Miami massacre survivor in conversation at Holywell

Miami Showband.  Pictures supplied by Stephen Travers
Miami Showband. Pictures supplied by Stephen Travers

Musician turned reconciliation campaigner, Stephen Travers, will visit Derry next Thursday as part of his ongoing efforts to help heal some of the wounds opened during the recent conflict.

Mr. Travers will join Archdeacon Robert Miller, the Anglican Rector of Christ Church, Culmore, Muff and St. Peter’s in the city, in conversation at the Holywell Trust building in Bishop Street at 7.30 p.m.

“I campaign for reconciliation but, having been bombed and shot with a dum-dum bullet, walked and crawled across a blood-soaked field where my three bandmates lay slaughtered with sixteen holes in my gut and a collapsed lung, let no-one ever doubt my determination to get justice,” Mr. Travers has remarked of the early morning of July 31, 1975.

A bass player with the popular Miami Showband at the time, Mr. Travers suffered horrific injuries when the group were stopped by a loyalist gang at a fake checkpoint outside Newry while heading back to Dublin from a gig in Banbridge.

His bandmates, Fran O’Toole, Brian McCoy and Tony Geraghty, were all slaughtered.

Two of the killers Harris Boyle and Wesley Somerville, co-members of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF) and the British Army’s Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) were also blown to pieces with their own bomb, which they were planting to try to make it look as though the band were carrying explosives.

Secretary of State for the North, Merlyn Rees, on the very day of the attack, said: “I cannot confirm that any particular Protestant group - the UVF for example - was responsible. I understand that an arm with the letters ‘UVF’ tattooed on it has been found.”

In 1976 two UVF/UDR co-members, Thomas Raymond Crozier and Rodney Shane McDowell, were jailed for the atrocity.

In 1980 Wesley Somerville’s brother John James Somerville was also jailed for his involvement.

Despite surviving these horrors, Mr. Travers, is a founding member of the Truth and Reconciliation Platform (TARP) and believes passionately that, as a society, we must “de-glamourise” all violence from whatever source.

This resonates with Rev. Miller’s and Father Paul Farren’s ‘Forgiveness Remembers’ project, which was launched last year and which acknowledges that forgiveness is central to the Christian message but not a “fast food option”.

To book a place please contact Amanda Clarke at 02871261941.