Belfast Telegraph

Miami Showband massacre survivor in concert for reconciliation group

By Ivan Little

A survivor of the Miami Showband massacre 43 years ago is to take part in a special concert for a peace and reconciliation group at the weekend.

Stephen Travers will join Belfast musician and songwriter Jackie McAuley, an old sidekick of Van Morrison, on stage in Rostrevor tomorrow night for the show, entitled When We Were Young.

Stephen was shot and wounded as the UVF ambushed the Miami musicians outside Newry shortly after they had played at a dance in Banbridge in July 1975.

The loyalists, who had flagged down the Miami minibus dressed in UDR uniforms, were planting a 10lb bomb in the back of the band's minibus when it exploded prematurely, killing two of the terror gang.

Members of the gang immediately opened fire on the musicians who had been lined up outside.

Three of them - Fran O'Toole, Tony Geraghty and Brian McCoy - were killed, but two of their colleagues survived.

Des Lee from west Belfast was blown off his feet into a ditch, but was able to raise the alarm after he was driven to Newry police station by a couple who were passing in their car.

Stephen Travers, from Co Tipperary, was badly injured after he was hit by a dum-dum bullet.

In 2016 he helped set up the Truth and Reconciliation Platform along with other victims of the Troubles.

They include Alan McBride, whose wife Sharon and father-in-law Desmond Frizzell were killed in the Shankill bombing in 1993, and Eugene Reavey, whose three brothers were killed in a sectarian shooting in south Armagh in 1976.

Former Irish president Mary McAleese has supported the organisation.

Stephen Travers said: "The mantra of the organisation is that no side has a monopoly on suffering or loss and by acknowledging that, you are taking the first step towards reconciliation.

"Any of the terrible atrocities of the Troubles can be held up to beat the other side with. But our belief is that we can't be complacent about the peace that we have now."

Stephen, who has written a bestselling book about the Miami massacre, has given a large number of talks about his experiences. But he said that on Saturday night he will be speaking about happier memories of his time as a musician.

He said: "I don't get the chance to play much music nowadays, so I am looking forward to that.

"Most of the stories I will be telling will be about the showbands and the beat groups in the Sixties.

"We are hoping it will be a night of humour and song, though I will doubtless reflect on what happened on that dreadful night.

"I hope to end the evening by singing Shake a Hand, a song made popular by Fran O'Toole."

Jackie McAuley was a member of Van Morrison's band Them and went on to write hit songs for Gene Vincent and Status Quo.

He also played guitar with skiffle musician Lonnie Donegan in Las Vegas.

The concert will be held at An Cuan, 42 Shore Road, Rostrevor tomorrow. at 8pm.

Belfast Telegraph

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