Quilts pay homage to victims of the Troubles

One of the quilts
One of the quilts

LAURA MCMULLAN talks to Molly Carson MBE from victims’ group FAIR about the creation of two quilts, specifically made to commemorate some of the most tragic events that have happened over the course of the Troubles, and finds out how the project went some way to addressing their own personal scars

Two beautifully intricate quilts - one of which has never been publicised - are set to be shown at a local victims’ group’s annual church service in south Armagh next week.

Members of Markethill-based FAIR (Families Acting for Innocent Relatives) spent months both designing and meticulously creating the two stunning pieces, which are around 5ft by 5ft in size.

Each handmade square making up the quilts is unique, and represents one of the atrocities which happened in Northern Ireland over the course of the Troubles.

The first quilt to be made is solely dedicated to the Troubles on FAIR’s doorstep - south Armagh, an area where many of the members of this organisation are based and lost their own loved ones at the hands of terrorists.

Tragic events represented include: Kingsmills; Tullyvallen Orange Hall; Darkley; and Narrow Water Castle.

There are also squares dedicated to members of the RUC, the Ulster Defence Regiment and, as the organisation’s project coordinator Molly Carson MBE explains, “all HM forces.”

The FAIR logo of a broken heart - to represent the families affected - is at the centre of this fascinating masterpiece, and tear drops have been carefully stitched on to the fabric which frames the periphery of the piece.

“The surrounding border is coloured black for bereavement, red for the bloodshed and green for the countryside,” said Molly.

“The quilt was made and designed by five members of FAIR - myself, Anne Dougan, Betty Clarke, Ruth Greer and Eva Elliott.

‘‘The members were assisted by Mrs Elizabeth Laverty in her role as tutor.

‘‘Elizabeth is a very experienced quilter and has done some beautiful quilts herself, but this was the first memorial quilt she had overseen.”

For Molly and her companions, it was a cathartic experience in many ways.

“The members of FAIR worked together diligently, hand stitching every memorial square, whilst at the same time discussing the incidents and how terrible this was for the families,” she said.

“In some way the work was therapeutic for everyone, as all five of us were victims of the conflict having lost members of our families, we felt we were ensuring that the hurt and pain of those affected in the atrocities would not be forgotten.

“I feel that through this quilt we are acknowledging and giving recognition to some of the most horrific atrocities that occurred in South Armagh, while the families still feel they have not seen justice for the crimes.”

The other quilt is dedicated to the memory of those killed in the Troubles right across Northern Ireland, and one of the memorial squares included is related to the murder of Lord Mountbatten.

The 36th anniversary of his death at the hands of the Provisional IRA took place last week (August 27).

Other tragedies included in this quilt include the La Mon House bombing, the Shankill bomb, Teebane, Droppin’ Well, and the bombs in Enniskillen, Claudy and Omagh.

This garment was designed and hand sewn by Molly, Ann, Betty and Ruth, again under the guidance of Elizabeth Laverty.

Said Molly: “The ladies researched each atrocity and together designed it to appropriately remember each incident.

‘‘Everyone experienced the sadness of the incidents but worked diligently to try to give some comfort to those affected, and to let them know that we have not forgotten their pain, as we all shared it, having been victims ourselves.

“The families who suffered in such atrocities should never be forgotten as they struggle daily to reason why such terrible things should happen to them.”

Molly Carson personally knows all too well the effects the Troubles had on people’s lives.

She joined the RUC in 1981 as a typing supervisor, and seven years later, her efficiency and discretion in tasks such as preparing sensitive prosecution files were recognised and she was appointed personal secretary to the assistant chief constable for Special Branch. She went on to staff 10 assistant chief constables.

Over the course of her 30-year-career, she became close to and lost many colleagues and friends, who lost their lives in the conflict.

“So from a personal point of view this has meant a lot to me as well,” she says.

*Both quilts are to be displayed at FAIR’s Annual Church Service on Sunday September 13 in Kingsmills Presbyterian Church at 3pm. Everyone is welcome to attend.