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Bloody Sunday: My brother came home in a box

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 15 June 2010

As Lord Saville unveils his report into the killing of 14 civil rights marchers in Londonderry in 1972, Eileen Fox writes for Channel 4 News about the day her 17-year-old brother Jackie Duddy failed to return home.

Jackie Duddy, who died on Bloody Sunday. The Saville Report is due out today.

One good thing about being from a big family is there's always someone who wants to play a hand of cards. Most winter Sunday afternoons were often spent like that, and that Sunday was no exception.

We told the boys to be careful, they were going to the march, and we all knew that if our Daddy found out they would be in big trouble. But it was such a lovely, crisp, sunny afternoon that there was a nice, cheerful atmosphere as everyone gathered with friends and family to go. I never went to the march as I was pregnant with my first baby but my husband Charlie went with his friends and almost all of my brothers went.

Us girls opted for a relaxing afternoon of card games. We roared with laughter as our youngest brother tried to cheat throughout the game and every now and then we shhhed to listen to the radio, only to hear that all was good and the march was going peacefully.

More from Channel 4 News on Bloody Sunday:
- Bloody Sunday inquiry: Saville report due
Channel 4's role in the Bloody Sunday inquiry
- Bloody Sunday: what can the report achieve?
- Controversy either way in Bloody Sunday report
- Bloody Sunday Inquiry: a timeline
- What would an 'unlawful' Bloody Sunday verdict mean?

As we played on and joked around the table my husband Charlie came back. He said there was bad bother down town, some people had been shot. "Nonsense", we thought, and we repeated to him what we had just heard on the radio moments before he arrived.

Soon after my aunt and uncle called to our house to say that they heard that our Jackie was hurt. Our good mood was immediately replaced with confusion and fear. They took our Kay to phone the hospital to find out exactly what was going on. Oh my God! Could this really be happening??...

Our home that was filled with laughter just a few minutes earlier was in shocked silence. We just looked at one another, saying nothing. "No, our Jackie would be fine" we thought, as we tried to convince ourselves that he would soon walk through the door. "Please Jackie, come home now!"

Before we knew it we heard a deep cry, a scream. It was Kay getting half held, half carried into our home. It was not good news. We were not brave enough to waken Daddy from his night shift to tell him that he had to go to the morgue to identify his seventeen year old son.

Our Aunt did it for us… another deep cry of pain, "But I warned them not to go!" my Dad shouted. Jackie did eventually come home… but he was in a brown box.

The next few days were a blur. Our house never emptied. Jackie was an excellent boxer and had such a loveable, bubbly personality that there were so many people coming to pay their respects.

A mural which illustrates a group of men, including Father Edward Daly, carrying Jackie Duddy (Getty).

We, being a big family, also had lots of our own personal friends calling up to the house to offer their condolences but even with this constant sea of friendly faces we still couldn't make sense of what had happened. Even Father Daly, who was beside Jackie when he was shot, came to make sure we all knew that Jackie was totally innocent. Which, of course we already did, as we knew him so well.

All of us were broken-hearted, literally overcome with grief. It had been just three years earlier that we had lost our Mammy and then there we were trying to come to terms with our innocent brother being murdered.

My Daddy said we shouldn't be selfish, that our Mammy needed one of us for company in heaven. That helped, but only for about five minutes. Slowly we learned of the many other families who were going through the exact same agony and confusion that we were.

We thought our Mammy had a big funeral, but nothing had prepared us for Jackie's. We were given a ticket to get into the chapel and warned that if we lost our ticket we couldn't get in.

It was the most surreal experience I've ever had. There were hordes of people pushing and pulling trying to get into the chapel and we were even afraid that our younger brothers and sisters were going to get lost in the crowd. As if that in itself wasn't scary enough, as we approached our seats we could see a row of coffins at the altar.

Throughout the mass the only sounds that broke the silence were tears of anguish and heartache as people struggled to catch their breath and remain calm. My heart broke for our Gerry; it was his fifteenth birthday…some birthday that was…

Worse was to come, slowly but surely we were hearing stories that the soldiers were boasting about killing and wounding so many IRA gunmen. "What? Didn’t they know they killed and wounded unarmed, innocent people?" This broke our hearts just as much.

We couldn't stand the thought of people talking ill of our brother. He was not a gunman; he was just an ordinary boy who had been murdered for absolutely nothing. It was at this point that we all naively put our faith in [Lord] Widgery.

"Widgery will sort this mess out," we proclaimed. We honestly thought that our Jackie's name and everyone else's names who were killed and wounded on Bloody Sunday would be cleared. Needless to say that didn't happen. Another cloak of silence and mourning descended over Derry.

Naturally, however, life has a way of going on. We talked of and still continue to talk of Jackie a lot. But we keep it light-hearted, remembering who he was as a person, the pranks he played, the jokes he told, and never really go into details on the awful, terrible death he had.

As our children grew up we told them stories about their uncle and ensured that although they never met him they felt as if they knew him. It was only when they reached a certain age that they wanted to know exactly why Uncle Jackie is not with us and it is then they learned of the horrific death he had.

And one thing is for sure, it never gets any easier telling your children or anyone else that your wee brother was actually murdered in cold blood. What's worse than that is telling them that the army would never admit it and our government has yet to bring him and the others who were killed and wounded to justice.

When a documentary is on about Bloody Sunday and pictures of our Jackie are shown my heart still pounds, my stomach knots and a lump blocks up my throat the exact same way as it did when it happened. I was just eighteen and a half years old so nothing has changed, or gotten easier to live with.

Since then my Daddy and another brother have died so although they did not get to see justice in their lifetime for all the innocent victims, we still live in hope.

A lot of our thanks have to go to Kay and Gerry who have worked so hard on our behalf with the Bloody Sunday justice campaign. It is because of them that we still have faith of a more honest conclusion to the current Saville inquiry. As our daddy always said "the truth will prevail."

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