On Monday, July 31, 1972, the Donemana-native was delivering milk in his father’s home place of Claudy when he was blown up in one of the worst atrocities of the Troubles.
Nine innocents lost their lives that day when three IRA car bombs exploded - two in Main Street and a third in Church Street. William was killed when the third bomb went off at the Beaufort Hotel.
Reflecting on the terrible loss his and the other families suffered that day, his older brother David told the ‘Journal’ William had his whole life ahead of him.
“We miss him badly. He was well educated and had good prospects. He was set up in a job that would have kept him for life. If you got a job in the Leckpatrick Co-Op at that time, that was you.
“He got on well with people on both sides of the community and would have played football and Gaelic. We had a good upbringing in Donemana. People got on well together.”
“They arrived in Claudy that day and took the milk off the lorry. William dropped off deliveries to a couple of houses up the street. He walked past the first bomb in Main Street. He missed the first bomb and was hit by the second bomb in the hand. He went down to William Allen [a colleague] and said, ‘I missed that bomb there. I only got cut in the hand’.
“He showed William his hand and turned around to reach for a crate of milk to walk to the Beaufort Hotel. He was less than eight feet away from the bomb. I can vouch for that.”
He suffered catastrophic injuries from the blast at such close proximity. His coffin was sealed inflicting further suffering on his loved ones.
“It affects me today as it did fifty years ago,” said David.
“My father couldn’t take it. He couldn’t take the loss of his son at that age. My father passed away four years after William. He never recovered. At that time there was no such thing as depression. It brought on my father’s death. David Temple senior passed away on January 14. 1977. It was devastating.”
The bombings might have driven a wedge into the bucolic rural community but David says that wasn’t the case.
“Claudy didn’t deserve what happened. Both sides of the communtiy got on well.The attendance from both sides of the community on the day of William’s funeral was unbelievable. You have to give the communtiy at that time - both sides - great credit. They did rally to help the families.”
Those families are still fighting for justice and answers. It is now 12 years since the then Police Ombudsman Al Hutchinson reported that the RUC had obtained significant investigative opportunities in relation to the late Catholic priest Father James Chesney’s alleged involvement in the atrocity which could have implicated or exonerated him.
Claudy Bombing 50 Years On: David Miller - Grief over grandfather’s murder is ‘like an open wound that is there all the time’He reported: “Rather than act on these opportunities a senior RUC Officer sought the Government’s assistance in December 1972, through their engagement with senior figures of the Catholic Church, to ‘render harmless a dangerous priest’.” Mr. Hutchinson concluded that this contact compromised the investigation.
David believes the church, the authorities and the republican movement have not done enough to provide the families with answers. With regards to Fr. Chesney’s alleged involvement, he said: “There are a lot of people within the community ashamed a Roman Catholic priest was involved in it.”
He also holds the late Martin McGuinness responsible for what happened that day due to his status at the time as Adjutant of the Derry Brigade of the IRA.
“Martin McGuinness was a good man and did a lot of things for the commmuntiy but before that he did a lot of evil things. There are a lot of people blame him for Claudy.
“The way I look at it, Martin McGuinness and Gerry Adams went to see the British Govenrment for ceasefire talks. The next thing that happened was Motorman and the IRA turned round to say, ‘we’re still here boys’ and blew Claudy to bits and killed so many. Roman Catholic families and Protestant families. That was the IRA’s answer to the British Government. Claudy didn’t deserve this.”