09 January 2006

Kingsmills families commemorate loved ones

Belfast Telegraph

By Ashleigh Wallace
09 January 2006

Tributes were last night paid to the relatives of 10 murdered workmen who attended a service to mark the 30th anniversary of the Kingsmills massacre.

Nine of the ten factory workers gunned down by the IRA on January 5, 1976 were from the Co Armagh village of Bessbrook.

And yesterday, an emotional memorial service was held in the village's town hall to remember the innocent workmen who were ordered off their work minibus and gunned down by the IRA.

Paying tribute to the courage and dignity displayed by the men's loved ones at the service, local Assembly member Danny Kennedy said the massacre was remembered each and every day in the hearts and minds of those affected by the killings.

Councillor Kennedy said: "Despite the profound and enduring sadness of the families involved, they have always avoided lapsing into bitterness or sectarianism and have borne their grief and loss with great dignity."

On the day of the 30th anniversary - last Thursday - relatives of the murdered men attended a service at the scene of the shooting on the Whitecross/Bessbrook Road. One relative planted a cross with a poppy at the scene.

A total of 12 men were on board the bus when it was stopped by a gang of armed men whilst making the journey home to leave off staff from John Crompton's clothing factory in Glenanne.

The only Catholic on the bus was allowed to flee and as he ran from the scene, the gunmen opened fire, killing ten of the 11 men on board. Despite being hit 18 times, Alan Black survived.

Nine of the ten men killed in the atrocity were from Bessbrook. They were Reginald Chapman and his brother Walter, Kenneth Worton, Robert Chambers, John Bryans, James McWhirter, James McConville, Robert Freeburn and Joseph Lemmon. Driver Robert Walker was from Glenanne.

Saying the deaths continue to cast a shadow over Bessbrook, Councillor Kennedy said: "The wider Northern Ireland community should never be allowed to forget the suffering ensured by innocent victims, from both communities, over the period of the Troubles."

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