Remembering Ray McCreesh
The Irish Revolutionary Ray McCreesh, died on hunger strike in Long Kesh, this day in 1981.
Raymond Peter McCreesh, the seventh in a family of eight children, was born in St Malachy's Park, Camlough, on February 25th 1957. He was born into a strong Irish republican family.
McCreesh attended the local primary school in Camlough, St Malachy's, and later attended St Colman's College in Newry.
At school, Raymond’s strongest interest was in the Irish language and Irish history, he read widely in those subjects. His understanding of Irish history led him to a fervently nationalist outlook, and he was regarded as a ‘hothead’ in his history classes, and as being generally “very conscious of his Irishness”.
He was also a sportsman and played under-sixteen and Minor football for Carrickcruppin Gaelic football club as well as taking a keen interest in the local youth club where he played basketball, pool and was regarded as a very good snooker player.
Raymond aged 16 first joined Fianna Éireann, the IRA's youth wing, in 1973, and later that year he progressed to join the Provisional IRA South Armagh Brigade.
McCreesh had worked for a short time as a steelworker in a factory in Lisburn but he switched professions to work as a milk roundsman in his local area of South Armagh, an occupation which greatly increased his knowledge of the surrounding countryside, as well as enabling him to observe the movements of British Army patrols in the area.
On June 25th 1976, McCreesh (aged 19) and three other IRA volunteers attempted to ambush a British Army observation post in South Armagh. It lay opposite the Mountain House Inn, on the Newry–Newtonhamilton Road.
As they approached the observation post, they were spotted by British paratroopers on a hillside. The paratroopers opened fire on the volunteers, who fled. Two of them, McCreesh and Paddy Quinn, took cover in a nearby farmhouse. The paratroopers surrounded the house and fired a number of shots into the building.
After some time, McCreesh and Quinn surrendered and were taken to Bessbrook British Army base. The third volunteer, Danny McGuinness, had taken cover in a disused quarry outhouse but was captured the next day.
The fourth member of the unit managed to escape despite being shot in the leg, arm and chest.
On March 2nd 1977, McCreesh and Quinn were sentenced to fourteen years in prison for the 'attempted murder' of British soldiers, possession of a rifle and ammunition, and a further five years for IRA membership.
McCreesh was sent to Long Kesh where he got involved in the dirty protest and later joined the 1981 hunger strike which he started on March 22nd.
Raymond died at 2.11 a.m. on Thursday, May 21st, 1981, after 61 days on hunger strike.
Fuair sé bás ar son saoirse na hÉireann