Belfast Telegraph

Boyfriend of pregnant Belfast girl killed by soldier: 'I really wish that they had shot me instead of her'

Victim's boyfriend still haunted by incident decades on, as he tells Rebecca Black

The former boyfriend of a teenager who was carrying their child when she was shot dead by soldiers says the feeling that he should have died, rather than her, has haunted him for over 40 years.

Thomas Corrigan from the Falls Road was just 16 and planning his future with Marian Brown (17) and their unborn child when his world was turned upside down on June 10, 1972.

Just minutes before the shooting, they had broken the news of the pregnancy to Marian's family and that they planned to wed.

Thomas, now 62, told the Belfast Telegraph that despite moving to England to start a new life, he could never shake the feeling that it should have been him, not Marian who died on Roden Street.

"There are quite a lot of times that I really so wished it had've been me and not her. The fact that she had our baby, that she could have lived on with the baby and brought it up with the support of her family," he said.

"I would much prefer that it had been me who died than her.

"That was the hard bit to come to terms with, that I survived and she didn't."

Marian Brown, who was just 17 when she was shot dead in west Belfast

The couple first met eight months previously, at a dance hall in Clonard, after Thomas spotted Marian dancing and plucked up the courage to approach her for the last song of the night.

"It was a typical disco - guys standing on the side, girls dancing, and then of course comes the last dance you went up and danced with a girl," he said.

"She was quite an incredible girl. The old adage that only the good die young... she was really good, she was a really good girl and it is so sad that she lost her life so early."

Thomas was around a year younger than Marian and recalled evenings walking her home to where she had lived at Unity Flats.

He said neither of them had much money, he had a part-time job at the Chip and Chicken where he had worked since he was 11, while Marian worked as a stitcher.

"I used to walk her home, which was a long walk to Unity Flats. That's how you got to know someone, spending so much time walking and talking," he said.

"Neither of us were in any way political, we were into dancing and stuff like that - dancing and dating. We were just enjoying our lives."

Thomas Corrigan

The couple had found out around three weeks before Marian's death that she was pregnant and on June 10 they had been to her mother's house to tell her family their news.

"Marian and I decided we wanted a life together and to bring up the child. We chose that night to tell her mum that she was pregnant," he said.

"Her mum was very upset, but realised we were both serious about it and were going to get married which was reassurance for her.

"After that, Marian decided she wanted to stay with her sister that night so we were walking with her sister to her house.

"We had actually parted, but we hadn't made arrangements for the next night so I heard Marian call me, I walked back across the road, Marian walked towards me and we started talking about where we would meet the next night.

"Then all hell broke loose."

Thomas and Marian were both hit by bullets, with Thomas suffering serious injuries from gunshot wounds to his arm, chest and face, which left him permanently deaf in one ear.

"We heard the shots first, I grabbed Marian's hand and dragged her towards the wall," he said.

"I didn't know Marian had been shot until I came to. I remember getting put into the ambulance and asking, 'Where is Marian, is Marian okay?'

"I remember seeing the lights as I was on a trolley and my clothes being cut off, I was fairly conscious but I wasn't there, it's a hard thing to describe, I felt like my mind was somewhere else, looking in on myself. I had difficulty breathing, my body went into shock, and that's all I remember until I came to.

"Members of my family told me what had happened."

Around a year later, Thomas moved to England to start a new life.

"I needed to move away," he said. "My personality changed, from an ordinary placid guy, I'd fight with anyone, I became really aggressive. The shooting caused it - the scars on my face, people would look at me, I felt like the Elephant Man."

He moved to London where he worked on building sites initially, before working his way up to becoming a business analyst for a major IT company.

"I didn't have to justify what had happened to my face because no-one really looks at you in England," he said.

Thomas went on to marry and start a family.

"Funnily enough, her surname was Brown too. She had black hair and she was quite like Marian in a sense," he said.

"Sharon and I were married for 20 years, before I lost her to breast cancer. My daughter Erin was 11 and my son Francis was 14 when their mum passed away.

"I told my children (about Marian) as soon as they were able to understand. I have never kept what I experienced a secret from my family."

The loss of Marian has stayed with him throughout his life.

"There has never been a time when I haven't thought of Marian and the circumstances. Every time I wake up, get out of bed and look in the mirror, I am reminded because of the scars, what happened to me and the loss of Marian," he said.

"It's not something you can forget."

In terms of the possibility of ever seeing anyone brought to justice, Thomas added: "It's up to the court to decide what happens, that's not for me. They can deal with their own conscience."

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