met George the very first time I went to America,
in 1969 straight from the Bogside front-line.
I met a lot of people then, and thereafter, but
there remains a small core of stalwarts, who have
been my friends, compatriots, and companeros ever
since that momentous trip; foremost amongst these,
were my two great mentors Paul ODywer and
George Harrison, both gone from us now.
know that George had no belief or expectation that
his life, having quietly been brought to a close
in the comfort of his own sitting room, he might,
against all the odds, find himself before a court
once more. He was probably right.
in the possibility however remote of it happening,
a celestial emergency call to Georges saviour,
Frank Durkan was on the cards.
Frank, its Paul here. George is at the Pearly
Gate, refusing to recognise the court, unionising
the gate keepers and demanding to know the calibre
of the occupants before pleading. He has also suggested
to Peter that his boss isnt a patch on Fidel,
and indicating that some of his character witnesses
might need temporary release from a warmer place
in order to testify. Should I take the case?
suggested a plan B for Frank Leave the phone
off the hook, just in case.
will each, today, be paying tribute and sharing
memories of Georges unique contribution to
all our lives, his political commitment and principle,
his personal generosity, and his lifelong involvement
in the struggle for a better world for human beings
to live in.
George decided that Eoin McNamee, himself and myself
would organise the fundraising for a memorial to
Tommy Patten, a young Mayo man who fought and died
in the Spanish Civil War, he told me how Eoin and
George had been refused permission to go to Spain
by the republican leadership, on the grounds that
they didnt speak Spanish. They protested that
young Patten didnt speaking Spanish either.
Nor does he speak English was the reply.
They said their goodbyes and parted with their Gaelic
speaking comrade at Paddington Station, London.
Patten headed to Spain with a soda round
his mother made and a change of underwear both tied
in a brown paper parcel. Eoin was en route to America,
where, in California, he quickly learned Spanish
from Mexican workers in a bid to get to Spain, and
George headed briefly to unionise the Irish Navvies
of N. England before following his O.C. to the USA.
years later, George reassembled the last of his
old unit, and those he felt represented them adequately
in their absence; he detailed their last duty, which
he personally led, until its conclusion the
daily health care of their comrade and commanding
officer, who was terminally ill. George saw to it
that Eoins needs in life and his wishes in
death were attended to, and his ashes are buried
on the mountainside in Broughderg, Co, Tyrone, where
his inscription reads in Spanish, Irish and English.
could not persuade George to make the trip for the
funeral. His work was done. There was no need, no
reason for him to come. These conversations lead
to talk of such things and I was somewhat surprised
at the strength of opinion with George dismissed
his own ashes returning to Mayo. The land which
buried one Mayo man in six-foot of concrete hardly
needed to be graced with the remains of another.
Forgiveness was not high on Georges agenda,
except where his friends were concerned and the
ordinary weaknesses of their human nature. The names
many of us identify as disembodied heroes,
from many cultures and struggles, George knew as
real flesh and blood people who had their strengths
and weaknesses, people he had worked with in the
vast canvass of his political activity.
Loyalty, reliability and discretion were the hallmarks
of this old soldier although on occasion he would
remark to me, with glee:
Joe Cahill gets to hear of this were court-martialled
I would always reply youll be court-martialled,
George. Im not one of ye.
Youll be court-martialled, anyway, my
girl, if Cahill gets wind of this.
only once knew George to pull rank. We were on a
Noraid picket line and George as usual was cross
pollinating the revolution by distributing leaflets
from other organisations Cuba Solidarity,
Puerto Rico were to the fore. He was asked to stop
and declined to do so. Negotiation was minimal,
if he didnt stop he would be evicted from
the picket. Evict was an unfortunate
choice of word.
threw back his square shoulders and stuck out his
solid Mayo neck; You dont have the strength
for it, he challenged, and the hapless organiser
seeking no public confrontation with George retreated
from the threat but insisted that George was harming
the cause and proffered a new sanction; he
would report this altercation to the leadership.
dont have the credentials, retorted
George with undisguised disdain, and continued his
revolutionary duty of spreading the word.
Harrison was above all other things a modest, quiet
man. Even in the prime of his youth, a stranger
passing him in the street, would have no hint, no
signal, no reason to suspect that this was an uncompromising
radical, a committed internationalist and socialist,
a militant, an activist, a man whose every waking
hour was devoted to struggle armed or unarmed, to
bring about revolutionary change in the world into
which he was born.
a fool like George Bush and a braggart like Tony
Blair could delude themselves that the George Harrisons
of this world can be defeated by their military
intelligence, satellite surveillance, warmongering,
human rights denial, and pathetic attempts to seal
their borders. George Harrison, Mayo man, Irish
Republican, Socialist, Internationalist Humanitarian
and Labour Organiser led them all a merry dance
for 70 years of adult life and lived and died on
his own terms.
shall miss him.
any of us ask for more? - except - I hear George
add - the birth of the 32 County Socialist Republic.