Mr Alan Brown

TRIBUTES have been pouring in for a Killyleagh-born policeman who at one stage of The Troubles was the force’s most injured police officer, surviving being turned into a human fireball.

Mr Alan Brown, who was honoured by the Queen for his bravery, has died at the age of 73.

He was the son of the late Peter and Lily Brown of Kerry Drive, Killyleagh.

In his early years in Killyleagh he was a talented footballer, an accomplished trombone player with the town’s silver band and a skilled motor mechanic.

It was for his service with the RUC that he was to make his mark. Mr Brown is the officer captured in one of the most iconic images of the opening year of the Troubles when, as a young rookie part-time constable, he was turned into a human fireball after a petrol bomb was thrown from the top of Rossville flats during rioting at the Battle of the Bogside in Londonderry in the 1960s. 

The flames engulfed the chest up and his life was saved when colleagues managed to remove his helmet and police cape.

In the early 1970s when he was stationed in Belfast he was injured in a number of IRA explosions, making him at one stage the officer most wounded in separate terrorist incidents.

The most notable of these was in Castle Street in the city centre when he was seriously injured after he put his life on the line to rescue people who inadvertently wandered into the safety cordon as a car bomb exploded.

Mr Brown lost his sight in one eye and suffered serious back and leg injuries in this blast, requiring specialist treatment in Moorfields hospital in London.

He was honoured for his bravery by the Queen when he was awarded the BEM in the following year’s New Year’s Honours List in 1975.

Despite the setbacks to his health, he progressed to the rank of Inspector before he was medically di charged from the force in 1988 after another incident when he was left on a life support machine and battling for his life.

Mr Brown died suddenly at his Dundonald home. At his funeral in Roselawn last Wednesday, Mr Brown’s RUC Inspector cap was carried into the church ahead of his coffin covered in an RUC drape.

He was a devoted and highly thought of member of Dundonald Elim Church and Pastor Malcolm Duncan led the tributes at his funeral service in the Dundonald church to the “bravery and courage’’ of Mr Brown.

He said he had never complained and when young people at the church heard him tell his life story, they were astonished at his ability to forgive all those who had injured him in life.

“Alan was a courageous, determined, and faithful man. He was an outstanding servant of his country and suffered terribly during the Troubles. Despite the challenges he faced, however, he remained a huge blessing, and brought many smiles to those who knew him. He will be deeply missed,’’ he said. 

His brother in law, the former Church of Ireland Archdeacon of Belfast, Barry Dodds, paid tribute to Mr Brown’s ``extraordinary service to the people of Northern Ireland.’’

In his tribute, Archdeacon Dodds said Mr Brown had “loved his job’”, despite being injured so often in the line of duty. He had risen to the rank of Inspector and helped train new recruits and lectured before his career was cut short.

He paid tribute to Mr Brown’s love of his family, and to the devotion they showed to him through his many fights for life.

Mr Brown is survived by his widow, Sandra, to whom he was married for 52 years, his son, Geoff, daughter Kerrie, six grandchildren and three great grandchildren. He is also survived by two brothers, Peter and Gordon, and predeceased by his sister, Margaret, and a brother, Alistair.