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Gusty Spence papers

Collection MS-2013-008: Gusty Spence papers


  • Creation: 1955 - 1998

Scope and Contents

This collection contains Gusty Spence’s personal and business correspondence from 1959-1998, the bulk of which was written during Spence’s time in prison (1966-1984). Correspondence includes Spence’s correspondence with leaders and imprisoned members of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and letters concerning his imprisonment originally sent to his wife Louisa Spence and his brother Billy Spence. This collection also includes records of Spence’s appeal process and release from prison and documents from prison administration, as well as documents concerning the Ulster Volunteer Force (often in conjunction with the Red Hand Commandoes) and other political organizations. In addition, there are a small number of personal documents, such as Spence's passport and day planner and a poem written for him by Dandy Mclean, and a few artifacts and photographs.


Restrictions on access

Collection is open for research.

Restrictions on use

These materials are made available for use in research, teaching and private study, pursuant to U.S. Copyright Law. The user must assume full responsibility for any use of the materials, including but not limited to, infringement of copyright and publication rights of reproduced materials. Any materials used for academic research or otherwise should be fully credited with the source. The original authors may retain copyright to the materials.

Biographical note

Augustus Andrew (“Gusty”) Spence was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland on June 28, 1933. His father, William Edward Spence, was a member of the Ulster Volunteers, and the family had a distinct commitment to loyalist activity: Gusty’s brother, Billy Spence, was a founding member of Ulster Protestant Action, and even at an early age, Gusty participated in various loyalist organizations, including the Prince Albert Temperance Orange Lodge and the Royal Black Institution. Gusty married Louisa (“Louie”) Donaldson in 1953. In 1957, he enlisted in the British Army and served in Cyprus.

In 1965, Spence joined the newly-reestablished Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), and was subsequently chosen as the UVF’s military commander. In May and June of 1966, a UVF gang organized by Spence killed two Catholic civilians; Spence and three others were arrested for murder, and Spence was sentenced to life in prison.

While in prison, Spence continued his involvement with the UVF, serving as the commander of the UVF prisoners at Long Kesh Prison. In 1972, Spence, who had been granted a brief parole to attend his daughter's wedding, escaped, only to be returned to prison in the same year. During his imprisonment, Spence grew increasingly frustrated with UVF leadership, and left the organization altogether in 1978. In 1984, Gusty was released from prison, and became a leading figure in the Progressive Unionist Party and in the Northern Ireland peace process, including the 1998 Belfast Agreement. He died on September 25, 2011.


"Loyalist Terror Chief Turned Peacemaker Gusty Spence Dies in Hospital." Belfast Telegraph, September 25, 2011. Accessed January 13, 2014.

MacDonald, Henry. "Gusty Spence Obituary." The Guardian, September 25, 2011. Accessed January 13, 2014.


0.25 Linear Feet (1 container )

Language of Materials



This collection contains the correspondence, legal and administrative documents, photographs, and artifacts of Gusty Spence (1933-2011), a leader of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and loyalist politician in Northern Ireland.


The collection is arranged in five series: I. Correspondence II. Official documents III. Personal documents IV. Documents of various organizations V. Artifacts and photographs. The series are arranged chronologically, except for Series V, for which dates could not be determined.


Purchased from Whyte and Sons Auctioneers Ltd., May 2013.


Gusty Spence Papers
Benjamin Clarke and Mark Schaneley
November 2013
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the John J. Burns Library Repository

John J. Burns Library
Boston College
140 Commonwealth Avenue
Chestnut Hill MA 02467 United States