Billy Reid (Irish republican)

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For other people named Billy Reid, see Billy Reid (disambiguation).

William "Billy" Reid (1 January 1939 – 15 May 1971[1]) was a member of the Belfast Brigade of the Provisional Irish Republican Army.[2] Reid shot the first British Army soldier on duty killed in the Troubles and was later himself killed as he attempted another ambush of British Army personnel.

Background

Reid was from Sheridan Street near to Duncairn Gardens, New Lodge, Belfast.[2] He grew up in Regent Street, Carrickhill, North Belfast.He attended Catholic schools in North Belfast and became a joiner by trade. He boxed at an amateur level for the Holy Family Club in Belfast.[1]

Shooting of Gunner Curtis

Reid is reported to have shot dead Gunner Robert Curtis of the British Army in New Lodge, Belfast on 6 February 1971; Curtis was the first on-duty British soldier to be killed in Ireland since the Anglo-Irish War of the 1920s.[3][4]

The day after the shooting of Curtis, the unionist Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, Major James Chichester-Clark stated that "Northern Ireland was at war with the Irish Republican Army Provisionals". The following week, following clashes at an IRA funeral in North Belfast, the government of Northern Ireland, which at that time still controlled the security forces, banned the wearing of military-style uniforms by "subversive organisations".[5]

Death

On 15 May 1971, a foot patrol of the British Army was ambushed in Academy Street in the centre of Belfast by the Third Battalion Belfast Brigade. Billy Reid, aged 32, was killed in the ensuing gunfight.[3][6]

Memorial

Reid is the subject of a song called The Ballad of Billy Reid, written by Brian Lyons, which tells a fictionalized story of his death; the song has been recorded by a number of bands including Shebeen, Terry O'Neill, Spirit of 67, The ShamRogues and the Wolfe Tones. The song was included in the songbook Songs of Resistance 1968-1982.[7]

A mural depicting Reid and other Irish republicans Sean McIlvenna, Rosemary Bleakley and Michael Kane is painted on the New Lodge Road in Belfast.[8] A republican flute band from Glasgow, Scotland named itself the "Volunteer Billy Reid Republican Flute Band" in memory of Reid.[9]

References

  1. ^ a b Tírghrá. National Commemoration Centre. 2002. p. 14. ISBN 0-9542946-0-2. 
  2. ^ a b Lost Lives. Mainstream Publishing. 2007. p. 72. ISBN 1-84018-504-X. 
  3. ^ a b Taylor, Peter (1997). Provos The IRA & Sinn Féin. Bloomsbury Publishing. pp. 89–91. ISBN 0-7475-3818-2. 
  4. ^ "Soldiers, sashes and shamrocks: Football and social identity in Scotland and Northern Ireland", physed.otago.ac.nz; accessed 27 December 2015.
  5. ^ Eamon Phoenix. "35 Years Since First British Soldier Shot Dead In Troubles", nuzhound.com; retrieved 11 February 2007.
  6. ^ English, Robert (2004). Armed Struggle: The History of the IRA. Pan Books. p. 137. ISBN 0-330-49388-4. 
  7. ^ CAIN Web Service - Extracts from 'Songs of Resistance 1969-1982, cain.ulst.ac.uk; accessed 22 December 2015.
  8. ^ CAIN Mural Directory
  9. ^ Billy Reid band anniversary, republican-news.org; accessed 23 December 2015.
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