Above, my brother John Kelly
The main forecourt Crumlin Road jail.
This is the front yard of A wing the the 4th window from the right in the middle row was Johns cell from where he made the escape attempt.
The long hall where we had our visits in a room on the right hand side.
It was 57 years ago on my 12th birthday 26th December 1960 at about 5 pm in the afternoon it was dark,wet and cold, like most days in the month of December .
We as a family as was the case all over the place some where at the races in Leopardstown Race Course outside Dublin others were out with friends as happens on St. Stephen's Day so the only people at home that afternoon was my mother, Margaret, and my father, John, as well as my sister Rita and myself. It's a birthday celebration I have never forgotten.
As I am the youngest of the family, Rita had me spoiled and we had an unspoken but a special bond which was carried through our lives.
On this occasion Rita had bought me a special birthday / Christmas present, which she presented to me on this day it was a real lamb's wool red jumper that I wore with pride as we shared songs while she played the piano and I sang rebel songs out of a song book that was in the house as well as she was teaching me "Tom Williams" and "Sean South of Garryown," who was killed on the Brookbourgh raid on the local RUC station along with Fergal O Hanlon in 1956, these were songs that I continued to sing on a regular basis in school or at any chance I got !!!
It was during this lesson that I heard a knock on the front door and as we had an inner glass door and a small hall leading to a bigger hall off which was the parlour and the kitchen / living room and scullery and at the end off the hall was the stairs, I was the first to answer the knock, as I opened up the door I was met by this guy who was only half dressed and certainly not dressed for the weather of that night he only wore a grandfather shirt, a pair of grey trousers, and a pair of gutties now referred to as slippers.
The first thing he asked me was my father at home and the first thing I thought was that he was some kind of beggar so I told him to wait until I got him, but as soon as my father saw him he knew he was an escaped prisoner from the jail and all hell broke loose but in a positive way as if he was expected as my father asked was anyone else with him, he then proceded to say that my brother John was with him but he thought he fell back into the prison yard he confirmed that he was Danny Donnelly from Omagh, as this discussion was going on Rita was upstairs getting warm clothes and shoes ready in preparation that he would be moved to a safe house, while it was decided what to do next.
As my mother and Rita were getting Danny ready to move to the safe house, my father and I went up the Crumlin Road in search of my brother John in case he was hurt and lying somewhere we spent a good hour looking, little did we know that John had indeed fallen back into the prison yard and had broken his wrist and sprained his ankle, he lay there for at least an hour before the jail sirens went off, which gave us time to ensure that Danny Donnelly was safe and before as John knew it would be our house would be raided by the RUC and the B Specials that extra time was vital to the success of the escape and even though we knew John did not make it, we still had to make sure that Danny Donnelly did make it.
After my father and I returned to our home, Danny was gone and the only people who knew to where were Rita and my mother
As I was very young and in fear that the RUC and the B Specials would inflict violence it was suggested that I be moved to my sister's house on the Antrim Road, where I would be safe. So off I was shipped and was not to return to my home for a week as my mother and father were in every respect under house arrest for that time.
During this time all our relatives where arrested and questioned, including my late brother-in-law Art Gibson, who never in his life been spoken to by the RUC never mind being arrested as he was returning from the races in Dublin with my brother Billy who had just got out of internment. They weere stopped at a RUC checkpoint in Banbridge and taken into custody. Art could not get over what happened then as they removed his shoe laces and his belt -- many a laugh was had by Art and Margaret at this story !!
It was only after John was released in 1964 that the full story about the escape finally came out and the details of how Danny got away from Belfast.
Danny had been moved to a safe house from where he was again moved to a furniture removal company's yard, where there was number of lorries parked and it would be at least a week before that yard was to open again. But most important off all, each lorry had blankets and articles that would keep him warm on those cold nights and days, the likelihood of this yard being searched was very small as the person who owned the company and the yard was a leading member of the Unionist Party and an MP in Stormont -- “the home of the unionist government” -- named Morgan!!! There was always a weary smile on my mother's and father's faces as the RUC came raiding our home after this event.
In order to complete his escape out of Belfast and as every member of the RUC and the B Specials where looking for him, he was going to need a good disguise, one which would put him beyond suspicion, so we got him a British Red Cross and civil defence uniform, which saw him make his way to the border and safety.
I paid a visit to Crumlin Road jail last year, and I picked up a book on the escapes from there, but this escape was written out off this book as if it never took place, during the conversation with one of the guides he informed me that they never knew when or how they got the files into A wing that enabled John and Danny to saw the bars !! except to say that every Saturday we would send a mixed salad of fresh food to the prisoners on A wing.
After John was found injured in the front A wing yard, he was led to the basement of D wing, which was the punishment block. He was to remain there for the remainder of his sentence, which was 4 years, locked up for 23 hours per day, but no matter how hard they tried to criminalise or abuse him, John never broke and remained true to his republican values until the day he died.