Birmingham pub bombings1
December 5, 2012 by Made In Brum
In the Middlesbrough issue of Made In Brum, fanzine editor Dave Thomas wrote an article on his take of the Birmingham pub bombings.
On the 21st November it was the 38th anniversary of the Birmingham Pub Bombings. It was a Thursday night when the young and old people of Birmingham, Brummie’s went out for a pint and a good time, but 21 didn’t return home and over 200 were injured.
It was 1974, a long time ago, a different era, but whatever era things like this just shouldn’t happen. Brummie’s died in those two pubs, the Mulberry Bush and the Tavern in the Town, and those people of our City still have not got the justice that they deserve, nor closure for their loved ones.
Some of you reading this will be too young to remember, and for those you who were around at that time might be thinking ‘a political article’ in Made in Brum? Well, it’s not political, but it is very, very close to my heart and I often think ‘What if?.’ Yes, I was lucky, but it could have been oh, so different, and this is my story.
A lot of you will know as I’ve written about a fair few times that I’d moved away from Birmingham in the winter of 1972, Blues’ promotion season. My parents had taken over a boozer in Brighton and we lived there for a while but then a calling from London for my Mom and Dad. So off we all trooped to the smoke.
By 1973 they’d had enough of big city living and got a job down in Bournemouth and there was no way I was moving that far south so, at the tender age of 16 I left home and caught the train up to Brum. I arrived at New Street station at around midday and by 4 p.m. I’d got myself a flat down City Road, Winson Green and a job at D. F. Taylor’s on the edge of the Jewellery Quarter. I bet you’re all thinking, what the hell has all this got to do with the 1974 pub bombings?
Well back in the early seventies, Thursday used to be pay day. The factories of Brum were dirty places and the work was hard and all we looked forward to was Thursday to come so that we’d get that little brown envelope each week with our wages in. So, with money in us Brummies pockets it was out and about for a drink. Thursday used to be a big night out in Brum, along with Friday and Saturday, of course. Our lot at D. F. Taylor and a few other friends, decided that we were going into the City Centre and especially to the Mulberry Bush, which was situated under the Rotunda.
So, from the 8th March 1973 until the Birmingham Pub Bombings me and my mates had ventured into the Mulberry Bush thirty five times, that’s every Thursday apart from one, when I was on holiday. The thirty sixth time would have been the 21st November 1974! I thank my lucky stars that on that day not one of us were in there. What stopped us, was it a premonition or had God told me in a dream? No, it was a bad bout of flu and that is what saved all of us from death or being maimed. I can recall that on the Thursday I had struggled into work, (we didn’t get sick pay back then) and for most of the day we’d all been talking about ‘breaking the cycle’ of going out on pay day. But myself and a few others just felt so ill and we decided to go home, get dosed up and keep warm to try and get into work on the Friday.
So, we had been 35 times, out on the town to have a few pints and a good time and if the flu hadn’t put paid to our usual pay day night out, some of us might have been in the mortuary. When news broke of the bombings on the television, it didn’t really register with me. Yes, I thought ‘blimey’ we could have all been in there, but that was it. It’s the ‘being young’ thing as I was still only 16 and thinking that I was indestructible. Something else brought it home to me big time in the early ours of the 22nd November.
As I said earlier, my Mom and Dad had moved down to Bournemouth and they’d seen these events unfolding on the news. But what everyone has to remember is that back then, that was all there was, a news bulletin and up dates during the evening. No Internet, no mobiles or twitter, and definitely no ‘Sky News’ for 24 hours a day. So all my parents got were little snippets that bombs had gone off and there might, or might not, have been fatalities. They knew that I went out on a Thursday but they weren’t sure where I went, that is until they received a phone call on the land line of course. That person said ‘your son may be dead, he was in one of the pubs.’ What a terrible call to get, and to this day, I still do not know who phoned them. My parents couldn’t get in touch with me as where I was staying didn’t have a phone.
Not everyone did back then in the early seventies, in fact, I used to phone my Mom and Dad once every couple of weeks to let them know I was okay, but from a phone box.
So, as soon as they got the call they franticly called the hospitals, the police and the mortuaries to see if they could get any information at all, but nothing. So they called my Mom’s brother who also lived in Bournemouth, and drove up to Brum. Their first point of call was a hospital and they later told me it was just chaos outside and they couldn’t get near to or talk to anyone.
My Mom and Dad were distraught and just weren’t thinking straight, but my uncle had the good sense to say ‘How about going around to Dave’s digs’. Best idea of the night by far! So, it may have been 5 a.m. in the morning, but I’ll never forget the delight on my Mom’s face when she saw me and saw that I was, in fact, still alive and in one piece.
From that moment I realised how lucky I was to still be alive when my Mom and Dad were telling me all about what had happened and the phone call they had got. That was the moment when it struck home.
It troubled me for a while and why I don’t really know. When the 21st November comes around I often think ‘what if’. Brummie’s died in those two pubs and a fair few Bluenoses were among those 21 too. A lot of the injured were Bluenoses too; a well known ‘lad’ of the times was injured and it must have affected him quite badly. He had quite a bad head injury but I saw him at Spurs two days later and he lost it completely. Even just seeing someone who was actually there, in that mayhem, brought it home to me that I was the luckiest man in the world.
The Birmingham pub bombings was a disaster on a great scale. A coward had plated two bombs and he’d even phoned up to say the bombs were in two Birmingham pubs just as they went off. Has anyone been caught for these atrocities? The answer to that one is no. We all know that six Irish men were sentenced and then released, now if I were to mention about that, then that would be political, so I’m not going there. What the people of Birmingham want is justice for fellow Brummies, nothing more, nothing less.
It seems like the police, the people who run our city and the Government just don’t care. If this had happened in London, Manchester or Liverpool perhaps there would have been more of an outcry? But the people of Birmingham have got a bit of dignity and we shrug our shoulders and try to get on with our lives. But the people who deserve closure are the living relatives of those who died and were injured.
IS THAT TOO MUCH TO ASK?
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Big Dave Thomas
Terrible atrocity; terrible injustice; terrible respect
I was 22 at the time and living in New York. Like your family I was so frightened for my folk and friends. I use to frequent both pubs when I was in Birmingham. It was major part of my life.
I remember on Newsnight with Lord Denning: Some guy was claiming he knew the real perpetrators boasting of the barbarism and Lord Denning just ostracising the guy.
We pride on our justice system but actually it is just as rubbish as everywhere else.