Reading “Bonfires On The Hillside” by James Kelly - packed with humour and history.
In the days when most nationalist MPs had an absentee stance on attending Stormont, the "opposition" to the Unionist Government was mostly provided by Two Shankill Road Independent Unionist MPs, Tommy Henderson and the infamous John W Nixon, the Labour MP Jack Beattie and two "dissident" nationalist MPs who disagreed with abstention - T.J. Campbell K.C, and Alderman Dick Byrne.
Tommy Henderson, painter by trade, who was the Independent MP for Shankill Road, and thorn in the Unionist Government's side, was what can only be described as a character. He delighted in winding up Lord Craigavon, especially when he had guests in the Distinguished Visitors Gallery.
Pages 94 – 95.His famous sally in the Commons that bureaucracy had multiplied to such an extent that ‘it had become like the testicles of an octopus spread all over the Province’ brought another explosion of mirth. The story spread far and wide and years later I heard the then Prime Minister, John Andrews, pointing out Henderson to a visiting British Cabinet Minister as the author of the famous ‘octopus’ story.
However he achieved ‘fame’ for a filibuster that lasted 9 and a half hours in his contribution to an Appropriation Bill that started on 26th May 1936 and ended 3:55 AM on the following morning.
BBC News - That's not a filibuster, this is a filibuster
A special edition of Hansard had to be brought out to deal with the speech, about which Kelly wrote:
Pages 95 – 96.Even to talk nonsense for nine hours would be a considerable achievement but to keep within the rules of order and avoid being ordered to sit down on the grounds of “tediousness” was a remarkable performance. It was a speech of wit, invective and broad humour, with imaginative forays into low comedy, as, for example, he spotted the item ‘Stormont hen relaying station’ on the Ministry of Agriculture estimates and went on to picture at length the absurdity of white-coated civil servants chasing hens with toilet tissue in their hands!
And for those interested, the speech is available on-line
The Stormont Papers - View Volumes