Extract Three: The Death of Jimmy Quigley
In the last extract from his book, ‘All The Dead Voices’, Danny Morrison writes about the death of his best friend, IRA Volunteer Jimmy Quigley
The Death of Jimmy
I was downtown sitting in Kieran Meehan’s car whilst he was signing on for the dole. He came back to the car and said, “Somebody told me they heard that the fellah shot dead was Quigley from the Flats.” As we came up Divis Street I stopped a member of the Official IRA who told me that it was Jimmy who had been killed. My stomach turned and I felt sick. I asked Kieran to bring me home. The house was empty.
I went up to the bedroom where he and I had lain for hours talking and laughing and arguing and I lay down and cried convulsively. When I heard my sister Susan and mammy come in I rushed down to tell them. Susan and Jimmy had gone out a few times together earlier that year and Susan burst into tears.
Jimmy and I had been in A Company together but he moved to D Company in the lower Falls to be with Frank, his brother, who had escaped from Musgrave Hospital after being wounded.
On Friday, 29 September 1972, Mrs Quigley had been taken shopping by Jimmy, who had just received a cheque for £70, as part of a school grant. “He bought me a fur coat in Sinclair’s, and he got himself a new sports coat, shoes and shirt. We called into Sawyers’ and bought a load of white fish and cream buns because we were in the money! He left me at a quarter to eleven and I got the bus in Castle Street to go up to the shop of my hairdresser’s, Janet Farrell, to get my hair done for the weekend.”
Frank was the quartermaster of D Company and gave Jimmy the Garand rifle he had asked for. Jimmy, who was almost six foot tall, put the muzzle down one leg of his trousers and tucked the butt under his armpit and covered it with his jacket.
Jimmy had planned to ambush a patrol coming out of Divis Flats. He had chosen a second floor derelict attic above Caulfield’s chemists at the junction of Albert Street and McDonnell Street as his firing position. He was accompanied by a 17-year-old youth who himself had been seriously wounded by British soldiers some months earlier and was still recovering. He carried a .45 Webley revolver.
“We were up in the attic about ten or fifteen minutes and a couple of times Jimmy changed position to have a look out of the window,” he said. “I was sitting at the back of the room. Jimmy was watching the flats opposite and the road, then he said, ‘They’re out of their Saracen!’
“I said, ‘Can you see any, can you take a shot?’
“He looked out and said, ‘Hold on, hold on.’
“We then heard noises and only afterwards did I learn that they were actually beneath us. I said, ‘Fuck! What’s that?’
“He said, ‘Look out the back window and see if you can see anything.’
“I left him and went to the back and pulled open a piece of corrugated iron. I put my head out and a soldier, who was on the flat roof, put a rifle to my head. I was expecting to be whacked at any second. I shouted, ‘British army! What are youse after! What are youse after! I’m only collecting lead!’ hoping to alert Jimmy. There was another soldier, a black soldier, on the roof as well. The soldier pointing his gun at me said, ‘Get out on the roof! Get out on the roof!’
“I still had the Webley in my belt and he shouted, ‘Search! Search!’ for me to open my coat. All of a sudden we heard four large bangs, shots being fired. I think that was when Jimmy was hit. Nothing happened but then within sixty seconds, it could have been longer, it could have been shorter, there were more shots and the other soldier, the black soldier, had looked out to see what was happening and was shot dead.
“The soldier who had been guarding me suddenly took off. I couldn’t believe it. I then escaped across the walls, in through a house, out the front and through a crowd of people rushing up the next street.”
A rumour swept the Lower Falls that the raiding party had desecrated Jimmy’s body and thrown it from the window to the ground, and this fuelled the anger of local people and sparked off widespread rioting. Later that same day in the same area the British army shot dead twenty-year-old Patricia McKay, a member of the Official IRA, who was unarmed at the time of her death.
Two months after Jimmy’s death I was interned. One night he came to me in a wonderful dream, bursting with happiness and laughing. I knew him for but two years and can only explain my great sense of loss by the fondness and love his personality generated in those around him.
Often I think of him in relation to the thousands of things I have done since 1972; the pleasures he has missed - fatherhood, relationships; the music he would have loved; the life he would have led. There is not a day I do not think about him. He can never leave me.
“When people talk about closure I don’t know what that really means,” said Tommy, Jimmy’s younger brother who was in jail and refused parole to attend the funeral. “I don’t think there’s a point in time when you are healed from it. It is still a raw wound and always will be. There’s never been a sense of a ‘normal’ mourning process… It has no ending.”
I spoke to Mrs Quigley when I came to write this. She said, “I often wonder what Jimmy would have ended up working at, how things would have been, if the Troubles hadn’t come along.”
“It’s hard to believe that it is thirty years ago,” I said to her.
“Jimmy’s forty eight this year,” she whispered.
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© 2007 Irish Author and Journalist - Danny Morrison