Tag Archives: Robert McMullan

The Battle of Springmartin 13th –14th May 1972

Battle of Springmartin 13th -14th May 1972

The Battle at Springmartin was a series of gun battles in Belfast, Northern Ireland on 13–14 May 1972. It involved the British Army, the Provisional Irish Republican Army (IRA), and the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF).

See: IRA history & Background

See: UVF history & background

The violence began when a car bomb, planted by Ulster loyalists, exploded outside a crowded public house in the mainly Irish nationalist and Catholic district of Ballymurphy.

UVF snipers then opened fire on the survivors from an abandoned high-rise flat. This began the worst fighting in Northern Ireland since the suspension of the Parliament of Northern Ireland and the imposition of direct rule from London. For the rest of the night and throughout the next day, local IRA units fought gun battles with both the UVF and British Army. Most of the fighting took place along the interface between the Catholic Ballymurphy and Ulster Protestant Springmartin housing estates, and the British Army base that sat between them.

Seven people were killed in the violence: five civilians (four Catholics, one Protestant), a British soldier and a member of the IRA Youth Section. Four of the dead were teenagers.

Northern Ireland in the 1960s/1970s Documentary

— Disclaimer –

The views and opinions expressed in this post/documentaries  are soley intended to educate and provide background information to those interested in the Troubles of Northern Ireland. They in no way reflect my own opinions and I take no responsibility for any inaccuracies or factual error

Bombing of Kelly’s Bar

Aftermath of Bomb

Shortly after 5:00 PM on Saturday 13 May 1972, a car bomb exploded without warning outside Kelly’s Bar, at the junction of the Springfield Road and Whiterock Road. The pub was in a mainly Irish Catholic and nationalist area and most of its customers were from the area.  At the time of the blast, the pub was crowded with men watching an association football match between England and West Germany on colour television. Sixty-three people were injured, eight of them seriously. John Moran (19), who had been working at Kelly’s as a part-time barman, died of his injuries on 23 May.

At first, the British Army claimed that the blast had been an “accident” caused by a Provisional IRA bomb. The Secretary of State for Northern IrelandWilliam Whitelaw, told the House of Commons on 18 May that the blast was caused by a Provisional IRA bomb that exploded prematurely.

However, locals suspected that the loyalist Ulster Defence Association (UDA) had planted the bomb. Republican sources said that IRA volunteers would not have risked storing such a large amount of explosives in such a crowded pub. It later emerged that the bomb had indeed been planted by loyalists.

See: UDA History & Background

A memorial plaque on the site of the former pub names three members of staff who lost their lives as a result of the bomb and the gun battles that followed. It reads: “.

” ..here on 13th May 1972 a no warning Loyalist car bomb exploded. As a result, 66 people were injured and three innocent members of staff of Kelly’s Bar lost their lives. They were: Tommy McIlroy (died 13th May 1972), John Moran (died from his injuries 23rd May 1972), Gerard Clarke (died from his injuries 6th September 1989) “

The Gun Battles

Saturday 13 May

The night before the bombing, gunmen from the UVF West Belfast Brigade had taken up position along the second floor of an abandoned row of maisonettes  (or flats) at the edge of the Protestant Springmartin estate. The flats overlooked the Catholic Ballymurphy estate. Rifles, mostly Second World War stock, were ferried to the area from dumps in the Shankill.

Not long after the explosion, the UVF unit opened fire on those gathered outside the wrecked pub, including those who had been caught in the blast.

 A British Army spokesman said that the shooting began at about 5:35 PM, when 30 high-velocity shots were heard.  Social Democratic and Labour Party Member of Parliament Gerry Fitt said that shots had been fired from the Springmartin estate only minutes after the bombing. William Whitelaw, however, claimed that the shooting did not begin until 40 minutes after the blast.

Ambulances braved the gunfire to reach the wounded, which included a number of children.  Tommy McIlroy (50), a Catholic civilian who worked at Kelly’s Bar, was shot in the chest and killed outright. He was the first to be killed in the violence.

See: 13th May – Deaths & Events in Northern Ireland Troubles

Members of both the Provisional and Official wings of the IRA “joined forces to return the fire”, using Thompson submachine gunsM1 carbines and a Bren light machine gun.

When British troops arrived on the scene, they too were fired upon by IRA units. Corporal Alan Buckley (22) of the 1st Battalion The Kings Regiment was fatally shot by the Provisionals on Whiterock Road.

 A platoon of soldiers then gave covering fire while a medical officer tried to help him. Another soldier was also wounded in the gunfight. Following this, 300 members of the Parachute Regiment were sent to back up the King’s Own Scottish Borderers.

Over the next few hours there were 35 separate shooting incidents reported, making it the most violent night since the suspension of the Northern Ireland government and imposition of Direct Rule from London earlier that year.

The IRA exchanged fire with both the British Army and with the UVF snipers on the Springmartin flats. Most of the IRA’s fire was aimed at the Henry Taggart Army base—near the Springmartin flats—which was hit by over 400 rounds in the first 14 hours of the battle.  

Although most of the republican gunfire came from the Ballymurphy estate, British soldiers also reported shots being fired from the nearby mountain slopes. According to journalist Malachi O’Doherty, a source claimed that the British Army had also fired into Belfast City Cemetery between the Whiterock and Springfield roads.

If you hate the british army clap your hands! – Irish children’s music (Ballymurphy)

Two more people were killed that night. The first was 15-year-old Michael Magee, a member of Fianna Éireann (the IRA youth wing), who was found shot in the chest at New Barnsley Crescent, near his home. He died shortly after he was brought to the Royal Victoria Hospital.

Two men who took him there claimed they were beaten by British soldiers who had just heard of Corporal Buckley’s death.  A death notice said that Magee was killed by the British Army but the republican publication Belfast Graves claimed he had been accidentally shot.

The other was a Catholic civilian, Robert McMullan (32), who was shot at New Barnsley Park, also near his home. Witnesses said there was heavy gunfire in the area at 8PM and then:

“a single shot rang out and Robert McMullan fell to the ground”.

It is thought that he was shot by soldiers firing from Henry Taggart base.

Trevor King Mural

On the first night of the battle, the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) arrested two young UVF members, Trevor King and William Graham. They were found at a house in Blackmountain Pass trying to fix a rifle that had jammed. During a search of the house, the RUC found three Steyr rifles, ammunition and illuminating flares.

See: Trevor King

Sunday 14 May

The fighting between the IRA, UVF and British Army resumed the following day. According to the book UVF (1997), British soldiers were moved into the ground floor of the abandoned flats while the UVF snipers continued firing from the flats above them. The soldiers and UVF were both firing into Ballymurphy, and according to the book both were “initially unaware of each other”.

 However, according to a UVF gunman involved in the battle, there was collusion between the UVF and British soldiers. He alleged that a British foot patrol caught a UVF unit hiding guns in a bin but ignored their cache with a wink when the UVF member said the guns were “rubbish”.

According to Jim Cusack and Henry McDonald, Jim Hanna — who later became UVF Chief of Staff — was one of the snipers operating from Springmartin during the battle. Jim Hanna told journalist Kevin Myers that, during the clashes, a British Army patrol helped Hanna and two other UVF members get into Corry’s Timber Yard, which overlooked the Catholic Ballymurphy estate.  When a British Army Major heard of the incident he ordered his men to withdraw, but they did not arrest the UVF members, who were allowed to hold their position. The IRA’s Ballymurphy unit was returning fire at an equal rate and some 400 strike marks were later counted on the flats.

Squaddies on the Frontline – BBC Documentary 2018 – British Army in Northern Ireland

In the Springmartin estate, gunfire killed Protestant teenager John Pedlow (17) and wounded his friend.  According to the book Lost Lives, they had been shot by soldiers. His friend said that they had been walking home from a shop when there was a burst of gunfire, which “came from near the Taggart Memorial Army post and seemed to be directed towards Black Mountain Parade”.

However, Malcolm Sutton’s Index of Deaths from the Conflict in Ireland states that he was killed by the IRA.  An inquest into Pedlow’s death found that he had been hit by a .303 bullet, which was likely a ricochet. Pedlow was given a loyalist funeral, but police said there was nothing to link him with any “illegal organisation or acts”.

UVF snipers continued to fire from the high-rise flats on the hill at Springmartin Road. About three hours after the shooting of Pedlow, a bullet fatally struck a 13-year-old Catholic girl, Martha Campbell, as she walked along Springhill Avenue.

She was among a group of young girls and a witness said the firing must have been directed at himself and the girls, as nobody else was in the area at the time. Reliable loyalist sources say that the schoolgirl was shot by the UVF.

Shortly afterwards, the loyalist UDA used roadblocks and barricades to seal-off the Woodvale area into a “no-go” zone, controlled by the UDA’s B Company, which was then commanded by former British soldier Davy Fogel.

Belfast 1969 : The Dawn of the Troubles ( Shankill / Falls Rd

Main Source : Wikipedia

Don’t forget to check out my homepage for a comprehensive database on deaths & events during the Troubles

See: The Loyalist Mod , extracts from my forthcoming autobiography

13th May – Deaths & Events in Northern Ireland Troubles

Key Events & Deaths on this day in Northern Ireland Troubles

13th May

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Thursday 13 May 1971

The decision to appoint a Director of Public Prosecutions for Northern Ireland was announced.

Sunday 13 May 1973

Two members of the British Army were killed by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) in a bomb attack on the Donegall Road, Belfast.

A member of the IRA was killed as drove through an Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) Vehicle Check Point (VCP) in County Tyrone.

Monday 13 May 1974

Two members of the Irish Republican Army (IRA) were killed in a premature explosion as they were planting a bomb at a petrol station near Dungannon, County Tyrone.

Friday 13 May 1977

End of United Unionist Action Council

(UUAC) Strike Day 13 of the UUAC Strike The United Unionist Action Council (UUAC) called an end to its strike. The strike had failed to stop many aspects of industry and commerce. Ian Paisley declared the strike a success.

However, many commentators considered that in comparison with the Ulster Workers Council Stike of 1974 the UUAC strike was not a success. The Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) were to report later that 3 people had been killed, 41 RUC officers injured, and 115 people charged with offences committed during the strike.

Tuesday 13 May 1980

John Hume, then leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), travelled to Downing Street, London, to hold a meeting with Margaret Thatcher, then British Prime Minister.

Wednesday 13 May 1981

Julie Livingstone (14), a Catholic teenager, was shot dead by a plastic bullet fired by the British Army. She had been walking along Stewartstown Road in the Suffolk area of Belfast.

John Hume, then leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP), travelled to London to meet Margaret Thatcher, then British Prime Minister. Hume asked Thatcher to concede to the hunger strikers demand for free association and the right to wear civilian clothes. No concessions were forthcoming from Thatcher.

Thursday 13 May 1982

The European Parliament called on member states to ban the use of plastic bullets.

Sunday 13 May 1990

Loyalist prisoners climbed on to the roof of the Crumlin Road Prison in continuing protests over the issue of segregation.

Wednesday 13 May 1992

A submission made to Strand One of the political talks (later known as the Brooke / Mayhew talks) by the Social Democratic and Labour Party (SDLP) was leaked to the media.

The main element of the submission was a proposal for a six-member Commission that would act as the cabinet of any future government. Three members would be elected (treating Northern Ireland as a single constituency) and three appointed (one each by the British government, Irish government, and the European Community). In turn an elected assembly would scrutinise their performance as well as making its own recommendations to the commissioners.

Friday 13 May 1994

Fred Anthony (38), a Protestant civilian, was killed by the Irish Republican Army (IRA) using a booby trap bomb attached to his car.

Anthony’s wife and two children were injured in the explosion which happened as the car travelled along Hill Street, Lurgan, County Armagh. Anthony had been employed as a civilian cleaner by the Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC).

Tuesday 13 May 1997

Martin McGuinness, then Vice-President of Sinn Féin (SF) and MP for Mid-Ulster, paid a visit to Roisín McAliskey, then being held in Holloway Prison awaiting a decision about extradition. McGuinness described McAliskey’s treatment as “inhuman and degrading”.

Wednesday 13 May 1998

An anti-Agreement rally was held in Newtownards, County Down.

The rally was addressed by representatives of the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) and former Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) members.

[The British government was forced to hand over all its private polling information on the forthcoming referendum to the United Kingdom Unionist Party (UKUP). This followed a protest by Robert (Bob) McCartney, then leader of the UKUP, that the Northern Ireland Office (NIO) was informing the Ulster Unionist Party (UUP) of its poll findings and thus giving the ‘Yes’ campaign an unfair advantage.

News of the British decision was reported in the ‘Sunday Tribune’ (a Republic of Ireland newspaper) on 17 May 1998.]

Thursday 13 May 1999

Hillary Clinton addressed a conference in Belfast on the topic of promoting the role of women in society. She later flew to London where she addressed a conference about children.

 

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Remembering all innocent victims of the Troubles

Today is the anniversary of the death of the following people killed as a results of the conflict in Northern Ireland

“To live in hearts we leave behind is not to die

– Thomas Campbell

To the innocent on the list – Your memory will live forever

– To the Paramilitaries –

There are many things worth living for, a few things worth dying for, but nothing worth killing for.

15   People lost their lives on the 13th between 1972 – 1997

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13 May 1972


John Starrs   (19)

Catholic
Status: Irish Republican Army (IRA),

Killed by: British Army (BA)
Shot during gun battle, William Street, Derry.

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13 May 1972
Thomas McIlroy   (50)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: non-specific Loyalist group (LOY)
Shot by sniper firing from Springmartin shortly after car bomb attack on Kelly’s Bar, Whiterock Road, Ballymurphy, Belfast.

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13 May 1972
Alan Buckley   (22)

nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Shot during gun battle, Whiterock Road, Ballymurphy, Belfast.

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13 May 1972
Robert McMullan  (32)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: not known (nk)
Shot by sniper while walking along New Barnsley Park, Ballymurphy, Belfast.

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13 May 1973


Thomas Taylor   (26)

nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed by remote controlled bomb hidden in disused factory, detonated when British Army (BA) foot patrol passed, Donegall Road, Falls, Belfast.

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13 May 1973


John Gaskell  (22)

nfNI
Status: British Army (BA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed by remote controlled bomb hidden in disused factory, detonated when British Army (BA) foot patrol passed, Donegall Road, Falls, Belfast.

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13 May 1973


Kevin Kilpatrick   (21)

Catholic
Status: Irish Republican Army (IRA),

Killed by: Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR)
Shot while attempting to drive through Ulster Defence Regiment (UDR) Vehicle Check Point (VCP), The Diamond, near Coagh, County Tyrone.

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13 May 1974
Eugene Martin   (18)

Catholic
Status: Irish Republican Army (IRA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Died in premature explosion, while planting bomb at petrol filling station, Donnydeade, near Dungannon, County Tyrone

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13 May 1974
Sean McKearney  (19)

Catholic
Status: Irish Republican Army (IRA),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Died in premature explosion, while planting bomb at petrol filling station, Donnydeade, near Dungannon, County Tyrone.

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13 May 1976


Gregory Brown  (26)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF)
Shot while walking along Woodstock Road, Belfast. Alleged informer.

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13 May 1981


Eric Guiney  (45)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: not known (nk)
Died eight days after milk delivery lorry he was travelling in crashed into lamp post, after coming under missile attack thrown from crowd, at the junction of New Lodge Road and Antrim Road, Belfast. His son also died on 8 May 1981 as a result of the crash on 5 May 1981

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13 May 1981


Julie Livingstone   (14)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: British Army (BA)
Shot by plastic bullet while walking along Stewartstown Road, Suffolk, Belfast.

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13 May 1991


Robert Orr  (56)

Protestant
Status: ex-Royal Ulster Constabulary (xRUC),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Killed by booby trap bomb attached to his car, which exploded while travelling along The Mall, Armagh.

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13 May 1994


Fred Anthony   (38)

Protestant
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Irish Republican Army (IRA)
Civilian employed by Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC). Killed by booby trap bomb attached to his car which exploded while driving along Hill Street, Lurgan, County Armagh.

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13 May 1997


Sean Brown  (61)

Catholic
Status: Civilian (Civ),

Killed by: Loyalist Volunteer Force (LVF)
Found shot, in his burning car, Moneynick Road, near Randlestown, County Antrim

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