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James McCann

[Photos © Phil Franks]
Ladbroke Grove Circa 1971
All Images Copyright © 1969 - 2019 Phil Franks, All Rights Reserved.

"When Jim McCann turned up I was swept away like hundreds of others by the man's lunatic charisma..." [He was] "... an Irish revolutionary and hustler somewhere to the left of the Provos, who'd apparently thrown him out. He dominated the course of my life for the next five or six years one way or another. Even into the early 80s. That whole story only culminated with the Howard Marks trial and it was that original introduction of Jim to Howard that set the whole story off.

"And we were totally taken in by McCann. He was quite charismatic, more than most. He was very forceful and we were absolutely ripe for it, especially someone like me. He offered a chance to act - the revolution had come and we could go and do something about it..."

Richard Trench:
"I just decided to go to Belfast, naively. I didn't think much of the underground press, and there wasn't much of it left anyway. And it would give me something to write about. Incredible naivete, incredible innocence but also incredible lessons because I'd never actually met the working class before. It taught me how much we'd been living in a mythical world. All those hippies, we'd forgotten about sliced bread, fried eggs and baked beans and tea. I found this was how people were living and the whole hippie thing was incredibly irrelevant. It also forced you to think much more carefully about things. It made me realise that what I'd been involved was just fluff on the surface. But what fun we'd had with that fluff. I missed the "Friends" expedition to Belfast but James McCann was a conman. A dangerous person and he was mad. I met him after he'd escaped from prison, in 1971 and he was talking about fighting in the sewers, but there are no sewers in Belfast - only drains, about 14 inches high."

We tried to figure out whatever happened to James and we found this link on the web about "Tripping With the Secretary: Ron Brown's Foreign Trade Missions"... we're not sure it's the same James McCann, but a high profile US businessman with possible connections to Belfast and to a senior US cabinet official seem a bit odd to say the least.

(There's plenty of information on James McCann's past in the Howard Marks book, Mr. Nice.)

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The interview texts are from
"Days in the Life: Voices from the London Underground 1961-71" by Jonathon Green,
used here with permission. Any reproduction is prohibited without permission from the author.
Days in the Life excerpts © Jonathon Green

All Images Copyright © 1969 - 2019 Phil Franks, All Rights Reserved.

contact: Phil Franks (freax AT philmfreax.com)
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