Willie Frazer: After dad’s murder, mum stopped us taking the law into our own hands

Willie Frazer's father Bertie was murdered on August 30 1975, and the family soon knew who was responsible
Willie Frazer's father Bertie was murdered on August 30 1975, and the family soon knew who was responsible

Forty years “have gone in a flash” for victims’ campaigner Willie Frazer whose father Bertie was murdered by the IRA on August 30, 1975.

On Sunday Willie, 55, says he and some of his eight siblings will visit the scene of his father’s murder at a farm near Whitecross in south Armagh.

Willie Frazer's father Bertie was murdered at a farm near Whitecross in south Armagh

Willie Frazer's father Bertie was murdered at a farm near Whitecross in south Armagh

Willie said his father, who was 49 when he was murdered, “had worked seven days a week as a council worker, a farmhand, a part-time member of the UDR and a church sexton”.

He said his family hope to return to the scene “to send a clear message to ‘the boys’ that they did not send us out of south Armagh as they hoped to do”. “Instead they sent us into the security forces,” he added.

Life changed irrevocably for the Frazer family after his murder.

Willie said with hindsight his family’s friendship and “full integration into life in south Armagh” left them vulnerable to republicans with a vendetta.

Prior to his murder their family home had been attacked with petrol bombs and gunfire due to Bertie’s UDR membership.

According to ‘Lost Lives’, which chronicles every death during the Troubles, the coroner said Mr Frazer’s murder was “callous and premeditated”. He had been shot in the head and he died at the scene.

Willie, who was 15 at the time, said “many nights we would have been along with him but we weren’t that night”.

“It was the last Saturday of August and he was working on the farm he had more or less worked on since he was a child,” he said.

“My father had a constant routine so they knew where he would have been at five to eight on a Saturday night.

“But he would not change his routine and would not carry his personal weapon. He was a Christian man and he was stubborn.

“In fact the farm he worked on every Saturday was being left to him, but when this was mentioned to my mother a few years later she said no.

“At the time he was murdered there wasn’t a house in south Armagh that my father could not have gone into, within reason.”

Willie said after his father died “my mother was given over 1,000 Mass cards from local people who knew us”.

He said the family “soon found out who set our father up to be murdered and who carried out the killing”.

However, no-one was charged with his murder.

Willie said it used to “pain me to see my mother struggling financially after my father died”.

“It wasn’t easy for my mother. People forget about the women who are left behind and have to keep the family going,” he added.

“In fact if it hadn’t been for my mother we could have gone down another path and taken the law into our own hands.”

Willie said after his father’s wake in their Newtownhamilton home they learned “gunmen tried to get into our wake house but were stopped by the Army”.

“When they didn’t succeed they went to Tullyvallen Orange Hall the next night. We could hear them shooting from where we were standing at that time.”

On September 1, 1975 four people were killed when IRA men burst into Tullyvallen Orange Hall, near Newtownhamilton.

“There are a lot of 40th anniversaries in south Armagh this year,” added Willie. who in later years lost four other family members in IRA attacks.

“This was done during a so-called Provisional IRA ceasefire, which is why we have such a distrust of them. At the time they used a cover name of Catholic Reaction Force.”