Belfast Telegraph

Lives will never be same again, says victim of Claudy massacre

By Leona O'Neill

An Ulster Unionist councillor injured in the Claudy bombings says those caught up in the Manchester atrocity will carry the scars forever.

Mary Hamilton (75) was severely injured when three IRA blasts ripped through the Co Londonderry village on July 31, 1972 killing nine people, including eight-year-old Kathryn Eakin, who had been helping her mother clean the family's shop windows.

Mrs Hamilton said that last week's suicide bombing at the Ariana Grande concert in the Manchester Arena - in which 21 innocent people, including seven children, lost their lives - was traumatising for her. "I was watching the news on Tuesday morning when information about the bomb was coming through," the Derry City and Strabane councillor said.

"It brought back the most horrendous memories for me. From experience, I know that for the people of Manchester who were caught up in the bombing, their lives, like ours, will never be the same."

Mary and husband Ernie owned the Beaufort Hotel in Claudy. It was completely destroyed. She said she remembered the atrocity like it happened yesterday.

"I was very badly injured in the attack, and I suffer to this day with my injuries. I have shrapnel in both my legs and take painkillers daily. I have had to have four operations," she said.

"The sights I saw in Claudy will haunt me forever. I saw people with their heads taken off, people's insides hanging out, body parts stuck on the fence beside me, people blown to bits."

One bomb exploded outside McElhinney's pub on Main Street, where Elizabeth McElhinney was filling up a vehicle with petrol at a pump.

Mrs Hamilton said: "I saw Mrs McElhinney lying like a doll with no arms or legs, burnt to death. I saw a woman on fire. I saw people running down the street with the body of Kathryn Eakin in their arms.

"I remember a young boy of just 14 years old - so excited to be on his first day at work on the milk float - coming up to me to say he had his hand hurt in the second explosion, and then being blown to bits in front of me when the third bomb went off outside our hotel.

"I didn't realise that my legs were so badly damaged until I looked down and saw that I was completely covered in blood."

She says that, even now, 45 years later, she still lives with the scars of the bomb and can't speak about the events without crying.

"For years later I couldn't walk past a car in the street without putting my hands over my ears," she added.

"I was waiting for a bomb to go off. I was living in fear. I was suspicious of people who came into the bar, and would check the toilets after they left, to see if they left a bag or anything. It was an awful way to live.

"I know exactly how the people of Manchester will be feeling now.

"They will not be able to sleep, they will be replaying it over and over in their heads, they will be living in fear, and will be afraid to go anywhere near crowds or go anywhere.

"Like me, they will be thinking their lives are over, especially those who lost loved ones.

"I send my heartfelt sympathy to them and I will remember them in my prayers."

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