front row and Joe Hanna in the back row. Joe McKelvey GAC was set up after the  reburial of McKelvey in Belfast in November 1924. The funeral held in St Mary’s in Chapel Lane and the burial at Milltown was a seminal moment in the restructuring of the post-Civil War IRA in Belfast. As the premier GAA club for IRA members in Belfast, the significance of McKelvey’s funeral was reflected in the club’s name.

GAA club names provided an opportunity for republicans and nationalists to create the sort of commemorative monumental landscape denied to them by the northern government. Consistently, GAA clubs were named after leading nationalists and republicans, as well as Irish cultural figures. By doing so, clubs likes O’Connells GAC, McKelveys, Morans or Nashes kept those names in regular usage as fixtures were made, games played and results discussed. Surreptitiously, republicans and nationalists were able to erect an architecture across parts of the city that reflected their political aspirations, rather than accepting that imposed by the northern government. Denied access to the permissions and resources to construct a physical reflection of their historical and political values, nationalists and republicans instead created a virtual architecture from cultural and sporting institutions. This could co-exist with the physical unionist landscape demanded by the northern government and was very resistant to repression.

So as to bypass the restrictions the northern government imposed on political activity, the IRA used GAA clubs as means by which members could meet and organise. Since the IRA had to set up its own clubs, clearly not all GAA clubs were IRA clubs. Constantly under surveillance from the northern government, occasionally successful on the pitch, and overtly political in bringing motions to GAA conventions, McKelveys effectively folded during internment in 1939.

The two figures indicated on the photo are Jimmy Steele (at the front) and Joe Hanna (at the back). Hanna was the Intelligence Officer of the Belfast Battalion at the time of the Campbell College raid and Crown Entry and was shot as an informer in 1937. The figured seat in the row behind Jimmy Steele, with a ball between his feet, is Jack McNally. Otherwise, no-one else in the photo has been identified. Donal McAnallen recorded interviews with some former members of McKelveys in the 1990s but otherwise no history of the club has been written to date.