Hat tip to Mick Browne for directing me to this YouTube video of a rare home movie of the June 1969 Bodenstown commemoration made by Terry McMillen. It is a fascinating piece of film made just two months before the Loyalist incursions of August 1969 which would split the Republican movement and divide many of those marching that day to honour Wolfe Tone, the founding father of Irish Republicanism.
One of the striking aspects of the day is the sheer size of the crowd, surely not usually as large as this and very possibly a reflection of the sense of impending crisis North of the Border, and very quickly South of it too, and the huge boost all that would give to armed republicanism.
Leadership figures are easy to spot and identify. Cathal Goulding, then Chief of Staff, is there chatting at one point to Belfast Adjutant Jimmy Sullivan. Tomas MacGiolla, Seamus Costello and Billy McMillen, then OC of Belfast are all on or around the platform.
Less certain are the identities of figures who were less well known at that time but who would later make major marks on Irish history. Readers are invited to submit their views but here are a couple of conjectural spots by myself and others who have viewed the video.
For example, is this person in this screen grab Ruari O Bradaigh, soon to be one of the leaders of the Provisional split from the IRA and Sinn Fein, who then led another split away from the Provos in 1986? O Bradaigh died last year. He can be seen at 12:22 minutes into the film. Here he is, I think:
Someone else has spotted a person they believe to be Charlie Bird, the famous RTE broadcaster who in those early days was better known for his radical socialist views. Bird later outraged some of us in the media when he quit as father of the NUJ chapel at RTE when the union decided to join a British challenge to censorship laws at the European Commission on Human Rights. Anyway make your own minds up:
The most intriguing figure in the home movie appears just after six minutes. He is marching behind the colour party and can be seen on the viewer’s right. It looks very much like Gerry Adams, at least to me. He would then have been just 20 or 21 years old and still working as a barman at the Duke of York’s in Belfast. Have a look, make your own minds up and please send your views in. Here he is:
And here is the full video which is a really fascinating piece of history. Full credit to Terry McMillen for making it available. Enjoy: