Sunday, 5 July 2015

Wicklow remembers Fran O'Toole from the Miami Showband 40 years on

Wicklow Sinn Féin County Councillor and General Election candidate John Brady has said he is delighted that after 40 years Bray, Co. Wicklow has finally done something to remember and pay tribute to Bray man Fran O'Toole from the Miami Showband, he further said it was long overdue. Local man Peter Carroll who is a family friend of the O'Toole’s was the driving force in the campaign to remember and pay tribute to Fran O'Toole in his home town of Bray. This year marks the 40th anniversary of the Miami Showband massacre.

On 31 July 1975, five members of the Miami Showband were travelling by minibus back to Dublin from a gig in Banbridge, Co Down. At the townland of Buskhill, outside of Newry, they were stopped at a bogus military checkpoint by gunmen dressed in British Army uniform, who ordered them to get out and line up by the roadside. The gunmen were members of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), two gunmen hid a time bomb on the minibus, but it exploded prematurely and killed them. The remaining gunmen then opened fire on the band members, killing Fran O'Toole, Brian McCoy and Tony Geraghty and wounding Des Lee and Stephen Travers. Two serving Ulster Defence Regiment soldiers and one former UDR soldier later received life sentences after having been found guilty of murder. There are still serious questions of collusion that need to be answered.

Brady said "Unfortunately nothing has ever been done in Bray to acknowledge, pay tribute or remember Fran O’Toole who was the lead singer with the Miami Showband band at the time of his murder. The band had a massive following and played in packed out venues right across Ireland, the UK and the United States. The band united people through music and gave people a glimmer of hope at a difficult time in our history. The Miami regularly played in Fran’s hometown of Bray in the Arcadia Ballroom. People would travel from far and wide and on occasions thousands would have to be turned away as the Arcadia was packed to capacity”.

Brady continued “People right across Ireland were shocked at the murder of Fran and his colleagues Brian McCoy and Tony Geraghty. Bray came to a complete stand still for his funeral, which people say was the largest ever to be held in the town. It’s only right that we remember Fran, his music and the legacy he left. On Saturday after a lot of planning Bray Bridge was renamed the Fran O'Toole Bridge and a plaque was unveiled at the former family home on Albert Ave, Bray. This was attended by members of Fran’s family along with Des Lee and Stephen Travers who survived the massacre 40 years ago. The day was completed by a performance by the Miami Showband in the Mermaid Theatre”.

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