SHANNON resident and Derry man Charlie Morrison was a friend to two of the Bloody Sunday dead and this week he said he is “absolutely disgusted” that just one British soldier will be prosecuted for their role in the atrocity.
Charlie has lived in Shannon since 1970 but has always maintained close ties to home and had been there just a few days before the ill-fated march, at which his two friends were killed. “I was in Derry the week before on business and I knew the march was taking place but I had no intention of joining it. I thought it would happen and that would be the end of it. Two of my very good friends were Barney McGuigan and Gerry McKinney. There is a famous photo of Barney lying on the ground with a big pool of blood around his head. I met Barney and he had just started a new job because the factory we had worked in closed. He wanted me to go and see a new sports club he had joined but I hadn’t time.
“When I left him, I drove down into the Bogside and I met Gerry McKinney. Gerry had stared an engineering company and he wanted to come down to me, meet some of the engineering companies down here and maybe get some work from them. That was the week before and the two of them were shot dead.”
As word reached Shannon of the events of Bloody Sunday, he went to the phone box at the bottom of Aidan Park and called the Derry Journal, where he found out that his friends were among those shot by the British Army.
At that stage, he knew it was time to go back home.“My wife and me left here on Bloody Sunday evening and headed to Derry. I was living in Finian Park at the time and the people around Finian got a collection together and we bought an enormous wreath.”
They visited the houses of the dead in the tight-knit community and he remembers a terrible atmosphere of shock in the city. “I’ll never forget, I went down through the centre of Derry the next day. There was nobody about and the silence was unbelievable. It was a weird, weird feeling.”
His two friends were callously murdered but there is no prosecution planned in relation to either of their deaths. “Barney McGuigan, my friend, was in cover and heard this lad moaning in the middle of the road. He went to help him and people were telling him ‘don’t go out there, they’ll shoot you’. He said ‘no, I’ll wave a white hanky’. There’s no way they didn’t see the white hanky, their rifles had telescopic sights. They shot him in the eye. A bullet went right through his eye into the back of his head and killed him.
“Gerry was in cover as well. He was a businessman, always dressed very well and he came out from cover with his hands up and he said to the soldier ‘don’t shoot’. And the soldier got down on one knee and shot him, right through the side.”
Another person who was injured but survived the terrible events of that day came to stay with Charlie afterwards. “One of the lads called Seosamh McMahon was shot in the stomach but he survived. He waslying on the road. He saw the feet of a soldier who was going over to check if people were alive or dead. As they came towards him, he just lay there and let on he was dead so they just passed by. When they were taking him to hospital, he was going in and out of consciousness and as they were going in the main door, an army officer was standing there and he told the nurses, take him to the morgue, he’ll be dead when you get there. But he survived and he came down to stay with me for a while. Then, of course, Charlie Nash, the boxer, his brother was killed and the father was shot as
well. Of course, Charlie hit one of the policemen because he made a remark when he got to the hospital. Charlie hit him and knocked him out.”
The Parachute Regiment, which carried out the atrocity and subsequently covered it up, were totally unsuitable for the role they were given in the North, he feels, and history surely bears him out, as they were also behind the Ballymurphy massacre.
“It was a terrible time and it’s [Bloody Sunday] something that will never, never be forgotten. The same paratroopers did the same thing in Ballymurphy, exactly the same thing. They went as far as shooting a priest, who was down on his two knees giving the last rites to a man who had been shot. They were animals just, that’s the way they were trained. They were trained to kill and they should never have been sent into Derry,” he concluded.
Charlie Morrison is interviewed from 11:50 on this week’s episode of our current affairs podcast, The Champion Report, available here: