Shankill bomb hero Raymond Elliott takes his secrets to the grave
The son of a west Belfast man who was honoured for his bravery in trying to rescue victims of the Shankill bomb said he was his family's as well as the community's hero.
Raymond Elliott (71) from Highfield died on Wednesday after suffering from long-term ill-health. He had never fully recovered from or talked about the horror he witnessed on October 23, 1993 when the IRA bombed Frizzell's fish shop on the Shankill Road, killing 10 people and injuring more than 50 others.
With no thoughts for his own safety, Mr Elliott spent hours digging through the rubble trying to save people.
He received the Royal Ulster Constabulary Award Certificate for his valour.
Diane Morrison - sister of Michael Morrison, one of those killed in the bomb along with his partner Evelyn Baird and seven-year-old daughter Michelle - said Mr Elliott had been a lifelong family friend and they would always be grateful to him for his efforts on the day of the bomb, and proud of him.
Mr Elliott's son Stephen last night told the Belfast Telegraph that his family were devastated at the loss of their "hero".
His father died on Wednesday morning, his son's 50th birthday, after struggling with ill-health.
"He had been ill from Christmas. He fought it all the way which was typical of my father, fought until his last breath," he said.
"My father didn't like talking about the bomb too much, he didn't want to upset my mum or any of the families of those who were killed, so he kept a lot in and it tortured him.
"Every time it came up to the anniversary of the bomb, he and my mum would get away from Belfast. They went to Portrush, Portstewart, Bangor, anywhere just to get away from it. It was too hard for him."
Mr Elliott said his father hated passing the site where the bomb had exploded as it upset him to think of people who he had not been able to save.
"He always had it in his head that if he had have been able to save just one person," he said.
"We tried to explain to him that there was nothing anyone could have done, but it haunted him."
Mr Elliott said his father was a different man after the bomb.
"Before that bomb went off he had been the life and soul of the party," he said. "After that bomb, we lost a part of him."
He said his father took solace in his family, especially the new lives coming into it.
"He loved his family, he especially loved having the grandchildren and great grandchildren about him, but he still wasn't the same as he was before that bomb," he said.
"He used to get these depressions. You knew when they were coming on."
Mr Elliott said his father is his hero, and also the hero of the grandchildren and great grandchildren.
"He cared a lot about people, if he saw anyone in trouble he would have helped them, that's just the way he was," he said. "He was our hero, he was the hero to a lot of people.
"The grandchildren kept him going, then the great grandchildren. They were his wee munchkins. They really miss him. We have got DVDs and articles about him getting his medals.
"They don't understand about the Troubles and what happened, but we have told them what he did and you see their wee faces light up, they are so proud of him."
Victims campaigner Willie Frazer described Mr Elliott as a friend, and said he will be sorely missed by the many affected by the Troubles who he had reached out to in the last decade.
"He had been through a lot," he said.
"He helped other victims a lot too, people often find it hard to talk, but Raymond seemed to have a way about him that he could talk to people who had been affected by trauma.
"He was a great help to other victims and he will be sorely missed."
Mr Elliott's funeral is set to take place from his daughter's house next Tuesday.
He is survived by his wife of 53 years Doreen, sons Jim and Stephen, daughter Eileen as well as 11 grandchildren and 12 great grandchildren.