Belfast Telegraph

UK Website Of The Year

Kingsmill massacre: Taking deep breaths, sole survivor Alan Black stayed composed as 40-year-old nightmare relived

By Rebecca Black

Published 24/05/2016

The bullet-ridden van in which the men were travelling when the 1976 Kingsmills massacre occurred
The bullet-ridden van in which the men were travelling when the 1976 Kingsmills massacre occurred
Alan Black outside court yesterday
The long-awaited inquest into the Kingsmills massacre is due to begin in Belfast. The inquest will examine the deaths of 10 Protestant workmen who were shot dead when an IRA gang ambushed their minibus near the County Armagh village in 1976. Karen Armstrong. Photographer - ©Matt Mackey / Press Eye
The long-awaited inquest into the Kingsmills massacre is due to begin in Belfast. The inquest will examine the deaths of 10 Protestant workmen who were shot dead when an IRA gang ambushed their minibus near the County Armagh village in 1976. Alan black who survived the Kingsmills massacre along with Kevin Winters. Photographer - ©Matt Mackey / Press Eye
The long-awaited inquest into the Kingsmills massacre is due to begin in Belfast. The inquest will examine the deaths of 10 Protestant workmen who were shot dead when an IRA gang ambushed their minibus near the County Armagh village in 1976. Willie Frazer, Beatrice Wortin and Colin Wortin. Photographer - ©Matt Mackey / Press Eye
The long-awaited inquest into the Kingsmills massacre is due to begin in Belfast. The inquest will examine the deaths of 10 Protestant workmen who were shot dead when an IRA gang ambushed their minibus near the County Armagh village in 1976. Danny Kennedy. Photographer - ©Matt Mackey / Press Eye
The long-awaited inquest into the Kingsmills massacre is due to begin in Belfast. The inquest will examine the deaths of 10 Protestant workmen who were shot dead when an IRA gang ambushed their minibus near the County Armagh village in 1976. Danny Kennedy along with Karen Armstrong and Alan Black. Photographer - ©Matt Mackey / Press Eye
The long-awaited inquest into the Kingsmills massacre is due to begin in Belfast. The inquest will examine the deaths of 10 Protestant workmen who were shot dead when an IRA gang ambushed their minibus near the County Armagh village in 1976. Alan black who survived the Kingsmills massacre. Photographer - ©Matt Mackey / Press Eye
The long-awaited inquest into the Kingsmills massacre is due to begin in Belfast. The inquest will examine the deaths of 10 Protestant workmen who were shot dead when an IRA gang ambushed their minibus near the County Armagh village in 1976. Alan black who survived the Kingsmills massacre. Photographer - ©Matt Mackey / Press Eye
Beatrice Worton
Alan Black
The memorial to the 10 men
May Quinn
Colin Worton

It was 40 years on and almost 40 miles away from the spot on a lonely country crossroads where the Kingsmills massacre took place, but those present at Laganside courts felt a chill travel down their spines as eyewitness accounts were read out.

The only survivor of the atrocity, Alan Black, sat quietly in the public gallery surrounded by the loved ones of his murdered former colleagues as the account he gave to police in 1976 was read out.

It was a tense time in the area on January 5 that year following the murder by loyalists the day before of three members of the Reavey family at their home in Whitecross, and three members of the O'Dowd family in Ballydougan.

The mixed workforce at the Glenanne textile factory were unlikely to have felt under direct threat.

As Neil Rafferty, barrister for several of the Kingsmills families pointed out on the first day of the inquest, these were 10 "ordinary, normal men", not involved with loyalism nor with the security forces.

Yet when they packed into the minibus at 5.20pm on that fateful day, for many it would be their final journey.

Workers were dropped off in the village of Whitecross, and 12 were left on board as the bus continued on towards Bessbrook.

It was approaching the Kingsmills crossroads when a man with a red light waved it down.

The 12 were all ordered out and told to line up alongside it by a man with an English accent dressed in military-style clothing. Mr Black's statement recorded that he was the last off the bus, and saw three men in military clothing emerge from a gate at a nearby field, and also saw seven or eight others approach from another direction, they were also in military clothing and they were carrying rifles.

The man with the English accent who ordered the minibus to stop ordered the workmen to line up against the van with their hands placed on it.

The same man then asked: "Who is the Roman Catholic?"

That was Richard Hughes, whose statement says Reginald Chapman and another man to the other side of him squeezed his hands, thinking he was being singled out to be shot.

"Next thing I heard someone say 'take that grey-haired man out', and someone's voice said 'run down the road'," his statement recorded.

Mr Hughes told police in 1976 that he asked which direction to run and was told "run down the f****** road", and that he couldn't run fast as he was very frightened and shaken, assuming he was about to be shot.

He was followed by two men who pushed him over a wire fence and ordered him to lie face down in the bracken.

At that point a burst of automatic gunfire rang out, followed by a couple of shots.

Back at the minibus the 11 men were being assailed by a hail of bullets that would claim the lives of all but one.

Mr Black's statement recalls a burst of shooting that went on for 10 seconds, which he described as "deafening".

He was hit by a bullet and fell, another man fell over his legs, and he could hear the groans of pain from others before the man with the English accent ordered: "Finish them off."

Sitting in the courtroom yesterday Mr Black remained composed, taking occasional deep breaths as he was plunged back to the unimaginable pain of that evening, all in the hope of finally uncovering the unvarnished truth 40 years later.

Belfast Telegraph

Read More

From Belfast Telegraph