Tag Archives: William Marchant

John Bingham UVF : Life & Death

John Bingham Life & Death

John Dowey Bingham (c. 1953 – 14 September 1986) was a prominent Northern Irish loyalist who led “D Company” (Ballysillan), 1st Battalion, Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF). He was shot dead by the Provisional IRA after they had broken into his home.

Bingham was one of a number of prominent UVF members to be assassinated during the 1980s, the others being Lenny Murphy, William Marchant, Robert Seymour and Jackie Irvine

 – Disclaimer –

The views and opinions expressed in these pages/documentaries are solely 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 errors.

Ulster Volunteer Force

John Bingham was born in Northern Ireland around 1953 and was brought up in a Protestant family. Described as a shopkeeper, he was married with two children. He lived in Ballysillan Crescent, in the unionist estate of Ballysillan in North Belfast, and also owned a holiday caravan home in MillisleCounty Down.

He was a member of the “Old Boyne Island Heroes” Lodge of the Orange Order. On an unknown date, he joined the Ulster loyalist paramilitary organisation, the UVF, and eventually became the commander of its “D Company”, 1st Battalion, Ballysillan, with the rank of lieutenant-colonel.

See: Oranger Order

He was the mastermind behind a productive gun-running operation from Canada, which over the years had involved the smuggling of illegal weapons into Northern Ireland to supply UVF arsenals; however, three months after Bingham’s death, the entire operation collapsed following a raid on a house in Toronto by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in December 1986.

Bingham was one of the loyalist paramilitaries named in the evidence given by supergrass Joe Bennett, who accused him of being a UVF commander.  He testified that he had seen Bingham armed with an M60 machine gun and claimed that Bingham had been sent to Toronto to raise funds for the UVF.

These meetings opened contact with Canadian businessman John Taylor, who became involved in smuggling guns from North America to the UVF.  As a result of Bennett’s testimony, Bingham was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment after being convicted of committing serious crimes.

He publicly denounced the supergrass system before live television cameras outside Belfast’s Crumlin Road Courthouse when he was released in December 1984 after his conviction had been overturned, having spent two and a half years in prison.

Dillon in 2020
Martin Dillon

On one occasion, Bingham allegedly placed a loaded pistol inside journalist Martin Dillon‘s mouth because of the latter’s offensive words he had used against him. In an attempt to make amends for his threat, Bingham invited Dillon to visit him at his home in North Belfast.

Dillon accepted the invitation and after several whiskeys and brandishing a pistol, Bingham offered to show him his racing pigeons as he was an avid pigeon fancier. He then told Dillon that he shouldn’t believe what people said about him claiming that he couldn’t harm a pigeon. As they said farewell at the front door, Bingham reportedly murmured in a cold voice to Dillon:

“You ever write about me again and I’ll blow yer fuckin’ brains out, because you’re not a pigeon”.

Killing

IRA Belfast Brigade, shoot & kill UVF Inner Council memember John Bingham 14 September 1986

In July 1986, a 25-year-old Catholic civilian, Colm McCallan, was shot close to his Ligoniel home; two days later, he died of his wounds. The IRA sought to avenge McCallan’s death by killing Bingham, the man they held responsible for the shooting.[

Bingham was also believed to have been behind the deaths of several other Catholic civilians.

Ballysillan, north Belfast, where John Bingham lived and commanded the Ballysillan UVF

At 1:30 am on 14 September 1986, Bingham had just returned to Ballysillan Crescent from his caravan home in Millisle. Three gunmen from the IRA’s Ardoyne 3rd Battalion Belfast Brigade, armed with two automatic rifles and a .38 Special, smashed down his front door with a sledgehammer and shot Bingham twice in the legs. Despite his injuries, Bingham ran up the stairs in an attempt to escape his attackers and had just reached a secret door at the top when the gunmen shot him three more times, killing him.

 He was 33 years old. He was given a UVF paramilitary funeral, which was attended by politicians from the two main unionist parties, the Ulster Unionist Party and the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP). Members of his “Old Boyne Island Heroes” Orange Order (OO) Lodge formed the guard of honour around his coffin, which was covered with the UVF flag and his gloves and beret. Prominent DUP activist George Seawright helped carry the coffin whilst wearing his OO sash, and called for revenge.

See: George Seawright

In retaliation, the UVF killed Larry Marley, a leading IRA member from Ardoyne who was also a close friend of Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams. The IRA in their turn gunned down William “Frenchie” Marchant the following spring on the Shankill Road. The deaths of three leading UVF members caused suspicion amongst the UVF leadership that someone within their ranks was setting up high-ranking UVF men by passing on pertinent information to the IRA; therefore, they decided to conduct an enquiry.

Although it was revealed that the three men, Shankill Butcher Lenny Murphy, Bingham, and Marchant had all quarrelled with powerful UDA fund-raiser and racketeer James Pratt Craig prior to their deaths, the UVF did not believe the evidence was sufficient to warrant an attack against Craig, who ran a large protection racket in Belfast.

Jim craig loyalist.jpg
James Craig

Craig was later shot to death in an East Belfast pub by the UDA (using their “Ulster Freedom Fighters” covername) for “treason”, claiming he had been involved in the assassination of South Belfast UDA brigadier John McMichael, who was blown up by a booby-trap car bomb planted by the IRA outside his Lisburn home in December 1987.

See : James Craig

In Ballysillan Road, there is a memorial plaque dedicated to the memory of Bingham. His name is also on the banner of the “Old Boyne Island Heroes” Lodge.

William “Frenchie” Marchant 1948 – 28 April 1987

William ” Frenchie ”  Marchant

Frenchie_Marchant

1948 – 1987

 

Disclaimer 

The views and opinions expressed in these pages/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 errors.

William “Frenchie” Marchant (c. 1948 – 28 April 1987) was a Northern Irish loyalist and a high-ranking volunteer in the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF).

He was on a Garda list of suspects in the 1974 Dublin car bombings which left a total of 26 people dead and close to 300 injured. Marchant was allegedly the leader of the Belfast UVF unit known as “Freddie and the Dreamers” which hijacked and stole the three cars which were used in the bombings.

Nine days after the bombings he was arrested and interned at the Maze Prison in relation to the bombings. When questioned by detectives regarding the latter he refused to answer. He was never brought to trial due to lack of evidence. Marchant held the rank of major in the UVF’s A Company, 1st Battalion Belfast Brigade. He was shot to death by a Provisional IRA volunteer from a passing car as he stood outside “The Eagle” chip shop below the offices where the UVF Brigade Staff had their headquarters on the Shankill Road.

Dublin car bombings

A green 1970 model Hillman Avenger was one of the hijacked cars used in the Dublin bombings. It exploded in Parnell Street, killing 10 people.
Marchant was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland in about 1948. He grew up in the Ulster loyalist Shankill Road neighbourhood and was brought up as a Protestant. Some time prior to 1974, he joined the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), an illegal loyalist paramilitary organisation. He held the rank of major in its A Company, 1st Battalion Belfast Brigade. Marchant’s nickname was “Frenchie”.

 

Dublin and Monaghan bombings victim

Two units from the UVF’s Belfast and Mid-Ulster Brigades exploded three no-warning car bombs in Dublin’s city centre on 17 May 1974, the third day of the Ulster Workers Council Strike.

This was a general strike in Northern Ireland called by hard-line unionists, who opposed the Sunningdale Agreement and the Northern Ireland Assembly which had proposed their sharing political power with nationalists and planned a role for the Republic of Ireland in the governance of Northern Ireland. The explosions occurred almost simultaneously during evening rush hour resulting in the deaths of 26 people, mostly young women; close to 300 people were injured, many maimed and scarred for life.

According to former British soldier and psychological warfare operative Colin Wallace, the bombings had been organised by Billy Hanna, the Mid-Ulster Brigade’s commander at the time.

The three cars used in the attacks had been stolen and hijacked that morning in Belfast by a UVF unit known as “Freddie and the Dreamers” (named after the 1960s English pop group) allegedly led by Marchant, and then, according to the 1993 Yorkshire Television documentary The Hidden Hand: The Forgotten Massacre, driven to a farm in Glenanne, County Armagh. This farm, which had been used to make and store the bombs, was owned by Royal Ulster Constabulary (RUC) reservist James Mitchell of the Glenanne gang.

See Dublin and Monaghan Bombings

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Dublin Monaghan Bombings 1974 – First Tuesday -1993

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After the cars were delivered to the waiting bomb unit, the latter drove them across the border down to the Coachman’s Inn pub carpark. Journalist Joe Tiernan suggested that the cars were driven directly to the North Dublin carpark, with only one stop in Portadown by one of the cars to collect David Alexander Mulholland, one of the alleged bombers.

Robin  “the Jackal ” Jackson

 

It was at the carpark that the three bombs, which had been transported in a chicken lorry by senior Mid-Ulster UVF member Robin “the Jackal” Jackson, were placed inside the boots of the cars by Hanna and Jackson. The cars – a metallic green 1970 model Hillman Avenger and blue Austin 1800 Maxi – that ended up in Parnell Street and South Leinster Street had been hijacked while the metallic blue mink Ford Escort which detonated in Talbot Street had been stolen from Belfast’s docks area. All three cars had retained their original registration numbers.

The Hidden Hand: The Forgotten Massacre named Marchant as having been on a Garda Síochána list of suspects as the leader of the gang which obtained the bomb cars.[12]

Ninety minutes after the Dublin blasts, another car bomb exploded in Monaghan, causing a further seven deaths. A detective from Dublin’s Store Street Garda Station received confidential information that Marchant had masterminded both the Dublin and Monaghan attacks.

On 26 May, he was arrested by the Northern Ireland security forces under the Northern Ireland (Emergency Provision) Act 1974 and interned at the Maze Prison on an Interim Custody Order partly on suspicion of having participated in the car bombings. He was interrogated by detectives but refused to reply to any questions relating to the Dublin bombings.

Marchant and the others who had also been interned as suspects in the attacks, were never brought to trial due to lack of evidence. The RUC Special Branch, in a reply dated 23 July 1974 to an earlier Garda enquiry regarding Marchant, stated that Marchant “was our guest for a number of hours (and CID) but with negative result”.

The Barron Report which was the findings of the official investigation into the car bombings commissioned by Irish Supreme Court Justice Henry Barron confirmed that Marchant was named in the Garda files as the leader of the gang which provided the bomb cars.  Colin Wallace briefed the media without attribution, identifying Marchant as the person responsible for the car hijackings and theft, based on his own information.

In a written statement to Justice For the Forgotten (an organisation of victims and relatives seeking justice for the Dublin and Monaghan bombings), Wallace maintained that Marchant was “identified to [British] Army Intelligence as a Special Branch source being run by a named officer”. When queried by the organisation’s legal team, Wallace qualified the statement by adding:

“That’s right, that was my belief…there were a number of Special Branch people who at this time appeared to have very close links with various loyalist groups. I’m not saying for good or ill, but certainly had close links with key loyalists. Marchant may well have been an informant, but I don’t know”.

 

Peter Taylor

 

Many years later, journalist Peter Taylor questioned Progressive Unionist Party politician and former senior Belfast UVF member David Ervine about UVF motives for bombing Dublin in 1974. He replied they [UVF] were “returning the serve”. Although Ervine said he had nothing to do with the bombings, he said they were carried out to make Catholics in the Republic suffer as Protestants in Northern Ireland had been suffering as the result of the IRA bombing campaign.

As of 2015, nobody has ever been convicted of the Dublin and Monaghan bombings.

Supergrass trials

In the mid-1980s Marchant was one of a number of leading UVF figures arrested on the evidence of William “Budgie” Allen, a UVF member who turned supergrass and provided evidence on the activities of a number of his fellow members.

Initially held in 1983, Marchant was granted bail in order to marry although he failed to return and was eventually rearrested after a high speed pursuit through the Shankill Road.

Based on Allen’s evidence Marchant faced a number of charges, including the attempted murder of a member of Gerry Adams’ family. However, although he was held in custody for eighteen months, Marchant was released from prison in 1985 after the Allen trial collapsed.

Although he had appeared before Belfast’s Crumlin Road Crown Court, the case against him and the others had collapsed when the judge decided Allen’s evidence was “”totally unreliable”. Allen was declared persona non grata by the UVF, who announced that he would be killed if he left his hiding place in England, although Marchant surprisingly announced that he personally forgave Allen.

Killing

 Marchant commemorated, along with Trevor King and Davy Hamilton, on the Shankill Road at the corner of Spier’s Place. Marchant was shot dead by IRA gunmen from a passing car as he stood outside “The Eagle” chip shop on the crowded Shankill Road on 28 April 1987. The UVF Brigade Staff had their headquarters in the rooms above the shop.
The shooting took place close to the offices of the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP). Marchant’s fatal shooting was in retaliation for the UVF’s killing of Larry Marley, a close friend of Sinn Féin President Gerry Adams and a senior IRA member from Ardoyne, less than a month before.
The IRA claimed in a statement that Marchant had been directly involved in the killing of Marley.
On 1 May 1987, Marchant was given a full UVF paramilitary funeral.  The address given at his funeral service, which denounced all paramilitary organisations and their acts of violence, was afterwards praised by Roman Catholic bishop Cathal Daly.
Marchant’s widow later gave her permission for their son to go to the USA for an ecumenical student exchange visit.
George Seawright, Independent Unionist candidate, June 1987, UK General Election, 19870603GS1 Copyright Image from Victor Patterson, 54 Dorchester Park, Belfast, UK, BT9 6RJ Tel: +44 28 9066 1296 Mob: +44 7802 353836 Voicemail +44 20 8816 7153 Skype: victorpattersonbelfast Email: victorpatterson@me.com Email: victorpatterson@ireland.com (back-up) IMPORTANT: If you wish to use this image or any other of my images please go to www.victorpatterson.com and click on the Terms & Conditions. Then contact me by email or phone with the reference number(s) of the image(s) concerned.

See George Seawright

George Seawright, a member of Belfast City Council who also maintained clandestine UVF membership, stated in the aftermath of Marchant’s shooting that he had “no hesitation in calling for revenge and retribution”. Several months after Marchant’s shooting, the UVF sought to avenge his death with an attempt on the life of Anthony “Booster” Hughes, a suspected IRA man from Ardoyne.

According to author and journalist Martin Dillon, Marchant’s daily movements leading up to his death had been unpredictable and erratic; this indicated the possibility that just before his shooting someone had alerted the IRA by telephone, advising them of Marchant’s presence on the Shankill Road.

The IRA would normally have kept a hit squad on standby in a neighbourhood close to
where their intended target was likely to be.
See John Bingham
Marchant’s killing was the third assassination carried out in the 1980s by the IRA against senior UVF members. The UVF conducted an internal inquiry in an attempt to establish whether someone within the organisation had supplied information to the IRA which had led to the killings of Marchant and the other two: Lenny Murphy and John Bingham.

Although the inquiry revealed that Marchant – as well as Murphy and Bingham – had quarrelled with powerful West Belfast UDA fund-raiser James Pratt Craig before their deaths, the UVF Brigade Staff did not consider the evidence sufficient to warrant an attack against Craig, who ran a large protection racket.

According to Dillon, Marchant had been due to meet Craig outside “The Eagle” before he was shot dead. Instead of getting out of the car at the chip shop where Marchant waited, Craig got out at the Inter-City furniture shop on the corner of Conway Street. There he engaged in conversation with another person for five minutes. Within the five minutes, Marchant was gunned down just 50 yards away. In October 1988, Craig was shot to death in an East Belfast pub by the UDA (using their cover name Ulster Freedom Fighters) for “treason”, claiming that he had been involved in the death of UDA leader John McMichael, who was blown up the previous December in a booby-trap car bomb planted by the IRA.

Steve Bruce disputes the claim that Craig was involved in Marchant’s death and quotes another (anonymous) UVF member who stated that Marchant was “like a bloody cigar store Indian”, spending long periods standing outside the PUP headquarters taking to various people.

At the junction of Spier’s Place and the Shankill Road, there is a mural and memorial plaque commemorating Marchant