| 15.8°C Belfast

Stiff Little Fingers Jim Reilly on forgiving soldier who killed brother: When you're 18 years old, you're still a child yourself

Thomas 'Kidso' Reilly was 22 and working as Bananarama's road manager when he was shot dead in west Belfast by Private Ian Thain in August 1983. His brother, former Stiff Little Fingers drummer Jim, tells author Stuart Bailie: 'I forgave him right away'


Punk hero: Jim Reilly

Punk hero: Jim Reilly

Paying tribute: the members of pop band Bananarama attend the funeral of their road manager Thomas ‘Kidso’ Reilly in August 1983

Paying tribute: the members of pop band Bananarama attend the funeral of their road manager Thomas ‘Kidso’ Reilly in August 1983

Siobhan Fahey, Sarah Dallin and Keren Woodward of Bananarama

Siobhan Fahey, Sarah Dallin and Keren Woodward of Bananarama


Thomas 'Kidso' Reilly

Thomas 'Kidso' Reilly

Private Ian Thain, who fired the bullet which killed Thomas

Private Ian Thain, who fired the bullet which killed Thomas

A young Jim Reilly

A young Jim Reilly


Punk hero: Jim Reilly

Jim Reilly was originally raised on Denmark Street, off the lower Shankill, before relocating to the Falls Road, Divis and Turf Lodge. When he was 14, his mother asked him what he wanted for his birthday. He asked for a drum kit and the neighbour had a mail order catalogue, so it was ordered up.

"She paid the first pound and that was all she paid. The Troubles started just after I got my drum kit and our area became a no-go area. So, the tick men couldn't come in to collect the catalogue money. I got my first Premier Olympic drum kit for a pound."

His parents occasionally sent him to live with his uncle in Sheffield. He was working there as a window cleaner when he heard that Stiff Little Fingers needed a replacement for Brian Faloon.

He called London and made his bid. "I said: 'Cancel the rest of your auditions, 'cause I'm your new drummer.' They thought I was very cheeky and they liked that."

He met Siobhan Fahey at a Bo Diddley concert in the Lyceum in July 1979. In September, she started at London College of Fashion and, in the summer of 1980, they were in a Holborn flat with fellow London College of Fashion student Sara Dallin and Terry Sharpe (from Belfast band The Starjets), plus Keren Woodward and her partner, Paul.

His brother, Thomas, was doing well with a music merchandising company called Bravado. His friends called him "Kidso", he was passionate about Celtic and toured with acts like Depeche Mode, Altered Images, Fun Boy Three and The Jam.

He was out with Spandau Ballet in the spring of 1983 as True topped the UK chart. Gary Kemp was glad to have him on the crew. "We soon became very fond of him. He was a good guy, whose optimistic temperament encouraged others to fold their proverbial wings around him."

Daily Headlines & Evening Telegraph Newsletter

Receive today's headlines directly to your inbox every morning and evening, with our free daily newsletter.

This field is required

When Siobhan, Sara and Keren became active as Banarama, he was also part of their support network. "He was a great guy," Siobhan remembered. "He absolutely idolised Jim."

Thomas was home in Belfast during the summer of 1983, staying at the family home on Ardmonagh Gardens in Turf Lodge.

On the Monday, he played football with his mates in the playing fields at St Aidan's Primary School, near the Springfield Road. He was back there on the Tuesday - August 9 - and there was a disagreement with soldiers from the Light Infantry.

He headed off towards Turf Lodge, bare-chested, wearing cut-off jeans and holding his T-shirt in one hand. He was shot from behind and died by the gates of St Aidan's.

"He was only over here for two days to visit my mum," says Jim Reilly. "And he was shot dead. Shot in the back, one bullet. The British soldier that actually killed him was Private Ian Thain. He was sentenced to life imprisonment and he was back in the Army within less than three years."

Siobhan, Sara and Keren led the funeral procession. There were wreaths from Paul Weller, Depeche Mode and Claire Grogan from Altered Images.

"It takes strength to get through it," Jim explains. "The way I look at it, the guy was 18-years-old when he shot him dead. Do you remember when you were 18? You knew nothing. To give 18-year-old men, who are working-class, guns and then send them to another county to sort out other working-class kids, it ain't gonna work. I forgave him right away. It wasn't his fault, you know. He didn't sit down to shoot my brother. When you're 18 years old, you're still a child. He was just a triggerman."

Bananarama released Rough Justice in 1984. In the video, they interrupt a news programme to present their own slant on current affairs. They say some of the innocent have "no time to smile before they die".

Siobhan explained to the readers of Smash Hits that they were grieving for a friend. "I know a lot of people say this after somebody's died, but it's absolutely true. Thomas was one of the most truly good people you could ever meet. There wasn't a bad thing about him."

Spandau Ballet played Maysfield Leisure Centre in Belfast on December 1, 1984. Next day, Martin Kemp met up with Jim and they visited Kidso's grave at Milltown Cemetery on the Falls Road. The visiting singer witnessed the segregation of a city.

"What affected me most, as we walked, were the so-called 'peace lines' that blocked the streets branching off that Catholic thoroughfare.

"On the other side, I saw people walking, dressed in a similar style, fellow citizens, no different from the people I found myself with on this side, but cordoned off by the barricades. They could have been on another continent."

He was living in Dublin for a time in 1985 and reading The Troubles: Struggle for Irish Freedom, 1912-22 by Ulick O'Connor.

Guitarist Gary Kemp remembers he woke at 2am and wrote Through The Barricades in one sitting.

He quoted the "terrible beauty" phrase from WB Yeats and his poem Easter 1916.

He put the lovers on either side of the divide and they met in the wasteland. A popular song that he later termed, "one I'm really close to".

(c) Stuart Bailie 2018. Adapted from Trouble Songs - Music and Conflict in Northern Ireland by Stuart Bailie, published on May 11. Available to pre-order now from www.troublesongs.com

Top Videos