By Andrée Murphy
Court 12 Laganside. History began to be rewritten today at the Ballymurphy inquest as the first two of the ten families gave their statements to those assembled to listen.
In the court a row of senators from Dublin sat listening as the family of Fr Hugh Mullan began the families’ testimonies delivered in a pre-recorded video.
All of the other families sat, some holding hands, some with arms wrapped around each other as they heard Father Hugh’s brother Patsy describe the night he heard about a priest being shot dead in Ballymurphy on the radio, “I knew it was him”. Geraldine McGrattan, his niece described the guitar playing, swimming, sailing fun uncle she misses so much. His cousin described how his life had been saved by his “very kind, great friend, very sincere” priest of a cousin of whom he was so proud. Families sobbed with each other as they heard how Father Hugh’s mother had had to be sedated after she heard he was killed by the British army. Geraldine said how her mother and granny never recovered and cried until the end of their days. Patsy spoke of devastation and shock. All of the families moved in concert with every word, feeling each word resonate with their own experience.
After a ten minute break Pat Quinn sat in a witness box with his brother Liam beside him. He spoke clearly “My name is Pat Quinn, the brother of Frank Quinn”. Pat gave testimony on his own behalf and on behalf of his family and his now dead parents. Especially his parents. He spoke of the moment his home heard that people had been killed in Ballymurphy, how his mother had said “some mothers’ hearts will be sore tonight”, not knowing it was her own son’s life had been taken. He spoke of him seeing his father and asking “Daddy, what’s wrong” his father answering “Our Frank has been shot”, whan Pat asked was he injured his father replied “No he is dead”. Pat says from those three words all of their lives changed forever. He described his mummy being like a ghost and them living in a hell on earth in the days afterwards.
Then Frank’s daughter Angela came into the witness stand. Angela, who was at pains to say how her mother had raised her and her sister, who was born only months after their daddy was killed. How her mummy had to do it all. How she is so proud of her daddy’s bravery. She gave the story of a life, the big days when her daddy wasn’t there. She spoke of the memories she has being pictures from the memories of others who share them with her. She was robbed of memories and has pictures instead.
When Angela said “he was murdered in a field with no one beside him”, the other families moved, sobbed and in unison reached out to each other.
Afterwards one of the relatives it was like a funeral. All said it was hard. All said it was necessary. All reached out to those who had given testimony and hugged them. “You did him proud”, “well done”, “thank you”. Three more families will give testimony tomorrow. Three more on Thursday. Two more next week.
These families are sharing their experience of horror to rewrite the lies that are the official records. They do so at a personal cost. It was a privilege to sit among them today. It was a duty to hear their words and pay attention.
The full testimony, kindly shared by the Ballymurphy Massacre Campaign is below
Patsy Mullan Brother of Fr Hugh Mullan
Fr. Hugh Mullan R.I.P.
Born 9th April 1933. Died 9th August 1971. Age 38
Mother Mary, father John 1 sister Teresa and 2 brothers Sean and Patsy
He attended St Patrick’s Primary School Portaferry
St Mary’s Christian Brothers Sec School Belfast
St Malachy’s boarding school
Merchant Navy for 1 year
Queen’s University Belfast
St Patrick’s College, Maynooth
Parishes he served in:
Good Shepherd Convent, Belfast for 1 year
Killough, Co Down for 3 years
Dunloy, Co Antrim for 8 years
Ballymurphy, Belfast 6 months
As my brother he was always very helpful and kind. He was 6 years older than me and was always ready to help anyone.
When he was in the Good Shepherd Convent he used to play guitar and sing to the children and this was a great treat for them. A few years ago a lady who had been in the convent as a child with her sister, rang me to tell me this.
He was a very strong swimmer and loved sailing on Strangford Lough. He played the guitar and enjoyed playing it to family and friends. Peter Tomelty was his best friend, and he was a singer who recorded a couple of albums. He helped build a parish hall in Dunloy which was built with voluntary labour and he helped with this, doing whatever he could and whenever he got the time. He definitely helped the people to help themselves.
May he rest in peace
The night of the 9th August, my mother got a call from him at 3 o’clock telling her not to come visit him that day as things were not good. So I listened to all the news reports and later that night I heard a priest had been shot in Ballymurphy. I knew it would be him. So I went to my mother’s and told her he had been shot but that he was ok. I wasn’t sure if he was dead.
When I was later told that he was dead, I phoned our doctor and asked him to come to be with my mother as I didn’t know how she would cope with this news. She was in a terrible state and had to be sedated. This was about 1.30 am
Gabriel Ellison. Cousin of Fr Mullan
My earliest memories of Fr Hugh was when I lived in the Virgin’s Lane in Portaferry. I was aged about 4 years old. He would bring us clams from Strangford Lough to cook on top of our range, then we would have a very nice meal.
Next I recall very well he was teaching me Latin for to serve at the Latin Mass which we had at that time. He was an excellent teacher, I remember saying he was very clever, I can to this day say parts of the Latin Mass. But unfortunately what he didn’t realise was I did not want to go on the altar, so I fluffed the word which worked well, so I never went to serve Mass.
The next special memory was when I was sailing my small toy boat off the slip in Portaferry, I was at the very end of the slip but couldn’t get my boat to sail round a buoy. So I leaned out a bit further to get it round and slipped into the water. I couldn’t swim so I went under. Some me standing at the Slip corner spotted me fall in and Hughie ran out of his house and jumped in after me and pulled me out. I was surely gone only for his super actions, he was at QUB then and had learned life saving skills.
Next I recall was Hughie telling me to be ready one morning early, he was taking me on a picnic. I didn’t know where we going but we set off very early. There was Hughie, Fr Stewart Dermott Faloona, and myself. We caught the early tide which with the flow of Strangford Lough meant we had very little rowing to do. This took us 2-3 hours to get to an old monastic site at the top of Strangford Lough called Nendrum. We walked round the island and picked a spot for a picnic. It was the best day, the sun was shinning, and the food was good and we had a great day. Then we came down with the turn of the tide very quickly again, with very little rowing. Then Hughie went off on his duty as a priest.
I got married in 1967, Hughie was at our wedding, he was always keen on learning the guitar, I am a guitarist myself, he made a great effort at the guitar.
I think of Fr Hugh as a very kind person who had a great brain and very sincere. Coming from a seafaring background, I feel enhanced his vocation. Also my mother was a strong influence in his decision to become a priest. I remember her talking to him about it. When he would come home from his studies and would take me out sailing his witchcraft around Stranford Lough .
These are some of my memories of my cousin Fr Hugh Mullan
20th October 2018
Geraldine McGrattan, niece of Fr Hugh Mullan
Fr Hugh was the son of John and Mary Mullan from Portaferry, a small village on the shores of Strangford Lough. John was a merchant seaman. They had 4 children, Teresa, Hugh, Sean and Patsy. I am Teresa’s daughter. We were a close knit family, my uncles and my grandparents regular visitors to our house.
My mother was a talented singer and uncle Hugh loved to play guitar and sing with her. It didn’t have to be a special occasion, just whenever we would all be together either when we visited him in his parish or when he was home and visiting us.
When he came home for a visit he liked to drive out to visit friends and people who had helped him become a priest. Usually he brought some of his young nephews and nieces with him. I always remember as we would be driving along he would take his rosary ring and start saying the rosary with us. I remember so well his hand with the rosary ring on his finger, clutching the steering wheel.
The move to a new parish was always a family occasion, my dad borrowed a mini bus and fill it with uncle Hugh’s possessions and me, my brother and my two sisters as well as my mum and granny and off we would go to help him move in.
When he went to a new parish, he didn’t always have a housekeeper, so my granny would help him out and during the school holidays I would go with her.
During these visits I would see how much his parishioners appreciated all he did for them and how much respect they had for him. But also how they genuinely enjoyed his company and he theirs.
He was so easy to talk too, always interested in you and what you were doing. Never critical, always positive. Always wanting the best for you.
But he was also so much fun, sailing and swimming were his relaxation. He loved sailing on Strangford Lough and bringing us with him, either trying to teach us how to sail or swim, but always having a good time.
When he died, it was so unbelievable that another human being could take the life of this special person who would never have hurt anyone. Who would happily help friends and strangers alike. I have seen people come to his door and leave much happier and comforted with his help.
My grandmother was devastated, my own mother was in shock, neither woman ever fully recovered from his untimely, and cruel death and both would talk off him and cry for him right to the end of their lives.
As a family we want this inquest to prove that my uncle was not a gunman as was stated in some of the newspapers at the time that he was an innocent priest going about his pastoral duties. We want to know the truth about what happened on the 9th August 1971
My Name is Pat Quinn. I am the younger brother of Frank Quinn
Our Frank was born on the 21st April 1952 at No 2 Coates Place in the Divis Street Area of West Belfast. He was baptised in St Mary’s Church, Chapel Lane and attended Christian Brother’s Primary School on Divis Street. Frank was one of 8 children born to Thomas and Grace. Frank had 3 sisters Irene, Annette and Marion and 5 brothers Liam, Frank and myself Pat. Two other brothers, Thomas and Jackie, unfortunately died in infancy. We were and are a very close family and we had loving and caring parents.
In 1964 our family moved to South Belfast were my father worked for a building firm and he rented a house off them in Stranmillis Area. His job was also caretaker of the builder’s yard as well as his daytime chores. At this time Frank attended St Augustine’s Secondary School. Frank was a practical joker and he was full of fun and laughter. He had a great big smile. Frank would go to dances and he enjoyed and loved life. Frank had many jobs when he left school but mostly worked as a window cleaner. Frank met Ann in their young teens and they were both 17 when they got married. Their daughter Angela was born soon after. Frank, Ann and Angela then settled down to family life. After living in a few houses they were offered a downstairs Maisonette in the Moyard area. With a new home and their second child on the way, as a family they were very happy.
I had been up to Frank and Ann’s flat the week before Frank was killed. It was lovely weather and I had a great weekend having a laugh and going to the park with Frank, Ann and the child on the Sunday. On Monday morning Frank left me to the bus. He said ‘I will see you kid’. I would never see him alive again.
The next week on Monday 9th August in Stranmillis, we heard on the news that Internment was brought in. During the day on the radio we heard of trouble occurring all over. We were worried if everything was alright where our family members lived but did not think it was so bad. That night my daddy, mummy and myself were in the house and our Marion was over in our sister Irene’s house. That night we were watching the late bulletin on the TV news when they said that a priest and a young man had been shot dead in the Ballymurphy area. My mother said ‘Someone is going to have a sore heart tomorrow’. She didn’t know the tragedy was coming to our door.
The next morning, I was lying in bed. I was off on school holidays, my daddy was away to work and my mummy was working in the Monarch Laundry part-time. I heard banging on the front door and, as I came down the stairs, I could see my daddy through the glass door. I opened the door and I saw my daddy crying. He was distraught. I said ‘Daddy, what’s wrong?’. He walked past me and sat on the stairs and said ‘Frank’s been shot’. I said ‘Was he wounded? Was he wounded?’ and he said “No, he’s dead’. Those 3 words changed me and my family’s lives forever. My mother was brought home from work. She was like a ghost. It was like hell on earth that this was happening to our family. My brother Liam was told the news by friends and he had to go to my sisters’ houses and break the sad news.
Frank was waked out of his mother in-law’s in Divis and was buried after mass in St Peters. It is a day that was the worst day of our lives. After Frank’s funeral we returned to our house in Stranmillis which, at the time, was a mainly unionist area. Some of the local newspapers and media were fed the story that the 11 people who were killed in Ballymurphy were gunmen and, as a result of this, some of our unionist neighbours who were our friends ignored us. We also had sectarian abuse at the house so we had to move in case it got worse. Some good protestant neighbours wanted us to stay but we had to leave. My dad had to leave his job and home but most of all they lost their beloved son. We moved to the Newlodge in North Belfast.
Ann was now a young widow but had to carry on without her husband. Ann gave birth to a second child, Frances, a few months after Frank’s death. Frank never got to meet Frances and the two young girls had to grow up without their daddy. Struggling with her own grief, Ann raised two beautiful daughters on her own.
My parents and our family’s lives changed forever. My mummy and daddy never got over Frank’s death. They had to carry on, but a broken heart can’t be mended.
Frank missed out on walking his daughters down the aisle. He never got to watch them grow and share happiness with them. He never got to see his four grandchildren and great grandson.
Frank’s family will never forget him. There is not a day goes by that we don’t think of him. Frank was a great son, a kind brother, a loving husband and devoted father who was loved dearly.
The media’s portrayal of Frank and the other victims as gunmen is still on the record. We as a family will continue to campaign until we have his name cleared and innocence proven.
Statement of Angela Sloan daughter of Frank Quinn
Frank Quinn, our daddy. A few lines on a page will never cover or explain what it was like for my sister and I to grow up without out him in our lives. My mum had to do it all by herself and, more so than not, she struggled to try and give us everything.
So many memories that we didn’t get to make because someone decided that it was ok to take him from us, because he was a kind human being he went to help others. I have always been proud of his bravery. Many a man would have walked away.
Our loss was heart breaking. Growing up I could see how my friends had the protection of their daddy being at home. I was jealous of the daddy’s girls and who knows how many more siblings we may have had.
When we needed someone to protect us or the simple reassurance that you could sort out anything for us, he wasn’t there.
First days at school, graduations helping us to choose the right path in our careers, he wasn’t there.
Walking down the aisle to begin a new life, he wasn’t there.
Becoming parents, he wasn’t there.
We can only hope that we have done him proud.
Our family shared memories of him with us so we could paint a picture of him in our heads. He should have been there for us but all we had of him was pictures.
Daddy now has four amazing grandchildren and a little great grandson Ronan. We were all robbed of his presence in our lives. The list goes on,
Most recently this has been difficult beyond believe for us hearing all of the details of what happened on that awful night our daddy was murdered in a field with none of his loved ones beside him to say goodbye. I know that this haunted my grandparents for the rest of their lives. Their hearts never mended after he was gone.
They got some comfort out of seeing me and Frances. We were their last connection to their much-loved son and I could see the love they had in their eyes every time we visited. They constantly reminded us of how proud he would have been of us.
Credit has to be given to my mummy, She was a single parent our whole childhood. I used to hear her crying when we were in bed and there was nothing we could do to comfort her. Only she was surrounded by loving sisters and brothers she would have struggled much more. She never remarried much was her love for my daddy. I just hope for all of our families’ sake that we finally get the truth and have closure with the comfort that my daddy and grandparents can finally rest in peace.