Miami Showband massacre: Drummer escaped ambush by going home to parents

The front page of the News Letter the day after the Miami Showband massacre
The front page of the News Letter the day after the Miami Showband massacre

The front page of the News Letter on August 1 1975, published hours after the Miami Showband massacre, focused on the tragic loss of musical talent with the murder of three band members.

Under the headline ‘Slaughter on the road to stardom’, the paper reports that 29-year-old Fran O’Toole from Bray in Co Wicklow was on the brink of a promising solo career.

It also details how Brian McCoy, 28, from Caledon in Co Tyrone, “was the only Protestant in the band”.

In the story his aunt, ‘Mrs M McCoy’ is quoted as saying: “He lived for his music.”

The story further details how Ray Miller, then the 23-year-old drummer in the band, had escaped the shooting as he had decided after the show to drive home to his parents’ home in Antrim.

The report quotes a close friend of Mr Miller saying it was the custom of band members to return home if they were playing nearby.

It adds that Tony Geraghty’s father, Peter Geraghty said: “He was such a grand lad. How can they shoot someone who was just trying to play music and make people happy?”

Tony Geraghty had been engaged to be married to Linda Hendricks.

“The horrific death of the three musicians has led to a rethink on the part of artists crossing the border and a meeting is hoped to be held next week between the Irish Musicians Federation and Northern promoters regarding visits to the Province,” added the report.

“Several groups have also cancelled immediate engagements in Ulster including Big Tom and the Mainliners,” it added.

But there was no light relief in the Province on August 2, less than 48 hours after the killings, when the headline in the News Letter read: ‘Midnight Ambush: One dead 6 shot’.

In this atrocity, carried out in similar circumstances and by the UVF, a minibus carrying nine pensioners from Bleary to Banbridge in Co Down was stopped by men in army uniforms.

The pensioners, all Catholic, had been returning from a regular bingo session.

Seven pensioners were shot including Joseph Toland who died at the scene. Months later, in 1976, James Marks died of his injuries.

Morning View