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Bombing of Orange Order HQ in 1976 is recalled by those who fled for lives


Rev Martin Smyth denounced the IRA bombing

Rev Martin Smyth denounced the IRA bombing

Rev Martin Smyth denounced the IRA bombing

Orangemen have recalled fleeing for their lives after an IRA bomb attack on their Belfast headquarters.

Today marks the 40th anniversary of the blast, which caused serious damage to a portion of the House of Orange on Dublin Road in 1976.

The 20lb device exploded in a music shop beneath the offices minutes after Orangemen had left the premises.

While no one was injured, the building was extensively damaged.

Those caught up in the attack included former grand master John Bryans, ex-grand secretary Walter Williams and office assistants Elaine Huddleston and Kathleen McDowell.

In an interview with the Orange Standard, Miss Huddleston recalled the incident as "quite scary".

"The staff in Crymble's Music did not activate the alarm system and unfortunately the police did not realise there were more people in the building," she said.

"I remember being on my tea break and hearing a lot of sirens. When I looked out the window the emergency services were all present.

"Lots of people had congregated outside and I specifically remember one man - his face was absolutely petrified - signalling for us to get out.

"I quickly informed the others, so we got out. There was a bit of an uproar with people telling us to run, and a man pulled us into Salisbury Street. We were only out a few minutes when the building went boom."

Despite the damage to the first floor of the block, Elaine and her colleagues returned to work as normal the next day.

"We moved into the conference room on the second floor while repair works were carried out," she said.

Also caught in the blast was Walter Williams, who managed to salvage a number of antiques from the resulting blaze.

These included a centuries-old portrait of King William, which had been in the possession of the Order for more than a century. The piece, by Dutch artist William Wissing, was painted three years before the Battle of the Boyne in 1690.

Shortly after the attack Mr Williams hoisted the Union flag and Orange Standard on the flagpoles on the roof of the House of Orange in an act of defiance. "We were lucky to get away," he said. "We ran out of the building past the bomb."

Ex-grand master Rev Martin Smyth added at the time: "Planting a bomb in the music shop was an easy way to get at the Order's headquarters."

Belfast Telegraph