Tuesday 15 October 2019

'They opened the gates of hell and murdered us'

Colm Kelpie

STEPHEN Travers was just 24 at the time of the Miami Showband massacre.

When the popular band was stopped at a bogus checkpoint outside Newry in July 1975, the band members thought it was a routine British army patrol.

Mr Travers, now aged 60, said the mood was good following a performance at a dance in Banbridge, Co Down.

But everything changed after a bomb being covertly placed in the back of the band's Volkswagen minivan by the men posing as British soldiers went off, killing two UVF men. The remaining terrorists then opened fire on the musicians. Mr Travers, although wounded, survived because the gunmen assumed they had killed everybody.

"The gig was good, everything was great," Mr Travers recalled. "Even when we were stopped at the roadblock the atmosphere was good, everything was fine.

"Then when they were putting the bomb into the van and it went off and they started to murder us. It went from a happy, good atmosphere to murderous. They opened the gates of hell."

Mr Travers, who was a bass player, said he knew something wasn't right when one of the men asked if he had any valuables.

"When the shooting started, I was convinced that they were being attacked, not us. So I tried to run," he told the Irish Independent. "I fell onto the ditch and then one of the other lads fell on top of me."

Lead singer Fran O'Toole, guitarist Tony Geraghty, and trumpeter Brian McCoy were all killed in the attack.

Mr Travers lay in the ditch wounded, aware that one of the gunmen was checking to see if the men were dead.

"They had killed the two lads (Fran O'Toole and Tony Geraghty) in a particularly vicious way. I'd heard one of them crying -- not quite sure which one -- asking not to be killed.

"Then one of them was walking around, kicking the bodies. He had a revolver. As he was walking towards me, I was thinking should I beg for my life or stay where I was and pretend to be dead, and somebody on the road shouted to him, 'C'mon, those bastards are dead.' "He turned and walked away."

Irish Independent

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