The Royal British Legion club is a centre of social activity and remembrance for British-Irish veterans in Ulster’s Castlederg in Northern Ireland. Our memories are long and bitter on the border foiling attempts to put history into museums, social clubs, music and marching without threat of violence. The walls of Derry are symbolic of the deep divisions symbolised by the victory of William of Orange over King James and took on a new symbolism in the 1970’s when they became once more a battleground. On a Civil Rights march, my friend was hit by a brick hurled by Paisleyite from the city walls above as we ran from RUC water cannons below. It was soon forgotten that the British Army came in 1969 as peacekeepers between Irish Nationalists and Loyalists with many stranded between the opposing factions.
Frank Mc Guinness, Donegal playwright and novelist, made a valiant attempt to deepen the understanding of the tradition of loyalty in his play, Sons of Ulster Marching towards the Somme, performed first in 1985 during the “Troubles”. Many Irish men took the King’s shilling in World War I, including the Donegal writer, Patrick Magill who fictionalised his experience in his novel: The Great Push pub. 1916. Frank Mc Guinness’ honesty in confronting bigotry and engaging with his “Unionist Other” is a welcome alternative to the polarisation which characterises so much of the British-Irish binary opposition, which cloaks other persistent inequalities.