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Sir Trevor McDonald: ‘Covering the Troubles has left a stain on my memory — I can’t get the terrors out of my head’

Veteran newsman Sir Trevor McDonald said violence has had a lasting impact


Veteran broadcaster Sir Trevor McDonald in Belfast

Veteran broadcaster Sir Trevor McDonald in Belfast

Veteran broadcaster Sir Trevor McDonald in Belfast

Sir Trevor McDonald has said he still feels the impact of covering the Troubles — almost 50 years later.

He said that the predominant noise reporting from Northern Ireland in the early Seventies was that of "violence - and I've never forgotten it".

He admitted: "I find that I still reflect on it and I can't entirely get it out of my mind, it's always part of me now.

"It never leaves you. It's like a stain on your shirt or your jacket and the slightest thing triggers very, very strong memories of those times.

"It's part of your life. It's part of my life now and I never forget it.

"I always think that the place I learnt the most about myself was probably when I joined ITN and was sent to Northern Ireland."

Trinidad-born Sir Trevor, 81, said that he pushed to cover the conflict here in 1973 when he told his new bosses: "I want to do everything that everybody else does."

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He explained: "The big story at the time was Northern Ireland - every night it was Belfast and more bombs and bullets and violence.

"And I say I learnt more about myself because I was terrified when I went to Northern Ireland.

"I'm not a brave person. I describe myself as a coward.

"I suddenly found myself in the middle of a place where there were bombs and bullets and people were killing each other.

"And every night there was a disturbance and, you know, you grew accustomed to the sound of bombs going off.

"The first line of your commentary was always, 'The bomb went off...'

"There was just mayhem and murder and killing and dreadful, dreadful scenes.

"And it was all happening within close distance of where you were.

"The hotel in which we stayed, the Europa Hotel, was bombed about six times while I was there, and we were always given enough time to get out.

"But I was absolutely terrified — I'd never heard a bomb go off in my life, I'd never heard about a Kalashnikov rifle, I didn't know what that was.

"I'd never seen so much killing. I went to a house one evening where a little child was telling us about how the gunman came in and killed two people in the household. I mean, it was absolutely frightening.

"And I learnt about myself because I learnt a little bit to conquer fear and to survive and to work in such an environment."

Sir Trevor told the Travel Diaries podcast that he became so invested in the Troubles that he was a champion for peace — but that the horrific sounds of atrocities will never leave him.

He said: "We all yearned for something better, and so we really latched on to the peace people.

"They won the Nobel prize so I went with them to Europe to collect the prize and you really, really felt that it's time for a change and we wanted to see some political movement.

"But the predominant noise, the predominant thing in the environment was violence — and I've never forgotten it.

"The way some of these explosions were, the people who planted the bombs would always give you notice so you could get out.

"And so, I spent a lot of my time standing outside buildings waiting for it to explode.

"And as I say, I'd never heard a bomb go off in my life — we don't do that in the West Indies."

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