Ex-UDR man left seriously disabled by 1979 bomb defies Covid with miracle marathon

A severely disabled Fermanagh man and his family are preparing for an emotional reunion next week when he completes a gruelling marathon walk with a group of former UDR soldiers who saved his life.

By Philip Bradfield
Friday, 18th December 2020, 6:30 am
Updated Friday, 18th December 2020, 12:13 pm
Grant Weir, proudly wearing his Northern Ireland medal, as he started his challenge, with nephew and neice Ethan and Becky Palmer.
Grant Weir, proudly wearing his Northern Ireland medal, as he started his challenge, with nephew and neice Ethan and Becky Palmer.

Grant Weir was a 22-year-old UDR soldier on patrol with his unit when they were blown up by an IRA roadside bomb on the Lisnaskea to Rosslea Road in 1979.

He suffered severe head injuries which left him with serious physical and mental disabilities. Missionary Sylvia Crowe was killed while two others with her at a nearby bus stop were injured.  

Now 63 and widely loved for his cheeky personality, Grant has required constant care ever since, primarily provided by his sister Michelle Nixon, and relatives.

Grant Weir has almost finished his marathon challenge.

“Like many others Grant suffered greatly during lockdown,” Michelle said.

“He was used to going to the day care centre five days a week, but instead he was mainly restricted to our back garden. That is when we came up with the idea of the walk.”

They began at Holy Trinity Church of Ireland, Lisnaskea on Remembrance Day, accompanied by others who had lost limbs in terror attacks.

“There has been a mind-blowing response,” Michelle said. “Among those who have walked with him are security force veterans from across NI and a local historical society. Lord Brookeborough has also been in touch to offer support.

“Last Thursday he walked around the playground at Ballinamallard Primary School. The Primary Two children came out to walk with him and sang and he gave them all selection boxes. He loved it.”

Grant has completed 25.5 miles and will do his last half mile by December 22, some four weeks early, finishing where they began.

“He knows all his family members but he has no short term memory. But he never forgets a face,” Michelle says.

“The UDR soldier who went in the helicopter with him and literally held his brain in is coming down to walk the last half mile. About 8-9 of his former colleagues will also be there. Two of them made a stretcher for him from the wreckage of the Land Rover. He will remember them all. It will be a very emotional day.”

They are donating the £5,500 raised to two charities, the Ely Centre in Enniskillen and the South East Fermanagh Foundation in Lisnaskea: “I only have to lift the phone to either of them and they are there for us.

“We also want “to raise awareness of the needs of the injured, their carers and the importance of practicing positive mental health. We want people to know that if Grant can succeed then so too can others, with determination.”

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Alistair Bushe