Edward Keenan and his wife Sarah had called in to McGurk’s bar that night for a quick drink after a day spent shopping in the city centre, just three weeks before Christmas.
The couple were celebrating because after a lifetime working as a docker, Edward has just received his retirement money and the couple were looking forward to giving their four children an extra special Christmas, with new clothes and presents.
Their 13-year-old son Gerard was in their Carlisle Parade home minding his two younger brothers, unaware that his parents had called into their local for a quick drink en route home from town, when they heard a massive explosion.
Gerard recalls the panic and shock in the area as the news quickly spread that McGurk’s had been bombed.
“We heard this massive explosion, it shook the whole house, I ran to the front door and somebody outside said that it was McGurk’s,” he said,
“I knew they’d been in town but we didn’t know they’d called in. I stood with the crowds at the Barrack wall looking at everything that was going on. My older brother came down to the house and as the night went on and they weren’t home we were getting more and more worried.
“He was ringing round hospitals and for hours people were coming to the door asking if they were back, it was only much later that a friend of the family identified the bodies.”
The family had been told not to look in their parents’ coffins and to keep them closed because of the injuries they received. It was only after Gerard's brother asked to open his father’s coffin to say goodbye that they realised there was a mix up with bodies, because Edward had a finger missing from an earlier accident.
The family then faced another trauma waiting for his father’s body to be located and returned to the home for the wake.
Gerard and his brothers were taken in by their older brother and his family who looked after them. He now has seven children of his own and six grandchildren.
He is using his building skills to help in the construction of a mural, a replica of McGurk’s Bar on the site where it once stood, which will be unveiled in a special ceremony on Saturday night, timed to happen round the exact moment the bomb exploded four decades before.
Gerard said he believes it is a fitting tribute to the victims and a permanent reminder of the tragedy.
“Personally to me, this is the final place where my mother and father were,” he said.
“What was taken away 40 years ago is now going back, to me this is an honourable tribute to them and an honourable tribute to the people of the area who tried to help them.”