Street artist Emic (web | tw) was commissioned by Up! Culture And Arts (and SASH and the Shankill Somme Association) to produce a series of large portraits – based on photographs from the time – of soldiers from the Shankill who fought in WWI, including brothers William and James McKendry, and Richard Mussen, son of the Richard Mussen whose funeral cortège is painted as a mural lower down the Shankill. The portraits were placed in the Shankill and West Kirk graveyards (the West Kirk photographs include poppies). On March 16th, the photographs were lit up and an ‘Angel Of Mons’ was projected onto the Spectrum Centre (Up! Fb).
Photographer Mariusz Smiejek (web | ig) was born in Poland in 1978 but moved to Northern Ireland in 2011, which is when he started taking pictures of bonfires – in areas such as Highfield, the Village, and the Shankill – and the people around them. The full gallery for his ‘Bonies’ project is available on his web site.
Another entry in a growing list of religious placards adorning the streets during the covid-19 pandemic, this time from the Shankill: “Drive-In Gospel – Gospel Hall Matchett Street, Sunday at 7:00pm.” According a survey cited in this FT article, the faith of Americans has generally strengthened during the pandemic.
“Aye ready they stood, aye ready they fought, through conflict, blood and tears, loyal to the end, every one, the Scottish volunteers.” “Aye ready” was the motto of the 59th Scinde Rifles of the British Indian Army (and later of the Canadian Navy) but is best known from the label of Camp Coffee, in which a Highlander was served a cup of Camp by a Sikh servant (nowadays, they both have a cup of their own). In this new mural and plaque at the newly-christened “Scots Corner” (see final image), a Scottish soldier plays the pipes over a list of the “Battalion Of The Dead”, Scottish volunteers from the (modern) UVF. The list is led by William “Big Bill” Campbell, who has had a small plaque in his memory at this spot since (at least) 2014. Preacher and DUP politician George Seawright (see A Crown Of Life) is also included – he was born in Glasgow in 1951.
After the Nationalist coup in 1936, the UK and US continued to recognise Spain’s Republican government but did not intervene militarily. Individuals from these counties thus participated in the conflict by joining the British and Lincoln battalions of the XV International Brigade, fighting alongside Balkans, Belgians, and Cubans at Jarama, Brunete, and the Ebro river, among other battles. For background on Belfast socialism of the period see this article by Stevie Downes.
“International Brigades – Spanish Civil War 1936 – 39. Commemorating all those who served and died with the XV International Brigade in the fight against fascism including the following Brigadistas from the Shankill area: William Beattie … Bill Henry … William Laughran … Henry McGrath … James Isaac Hillen … Joseph Lowery … Andrew Molyneaux. No pasarán. Unveiled by Tommy and Freddie McGrath, nephews of Henry McGrath, and Baroness May Blood, trade union & community activist. International Brigade Commemoration Committee. Saturday 1st February 2014.”
“On a cold Friday afternoon in February 1989, a young Red Hand Commando volunteer, Stevie McCrea, gave up his life to save others during an attack by the IPLO – a republican drug gang – at the Orange Cross Club just off the Shankill Road. Stevie, who was celebrating his last day on a work-out scheme with friends, went to the club for a farewell drink. A short time later, after gaining access through the outer door of the club, three IPLO gunmen burst into the main bar and started shooting indiscriminately. Stevie reacted immediately, placing himself between the gunmen and his friends. He was shot a number of times. Sadly he died from his injuries two days later. Stevie, even as a young man was a willing and active volunteer for the RHC, which culminated with him being arrested in October 1972 and being sentenced to life imprisonment early in 1973. Stevie served 16 years as a political prisoner in Long Kesh. He thoughtlessly gave up his life for others. A true soldier of Ulster. Forever remembered by friends and comrades. Lamh dearg abu.”
From yesterday’s Ordinary People, Extraordinary Roles, here are the three individual plaques to Trevor King, Frenchie Marchant, and Davy Hamilton, three UVF volunteers killed at or near the junction of Spier’s Place and the Shankill Road. The poetic verse (in the wide shot) is from Siegfried Sassoon’s Suicide In The Trenches.
“Remember With Pride” (with a poppy). Although the dates of his birth and death are given, Stevie “Top Gun” McKeag’s name appears only on the side-wall of this new mural in the Lower Shankill estate. McKeag was the top assassin in the UDA during the 1990s, claiming at least 12 victims. Both his WP page and this Guardian article describe his career and preeminent standing within the UDA.
Camera Settings: f10, 1/200, ISO 800, full size 3480 x 2464
text: X03892 X03888 X03890 X03889 X03891 X03893 1st april 1970 24th september 2000 ulster young militants terrae filius 2nd batt c.13 shankill road military commander they shall not grow old those we love don’t go away they walk beside us every day sleeping where no shadows fall at the going down of the sun and in the morning remember with pride