Priest’s words of comfort to father of 13 year-old killed in St Patrick’s Day bomb

James McCaughey, who was 13 when he died after a bomb exploded outside the Hillcrest Bar in Dungannon
James McCaughey, who was 13 when he died after a bomb exploded outside the Hillcrest Bar in Dungannon

The words of a priest to Dungannon man Nory McCaughey 40 years ago, as he struggled to cope with the loss of his 13 year-old son James in a bomb at the Hillcrest Bar, have never left him, in the same way that the teenager’s death is as “raw” now as it ever was.

In the months and years after the UVF bomb took the lives of James McCaughey and his best friend Patrick Barnard, also 13, and two others, Andrew Small and Joseph Kelly, on Saint Patrick’s Day in 1976, the late Fr Terence Kelly became a close friend and a trusted confidante to Nory and his wife Molly, who passed away some years ago.

The Hillcrest Bar in Dungannon, which was destroyed in a UVF car bomb on St Patrick's Day 1976

The Hillcrest Bar in Dungannon, which was destroyed in a UVF car bomb on St Patrick's Day 1976

“Molly and me never celebrated a 17th March since then”, Nory told the TIMES. “Neither did Fr Kelly, God rest him. When Jim died we had a hard time but Fr Kelly was a wonderful priest. He never left us and he would have come into the house just like an ordinary person. Fr Kelly told me that, no matter what corner I turn, he (James) will be at my shoulder. And he has been there, over the years. Even though I’m 80 years of age and Jim has been gone for 40 years, it is just like yesterday. His death is something that never leaves me, it is still raw.”

Nory remembers his late wife Molly as “a rock”, and the couple were married for 48 years before she passed away.

Recalling the couple’s life together as “great times”, Nory says the loss of their son was a heartbreak they both shouldered.

“Me and Molly used to talk about what he (James) would be like if he hadn’t died”, Nory continues.

“We went to Lourdes together four or five times and James was always there with us. And the Dungannon people have never forgot about James and the others who died.”

With just days to go until the 40th anniversary of the brutal loyalist bombing, which tore the heart out of the busy Donaghmore Road area of Dungannon, Nory reflects on the continuing search by the victims’ families for

justice in the case.

The pensioner, who is recovering from surgery to treat cancer, says younger family members have been keen to know more about what happened to James, who was the second eldest of five boys and five girls.

“They are asking questions which you don’t really want to answer”, Nory explains. “Then when the book, Lethal Allies (by Pat Finucane Centre researcher and former journalist Anne Cadwallader) came out, they could see why I wouldn’t want to tell them. There are a lot of things about it (James’ murder) that are very hard to explain to others.”

Nory said he was “very pleased” to learn that the organisers of the St Patrick’s Day parade in Dungannon this year will start off from the site of the former Hillcrest Bar (now McAleer’s).

Indeed, one of those behind the event, Art McRory, taught Physical Education at the former St Patrick’s Boys’ Intermediate, where James was a pupil.