Sunday, 5 July 2009

Mo Mhámó

Today has been spent, like so many other people's Sundays, lazing around the house, having the occasional snack, watching some brief TV, listening to a tune on the radio and browsing the web.

Strangely I came across this old article from 'An Phoblacht - Republican News', it was written following the death of my Grandmother in 1997. I'm not too sure who wrote it but in ways it tells a lot about my granny and also tells us very little. I laughed at the line which mentions her strength being in her secrecy; I remember well a reporter from the AP/RN coming over to interview her before her death looking to find out about her life in struggle and aspects of Republicanism in the 1930s and 40s. Even after 60 years he had a very difficult time in getting anything from her about that period and the people involved. I remember vividly asking her on numerous occasions during one of those "what did you do during the war granny?" moments and her point blankly refusing to give me anything, not a nudge not a wink not "well we were.......", she wouldn't say a thing.

I have copied the article here......


The ink of partition was hardly dry when Mary Walsh was born in November 1922 in the Republican ghetto of Ballymacarrett in Belfast.

As a child she would often hear her mother recall stories of the 1916 Rising and the pogroms of the 20s and the part that local Republicans played in those campaigns.

She left St Matthew's School at the age of 14 and, like many of the young girls, worked in the mills, enduring the harsh conditions of the time. Mary became interested in Irish history and culture and around 1939 she joined Cumann na mBan E Company, Belfast Battalion. As a dedicated volunteer no task was too great for her and her strength was in her secrecy.

With a lot of her comrades in Óglaigh na hÉireann interned, the prisoners became Mary's passion. Through the internment days of the 40s Mary carried army despatches in and out of Belfast prison and at the time of Tom Williams' execution Mary and her comrades sat up for two nights making black flags.

After the last of the internees were released from Belfast prison around 1945 Mary met her husband Jimmy McVeigh, who had been interned for five years. Funny enough,during Mary's many visits to the jail she had never met him. they married on 2 September 1952 and made their home in the Short Strand area.

Mary had six children. Her eldest son James was mentally handicapped and Mary dedicated herself to him and his needs.

In 1968-69 at the collapse of the state the McVeigh home became one of the focal points for the movement to organise itself, including the Battle of Saint Matthews. In 1971 Mary took to the streets in support of the prisoners. Her husband suffered from a stroke which was to restrict her campaigning.

Mary's family took her lead and 3 of her children were imprisoned. Her son Seán served 11 years in the H-Blocks, participating in the Blanket Protest. Another son and daughter spent shorter terms in prison.

1996 saw Mary honoured for a lifetime's service to the movement at the annual Short Strand Republican Commemoration.

Mary passed away on 13th August 1997 and among a small number she will be remembered for her last act of defiance when she rose from her sick bed to help the escape of a Volunteer on active service from the British Army.

The size of Mary's funeral spoke volumes as the Short Strand buried one of the last of the 40s women.

1 comment:

  1. Excellent article chara and people like your grandmother should be proudly remembered.

    Likwise, my own blog has just recorded some links between Ardoyne and the S/Strand also. With stories about comradeship and loyalty.

    Le Meas.