The Alan Skillen Murals

Introduction

Alan Skillen painted a series of murals in Percy Place in 1984.

The Skillen murals are interesting because they appear to be an instance of self-determined and local PUL muraling; in general, once PUL murals had moved from ‘King Billy’ murals to paramilitary murals, (most) muraling was done at the instigation of the local UVF or UDA who would then find an artist to carry out the “commission”. In contrast with this, Skillen and the people of Percy Place seem to have decided of their own accord to paint murals in the street, in keeping with the old tradition of ‘King Billy’ murals.

This direct and authentic impulse bears some interesting fruits in terms what appears in the murals: first, there is a mix of unionist (non-paramilitary) and loyalist (paramilitary) murals, with the unionist murals literally on top: Neil Jarman (Parading Culture, 1995, p. 309) describes how, “According to the Belfast Telegraph (3-7-1984), local people donated money towards the materials and they were painted by a local man, Alan Skillen, in July 1984” before going on to note that the hooded gunmen only appear in the lower walls and provide a “subtext” for the traditional and prisoner-related images on the gable walls.

Further, there are both UDA and UVF murals.

And then in terms of more specific iconography, there is a red hand of Ulster over a St Andrew’s Saltire  (which has perhaps never been seen before or since) and a free-floating Northern Ireland (perhaps the first such appearance).

The gable murals do not have painted backgrounds (presumably to keep painting costs down) but some of the side-walls have solid colours as backgrounds.

Images

South side of Percy Place, from left (east) to right (west).

“No Surrender” with Union flag, Ulster Banner, and a St Andrew’s cross on a shield, with red hand superimposed.

(M00567)

Armed paramilitary with Ulster Banner, standing on a free-floating Northern Ireland.
(M00568)

UDA emblem (C Coy).

(M00562)

“Ulster – Scotland. United. We. Stand”
(M00574)

“Shankill supports all the loyalist prisoners” with both UVF and UDA emblems, though the four-quadrant design comes from a UDA mural (see Sans Peur).


(M00570)

“This is loyalist west Belfast”
(M00571)


(M00573)

(M00564)


(M00565)

North side of Percy Place. The order of the murals from left to right is uncertain.

“King William III, July 1690”. King Billy crosses the Boyne.
(M00572)

Shankill – No Surrender, with a Northern Ireland-shaped Union flag with a six-pointed star and red hand at the centre.

(M00577)