Fateful date sealed footballer’s fate as the final victim of 1974 pub bombs Brother recalls man he knew as families’ campaign continues to call for justice
BILL Craig’s brother Jimmy kept himself fit into his 30s, thanks to his love of football. Once a trialist with Birmingham City FC, he played for several local Sunday league teams and sometimes took part in two matches on the same day.
So it may well be that his fitness initially helped him fight the terrible injuries he suffered in the Birmingham pub bombings.
Jimmy survived for almost 20 days until eventually succumbing to his wounds and becoming the last of the 21 victims to die.
A new inquest into the 1974 bombings is to be held but Bill and other families of the victims are outraged that the identity of the IRA bombers will not be addressed.
The coroner presiding over the hearing has ruled that the issue of the perpetrators will not fall within the scope of the inquest.
That’s why families in the Justice4the21 campaign group are seeking to raise £100,000 on a crowdfunding site to pay for a judicial review challenging the coroner’s decision.
Among them will be Bill, who today remembers the footballing brother so cruelly ripped from his family.
“We came as a family in 1952 from Northern Ireland to live in the Ward End area of Birmingham,” he says. “We both worked at the Wolseley Motor Works, Ward End.
“Jimmy worked there for 19 years and in that time made many friends. He socialised most nights with friends in the Barley Mow pub in St Margarets Road.
“He had many friends outside work in the area we lived.
“Jimmy’s love in life was football. He played for the Wolseley football team and several other teams in Birmingham.
“I even have memories of Jimmy playing a football match Sunday morning, coming home for his Sunday roast, then going back out again in the afternoon to play another game.
“In the 1960s Jimmy trialled for Birmingham City Football Club, but unfortunately wasn’t taken on.”
It was a date that led to Jimmy heading into the city centre on the fateful night of November 21, 1974, although Bill didn’t know that immediately. His brother didn’t say where he was going when he left their home at 6.30pm. He never returned.
“The next day, I went in to Birmingham city centre to make enquires at Steelhouse Lane Police Station and the General Hospital but this proved negative,” says Bill. “I arrived at the Accident Hospital at approximately 4pm that day.
“I asked if they had a man in there aged 34 with a beard. They said ‘Yes, but you can’t go of into the major injuries unit yet. Relatives of the other victims are going hysterical at the Irish nurses.’
“After an hour had passed, I was allowed in and yes, it was my brother Jimmy. He was on a life support machine.
“Later, I had to go home and tell my parents. Tragically, due to ill health, they never got to see Jimmy again.
“Jimmy was the last victim of the pub bombings to pass away. It was on Monday, December 9, 1974. He’d fought for life. He’s hung on to life.
“His funeral took place a week before Christmas and there were hundreds of people lined up outside Wolseley Motor Works, where Jimmy worked.
“I found out afterwards that, prior to the night the bombers struck, a letter had came to our home address for Jimmy.
“Trouble is, Jimmy could read nor write. “He would only ever ask myself or our mother to read to him due to embarrassment and on this occasion my mother had read the letter to him.
“It was from a lady arranging to meet him in Birmingham city centre on that Thursday night. “She survived but was in hospital, after having suffered an eye injury, for several weeks.” neither