In Proud Memory: Cecil McKnight

Cecil McKnight was a dedicated and highly motivated man. Cecil was a true Loyalist, an erudite and articulate community activist, and an honest and forthright man. Active within Loyalism for many years, he had risen to become leader of the Ulster Democratic Party in the City of Londonderry. Cecil was active in the Orange Institution (LOL 1866), and worked tirelessly, not only for the benefit his own community but also, as a senior member of the Ulster Democratic Party, in an effort to deliver a viable political process which would finally bring the internecine conflict in Ulster to an end.

Cecil McKnight

On the 29th of June, 1991, Cecil McKnight was murdered by the enemies of Ulster. Shot dead at his home in Melrose Terrace. Incredibly, an RUC inspector and a constable were in the house when the attack happened, having earlier arranged to meet Cecil there to discuss some unspecified issue. Contrary to some reports, the two armed policemen did not pursue the two men who had just murdered Cecil McKnight.

The fact that an Irish republican murder gang knew exactly where Cecil would be, the fact that two police officers were present at Cecil’s home and the fact that those police officers did nothing to challenge the republican gunmen, or to afterwards apprehend them, has lead many Loyalists, in the North-West and beyond, to believe that Cecil McKnight was ‘set up’ and that his killers acted in collusion with an agency (or agencies) of the state, most probably RUC Special Branch.

The republican terror gangs of the time were absolutely riddled with informers and paid agents, the former ‘Officer Commanding’ of PIRA/SF in Derry being one such example. Irish nationalist/republican paramilitary groups also have a long history of collusion with- An Garda Síochána, the Libyan government, Colombian drug cartels, the East German government, the Dublin government etc, etc. To suppose that such groups would not have acted in concert with, or at the behest of, a branch of the Security Services, or elements thereof, is naive in the extreme.

To his credit, the then Catholic Bishop of Derry, Dr Edward Daly, described the killing as a wholly sectarian murder, adding: “May I say on behalf of the Catholic community that we do not want anything to do with this type of sectarian conflict“. Cecil McKnight’s murder was also condemned by all of the mainstream political parties, with only the lunatic fringe- Provisional Sinn Féin and the IRSP- refusing to condemn what had been a vicious and blatantly sectarian attack upon the entire ‘PUL’ community in Derry/Londonderry.

Loyalists in the Londonderry and North Antrim area, and indeed throughout Ulster and the rest of the UK, remember Cecil McKnight with pride and affection. A fearless and determined Ulsterman, Cecil McKnight lead by example. Remembered by his comrades for his courage, intelligence and honesty, Cecil McKnight will never be forgotten, nor his legacy tarnished.

“NOT GOLD BUT ONLY MEN CAN MAKE, A NATION GREAT AND STRONG. MEN WHO, FOR TRUTH AND HONOUR’S SAKE, STAND FAST AND SUFFER LONG. MEN WHO WORK WHILE OTHERS SLEEP, WHO DARE WHEN OTHERS SHY, THEY SET A NATION’S PILLARS DEEP AND LIFT THEM TOWARDS THE SKY”

They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them”

Quis Separabit

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In Proud Memory: Benny Redfern & Gary Lynch

At this time of year the minds of many Loyalists in Co. Londonderry are cast back in memory of two brave young men from that county who made the ultimate sacrifice. Benny Redfern and Gary Lynch. Benny and Gary were two dedicated, courageous, hard working Loyalists who were prepared to do anything and everything necessary to defend their country and their community. Both were to die tragic deaths. Both cut down in their prime, but their sacrifice will never be forgotten, they will live on in the memory of all true Loyalists.

Vol. BENNY REDFERN

Benny was from Desertmartin and was prepared to do whatever it took in the defence of his community and beloved Ulster. Benny was a well liked and respected member of the local community whom he strived to protect. Like many around South Londonderry and East Tyrone, Benny saw first hand the suffering being inflicted upon the Protestant community. Such incidents shaped Benny’s thinking and led him to become an Ulster soldier, joining the local brigade of the UDA at the age of 21. Benny’s fearless and loyal nature made him an excellent soldier and one whose memory will live forever. His excellence and great soldier like qualities quickly allowed him to rise up through the ranks of the UDA as a young man.

Vol. Benny Redfern. Sadly missed by all who knew him.

Vol. Benny Redfern. Sadly missed by all who knew him.

In 1977 the Londonderry and North Antrim Brigade lost a fine man when Benny was interned in Crumlin Road Prison and later charged in connection with the death of 3 Republicans, namely Joe McAuley, James Chivers and John Bolton. He was sentenced to 18 years in Long Kesh where he was also held in high regard by other Loyalist POWs. It was not in Benny’s nature to be locked up and he yearned to once again take the war to republicans, as he had so successfully done before his incarceration, which is why on the 10th of August 1984, Benny tried a daring escape from Long Kesh. Coming up with a plan to escape from the prison concealed in the back of a bin lorry. However, when he jumped into the back of the lorry, a tragedy occurred, the bin lorry was activated and Benny was crushed. Sadly he passed away the next day at the Royal Victoria Hospital. Many people lost a great friend and relative that day, but all of Ulster lost a true son and valiant defender. His death shocked and saddened so many in this local community and further a field where Benny was held in high esteem. Benny has since always been remembered as a great man of the local community and a brave soldier who took the war to violent republicans. Vol. Benny Redfern will be remembered always by the Loyalist community in South Londonderry.

GARY ‘LOFTY’ LYNCH

Gary Lynch was a steadfast and dedicated young Loyalist, a member of the Ulster Democratic Party’s Londonderry Branch, and a popular and well liked member of his community. As a member of the UDP, Gary worked to try and bring about peace and reconciliation. Gary was also working on a number of community projects at the time of his death. An articulate and erudite young man, politically astute beyond his years, Gary was part of brilliant generation of young Loyalist politicos, alongside people like Gary McMichael and Ray Smallwoods. No doubt, had he not been cut down in his prime, Gary Lynch would have gone on to earn a senior position within the Ulster Democratic Party.

'In Honour of Fallen Comrades'. A mural dedicated to the memory of those men of L'derry & Nth. Antrim UDA/UFF who died during the long years of Conflict.

‘In Honour of Fallen Comrades’. A mural dedicated to the memory of those men of L’derry & Nth. Antrim UDA/UFF who died during the long years of Conflict.

On the 9th of August 1991, seven years after the tragic death of Vol. Benny Redfern, Gary was murdered by an Irish nationalist death squad. The cowardly gunmen waited for Gary to arrive for work at Foyle Meats, in the Lisahally area of Londonderry, and as he parked his car the PIRA/Sinn Fein terror gang opened fire, hitting Gary a number of times. It is widely believed that he was targeted simply because he had attended the funeral of his party colleague and friend Cecil McKnight, who had been murdered on the 29th of June that year, and acted as a pallbearer at his comrades funeral. Throughout the year the UFF had been successfully seeking out and killing high ranking republicans and the Provo murder gangs were struggling to hit back. In County Londonderry they were unable to hit back at a military target so instead chose to target the UDP, considered the ‘political wing’ of the UFF/UDA. The callous murder of Gary Lynch was a cowardly act. The actions of men who were deeply fearful of the rejuvenated Loyalist resistance. Those responsible probably thought that they could defeat the Loyalist people, they couldn’t have been more wrong. Loyalism will never be defeated and true Loyalists will always remember our honoured dead. Brave men like Gary Lynch and Benny Redfern. Men who gave their all for their homeland;

“They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them”

QS