Hundreds turn out for emotional service at Fivemiletown

Thursday, 5 October 2017

WELL over 500 people were in attendance as three mothers and an aunt of four children killed during the Troubles unveiled a quilt in their memory at a poignant service held in Fivemiletown on Sunday afternoon.

Donna-Maria Barker, whose son James (12) died in the Omagh bomb in August 1998, stood alongside Gina Murray whose daughter Leanne (13) was killed in the Shankill bomb in 1993.

Also at the emotionally-charged service in Fivemiletown Methodist Church was Georgina Gordon, whose daughter Lesley died when a booby-trap bomb left under her father's car exploded outside their home in Maghera in 1978.

Mavis Clark and Elizabeth Hamilton were there to remember their nephew, Alan Jack - who was a baby of just five months old when he was killed in a bomb in Strabane in 1972.  "The day before he was killed, they had come out to see granny and granda," Elizabeth said. "He was so bubbly, he just smiled all the time. You just think about him every day. It never goes away."

Sunday's service came a day after Ms Barker made her first visit to Omagh since her son died to view the town's memorial to the 29 victims of the atrocity. She laid flowers at the garden of remembrance and then made her through the town centre accompanied by her other son. 

The four children's names already referred to were at the heart of the quilt, which also commemorated the lives of 58 adults who perished in the Troubles.

The event was held to mark South East Fermanagh Foundation's (SEFF) fifth Annual Service of Remembrance and Thanksgiving. This year's service was themed 'A Patchwork of Innocents', reflecting the 62 children and adults remembered on the quilt whose lives were stolen to terrorism.

Those who were physically and psychologically affected and those who care for them were also remembered and saluted for their courage.

Among the 500-strong congregation were many relatives of those whose names are included in the quilt. Among them was Ruth Forest whose brother, David Harkness, 24, who was killed in 1992 when a roadside bomb at Teebane destroyed a van carrying 14 construction workers who had been repairing an Army base in Omagh. Eight of the men, including David, were killed.

"David was the only brother to five sisters and he was the youngest in our family," said Ruth. "It was very, very important to use all that we came to the service - it was so emotional but it was fitting tribute to all the innocent victims of the Troubles. It was shocking and quite sickening to hear all the names being read out - it brings it home to you all the people who have lost loved ones.

"It is lovely to have David named on this quilt because we will never forget him but for people who never knew him, who will see this quilt, they will think about him and wonder who he was and that is so important."

In a poignant tribute to her sister, Eva Martin - a UDR Greenfinch who died in a mortar attack on an army base in Clogher in 1974 - Linda Nelson reminded the congregation of the family's loss at that time.

She said: "Eva was hit with rocket fragments and died instantly in the arms of her husband Richard. That night I answered the door to the two local policemen who brought the devastating and shocking news of Eva's death. That memory will remain with me forever - it was a horrible time."

Kenny Donaldson, director of services at victims‚ group SEFF, said this was the third quilt the group had produced. He explained the particular symbolism associated with this year's service. He stated: "We were overwhelmed by the numbers attending the service, from right across Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland and Great Britain.

"Those attending yesterday's event have used the following words to describe their feelings - powerful, emotional and deeply poignant are the most common words and phrases which have been used. As well as the quilt being dedicated, we were blessed by the beautiful voices of SEFF's youth choir (comprised of those whose loved ones were also murdered by terrorism) and the families of Drew Beacom, George Gilliland and Eva Martin, who were each murdered in the Clogher Valley area read the passages of scripture, as well as sharing testimony and reflections. 

"The service was overseen by Rev William Newell who demonstrated considerable empathy with those present. He captured the essence of Christianity by showing deep understanding with those impacted but he also relayed a wonderful message of Hope and Renewal - made possible through our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ," concluded Mr Donaldson.

Proceeds from the service will be used to further refurbishment works within the church and will assist SEFF‚s Great Britain and Republic of Ireland outreach services.


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