Jesus: God is the God of the living
C.S. Lewis: Snowflakes of me on the image of her

Gordon Wilson: I have lost my daughter.... I shall pray for those people every night.


On the 8th of November 1987, twenty years ago today, a crowd gathered in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland at a monument for the war dead, for a memorial service on Remembrance Day. A bomb planted by the Provisional IRA, meant to kill soldiers and policemen at the service, went off ten minutes early. Eleven people, all but one civilians, died in the explosion and under the rubble, and one man left in a coma died 13 years later without recovering consciousness. Sixty-three people were injured. The Provisional IRA was forced by its own horrified supporters to apologize, and the incident has come to be seen as a turning point in the Troubles. The IRA lost support around the world because of video footage of the bombing and its aftermath. This led indirectly to more tranquility in the region, which is relatively peaceful today.

The most famous story to emerge from the massacre was that of Marie Wilson, a twenty-year-old girl who had been standing near the monument with her father, Gordon Wilson. They were buried under bricks.

We were both thrown forward, rubble and stones and whatever in and around and over us and under us. I was aware of a pain in my right shoulder. I shouted to Marie was she all right and she said yes, she found my hand and said, "Is that your hand, dad?" Now remember we were under six foot of rubble. I said "Are you all right?" and she said yes, but she was shouting in between. Three of four times I asked her, and she always said yes, she was all right. When I asked her the fifth time, "Are you all right, Marie?" she said, "Daddy, I love you very much." Those were the last words she spoke to me. She still held my hand quite firmly and I kept shouting at her, "Marie, are you all right?" but there wasn't a reply. We were there about five minutes. Someone came and pulled me out. I said, "I'm all right but for God's sake my daughter is lying right beside me and I don't think she is too well." She's dead. She didn't die there. She died later. The hospital was magnificent, truly impressive, and our friends have been great, but I miss my daughter, and we shall miss her but I bear no ill will, I bear no grudge. She was a great wee lassie, she loved her profession. She was a pet and she's dead. She's in heaven, and we'll meet again.

Don't ask me please for a purpose. I don't have a purpose. I don't have an answer, but I know there has to be a plan. If I didn't think that, I would commit suicide. It's part of a greater plan, and God is good. And we shall meet again.

I have lost my daughter, and we shall miss her. But I bear no ill will. I bear no grudge.
Dirty sort of talk is not going to bring her back to life.*

Marie's father told the BBC that he forgave her killers and added: "I shall pray for those people tonight and every night."

"Gordon Wilson's quiet dignity had a profound effect on many people in Northern Ireland. He was later involved with initiatives to improve community relations in Enniskillen and eventually was appointed to the Senate in the Republic of Ireland. Gordon Wilson died on 27 June 1995 aged 68." --From the website of CAIN [Conflict Archive on the INternet], Conflict and Politics in Northern Ireland (1968 to the present)

Conor Carson, a schoolboy at the time, wrote the poem below to commemorate Marie.   The red-paper poppy, an uncontroversial sign of respect for war dead in Britain (and Canada, Australia and New Zealand), is seen by some Catholic nationalists in Northern Ireland as a symbol of British identity. Marie and the other victims at Enniskillen were Protestant.

* You can hear Gordon Wilson's 1987 BBC interview here.


Marie Wilson

Enniskillen, 8 November 1987

Under the statue
    of the Unknown Soldier
a man prepares
    a bomb. He is
an unknown soldier.

The patron saint of warriors
    is Michael.
Between the unknown soldiers
    is a wall.
It is the gable
    of St Michael's Hall.

This was Remembrance Sunday.
    Poppy Day.
They came to hear
    the bugles in the square.
They did not count
    the unknown soldiers there.

Today there were no sermons.
    Unknown soldiers
said later it had not
    gone off as planned.
Under the bricks
    she held her father's hand.

Today there was no Last Post.
    Her last words
were "Daddy, I love you."
    He said he would trust
God. But her poppy
lay in the dust.

The protector of unknown soldiers
    is Michael.
The father is at the grave.
    A bell peals.
The name Michael
    means "God heals."

                    --From the anthology A Rage for Order: Poetry of the Northern Ireland Troubles, ed. Frank Ormsby (1947- ) (pub. 1992)


Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been saved. Comments are moderated and will not appear until approved by the author. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until the author has approved them.

Your Information

(Name is required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)