12 May 2006


12 May 1981

Irish Hunger Strike 1981

Free Image Hosting at www.ImageShack.usFrancis Hughes: A determined and totally fearless soldier

Read Francis' biography >>here

Photo from CAIN - click to view



Francis Hughes: Scourge of the UDR

June 1981

The name of Francis Hughes will surely continue to stick in the throats of British military and political hawks.

Unlike many of those who make the ultimate sacrifice Francis Hughes had already become a legend in his own lifetime and amongst his own people as one of the most capable guerrilla fighters Ireland has produced in the long war against British Imperialism.

Having put Francis Hughes "safely away" in 1978 the British assumed that his name would no longer strike terror in their own hearts and a chord in the minds of people in South Derry.

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'Francis caught' - click to view

The British were exultant at his arrest following a gun battle in which Francis and a comrade killed an SAS man and wounded another. Despite an awesome wound he refused to answer his interrogators who later described him as "totally uncooperative". After the usual mockery of a Diplock trial British soldiers felt slightly more relaxed in South Derry and surrounding areas. Very foolish of them of course but then the British military mind has never understood the collective spirit of solidarity engendered by individually brilliant revolutionary soldiers like Francis Hughes.

And brilliant he was. His exploits are legion and legendary spreading through areas of Tyrone, Derry and Antrim. They are too numerous to recount here. Suffice it to say that all the normal cliches like dedication, bravery, military skill and the like are inadequate to describe a man who caused the British military machine as much grief as most guerrilla fighters from Tom Barry, Michael Collins and through to the modern breed of fighters.

One or two examples of his coolness and ingenuity would make even Collins look like a novice. The night he was surrounded by British soldiers in one of the numerous "safe houses" in his area of operation he simply grabbed his rifle and weaved his way through the tightening circle stopping occasionally to mumble a few familiar words with the professionals of the British Army whose perception of the "stupid Irish" has often been a weapon in our favour. He got away then as on many other occasions.

Behind his folk hero status in South Derry, however, lies the fairly typical story of a young Irish man who was not allowed to grow up normally in the artificial police state called Northern Ireland. It was not for want of trying.

Showing an aptitude for history and woodwork at school he started an apprenticeship as a painter and decorator at the age of 16 years which he completed shortly before becoming a full time revolutionary. Shortly after he became a painter he and a friend receive a brutal beating from British soldiers on a lonely country road one night. The experience was to prove more painful to the Brits than Francis himself over the next few years.

Responsible for more attacks on British forces than the combined strength of many other units put together he became the "most wanted man" in the Six Counties. So feared was he that his comrades recalled recently in Republican News one UDR patrol recognised him once at a checkpoint but fearful (wisely) of a shoot-out they waved him through.

Francis Hughes is now doubly famous and revered. His hunger strike to the death was just the ultimate proof, if any were needed, that his determination and actions in the field were inspired by a profound political motivation.

If the entire body of self-seekers now scrambling to retain their seats in the Dail possessed between them just a portion of the guts and conviction that Francis showed there might not be the need for the ending of many young Irish lives.



Second IRA protester dies in jail

12 May 1981

Play >>news video

A second IRA hunger striker, 25-year-old Francis Hughes, has starved to death in the Maze Prison near Lisburn in County Antrim.

His death comes a week after the death of Bobby Sands on 5 May, the first to die in a republican campaign for political status to be granted to IRA prisoners.

"His blood is on Margaret Thatcher's hands."
Francis Hughes' brother Oliver

Hughes began refusing food and medical attention a week after Sands began his hunger strike on 1 March. He lapsed into unconsciousness and died at 1743BST today.

As news of his death spread in Catholic areas of Belfast and Derry, women clanged dustbin lids and young men stoned army vehicles, threw petrol bombs and hijacked lorries.

Hughes' brother, Oliver, blamed the Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher for his death. Speaking from his hometown of Bellaghy he said: "Margaret Thatcher and the British Government have murdered my brother and his blood is on Margaret Thatcher's hands."

The condition of two other hunger strikers at the Maze, Raymond McCreesh and Patrick O'Hara, continues to deteriorate.

Their five demands include: the right to wear their own clothes, refrain from prison work, associate freely with other Republican prisoners, to have visits and parcels once a week and the right to have lost remission on sentences restored.

'Absolute fanatic'

Security forces have said Hughes was "an absolute fanatic whose name stood for murder and nothing else". A spokesman went on to describe him as "as vicious a man as you could meet, a ruthless killer who thrived on what he was doing".

His republican colleagues hailed him as "fearless and active".

Four years ago, Hughes became a wanted man after the home of a policeman was blown up in County Tyrone. No-one was hurt but Hughes' fingerprints were found on adhesive tape used on the bomb.

In March 1978 he was finally caught after a gun battle at Bellaghy and eventually sentenced to a total of 83 years in prison for his six-year-long career as an IRA gunman and bomber.

The government is refusing to grant any of the hunger strikers' demands. Mrs Thatcher says they are a cover for gaining political status, a special category denied paramilitaries in the Maze since 1976.

In Context

The Maze Prison was initially run along the lines of a prisoner-of-war camp, segregated according to paramilitary allegiance with military-style command structures.

In March 1976 the British government ended special category status - which had accorded the prisoners political recognition - and started to treat paramilitary offenders as ordinary criminals.

The jail became the focus of intense international scrutiny between 1976 and 1981 when Republican inmates fought for political status, initially through the "blanket" and "dirty" protests.

Their campaign culminated in two hunger strikes.

During the second in 1981, 10 Republicans, led by Bobby Sands, starved themselves to death and 64 civilians, police and soldiers died in violence directly attributable to the hunger strikes.

Three days after the hunger strikes came to an end on 3 October, the Ulster Secretary James Prior negotiated a package of concessions for the Maze prisoners - much to the fury of the loyalist community.

He met two of the prisoners' demands - the right to wear their own clothes and the restoration of 50% of lost remission for those who obeyed prison rules for three months.


Irish Northern Aid

**The following extracts are taken from INA's online book of the Hunger Strikes.
The beginning of the book is >>here

The Man From Tamlaghtduff

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Detail of Francis from Derry mural (image from CAIN)

On Sunday, the 15th of March, 1981, Bobby was joined on hunger strike by one of the greatest heroes of the conflict, Francis Hughes, of South Derry. He was captured after a intense fire fight with the SAS almost two years previously to the day. Francis lead the British army on a wild and bloody ride for years in his home land of South Derry that usually ended with Brit casualties and with Francis slipping through, around or behind hostile lines of soldiers. He was one with the hills. Taking in the odds never seemed to be part of his calculations when engaging the Brits. Sometimes he simply attacked whole squads arrayed to capture or kill him, turning an aggressive British operation into a full retreat. Francis Hughes was a legend. He was 23 years of age when he was captured; he was 25 when he died. Chisty Moore wrote a popular song about Francis, "The Boy From Tamlaghtduff:"

The Boy form Tamlaghtduff

As I walked through the Glenshane Pass I heard a young girl mourn
'The boy form Tamlaghtduff 'she cried 'is two years dead and gone'
How my heart is torn apart this young man to lose
Oh I'll never see the likes again of my young Francis Hughes

For many years his exploits were a thorn in Englands side
The hills and glens became his home there he used to hide
Once when they surrounded him he quietly slipped away
Like a fox he went to ground and kept the dogs at bay

Moving round the countryside he often made the news
But they could never lay their hands on my brave Francis Hughes
Finally they wounded him and captured him at last
From the countryside he loved they took him to Belfast

Oh from Musgrave Park to the Crumlin Road and then to an H-Block cell
He went straight on the blanket then on hungerstrike as well
His will to win they could never break no matter what they tried
He fought them every day he lived and he fought them as he died

As I walked through the Glenshane Pass I heard a young girl mourn
'The boy form Tamlaghtduff 'she cried 'is two years dead and gone'
How my heart is torn apart this young man to lose
Oh I'll never see the likes again of my young Francis Hughes

~Lyrics from >>eirefirst.com

Francis Hughes Is Taken To Hospital: "Victory to the IRA!"

Around this time, on his 25th day without food, Frances Hughes was taken to the prison hospital in weakened condition. He was taken away from the wing by an escort of 6 prison warders. One was plenty to control Frank at that time, yet it was a form of harassment and mockery to surround him like that. It was also a left-handed complement of sorts: that Francis Hughes was so feared that, even though hardly able to stand, he wasn’t trusted to go without a battle. He was our Superman. Perhaps he would yet attack his tormentors even now, break out of the H-Blocks, leap the perimeter walls in a bound, back into the hills and hollows of South Derry where he would again attack the British army at will. He would escape his captors only in death, but they would still learn to fear him. They would always fear him.

Before he left the wing, he whipped the Blanketmen into a frenzy of support --a wild, righteous joy that a person might experience once or twice in a lifetime, if lucky. He didn’t need it to prepare himself to die. No. He did it for them. He raised his crutch [he was still crippled by the bullet wounds he received during his capture and abuse in prison] high over his head and shouted to the men and banged on their cells as he passed: "Victory to the IRA!" The men shouted back and hammered on their cell doors. "Tiocfaidh ar la! Victory to the Blanketmen!," Francis Hughes bellowed as they took him to the hospital. It would be the last they would see of Francis Hughes, but they never would forget him.

The Blanketmen’s thoughts turn to Frank Hughes

As the men inside the H-Blocks honored Bobby’s memory, it was also impossible not to think about Frank, dying himself in the prison hospital, and Patsy and Raymond as well. The two weeks lead time between Bobby and Francis Hughes going on hunger strike now seemed like a good idea. But was enough to save his life?

The Legend of Frank Hughes

I knew an Irish American whose name just happened to be Francis Hughes. He was traveling through the north during the late 70s and gave his name upon request at Brit checkpoint. He could see the soldiers’ irises dilating into pinheads at the sound of the hated words: "Francis Hughes". The man almost had a heart attack. What was he supposed to say when asked for his name? He headed south. Fast. Such was the fear and hatred that Brit crown forces learned to have for even the sound of the name of Francis Hughes.

Tamlaghtduff and the Hughes Family

The Hughes’ ancestral family had managed a living on country farmland near Bellaghy, South Co. Derry, in a place called Tamlaghtduff for as long as anyone remembered. Joseph and Margaret Hughes had a large family to raise, four boys and six girls. Joe was known to be of Republican sympathy, but that was all. Actually, Frank’s father, Joe, fought with the IRA in the ‘20s, but was quiet about all of that, having enough to do keeping a dozen human beings and a number of animal beings alive to talk about past struggles. Life was a struggle, but a good one. They had enough, neither rich nor poor.

Nonetheless, the RUC, British army, and particularly the British army regiment recruited locally among Unionists and Loyalists -- the Ulster Defense Regiment, targeted the Hughes boys for abuse and surveillance.

For Frank, the "troubles" begin at fifteen

The struggle in the north first impacted Frank Hughes as a 15-year-old school boy. One cold morning the RUC and Brit army raided the Hughes family home with rifles and guns drawn, broke into the room that Frank shared with his older brother Oliver, and dragged Oliver away to an internment camp where, without trial or due process, he served 8 months "behind the wire." Oliver had a clip of ammunition in the pocket of the jacket his mother insisted he wear against the cold as they took him off. Luckily, he found a moment to fling it unnoticed into the dark Irish morning. He had plans to be married in 10 days.
The turning point: "I’ll get my own back..."

When Frank turned 17, he was beaten badly by a UDR patrol while returning home from a dance. He hid the fact from his family, but the pain was so bad that his father, Joe, finally got the truth out of him. Joe told him to report the incident to the RUC and go to a doctor. Frank replied, "I’ll get my own back in my own time." He would do better than that.

No one really knows how many of the British crown forces were killed by the hand of Francis Hughes; the "official" count is thirty. But there was never a sense of revenge, Francis always thought of himself as a soldier for Ireland and wore full military gear when operating. In 1973, he and a group of young neighbors joined the Provisional IRA after a brief stint with the "Officials", which they left to form their own fighting group they called the "Independents".

Frank’s leadership and technical skill was apparent. He was deadly with a weapon and probably invented, clearly perfected, a deadly booby-trap bomb constructed with a clothespin, a piece of stick, and some fishing line that he connected to an explosive device.

Always on the attack

But his greatest assets as a fighting man was his calmness, courage, and desire to engage the enemy at all times. He was fearless. One IRA leader said, "He was the sort of man who would shoot up a few policemen on his way to a meeting to plan our next attack on the police."

Once Frank was trapped upstairs in a safe house surrounded by a Brit patrol. When an officer entered the house and confronted the scared witless owner, Frank, wearing his typical combat jacket and bristling with weaponry, came down the stairs and walked calmly passed the officer saying, "Nothing inside." And off he went into the night.

Another incident that displayed Frank’s coolness under pressure was when he and two armed comrades were stopped by a Brit army patrol in an isolated area. He told the officer that they were taking "a shortcut" and was amazingly waved on through. When they were well passed the check point, the other two were horrified as Frank turned back and asked the Brit officer if he had a light. He calmly strode back and lit his cigarette. Little did the Brits know that they had just lit a fag for the most dangerous man in Ireland.

Another time he hitched a ride from a friend. Unfortunately, Frank was carrying with him a very considerable rifle. They ended up driving right into a check-point on a road too narrow to turn around on. Frank said, "Keep driving" and explained that he would smash the windshield and open fire. The friend was naturally petrified at the prospect and Frank so calm about it. A Brit soldier aimed his rifle at the two; the driver raised his shaking hands high. Frank saluted the soldier, who for some reason, panic or befuddlement, waved them through. There was no way that soldier didn’t see Frank’s riffle butt prepared to smash the window. No problem for Frank one way or the other.

The Moneymore escape

It was obvious Frank’s readiness to fight gave him the edge. Another incident would catapult him to the top of Britain’s "most wanted" list. On April 8th ‘77, four RUC men were on routine patrol when the VW Frank and two other IRA men were driving in pulled onto the road to Magherafelt [in South Derry] forcing the RUC car to brake. They drove after Francis’ car and motioned to the driver to pull over, expecting to give the "boys" a lecture on reckless driving. The VW jammed on its brakes and the RUC overshot them before stopping. The VW attempted a U-turn only to end up in a roadside ditch. Frank and his comrades jumped out and opened fire on the RUC men who were themselves flying out the doors of their vehicle. A Constable Sheehan was hit immediately and was knocked back into the vehicle. Constable MaCracken took a fatal hit. More RUC were now converging on the scene as the three escaped through the fields. An RUC car answering the call for support came upon three men jogging towards them in a field next to a quarry near Moneymore. Frank engaged the RUC in a covering firefight before joining his comrades who had leapt over a fence and began running through the open quarry. There they could be easily picked off by the RUC who were perfectly located. But the men, lead by Hughes, took turns covering each other by firing upon the RUC position. They did this so perfectly, each firing and falling back in turn, 4 or 5 yards apart, that the RUC never got a clear shot, although they fired away ineffectively, more interested in keeping their heads down.

The RUC and Brit army poured in reinforcements in pursuit of the men, who took cover in a small clump of bushes in the middle of an open field hoping that the obviousness of the spot would cause the Brits not to bother with it. Instead, the Brits set up a command post on the spot, yards away from Frank and his men. Unbelievably, they were undetected and made a break for it as night fell -- using the same "leaps and bounds" military cover technique they had used earlier.

Word quickly spread through the north, Frank Hughes did it again!

"Most wanted terrorist"

The British army and RUC were so impressed with Francis’ military ability, as evidenced by the classic cover tactics employed in the Moneymore escape, that his photo was circulated on posters all over the Six Counties. Frank was now "the most wanted terrorist" in Ireland. Frank had a different "most wanted terrorist list" in his head: Britain’s crown forces in his Country.

Capture, Interrogation, and Death on Hunger Strike

People generally had the wrong idea of Frank Hughes. He certainly wasn’t an ideologue and he certainly had a powerful, pure belief in the Republican struggle. He was brave beyond brave and hated that his country and its people were terrorized and enslaved, and no one knows how many British crown forces he either killed or had a hand in killing, but he hated killing. He really hated what he felt he had to do.

"For God’s sake, I don’t want to be shooting them."

Particularly, he hated having to kill British soldiers. He told his brother Mick, "They’re just kids. For God’s sake, I don’t want to be shooting them. I want them to bloody go home in the morning."

"Do you know that I hate what I’m doing?" he told his brother, "I really hate it. But I’m going to keep doing it -- that’s the funny thing about it. Tomorrow night I might blow up ten of them. I hope I do. But, Jesus, I hate doing it. It’s just that I don’t know any other way."

He was taught by his father, Joe, not to be bigoted against Protestants or anyone. The Ulster Defense Regiment was a locally recruited, overwhelmingly Protestant British army regiment. Once he burst in with his gun drawn on a UDR man and told him to say his prayers before meeting his end. While he waited, the man begged for his life, saying he left the UDR. Francis walked away, because he couldn’t be sure. It turned out the man had just left the regiment.

A field near Maghera

Frank and a comrade, heavily armed, rifles at the ready, moved silently through a field near Maghera on a dark, cold night. Frank wore a black beret, combat jacket with the word "Ireland" on the arm. They walked right into a hidden, two-man SAS surveillance post. The SAS men thought they were dealing with UDR soldiers and called out softly that they were SAS. The two IRA men backed up and made the black night light up from the flashes of fire from Frank’s M-14 Garand and the other’s Armalite. The first burst ripped into Corporal David Jones, who was killed. The second SAS man was hit but managed to fire 26 wild shots into the dark. Frank’s companion was wounded, but Frank was hit badly, the bullet smashing through his thigh bone. Survival to fight another day was the only goal now.

Frank ordered his comrade to escape, while he tried to put distance between himself and the engagement scene. He crawled through a number of fields, negotiating barbed wire fences and ditches, his leg was in agony and he was loosing a lot of blood with each movement. His leg was so badly smashed, at one point he lay in a cold, wet ditch with his left leg hinged straight up over his head. It was barely attacked to his body, the bone protruding from the skin. It took him over an hour to agonizingly maneuver it underneath him again. But he kept crawling. He knew the SAS would execute him if captured.

Frank’s capture, St Patrick’s Day: "Up the Provos"

He was found nearly unconscious by regular British army soldiers who had saturated the area. It was March 17, St. Patrick’s Day, 1978. He refused to tell them who he was. Brit forces or every ilk converged on the spot. "You’re Hughes," said one RUC man who recognized him from photos. "Look, you have a gun there, Why don’t you shoot me? I’m not afraid to die."

They were all over him now, but he refused to tell them anything. He cursed them as more gathered, knowing they had the great Francis Hughes where they wanted him. "Why don’t you put a bullet through my head, and finish me right?" he told them amid a torrent of more curses.

He was lifted onto a stretcher and just before being put into an ambulance, he raised himself up so that the Brit soldiers and RUC could both hear and see him, and shouted at the top of his lungs, "Up the Provos!"

Five days & nights of interrogation

When Frank recovered from two operations to repair his destroyed thigh, an inch and a half of his bone was removed, and his hip, which had to be held together with a steel pin, he was off to Castlereagh for interrogation. There, he drove his interrogators mad.

His ordeal, and there’s, began on January 24th, 1979. He refused to eat or drink for fear of being drugged into a confession, a justified fear. All through the days and nights, through team after interrogation team of repetitive questions and trick after trick, Frank alternated curses with feigned smiles. Even after days of constant stress and not eating or drinking, he held his own. More than his own.

"How did you come to be shot?" they might say. "I don’t talk to strangers," says Frank. Or, "I’ll have to talk to my solicitor about that," when offered a Polo mint. Once they took him into the corridor to stretch his leg after a long interrogation session, "How do you feel?" he was asked. He smiled and said, "You’ll have to ask my doctor about that." He called them everything from "f_ckers" to "whores" to worse or alternatively would just smile at them, but would always say nothing only to ask to speak to his solicitor. They brought in every known big shot RUC/Brit interrogation genius.

"Do you reckon?"

The Detective Chief Superintendent, Bill Mooney, then took his chances. He told Francis, after a long lecture about what would happen to him if he didn’t talk, that they had evidence to connect him to serious offenses. Francis burped in his face, smiled, and said: "Do you reckon?" Mooney, the big, hard RUC man, couldn’t believe what he just witnessed. He gave Frank another lecture, this time about bad manners. Frank laughed and repeated, "Do you reckon?" Mooney was red, white and blue with indignation, but before leaving had to tell Frank that he better think about the seriousness of his situation. Frank was delighted to respond in mock seriousness to the retreating Detective Chief Superintendent, "Is that a question?"

At 10 P.M. on 29 January, after 5 days and nights of intense interrogation, most of which without food or water and having been deprived of the advise of his lawyer well beyond the legal 48 hours, the British torture/interrogation machine ground to a halt and spat out, with good riddance, Francis Hughes.

"Hughes beats them all"

One of the Detective Inspectors involved in the interrogation took aside Kevin Agnew, Frank’s solicitor, and told him, "We’ve had many tough men here. But Hughes beats them all."

He was convicted soon after of the murder of Corporal Jones and causing an explosion at Tamlaught in ‘77 and was sentenced to life plus twenty years.


He was called "Francie" in Long Kesh or "Bootsie" due to the built-up boot that he had to ware because of his leg. He used a crutch on wing changes or visits, but had to hobble about his cell. His leg wouldn’t bend.

He had a good voice and like to participate in singsongs and was famous for telling stories of the countryside about "wee folk" and Irish mythology.

He volunteered for the ‘80 hunger strike and was in the group that joined towards the end -- Bobby was concerned that he wouldn’t come off even if order. Of course, he volunteered for the second hunger strike.

Frank was a direct man. He got a comm out to his brother Oliver: "It’s just a small note to tell you that I will be going on the hunger strike ..." On 28 February, he celebrated his 25 birthday. His mother and aunt came to visit him. After teasing and complementing his mother Margaret on her beautiful new outfit, who wanted to look good for her son, he said, "I’ve something to tell you. There’s another hunger strike starting - there’s a fellow on it tomorrow and I’ll be starting it too." There were tears, but not much to say.
Francis begins his hunger strike 15 days after Bobby

He began his hunger strike on 15 March, 15 days after Bobby. He gave a speech out of the cell door to the men in the wing. He told them he wanted to be in the front line of the war. He said he sometimes regretted not holding onto his M14 for a final shootout on the night before he captured, rather than trying to escape, but that he was glad to have gone on the blanket and now he would use the weapon he now had -- hunger strike -- to the end if necessary.

He told them if he died, that they should listen for the sound of his crutch tapping down the corridors of the cell blocks. It would be Frank Hughes keeping an eye on his comrades.

"I’m Noreen, Francis’ sister."

He wasn’t moved to the prison hospital until the 26th day. On 8 May, his mother Margaret visited him and he complemented her on her new hair-do. But he could barely make her out, he was nearly blind. On 11 May, his father Joe visited him and asked, "Do you see me, Francis?" Frank said he could see the general shape but not his father’s face. Joe told him that he wasn’t too bad yet, but Frank replied, "Ah, now, tomorrow or Wednesday will see the finish of it."

At 5:30 P.M., Tuesday 12 May 1981, his sister Noreen, a nurse, took his wrist and couldn’t feel a pulse.

On the fifty-ninth day of hunger strike, Francis Hughes, a legend in Ireland’s long struggle, took his place next to Bobby Sands.

Noreen walked numbly down the hall to where Raymond and Patsy were sitting in wheelchairs. She took both their hands in hers. "I’m Noreen, Francis’ sister. I just want to tell you Francis has died."

Francis Hughes' Tortured & Glorious Funeral: RUC attack Undertakers, Hughes Family; hijack hearse

Frank Hughes died on the 59th day of his hunger strike on 12 May 1981. He was an Irish legend, and a soldier, and was to be buried as such. But the RUC had something else in mind.

The McCusker undertakers of Magherafelt, South Derry, had been contracted by the Hughes family to handle the details of the wake and funeral preparations.

At 5 PM Thomas and Danny McCusker received Frank's coffin from the mortuary in Belfast and brought it to the their hearse. Frank's parents drove behind the hearse in his sister Noreen's VW and other family and friends followed. The agreement was that the funeral cortege was to travel behind RUC landrovers through West Belfast on the way to the M-2 highway to Toomebridge and then on to the Hughes' family home near Bellaghy. Along the Falls Rd. in West Belfast, thousands of supporters had gathered through the day to honor one of the greatest Irish heroes of all time - a legend at only 25 years of age.

As they left the mortuary, the cortege had to pass the Protestant Belvoir estate where it was met with hostile loyalist crowds carrying anti-republican banners and shouting abuse at the family and Frank's remains. As the cortege was about to continue on the schedules route through sympathetic crowds, armed RUC attempted to hijack the procession. They unilaterally decided to take the body directly to Bellaghy. They stopped the hearse and ordered the McCusker brothers out; they were taking over from here. "Not Bloody likely," Thomas McCusker said. Danny was driving and refused to hand over the vehicle, saying that they were in charge. RUC thugs pulled Thomas out of the hearse by the legs and threw him onto the road, ripping his suit in the process. Other "police" attacked members of the mourning family as they entered the fray from the following cars. Danny McCusker was beaten through the driver's window as he attempted to hide the keys in his mouth. He resisted by putting his shoulder against the door, but the RUC got at him through the window and pulled at his hair and ears, ripping his clothing.

US film crew saves the day

They tried to remove the coffin from the back of the hearse. Frank's aging father, Joe, tried to prevent them but was punched and beaten away. The women were near hysteria as fists and batons flew. Jimmy Drumm and Owen Carron of Sinn Fein were injured in the battle over Frank's coffin.

At the critical moment, after 20 minutes of mayhem, a US film crew happened upon the scene and began filming. The RUC moved away but insisted that the family take the body directly onto the M-2. The family reluctantly agreed. The procession moved uneventfully to Toomebridge.

But it wasn't over. The RUC insisted again on taking over the hearse. They made the Hughes family drive directly to Bellaghy, while they took the hearse through heavily loyalist towns like Randalstown and Portglenone. The Hughes family were harassed by the RUC the entire way at every crossroad. Worse, they were concerned about what the RUC would do to Frank's body. They had threatened to throw Frank's remains into the River Bann.

Feared in death as in life

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Click photo to view - Go to Larkspirit's Scenes from the funerals

People thronged to the Hughes' home for the wake and for the funeral. Even those nationalists not supportive of Francis' IRA activities, came out in numbers because of the disgraceful behavior of the RUC in desecrating the dead. And of course Frank had a legion of supporters and friends throughout Ireland. The roads and countryside around the family home overflowed into the hills, fields and glens as they escorted the brave Francis Hughes to his final resting place. Except for this. Francis Hughes never went away. He told the boys in the H-Blocks, listen for the sound of his crutch on lonely days in lonely cells or whenever they needed him. He would be always be there to watch over them.

FRANCIS HUGHES 1956 - 1981

yes, and now here, in Scotland, the Scottish people are worried to vote for their independence for what? Not to lose a comfortable life? Worried that English Banks will withdraw? Loosing the pensions? I am deeply disgusted with the Scottish attitude.
Nikola Grzesinski
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