In Memory: The Miami Showband — Massacred 31 July 1975

Beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, Of them that bring glad tidings of good things

In a public house, darkly lit, a patriotic (sic)
Versifier whines into my face: “You must take one side
Or the other, or you’re but a fucking romantic.”
His eyes glitter hate and vanity, porter and whiskey,
And I realise that he is blind to the braille connection
Between a music and a music-maker.
“You must take one side or the other
Or you’re but a fucking romantic”:
The whine is icy
And his eyes hang loose like sheets from poles
On a bare wet hillside in winter
And his mouth gapes like a cave in ice;
It is a whine in the crotch of whose fear
Is fondled a dream gun blood-smeared;
It is in war — not poetry or music —
That men find their niche, their glory hole;
Like most of his fellows
He will abide no contradiction in the mind.
He whines: “If there is birth, there cannot be death”
And — jabbing a hysterical forefinger into my nose and eyes —
“If there is death, there cannot be birth.”
Peace to the souls of those who unlike my fellow poet
Were true to their trade
Despite death-dealing blackmail by racists:
You made music, and that was all: You were realists
And beautiful were your feet.

— Paul Durcan

The Miami Showband. Image: RTE Archives

The Miami Showband.
Image: RTÉ Archives / War and Conflict

The Miami Showband was one of the most popular bands in Ireland in the 1960s and 1970s. Based in Dublin and including both Catholic and Protestant musicians, the showband toured across the island, from County Antrim to County Kerry. On July 31, 1975, while the traveling by van from Bainbridge, County Down, to Dublin, the band was pulled over at a fake military checkpoint. Unaware that the checkpoint officers in UK military uniforms were part of a paramilitary loyalist group, the band members waited by the side of the road while a time bomb was planted in their vehicle. The loyalists hoped to frame the band members as IRA-bomb smugglers. However, the bomb was mishandled during the installation and detonated early, killing the two men working with it. The remaining armed loyalists opened fire on the band members, killing three and wounding two. Later investigations (c. 2010) indicated that the mastermind behind the attack, Robin “The Jackal” Jackson, avoided arrest thanks to assistance from upper-level police officers.

[Research note: Paul Durcan, A Snail in My Prime: New and Selected Poems (NY & London: Penguin Books, 1995), n.p.; Henry McDonald, “Miami Showband killings: police tipoff helped suspect elude justice, says report,” Guardian (December 14, 2010).]