My last article received constructive criticism as I included the killing of UDA members alongside the killing of politically uninvolved Protestants under the article title The Sectarian Murder of Protestants by Catholics. This was fair comment. The inclusion of the killing of the UDA men was, I think, relevant, but it could have been introduced in a clearer way. The comments underneath that piece led to an interesting debate about the presence of sectarian intent behind the 1993 Shankill bomb.
This article looks at the Bayardo Bar bombing of August 1975. The IRA clearly considered it a target, and I have found some evidence that it was a place where arms were stored, prominent loyalist paramilitaries drank, and where violence happened. Despite this, I believe that there is simply no question that the attack was anything other than a sectarian bombing. The men shot dead in the opening stages of the attack were 30 years older than seasoned mature paramilitaries would be, and the use of a bomb ensured that the attack was indiscriminate in nature. A UVF man was killed, but a UVF man was also killed by the UVF when they shot up the Chlorane Bar on Gresham Street.
The murders of Peter and Malcolm Orr were despicable crimes. It is not surprising that no organisation has wanted to associate itself with this wanton act of prolonged cruelty. The Shankill Butchers are rightly held up as a totem of sectarian depravity. But one theme I have uncovered in the murders of Protestants by the 3rd Battalion of the IRA’s Belfast Brigade is that the victims were in the hands of their killers for a long time. I have not seen any evidence of violence being meted out to the Orr brothers, but they were in the hands of the organisation who would ultimately kill them for at least 10 hours, according to the available evidence.
The Murders of Peter and Malcolm Orr, July 1972
As reported by Martin Bell (on BBC Rewind), at around 6am on Wednesday 5th July 1972, a farmer’s wife heard shots. These were the shots that killed Peter (19) and Malcolm Orr (20), two brothers who were murdered together and left near what is now Belfast International Airport, not far from where James Carberry would be found a few years later. They were the 8th and 9th people to die in less than a week.
Peter and Malcolm’s parents, gave an extended interview (BBC 24 Hours: When Will the Killing Stop?) in which Mr Orr described how they left the family home just after 8pm, and were expected at their girlfriend’s home half an hour later. They never made it. Mr Orr described receiving a phone call from one of the son’s girlfriends asking where he was. Worried, Mr & Mrs Orr traced the route they would have taken, and raised the alarm. Mr Orr spoke with great dignity of how he spent the night awake, without a phone or access to a car, hoping for news, and walking to barracks and up to patrols, asking the police and army if they had heard anything. He described his relief at hearing that no bodies had been found on radio bulletins the next morning. However, at 11:30am, a newsflash reported that two bodies had been found, and Mr Orr said he instinctively knew that they were his sons. Mrs Orr, less than a fortnight after losing her two sons, said that she felt sorry for their killers as they would have to live with what they had done. She also said that perhaps she “had thought too much about my own little family and not enough about the world outside.” Mr Orr spoke to receiving cards from the Falls Road expressing sorrow, and letters from all sections of the community. A wreath arrived from the mother of Fusiliers John and Joseph McCaig, who were killed by the IRA, along with another soldier, Dougald McCaughey.
At the Peter and Malcolm’s funeral (BBC Scene at Six), Mr Orr walked between the two hearses, a hand on each car, wishing to walk with his sons to their final resting place. When asked how he felt about vengeance, he said he did not feel any desire for it, and developing the point, asked how anyone could feel vengeance against someone that they didn’t know.
Lost Lives stated that the murder of the Orr brothers “have always been regarded as one of the mysteries of the Troubles.” Lost Lives was published in 1999, and several sources have since placed the responsibility for the killings with the IRA in North Belfast.
Kevin Myers wrote that one of the killers of the Orr Brothers was Terence “Cleeky” Clarke.
Terence “Cleeky” Clarke
Born in Belfast, it appears that Cleeky Clarke spent some time in Coventry. He was arrested and charged with arms offences in 1971, the Belfast Telegraph giving an address in Coventry, but noting that he was from Etna Drive. Clarke escaped from the Crumlin Road prison as part of the “Crumlin Kangaroos” and was captured on the 14th August 1972. Clarke was also charged with possessing a .45 pistol and four rounds of ammunition. He refused to recognise the court and was passed packets of cigarettes from a woman in the public gallery. The resident magistrate, William Staunton ordered that the cigarettes be confiscated, and asked Clarke to treat the court with respect. Clarke replied “do you want to see the marks on my neck and body. Is that courtesy?
The day before Clarke’s capture, loyalists committed what was described as “the most sadistic murder yet” of a politically uninvolved 48 year old Catholic man, named Thomas Madden. In terms of sectarian murders, loyalists accounted for over double the number than republicans did in 1972.
Staunton was shot dead by the IRA in January 1973. One of the Orr brothers had bought 40 cigarettes shortly before he was abducted. 38 remained unsmoked and untouched when his body was found many hours later.
The Orr brothers lived on Alliance Road, a ten minute walk from Clarke’s family home on Etna Drive.
There remains no explanation for why the Orr brothers were selected for a prolonged abduction, followed by murder.
Cleeky Clarke did over 20 years in prison for a variety of IRA actions, including his part in the killings of two British Army Corporals during the funeral of IRA Kevin Brady. As is widely known, Clarke, along with many others, believed a car which drove into the way of the cortege was another loyalist attack and, with considerable personal bravery, was first on the scene to challenge the intruders, who were armed. I was unable to find the relevant footage, but I think Clarke saved a press photographer from an angry crowd which had mistaken him for another infiltrator.
The IRA were officially on ceasefire when the Orr brothers were killed. The ceasefire began on 26th of June 1972, and a condition of it was the release of Gerry Adams from Long Kesh to take part in a republican delegation to engage in talks with representatives of the UK Govt, on the 9th July. Adams commanded the IRA Belfast Brigade’s 2nd Battalion. Martin Meehan commanded the 3rd Battalion, which included Clarke’s Ardoyne unit. Meehan was captured and interned on the 9th August, just over a month after the murder of the Orr brothers. The Belfast Brigade commander was Seamus Twomey. Chief of Staff was Seán Mac Stíofáin.
On TPQ, Anthony McIntyre described how “scathing” Gerry Adams had been of the blatantly sectarian murder of the Orr brothers. It is rumoured that Adams was furious with Clarke for his role in the double murder. With the passage of time, though, the relationship had been repaired, and Clarke acted as co-ordinator of Adams’ security team.
Cleeky Clarke died of cancer in June 2000, which he was first diagnosed with in 1990, in the same Crumlin Road prison that he escaped from 19 years earlier.
He was 53 years old and was survived by his wife, two children, and also his two brothers, Gerard, and Seamus.
At his funeral, Fr Des Wilson, who conducted the funeral mass at the Holy Cross Church in Ardoyne, said:
He was a man of great courage and generosity. He had a tremendous ideal that Ireland should be shared between all the people. He brought up his two children beautifully, when he was allowed to be with them.
The Bayardo Bar bombing, 13th August, 1975
|Illustration from the Birmingham Post, 1st April, 1972|
On the 19th of November 1971, a 17 year old man named Hugh Alexander Harris was remanded in custody for malicious wounding. Harris, the RUC alleged, had carried out a knife attack on a Catholic boy, 15 year old Michael Patrick Conlon. The court heard it was a “partly sectarian attack” and that Conlon’s left ear was cut in two. The court also heard that Harris admitted the attack but alleged that “he started it first.”
On the 4th of February, 1974, a man was injured when a bomb exploded in a mail box opposite the Bayardo bar. An hour later, a controlled explosion was carried out on a suspect letter in a mail box in Percy Street, off the Shankill Road.
On Saturday, 8th June 1974, Ernest Lionel McCurdy (36) Shankill Parade and Charles Miller (29), of Forth River Parade, were remanded in custody on charges related to a serious assault on an unnamed victim who sustained serious face and mouth injuries. The victims injuries were so severe that he was unable to make a statement. The attack took place in the Bayardo Bar, The judge ruled that there was a danger of witnesses to the assault being intimidated.
On Thursday the 19th of June, 1974, two IRA members on a motorcycle threw a bomb at the Bayardo Bar, which blew in windows and injured five people. Local people stopped a passing army patrol and told them a black taxi driving away contained the bombers. The army opened fire, hitting the taxi, but mercifully not injuring anyway, before realising their mistake.
On the 29th November 1974, a judge acquitted the Bayardo Bar manager, George Thompson, of possession arms and ammunition. A Thompson submachine gun, and dozens of round of ammunition, were found concealed in a loft above a backroom. Thompson accepted that he knew they were there, but claimed he feared for his family’s safety if he did anything about it. The judge apparently accepted this.
On Thursday, 13th August, 1975, an IRA unit from the 3rd Battalion carried out a multi-fatality, multi-casualty gun and bomb attack on the Bayardo Bar.
The Belfast Telegraph described the murder of five people at the Bayardo as a “forgotten atrocity.” The article, published in 2011, said that following the Miami Showband massacre:
A retaliatory attack was expected from the IRA for such a blatant UVF outrage and it came almost exactly a fortnight later when a gun and bomb attack was mounted on the Bayardo Bar on the Shankill Road.
More than 50 people were injured when the old pub structure crumbled, engulfing them in bricks, wooden joist frames, plaster and roof tiles.
Samuel Gunning was chatting to his brother-in-law, William Gracey, who worked in the bar, when the IRA unit arrived at Aberdeen Street in a stolen car and unleashed a fusillade of bullets from an automatic weapon, killing both men.
The gunman's accomplice then walked into the crowded bar and left a bag with a bomb inside it. Customers ran to the toilets in the hope of finding sanctuary, but the bomb exploded, trapping many beneath the rubble - just as the McGurk's bar bomb had done. Hugh Alexander Harris (21) and Joanne McDowell were found dead beneath the rubble and, even though she was pulled alive from the debris, Linda Boyle didn't survive her rescue.
Contemporary reports of the trial of the men convicted of the bombing detail how a list of loyalist pubs was found in Seamus Clarke’s house. The court heard that Brendan “Bik” McFarlane was the driver, and that Peter “Skeet” Hamilton was the man who planted the bomb that killed three people.
Hugh Alexander Harris was a UVF member, and appears on the roll of honour. It is not difficult to imagine that the IRA in Ardoyne were aware of the weapon being found on the premises. Nevertheless, this was a blatantly indiscriminate attack.
Seamus Clarke, Brendan “Bik” McFarlane, and Peter “Skeet” Hamilton were all sentenced to five life terms for carrying out this atrocity.
At 01.20am on 2nd March, 1976, Hugh Leonard Thompson “Lenny” Murphy was detained for questioning upon leaving the rebuilt Bayardo Bar with Robert “Basher” Bates. Later that morning, Murphy attempted to murder two Catholic women. The RUC captured him attempting to retrieve the pistol used in the murder bid, and Murphy was ultimately sentenced to 12 years in prison, of which he served six. The IRA’s two bombings of the Bayardo Bar clearly did not deter the UVF from using the bar socially, or for using it as a place to plan the murder of nationalists from.
The murder of Alexander Patterson, 4th June 1976
Two members of the IRA’s 3rd Battalion sat in the back of a taxi being driven by George McDermott. Sitting in the front beside the driver was Alexander Patterson, aged 42, and there was a young woman sitting in the back. The taxi stopped at Hesketh Road (scene of the murder of UDA man Trevor Kell in 2000), whereupon Gerard O’Halloran and Gerard Clark got out and immediately opened fire on the men sitting in the front. Mr McDermott was injured, and Mr Patterson was killed almost immediately. The female passenger in the back was unharmed and apparently not targeted.
O’Halloran and Clarke were 16 when they murdered Mr Patterson and attempted to murder Mr McDermott. In October 1977, they were sentenced to be detained at her majesty’s pleasure. They were sent to HMP Maze, and the blanket protest.
A postscript to this collection of stories is the theme of brotherhood. Peter and Malcolm Orr socialised together as friends and brothers, and died together. Cleeky Clarke, their alleged killer, had two brothers, Seamus and Gerard, who were convicted of blatantly sectarian murders. At one stage, all three Clarke brothers endured the privations of the blanket protest.
Perhaps the Bayardo Bar’s most infamous customer was Lenny Murphy. His older brother John was also a prominent UVF member, and is the viciously sectarian Mr B in Martin Dillon’s flawed, but well-read, account of the Shankill Butchers gang. In 2008, Lenny Murphy’s nephew, William Murphy, had received a life sentence for the barbaric murder of a 78 year old man named Andrew Spence.
In my next article, I would like to look at the command structures in place in Belfast and their effect on encouraging or limiting sectarian murders carried out by republicans.
If anyone has any information, or ideas for exploration, I’d be very interested in hear from you.
⏩ Brandon Sullivan is a middle aged, middle management, centre-left Belfast man. Would prefer people focused on the actual bad guys.