Ex-RUC officer Pollock dedicated life to his injured colleagues after losing legs in bomb
Tributes paid to RUC man maimed in 1981 Provo blast
A former RUC officer who lost both his legs in an IRA car bomb but went on to devote his life to helping other injured colleagues has died.
Ronnie ‘Rollie’ Pollock, who had served as a reserve constable, passed away peacefully in hospital on Tuesday. He was in his late 80s.
Friends last night paid tribute to Mr Pollock’s heroism in coping with his injuries and finding a new purpose in life. They said that while he had suffered the loss of his legs and his policing career, terrorists had been unable to break his remarkable spirit.
Devoted to his wife Georgie, they had two sons and became great-grandparents.
A booby-trap bomb detonated as Mr Pollock pulled out of the driveway of his home in Banbridge, Co Down, in 1981.
After hearing a noise he tried to dive out of the vehicle, but the device exploded and he lost his legs in the blast. Such was the force of the bomb it also blew in all the windows of his home.
‘James’, a former RUC colleague and friend, had been shot in both legs and was in hospital at the same time as Mr Pollock. “He was a great guy. He suffered the loss of his two legs very well and he was a good laugh in hospital,” he said.
“As I was shot in the legs and he had no legs, we had a running joke. If something came up he would say to me: ‘We haven’t a leg to stand on between the two of us’.”
Both men were only too aware of the dangers officers faced during the worst days of the Troubles. James added: “You can’t explain what it was like at the time. You put your uniform on and accepted the risks, that was just one of those things.”
Medically discharged from the force, Mr Pollock later became involved with the Disabled Police Officers Association Northern Ireland (DPOANI) and went on to help and support other injured officers.
While he moved on with his life, he never felt the need to forgive his attackers. He told the Banbridge Leader in 2009: “How can you forgive, when no one has ever said sorry nor tried to explain their actions?
“Nobody was ever charged with causing my injuries and throwing my life into disarray, and I think if they had, I might look upon things a little differently.
“If someone had been punished and justice had been seen to be done, that would definitely have helped heal the wounds. As it is, all I can do is hope the culprit or culprits have difficulty sleeping in their beds at night.”
In 2001, he criticised the decision to change the name of the RUC to the PSNI as a concession to republicans. “It’s been concession after concession after concession,” he told the BBC. “It seems as if the bomb and the bullet win every time. David Trimble (First Minister at the time) should get out. Unionists have no future at Stormont.”
Former RUC officer Jim Craig was badly wounded in a 1979 gun attack and he and his law lecturer wife Rosemary became close friends with Mr Pollock through the DPOANI.
“Ronnie was a lovely man. He lost both his legs but he never lost his spirit,” Mrs Craig said.
She remembers one difficult visit to Stormont Castle for Mr Pollock in the 1990s.
“We had been invited to go to Stormont Castle to talk about getting a medal for injured officers. I also argued we should get war pensioner status as I felt we were fighting a war,” she said.
“I’ll never forget Ronnie had a red wheelchair. But there was no wheelchair access and he couldn’t get into the castle, it was totally humiliating.
“They sent out two policemen to carry Ronnie up the steps. This shows you how nobody thought about disabled people.
“Ronnie was gracious about it, I would have been upset and humiliated, but he said: ‘They just don’t understand what it’s like to be sitting where I’m sitting’.
“He was a gentleman, an example to others and he bore his injuries with grace. He was a great Christian and it showed, he was a lovely man. I really believe it was his great Christian faith that carried him and his wife Georgie through.”
Another injured officer, Noel McConkey, taught Mr Pollock to drive again. “Noel was a triple amputee who was blown up on the Grosvenor Road in Belfast in 1978,” Mrs Craig said.
“My husband was shot in 1979 in Benburb Street and it never leaves you, it’s like it was yesterday. Ronnie lost his legs in 1981, but Noel had been through it all and knew when the time was right to get Ronnie behind the wheel again.
“Noel collected him in a big Volvo, got his wheelchair inside and drove down the road and stopped the car. He told Ronnie: ‘You’re driving’. He nearly fainted but Noel said: ‘If you don’t drive we’re sitting here all day.’”
Mr Craig said he had always admired the courage his friend had shown in helping others.
“He was a great support to other injured officers for many years, he would visit them and did some counselling,” he said.
“I like to remember him as a good friend who made sure he enjoyed life despite everything.”
Mr Pollock’s funeral will take place tomorrow at 2pm in Banbridge Road Presbyterian Church in Dromore followed by committal in Dromore New Cemetery.