“The key to the activities of this particular group lies with Robin Bryans, a Northern Ireland born author who wrote prolifically under the pseudonym Robin Harbinson. He is a cousin of John Bryans, the leading figure in the Orange Order who became the Grand Master of Ireland, who was McGrath’s bible study teacher at the North Belfast Mission in the York Street area and who later attended prayer meetings and British Israelite meetings in McGrath’s home.”
The role of John Bryans Justice of the Peace, Grand Master of Ireland’s Heritage Lodge of the Orangemen 1970 is key to explaining why William McGrath, a sadistic abuser at Kincora chooses the name TARA for his paramilitary Loyalist organisation in 1966.
As noted by Paul Foot in his 1989 book ‘Who framed Colin Wallace?’ TARA was “an unusual choice of title for a Loyalist paramilitary group.” Unusual because the Hill of Tara was a symbol traditionally associated with Celtic pre-Christian Ireland and the Kings of Ireland, not for example, King William of Orange as inspiration to the loyalty of the Orangemen.
The choice of name becomes even more strange when you learn the Hill of Tara had traditionally been a symbol and place of protest and rebellion AGAINST British rule:
“In more recent history, Tara has been the site of important political events, indicating its continuing significance for the Irish people. In 1798, rebels of the Irish revolution fought British troops on the Hill of Tara, and in 1843, a peaceful demonstration of some 750,000 people protested against Ireland’s union with Britain.” [http://www.sacred-destinations.com/ireland/hill-of-tara]
However, Chris Moore identified 18 years ago this was actually a very apposite name in the context of a deep heritage provided by the British Israelite belief system/myth McGrath which subscribed to with a specific twist for Protestant Evangelism that had grown up in the Orange Lodges of the time. This is just one of the many subjects Robin Bryans/Harbinson tries to address in The Dust Has Never Settled as relevant to understanding some of the reasons for why the abuse and prostitution of boys at Kincora and Lisburn locations was taking place. Chris Moore interviewed Robin Bryans in 1990 to discover Anthony Blunt’s association with the man he called ‘Hellfire Jack’ – the same Rev. John Bryans Justice of the Peace, who later became International Head of the Orangemen and someone who could be said to be one of McGrath’s mentors.
On 28 June 1970 Ireland’s Heritage Orange Lodge was formed.
“The Grand Master of the Orange Order, the Rev. John Bryans, who was also a British Israelite…helped to inaugurate the lodge.” (Paul Foot, p.121)
Four years previously McGrath had siezed control of a group and renamed it ‘Tara’ with the slogan “We hold Ulster that Ireland might be saved and Britain reborn.” He’d been holding British Israelite meetings at his house at Wellington Park where Rev. John Bryans would attend.
“Tara was to be the vehicle by which the undercover elements of the British establishment would lift McGrath’s star into the political ascendancy.” (Chris Moore)
Bryans relates that John Bryans turned 100 in 1985 and there was a little ceremony with the Superintendent of the North Belfast Mission and appears to wish to draw attention to the fact that John Bryans had taken his mother’s surname and the fact that John Bryans fiery dedication to the British Israelite cause had in part crystallised when he said as a 12 year old he made 2,000 bricks a day. This enabled Bryans to preach with conviction when comparing himself with the Children of Israel in Egyptian bondage.
“I’m sure that as your knowledge of the Old Testament grew it must have struck a chord with you to note that the Israelites for whom you have a special admiration had to make bricks when they were under the heel of the Pharoah, and yet they came through.” (Robin Bryans, p.139)
In 1992 Robin Bryans (1928 – 2005) published his autobiography The Dust Has Never Settled. The excerpt to the left details the history of the Belfast Central Mission (1889-1989) a Methodist Church founded in 1889 by Rev Crawford Johnson.
He wrote : “Others have linked my name with the cover-up of sex scandals at Kincora Boys’ Home and my appeals for action about the abuses which were ignored by Cabinet Ministers.”
From robinbryans.net a biography:
“Robin Bryans was born on 24 April 1928, into a Protestant working-class family in the east of Belfast, Northern Ireland. He had an adventurous and colourful life which included working as a cabin boy on a Belfast Lough dredger, shepherding in the Western Highlands of Scotland, studying at Barry Religious College in South Wales, teaching in north Devon, working as a missionary in Canada, diamond prospecting in Canada and South America, hunting and trapping with the Blackfoot and Stony tribes in Canada, working in the theatre, lecturing in Venezuela, travelling to the Windward Islands, Copenhagen, Zurich and Asia, and being chased from Grenada by a hurricane.
As explained in Bryans’ fourth autobiography, The Protégé, the aristocracy took him under their wing. This new role suited him admirably, transforming him from a Belfast backstreet boy into a ‘lifelike toff’.
His twelve travel books included Gateway to the Khyber and Summer Saga: A Journey In Iceland, works full of detail, humour and fascinating anecdotes. For his later travel writing, he specialised in destinations influenced by Portuguese culture, as in Madeira, Pearl of the Atlantic, The Azores and Fanfare for Brazil.
In the sixties his attention turned to his native Northern Ireland and Ulster: A Journey Through The Six Counties revels in the local art and architecture, great country houses with their landscaped gardens, all of which he also pursued in many television programmes, for instance with Ulster Television, which became very popular.
Bryans’ view on life was refreshingly different from that of any other author, and, combined with his wide-ranging geographic knowledge, and skill at drawing out the characters of the people he met, made his work a treasure trove of human documentary.
Classical musicians featured in Bryans’ later life – he worked as an opera librettist and created a music school to encourage the work of composers, conductors and instrumentalists.
Bryans died on 11 June 2005, after a long illness, but in 2006, his writing was celebrated by no less than seventeen entries in The Ulster Anthology (Blackstaff Press, Belfast).”
Bryans grew up at 130, Donegall Avenue (“the house was an evangelical stronghold” until his family had moved in), in 1930s Belfast from a family of well-connected staunch Orangemen. From his grandfather Dick Bryans who was a staunch Orangeman to his father Richard, a committed bandsman for the parades to father’s cousin John Bryans, or ‘Hellfire Jack’ as he became known, (later reaching the heights of Head of the International Order of Orangemen before his death in 1988), Robin was always keenly aware of his heritage rich in British Israelite infused evangelical protestanism.
Robin called himself Harbinson as a nom de plume due to his closeness to the Harbinson family whose place backed onto his father’s window cleaning business on the Lisburn Road.
At the North Belfast Mission on York Road John Bryans or ‘Hellfire Jack’ (Blunt’s nickname according to Robin Bryans as reported by Chris Moore) had managed to carve himself a niche as a powerful fire and brimstone style proselytiser by taking his place outside the old Custom House in Belfast every Sunday afternoon and letting rip.
20 – 30 years prior to Robin Bryans’ recollections of growing up knowing his father’s cousin Hellfire Jack as a rising force in Belfast’s Orange Ulster community and a rousing example of evaangelical British Israelism to be reckoned with, a 1908 translation of Geoffrey Keating’s account of the History of Ireland (c. 1570-1644) tracing the lineage of the Irish as a lost tribe of Israel via Scythia had added further fuel to the maturing British-israelite theory and a fervent interest in tracing Irish genealogies, specifically of those who could show they had “colonised Ulster”:
“By the nineteenth century, with the development of British-Israel theory, Ireland came to have a significant role. According to some, the royal house of Ireland could be traced back to King David. One British-Israel writer opined, ‘There is evidence that the tribe of Dan fled by the sea from their captors and colonised Ulster in Ireland and Denmark…'” (Parfitt, The Lost Tribes of Israel: The History of the Myth, 2002, p. 43-44)
The Hill of Tara in Northern Ireland is currently being threatened by an extension of the M3 running close by here, possibly requiring some excavations nearby – see http://www.sacred-sites.org for further info on the sacredness of the site and protests about the M3 extension. The last time any digging took place on or near this ancient ceremonial mound in Northern Ireland was during a period of four years at the end of the previous century, 2-3 years before Queen Victoria’s death and slightly into the reign of Edward VII and reading the book review for sounds like a very bizarre episode indeed. Presumably this time around any excavations will involve planning permission as opposed to a lone man wielding a rifle.
In 2002 Tudor Parfitt published his Lost Tribes of Israel: the History of a Myth, more on which here. His theme is that the creation of Israelite and Jewish identities throughout the world, from the Americas to Papua New Guinea, was an innate feature of colonial discourse. At a public lecture at Harvard in 2011, he modified this perspective, suggesting that the creation of such identities was also the result of what he called racialised religious manifestations. These were based on nineteenth-century racial theory.
The frenzy of speculation amongst the British-Israelites (Parfitt gives a figure of 2 million strong in 1900) by the end of the century may have been fuelled by millennial prophecies attached to various interpretations of the myth. By this point in time those British Israelites of the Celtic-Druidic-Hebraic strand are convinced Tara Hill as the pre-Celtic coronation spot of the old Kings of Ireland held the Ark of the Covenant and so they started digging despite protests by WB Yeats, George Moore and interestingly Douglas Hyde (not the author, an Irish scholar of the Irish language who later became the first President of Ireland and a leader of the Gaelic revival in Ireland).
In 2003, Mairead Carew wrote a book on ‘Tara and the Ark of the Covenant’ describing the dig:
“This book covers a search for the Ark of the Covenant by British-Israelites on the Hill of Tara (1899-1902). A group known as the British-Israelites dug the Hill of Tara in their quest to find the Ark of the Covenant between the years 1899 and 1902. What were their reasons for doing so, and were they successful? And what was the “Great Irish-Hebraic-cryptogramic hieroglyph” and the Freemason connection?
Arthur Griffith campaigned against the British-Israelite explorations and what he saw as the destruction of a national monument (the first of its kind). He protested on Tara in the company of William Butler Yeats, George Moore and Douglas Hyde, despite being ordered off the site by a man wielding a rifle. Maud Gonne made her colourful protest against the explorations by lighting a bonfire on Tara and singing “A nation once again”, much to the consternation of the landlord and the police.
This book describes the story of the British-Israelite excavations on Tara and places them in their archaelogical, historical, cultural and political context.”
For more on the Savile family’s preoccupation with Egyptian mythology, (Savile being persuaded to buy his elder sister Marjorie a house in Cairo) and Robin Bryan’s description of the Belfast Mission’s expansion sending British Israelite missionaries to Egypt to establish Shebeen Hospital at the turn of the 20th century.