I went there when I was twelve. Big cross-country race for the boys, and we were all in the back of a minibus headed towards Derry one morning. And this is big time. I mean, this is like International Athletics for us, because we’re racing against boys in the South, and we have this thing to do, “Belfast Pride”. Two of the boys are Prods; the rest of us are Catholics. It’s a cross community event. I suppose the good people on the side think this is great stuff. “Let’s get this wee team over from Belfast” and all that patronizing shite. Anyway, we’re through the border; the boys are all singin’ pop tunes and all, but I’m just in the back of the bus lookin’ out the window. We’re going through the mountains. You know where Mount Errigal is and everything? It’s a beautiful sight, Dom. Donegal has to be the most beautiful place in Ireland, I reckon. … Anyway, we’ve arrived at Guidor, what a place, and it’s hoppin’ with about two hundred boys, and they’re getting into their gear and membering up. The whole event’s run by Christian Brothers and they’re clapping young fellas around the back of the ears, basically trying to maintain some order. Our team goes off for a wee jog to stretch out the legs. We’re surrounded by fields of barley, and we dip down into a wee valley where there’s a stream and woods running through it. The woods and stream are out of bounds, so naturally, us Belfast boys have to go check them out. Woods and the stream seem just like the Amazon to us. And we come across these young fellas from Cork, and there’s some banter about our accents; they could barely talk; we couldn’t understand a word they were saying. We had the idea that they’re lording it over us a bit, you know; looking down on us; I’m sensing it, anyway. We run along, and we come up with this idea to go down to the stream and check it out for fish. So we’re down by the river, downstream. There’s half a foot of water in there. Little silver fish, but nothing substantial, ’til one of their boys calls us further down. Lying in the water is a wee foal, four or five days old. He’s all skin and bones, gray collar, and he’s got flecks of blood on his coat, ’cause he’s cut himself up really badly on the sharp rocks. We’re just standing over him and you can see his back leg’s snapped. And he’s breathing, he’s alive, but just about. So this big conversation gets started up between the boys who suddenly reckon themselves the leaders, and they’re deliberating as to what we should do. Someone says “Drop a rock on his head”, but I’m looking in their faces and I can see they’re either scared stiff or clueless; it’s all bravado. And this foal on the ground, in real pain, all this chitchat going on, going nowhere. Next thing, one of the priests sees us, sees the foal, tells us not to move and we’re done for, really done for. Group of boys will always get the blame for hurting a foal. Group of Belfast boys will get a hammering for sure. So it’s clear to me in an instant, and I’m down on my knees, and I take the foal’s head in my hands and I put him underwater. He’s thrashing around a bit to start, so I press down harder until he’s drowned. Priest arrives, though. He’s grabbing me by the hair, dragging me through the woods, promising me a proper hiding, but I knew I did the right thing by that wee foal, and I could take the punishment for all our boys. I had the respect of them other boys now, and I knew that. I’m clear of the reasons, Dom. I’m clear of all the repercussions. But I will act, and I will not stand by and do nothing.
Hunger, Bobby Sands