‘Unpretentious Valour’ an Autobiography by William McKane

45852905_104f11e84f_mI recently borrowed this autobiography from a family member.  I am very rarely interested in autobiographies, but as it was recommended to me I thought I would have a look.  By the time I was half way through the book I couldn’t put it down!  The author outlines his personal background, including details of his Christian upbringing, his school years and then primarily onto his career as a prison officer. He is among the unique generation of people who can explicitly remember the beginning of The Troubles and has lived on to see how the current political situation has spanned out.  From this perspective, the book makes an interesting read to those who are too young to remember the events that took place over the three decades of terrorism.

What has really been highlighted to me through the book, is the important and sacrificial part that prison officers and their families played in the war against terrorism in Northern Ireland.  Personally I had never thought about the way in which prison officers came under just as much attack from terrorists as the police and army.  In some way, I feel that they have almost become the forgotten part of the picture for many people today, particularly those who have no experience in The Troubles, myself included.

Being born in the late 1980’s, my knowledge of The Troubles has always been based on what I’ve been told.  In all my history lessons in school, despite learning much about The Troubles, it was never presented to me in such a way as what I have read in this autobiography.  It is easy for us the read about 1983 breakout from the Maze Prison, or the dirty protest, and just analyse the facts and political consequences, without thinking about the staff who were a part of these unique moments in history.

I believe that more should be done to remember the sacrifices of the security forces in Northern Ireland including the Prison Service.  I would recommend this book to anyone who would like to learn more about The Troubles, as it is written from a perspective that is very rarely voiced, and is a very factual and detailed description of the life of William McKane.

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