The scar that will never heal

Fam­ily of sol­dier mur­dered by IRA still search­ing for an­swers af­ter 45 years

Rutherglen Reformer - - Front Page - Dou­glas Dickie

The cousin of a sol­dier mur­dered by the Pro­vi­sional IRA 45 years ago next week has said the “scar has never healed”.

Dougald McCaughey, 23, was ex­e­cuted along with brothers John, 17, and Joseph, 18, McCaig on March 10, 1971.

The three men, who were un­armed, had been at a Belfast bar when they were lured to a re­mote spot by Repub­li­can women.

When they ar­rived at White Brae, they were shot dead and their bod­ies dumped.

David McCaughey, from Ruther­glen, was only five when his cousin was killed. But he re­mains de­ter­mined to keep his mem­ory alive, and this week called for a pub­lic in­quiry into Dougald’s death.

No- one has ever been con­victed of the mur­ders. The in­quest into the in­ci­dent re­turned an open ver­dict in Au­gust 1971.

When the His­tor­i­cal En­quiries Team in­ves­ti­gated Dougald’s death in 2012, they were un­able to de­ter­mine for sure who had been re­spon­si­ble, al­though sev­eral well known Repub­li­can ter­ror­ists were in the frame.

David told the Re­former this week: “The scar has never healed.

“No mat­ter how many years pass, I’ll never let them con­ceal the day they com­mit­ted cold­blooded mur­der.”

It’s a day David McCaughey will never for­get.

Still only five, he watched trans­fixed as friends and fam­ily packed out his Vic­to­ria Street home.

But this wasn’t a lov­ing fam­ily get to­gether.

In­stead, peo­ple were there to say an emo­tional farewell to his cousin Fusilier Dougald McCaughey, who was mur­dered on March 10, 1971 by the Pro­vi­sional IRA at the age of 23.

Sol­dier Dougald was off duty when he and his two friends, brothers John, 17, and Joseph, 18, McCaig were lured from a Belfast bar and ex­e­cuted at the re­mote White Brae in North Belfast.

Look­ing back, David, now 50, ad­mits he can only re­mem­ber parts of Dougald’s death and the af­ter­math.

But the mem­ory of how it af­fected his fam­ily, es­pe­cially Dougald’s mother, Lizzie, re­mains vivid.

“The one thing I can re­mem­ber of the fu­neral, our house was full of peo­ple, just hun­dreds of peo­ple stand­ing around in black.

“It was one of those things that was al­ways in the fam­ily, it was al­ways there just below the sur­face, like a scar that’s never healed.

“Lizzie mar­ried again but she mourned un­til the day she died. She never, ever got over it.

“His brother David was in the army as well. He was ac­tu­ally sta­tioned in Belfast and would have met them but he was held back on guard duty. Oth­er­wise, he’d have been mur­dered as well.

“They sent David straight home, He took it very badly. I last saw him 18 months ago and he just doesn’t talk about it.

“I was only a wee boy but Dougald would come round ev­ery Thurs­day. He ended up join­ing the army in 1970. He’d only been in the prov­ince a few weeks when it hap­pened.”

The mur­der of the three Scot­tish sol­diers sent shock­waves across Bri­tain and Ire­land.

While ser­vice­men had been killed in North­ern Ire­land be­fore, this was the first time they had been tar­geted off duty.

Their deaths caused a cri­sis in govern­ment which led to the res­ig­na­tion of North­ern Ire­land Prime Min­is­ter James Chich­ester-Clark.

The Bri­tish Army also raised the age of serv­ing in the prov­ince to 18 as a di­rect re­sult of the death of John McCaig.

The in­quest into the in­ci­dent re­turned an open ver­dict in Au­gust 1971.

When the His­tor­i­cal En­quiries Team in­ves­ti­gated Dougald’s death in 2012, they were un­able to de­ter­mine for sure who had been re­spon­si­ble.

David, from Watt Low Av­enue in Ruther­glen, re­mains heart­bro­ken no-one has been brought to jus­tice for the killings, and he ad­mits the na­ture of Dougald’s death made it harder to take.

“If the boys had been killed in com­bat, it would have been sore,” he says. “But I think the way it hap­pened made it worse.

“One of those in­volved ac­tu­ally made an ad­mis­sion, al­though he hadn’t pulled the trig­ger. He’s now ap­par­ently stay­ing in a safe house in the Re­pub­lic of Ire­land.

“An­other one got smug­gled out to Amer­ica where he’s now stay­ing un­der an as­sumed name.”

Dougald’s mother Lizzie stayed for a pe­riod in Castlemilk and died on new year’s day 1996 at the age of 74. His father had died in 1965.

Dougald was posted to Belfast

on Fe­bru­ary 15, 1971, but he would never see home again. His fu­neral took place just 32 days later.

David, who is un­der­go­ing treat­ment for can­cer, says the mem­ory of Dougald is what drives him on.

He now wants a pub­lic in­quiry into the death of the three sol­diers: “There were al­ways hand­ker­chiefs of the three boys around the house so the mem­ory of him was al­ways around.

“You’re never go­ing to get a con­vic­tion for it, there are peo­ple at the top of the chain who are now help­ing the Bri­tish Govern­ment.

“Some in­di­vid­u­als a re un­touch­able and we’re now ap­proach­ing 45 years.

“I want a pub­lic in­quiry. A lot of the things I’ve al­ready seen in the re­port, you just wouldn’t be­lieve.

“The Bri­tish Govern­ment has badly let down the fam­i­lies of the Scot­tish sol­diers killed.”

He was posted to Belfast on Fe­bru­ary 15, 1971 but he would never see home again. His fu­neral took place just 32 days later

Mem­o­ries David McCaughey, with the El­iz­a­beth Cross pre­sented to him on Dougald’s (in­set) be­half

Trib­ute David with art­work de­pict­ing the three lads who were mur­dered 45 years ago next week

Ser­vice David has kept the pro­gramme from the 2010 me­mo­rial ser­vice to his cousin

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