Gusty Spence

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, Features, Issue 4 (Jul/Aug 2009), Troubles in Northern Ireland, Volume 17

Spence after his arrest for the Malvern Street murders in 1966. (CAIN)

Spence after his arrest for the Malvern Street murders in 1966. (CAIN)

Augustus (Gusty) Spence, a shipyard worker and former regular soldier in the Royal Ulster Rifles as well as an active Orangeman, has recalled accepting a lift early in 1965 to a farm near Pomeroy, Co. Tyrone. Once there, he and three others were led into a building lit by hurricane lamps. In the presence of around 40 men they were then sworn into membership of the Ulster Volunteer Force. The man who presided over this ceremony, Spence has also recalled, was a former British Army colonel. Spence’s strong personality and army background soon earned him a position of authority and leadership in the UVF’s Shankill unit. In October 1966 he was sentenced to twenty years for the murder of eighteen-year-old Catholic barman Peter Ward. To this day Spence has maintained his innocence, though at the time of the 1994 loyalist ceasefire, which he helped to broker, he did seek the forgiveness of Ward’s mother for his involvement in her son’s death.

A 1970s UVF propaganda Bank of England ‘£5 note’ with Gusty Spence’s head replacing the queen’s.

A 1970s UVF propaganda Bank of England ‘£5 note’ with Gusty Spence’s head replacing the queen’s.

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