Claudy Bombing 50 Years On: David Miller - Grief over grandfather’s murder is ‘like an open wound that is there all the time’
David Miller wasn’t supposed to be working on the day he was murdered in the Claudy bombing.
The council street cleaner had kindly swapped shifts with a colleague and, as he was working near the scene, helped ferry people out of harm’s way as the first bombs exploded.
Tragically, after taking many people to safety ‘three or four times,’ the father-of-three and doting grandfather was killed when the third bomb exploded.
His grandson, James, said the fact that his grandfather put himself in danger to help others ‘shows the real character of the man’.
The heartbreaking twist of fate that led to David (60) working that day irrevocably changed his family’s future and led to a now 50-year search for answers and justice.
On the 50th anniversary of his grandfather’s death, the family is in an ‘unsettled and sombre’ mood, said James, as the events of the devastating day once again come to the fore.
“This year, in particular, is very poignant. It’s 50 years and as time has gone by, we’ve tried to get truth and justice. And even though we’re trying hard and fighting through the courts etc, it seems that we get blocked at every corner and avenue we turn.”
James’ father, the late Gordon Miller, ‘started this journey years ago’ and fought for answers for many years. Before Gordon’s death, James asked him ‘on his dying bed,’ what he wanted him to ‘do about Claudy’.
“He said: ‘James, I don’t want it to destroy you - if it’s going to destroy you, then leave it’. I told him that it wouldn’t destroy me and he said: ‘Well, then continue for the truth’.
“I’ve taken the mantle on and with the rest of the families, I’m fighting for Claudy. My father started it and it’s now moving down through generations. My daughters are chatting about Claudy and getting involved, but I want it to end with me. I want some sort of closure, but we’re not getting it.”
James told how his grandfather’s death had a devastating impact on his three children, which impacted on them - and in turn, their own children, for the rest of their lives. James was just three-years-old when David was murdered, but has some memories of him.
“I have two older brothers and they remember him as a doting grandfather. I have a younger brother and sister, who weren’t around and never got to bounce on his knee. They were denied of that. My father and his siblings Gerard and Jean were robbed of their father and there was no real counselling or support back in those days. That all had a knock-on effect down through the family as well.”
He continued: “It destroyed our family and we needed answers. That is why we went down the road of seeking truth and justice, which we were denied. We had no other option than to take legal action to get those answers.”
(David Miller’s family was one of three who took High Court action against the Northern Ireland Office (NIO), the Police Service of Northern Ireland (PSNI) and the Catholic Diocese of Derry. They reached a settlement with the NIO and the PSNI, last year, who agreed it without admission of liability. Legal action continues against the Diocese.)
James described his grandfather’s death as ‘like an open wound that it there all the time’.
“It’s sore, it’s painful and we just want that wound to heal.”
His grandfather, James outlined, was a ‘good man a Church man,’ who was well-respected in the village.
“He was in the Church choir and a wee local band. He loved singing, lived for his family and doted on his grandchildren. That’s hard as well, as we know there was so much love there that we missed out on and it’s even more compounded when you find out there was collusion and cover up and you’re thinking that this could have been prevented. Nine people died and for what?”
James’ grandmother, David’s wife, saw her husband after he passed away. Her way of coping, said James, ‘was to not talk about it’.
“The thing about Claudy was that it was Catholic and Protestant and still, to this day, no-one has owned up to it or come forward.”
James said he wants someone to come forward and say ‘this is what happened in Claudy, this is why it happened and it was wrong and we made a mistake - whatever the reason is, come out and say this is why it happened’. “Then the wound would start to heal.”