Birthday: March 9, 1954
Died At Age: 27
Sun Sign: Pisces
Also Known As: Bobby Sands, Marcella
Born in: Newtownabbey
political ideology: Anti H-Block
Spouse/Ex-: Geraldine Noade
siblings: Bernadette Sands McKevitt, John, Marcella
children: Gerard Sands
Died on: May 5, 1981
place of death: HM Prison Maze
Robert Gerard ‘Bobby’ Sands was an Irish hero who has gone down in the history as the martyr from the Irish Republican Party. He was born and brought up in north Belfast in a middle class family. When he was very young he experienced violence and intimidation at the hands of the Protestants. A particular incident in his adolescence led him to carry revolutionary ideas about politics and the situation of his community. He was thrown out of work on a gun point by the members of Protestant loyalists Tartan gang. This led him to join the Provisional IRA and he was charged for his involvement in the gun battle with the Royal Ulster Constabulary and he was sentenced to imprisonment for 14 years. While he was in the prison, he was subjected to regular solitary confinement sentences for his outspoken nature and contradiction with the authority. He contested from the prison to get a seat in the British Parliament and owing to high propaganda for him and his party, he became the youngest MP of Britain. He was regularly subjected to solitary confinements in the jail for his outspoken nature and his row with the authorities. He organized protests seeking to regain the special category status for republican prisoners in jail - he sat on a hunger strike for it in 1981 and died after 66 days of starvation.
Childhood & Early Life
Bobby Sands was born on 9 March 1954 to John and Rosaleen Sands in Rathcoole, Belfast. Theirs was a middle class family with nationalist views. He had four siblings and they all spent their early childhood in Belfast.
When Sands was only 10 years old, his family was forced to move out of their familiar neighborhood because of repeated incidents of intimidation by the British loyalists. This led to the development of revolutionary ideas in his mind.
At the age of 15 Sands graduated from the school and enrolled himself in the Newtownabbey Technical College and took up an apprentice as a coach builder at Alexander’s Coach Works.
He was bullied at work by his Protestant co-workers but Sands endured the harassment in order to learn a vocational skill. He was confronted by the members of Protestant loyalist Tartan gang in 1971 and had to leave the job.
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In 1972, Sands joined the Provisional IRA because of the growing violence and intimidation in his neighborhood. In the same year, he was arrested for possessing weapons and went to jail.
In 1976, Sands was released from the jail and reunited with his family in Belfast. He continued his work with the Provisional IRA and was charged for his involvement in the bombing of the Balmoral Furniture Company.
Around the same time, Sands and other members of the organization were charged for their participation in the gun battle with the Royal Ulster Constabulary. He was sentenced to 14 years of imprisonment.
Just after his sentence, Sands was linked with a commotion and he was ordered to spend the first 22 days of his imprisonment in a cell that was devoid of all the furniture and remain naked for 15 days in Crumlin Road Prison.
In the jail, Sands started writing articles and poetry and published his first piece of work ‘An Phoblacht’ in the Irish republican newspaper. He became the Officer Commanding of Provisional IRA.
The Republican prisoners protested in the Long Kesh to regain their ‘Special Category Status’. Sands was proposed as an ‘Armagh Political Prisoner’.
Sands won election to the House of Commons and became the youngest member of parliament, also known as the ‘Baby of the House’ but he never got the chance to take his seat in the Commons owing to his death due to the hunger strike.
In 1981, Sands sat on a hunger strike with nine other Republican prisoners. They demanded the status of prisoners of war, exemption from menial prison works, allowing visitors and letters, etc.
Personal Life & Legacy
After 66 days of hunger and starvation, Sands died on May 5, 1981 in the HM Prison Maze since the authorities were not conceding to his demands and he did not give up on it either, which deteriorated his health.
His death caused immediate riots in Northern Ireland; people took to stoning and violence. His funeral was attended by over 10,000 people and he was buried in the ‘New Republican Plot’.
Sands was married to Geraldine Noade in prison in 1973, while she was serving on the charges of robbery. Their son Gerard was born in the prison in the same year and she left with him to live in the UK.
After Sands’ death, British Prime Minister of that time, Margaret Thatcher gave a public statement saying that he took his own life and was a convicted criminal.
It is said that Nelson Mandela was influenced by Sands to start a hunger strike on Robben Island.
Bob Weir dedicated one of his songs ‘He’s Gone’ to Sands.
Many other artists wrote and sang songs on Sands after his death. These were Black 47, Nicky Wire, Meic Stevens, The Undertones, Bik McFarlane, Christy moore, Rage Against the Machine, etc.
Many motion pictures have also been produced, depicting Sands’ life and his struggle, like: ‘Some Mother’s Son’, ‘H3’, ‘Hunger’, etc.
While in the prison, Sands used to write under the name of ‘Marcella’. He wrote ‘Skylark Sing Your Lonely Song’, ‘One Day in My Life’ and wrote songs like ‘Sad Song for Susan’, ‘Macllhatton’ and ‘Back Home in Derry’.