Tag Archives: The Fire Eaters

Martin Luther King By Lucy And Kayla

In English we’ve been looking at the book “The Fire Eaters” which is set in the 60s. We have chosen to research Martin Luther King Jr. because he is a huge icon for the Civil Rights movement.

Martin Luther King was born on the 15th of January 1929 in Atlanta, Georgia , USA. He was originally called Michael but his dad re-named him in 1939. He was raised in a Catholic family with brother, Alfrid Daniel Williams King, and sister, Christine King Farris. In 1948 he was ordained as well as marrying Corretta Scott in 1953. Corretta Scott was a black woman and was a fabulous singer. They went on to have four children.

Martin Luther King Jr. Photo by Walter Albertin [Public Domain].

Martin Luther King Jr. Photo by Walter Albertin [Public Domain].

King was invited to the White House to meet President J F Kennedy.

Martin Luther King with Robert Kennedy. Photo by Abi Rowe {Public Domain]

Martin Luther King with Robert Kennedy. Photo by Abi Rowe [Public Domain]

Civil rights became less of a priority for people until King started to protest in 1961 and 1962, targeting Birmingham, Alabama. Both events were unsuccessful and he even got sent to jail for leading the protest. Fire hoses and dogs were set on protesters. He was interviewed on TV catching the attention of millions of people, This made him a prominent figure. He gave the civil rights movement a voice.

Even though huge progress was made, less than a month later whites bombed an all black church in Birmingham. It killed four young girls and caught King’s attention. He spoke at their funeral.

On August 28th 1963 Martin debuted his famous speech “I Have A Dream.” More than 200,000 gathered in Washington and more watched on the TV. He became a symbolic figure for civil rights across the world and gave hope to millions of black Americans and more.

Five years later, Martin Luther King was assassinated on the 4th of April at the age of 39. This shocked millions and only made the fight for rights even tougher without their leader.

Martin Luther King Jr is an inspirational man and changed civil rights forever. He has shown how hard it was in the 60’s and how one act can affect all of the world forever.

“If you can’t fly, then run

If you can’t run, then walk

If you can’t walk, then crawl

But whatever you do,

Keep on moving forward.”

– Martin Luther King Jr

Did Martin Luther King achieve his lifedream? http://www.bbc.co.uk/timelines/z86tn39,  accessed 20th October 2015

Martin Luther King Jr  1929-1968  By Anita Ganeri (Franklin Watts, 2003)


Fidel Castro by Liam and Reagan

In English we are currently reading a book called ”The Fire Eaters” by David Almond. ”The Fire Eaters” is set in the late summer of 1962. So, in pairs, we chose a topic related to an event that was happening in the 60’s. We have chosen to study Fidel Castro. Here is a bit about him:

Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz was born on the 13th of August 1926 in Biran, Cuba. His parents were named Angel Castro and Lina Ruz Gonzalez. His dad was an immigrant but his mum was born in Cuba. He also had a brother named Raul.

In his early life he liked to read and cook. He attended the University of Havana and got a degree in law. He became a political activist in law school then later became a lawyer.

In 1959 he and his brother Raul attempted to take over the Cuban government, but failed and were sent to jail. He was sentenced to jail for 15 years but was let out after 22 months. He fled to Mexico with his brother and met a man named Guevara who helped Castro and his brother create a small army. Castro, Raul, Che Guevara and his small army went back to Cuba and based themselves in the Cuban mountains. They started a guerrilla war against Batista’s government. They gained lots of support by telling the Cubans that he would  bring back democracy and freedom in Cuba. So Batista left the country and on New Year’s Day 1959 Fidel Castro became the new Prime Minister of Cuba.

Castro made a law that all rent prices would be halved in price because lots of Cubans were homeless. He also provided free health care for everyone. He got rid of all the American companies and started up new businesses. Thousands of people lost employment because of Castro’s ideas.

Fidel Castro. Photo by Marcelo Montecino [Licence: CC BY-SA 2.0]

Fidel Castro. Photo by Marcelo Montecino [Licence: CC BY-SA 2.0]

In the 60’s America and Russia were involved in a war. Cuba let Russia place their missiles in Cuba so that it would have been easier for Russia to blow up Cuba therefore America and Cuba were now enemies. This nearly started WW III because President Kennedy, the current leader of America, wasn’t going to accept Russia and Cuba ‘teaming up’ to fight America. He tried many times to overthrow Castro. Russia gave Cuba lots of support by letting them use their machinery. The CIA told JFK it would be easy to overthrow Castro but it wasn’t.

When the Soviet Union fell apart Cuba really struggled to survive on their own. In 1976 Castro became the President of Cuba and would be in power for another 32 years until he gave up power in 2008. Fidel Castro is still alive today and is still living in Cuba. Russia eventually took their missiles out of America.

We chose Fidel Castro because he was a big part of the hostilities which was currently happening in the book we are reading  ‘The Fire Eaters’ and the main character in it ‘Bobby Burns’ is scared in case he would need to fight in this war.

Websites we used for our research were:

Fidel Castro, http://www.ducksters.com/biography/world_leaders/fidel_castro.php, accessed 14/11/15

Fidel Castro biography, http://www.biography.com/people/fidel-castro-9241487, accessed 12/10/15

The Cuban Missile Crisis by Peter Chrisp (World Almanac Library, )

The Escape From Alcatraz by Conor and Benjamin

This escape was attempted by Frank Morris and brothers John and  Clarence Anglin. All of these men were in Alcatraz for Armed Robbery and were serving life sentences.

Escapees from Alcatraz by Salticidae [Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0]

Escapees from Alcatraz by Salticidae [Licence: CC BY-NC-SA 2.0]

From a young age, the Anglin brothers were in and out of jail. Just teenagers, the brothers broke out of many Reformatory Schools. Before Alcatraz, they had been imprisoned in Atlanta State Penitentiary. They were caught attempting a breakout from Atlanta and so Alcatraz was deemed appropriate for them. Several months later, Morris joined the pair in Alcatraz.

The plan was originally conspired by four men, the fourth being Allen Clayton West. West is believed to be the mastermind behind the plan.

West had a job in the prison maintenance industry and so, had the privilege of free access to the utility corridors and on top of the cellblock. The group had decided to work on a boat to escape the island on. They decided to build it on the top of the cellblock. West had convinced the guards to allow him to hang sheets over the bars to avoid “paint splatter”. The guards agreed and they had cover. Now they needed to be able to reach the location with ease. The cells were all identical and had a small vent on the back wall. Behind the vent was an unused utility corridor. The pipes in the corridor served as ladders to the top of the cellblock. They started to chip away at the vent and the surrounding rock.

Panorama of Alcatraz. Photo by Christian Mehlführer [Licence: CC BY 2.5]

Panorama of Alcatraz. Photo by Christian Mehlführer [Licence: CC BY 2.5]

Once they had easy access, they could begin manufacture on their raft. They managed to acquire approximately eighty rainjackets which they sewed and glued together. They used a magazine from the prison library to aid them in construction. Morris had managed to adapt an accordion into an airpump for the raft.

They fashioned some oars from cardboard and made them more durable by backing them with some wood. They also made some makeshift buoyancy aids.

Now the final hurdle was being able to reach the outside of the prison. They spotted a shaft that led up to the roof, but the way was blocked by some sturdy iron bars. They knew that it would require a power tool to break them. West volunteered to attempt to mend a generator and found that it ran on two engines. So rather than mend the both of them, he repaired one, and stole the other engine to craft their power tool. Once they had managed this, they realised that it was much too noisy so they had to work during the time designated for instrument practice so that the noise didn’t sound just as obvious. Soon enough, they were able to reach the roof. Now they were ready to make their escape.

On the night of June 11th 1962, the prisoners squeezed through the vent for the final time. They climbed up the pipes to reach the roof of the cell block. One inmate; Leon “Whitey” Thomson was in his cell at the time of the great escape and could recall hearing a spanner falling from one of the men’s pockets and clanging off the pipes all the way to the ground.

They realised once they had reached the cell block roof, that Allen Clayton West hadn’t finished chipping the vent. As previously discussed, they left without him and left behind his buoyancy aid.

The trio scaled their way down the wall and rushed to the shoreline. They had never tested whether or not the raft was sea-worthy so it was an incredibly risk “hit or miss” scenario. It is believed that the boat managed to stay afloat for half of the journey and gave way half a mile from the mainland. The men were never heard from again.

Alcatraz Barber Shop. Photo by JeredB [Licence: CC BY 2.0]

Alcatraz Barber Shop. Photo by JeredB [Licence: CC BY 2.0]

The escapists had managed to pass the nightly roll call by crafting crude but lifelike paper mache which included real human hair which the men had gathered from the floor of the barbershop.

The next morning at roll call, the guards noticed the false heads and alerted the F.B.I. Naturally, they first questioned West who didn’t prove to be very helpful as he only told them what was safe and didn’t jeopardise the men’s chance of survival.

Several days later, an oar washed up on the neighbouring Angel Island along with a waterproof bag of photos of the Anglins and contact details and addresses. They had blatantly ensured that these pictures were kept dry, which suggests that the boat didn’t survive the voyage and the escapees were swept under the Golden Gate Bridge and out to the Pacific Ocean.

Location of Alcatraz. Photo by NASA [Public Domain].

Location of Alcatraz. Photo by NASA [Public Domain].

If they had survived, they planned to rob a clothing store and to steal a car and potentially head to Mexico to seek refuge.

Whether or not the men survived, it is arguably one of the greatest escape attempts to date. As we are studying the works of David Almond’s “Fire Eaters” which was also set in 1962, we thought that this event would symbolise and would be easily related to Bobby Burns’ life. He feels as though he needs to escape life’s evil clutches and seeing as how the Alcatraz escape had happened four months prior the story taking place, the theme of escape is potentially still lurking in Bobby Burns’ mind.


  • The Great Escape From Alcatraz, http://www.alcatrazhistory.com/alcesc1.htm, accessed November 2015
  • Escape! Breakout from Alcatraz Documentary by David M Frank, 2000
  • Discussion between Conor and Ben (November 2015)