Bomb hero still haunted by horror as Shankill marks anniversary of bomb atrocity
20 years on, bravery award winner says the memories remain raw
A man given a bravery award by the police for his role in the aftermath of the Shankill bombing has said that he has to leave the area every year on the anniversary of the atrocity as he is unable to cope with the memories.
Raymond Elliott was the only civilian in Frizzell's demolished fish shop minutes after the bomb exploded, where he helped shovel the unrecognisable remains of the dead in to brown bags.
For his courageous efforts, he received the Royal Ulster Constabulary Award Certificate.
However, Mr Elliott (70) will not stay in Belfast for the commemoration of the Shankill bombing of October 23, 1993.
"Me and my wife are taking ourselves away for Wednesday, as we do every single year," he said.
"I can't be here for the 20th anniversary, it is all too raw still. We are going to go to Portrush for two days – we can't stand it here."
Mr Elliott spoke of how badly affected he was by the scenes he witnessed after the bombing.
"It affected us all. I spent two months in a secure mental hospital after the bombing," he said.
"I didn't know what was happening to me and I was taken in to hospital on the Sunday. I was there under 24-hour watch.
"I thought I would just be there for a couple of days but I was there for much longer. I still feel haunted by it. You never forget anything. People say you wake up in the morning and it is all finished. It is not."
Commemoration of the Shankill bombing will take place tomorrow, when large numbers are expected to attend a lunchtime church service in West Kirk Church. It sits next to the Shankill Memorial Park, where an old Belfast gas lamp has been kept lit for the past 20 years in memory of those killed.
Children from the schools of two of the youngest bomb victims – Michelle Baird (7) and Leanne Murray (13) – will lay wreaths at the time of the explosion and a united Shankill schools choir will sing during the ceremony.
John MacVicar, one of the organisers, described it as a service to allow the community to express its support for the families of those killed and injured.
The anniversary will be preceded this evening by a Walk of Remembrance. It will take in the sites of the five lethal bombings along the Shankill Road during the Troubles, in which 25 people were killed and 224 injured.
The walk will start at Shankill Leisure Centre at 6.30pm – the scene of the Balmoral Showrooms bomb of December 1971, in which four people were killed, including two children. It will end at the Mountainview Bar, where five people were killed and 60 injured in an attack on Grand National Saturday in 1975.
During this week of remembrance, a memorial exhibition has been on display at the Shankill Methodist Church, next to the scene of the Shankill bomb. It opened yesterday and will remain free to visit until Saturday.
On display at the exhibition is the award that Mr Elliott received.