An Phoblacht

Henry Fegan

Henry Fegan, a committed and fearless Volunteer of Oglaigh na hEireann, died on 10 December. Henry, born in the summer of 1933, was the eldest of four children. His early years were spent in High Street, Bessbrook and he attended the nearby primary school on the edge of the village. While he was known to his friends and comrades affectionately as" wee" Henry, to his enemies he was seen as a big threat. Henry was born to rebel. The relative luxuries of life meant absolutely nothing to him. His lifestyle, during the war, is testimony to the true revolutionary spirit of Henry Fegan.

Although he first joined the Republican Movement in the 1950s it was in the early 1970s that Henry really came into his own. On 9 August 1971 Henry watched from a neighbour's house the British Army perform a search and arrest operation against him. As someone who was highly skilled in field craft he was always one step ahead. Henry was so adept at emptying and reloading a bolt-action rifle that he earned the title of "Automatic Henry".

Despite having to go on the run, Henry made many incursions north across the border. He was acutely aware of the nature of the struggle and in particular how to manage his younger and less experienced comrades. On one occasion, while being chased by the British Army along the border, Henry and his two comrades took cover from the helicopter under a bridge. In an instant, Henry started to shout " Jesus, Jesus" as he held on to his side.

The two young fellows panicked thinking he was shot, but before they could give him assistance Henry declared, " I think I've broken xxxxxx's flask" and burst out laughing. His sense of humour allayed the young fellows' fears.

Over 30 years on the run guaranteed a life of hardship, particularly to a man who remained steadfast and loyal to the cause of building a new and better Ireland. His only luxury was the love and affection his family and comrades bestowed upon him. To say he would have given you the shirt of his back is no exaggeration. On one occasion his mother arrived up to his house in Dundalk with a few bits and pieces for him. She wasn't amused to see some other young fellow wearing the brand new shirt she had bought for Henry the week before. But, that was Henry.

Henry's house was an open house and many people will be forever in his debt.

Many comrades could write a book about their experiences with him. His passing away is a loss not only to his family and comrades but to the country and people he loved so well. He is now back home and at peace.

At the graveside in St Malachy's, Carrickcruppen, Councillor Brendan Lewis gave a moving oration to a very large attendance. He outlined Henry's key role in making South Armagh a very unsafe place for the British Army. Henry will be remembered for the part he played in the struggle and his strength and commitment will always serve as an inspiration to all who knew him.

Níl rud ar bith níos tabhactaigh ná saoirse.

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