26 November 1998 Edition

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Memories of a friend and comrade

Arthur Fegan remembers his friend, Fian James Templeton, who was shot dead in Belfast in 1975, aged just sixteen.

On 1 November a commemorative plaque was unveiled on Belfast's Ormeau Road, near the corner of Farham Street, in a tribute to James (Temp) Templeton, aged 15 years, a member of Na Fianna Eireann who was fatally wounded near that spot on 29 August 1975.

Despite the bittter cold and showers a large number of residents, friends and republicans attended. I could see his mother and other members of his family. From their tears I knew it was a sad occasion for them, but they were proud that their son and brother was being remembered.

Temp was an only son and lived with his parents and two sisters at Peveril Street, which used to be down near the Belfast to Dublin railway line.

I met him at St Augustine's in my first year. I was 12 years old. Like me, he had no love of school, and both of us spent more days investigating the world outside than attending classes.

In my mind's eye I can still see him; cropped fair hair, bright blue eyes in a round baby face, and a tall slim body, on the verge of getting taller. He was at times thoughtful, generous, moody, playful, a totally unpredictable youth; always grateful to be with a good friend.

We got very close during the summers of 1974 and 1975, when we went camping on several occasions without a tent, and very little money either. We also liked to try out discos in the greener fields of the New Lodge, Newington, Andersonstown, Clonard and other areas, only to find the talent as elusive and non-committal as in our own wee areas.

It wasn't very suprising that Temp was a fun loving lad, full of life and eager for more. He was in that respect no different from any other lad of his age, an ordinary teenager. Belfast, however, was no ordinary city. Nor was the community from which he came ever treated in an ordinary or fair fashion.

Temp, therefore, like other generations of Belfast teenagers, joined the Republican Movement. Sometime in 1973 he joined Na Fianna Eireann in the Ormeau Road, attached to the 3rd Battalion, Belfast Brigade.

As a Fianna boy he attended lectures and meetings designed to prepare him for the time when he would join the IRA, although in reality teenagers who were eager to join in that fight did so whenever the chance arose; and Temp was no exception.

I remember at an August 9th bonfire in the Short Strand in 1975 James (Pablo) O'Neill, Temp and myself stood for hours talking and watching the flames. At one point unionist snipers opened fire and we had to run for cover.

This was the second time gunmen had opened fire on us in as many months. The previous occasion was at the top of the Short Strand when a man pretending to be a drunk staggered from the Ravenhill Road. Suddenly he started running towards us, one arm held straight out, firing a handgun. We retreated back into the Short Strand with half a dozen bullets whizzing past.

We continued talking for some time around the bonfire after the gun attack, and arranged to meet up some night soon. We never did.

On the night he was killed Temp had been with his friend Jackie Prior. They had stopped to talk to a doorman at the Rose and Crown public house when a car pulled up. A passenger opened fire with a handgun, hitting Temp twice in the body. As he lay on the footpath he asked Jackie to quickly fetch his mother. Jackie ran the couple of hundred yards to Temp's home, but when he and Mrs Templeton arrived back at the scene Temp had left in an ambulance. At the hospital they found Temp in a corridor about to be wheeled into the theatre.

They were able to speak to him for a few emotional and heartbreaking moments. He died three hours later.

He was buried in Milltown on 1 September, on my 16th birthday, a beautiful late summer's day; and I have missed him ever since.

An Phoblacht
44 Parnell Sq.
Dublin 1