**Reprinted from last November and with the big photo of his Da kindly supplied by Joe Baker, with much effort at file conversion on both our parts! Thank you Joe! Joe's piece on a Victorian Belfast courtroom is also posted today and well worth reading.

A Troubling image

by Joe Baker

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This week Joe asks if this image of his father being manhandled by British soldiers is the most famous image of the modern Troubles

Here’s an interesting question to start this weeks article. Throughout the whole period known as The Troubles what would you say is the single most famous photograph?

Would it be the well known picture of IRA hunger striker Bobby Sands or even the image of the priest waving a white handkerchief to seek help for one of those struck down during Bloody Sunday?

It may even be the picture of body parts being scraped up after Bloody Friday!

Sometimes the most simple picture can go on to become world famous and bearing this in mind (I know I’m going to be a bit biased) I think I can claim that one of the most well known images is not only a North Belfast picture, and indeed a New Lodge one, but I’ll go one step further and claim that the extremely famous picture I’m talking about is of my Da!

Understandably there are many readers who are going to instantly dismiss this claim but before you do allow me to present my case.

On the 4th of May, 1971, a major disturbance broke out in the New Lodge area following a number of incidents at the Gallaher Tobacco Factory at its North Queen Street end.

My Dad was the caretaker of the nearby Artillery Flats and came out to see what was going on.

At the same time members of the Royal Highland Fusiliers arrived and being one of the few men at the scene he was grabbed, severely beaten, thrown into the back of a military sararcen, taken away, and lobbed into Crumlin Road Jail.

Another group of people who arrived on the scene at the same time as the British Army were sections of the world’s media and so, in a few short seconds, one of the most famous images of the Northern conflict was born.

Now my Dad was never a political man and was one of the most respected people in the whole New Lodge area (I guess the opposite of me!)

During the conflict he would often comment after a British soldier was killed that he and his family should be pitied.

While having a pint he often stated to me that if we lived in Manchester, Liverpool, Glasgow, Cardiff or London we would more than likely have ended up in the British Army only to end up dead in a place like this over a conflict we knew absolutely nothing about.

His example was the occasion when he was stopped by members of the Parachute Regiment on the New Lodge Road.

One of the soldiers came over and said “All right uncle Charlie.”

Imagine what his face must have been like but before members of the Baker clan arrive at my door to find out who the traitor is, it’s on Mum’s side!

But although my Dad was a very forgiving character the beating he got on that occasion must have left its mark because every time the Fusiliers were mentioned it was a good idea to get out of the way.

Not only that, but every time the Black Watch was mentioned a similar reaction was obtained.

Now I don’t have a clue if the Fusiliers and the Black Watch are the same or if the both were involved in said incident but the forgiving nature was lost upon hearing the names of these regiments.

Now growing up and listening to my Dad going on about above named regiments, his Dad being an extremely active IRA member during the 1920’s and 30’s.

He had family members involved in various Republican groups, having an Brother-in-Law pretty high up in the RAF and his two sons (namely my cousins) in the Parachute Regiment and my Dad’s grandfather being an Protestant.
Could you try and imagine what it must have been like for me growing up trying to work all that out!

My Dad’s dead now, but to complicate matters the story continues with the fact that he now has a Grandson, to a Protestant mother from the Shankill, in the Irish Army!

The basic image was my Dad being beaten by British soldiers and this was the picture which has appeared in dozens of books written on the Northern conflict, international magazines, posters and of course TV.

The whole incident was recorded on television and shown across the world.

Those who drink in a well known New Lodge bar (which was his local) will be aware that the “Brit Thugs Out Now” poster is displayed behind the bar in a framed picture.

The reason for this is due to the amount of bets my Dad won here due to the fact that he appeared in a well known American TV programme.

His bet was that he was in an episode of Kojak even though he was never in America in his life.

Those taking him up thought they were on a sure thing until they discovered that Kojak walked into an Irish bar and what was on the wall of the bar? - You’ve guessed it!

On the subject of bars even I, as a die hard Commie, believe that fate has a way of controlling our lives.

Now my Dad was scooped, badly beaten and thrown into jail at the time of this famous image.

We lived in Churchill Flats (Now renamed CuChuliann House) and guess what the nearest bar was?

Well for those not familiar with the area McGurk’s was only yards away and have another guess where Dad’s watering hole was?

So although he got a bad beating from the Scots in May 1971 it could have been worse.

He could have been in his local on the 4th of December, 1971 but was in jail instead!

I am interested to hear what you think is the most famous image of The Troubles.


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