You can’t disappear this

Bobby Tohill is back in the press as another of the I Ran Away gang who battered him half to death and abducted him from Kelly’s Cellars eventually finds himself in front of a court for sentencing – a luxury he didn’t consider delivering with his fellow Broy Harriers. His justice won’t involve forensic suits, batons, CS gas or promised trips across the border to destination unknown – lucky him.

It was my pleasure to meet Bobby on his home patch several months ago and while the trauma of his experience has clearly given him ongoing problems that will likely only end with the grave he was wonderful, enlightening company and unbowed.

I found what I’d previously heard of this dissident monster was an utter lie. A man vilified by SF members and the Andersonstown News, even after his brutalisation, was a man engaged politically, grounded and realistic – certainly not the evil thug of West Belfast whispering

They tried to turn the man into a ghost; he recognised it and fights on.

The following poem by Carrie Twomey gives a sense of meeting a man with his own problems that won’t be disappeared:The Ghosts of the Road

It was ghosts, he said, leaning over his pint
In the pensioners bar
You see them walking the road
Even in daylight
Hunched over talking to themselves
Bearing the weight of the past on the shoulders
Sure they’ve been cast aside
Used and spat out
Take your man, Smoky, aye, he was one of the best
Would have been bombing and shooting and
taking them on at the worst of things
He was one of their hardest bravest men
Or Bobby, I mind when Bobby wasn’t as he is
the way he is now like, sitting today already drunk
or more never stopped being drunk from
last night, last week, last month, last year;
Oh he was one who chased the women and had a curl in his hair
Really he wouldn’t hurt a fly
Unless he had to
Sure he’d been a soft touch underneath
And you’d be in your bed your face smashed from looking
at his girl the wrong way and suffering from a terrible hangover
When the door would be rapping at 7am
And who would be standing there with his face cleaned
looking slick and sorry, apologetic
For having hurt you the night before
Aw, man there’s so many ghosts walk this road and how messed up they are
Messed in the head and treated like dirt no matter what they gave the movement
It’d break your heart so it would
If you really knew the history of these men
these women who yell and scream at anything going
Nothing broke them, not the Brits, not the screws, not the years on the blanket
It was our own that broke them, it was
That’s the heartbreak of it all
It was our own that broke them.