They followed where Mc Verry led the way.

The title of this blog is taken from the popular republican ballad 'The Two Brendan's', but while many sing it they may not fully comprehend the significance of this simple statement.

Just what was it about Oglach Micheal Mc Verry, OC South Armagh Brigade Óglaigh na hÉireann, that made him stand out above all others?

What made him a shining light in the struggle for freedom?

How could one unassuming young man from Cullyhanna change the nature of guerrilla warfare in South Armagh and inspire generations of freedom fighters to pursue the goal of our struggle which ultimately resulted in the defeat of enemy forces of occupation in South Armagh

In case you are wondering why I took a sudden urge to post this blog, it was Micheal's anniversary at the weekend. Micheal Mc Verry became involved in the freedom struggle following the murder of Tullydonnell man Harry Thornton in West Belfast.

There was riots in Crossmaglen the night of Harry's murder and Mc Verry, only 21 at this stage, led a group of young men who almost captured Crossmaglen Barracks with only their bare hands and nail bombs.

Mc Verry's reputation would grow from the ruthlessness and efficiency with which he directed the army's war effort in South Armagh. Indeed he is the mastermind credited with driving British forces off the roads in South Armagh and into the sky.

He was also a pioneer in the use of mortars to further the army's war effort, and indeed even the loss of a hand when preparing a mortar could not deter him from leading 'Mc Verry's Men' into battle.

Indeed not even prison could quell the recalcitrance of Mc Very, with him escaping from the Curragh in the early 1970's. Indeed he commanded an area that stretched from the outskirts of Armagh City and Keady, through to Belleek and Cullyhanna right down to the verges of Newry. This is placed in context by the fact that he was barely in his mid-twenties during the zenith of his campaign.

A comrade of Micheal's explained the mentality of Micheal when on active service and how he demonstrated not only a commitment and dedication rare for one so young, but also an overwhelming sense of guerrilla warfare and the realisation that the real battle would take place at the talks tables with the Brits.

The comrade related of how when going out on active service for the army with Micheal if you got to the ambush scene and the Brits were not there "you went looking for them and hunted them down. There was no sitting about waiting for them."

He also described one time when during a successful engagement with enemy forces the ASU were retreating to safety when half way up the road they decided it was not they who needed to retreat but the Brits so Mc Verry gave the order to return and re-engage the Brits once more.

Mc Verry lost his life in a failed military engagement at Keady barracks on 15th November 1973. The ASU had planned to carry out a rocket attack on Keady Barracks but fatally the RPG turned up late and a gun battle began between the freedom fighters and enemy forces. Mc Verry was hit in the stomach in what turned out to be a fatal wound.

Mc Verry was the first volunteer the South Armagh Brigade lost during this phase of the conflict and is perhaps apt that it was their most precious volunteer who would pay the ultimate sacrifice. Such was the calibre of Mc Verry that he would never expect a volunteer to do anything he himself was not prepared to do.

He died at the tender age of 23, yet he had already drove the Brits into the sky, with the RUC estimating that Mc Verry was involved in the killings of at least 26 enemy forces personnel.

In his short life Mc Verry was to lay the foundation stones that would ultimately see the freedom fighters of the South Armagh Brigade Óglaigh na hÉireann triumph over the foreign forces of occupation.

No comments: