A pensioner who survived the shooting in Derry on Bloody Sunday and was once arrested at gunpoint by the British Army while delivering food in a mobile shop has written his first ever novel based on the troubles in the Foyleside City.
Harry Toyes,(72), originally from Derry but now living in Laytown, County Meath, told Meath Live he penned the book, Veil Of Deception, because he was bored during Covid.
The story is set in the Bogside, where Harry grew up, and tells of the dilemma faced by Catholic boy Cormac O’Neill, who is involved in a love triangle with Protestant English woman Elizabeth and Catholic IRA officer Siobhan.
Harry revealed, ‘I like to keep active and always had it in my mind I’d like to do a book some day, it is not autobiographical but some of the stuff in it is about incidents I saw first hand.
‘I’m fairly disciplined and got up around 5am every morning to write, I had it all sorted inside ninety days.
‘The book itself stops in the lead up to Bloody Sunday, but yes as a 22 year old I was on the march and had to scatter when the shooting started.
‘My brother Jimmy wasn’t so lucky he and two other men were pinned down by army snipers the three of them were cowering in a shop doorway for hours.
‘One of those who was with him went to make a run for it and was shot dead, the other man there stepped out to see if he could drag the body back in and was also shot dead.
‘We lived in the middle of the Bogside my dad ran a shop there for years and years and Martin McGuinness was a regular customer.
‘We also had a mobile shop which I started to drive around when I was just eighteen.
‘One day I was doing my rounds with the van in the Creggan when the Brits stopped me and asked for ID and sure I hadn’t any.
‘Now even though I hadn’t a licence to drive the van none of the soldiers could drive at all so after they arrested me one of them hopped into the passenger seat held a pistol to my head and made me drive into Fort George barracks the other side of the city.
‘That might seem strange to some but growing up in Derry at that time it was pretty normal.
‘One of my cousins was murdered in Belfast by the Shankhiil butchers, terrible things happened and the book does not shy away from telling it how it was.
‘I’ve been a businessman all my life and am kind of semi retired but writing a novel definitely got me through Covid.’