In a lonely grove in The City Cemetery Lies the boul Robert. A. Wilson
Alias Barney Maglone Whose epitaph reads,..
Then his dust to the dust
And his soul to his ,‘nst
And his memory to Those
Who can cherish ii best.
A tribute to one of the greatest characters and wittiest writers that ever trod the pads of Belfast.
By. Joe Graham
Robert, A. Wilson was Donegal born, 1820, he came to Belfast alter having achieved much credibility as a young columnist writing in various country newspapers. Before long he became editor of the Belfast “Morning News”, forerunner to “The Irish News”, in which he wrote under the name of “Barney Maglone”, a name that he soon became totally known as both in his private and public life, and indeed often referred to himself in many of his writings as Barney Maglone”.. so we’ll refer hereafter as “Barney”.
Barney Maglone gave not a shit for any man, their allusions, pretensions, their grafting slavish values or indeed their patronage. He sought not the patronage that other writers craved, he scorned their aim for fame, place, position or wealth. Often enough Barney lived under the threat of libel action.. summons and court cases.. but he suffered all this in the comfortable embrace of his public, those people who, like him, had little in the ways of worldly goods...and what wealth did come the way of Barney Maglone it was a well known fact that Barney handed out it willingly to those who begged on the streets of Belfast in the terrible days of the ‘mid 1800’s. Belfast in 1874 was caught up in the infamous Mill workers labour disputes when workers being left penniless Barney was not content to just to defend he cause of the workers with his passionate pen.. he went out among them distributing what little money he had to help their families, Barney had no regards for material things, not even a home, he had a sparse rented room at Wesley Street, Donegall Road. of this fact he once wrote....
“Other people have homes of their own, Maglone,
share of the world’s to have none, mavrone.
As you have lived you must die, and your last gasp or cry,
Will be heard very likely by none, not one.
You unfortunate divel, Maglone”
Ironically in the end Barney was found lying unconscious in his room and as he foresaw his “last gasp or cry was heard by none” and sadly died on August 10th 1875.
Although Wesley Street was in Sandy Row and Barney was a Protestant do not het the wrong idea for he loved the green.. and once wrote....
“The Green, O the Green it’s the colour of the true.
To man it far transcends the Orange or the Blue”.
Barney often wrote for “The Nation” when Charles Gavan Duffy was at the helm of that patriotic paper, so there is little doubt what his politics were. Barney in his writings slagged off the best of them, Politicians, Judges and other such like establishment puppets, including those who hired their pen to the highest bidder., slaves to the poison pen.. Barney would be in his glory to be in Belfast today .. but who today would publish his comments.? But for all that Barney was held in the highest esteem by many in Belfast, That memorial in the City Cemetery was paid for and erected by those who enjoyed his talents, wit and sincerity.
Barney was a colourful character as he strode around Belfast with his dark green cloak slung loosely across his shoulders and tied across his chest in the fashion of a Roman’s Toga.. and Barney liked a drink, and playing tricks like the one he done on a County Court Judge in Fermanagh when he was working there for the “Enniskillen Advertiser”. The Judge had taken the wig from his head due to the heat and set it on the bench beside him bur when he went to get it again it had disappeared. It was later retrieved from the window of a nearby pub where it had been put on show for a couple of days...the “crown” of British authority in Ireland was humiliated. .few doubted who was behind the prank ... But thinking is one thing.. proving it is another.. as Barney would say.
He had a love hate relationship for drink, once he cursed it as “the fiend of the still”, in his “Irish Cry”.. he wrote....
“It moans from the roofless untenanted walls,
And gurgling and choked from the gallows it falls.
it sobs o’er the grave where the drunkard is laid,
It shrieks from the soul of the maiden betrayed.”
And later, in more gleeful mood, of Poteen, he wrote the following....
“0f all the navigations that ever left our shore,
I tell this mortal nation ‘Tis potheen I adore.
I love the tender craytur all in her paunchy dress,
And when she’s mother-naked I love her none the less.
“If she had but a night-dress of sugar on her skin.,
I’m not the boy who would refuse to take the sweet one in.
An’ if she was as out’ as Methoosalem’s first hat,
I’d love her as the crame‘s loved by that sleekit bastie cat.”
Barney was a Presbyterian of the old mould, like Jemmy Hope and Henry Joy McCracken before him, Barney became more Irish than some of the natives, in his poem, “To Ireland”, he wrote..
“Of all the lands the sun shines on,
Old Ireland is the dearest one,
Though not so grandly splendid;
To me earth’s richest, sweetest grace
Is when the tears upon her face
Are with her bright smiles blended.”
So the next time you pass through the rows of graves at the City Cemetery, as you ‘tour guide’ to point out the hallowed spot where lies Maglone, but we know that little of Barney lies in that grave , for the worms will have picked his bones clean., and how do we know this ?..well, Barney told us to expect this when he wrote...
“And when they have picked every bone, ochone,
As smooth and as bare as a hone, Maglone,
And have emptied the skull
That of nonsense was full,
They’ll say, ‘Come, boys, it’s time to be gone - come on,
He was mighty poor picking, Maglone”.
Many years ago, a writer who wrote in the “Irish News” , signing his articles with a simple” C “ , wrote a “Tribute” to Barney Maglone, he sadly left out that patriotic streak that was so evident in Barney’s character... the same character “C” wrote a Tribute to Cathal O’Byrne at the time of Cathal’s death in 1957 and again one can see how adverse “C” was to those who would speak out patriotically of Ireland, sadly, very sadly, this man’s article was repeated, word for word, in a recent publication as a “Tribute” to Cathal O’Byrne..?.. a sad state of affairs, with both poor Barney and Cathal not here to defend themselves., but sure.. who the hell was “C”.. who cares. Cathal wrote very glowingly of Barney in his book, “As I Roved Out”, and here I can’t find words enough to praise these two great oul Belfast writers that I have admired for many years.. and sure if ever you pass through Crown Entry late at night, look close, you may see the swaying ghost of Barney Maglone happily making his way home to his wee garret.
Terry Milligan The Golden Boy By Joe Graham
Just two years after be joined the St John’s Boxing Club in 1942 young Terry Mulligan was orphaned, a heavy blow for any child and enough to make most children withdraw into themselves, but at 13 he entered into his first boxing bout.. and was beaten he continued in his chosen sport, at a later date,, knocked the same opponent out,, think this gives a clear picture of the sense determination and focus of the great boxer who most fans would agree was perhaps the best Light-Welterweight Ireland ever produced.. don’t take my word on that, the records show that such experts as Jack Magowan, Belfast Telegraph boxing columnist and Ed Thompson, I.M.B.A President, back in 1983, both agreed on that, even the legendry Belfast boxing expert, Johnny Black, agreed, be went on to say, “ I would have no doubt in saying that Terry Milligan was the greatest amateur boxer Ireland ever bad”, and Johnny was in the fight game for 42 years. Johnny , who
founded the great St Georges AB.C back in 1929, once told Jack Magowan, “Tommy Norton, Mickey McLaughlin, John Lyttle, John Kelly, the O’Neill Brothers, George Lavery, Billy Wright, Walter Henry,
were all great amateurs, great battlers...but Terry Milligan was the Daddy of them all., few of today’s fighting men (l96O’s) could hold a candle to that lad.. he was a super champion and a super lad.”
In 1946 Terry won the Ulster Junior Flyweight Title.
In 1948 Terry won the Ulster Senior Flyweight title. in 1949 he was beaten in the semi-finals of the European Championship in Milan, then went on to reach the second finals of the Olympics in 1952.
For three years running, 1951-1953, Terry was the Light Welterweight Champion of Ireland, in 1954 moved up to Welterweight and added that t to his collection., and he was only just beginning.!
‘Terry has also been Ulster & All-Ireland Champion in the Bantam, Welter, Light, Light-Middle, Welter and Middle weight classes, as well as fighting in the Heavyweight division.
0f his unbelievable total of 425 fights ... Terry lost only 14 and his proudest moment must surely have been the 1958 Commonwealth Games at Cardiff when he won a Gold Medal ... the first ever for Ireland Jack Magowan always liked to tell a joke about Terry, when the Duke Of Edinburgh battled through the crowds to get into the ring to shake Terry’s hand at Cardiff he was supposed to say, .. “Well done Milligan., you were terrific.. what a fight.. it was great.. just great”, the Duke was so excited he was almost crying with delight, Terry took his hand in bewilderment and blurted in amazement, “Thanks, .thank you very much, your holiness”, at which everyone in ear shot folded up in laughter... including the Duke. The crowds danced with joy in the streets of Belfast when Terry returned with his “Gold”.. and over in Rosapenna Drive there was none so delighted and proud as Mrs Hugh McCavana, Terry’s sister, who was like a second mother to him... Terry had brought home a suitable memorial to their late parents, Mary and James Milligan, formerly of 7 Whiterock Drive. Terry went to Short & Harland A.B.C in his early career and it was there that he met his trainer, Geordie Scott, whom he grew to admire greatly, and to whom he always attributed his boxing success .
In 1952 Terry and four other Irish lads went over to the States to box in “The Golden Gloves”, all five came hack with victories, just for the record the other four were, J. McNally, T. Reddy, D.Connell, A. Reddy. After 15 years of amateur boxing he was often asked why he never turned professional and get some money out of the game, Terry explained that he had often thought about turning pro, that he had had many offers from America and England to turn pro but he always felt that if he ever did, it would have to be with Geordie as his trainer., the week that Terry was really giving some serious consideration to turning pro, Geordie died, and there the matter ended... Terry never ever even thought of it again. In 1959, at the age of 28, Terry married Elizabeth Campbell and soon after set up home at 32 Rockdale Street, they had 3 sons and seven daughters.
The Shankill Boxing Trainer who silenced the 1920’s guns & bombs Much is being written lately about Milltown Cemetery and indeed the City Cemetery, sadly many very interesting life accounts are not being included, perhaps through lack of space in those books, but one story I feel must be told is that of Geordie Scott, whose remains rest in the City Cemetery , he was trainer at Shorts Boxing Club that used to be at Huss Street, next to the “Long Bar” on the Shankill Road, coincidently, George lived just opposite the “Long Bar”, at 71 Downing Street, with his mother, Mary. Many an old catholic ex-boxer will tell you countless stories of the tireless devotion that Geordie afforded to the young lads under his care, regardless of their religion, all in an effort to make them the best at their chosen sport. But there was a time, back in the 1920’s, when Geordie’s life style and his affiliations would have brought nothing but scorn from Belfast Catholics, at that time George was the Commanding Officer of the Shankill U.V.F, at a time gunmen of that organisation was murdering countless catholic people whose only ‘crime’ was that they were of that faith. The infamous “Snatch” McCracken and Bobby Moore were close associates of George in those days. as was Joe Arthurs, the Newtownards Road gunman who is described in Archive papers as “..an exceedingly dangerous man and is nothing less than a Criminal Maniac..”, George, Joe Arthurs, “Buck” Alec Robinson , Fredrick Pollock and some other U.V.F men were all rounded up and interned in Derry gaol, a place they apparently felt very unsafe, considering there were 100’s of nationalist’s interned there...they immediately petitioned for release. At this time , October 1922, the U.V.F had been incorporated into the new R.U.C “Specials” ..in fact the U.V.F was expected to stand down.. or else.! George got the message.. and so through a Mrs Armstrong of “The Loyalist Prisoners Association”, whose offices were at Peter’s Hill, a note ,with a carefully worded threat was passed on to Dawson Bates, it read.... “Dear Sir Dawson, I have received an assurance from the Boys of Shankill, Newtownards and York Street districts that there will not be a shot fired or a bomb thrown or any other act of intimidation, if Scott and Robinson are released. If you would be good enough to grant me a personal interview I could explain matters more fully. I make this application in the interest of the peace of this city.”
A couple of days later the meeting was arranged and no doubt, Armstrong explained “fully” what she meant by no shots or bombs.. if George and “Buck” and the others be released, in the interests of the peace of this city.” The threat being, of course, that if they were not released then all other U.V.F men who had stood down would return to the streets and there could be “. and no peace in the city”. .. all were released very quickly. But most importantly...obviously an undertaking had been given that the U.V.F would cease to exist and members would join the R.U.C or Specials or fade into the background, without fear of prosecution for any act they may have perpetuated during their membership of the U.V.F. in effect George, “Buck”, Arthurs, Pollock, McCracken, etc, were given an amnesty. And so ended George’s link to para-militarism, his acceptance of the conditions of his release effectively silenced the loyalist “shooting and bombing” George became secretary of Short & Harland B.C and produced some of the best boxers Ireland has ever seen., some protestant and some catholic. Some years later the Club moved to premises at Ormeau Avenue and it was one night, October 3rd 1951, when George and his brother, Robert, having left the premises to wait for a bus, when suddenly George took ill, although he had no previous illness, he collapsed, was rushed to the R.V.H where he was pronounced dead. He had been involved in organising the forthcoming Ulster Boxing Tournament at the Ulster Hall and was also preparing a team of young boxers for an upcoming match in Dublin.
On Saturday, 6th October 1951, huge crowds attended the funeral of a man who had lived two lifetimes. .among the mourners were dozens of Catholic boxers, and members of the “Shankill Road Heroes Loyal Orange Lodge”, to which George belonged and boxing delegates from all over the world.
The cortege left his home at Downing Street at lO am, passed down Northumberland Street onto the Falls Road where many thronged the pavement to pay their respects to a man who had done so much for the young boxers of Belfast... many present there that day would have even been aware, or cared, of his earlier life .
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