The MRF File – Davy Payne, Frank Quigley And The MRF – A Mystery Solved

From James Kinchin-White and Ed Moloney

Thanks to ‘Iain’ for discovering this and bringing it to our attention:

The more attentive readers of our series on the MRF will recall a piece we wrote about the North Belfast UDA leader Davy Payne returning material to the British Army that had been stolen from an MRF patrol car which had been mistaken by a Loyalist crowd in the Shankill Rd district for an IRA vehicle, hijacked and its occupants beaten up.

The piece can be accessed here.

We wondered whether this co-operation was the outworking of a decision made by British prime minister Ted Heath’s Northern Ireland cabinet sub-committee earlier in 1972 which endorsed the idea of co-operation between British forces and so-called ‘civil defence’ groups, of the sort that were springing up in Loyalist parts of Belfast in early 1972.

Davy Payne’s generosity came to light thanks to the discovery in the Kew files of British Army log sheets, or incident records, dated May 16th, 1972. A message from the British Army’s Belfast Brigade headquarters to HQNI in Lisburn said that a missing MRF folder, stolen by the Shankill Road mob, had been handed in to Flax Street Army base by Davy Payne, ‘an associate of Frank Quigley’.

Here is the relevant log sheet. The relevant note is at Serial 33 (what Dr Oliver’s role in all this is not at all clear):

But who was Frank Quigley? Nobody seemed to know or could remember. Until ‘Iain’ discovered a reference to him in an April 1973 News Letter story about the trial in London of Loyalists from North Belfast who had traveled to the capital in April 1972 – just a few days/weeks before the MRF incident involving Payne – to meet an arms dealer and buy guns to bring back to Northern Ireland.

Quigley, whose address was given as Deerpark Road in North Belfast, was described as the leader of the group who the court was told were members of the UDA. The arms dealer told the police about the approach from Quigley, a former Belfast city councillor, and his friends and they were arrested and put on trial. His party affiliation was not disclosed in court. One of the accused was a former ‘B’ Special. Quigley was given a two years sentence.

‘Iain’ also kindly provided clippings of the story from the News Letter which are reproduced below.

So it seems that Davy Payne was an associate of a putative if somewhat amateurish Loyalist gun-runner and may even have been party to the plot. He was close enough to the event for British military intelligence to know about the pair’s relationship.

So the British Army managed to retrieve confidential MRF material courtesy of someone who may well have just been involved in a gun running venture:



4 responses to “The MRF File – Davy Payne, Frank Quigley And The MRF – A Mystery Solved

  1. A year or so ago, a photo appeared, on Twitter I think, of a lock-up garage with various firearms in it. Also included was a photo of documentation relating to Davy Payne, was owned the garage and was charged in relation to it. I don’t think he went to jail, and I wonder of that could be related to what is being discussed here?

    • Different and unrelated events. The lock-up involved five stolen army SLRs,a Schmeisser, and some assorted rusty garbage. It was a joint op between the RUC and 3LI. Payne spent about six months on remand but the judge, Ambrose McGonigal, threw the charges out because Payne’s prints weren’t on the weapons and the prosecution couldn’t prove he was the only one who could’ve placed them there. He got served with a detention/custody order very shortly after. Quigley was a Unionist councillor in the Woodvale up to October ’69 when he resigned in protest at the Hunt Report.

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