© By James Simmons
for Harry Barton, a song
The Sperrins surround it, the Faughan flows by,
at each end of Main Street the hills and the sky,
the small town of Claudy at ease in the sun
last July in the morning, a new day begun.
How peaceful and pretty, if the moment could stop,
McIlhenny is straightening things in his shop,
and his wife is outside serving petrol, and then
a girl takes a cloth to a big window-pane.
And McCloskey is taking the weight off his feet,
and McClelland and Miller are sweeping the street,
and, delivering milk at the Beaufort Hotel,
young Temple’s enjoying his first job quite well.
And Mrs McLaughlin is scrubbing her floor,
and Artie Hone’s crossing the street to a door,
and Mrs Brown, looking around for her cat,
goes off up an entry – what’s strange about that?
Not much – but before she comes back to the road
that strange car parked outside her house will explode,
and all of the people I’ve mentioned outside
will be waiting to die or already have died.
An explosion too loud for your eardrums to bear,
and young children squealing like pigs in the square,
and all faces chalk-white and streaked with bright red,
and the glass and the dust and the terrible dead.
For an old lady’s legs are ripped off, and the head
of a man’s hanging open, and still he’s not dead.
He is screaming for mercy, and his son stands and stares
and stares, and then suddenly, quick, disappears.
And Christ, little Katherine Aiken is dead,
and Mrs McLaughlin is pierced through the head.
Meanwhile to Dungiven the killers have gone,
and they’re finding it hard to get through on the phone
© James Simmons, Claudy, 1974, complete text, Poems 1956-1986, 1986, The Gallery Press.
James Simmons laments the deaths of innocents in the IRA car bomb attack on the little town of Claudy in the Sperrins. The bomb went off without a warning having been received. The IRA team is believed to have tried to make warning phone call - as was their normal practice - to give people some chance of getting to safety. The phones in the area hid not work, however, because the IRA had themselves already bombed the exchange.