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Back Then: New Miami Showband set for anniversary gigs

New Miami to commemorate 1975 atrocity with concerts to honour murdered members

By Eddie McIlwaine

Songwriter Gerry Brown is taking the New Miami Showband on tour this summer to commemorate the massacre of the original line-up 40 years ago.

"It will be a sensitive time," he said. "The atrocity will never be forgotten and we will respect the musicians who died."

It was on a summer night in 1975 when three of the musicians were taken from their tour bus by a group of armed UVF men at a bogus checkpoint outside Newry.

In the cold-blooded outrage singer Fran O'Toole, trumpeter Brian McCoy and guitarist Tony Geraghty died and Stephen Travers and Des Lee were shot, but survived.

Two members of the terrorist gang lost their lives too when a bomb they were attempting to plant on the bus exploded prematurely.

The New Miami was formed to commemorate O'Toole and company and to let the public at large appreciate the kind of music they used to play to packed audiences all over Ireland.

Gerry is presently drafting a couple of new members into his band in which original drummer Ray Millar and Lee still perform. "So wouldn't it be special if veteran singer Dickie Rock, who was in the first Miami for a short time before the shooting, joined up for our tour? A lot of fans would appreciate that kind of gesture," he said.

Travers has written a book about events that awful night in 1975 and there is talk of a film.

Fans of the showband will tell you that O'Toole, a singer of real talent, would have become as popular or more so than Cliff Richard if he had been allowed to live.

Millar, the drummer, had opted to travel to Banbridge and home again in his car that evening rather than in the tour bus.

The horror of the shooting shocked musicians everywhere, but bandsmen are a resilient lot and in the event were determined to keep going. But it took a lot of soul-searching and the Miami today, four decades later, have a special place in a lot of hearts plus a memorial at the scene.

"It was important that the Miami should come back. We owed it to those dead entertainers. Every time we launch into a quickstep or a waltz at a dance I think of them," added Gerry.

Family would be tickled pink to find link with Solitude's former owners

There used to be an impressive mansion standing on the site on the Cliftonville Road where Solitude - home to Irish League football champions Cliftonville - now stands. 

The club took on the name of the house owned by the Pinkerton family when the grand old place was demolished and they built the new stadium. That name? Solitude, would you believe. And it has been Solitude, the home of Cliftonville FC ever since.

Don't forget at that time there weren't too many homes around Cliftonville, which was a rather solitary place.

I was researching why the Reds took on the name and a swift reply came from one Marc Pinkerton, who was intrigued by the fact that he has the Pinkerton surname too.

Trouble is, Marc and his brother Lee are Linfield fans and Solitude is the one ground he has never visited, but is keen to.

Fans of the Blues are restricted in the way they can travel to Solitude and have to be transported by bus from Ballysillan Leisure Centre.

"It's a rush to get from our home in Lisburn to Ballysillan on a Saturday afternoon," Marc explained.

Marc hopes that one day fans of the Blues will be able to travel to the stadium the way they go to Seaview or any other Irish League ground.

But who were the Solitude Pinkertons?

Were they related to Marc and Lee? Somebody must know.

Just let me emphasise that Solitude is a lovely stadium and I remember amateur internationals being played there.

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