Belfast Telegraph

Greysteel villagers mark Halloween for first time since atrocity

By Leona O'Neill

For the first time in 25 years Halloween will be celebrated in Greysteel.

The festival has cast a "grey cloud" over the small village that suffered such a huge loss in the Troubles. The holiday, celebrated enthusiastically elsewhere, was too painful to mark in Greysteel.

But this year, a generation after the loyalist terrorist attack on the Rising Sun in which eight people were murdered, local musical talent will gather at the pub for a showcase weekend, children will dress up and enjoy a disco, and the tight-knit local community will enjoy an afternoon tea dance.

Columba Mailey, from the Vale Centre, says it is the first time that Greysteel will have marked Halloween in a positive way since 1993.

"I was three years old when the Rising Sun bar attack happened," he said.

"I have lived here all my life. I was obviously conscious of the attack and when I went to university to study, I learned more about it. Growing up I volunteered with various groups. I worked at trying to better our community.

"The attack didn't break us in Greysteel. We have a really good community here. Around this particular issue it seems it is always a dignified, quiet thing. It was an internal thing. I think it was good to have it like that.

"Looking back at the archives from that time, then-parish priest Father (Stephen) Kearney had said about the grey cloud that had come over the area.

"When you think of all the positive things that go on in the area, such as the youth clubs, boxing clubs, the GAA, Irish dancing, so many little groups that when you pull it all together, you think those who attacked this village didn't achieve anything at all. People from Greysteel went on and enjoyed the things that they could, they remained positive.

"Those who attacked our village could never, ever do anything to stop that from happening."

Working alongside Raymond O'Hara from Greysteel Community Association, Columba said they hoped to place a positive slant on the festival.

"I didn't know any different growing up," he said.

"When I got involved in community development work and working within the council area networks I would hear about all these different areas like Feeny or Ballykelly putting on a Halloween kids' discos and different types of activities. Nobody in our community ever wanted to do anything around Halloween, and it was a respectful thing.

"And that is where this project that we are doing over Halloween developed from.

"On Friday, Saturday and Sunday we put in local talent into the Rising Sun.

"It was all artists who were born here and lived here. It's hard to put into words, but it will just show that we didn't succumb to despair and we didn't go into a shell. That people did go on and better themselves. It's all about highlighting the positives to young people.

"This year Halloween will be celebrated in a more open way. Even the word celebration, I was sensitive to. I thought it was the wrong word.

"Even when it came to doing up the flyer. I struggled with how to put it. In the flyer I just put 'Halloween in Greysteel', there was nothing to do with celebrations.

"There is nothing on the flyer about marking the 25th anniversary. We just tried to have young people from this area have an experience of something that is good fun, that because of no fault of their own, something awful happened here at Halloween.

"We just wanted it to be something positive so that they can go back after the mid-term break and have a story to tell from the Halloween holidays for once."

The Local Talent Showcase took place over the weekend at the Rising Sun.

A children's disco will take place this evening, followed by a family bus trip to see the famous Halloween fireworks in Derry city.

Belfast Telegraph

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