Top Issue 1-2024

22 March 2024

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Remembering Thomas McGuigan

• Thomas McGuigan

I first met Thomas McGuigan in late 1999 when he came to work with us in An Phoblacht. We needed a driver because, for one reason or another, the drivers we had seemed to be getting dragged off for more ‘important tasks’.

Thomas was well known trusted and famously reliable. He had been working with the Green Cross and prisoners’ transport, bringing the families of the POWs to the various prisons across the country.

Not easy in those days of constant harassment from the forces of the crown, especially those bigots in uniform, the UDR who took delight in emptying the vehicles of their human cargo and parcels just to let everyone who was boss.

When he arrived at the An Phoblacht office it was clear that he was the man for the job and his reliability was legend. He soon learned ‘the run’ which took him though counties Antrim, Tyrone and Derry out as far as Slaughtneil.

And it was a strenuous enough route up hill and down dale into many a village and home, taking up a full day. I can testify to that as there were a number of occasions when he couldn’t drive due to a back injury and I was enlisted to take the wheel.

He built up all these friendships with the people who were taking the paper, whether in their homes or in party offices and the rapport he had with them was infectious.

It had its rewards too, and when he hit Dunloy Pauline O’Kane filled him with tea and homemade soda bread with the butter dripping off it. Sadly, Pauline is no longer with us.

Funny enough it was while on the road through Bellaghy to Dunloy one winter’s day that Thomas had a bad accident and was lucky not to be injured, or worse. The van skidded on fallen leaves and slammed into a wall, coincidentally it was near St Mary’s church where Francis Hughes and Thomas McElwee are buried.

We rushed up with the ‘spare’ car to ensure he could finish his deliveries! With the end of the weekly An Phoblacht, as it was then, Thomas worked for a while in the Sinn Féin offices in Sevastopol Street and with his retirement I only saw him on occasion, mostly with his brother Sean. As proud owners of bus passes, they travelled from their Ballymacarrett redoubt to the Felons or the PD for a Sunday afternoon pint.

In recent years Thomas suffered a double amputation and was wheel chair bound. I visited him in his care home and was amazed at his exuberance as he demonstrated to me how he could get in and out of his wheelchair and his bed. Being wheelchair bound didn’t stop his visits to St Matt’s either!

His funeral on 8 March was attended by a large turnout of his neighbours, no doubt many of whom he transported to Long Kesh and elsewhere. Also in attendance were his comrades including former Sinn Fein President Gerry Adams and of course his large family circle.

For Thomas his religion, his republicanism and his support for Celtic were big parts of his life so here’s hoping he’s in Paradise in both senses of the word.

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Contributions from key figures in the churches, academia and wider civic society as well as senior republican figures

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