Belfast Telegraph

Bombay Street's burning by loyalists 50 years ago remembered in west Belfast

A composite image showing Bombay Street in 1969 and 2019
A composite image showing Bombay Street in 1969 and 2019
Sean Kelly

By Staff Reporter

The 50th anniversary of the burning of Bombay Street, one of the key events of the early days of the Troubles, was marked yesterday.

On August 15, 1969, a loyalist mob burnt the street in west Belfast to the ground.

Yesterday people gathered to remember the event. Among the crowd of close to 200 was Shankill bomber Sean Kelly.

Assembling at Divis Tower, people marched to Clonard Memorial Garden in Bombay Street.

The burning came during a period of heightened tension in west Belfast.

On the previous night, August 14, 1969, republicans exchanged shots with the RUC and loyalist gunmen amid riots along the interface areas.

When the RUC pressed into the nationalist district it was followed by a loyalist mob.

By the end of the following day, the mob had burned Bombay Street to the ground.

A diary which was kept at the nearby Clonard Monastery reported how "mobs came onto Bombay Street again, protected by guns, and began, one by one, to set on fire all that remains of Bombay Street".

It added that the soldiers "retreated and fired a tear gas bomb and there was silence for a while except for the crackle of 60 or so houses burning".

Bombay Street was rebuilt the following year.

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