For many of us the refusal of Wings Over Scotland, aka Rev. Stuart Campbell, to accept the truth or facts is nothing new. However his continued apportioning of blame for the Hillsborough disaster on Liverpool fans themselves – despite the ruling of the Hillsborough inquest jury only last week – marks a new low, even by his normally low standards.
It has taken 27 years of courageous fighting by the families of those who lost loved ones to establish those truths and facts. And it was a brutal fight where for most of it they were very much the underdog. They had to scale a mountain where every step of their climb was hindered by a Police Force lying as a collective, a press fabricating stories and politicians briefing against their loved ones.
But they never lost sight of their objective, never gave up in their quest for the truth, though tragically, some who started the journey never saw its completion.
It is almost impossible to imagine what those families and countless other families in Liverpool went through that fateful day of 15th April, 1989. But let me try as best as I can.
The 2nd January 1971 started off like any normal Saturday in our household. My parents, despite their judgement being hindered following the traditional Hogmanay celebrations, were sober enough of mind to steadfastly refuse my requests to accompany my elder brother and his best mate Chubb, to the Old Firm game. “Too Young” was the often repeated mantra. I suspect I was not the only 9 year old in Glasgow that day who concluded that “life was just not fair”.
Instead I was to be placated with a trip to the Hillhead Cinema (The Salon) to watch the blockbuster disaster movie Airport. In these days of live satellite broadcasts, mobile phones and social media it must be hard to imagine how slow and archaic communication was back in 1971. As the audience sat glued to the disaster plot unfolding on the screens they were totally oblivious to the disaster unfolding right on our doorstep. But a quiet whisper in the cinema quickly became a nervous chatter as rumours spread something had gone wrong at Ibrox and total strangers enquired of one another in the quest for more information. I will never forget the look of abject horror and desperation on my mother’s face.
We, like many others, left the cinema before the end of the film and I watched my father search frantically for a phone box. We stood huddled as a family unit in a small phone box, as my father, his hands visibly shaking, tried to get the coins into the phone. We were lucky, our loved ones returned home that day. For 66 families there was to be no such relief. One of them was the McGhee family who lived in the next street to us – their son David, aged 14 years, perished along with 65 others.
It left our whole community in mourning, God only knows how the people of Markinch in Fife, got through it.
For 25 minutes or so my parent’s lives were tuned inside out with uncertainty, panic and worry. And what they experienced that day was nothing to what those Liverpool families have had to undergo. Imagine having to endure 27 years to get that most precious of all things – the truth – and to have to battle every step of the way to get it.
The whole football community owes these Liverpool families a huge debt of thanks. The truth which they have uncovered speaks volumes about how football fans are viewed and treated by many. It was eloquently espoused by Rangers blogger JohnMc in his must read article for Gersnet:
Thankfully MSM, courtesy of Gordon Waddell at the Daily Record, have also picked up the mantle:
Generations of football fans can testify to the almost sub-human levels of treatment. Rangers fans alighting from a train at Dundee in the 80’s will recall being “ordered” onto a bus by Police and being ferried directly to Tannadice. Refusal was not an option. And for those of us who made that journey, the enclosure at Tannadice provided ample of evidence of ticket sales revenue taking greater priority than crowd safety.
As John Mc so succinctly put it:
“After all, we were only football fans.”
Hillsborough and the courageous fight of the families for truth and justice has left a legacy which the normally tribal football community must unite as one to ensure is carried on. Football fans, whatever colours they wear, should not only expect but demand the same level of treatment as spectators at other sporting events.
If God is apportioning wings, then Liverpool seems an appropriate place to start.