The scar that will never heal
Family of soldier murdered by IRA still searching for answers after 45 years
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