Troubles victim so young his family never had chance to take photograph

All this week, the News Letter is carrying stories of children who were killed in the Troubles. On Sunday a memorial quilt will be unveiled at a special service in their memory. Today Philip Bradfield reports on one of the youngest victims.

Thursday, 28th September 2017, 1:32 pm
Updated Wednesday, 4th October 2017, 3:27 pm
Scott Clark and his mother Mavis at the family grave where Alan Jack was buried

A five-month-old baby who died in a bomb attack in Strabane was so young that he never had the chance to have his own personality, a relative has said.

Scott Clark was speaking about his cousin, Alan Jack, who died in an IRA car bomb attack on the town on July 19 1972.

As well as being one of the youngest victims of the Troubles, Alan was also the son of a mixed marriage.

A memorial patch to five-month-old Alan Jack, who died in an IRA car bomb attack in Strabane 1972

His Catholic mother hailed from Cork while his Protestant father was from Ballymagorry, just outside Strabane.

On Sunday members of the family will see a special patch in Alan’s memory on a memorial quilt to the ‘Children of the Troubles’. It is being unveiled during South East Fermanagh Foundation’s (SEFF) annual service at Fivemiletown Methodist Church.

Scott, who also lives in Ballymagorry, notes an extra level of poignancy in that neither of Alan’s parents have survived to see the ceremony.

“Alan’s death hit the family very hard,” he said. “In some way this is a wee bit of closure for the family and the entire area of Ballymagorry where they were from.

A memorial patch to five-month-old Alan Jack, who died in an IRA car bomb attack in Strabane 1972

“After the bomb his parents could not hack it any longer and they moved back to Cork, which is where Alan’s mum was from originally.”

After meeting in England the couple returned to Strabane and had just got a flat before the bomb attack.

“It hit them very hard, particularly Barbara. It hit the whole family very hard, from what I have heard from my grandmother and aunts and uncles. You can just imagine.

“The family were very hurt and disappointed that nobody was ever convicted or questioned about the atrocity.

“There was a 20-minute warning given and the bomb exploded after eight-10 minutes.”

The IRA claimed it gave an hour’s notice but the RUC said it was a case of “indiscriminately killing an innocent child and then trying to wriggle out of responsibility for a horrible crime”.

The police were moving Barbara along when the bomb exploded. A shard of glass from a window hit the pram.

“Alan was pretty badly hurt,” Scott said. “He was rushed into a medical centre in Strabane but was pronounced dead not long after with severe head injuries.

“My granny and grandfather used to say everybody else had their own personalities but that poor wee Alan never got the chance to get his own personality.

“I always remember my grandfather saying that he was a good little boy for five months old. There wasn’t much bother with him.”

He was so young his family had not yet taken a photograph of him. About a month later a further tragedy struck when Alan’s uncle Cecil lost a hand and an eye after finding a booby-trapped torch.

Scott’s mother Mavis said the patch in Alan’s name is “beautiful” and is looking forward to the ceremony.

She was living outside Northern Ireland at the time of the tragedy.

“I was just devastated. I was very angry that it had happened. His mother and father were just heartbroken.

“They went back down to live in Cork. The entire area of Ballymagorry was devastated. It was a big funeral.”

But Alan’s inclusion on the quilt has her “very pleased”.

Scott added: “It means a lot because there was never any closure – after 45 years.”