‘Guildford Four’ prison letters found at university are turned into new play
'Your Ever Loving' is based on letters sent by Paul Hill to his family during 15 years in jail
27 July, 2017 — By Tom Foot
Paul Hill meets the Obamas
PRISON letters penned by one of the “Guildford Four” have been uncovered in an university’s archive and turned into a play.
Your Ever Loving, based on letters sent by Paul Hill to his family during 15 years in jail, runs from tonight (Thursday) until Saturday at the Irish Centre in Camden Town. Mr Hill was one of four men wrongly jailed over the IRA pub bombings in Guildford in1974, in which five people died and 65 people were injured. He wrote regularly to his mother from jail.
Playwright Martin McNamara found the boxes of letters while researching another project in the Irish Archive Library at London Metropolitan University.
He said of his research: “I was doing a bit of research for Radio 4 up there in the Holloway Road and they have all these boxes of tapes of people who came over here in the 1950s. There were six boxes of letters from Paul Hill, all sent to his mother and his family. They had preserved them. I was fascinated, he is very articulate, even though he left school at 16. He’s a natural kind of storyteller, so emotionally articulate. And you get his sense of humour.”
Mr McNamara said that Mr Hill was understandably a “bit wary of journalists with English accents” but that he won his trust and got consent to put on the play. “Law lords, solicitors and the press are all in there – Jeremy Corbyn even turns up,” said Mr McNamara.
“Paul married a woman while he was in prison in the Isle of the Wight and the Sun was outraged. There were calls to get rid of the governor who married them in jail. A group of Labour MPs congratulated him and one of the guests at the wedding was Jeremy. I think that’s quite good.”
Mr McNamara, who used to live around Holloway and Archway, said Mr Hill and the Guildford Four had “a lot of support from those London left-wing MPs who were willing to become hate figures of the Sun”.
He added: “I couldn’t give a toss about football, but Paul is fanatical Arsenal supporter. That’s part of the reason why the letters are in Holloway. Politics, music and football are his big obsessions. When we talk, we talk about the Arsenal.”
Of the case, Mr McNamara said: “One of the reasons I wanted to do this play was that there was a relevance to this play. Theresa May was talking about terrorists on our streets, and how we need to suspend some of our human rights. That’s what happened in the 70s – the IRA was bombing pubs and high streets, and a Labour government brought in the Prevention of Terrorism Act.”
He added :”In fact it was a huge propaganda boom for the IRA, it blackened the name of British Justice. “Now it’s young Muslim men. The importance of not making the wrong response, is still the same.”
Mr Hill, who now lives in Washington DC, was convicted in 1974 on the basis of confessions he – and the rest of the Guildford Four – maintained were made by police violence, intimidation and threats to their lives and the lives of their families.
After a long campaign, their sentences were quashed in the Court of Appeal 25 years ago and the case has become regarded as one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in British legal history.
The story was made into a film, In the Name of the Father, featuring Daniel Day Lewis who won an Oscar for his portrayal of Gerry Conlon. Your Ever Loving will switch to Edinburgh Theatre after its three-day run at the The Chapel, London Irish Centre, until July 29.
For tickets, visit www.londonirish centre.org/events/