2nd August – Herefordshire
Welsh Water have been turning off the mains supply from 8 am to 6 pm. It is something to do with work on a new main. In the middle of the wettest summer for years, it could hardly be a water shortage. No water from 8 am might be fine if you are heading out to work, when it is the first day of the summer holidays, it’s not so welcome. Our hostess advised us of the supply cuts and said she had drawn off water for use during the day, by filling the baths and all the buckets she had.
Walking into the bathroom with a bath filled with water, there was a sudden feeling of fear. Petrol bombs. I couldn’t remember whose house and I couldn’t remember which town, but a bath filled with water and buckets nearby were preparation, however feeble, for attack by thugs, or paramilitaries, or a sectarian mob (in the end there wasn’t much difference between them). Sharing my sudden thoughts of fear, Katharine reeled off a string of estates in different parts of the North where the bath full of water would have been prudent preparation.
In the glow of the peace settlement, there must be tens of thousands of people in Northern Ireland whose memories have been conveniently swept under the carpet; memories of seeing people filling the bath with water would rate at no more than one in a scale of one to a hundred- imagine what it was like for the people. There are silent victims who will never have any opportunity at any tribunal to talk of the years of fear and anxiety in which they lived their lives. There are lives cut short in ways that could not have happened in a society where people did not use the shadow of violence as a bargaining token.
Water in a bath would have been an insignificant memory compared to those of Bill, a man I knew. An ambulance man, he went to a hotel blown apart by the IRA in 1974, carrying out the remains of human beings who had died in the fire; twenty years later, he went to a pub in the country where Loyalists had shot dead six men who had been sat watching the world cup, one old man, who would have played whist in our parish hall every month, had had his face shot away. Bill took time off after the pub shootings, the accumulated stress of twenty years of murder and destruction finally brought him down. He went back to work, but died of cancer a few years ago in his mid-50s – a gentle and a good man.
When the British army withdrew on Tuesday after a 38 year deployment – how many memories came back to the forgotten victims of the Troubles?