Arsonists who cost Galliagh trader Damien McLauglin £6,000 when they torched his van and equipment in the early hours of Saturday, inadvertently brought out the best in Derry folk, he has revealed.
The self-employed gutter-cleaner explained how two big-hearted members of the Derry business community rallied to his aid in the wake of the arson attack, supplying him with a loan of a van and gear to complete two weeks’ worth of outstanding jobs booked up for June.
Mr. McLaughlin, trading as Pro Guttervac Cleaning, from Bracken Park , told the ‘Journal’ how he woke to a scene of devastation on Saturday.
“I was awoken at 4 o’clock in the morning by a neighbour who saw the flames and was roaring and shouting for me to come out, but the fire had already taken hold by that stage.
“I’m devastated. Everything was in it. The van was insured but the contents weren’t covered by insurance.
“The contents were about £5,000. The van’s only £1,000, if you look at it that way.
“This year I was really back at it after taking two years out to go back to the ‘Tech’ for a while. Over 10 years I’ve built up a lot of customers who have stuck with me and I was starting to invest. I spent over £3,000 on new machinery and it was all in the van.”
Mr. McLaughlin said it had been particularly difficult to see his nine-years-old son survey the aftermath of the blaze the morning after it occurred.
“The weekend was a complete blur. On Saturday my wee fellah woke up and he stood at the door and just looking at him . . . . .”
Heartwarmingly two local businessmen, one of whom suffered devastation when his premises were gutted by fire in 2015, were quickly in touch with Mr. McLaughlin offering solidarity and material support.
“Stan Lee who owns the Mandarin Palace has offered me the use of a van for three weeks. He said there’s a van there. It’s taxed and insured just come and get it. He knows the crack having lost Karma a few years ago. He told me: ‘You will get through this. ‘
“Another fellow, JW Window Cleaning from Creggan, offered me a lot of equipment that he has spare. I don’t really know him. He messaged me on Saturday and said, ‘Look the stuff’s here’.”
Sinn Féin Councillor Caoimhe McKnight said: “It’s very sad. We are once again commenting after another act of wanton vandalism. This man has built up his business over the last 10 years and has now basically lost it all.”
Mr. McLaughlin has vowed not to let the anti-community elements get the better of him.
“It will not stop me from doing what I’ve always been doing but it’s a shocker.”