From the pages of the Down Recorder, July 25, 1978

From the pages of the Down Recorder, July 25, 1978

25 July 2018

LA MON — The horror of the La Mon House explosion earlier this year was relived at an inquest in Newtownards on Tuesday.

Twelve people died in the bomb at the Gransha restaurant on February 17 and open verdicts were returned on all the victims. As well as the 12 dead, more than 30 were injured. Eyewitness accounts at the inquest conveyed a graphic picture of the tragedy.

The cause of death for all 12 was given as either burning or burning and carbon monoxide poisoning. Nearly all the bodies of those who died were charred beyond recognition and had to be identified by jewellery and scraps of clothing.

Three of the men and two of the women were finally identified only after extensive studies of blood samples from the bodies and from near relatives. Two of the people, a man and a woman, could not be identified at all except by elimination.

Police witnesses told the jury that the warning telephone call came through at three minutes to nine. Within minutes there was another call to say the bomb had gone off. Speculation that the bomb used napalm-type properties was ruled out at the inquest.

The North Down coroner, Mr Gerry Duffy, said he had nothing to add to the horrifying evidence given in court, but he thought the police and the Forensic Science Laboratory were to be complimented on the work done to identify the bodies.

“I am sure our sympathy goes to the next of kin of all those people who have died in such a horrible way,” he added.

KILLYLEAGH — The former Down Council chairman, Col Denys Rowan-Hamilton, has scotched fears that a government-backed report on local harbours would mean the end of plans for a million-pound yachting marina for Killyleagh.

The report came out strongly in favour of nearby Ringhaddy as the best site for a marina, but Col Rowan-Hamilton stressed that Killyleagh was still in line for the development.

“The old harbour at Killyleagh, which lies at the heart of a community of 3,000 people, is desperately in need of a facelift which a marina would bring,” he said.

“Surely in social terms it would be better to spend public money in improving this unsightly place and at the same time bringing work where it is needed, rather than spoil the peace and beauty of Ringhaddy, where no unemployment is required.

DOWNPATRICK — Red Rum, the legendary triple winner of the Grand National, it to come to Downpatrick for a race meeting on September 30. Downpatrick Race Supporters Club announced the news this week that they have signed a contract with Red Rum Ltd to have the horse parade at the autumn meeting.

This is Red Rum’s first appearance in Ireland — he was of course bred here — and it is the Supporters Club’s hope that huge crowds will welcome the visit and further underline the government’s folly in trying to close the racecourse.

Mr Jeremy Maxwell, chairman of the Supporters Club, said: “We are hoping that various individuals and businesses will be prepared to help sponsor the visit of Red Rum, so that the venture may help the Race Club financially.

Last year the Downpatrick Race Supporters Club were responsible for bringing TV commentator Brough Scott to Northern Ireland and he drew large crowds the Millbrook Lodge Hotel in Ballynahinch.

Red Rum’s record of winning the world’s toughest steeplechase three times and finishing runner-up twice in the space of five years is unlikely to be surpassed.

SAINTFIELD — A former Down High School student is off to America to see the stars — not the stars of the silver screen, but those of the heavens.

Alistair McQuoid, of Listooder Road, Saintfield, flew out on Friday to spend some time at the National Centre for Aeronautical Research in Texas where he will be working with a team of researchers who will be trying to discover what elements lie between the stars.

Mr McQuoild, who is studying for a PhD in Physics, and the researchers will be assisted by a space camera which was designed and built at Queen’s University in Belfast.

COMBER — A shocked mother spoke this week of a blaze which gutted her Comber home and injured her husband.

All that remains of the home at Park Crescent is a water-logged ground floor, a burnt-out upper floor and as assortment of charred household items strewn in the front garden.

Fire swept through the upstairs of the house shortly after 10.30am on Monday injuring Mr Samuel Donaldson, who was rushed to Newtownards Hospital suffering from burns to his face and body.

A shattered Mrs Donaldson said: “My 15 year-old daughter, Sally, spotted the fire when she smelled smoke and woke up. She reacted very quickly — she dashed downstairs and phoned the fire brigade straight away.

Mrs Donaldson said that she saw the fire brigade when she was returning from work at a nearby school.

“I was coming home from school when it happened. I saw the fire brigade, but did not even consider that the fire could be at my own home.”

When the fire brigade arrived the house was already in flames and when the blaze was eventually extinguished all the upstairs rooms had been destroyed. Downstairs suffered severe smoke and water damage.

The disaster has faced the Donaldsons with the dilemma of having to set up a new home elsewhere.

ARDGLASS — The organisers of the three-day Ardglass festival, which takes place next weekend, have made another appeal for more local help.

“We still need as many people as we can get to act as stewards and marshals to look after events,” a spokesman for the committee said. “This is a festival for the people of Ardglass and it’s up to them to help ensure its success.

However, he stressed that the festival plans were going well and were almost complete. “It’s going to be a terrific three days with fun and entertainment to cater for all tastes.”

One of the most original features of the festival is the spectacular T-shirts which have been been prepared. These aren’t just factory-printed, but are individually painted by local artists Noreen Milligan and Peter Rodgers, who also designed the motif.

STRANGFORD — Strangford police hunted in the early hours of Sunday morning for a man who was prowling a house in the village. Occupants at the house heard a man at the window, but when they went outside he had gone. Police began a search of the area, but were unable to trace the mystery prowler.

KILCLIEF — A barbecue at Kilclief Castle on Friday night raised £400 for Muckamore Abbey building fund. It was organised by the staff of Downshire Hospital and provided a welcome opportunity for many people to enjoy performances by a number of folk groups.

BALLYHORNAN — Downpatrick detectives are investigating a fishy incident which occurred in Ballyhornan on Sunday when thieves broke into Strangford Fisheries and stole a large quantity of scampi from a freezer. They got into the freezer by breaking the locks on the doors.

GAA  — Down proudly crushed the challenge of Cavan to record their ninth Ulster senior football title with a 2-19 to 2-12 victory at St Tiernach’s Park, Clones on Sunday.

It was a magical display that brought back memories of those great ‘Red Devils’ of just over a decade ago. Cavan were humbled by a second half display that even had the Down fans gasping at its sheer brilliance.

The loudspeaker system announced that this was the biggest crowd at a final since 1947  and certainly the 45,000 present were treated by a smooth running, well-drilled and cohesive Down machine.

This was the vintage Down football that their fans had been waiting for.