Thursday, January 6, 2011

In memory of Pete Postlethwaite (1946-2011) and Giuseppe Conlon (1924-1980)

The early death of British actor Pete Postlethwaite has robbed the world of a fine actor and committed political activist. Postlethwaite was always willing to take a stand against injustice. He protested against the war in Iraq, participated in anti-poverty campaigns, advocated for environmental and social justice issues and threatened to hand back his OBE after the British Government approved the Kingsnorth coal mine.

Here in Australia Postlethwaite played an important role in highlighting injustice against Aboriginal Australians. In 2006 he was performing in a play in Perth when he learned of the story of a young Aboriginal man Louis St John Johnson who had been bashed to death on a Perth suburban street in 1992. Accompanied by Aboriginal musician Archie Roach and Aboriginal leader and activist Pat Dodson, Posthelwaite embarked on a physical and spiritual journey into the dark heart of this country searching for justice for the killing of Louis St John Johnson.

The resulting documentary Liyarn Ngarn features Postlethwaite, Archie Roach and Pat Dodson journeying through Western Australia to explore the story of Louis St John Johnson and the Aboriginal history of dispossession in Western Australia. Archie Roach's remarkable 2007 album Journey was inspired by and based on themes that emerged during the making of the documentary 

Posthelwaite's fight against injustice extended into his film roles, most notably, his role as Giusseppi Conlon in the film In The Name of the Father, the true story of the 1976 wrongful conviction of the Guildford Four and McGuire Seven by the British Government. Postlethwaite received an Oscar nomination for his dignified and haunting performance as the Irish father whose son is wrongly accused and falsely imprisoned by the British government for supposedly carrying out an IRA bombing in the UK. 

Postlethwaite's character travels to London from Belfast to to find a lawyer to assist his son, but is himself wrongly accused by the British authorities of being involved in the bombing and is imprisoned indefinitely with his son. Father and son are imprisoned together in 1976 but continued to protest their innocence.

Giuseppe Conlon died in prison in 1980 before he could clear his name. He died imprisoned for a crime despite his innocence. Eventually all those charged were vindicated and released in 1989 and received compensation from the British authorities for their wrongful imprisonment.

In memory of Pete Postlethwaite and Giuseppe Conlon I have been playing Christy Moore's remarkable tribute song for Giuseppe Conlon from his CD King Puck.

Giuseppe
by Christy Moore and Jimmy Faulkner

Everytime I go to London
I think of Giuseppe Conlon
Who left his home in Belfast
and travelled over to his son
As he said goodbye to Sarah
And took the boat to Heysham
Little did Giuseppe know
He'd never see that place again

Giuseppe was an ailing man
And every breath he drew
Into his tired lungs
He used to maintain his innocence
Behind those walls
Behind those bars
For everyday remaining in his life
Maintaining his innocence
Giuseppe Conlon, Giuseppe

1 comment:

Breenus said...

Yes, Pete is a severe loss. His connection with the fight for Irish freedom and British tyranny link so well with his concern for the fight for the oppressed people who used own Australia.