Eamon McLaughlin, London and Coleraine
Eamon McLaughlin came from Coleraine, Co.Derry. Having emigrated to Britain he became active in the Connolly Association in the 1950s and was its General Secretary in 1958/59 when the Association was contending with the leftist dissidents in its North London branch, who wanted it to advocate socialism amongst the Irish community in Britain. He worked as a clerk/administrator at Acton Rails, West London, and was an active member of the National Union of Railwaymen, being one of the first to raise the issue of anti-Catholic discrimination in Northern Ireland in that union. He had literary interests, was artistic and wrote a couple of plays that were performed. His wife Barbara, who was English, and their friend Desmond Logan were also longstanding members of the Association
My mother met Desmond Greaves before I did, and before Jimmy Murphy did [ James Murphy was a Labour councillor on Coleraine Borough Council]. “Who was that polite little man?” she probed. I suppose she really wanted to know what he was up to and what he was doing appearing in his shorts at our door in Coleraine. Although she had run a boarding house in Portrush for ten years or so and had had many visitors from across the water who had dressed in all sorts of sportswear, this was six miles inland and Coleraine was no holiday resort.
Anyway, she was able to tell him that Murphy and I could probably be found in the Federation Hall, where we’d be on Labour Party or trade union or Borough Council business. He met us just as we left the Hall and when he told us his business we retired somewhere to discuss it. He wanted correspondents in Ireland to send news of the life and activities of their area to him as the editor of the Irish Democrat in Britain.
We agreed and arranged for Bob Stewart, a member of our local group, to send him material every month. The area we covered was North Derry and North Antrim and I remember sitting down with Stewart now and then telling him some of the news I thought worth sending. How long this arrangement lasted I cannot remember.
And I do not know whether Murphy and Greaves met again after this. Certainly I don’t recall any memorable exchanges of political wisdom or wizardry between them at that meeting. It was a strictly practical affair. I think that as far as Desmond was concerned he was seeking to extend the scope and content of the Irish Democratas well as the depth and extent of his own knowledge of all parts of Ireland. And as far as Jimmy and I were concerned, we probably thought that Coleraine continued to be the centre of some rather important movement and that we were obliged to respond in a fraternal manner to this ambassador from afar.
It is a pity I don’t remember Murphy expounding something about the “dialects” (sic) of the situation and the Greavesian responses, especially in view of both their life histories. I would think that Desmond had come with the blessing and recommendation of Sean Murray: there was certainly no hesitation in our response to his visit and request.
Also, was he travelling south or south-east to Belfast or west to Derry City? I have the feeling that we arranged to cover news, such as it was then, from Derry City as well. Did he go to Ballycastle, which we also catered for?
Did he go to Portrush or visit the Giant’s Causeway? And it must have been the summer-time. Was the year 1947?
(This was the first of a series of reminiscences of Desmond Greaves which Eamon MacLaughlin planned to write following his death, but he abandoned the project. See his lecture on Desmond Greaves’s poetry in the “C.Desmond Greaves” section of this website. This was delivered at the first Greaves Weekend Summer School in Dublin in August 1989.)