An Irishman's Diary
Make love, not war, was a concept understood in my native Fermanagh long before the love-in began in San Francisco with the flower people.
It came to my mind again when I read the census reports that the Roman Catholic population in the North is within a few points of the Protestant population.
This instantly made me recall the outpourings of an old reporter friend of the family who coined the phrase, “The terror of the bedstead”.
He was a strong loyalist and Protestant from darkest Fermanagh and was a frequent visitor to my home when my older brother was working as a cub reporter in the Fermanagh Herald in the 1960s.
They would travel together to report on the latest Border incidents at that time. They would visit Border posts that had been bombed or RUC stations that had been attacked.
They would arrive back to our house where there was always a nip of whiskey and people sitting around our fire visiting. These “ceilighers” were a common feature of rural Ireland at that time.
Eventually, the talk would get around to the goings-on around the territory now known as Quinnland and on one famous occasion our friend came up with his theory on republican terror, from a Fermanagh loyalist point of view.
“We don’t mind your bombs. We don’t mind your guns. What we fear is the terror of the bedstead. You are going to breed us out and my God, you are going to enjoy it,” he proclaimed.
Those days when Orange was Orange and Green was Green and there was nothing in between.
A Unionist Party MP, EC Ferguson, had talked about the terror of the bedstead in his own way just a few years before. “The nationalist majority in the county, ie, Fermanagh, notwithstanding a reduction of 336 in the year, stands at 3,684. We must ultimately reduce and liquidate that majority.
“This county, I think it can be safely said, is a unionist county. The atmosphere is unionist. The boards and properties are nearly all controlled by unionists. But there is still this millstone [the nationalist majority] around our necks.” Mr Ferguson resigned from Stormont in October 1949 to become crown solicitor for Co Fermanagh.
Then there was another man who came from our Green side of the fence who said there was no need for violent action to “liberate” the North. “Join the Nappy Brigade, not the Old Brigade” was his advice. “Breed like blazes and we will have a majority soon and there will be no stopping us,” he said.