Friday, February 13, 2009

Oz: City on the Hill

While I was rambling about in NI I was driving along a lovely little country lane and came around a corner to find myself face to face with a Brit patrol on foot in full kit. They were, as is said, "heavily armed," but polite if hyper-wary. I had already been "covered" by the turret man of an armored car with his HMG and so was appropriately circumspect about the encounter. Hands in sight and all that.

A few miles down the road I came into a section that gave me a good view of one of the most notorious British "hillside fortresses" in NI. I don't know what the official army name for it was, but locally it was known simply as Mullaghmor.

I stopped my little car to look at it. They had removed all vegetation immediately below it and it gave the impression of a medieval castle with modern amenities such as a forest of aerials and what appeared to be radar dishes as well. Can't be sure about that.

Then, while I was glassing them with my little binocs I had the sudden icy realization that they were doing the same to me from those dark tinted windows so far above me. I snapped a quick picture (above) and drove on, gratefully unpursued by Flying Monkeys or armored Land Rovers.


Anonymous said...

"So come out, ye Black and Tans,
come out and fight us like a man,
show your wives how you won medals down in Flanders.
And how the IRA made you run like hell away...."

I always sided with the Brits in that issue, largely I suppose, because I knew a lot of British soldiers and didn't know any IRA types. Never went to Ireland, but I wanted to. I was on an LST that went into England and Scotland, and we were guests of the Royal Navy who hauled us all over the place, even to Stirling Castle. But Ireland was off limits in those days.

I read a lot about the Irish in the 1914-1930's period, and then some books about the British Army in Northern Ireland. I still have a four volume set published in England that covers weapons and tactics.

I'm not sure I would have been taking pictures of their OP, that could have ended badly!

Rio Arriba said...

What can I say, H.: I'm a photographer. That's what I do.

I once photographed a chain-gang in GA and got chased down the road a guard with a shotgun. That was fun.

You will notice, though, that I did not get out of the car to make my pic. I ain't THAT dumb.

I, too, in my ignorance, used to be pro-Brit. That was before I spent a lot of time in-country and learned what was going on. Exposure to the truth of Irish history would do the same to you.

Anonymous said...

Well, I know about Cromwell and all that. It's a mess, has been a mess for hundreds of years. Will probably be a mess for hundreds more. I like just about everybody and I try to take folks on a personal basis rather than get caught up in the broad sweep of history. Unless, of course, the broad sweep of history threatens to wash me away, as with illegal immigration today. I would imagine the British would like to be shed of the Northern Ireland problem, but they've got the Anglo-Irish protestants up there who aren't going away. Strange, just the other day, some fellow was commenting on a video about Zulu Dawn and he said something about that not being adequate compensation for Drogheda. Strange world.

Darren said...

Having been born and bred here in NI I can tell you that those hill forts have been dismantled and taken away. There aren't troops on the streets anymore and the police don't wear armored vests much anymore. They even drive around in unarmored cars these days. There is a strong uptake of catholics in the new PSNI. I reckon within 20 years that the old prejudices will go away within the police service and be replaced by the ususal "copification" process, y'know, everyone who isn't a cop is to be suspected kinda thing. Things have really, really changed here. I look back on my youth and have to take stock that we really lived with military on the streets and remember the countless times I was stopped and questioned whilst driving the car. Long hair really didn't help!

A united Ireland with the ancient capital of Armagh as the new capital would be the only option I would vote for. Not Dublin or Belfast. Still, the so called peace dividend has shown that our terrorists were really only a bunch of gangsters in disguise. It's all a turf war over drugs and "business" these days.

Rio Arriba said...

Darren, thanks for coming by and commenting. It's good to know that things are better there now, and my wish is that they continue to improve. The drug-thug thing has been known for a while, I think. Even when I was there for my meetings it seemed common knowledge.

All the best to you.