horse and groom pub guildford

This old white building in Guildford, England, which now appears to be vacant, was once the Horse & Groom Pub. Thirty-nine years ago tonight, on October 5, 1974, which was (like today) also a Saturday, a bomb planted by the Provisional Irish Republican Army went off here, along with another bomb at another nearby pub called the Seven Stars. Both pubs were popular with British Army people who were stationed here. The terrorist attack killed five people and wounded 65.

The Guildford Pub Bombing was the beginning of a very sad story. In addition to those killed and maimed in the cowardly attack, several more innocent lives were destroyed by the heavy-handed response by British authorities. Four Northern Irish–Gerard Conlon, Paul Hill, Patrick Armstrong and Carole Richardson–were arrested for the crime, largely being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Seven others, including Gerard’s father Giuseppe, were also arrested in connection with the attack. Some confessed under torture, and it’s certain the authorities manipulated and withheld evidence showing their innocence. The “Guildford Four” and “Maguire Seven” were convicted in October 1975 and March 1976. After languishing in prison for many years, the truth finally came out, thanks to the efforts by various human rights lawyers including Gareth Peirce. The “Guildford Four” were released in 1989, and what remained of the “Maguire Seven” in 1991. Giuseppe Conlon, one of the seven, had died in prison in 1980.

One of the Guildford Four, Paul Hill, later married into the Kennedy family. Gerard Conlon wrote a memoir of his wrongful imprisonment, which eventually was made into the 1993 film In The Name of the Father starring Daniel Day-Lewis.

Today “the Troubles,” the name given to the IRA’s war against the British, is over, having been ended by a negotiated settlement–the Belfast Accords–in 1998. As you can see here there’s no trace of the horror that happened here nearly 40 years ago. While strife in and involving Northern Ireland is by no means over, at least some significant progress has been made.

Here is the trailer for In the Name of the Father, which is an excellent film.