'UVF' letters show Londonderry link to gun running

A BATCH of letters written by the architect of the old UVF's gun running escapades have unearthed a vital link to Londonderry.

The letters written by Major Fred Crawford, the man who masterminded the landing of thousands of loyalist weapons at Larne and Donaghadee in April 1914, definitively reveal how the Siege of Derry provided inspiration for the operation which could have seen the ex-military man jailed for treason.

in 1941, approaching his eightieth year, Major Crawford tendered his resignation to the Murray Club of the Apprentice Boys of Derry, citing old age and increasing short sightedness as the reason. The elderly major asks in his letter how much his 'dues' were for membership of the Club and that he would forward them by cheque.

However, a returning letter from the Murray Club offered Major Crawford lifetime membership of the organisation-one which he considered in a subsequent response as a "great honour".

Also, in this letter, dated June 10, 1941, Major Crawford reveals that it was on his inspections of the UVF in Londonderry that he walked the city's Walls and tried to envisage the Siege. Speaking about the Siege he said: "It not only saved Derry, but all Ireland from Papish domination."

The famed co-founder of the old UVF also wrote of how he changed the name of the boat used to ferry the guns from the 'Clyde Valley' to the Mountjoy II in honour of the ship that broke the boom and finished the Siege of 1688-89.

The letters were shown to the Sentinel by Fountain man and local historian, Trevor Temple, and were discovered amongst the personal effects of his late grandfather Bob Harte. In turn, his great grandfather William Harte actually played an active role in the gun running episodes of 1914.

Mr Temple said that the letters cast a new light on a pivotal episode of irish history in terms of a direct link to Londonderry.