One of the most potent icons in loyalist muraling is Eddie The Trooper.
Eddie The Head is a zombie skeleton created by Derek Riggs. He appears on the covers of various records by the English heavy metal rock group Iron Maiden, beginning with 1980’s ‘Running Free’ (MetalRulz). Eddie The Head takes various forms on the covers of various records, from a WWII fighter pilot to an Egyptian pharaoh. In 1983, he took the form of a British soldier on the cover of the single ‘The Trooper’ (WP), the second to be taken from the album Piece Of Mind. The song is about the Charge Of The Light Brigade at the Battle Of Balaclava in 1854, during the Crimean War.
It was this Eddie as Red Coat soldier that captured the imagination of the UDA/UFF, and so we refer to him as “Eddie The Trooper”.
The first Eddie in a mural (dating to 1997 at the latest) was in the Waterside. It’s appropriate that Eddie first appears in Londonderry, as the skeleton is a part of the crest of the city.
In the Waterside Eddie mural, Eddie The Trooper is a UFF/UDA volunteer rampaging through Londonderry, killing Jacobite soldiers from 1690 in the foreground while leaving the modern-day Free Derry Corner and The Petrol Bomber mural shrouded in smoke in the background.
There are a few changes from the original painting on The Trooper: in the mural, Eddie sports a UFF badge on his shoulder, and the victim on the left now wears a distinctively gold-coloured epaulette and belt to go with his green uniform and white sash. The Grim Reaper on the right has been replaced by the murals.
The mural appeared in 1997 (or before), which puts it during the peace process – the Good Friday Agreement would be signed on April 10th, 1998. Peace seems miles away, however, in this mural, not just in the image of Eddie but in the epigraph. Above the mural are the words, “There must be no retirement. With our backs to the wall and believing in the justice of our cause each one of us must fight on to the end … We determine the guilty, we decide the punishment”.
The first part of the words above the board come from the last paragraph of this WWI order by British commander Douglas Haig, commanding his troops to hold despite the German onslaught of April 1918:
The last part – “We determine …” – appears to be the motto of a “fantasy tabletop war game” Warhammer 40,000.
Being a zombie, Eddie is of course indestructible, and has continued to stalk the
land walls since his initial appearance. Rolston (DS3 p. xi) claims that there were “at least six” Eddies in Belfast and another in Long Kesh.
1998? East Belfast Eddie
East Belfast Eddie wears the trooper uniform but carries an assault rifle and a UDA flag. The grim reaper returns on the right.
2000 Carrickfergus Eddie
In the Carrickfergus Eddie, Eddie is armed with an assault rifle, carries a UDA flag, and leads the grim reaper over the graves of “G. Adams”, “McGuinness” and “A. Maskey” – three Sinn Féin leaders, each holding various elected offices at the time. “Show no mercy and expect none.”
2000 Shankill Eddie
Shankill Eddie carries an assault rifle and an Ulster Banner. He marches over the graves of “E[ddie] Copeland”, “S[ean] Kelly”, and “S[tephen] Larkin”. The three are IRA volunteers: Kelly, along with Thomas Begley, bombed Frizzell’s fish shop on the Shankill Road in 1993 – Kelly survived; Copeland was injured during an attack on Begley’s wake; Larkin made an attempt on the life of Johnny Adair in 1993.
2001 Village (south Belfast) Eddie
This is a somewhat cruder mural. Village Eddie’s face looks more like a living alien than a skeleton. He carries an assault rifle but no flag, and wears modern fatigues and skull hat.
(M02487 which includes the poem on the side wall to the right)
2000 Monkstown Eddie
Monkstown Eddie carries a sword and a UDA flag and marches over green hills.
???? Mosside Eddie
Mosside Eddie carries a black flag over boulders. He was vanquished by the Re-Imaging Communities project in the mid/late 2000s. (Image from the 2009 Evaluation of the programme.)
2004 Ahoghill Eddie
Ahoghill Eddie carries a sword and a UFF flag and marches over a barren landscape.
See J2030 or Ballymena Eddie, below.
2006 Cloughfern Eddie
Cloughfern Eddie carries an assault rifle and a Cloughfern Young Conquerors (flute band) flag. He wears plaid/tartan trousers – perhaps a reference to Rathcoole Kill All Irish or another tartan gang.
On the crosses are written not the names of republican targets but the names of bands from the Rathcoole area that no longer exist: “G. Blair Mem” [George Blair Memorial Flute Band – a UVF band], “WPB” [Whiteabbey Protestant Boys], “Sons Of KAI“, “Dam Busters” [Dam Busters Flute Band Newtownabbey], and “EAV” [East Antrim Volunteers – a UVF band]. (Thanks to Joe K for the information about the bands.) “RUC?” might refer to the shifting attitudes towards the police service (PSNI).
There are also two small Eddies on the low wall across the street:
(Close-up from M03057)
Long Kesh Eddie
Long Kesh Eddie carries an assault rifle and an Ulster Banner. He wears an army red coat. (Press Association M09015)
2012 Ballymena Eddie is identical to Ahoghill Eddie.
2014 Fountain (Londonderry) Eddie – on horseback.
In 2016, the original (Waterside) Eddie was recreated (though the Grim Reaper was included) in a computer-generated laminated plastic. Almost immediately, however, the mural began falling apart.