On 20 March 1993, the Samaritans organisation in Warrington, England, received a telephone bomb warning. The IRA had placed a bomb in a rubbish bin outside Boots Chemist Shop on Bridge Street. There wasn’t time to evacuate the street when the explosion happened 30 minutes later. A second bomb also exploded, 100 yards from the first. The telephone caller had failed to mention it. Two kids died.
Three-year-old Johnathan Ball died at the scene. He had been in town with his babysitter. They had been shopping for a Mother’s Day card.
The second victim was 12-year-old Tim Parry. He took the full force of the blast. He died 5 days later, when doctors switched his life support machine off. Fifty-four other people were injured, four of them seriously.
Jonathan & Tim were just two of some 80 people killed during the period of 1974 to 1996 in many such incidents in Britain alone. More than 500 were injured, some very seriously. And that’s not to mention the some 3,500 that also died in Ireland in those days through similar circumstances.
MB lived in Britain from 1985 to 1995, so he was there during many of the incidents that produced those statistics. It was a difficult time to be Irish in Britain with incidents of racist abuse or physical attacks happening from time to time.
But in all MBs 10 years in Britain, he did not experience any such incidents, luckily. And like the vast majority of the huge Irish immigrant population in Britain, MB only experienced decency and generosity of spirit from the natives. The Brits are renowned for their tolerance, and notwithstanding a degree of racism in certain quarters in those now distant days, the vast majority of Irish people who lived and worked in Britain would concur that their treatment was similar to that of MB. And in relation to the racist events, let’s face it, not everyone in every society is a logical intelligent animal of tolerance and understanding. Same in every country amongst every race and creed. There are always a small number who will show an ugly side, in reaction to the ugly side of the small few who do their evil against the wishes of the vast vast majority.
It probably helped the Irish in Britain at the time that they were white, spoke the same language (albeit with more charm!) and generally didn’t stand out from the crowd, so to speak. It would be difficult to find anyone in Britain, then or now, who does not have an Irish friend or know some Irish people at least. And let’s face it, the Irish are a likeable bunch! MB once met a well-to-do American in a golf club bar in London. On answering the Americans question about country of origin, Yankee Doodle informed MB that he had visited Ireland many times to play golf. “And in all my visits to the Emerald Isle“ said YD, “I never met a single asshole – not one”. MB informed YD that Ireland was indeed an asshole-free zone. “The policy was introduced back in 1921 when we got our independence from the Brits”, said MB. YD smiled his YD smile and was duly impressed, as MB thought to himself – what an asshole.
There were calls in those days from some on the more extremes of politics to implement various travel restrictions or passport controls on visitors from Ireland. Or even to control in some way the large Irish community then living in Britain. Thanks to the general tolerance of the Brits as a nation, such measures never came to pass.
In 1998 Ireland Inc, signed up to the Good Friday Agreement. Historical issues were put to bed, and conflicting parties promised to focus on football and kids birthdays and building houses & roads and whatnot. Most have been good to their word, and at least all have tried to walk the road, which has proved to be a rocky one at times. The efforts continue.
Irish HX blog followers of MBs generation might remember some or all of the following:
February 1974 – Coach carrying soldiers and families in northern England is bombed by the Irish Republican Army (IRA). Twelve people killed, 14 hurt.
October-November 1974 – Wave of IRA bombs in British pubs kills 28 people and wounds more than 200.
July 1982 – Two IRA bomb attacks on soldiers in London’s royal parks kill 11 people and wound 50.
December 1983 – IRA bomb at Harrods department store kills six.
October 1984 – Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s cabinet narrowly escapes IRA bomb that kills five people at Brighton hotel during Conservative Party’s annual conference.
September 1989 – Bomb at Royal Marines Music School in Deal, southeast England, kills 11 and wounds 22.
February 1990 – Explosion at Army recruitment centre in Leicester. Two wounded.
May 1990 – Seven wounded by blast at Army Educational Service headquarters in London suburb of Eltham.
May 1990 – One soldier is killed and another wounded by car bomb in Wembley.
June 1990 – Soldier is shot dead at train station in Lichfield.
February 1991 – IRA comes close to killing Prime Minister John Major and key cabinet members in a mortar attack on Downing Street. One of three mortar bombs slammed into garden behind building, exploding within 50 feet (15 metres) of the target.
April 1992 – Huge car bomb outside Baltic Exchange in London’s financial district kills three people and wounds 91.
March 1993 – Bombs in two litter bins in Warrington kill two boys aged three and 12.
April 1993 – IRA truck bomb devastates Bishopsgate area of London’s financial district, killing one and wounding 44.
February 1996 – Two people die when IRA paramilitaries detonate large bomb in London’s Docklands area.
We should not forget our history.