Remembering Tom Williams
Tom Williams was born in the Beechmont area of West Belfast on the 12th May 1923, when his Mother died he moved to his Grandmother's house on Bombay Street in the Clonard area, also in West Belfast.
Tom came from a very strong Irish Republican family so when old enough he joined Na Fianna Eireann, when Tom turned 17 he joined the Irish Republican Army in 1940, at the age of 18 Williams became OC of his local unit based in Clonard.
At Easter 1942 the IRA in Belfast were determined to commemorate the 1916 rising, with three parades planned in the city, even though the Stormont Government had banned such assemblies.
Diversionary plans were put in place to veer the RUC away from the parades, Tom Williams and his unit were given the task of diverting the RUC away from the Clonard area by firing on an RUC patrol passing through the area.
But instead of driving away the RUC gave chase and a shootout occurred which resulted in all eight IRA volunteers been arrested, Tom Williams wounded, and an RUC man Patrick Murphy losing his life.
The two women volunteers were taken to Armagh Gaol, the men to Crumlin Road Gaol and Tom was brought under armed guard to the Royal Victoria Hospital until he was well enough to join his comrades in the Crum.
On July 28th 1942 the six male volunteers stood trial for murder, the murder charges against the two women volunteers had been dropped a few weeks previously.
All six volunteers were found guilty and sentenced to death, at their appeal on August 21st the guilty verdict was upheld and September 2nd was set for their execution by hanging.
A huge campaign to stop their execution had started even before their appeal was due to be heard, 250,000 signatures had been collected, people such as the Pope, De Valera, the US Secretary of state etc had called for a reprieve.
Tom had taken full responsibility for the attack that led to the death of the RUC man, on August 30th the Stormont Government decided all of the accused except Williams would be reprieved.
Tom Williams was hanged in Crumlin Road Gaol on September 2nd 1942 at 8am, and was buried in the grounds of the Gaol.
Crumlin Road Gaol closed in 1996, his remains were eventually released in 2000 for an Irish Republican funeral in Miltown cemetery Belfast, attended by some of his surviving comrades and his girlfriend at the time of his death.
"To ever who receives this to pray for me always & pray for the cause for which I am dying. God Save Ireland…."