Was I having a nightmare? “Alex Calderwood, you’ve been sentenced to the Secretary of State’s pleasure,” the judge said. The mallet fell and made a sound that life was about to change. “Take him down,” echoed around the courtroom. Another judge sat down. “Alex Calderwood, you’ve been sentenced to seven years,” he said. The mallet went down again.
For the next few minutes scenes flashed in front of my eyes of judges reading out my name and those words, take him down. Was this going to be my life, stuck inside a prison cell? I wish I could tell you that it was all a bad dream. It wasn’t.
You may or may not be acquainted with the name, Alex Calderwood, but you will most certainly have either lived or heard of the Troubles that terrorised the neighbourhoods of Northern Ireland. From their beginning in 1969, until the Good Friday Agreement of 1998, and beyond, all Northern Irish people have a story to tell — and it’s not a pretty one. These are stories of pain and anguish, of lives lost; lives still emphasised by empty chairs in the homes of loved ones.
Alex or Oso, as he is affectionately known by his family and friends, is a survivor and child of the Troubles. He grew up on the Shankill Estate, where fighting and gunshots were common place. Soldiers were friends and paramilitaries were family. Barricades outside of his home were normal and petrol bombs were an everyday occurrence. With the riots and the death toll rising, it was only a matter of time before Oso became mixed up in the middle of this horror.
From the brutality that lies at the core of these pages, comes the true story of a man who overcame adversity, showed bravery and courage in the face of hardship and had the determination to go out into the world when everyone had given up on him, to make a difference for good.
Age sixty, Alex (Oso) Calderwood lives in Belfast, Northern Ireland. Alex faithfully serves his church and community. He can often be found in the Olive Branch Café. He is part of a large family of four sisters and three brothers. His only daughter, will soon graduate from university.