Commemoration for 1973 IRA bomb

The scene in the aftermath of the Provisional IRA bomb that exploded in Railway Road, Coleraine on June 12, 1973. The explosion killed six civilians.
The scene in the aftermath of the Provisional IRA bomb that exploded in Railway Road, Coleraine on June 12, 1973. The explosion killed six civilians.

ONE of the darkest days in Coleraine’s history - the IRA bombing of Railway Road forty years ago - will be commemorated by a service in the town centre on Wednesday afternoon.

Six people were killed, all pensioners and 33 others were injured, including some schoolchildren in the devastating car bomb attack of June 12, 1973.

A Coleraine Borough Council commemoration will take place from 2:50pm at Coleraine Town Hall and the adjacent War Memorial.

A short service will be led by the Mayor’s Padre, followed by a wreath laying and a minute’s silence. The public are welcome to attend to pay their respects, council said.

UUP councillor, Willie McCandless recalls the events vividly: “The infamy of that day has remained with me over the past 40 years and I remember the victims every year. I was 20 years of age when the bombing occurred and was employed in Ballantyne Sportswear Coleraine. When the news came through to us in the factory it was incorrectly communicated that the bomb had exploded at the Railway Station.

“I immediately rushed there as my father had been due to complete some building repair work. I remember dodging a police officer to get through and was relieved to find out that the information was inaccurate and that my father had been transferred to work at Ballymoney station that day.”

Speaking of Wednesday’s commemoration, councillor McCandless added: “I hope that people from all sections of the community will join with us in remembering those lives which were so needlessly and tragically taken and that we can all work together to ensure that our children and grandchildren never have to face these dark days again.”

Former Ambulance Service worker, councillor David Barbour, recalled feeling the ground heaving beneath his feet as he stood beside his vehicle at Chapel Square.

He said: “It was my duty to collect nursing staff and take them to the scene to see what could be done as well as collecting people suffering major injuries and transporting them to the Accident/Emergency Centre. The scene was of people lying in several places, rising smoke, black dust, and damaged buildings.

“The activity at the hospital was hectic as medical, nursing and technical staff selected patients for appropriate treatment. I wondered for some time how staff would cope with such a major incident. They actually did well in the face of such a challenge and health service staff in town as visitors volunteered their services if required.”

Former Limavady mayor, Sinn Fein councillor Sean McGlinchey, brother of notorious IRA man Dominic McGlinchey was convicted of planting the bomb and served 18 years in prison.

The first bomb exploded outside a wine shop around 3pm on Railway Road, while a second device detonated five minutes later at Hanover Place, adding to the panic and confusion in the area. At the time the IRA had sent a warning for the second bomb but said it had mistakenly given the wrong location for the first.

The six pensioners who died in the atrocity - Elizabeth Craigmile (76), Robert Scott (72), Dinah Campbell (72), Francis Campbell (70), Nan Davis (60), and Elizabeth Palmer (60) - were all Protestant.

the bombings brought about a violent backlash from loyalist paramilitaries, who swiftly retaliated by unleashing a series of sectarian killings on the Catholic community culminating in the double killing of Senator Paddy Wilson and Irene Andrews on June 26 that year.

In his book Years of Darkness: The Troubles Remembered, academic Gordon Gillespie described the attacks as “a forgotten massacre” of The Troubles