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Shankill Voices 1901-2001

Mina Wardle, (editor). Shankill Stress and Trauma Group. £4.99

AS I STROLLED down the Shankill Road on the Sunday before Christmas, I noticed a wreath attached to the outside of the Shankill Leisure Centre. Curious, I read the inscription on the card, 'In loving memory of our darling son Colin Nicholl (age 17 months). Murdered by terrorists here 11/12/1971. Remembered always by mummy and daddy and his brothers … and … who never got a chance to love him'.

Young Colin Nicholl died in a no-warning bomb, planted in the Balmoral Furniture Showrooms by an IRA death squad on a busy Saturday afternoon. The infant died alongside two-year-old Tracey Munn when a wall of the former cinema building collapsed on top of their shared pram. A young auctioneer and a security man on the door also died in the explosion. No-one was ever charged with any of these deaths. Shankill Voices reminds us of this bomb attack and others that many people have either forgotten or never knew about. There was more than one 'Shankill Bomb'. Apart from the October 1993 atrocity that killed nine innocent people, two men died in an attack on the Four Step Inn in September 1971 and there were two separate attacks on the Mountainview Tavern. Five people died and 61 were injured in the second attack on Grand National Day in April 1975. Another three men and two women died in a bomb and gun attack on the Bayardo Bar in August of the same year. The final chapters in this little booklet keep their memories fresh.

However, there's a lot more to Shankill Voices than that. The opening chapters set the scene with a potted history of the district before the booklet allows s0me older residents to share their memories of characters like Tommy Henderson and Johnny McQuade and the local effects of such important historical events as the Home Rule Crisis and the wartime blitz. That’s not all. People tell us how they lived, worked, played and worshipped in times of great poverty and deprivation. One man, Mr Hyndman, is now 101 years old. He worked as a journeyman watchmaker. As part of his duties, he looked after all the clocks in Parliament Buildings and Stormont castle when Sir James Craig, the first Ulster Prime Minister, lived there.

This well illustrated booklet is a great mem0ry-jogger. There are things in it I can remember from visiting my granny’s Mansfield Street house in the Sixties and early Seventies. Other things bring back to mind things that my mother and granny told me about – the Shankill Mission, the Sunday school excursions, the reality of the struggle to raise children in spite of poverty and cramped living conditions, the harsh working environment in the linen mills… All this for less than a fiver – terrific! . Shankill Voices is especially ideal for sending to Shankill exiles of any age, wherever in the world they may be now. Get a copy today and maybe an extra one for that overseas friend or relative. You know you want to!

David Kerr



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