Tim, Clip, Urbs and a dodgy Belfast

I ended up stuck for a book and am now trying to work my way through a borrowed copy of Tim Collins: ‘Rules of Engagement, A Life in Conflict’ (it’s even signed). I’ve got to page 44 so far and already found two of the 20 footnotes to be inaccurate (both on the IRSP/INLA funny enough) – that’s a 10% rubbish rate – and an incorrect translation for Béal Feirste. I’m not holding out much hope his views on places further afield will have been entirely accurate. ‘Clip’ McWilliams a member of the Urbs – wtf Tim! Though he is not alone in getting the translation of Béal Feirste wrong (Hint – It is not ‘mouth of the Farset’).

  • al

    Sources? Quotes?

  • Mark McGregor

    Source? The book in my hand.

    Page 26, footnote 14, Urb – member of the INLA…

    Page 44 – footnote 20 – ‘…INLA man ‘Clip’ McWilliams’….

    Page 46 – ‘The Irish name is Beal Feirste, or ford on the Farset.’

  • inspector gadget

    officer class material, for sure…

  • Only Asking

    Belfast was founded at a sandy ford across the Farset, and this is the origin of the city’s name – Béal Feirste, the Mouth of the Farset.


  • Mark McGregor

    I’m not dismissing this book out of hand, yet – I’ve a long way to go. It is pure ‘Boys Own’ stuff. But if you are barely getting into it and spot several elements he really should know or could know I’m getting less convinced this is ‘soldier thinker’ material and could be bullshitter with ghostwriter.

  • Mark McGregor

    Only asking,

    Afraid not. It’s the mouth of the river at the sand ford. The feirste doesn’t refer to any ‘Farset’ river.

  • Only Asking

    Clip’ McWilliams a member of the Urbs – wtf Tim!
    Colins is telling what was related to him.

    page 26 = A corporal who was a real hard case had beaten up a two-man IRA punishment squad who had come to discipline his brother, an IRA associate. He had to get out of Belfast or be shot and so joined the Army. ‘These fellas turn up at our door, right. Me ma opens it and’ they walks into the parlour an’ says to our Jim, ‘Provisional IRA. “You’re under arrest”. ‘RA, arest? I focken ask ye? I came runnin’ outs the kitchen and battered these two fockers roun’ our house. They scampered pretty quick. So did I. I never stopped till I got on the boat to Liverpool and joined the Army. Next thing I’m in Ballymena surrounded by youse. Thats me though, I can’t go back. The ‘RA put it around that I was an Urb and an RUC tout’.

  • joeCanuck

    Thanks for that bit of info, Mark. I was always told (read) that it was the mouth of the Farset.

  • Only Asking

    I’ve got to page 44 so far and already found two of the 20 footnotes to be inaccurate (both on the IRSP/INLA funny enough)

    Page 44 – footnote 20 – ‘…INLA man ‘Clip’ McWilliams’….

    Christopher “Crip” McWilliams (c. 15 December 1963 – 28 June 2008) was a member of both the Irish People’s Liberation Organisation (IPLO) and the Irish National Liberation Army (INLA) during The Troubles in Northern Ireland. He was convicted of the murder of LVF leader Billy Wright.[1]

    on 27 December 1997 an INLA team, led by McWilliams …..scaled the walls between the two factions and ambushed Wright in a courtyard as he was about to be brought for a visit from his girlfriend



  • Only Asking.

    6.Only asking,

    Afraid not. It’s the mouth of the river at the sand ford. The feirste doesn’t refer to any ‘Farset’ river.

    Belfast (Irish Gaelic Béal Féirste) means the mouth of the river Farset. The settlement grew up at the confluence of the Farset and the Lagan. The River Farset was a smaller, less significant river than the Lagan, which was the main waterway through Belfast. If you want to see the Farset today you would have to dig up Bridge Street and Donegal Street which were built over the by then redundant waterway.


    wiki writes mouth of the sandbars


    It’s the mouth of the river at the sand ford.

    Don’t see anything for that. Do you have a source/link?

  • Only Asking

    Clip’ McWilliams’

    It’s only mentioned once in the book, could be a typo, or a misprint, rather than a factual error.

    The footnotes hold up. ‘urb’ is obviously a slang term related to Collins which he is relying upon, rather than a ‘ghost writer’.

    could be bullshitter with ghostwriter.

    Could be – if you find anything .

  • Only Asking

    Clip’ McWilliams a member of the Urbs – wtf Tim

    What page did you say this was on? It’s not in my book.

  • Passing by

    Is someone playing the man perhaps? Don’t strike me as needing a recall and pulp by the publisher??

  • Rory Carr

    Anyone purchasing this type of selfserving crapola and expecting either honesty or accuracy, besides having money to waste, cannot seriously complain.

    If you really like this kind of thing it’s probably best to stick with the winners – Ms Katie Price is sure to have the latest edition of her scintillating memoirs in bookshops soon ready for the Christmas rush.

    P.S. submit word: “major” – see! He’s been demoted already. Probably as a result of my comments above. Good!

  • “The feirste doesn’t refer to any ‘Farset’ river”

    Mark, I’ve just had a look at Onomasticon Goedelicum

    fersat: pl Feirrsde, a strand-pit nr Rostellan in Cork Harbour, Obr.; ¶ Farsid village.

    Perhaps the stream got its name from the sand bars/ford? Just a thought.

  • Intelligence Insider

    I would take it that Tim probably misheard someone referring to the “irps” rather than “urbs”. “irps” being the common name for inla/irsp members

  • NCM

    “Though he is not alone in getting the translation of Béal Feirste wrong…”


    “Belfast.” Do I win a prize?

  • Rory Carr

    For those who can’t wait to buy this compelling memoir my advice is: “WAIT!”. It will be shortly be remaindered at £1 or less in bookshops everywhere as its unsaleable bulk has to give way to make space for memoirs of more interesting figures who are much more likely to engage the reading public.

    I hear that Michael Jackson has already done a deal with Derek Acora to give his thoughts on love, life, death and the whole damn thing from beyond the grave(with a special chapter on the afterlife as a bonus) in a special blockbuster to be with us all soon. Won’t that be a thriller? (Geddit?) Can’t wait.

    Then there is always the hope that Uri Geller might also let us know what is going on in Michael’s mind and that would also be a sure winner. If only Colonel Tim had thought to engage either of these two giants to assist him then we might have had a more revealing (or at least more accurate) volume.

  • Intelligence Insider

    Rory I think you’ll find that his book was first published over four years ago and spent some time on the Sunday Times bestsellers list.

  • Rory Carr

    So? You trying to spoil my fun? If Collins can be shaky on the facts why not me? His book is still a load of self-serving fantasy designed to promote his death-for-dosh eneterprise in the whores-of-war trade.

  • Intelligence Insider

    I take it you haven’t read it then Rory.

  • Rory Carr

    You would be wrong then, Intelligence Insider. It once brightened up a wet afternoon in my local library where, like most bookshops now, there is more tosh available in the biography section than there is in the Science fiction and fantasy section. It’s all footballers, footballers wives, “I shagged a footballer”, ‘celebs’, cockney gangsters and mercenary thugs these days telling you how sweet and brave and true they are, not to mention patriotic and how they all loved their mammas. A love probably unrequited in most cases I would imagine.

  • NCM

    Rory Cary: “It’s all. . . ‘I shagged a footballer'” —

    Come on Rory, you’re giving away the best spoilers of the Collins book and ruining the surprise for all those who haven’t read it yet.

  • Alan – Newtownards

    I have read Tim Collins book and have to say it wasn’t a bad read. His former S/Major Doug Beattie who retired not too long ago and who is mentioned in the book has published two books which are gripping reads. I have just finished the second one which is entitled Task Force Helmand. This book discribes his six months in Helmand province with the Royal Irish last year. It shows up war for what it is. It does not glorify war but looks at the human cost to both Afgans and NATO forces. It is very moving and at times funny. I found it hard to put down. It is well worth a read regardless of your views about the war and possibly the British army.

  • GGN

    Belfast < Béal Feirste 'mouth of the sand -bank ford'Feirste normally Fearaisde in Ulster.