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Testimony of a Darkley Gospel Hall Survivor

Recently I have started thinking about something that happened to me a few years back, in fact it will be fifteen years in November, although it does not seem that long. It comes back to me around the same time every year when the kids in our estate start messing about with bangers and other fireworks, not that it ever leaves you, it puts you off leaving the house, it sends my mind racing is it kids or what? Sometimes I dread to think what is going on. After it all happened I used to be afraid when my mum went to work. I used to think what if they came to get us because our photos were in the papers and I would wonder where we could hide if they came to the house and sprayed it with gunfire.


Children present at Darkley Gospel Hall

That's what went through my head when I was the eleven year old girl who thought she would be safe in Church. My brother was also there with me and so were a few of our friends that we played with. It was that night of all nights that my parents didn't allow us to go. But we sneaked out anyway; we thought she wouldn't notice that we had left the estate, but someone must have told them that we were there.

My aunts sister lives near Mountain Lodge in Darkley and she had drove past when the shooting had taken place and my aunt had went and told my mum what had happened. She was frantic with worry not knowing if we were alive or dead. It was fifteen minutes past six o'clock when it all happened. the hymn that was playing was, washed in the blood of the lamb, I don't know why but even before that all happened I never liked that hymn much. Then suddenly, bang, bang and the man behind us shouted at us to get down.

At first I though was this a joke? Is it fireworks? But Halloween was over what was going on? The girl I was sitting with was bigger than me, she had landed on top of me, but when I lifted my head to see what was going on a man came running up the aisle with blood coming out of his mouth and holding his stomach, a sight which I will never forget, and which I pray I will never see again and pray my children will never see. My brother, then stood up and seen something red he said they had like red masks on. I didn't dare look I was so scared, when I had seen the blood I knew it was no joke.

After the shooting had stopped there were people crying, some dying, even dead. It did not take long before the police came and ambulances came, even then none of us was sure of what had happened. The police then took us out into a hall at the back of the Church, away from where the bodies were lying. I suppose they did not want us to see what was going on, but it was horrible.

When I think back now I don't think I realised there was death around me or what death really meant, I shouldn't have known or seen death I was only eleven yars old.

We did not stay in the hall long before the police escorted us home. On the way home I kept thinking something was going to happen and how much trouble we were going to be in for sneaking off when we were told not to go. When we got home mum was crying and was just glad to see we were ok.

My brother went on to bed because he was more afraid of what mum would say. Next day we didn't go to school and a policeman came out and took statements of us. One boy had gone back to school next day to tell his friends all about the ordeal that had taken place the night before.

Personally I think there should have been counsellors to talk to each and everyone of us to explain to us what had happened and how to go on. Thankfully most of us coped alright, but it's at times like this, when you hear that prisoners are getting out and getting compensated for doing a short stretch and we have to go on uncompensated, just glad to be here, to be alive and live with when they have done to us and maybe all start again. That is what might happen if the IRA don't disarm.

I sometimes have nightmares that they are going to come and take-over the estate, like something you see in a war film. I hope someday there is peace because too many have suffered in this war Catholics as well as Protestants.

 



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