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Daughters of Miami Showband singer Fran open up about losing their dad in 1975 massacre

By Allan Preston

Published 19/12/2015

The Miami Showband with Fran O’Toole (second from left)
The Miami Showband with Fran O’Toole (second from left)
The scene of the atrocity

Forty years on from the Miami Showband massacre in 1975, the daughters of the late singer Fran O'Toole have spoken candidly about their father.

Rachel and Kelly O'Toole were aged just four and three when Fran was one of five people - including two of the UVF killers - to die in the terrorist attack.

Ireland's most popular showband at the time, the group had just played a gig in Banbridge.

Shortly after Fran's murder the family left their childhood home of Bray in Co Wicklow and emigrated to Canada. Their mother Valerie never recovered from the loss.

The sisters have now spoken for a new RTE radio documentary.

Rachel - who works as a production designer in Vancouver - said her father remains a huge part of her life. "It's strange, but when I imagine my father he's always wearing the exact same outfit," she said. "He's wearing the outfit from his album cover - a denim shirt and jeans.

"Sometimes when I'm falling asleep at night I'll just go through the memories of my dad. When I see pictures or I hear things I go: 'Oh, I wonder what would have been'. That's all I can feel."

Kelly, who lives in Langley and is married with young children, said that even though their father had left behind many recordings of his music, listening to them was painful.

"Hearing our father's music when we were young would always be at our mother's darkest moments," she added.

"It's almost not a happy thing."

She said that she and Rachel never felt close growing up in the "fend for yourself" household in Canada.

But a visit back to their uncle Michael's home in Bray changed the sisters' relationship.

"My uncle Michael was a huge influence," said Kelly.

"It was a huge turning point for me and my sister when we stayed in his home."

After The Music: The Daughters' Story is on RTE Radio One one today at 2pm.

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