Republican News · Thursday 4 September 1997

[An Phoblacht]

Tom Williams - full of youth and hope

By Mick Naughton.

Last Sunday's heavy rainfall did not deter those republicans gathered to remember one of Ireland's finest sons whose remains still lie within a Belfast's Crumlin Road jail.

Organised by the National Graves Association the Tom Williams commemoration was addressed by West Belfast Sinn Féin councillor Tom Hartley.

``Time goes past as years go onwards, while in my memory fresh I keep of that night in Belfast prison, when shamelessly I saw men weep.''

These well known words of the song quoted by Hartley captured the heartbreak of his republican comrades in the Crumlin Road jail on the morning of 2 September 1942 when Tom Williams was hanged.

``In the 45 years since his death,'' Hartley said, ``his generation has grown older, and in a strange way Tom has grown old with them. So today, I would like to reflect on Tom, the 18 year old.

``Look around us here today and look for a young person of 18. Still carrying the traces of their youth, they also carry the hopes and expectations of lives to be lived to the full. On the day he was hanged, Tom Williams would have had this look of hope and expectation. That's why grown hardened men wept bitterly.

``Tom Williams the youth was taken from his family, his community, his comrades. This type of loss has always been with us who live in the Irish Republican family. Just over 20 years before Tom's death another young republican was hanged in a British jail - Kevin Barry was also 18 years old, and coming into our generation Gerard McAuley, Jimmy Quigley and Patricia Black all gave their lives for our freedom and independence - all of them still young and still growing.

``Tom Williams epitomises our loss, but he also epitomises the hopes and expectations we all have for our future.''

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