21 October 2004 Edition
Charlie Laverty, who epitomised an unrepentant Irish republican spirit and never wavered in his commitment to the cause of Irish freedom, died on 10 October. Laverty passed away at his home in Richmond, California, surrounded by his wife and daughters.
Fluent in the Irish language, he worked tirelessly for a United Ireland. Foremost in his mind were Irish freedom, human rights and injustice. He was a devout Catholic and a member of St Paul Parish for 47 years.
Born on 22 December 1914 in Belfast, his family were staunch nationalists: His parents took Irish classes from Seán MacDiarmada, a signatory of the 1916 Proclamation who was later executed by a British firing squad for his part in the Easter Rising. In addition, Charlie's brothers, James and Robert, were active republicans during the Tan War.
After loyalists drove the family from their home in Belfast in 1922, they settled on a farm in south Derry, where his brothers built an underground dugout to hide IRA Volunteers on the run. One of Charlie's earliest memories was being lifted and held by Charlie Daly who, along with Sean Larkin, was among those sheltered by the Laverty family. Both Daly and Larkin were later summarily executed by Free State soldiers at Drumboe Castle.
Growing up nationalist, Charlie was frequently harassed by the Royal Ulster Constabulary. He once recalled that he was picked up and held dozens of times, though never charged. But that changed in July 1938, when he was sentenced to six months hard labour for "riotous behaviour" against the RUC in Maghera, County Derry. He was released in March 1939. Charlie enjoyed freedom for just over a year before he was interned without trial in May 1940.
First held in Derry Prison, he was later transferred to the Al Rawdah prison ship, where conditions were atrocious: 52 men in one room, with constant light.
To protest the conditions, the men turned the springs from a gramophone into makeshift hacksaws and broke down the furniture, as well as cutting holes in the floor and walls. As a result, the prisoners were transferred to Crumlin Road jail in Belfast. Among those in the jail with Charlie was Tom Williams, who was hanged in September 1942 for participating in a gun battle in which an RUC member was killed.
Before his death, Williams asked Charlie to engrave three rings for him, which he later gave to his family as mementos. Charlie returned the rings just hours before Williams was executed. Also in Crumlin Road at this time was Charlie's brother, Paddy, who had been arrested in Derry for possessing an "incriminating document". Paddy was initially sentenced to hard labour, then later interned, like Charlie. Charlie served four years before he was released in March 1944.
Prison strengthened Charlie's republican convictions and upon his release he played a leading role in Sinn Féin, organising cumainn throughout South Derry. During Westminster elections in 1955 and 1956, Charlie acted as an election agent for Tom Mitchell, who was in jail for republican activity. Mitchell's successful election to the British Parliament was then the biggest anti-partition vote since 1921.
After the British declared the seat vacant because of Mitchell's imprisonment, another election was held and Mitchell won again, with an increased majority. Only a third election, with a split nationalist vote, secured a unionist victory.
Charlie decided to leave Ireland in 1956 for the United States, after he discovered bullets on his property, either meant to frame him or as part of a plot to kill him or his family.
After working a variety of jobs, he sent for his family and eventually settled in San Pablo, California, where he lived for 23 years. He brought to California the knowledge and skills he had acquired in his Magherafelt furniture dealership and opened Laverty's Upholstery shop in Richmond. He was a master craftsman and passed on the trade to his son, Eugene, who predeceased him in 1977.
His commitment to the Irish republican cause never wavered: He helped launch Irish Northern Aid in San Francisco, when the current struggle began in the Six Counties. And during the 1981 hunger strike, he returned to south Derry so that he could offer support to the families of Francis Hughes and Thomas McElwee as the men lay dying.
In the San Francisco Bay Area, Charlie organised fundraisers, lobbied politicians, wrote letters, marched, picketed and demonstrated; anything that would advance the cause of Irish freedom.
He inspired generations of activists and republican volunteers. He was proud, uncompromising, and a Fenian in the finest sense of the word.
He is survived by Theresa, his wife of 58 years; by his seven daughters, Sister Kathleen Laverty, Mary Laverty (Max) Chacana, Pauline Laverty, Teresa Mairead Jamison, Roisín (Tony) Ariaz, Annie (Jim) Starr and Sharon (Mike) Miller; and by 15 grandchildren and eight great grandchildren.
BY PETER HEGARTY
I nDíl Chuimhne
Oct. 18th 1974: Vol Michael Hughes, Newry Brigade; Oct. 23rd 1971: Vol Dorothy Maguire, Cumann na mBan, Belfast; Oct. 23rd 1971: Vol Maura Meehan, Cumann na mBan, Belfast; Oct. 23rd 1979: Vol Martin McKenna, Belfast Brigade, 3rd Battalion; Oct 23rd 1993: Vol Thomas Begley, 3rd Battalion, Belfast Brigade; Oct. 24th 1971: Vol Martin Forsythe, Belfast Brigade, 1st Batt. "The Republic stands for truth and honour — for all that is noblest in our race. By truth and honour — by principle and sacrifice alone will Ireland be free." — Liam Mellowes. Always remembered with love and pride by their many friends and comrades in the Republican Movement.
McTAGUE, Joe (Joby) (3rd Ann). In memory of Joe McTague, who died on 2 October 2001. There is a beautiful Park in a wonderful land, where God and my husband walk hand in hand. How lucky God is to have such a treasure, take care of him lord forever and ever. Sadly missed by his loving wife Nora.
RUSSELL, Rosaleen (10th Ann). In loving memory of my sister Rosaleen who died on 22 October, 1994. Our Lady Queen of Ireland pray for her. Always remembered by her brother Robert, Anne and family.
FENNELLY. Deepest sympathy is extended to Donal Fennelly on the death of his mother Theresa. From Pat Hayes & Catherine Curran.
FENNELLY. Deepest sympathy is extended to Donal Fennelly on the death of his mother Theresa. From Bob and Jackie, North Inner City.
FENNELLY. Deepest sympathy is extended to Donal Fennelly on the death of his mother Theresa. From Ann and Liam, Carnalstown, County Meath.
FENNELLY. Deepest sympathy is extended to Donal Fennelly on the death of his mother Theresa. From Robert Blair and all lads in Glasgow.
FENNELLY. Deepest sympathy is extended to Donal Fennelly on the death of his mother Theresa. From Finglas SF and Dessie Ellis.
QUINN. Deepest sympathy is extended to Paul Quinn on the death of his father. From Dublin SF; From the Smith/Harford/ Doherty RFB, Dublin.
SMALL. Deepest sympathy to Gerry Small and family on the death of his wife. From the McLaughlin family, Buncrana, County Donegal.
SMALL. Deepest sympathy to Gerry Small and family on the death of his wife. From Mary McLaughlin family, Buncrana, County Donegal.
CONGRATS to Gillian and Jonathon O'Brien on the birth of their baby Conor. From Mick Nugent, Seán Kind, Kieran Kiely, Walter Nagle and all republican prisoners in Castlerea Prison; From Cork SF.
BERNARD FOX and family would like to thank the many friends and comrades who sympathised on the loss of their brother Gerard. We are grateful and really appreciate the presence of so many who travelled from far and near to call at the house and who also attended the funeral. We are eternally grateful. Go raibh maith agaibh uile.