sundaylife

| 6.8°C Belfast

sundaylife


Suzanne Breen

Shame on those who maintain wall of silence 44 years after Kingsmill Massacre

Suzanne Breen



Close

The bullet riddled minibus near Whitecross in South Armagh where 10 Protestant workmen were shot dead by IRA terrorists (PA)

The bullet riddled minibus near Whitecross in South Armagh where 10 Protestant workmen were shot dead by IRA terrorists (PA)

PA Archive/PA Images

The bullet riddled minibus near Whitecross in South Armagh where 10 Protestant workmen were shot dead by IRA terrorists (PA)

Alan Black woke up this morning and saw all their faces. The 10 men who were with him on that fateful journey when their minibus was stopped at Kingsmill.

It's 44 years ago but he has forgotten nothing. He has been on a countdown since Christmas. How many days they have left to live? Today, he counts the hours and then the minutes. At 5.20pm, they are gone.

Kenneth Worton. Robert Walker. John Bryans. Walter Chapman. Reginald Chapman. Robert Freeburn. John McConville. Joseph Lemmon. James McWhirter. Robert Chambers.

Alan is with them as they take their seats on the bus outside the Glenanne textile factory. He can still hear the banter about the football on the journey - whether Manchester United could challenge Liverpool to win the English First Division.

They are just names to most of us, but not to the sole survivor of the Kingsmill massacre. Alan knows that Joe Lemmon was a fine carpenter with a big bass voice who always sang American South gospel songs.

He can tell you how Kenneth Worton never left the factory in the evening without taking something home for his young daughters Suzanne and Racquel.

They'd sit on an armchair waiting on their daddy coming through the door with presents. "What did you bring us? What did you bring us?" they'd yell excitedly.

It would be something small like a pencil, a rubber or a bobbin, but it was like treasure to the girls.

After Kenneth was killed, Racquel went to the cemetery every day and lay on her father's grave.

Close

Alan Black was the sole survivor of the massacre (Niall Carson/PA)

Alan Black was the sole survivor of the massacre (Niall Carson/PA)

PA Archive/PA Images

Years later, she visited on the day of her wedding and placed her bridal bouquet there. Told her daddy that he missed a great day. Asked him if she'd looked beautiful in her dress and if he approved of her husband.

And then there's Alan's apprentice, Robert Chambers, just turned 18. His workmates called him the "wee late bred" because his brothers and sisters were already grown up when he was born.

Alan knows how Robert's parents, Bob and Dora, kept his room intact after his death. He'd see them on bright summer days walking through Bessbrook with flasks and sandwiches, going to the graveyard. They'd sit for hours there, just to be close to their beloved boy.

And Alan can see other faces, too. The blackened ones of the men in combat jackets who waved down their bus and who they thought were British soldiers when they ordered them to get out.

For years, Alan lied to protect the bereaved. He said it was all over quickly and nobody suffered, but it wasn't like that.

The first round of shots was waist-high to bring the men down.

They lay on the ground moaning before the gunmen walked round methodically shooting everyone in the head.

Alan was hit 18 times but somehow survived. Remarkably, he forgives the killers. Only on his own behalf, for he knows he has no right to speak for the bereaved.

"I've never harboured hatred in my heart. I believe people are fundamentally good and decent. I always had faith in humanity and I didn't lose it after Kingsmill," he says.

He asks only that those involved tell the truth about what happened on January 5, 1976.

But they won't. The IRA won't even admit it. Kingsmill was in retaliation for the equally horrific murders of six Catholics in the previous 24 hours.

The killers were as vile as the UVF's Glenanne gang. This wasn't for a united Ireland, it was pure sectarian slaughter. Shame on those who maintain the wall of silence.

Please log in or register with belfasttelegraph.co.uk for free access to this article.

Already have an account?

Belfast Telegraph