independent

Friday 15 December 2017

Swords man survived Miami band massacre

Last picture of Miami Showband Summer of 1975. Tony Geraghty Fran O'Toole, Ray Millar, Des Lee, Brian McCoy and Steve Travers
Last picture of Miami Showband Summer of 1975. Tony Geraghty Fran O'Toole, Ray Millar, Des Lee, Brian McCoy and Steve Travers

SATURDAY night next, July 31, marks another anniversary of the moment that shocked not only Ireland but the world. The night when a group of musicians were gunned down on a lonely road for no reason. The day the Miami Showband died.The group were travelling home after doing a gig in Banbridge, halted by what they believed to be a Police checkpoint, near Newry.

By Hubert Murphy

SATURDAY night next, July 31, marks another anniversary of the moment that shocked not only Ireland but the world. The night when a group of musicians were gunned down on a lonely road for no reason. The day the Miami Showband died.

The group were travelling home after doing a gig in Banbridge, halted by what they believed to be a Police checkpoint, near Newry.

The reality was different for everyone, including Swords based member, Des Lee (real name Des McAlea).

They were ordered from the van and made to stand by the roadside. Two members of the UVF climbed into the vehicle and planted a bomb. Suddenly, it exploded and terror ensued.

Belfast native, Des Lee, was blown into a field by the force of the blast.

The other members were not so fortunate. The gunmen sprayed the air with death. Shot and killed were gifted lead singer Fran O’Toole, just 29, Brian McCoy and Tony Geraghty (23). Stephen Travers suffered wounds to the chest.

In the darkness of that Co.Down night, Des Lee somehow made his way across a field and waved down a passing vehicle which sped him to Newry Police Station.

He suffered a wound to the leg and was allowed home the following day, taken to his home in Swords in shock.

That night, in 1975, sparked a new mood among the showbands and worldwide performers, many afraid to visit the province for quite some time.

Singer and sax player, Des Lee did go back on the road again, being part of the New Miami with Peter Eades, now based in Fingal, Ray Millar, Noel Ryan and Norman Clifford. He had joined the original group in 1967.

After a few years he formed his own band and became the first manager of the ill fated Stardust.

He left for a new life in South Africa about 20 years ago and still lives there.









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