Silver McKee


Free Tracker

Silver McKee & Stormy Weather - By Joe Graham

Belfast has always been a rough and tumble kind of town, and we were never short of colourful characters and legends, and perhaps in the tradition of a Seanachie, the stories were slightly exaggerated and maybe even tinted but sure aren’t all heroes said to be “seven foot in height with some inches to spare.”

Growing up in 1950'S Belfast I can clearly remember the accounts of two famous Belfast characters, two men who made their mark in local folklore through their street fighting abilities, "Stormy" Weather and "Silver" McKee. One a Protestant, one a Catholic, and you may think that their many fights were over religion, if both had been Protestant, or both Catholic they still would have fought, the title ‘hardest man in Belfast’ was at stake. "Stormy" came from the protestant Shankill and "Silver" from the Catholic Market district, and us kids held them in equal esteem ..but I have to be honest ..when ever these two met to fight, our cheers would have been for our co-religionist, for after all that old Orange and Green is never too far removed from any of us, don’t let anyone try to fool you on that, Scratch deep enough and the Orange or Green blood will flow.

But I will always try to be fair and of "Stormy" I must speak as I have heard of him, a decent man and known for his religious tolerances, and a trade unionist activist when he worked at Isaac Andrews Flour Mill. One story I grew up with, about "Stormy", was that an Orange bully was slagging off a not too robust Catholic fellow worker at the mill, on hearing the sectarian insults "Stormy" slapped the Orangeman all over the place and said, "keep that crap out of here ,we are all brothers in here".

True or fiction I cant be sure of my next story of "Stormy", but here it is any way, back in the mid 1950'S, televisions hit the world of working class people and before long a neighbour near you had one and so the push went on to 'keep up with the Jones’s, as one would say. "Stormy", like every other husband, was under pressure from the wife to get a television set and she forever reminded him that Mrs so and so next door has got one. This night as "Stormy" sat reading his "Telegraph ", the wife kept on about the television next door until he could take it no more, and if anyone knew the old Shankill houses the dividing wall between the houses was only 4 inches and crumbly as well. "Stormy" picked up a lump of 4x2 timber and said, "you want to a television ?... I'll give you a television"

And with one mighty clout he knocked a hole in the wall dividing his and the home of the neighbours with the television, through the hole the neighbours and their new television could clearly be seen, "There", said Stormy, " there is a television for you.. watch that and give my head peace woman", and at that he sat down and continued to read his newspaper.

"Silver" Paddy McKee, was a cattle drover, ‘or a Cow Walloper‘, as they better known as. He would have herded the cattle down to Allam's cattle market ready for shipment to England and elsewhere. A rough man and nobody's fool which a certain peeler discovered one day. What happened was, this R.U.C Sergeant was walking along May Street pushing his bicycle as they did in those days when "Silver" walked passed him from behind. Now, the sergeant, a big countryman, would have well known who Silver was, called after him, "Hey boy, why did you kick my bike "?. Silver turned and look quizzically, “What’s wrong with you.. I didn’t kick your bike ”?. The peeler was obviously spoiling for a fight , placing his bike against the wall, he said to Silver, “Don’t give me any of yer oul lip or I’ll break your jaw”. Well he was going to have his fight, for Silver answered, "Maybe you'd like to take that hat and tunic off and try". Now, the old adage is that when a peeler would enter into such an agreement he ceases to be a peeler and so his position would have no advantage or bearing on the fight whatever the outcome.

The peeler removed his tunic and cap and set them on the cross bar of the bike and took up a John. L Sullivan pose, but the sad fact is, he posed too long and Silver landed a big straight right on the peelers chin sending him sprawling on the pavement. As you might suspect.. peelers can never be trusted ..for you see, the peeler later stood in court with his sore jaw and told how Silver attacked him for no apparent reason and Silver got a month in Crumlin for the peeler ?, well he disappeared off the streets of Belfast probably back to Ballygobackwards where he would have held the locals spellbound with his daring tale of how he broke the jaw of the hardest man in the City of Belfast when he was stationed there.

"Stormy" and "Silver" met and fought each other many times through the years "Silver" would have knocked on "Stormy's" door and "Stormy" on "Silver's", to have a "rematch" there and then , much to the delight of any who were nearby. On some occasions Silver won and on others, Stormy, but who ever won the crowd would sure to see a hard clean fought fight by two fighting men.

Oh there were many capable street fighters in Belfast at that time and sure, some may have been harder, but none left their mark in the working class folklore of the place than the bold Stormy Weather and Silver McKee.

“Silver” died a few years ago and the last I heard “Stormy” had moved to Southampton in the early days of the troubles. funnily the same town where lives a Market man who once defeated “Silver” in a toe to toe fight in Castle Street many years ago. Of course they may have had their faults and there are those who will line up, now that they aren't around, to list those faults but say what they will, true or not, the fact is.... Stormy and Silver have inscribed their names in Belfast folklore.






Contact JoeGraham



Contact JoeGraham


TEL 028 90626631.