I can still hear the screaming, says 1973 Coleraine bomb survivor

David Gilmour during a return to the scene of the bombing
David Gilmour during a return to the scene of the bombing

A survivor of the 1973 Coleraine bombing has described the IRA atrocity as “the forgotten massacre” of the Troubles.

David Gilmour, who was aged just 10 when he and his parents were caught up in the bomb attack at Railway Road in the town on June 12, 1973, said he was “quite emotional” when the Causeway Coast and Glens council passed a motion to establish a permanent memorial for the victims.

Mr Gilmour, who works in the DUP constituency office in Limavady, survived the blast thanks to a car between the vehicle he and his mother were in and the explosion.

He is still troubled by his experience that day.

“It never goes away – you can always picture it in your mind’s eye,” he said.

“I remember when the bomb went off, the silence.

“Some people have said to me that’s because the actual blast temporarily deafens you, I don’t know.

“But the next thing to come is the screaming. That’s just ... that’s in your mind, you can hear that. That doesn’t dissipate with the years. I’m not a youngster anymore but it’s there.”

He said that, at first, he didn’t recognise his father, who was in a nearby shop when the bomb went off.

“My father was in Moore’s, the photographers, and he was going in for his driving licence pictures,” Mr Gilmour explained. “He was at the front and he was blown to the back, and the ceilings collapsed in on top of him.

“He was black at the back of his neck to the back of his knees, and the suit he had on him was blown off him. My mother and I didn’t recognise him – the combination of the blood and the dust and the shredded clothing. It wasn’t until he spoke, we heard his voice, that I suddenly realised ‘that’s my dad’. I just did not recognise him.”

He added: “That’s why I always like to use the word ‘survivor’. The victims to me are the people who lost their lives, and their families. There were some grievous injuries that day. People lost limbs and all sorts of things. So really, in many ways, we were a very fortunate family that all three of us who were there that day survived.”

He is pleased the motion to organise a service for the families for the 45th anniversary and to explore options for a permanent memorial has passed.

“There is nothing by way of a memorial, no plaque, nothing. I think that’s why in many ways it has become known as the forgotten massacre.

“I’ve called for some form of memorial for a long, long number of years. There’s a sense of relief that, finally, I can see now there is light at the end of the tunnel. But obviously that doesn’t take away from the sadness that the bombing actually happened in the first place.”