Belfast Telegraph

45 years on, Claudy remembers day that bombers ripped it apart

Hundreds pay tribute to the nine people killed in 1972

By Donna Deeney

In pain and sorrow, around 300 people gathered yesterday to remember the nine people who lost their lives 45 years ago to the day after three no warning bombs ravaged the village of Claudy in Co Londonderry.

As the clock struck 10.15am on July 31, 1972, the first bomb exploded - and two others followed in quick succession, ripping the heart out of the village and indiscriminately slaughtering Catholic and Protestant, young and old, men and women.

Among the first victims were Joseph McCloskey (39), who died instantly when the first bomb left at McElhinney's pub and shop exploded at 10.15am, and little Kathryn Eakin (8) who was helping in her family grocery shop.

Kathryn died from injuries sustained in the initial blast which also claimed the life of Elizabeth McElhinney (59), owner of the pub where the device was left. She was killed outright as she served a customer.

William Temple (16), a young man delivering milk in the village, fell dead in the street.

David Miller (60) died instantly when the third bomb exploded at the Beaumont Hotel, moments after the second detonated at the post office.

James McClelland (65) was killed by the third and final bomb, which was planted in a minivan parked outside the Beaumont Hotel owned by Mary Hamilton.

Rose McLaughlin (51) died in hospital a week after the bombs exploded, leaving behind a family of eight, while Patrick Connolly (15) died in hospital later from injuries he sustained from the first bomb.

Father-of-two Arthur Hone (38), a Catholic, became the ninth victim after he died from his injuries a fortnight after the bombings.

The Claudy bombings remain among the worst atrocities in the history of the Troubles, but last night the village came together to remember loved ones, lost but never forgotten.

Family members of those killed, as well as survivors of the bomb, gathered for the ecumenical service near the memorial erected as a permanent reminder of the day evil visited this sleepy country village.

They were joined by others, some too young to remember the devastation and others who will never forget.

In a poignant ceremony, clergy from the Church of Ireland, Presbyterian and Catholic churches read passages from the Gospels and led hymns.

Janice Galbraith, a niece of William Temple, and Mairead O'Kane, granddaughter of Joseph McCloskey, led prayers for all those who had ever lost a loved one in the violence of the Troubles.

Ms Galbraith prayed: "Come close, we pray to all who have known the trauma of terrorism, the injured, the bereaved, the displaced, the lonely and the disillusioned."

Ms O'Kane prayed for those who carried out "acts of terrorism and criminality" that they may "come to an awareness of their sin and confess it in truth and sincerity".

After the short service refreshments were on offer at the Presbyterian Church where, for the first time, three Troubles memorial quilts, including patches depicting the Claudy atrocity, were displayed. Although she rarely speaks to the media, Anne Hone - widow of Artie - said she has given up hope of ever getting justice and no longer even wants to know who killed her husband and the other eight victims.

"It means so much to me that so many people have come here to remember all the people who lost their lives, because it keeps their memory alive," she said.

"My own memories of the day are so vivid, I remember every minute. My husband was a good family man who was devoted to me and to his children.

"I honestly do not think anyone will be held to account for what they did here and at this stage in my life I would prefer not to know."

Kathryn Eakin's brother Mark said that while any opportunity to gather with other bereaved families is welcomed, the loss of his sister is something he will never forget.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Mr Eakin said: "There is hardly a day that passes even yet that I don't think about Kathryn or what happened in Claudy.

"I don't live here any more, but I still have many good friends in Claudy and I will be glad of the opportunity to meet with them again.

"I know people have said Martin McGuinness went to his grave with information about Claudy, and that may be so, but there are still plenty of people alive that have information and I would like them to speak up.

"I am convinced there are government papers hidden deep in the annals of London which could tell us who did what and who helped cover it up and I am calling for those papers to be released."

Marjorie Leslie was tending to the dying and injured where they fell when she was hit with shrapnel from the third bomb.

She said it was very emotional as the clock hands reached 10.15am, when the lives of so many Claudy families were changed forever.

"There was a service five years ago to mark the 40th anniversary of Claudy, and that was entirely appropriate, but I don't need a public service to remember Claudy," she explained. "It is something I will never forget, because I live with my injuries, but I also live with the memories of Kathryn (Eakin) whom I helped to look after and all the other people who were killed and murdered that day.

"I did look at my watch this morning and it was so emotional remembering the scenes I witnessed 45 years ago, the bodies being put into plastic bags and taken to Altnagelvin.

"Nothing can prepare you for that, but I thank God every day I was spared, and remember those who were not every day too."

Among those attending was James Miller, whose grandfather David died from the injuries he sustained in the explosion.

He said: "I am here on my own because my father, who has fought for answers and justice for the past 45 years, is now too ill to carry on.

"With a doubt, the stress, pain and anxiety my father suffered trying to get justice for his father contributed to his ill health now.

"It really has destroyed him. This anniversary was too much for him, so he took himself off to his bed because he couldn't bear to even see anyone. It is very difficult for us as a family to see him in that kind of a state and if I am honest this has also taken over my life now.

"It is eating me up inside, but I don't want my children to be going through this.

"Claudy was the forgotten atrocity. People say, 'Oh that's terrible' but they move on. But the families never had that opportunity to move on.

"It is a constant fight and no one knows unless you have been through the same torture and torment we have, you can't imagine the pain."

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