Belfast Telegraph

30 years on, RUC duo recall horror of Provos' Lisburn Fun Run blast that left six soldiers dead in the street

Lisburn van bomb
Lisburn van bomb
Aileen Dixon
RUC’s Eleanor Law at the scene

By Staff Reporter

A former RUC reservist who was among the first on the scene after the Lisburn Fun Run bombing 30 years ago today that left six soldiers dead says she has carried the memory with her ever since.

Aileen Dixon relived the aftermath of the attack as the city prepares to host a special service tonight.

She says she remembers every detail of that night.

"It's strange. Ask me about any other day during my 27 years with the RUC and I couldn't tell you where I was, what I was doing," she said.

"But that night, where I was, what I saw, what I had to do, I remember everything and it'll never leave me."

This evening she will join with survivors, military representatives and former emergency services personnel who were on duty on the night.

Sergeant Michael Winkler (31); Signalman Mark Clavey (24); Lance Corporal Graham Lambie (22); Corporal William Patterson (22); Corporal Ian Metcalf (36), and Lance Corporal Derek Green (20) died.

They had just competed in the Lisburn Fun Run half-marathon and were leaving in an unmarked military van when an IRA bomb that had been placed underneath went off.

Ms Dixon said that the fun run had finished and there was a carnival spirit.

"I was heading back to the station and we were just pulling in when we heard the blast and saw the smoke starting to rise over the buildings. We knew straight away what it was," she said.

"We were only a few hundred yards away and went straight round. Of course, the fears were there of what we were going into. There were so many people, families and children around that night.

"When we saw what had happened, it was carnage. There's no other word.

"My inspector told me to clear the area as there was a suspected second device, so I did what I could to make sure everyone got away safely. I already knew there would be little I could do around the van, or what was left of it.

"I was paired up with another RUC reservist, Eleanor Law, and we were sent to help people out of the row of shops in Market Place which had stayed open for the evening.

"I'll always remember being with Eleanor when we pulled a girl clear of a bridal shop. She'd been in there trying on her wedding dress and we got her out, still in the dress."

Ms Law, who served as a reservist for 29 years, also vividly remembers the night.

She said: "Looking back now, it was horrific. Getting people to safety was the priority.

"Getting them into an ambulance and off to the Lagan Valley Hospital, where the staff were wonderful that night.

"They were the real heroes, not us."

Constable Dixon's next task was getting body bags for the victims.

"Even then I don't think the enormity of it all had started to sink in," she said.

"But I saw bits of bodies blown apart across Market Place.

"The blast was so big there were even remains on the roofs of nearby buildings.

For Constable Law, the most striking images were the human ones: "I remember staring at a pair of trainers sitting in the middle of the road, blown clear of the van.

"I remember torn and ripped pieces of clothing littering the street, the human things. But most of all, I remember the smell.

"Even now, 30 years later, it all comes back to me. The smell of burning flesh. To this day it still turns my stomach and I think of the poor boys and their poor families.

"My own two boys weren't much younger than the soldiers who died in 1988."

She said she still paused to reflect as she passes a memorial plaque in the city centre.

She added: "I don't know who did this, or why they think they had to.

"I think of the families of those boys and I know the people who did this, and who committed so many other atrocities, have God to answer to in the end. That helps you deal with it and keeps you sane.

"In a way, I'm lucky. I'm practical. I can cut things out of my head, lock them away and get on with things. But every so often that night rises to the surface and takes me back.

"I just got on with things. That's what you did. You got up the next morning and went back to work. But we always have to remember."

Lagan Valley DUP MP Sir Jeffrey Donaldson, who will be attending the service this evening, said: "The horror of the bomb attack left a scar on the local community that remains to this day.

"We owe it to those six young lives and to all those who still carry the scars to ensure this never happens again. In the end, that would be the most fitting tribute to the lost lives of a tragic period in our history."

Belfast Telegraph


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