THE widow of a man taken out of his digger and shot by the IRA 35 years ago last night said the news that his memorial had been stolen “is just all I need coming up to Christmas”.
Betty Clarke, 62, spoke to the News Letter after discovering a mahogany memorial she had cemented in place just one year ago on the site where her husband was abducted near Mullaghabawn in south Armagh had been stolen.
On April 2, 1977, Hugh William Clarke, 31, was found lying on the roadside on the Belleeks to Crossmaglen Road.
He had been shot three times in the head by the IRA.
The father-of-three had been digging drains at a farm in Mullaghbawn when he was abducted by three armed and masked men.
He was driven a short distance before being shot and his body dumped at Redmond’s Cross, about five miles from the border.
Mr Clarke – whose wife Betty was expecting their fourth child – then lived in Fairview, Newtownhamilton, Co Armagh.
“When I heard this today, well, it does not help me coming up to Christmas,” said Mrs Clarke.
“It is 35 years since Willie was shot and it feels like yesterday.
“The people who did this are nothing but scum.
“I have no words for them.
“My daughter rang me in hysterics when she found out what had happened. That’s all we need coming up to Christmas.
“I don’t know when it happened exactly.
“We put the memorial there about a year ago. We had been hesitant to do it because we thought it would have been destroyed. But it was OK for a year so we thought it would last.
“But look what has happened.”
Mrs Clarke, who now has 13 grandchildren, said: “My husband has missed out on so much, on all his grandchildren and everything.
“But sure they don’t care.
“Willie was in nothing. He wasn’t even an Orangeman.
“His crime was being a Protestant. When he died I was 26 years old and expecting our fourth child.”
At Mr Clarke’s funeral a Presbyterian minister said he was not a member of the RUC or the UDR, “nor was he in a paramilitary organisation or group, as some would have the world believe”.
At the time SDLP representative Paddy O’Hanlon also said: “He was murdered by the IRA because he was a Protestant as well as being a man who worked for a living.
“The perpetrators of this foul deed like their compatriots in the UVF would crucify Christ if he appeared in the north of Ireland this week and the leadership of the IRA would show no hesitation in supplying the nails.”