I spent yesterday in Crumlin Rd Jail. It was an experience.
“Tom Williams was hanged in Crumlin Road Gaol Belfast at 8a.m. on Wednesday 2nd September 1942. The executioner was the official English hangman Thomas Pierrepoint, assisted by his nephew Albert Pierrepoint. Afterwards Williams’ body was interred in unhallowed ground in an unmarked grave within the grounds of the prison. His remains were only released in January 2000 after the closure of the prison in 1996 and a lengthy campaign by the National Graves Association, Belfast.
Before Williams was executed he inscribed some messages on the backs of some playing cards. On one he wrote “To ever who receives this to pray for me always & pray for the cause for which I am dying. God Save Ireland….” Father Alexis who witnessed the execution spoke after to his friends in the prison chapel. “I met the bravest of the brave this morning”, he said, “Tom Williams walked to that scaffold without a tremor in his body. The only people who were shaking were us and the hangman. Father Alexis concluded by saying to the remaining prisoners, “I’ve one other thing to say to you. Don’t pray for Tom Williams, pray to him, for at this moment Tom is a saint in heaven.” “
The tour was first class. my guide was knowledgable, friendly and excellent at his job. What struck me was the small details, particularly how fellow prisoners had etched in the raw grey stone wall the initials and date of execution of Tom above his unmarked grave. A small dignity denied him by the state that murdered him.
The inhumanity of the state that buried him could not not be more clearly compared with the empathy of his friends. It was moving.