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29 Sept 2022

"It was devastating for my mother – I never heard a scream like it in all my life"

Margaret Wray says 1972 should have been a year to remember for all the right reasons as her brother Jim was planning to get married before that fateful sunny afternoon on January 30.

"It was devastating for my mother – I never heard a scream like it in all my life"

Of the killing of her brother Jim Wray, Margaret says: "I couldn't understand it why somebody who was injured and lying on the ground that they had to come to him like a dog and finish him off."

The year 1972 was one that should have been of celebration for Margaret Wray's brother Jim.

Instead, his brown corduroy jacket that he was wearing when he was killed on Bloody Sunday that is on display at the Museum of Free Derry shows of how a life full of hope and dreams for the future were callously ended by a British soldier's rifle.

Plans for marriage were being made following 22-year-old Jim's engagement to a woman from London, Miriam Sidkiahu.

The second oldest of 10 children and the eldest son, he had been going back and forth between Derry and the English capital whenever he could find work in order to help support the Wray family home.

Due to Miriam being of the Jewish faith, both her and Jim were in discussions with the church regarding their proposed marriage with the prospect of Miriam converting to Catholicism.

Unfortunately, following Bloody Sunday, it was a conversation that Jim and Miriam would never have.

“Jim went to the Long Tower Boy's Primary School and then onto St Joseph's. When he left school, work was very difficult to get in Derry in those days so Jim took whatever work was about,” said Margaret Wray.

“If he couldn't get work in Derry, he did what a lot of Derry lads did – he went off to England. He'd work over there, then come back to work in Derry and then back to England again.

“So he was back and forward to London working. I had a sister in nursing over there and he would have stayed with her at times, depending where the work was.

“He did work in Littlewoods once when in Derry and at the time of his murder, he worked for Lec Refrigeration.

“Jim was the second-eldest of a large family and the eldest boy. So work was the most important thing then. Even though you had a good education, it was a case of get a job and bring money into the home to help the parents rear the rest of the children.

“But he was engaged to get married to a girl he had met in London. He had brought her home to Derry to meet us all and had left to go back home after Christmas.

“There was talk with the church about getting married because as she was of the Jewish faith, there were things to be discussed and done.

“Jim wanted to remain very much with his (Catholic) faith and wanted to be married within the church. The possibility of her converting to the Catholic church was something that was going to be talked about.

“Unfortunately, they never got the chance to have that discussion as by the end of January, Jim was murdered.”

On the day itself, Margaret – who was in her first pregnancy at the time – did not go on the Civil Rights march.

She remembers waving the marchers off on a sunny afternoon and could not imagine the horrors that her and her family would been going through an hour later.

“I wasn't on the march that day. I was expecting my first child and, of course, I wasn't allowed to go,” adds Margaret.

“We lived in Drumcliff Avenue and I went down to the bottom of the street to see the march coming over the Lecky Road.

“We watched it pass by and my memory was that is was a beautiful January day – cold but very bright with the sun shining – and the atmosphere was wonderful.

“Everybody was happy, everybody was laughing and the craic was good. I was there with a neighbour and so when the march passed by, we were back up home again and I went into the house and started to get the tea ready.

“Then all of a sudden the house started to fill up with people roaring and shouting that something bad had gone on down at Rossville Street.

“My mother then came in with two other women – that she didn't know – drenched in dye that the army had fired and sprayed the marchers with. She brought them up to our house to try and clean them up and get them dry clothes.

“I'd had other brothers and sisters out on the march and my mammy then start to do a head count. Of course, everybody was in except Jim. But at this stage, we still didn't know that there had been live shooting. We still thought it had been rubber bullets and people being injured by them.

“But then the word was slowly coming through of live rounds being fired and people falling – but nobody could believe it. It just wasn't real.

“My father and my brother then went out to look for Jim to see if maybe he had been arrested because we had heard of arrests happening. They came back in again without Jim and they hadn't heard any word of him.

“But my father did say that it was true that people were being fired at. Just as he was saying that, a first-aider came to the door... the house had been packed with people and then all of a sudden, it was empty. The word had come in that Jim was one of those who had been murdered.

“It was devastating for my mother – I never heard a scream like it in all my life when she was told. Everybody just went into total shock in the house because we didn't know how it could happen.

“It was a nightmare. You felt like you were going to wake up in half-an-hour and be told it was all a joke and it hasn't happened. But it was true.

“It was a couple of hours later that my uncle and my brother set off to Altnagelvin, to the morgue to view Jim's remains and confirm it was him.

“On the day, all we knew was that Jim was shot. Where the Bloody Sunday Museum is now was where some bungalows were and my grandparents lived in one of them. Jim was shot not far from where they lived.

“So we were thinking was Jim going to see if they were OK? That would have been something he would have done. Because on that day, the bedrooms on those bungalows faced out on to the square.

“Granny's bedroom had a wardrobe with a mirror on it that faced out onto the street. As the soldiers were in the square shooting, one of them must have seen the reflection of his rifle on Granny's wardrobe mirror.

“They shot through Granny's wardrobe and into her fur coat. Now they were elderly people and Granny was giving it, which gave us a kind of a laugh, 'my good fur coat!'.

“But the bullet went through the window, the wardrobe mirror, the coat and lodged itself into the wall.

“So when we discovered that was where Jim was lying, we thought he might have been going to see if they were alright but didn't get in because they would have taken a sleep on a Sunday afternoon. He might have then been heading to the alleyway before he was taken down.

“We didn't get these details on the day – they started to emerge afterwards. It wasn't too long after Bloody Sunday that I remember being told he had been shot twice.

“My anger got worse at that because the first shot brought him down. Why could they not have left him there and arrested him? We would still have had our Jim.

“Why did they have to cold-bloodedly come up and murder him? What harm did he do them? Did they have to be so evil and cruel?

“I couldn't understand it for years why somebody who was injured and lying on the ground that they had to come to him like a dog and finish him off.

“It's been proved that Jim had no weapons on him. Widgery – which everyone knows was a whitewash – tried to say they were gunmen and bombers but it has been proven that they were innocent men.”

Years of campaigning to expunge the Widgery Enquiry, that cleared the soldiers and smeared the victims, finally resulted in a new enquiry chaired by Lord Saville of Newdigate.

While the history books will record it as having exonerated both the dead and wounded, for Margaret, the process of the Enquiry felt as if Jim and the other victims were on trial and having to prove their innocence and felt Saville's final report to be “the best of a bad job”.

She said: “I didn't agree with the Saville Report. I didn't think the terms and conditions were what we wanted. However, it was the best of a bad job and we went with it.

“It was a very stressful time because people were trying to work with hindsight. We were working with English solicitors that were putting down maps in front of us.

“Now don't forget, we're ordinary Derry people. To me, Glenfada Square is a wee tiny square – you go round it in less than five minutes.

“But these solicitors were going 'Glenfada North', 'Glenfada North East' and so on. And you're sitting there looking at them and going, 'no it's just Glenfada'. But no, to them it had to be the precise position.

“How can you remember twenty-five-odd years later the precise footsteps considering you were in shock?

“That annoyed me that people were being asked to give specific details – not 'near enough' but 'specific'.

“I think they were trying to muddy the waters. No way were they going to hang their soldiers out to dry. It was like 'the Derry people had to have done something wrong'.

“It wasn't even 'were our memories wrong?'. It was 'were we lying? Were we covering up?'.

“It was very difficult to listen to. What was very stressful about it as well was going to the Guild Hall with normal life going on and we were – with all the photographs and video footage being shown and all the talk – back in 1972.

“One Christmas, we were in the Guild Hall and I came out at the end of the afternoon and I actually didn't know where I was. Two minutes before, I was in 1972 and Bloody Sunday and the next minute I'm standing outside and it's 'Jingle Bells' and Christmas lights. That's how stressful it was.”

Eventually, news of the prosecution of Soldier F for the killing of both Jim and William McKinney was announced.

However, none of the other soldiers who were still alive were to be prosecuted with Soldier F's case eventually being dropped by the Prosecution Service.

None of this surprised Margaret at all who remains convinced that Britain will not give the Wrays and the other families the justice they deserve.

She said: “When we were told that day (only Soldier F would be prosecuted), I had come outside the City Hotel to get a breather and I thought, 'that is a poisoned chalice that we have been handed' – and I was right.

“This was 'divide and conquer'. Our family that day got no joy whatsoever from that decision – it broke our hearts.

“No way was Britain going to prosecute any soldier for Bloody Sunday – and they never will.”

 

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