Annie’s Bar - 40 years on

The scene of the loyalist gun attack on Annie's Bar, Top of the Hill. (1812MM02)
The scene of the loyalist gun attack on Annie's Bar, Top of the Hill. (1812MM02)

Commemoration events will be held in the city on Thursday night to mark the 40th anniversary of one of the worst sectarian atrocities in the city during the Troubles, the gun attack on Annie’s Bar which left five people dead.

On Wednesday, December 20, 1972, loyalist gunmen burst into the bar at the Top of the Hill at around 10.30pm and opened fire with a Sterling sub-machine gun and a pistol.

The front page of the Derry Journal following the massacre. (1512SL03)

The front page of the Derry Journal following the massacre. (1512SL03)

There had been up to 50 people in the bar watching a football match and celebrating in the run-up to Christmas when the gunmen attacked.

The gunmen fired around 20 shots into the busy bar, killing five people and wounding four more.

While the motivation for the attack on the bar in the predominantly nationalist area was sectarian, the victims came from both sides of the community.

Four of those who died were catholics while one was a protestant.

No group has ever formally claimed responsibility for the attack, although it is widely believed to have been the work of the UDA, despite a statement from the organisation describing it as “appalling.”

The victims were; Michael McGinley (37), Charles McCafferty (32), Charles Moore (31), Bernard Kelly (28) and Frank McCarron (58).

The loyalist killers made their getaway in a yellow Ford Zephyr car which was later found burned out on the Trench Road.

The sectarian killings shocked the city, which until that point had escaped the excesses of sectarian conflict experienced in Belfast.

The Annie’s Bar massacre came at the end of the worst year of the Troubles in Derry, which began with Bloody Sunday in January.

In the immediate aftermath of the attack, the ‘Journal’ described the day as ‘Bloody Wednesday.’

Violent attacks were commonplace in the city at the time and on the morning of the massacre an off-duty UDR man was shot dead while working at the Croppy Hill

The families of all those killed in the attack on Annie’s Bar called for no retaliation for the deaths of their loved ones.

The victims all lived in the Waterside are and a number of them would have known each other.

Charles McCafferty was married with seven children, aged from one to 18 years-old. He worked for Lec Refrigerators.

His wife, Betty, said he went regularly to the bar and on the night of the shooting had been having a drink with his brother-in-law who had left the bar to go to the toilet, returning to find his friend dead. He escaped death by seconds.

Michael McGinley, who worked in Mollins, was married with a seven month-old child.

He grew up in the Waterside and moved to Creggan when he got married, before returning to the Waterside in July 1972.

His wife, Gillian, said his daughter, Patricia, was his pride and joy.

She said he had wheeled his daughter up and down in her pram before going out. She also said that he usually went to a bar in Dungiven Road but, on the night of the shooting, he decided to go to Annie’s instead.

When she heard about the shooting she hoped he had changed his mind and gone to Dungiven Road but discovered what had happened when she went to the scene.

Bernard Kelly had only just got married in September, three months before he was killed. Like Charles McCafferty he worked in Lec Refrigerators. He lived close to the bar in Mimosa Court.

Frank McCarron’s daughter, Maureen, said her father was a regular at Annie’s Bar and was well known there. She had been at a dinner dance when she was learned about the gun attack.

Charles Moore, the only protestant killed in the attack, was a nurse at Stradreagh hospital.

He was married with two daughters and his wife was expecting their third child at the time of the shooting.

He had been off work on the day of the shooting and had been working with cars at a nearby farm.

He got a lift back to the Top of the Hill and met a fellow nurse, a catholic, and the two men went for a drink together. His friend initially thought he had ducked to avoid the gunfire only to discover that he was dead.

An anniversary Mass will be celebrated in St Columb’s Church, Chapel Road, on Thursday night at 7.30pm and will be followed by a candlelight procession to the memorial plaque on the side of Annie’s Bar. Refreshments will be served afterwards in Hillcrest House.