‘The IRA was formed in my grandad’s sitting room. He never told us’
Victor Fagg , ‘a Protestant IRA man’, played host to a significant meeting 50 years ago - only now revealed in a BBC documentaryIrish Republican Army a few years later and “was as a member of the Guard of Honour when the bodies of 20 republican soldiers executed by the Free State Army throughout its western command were handed over to relatives and comrades at the main gate of Athlone Barracks in October 1924”. In 1938, he was one of 12 men nominated for the IRA executive council at its general convention, two of whom Seán McNeela and Tony D’Arcy died on hunger strike in 1940. All 12 men would later be interned in the Curragh during the Emergency where I understand Victor witnessed the killing of another friend, Barney Casey, who was shot by Free State guards. My grandfather was one of very few Protestants interned in the Curragh in 1940 and in 1943 he converted to Catholicism when he married Una Daly who was herself a captain in Cumann na mBan. Victor Fagg, pictured with his wife Una, was a keen horseman. Photograph: supplied by Morgan Fagg Victor Fagg was well respected in the midlands where he operated the agricultural store and was secretary of the co-operative committee. My grandparents loved horses and were involved with the Glasson Farmers Hunt and Victor was part of the Athlone Show committee for many years. A local historian’s notes on the setting up of the creamery in 1961 highlight its importance to the Athlone farming community and Victor was apparently gifted in bringing different people together and organised the forming of the creamery committee of which he became secretary. It was the same networking skills that perhaps made him a natural host for the secretive meeting in December 1969. Victor Fagg died in on March 6th 1988, aged 81. He received a republican funeral, with a tricolour draped across his coffin in the Catholic side of Cornamagh Cemetery. Ruairi Ó Brádaigh, president of Republican Sinn Féin, which was formed in 1986 following a split in Provisional Sinn Féin, gave an impassioned eulogy describing him as a quiet and unassuming Irishman whose “family background was one of service in the British forces but he was brought face to face with the realities of British rule in Ireland at the early age of 14 years”. Not far from his grave, in the Protestant side of the cemetery, his parents and my great grandparents are buried. Two years later, my grandmother died and was buried by his side and my parents inherited their farmhouse which they later transformed into a guesthouse. Morgan Fagg, as a child, pictured with his grandmother Una Fagg outside the Athlone farmhouse. Photograph: Supplied by Morgan Fagg Northern Ireland’s religious war has always confused me. I knew my grandfather was originally from a Protestant household and his conversion to republicanism was never fully explained. He died without writing memoirs and when my mother asked why, he told her that “there was wrong on both sides”. * The first episode of Spotlight On The Troubles: A Secret History will broadcast on Tuesday, September 10th, at 8.30pm on BBC1 Northern Ireland and BBC4. * Morgan Fagg is an English teacher and writer, based in Madrid, Spain. Read more: The Irish Times
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