THE moment I heard the news about the Miami Showband massacre is one of my most vivid childhood memories.

A heatwave had hit Northern Ireland in July 1975 and I was on holiday with my mother in my parents’ caravan in the seaside town of Portrush on the north Antrim coast.

Dad was at home near Lisburn working as a civil servant and running the small family farm.

I loved being on my own all day with my mum. Every morning we would head to the beach, me on my roller skates and mum carrying a picnic blanket, swimsuits, towels and sandwiches.

We would station ourselves on our favourite spot close to the town’s harbour on the west strand, a sheltered beach where the sea was calm and where the sun beamed down.

The National:

Mum would stretch out on a blanket and absorb herself in a book or a newspaper, while I would paddle and swim and climb the rocks on the harbour wall.

My memories of what we did in the evenings have all but gone. We must have had dinner, but I don’t really remember what we had to eat. We probably walked down to the telephone booth to phone dad and my sister at home, but I don’t clearly remember doing that either.

I do, however, remember the evening we heard the news of the Miami Showband massacre.

Mum had pulled out the sofa and made up the double bed. Just one grey tartan blanket covered the sheets. As she did every night mum turned on the radio to hear the shipping forecast.

But that night the programme was interrupted by a newsflash telling us that five people had died in a bombing in County Down and that three of those killed were members of the Miami Showband.

Mum couldn’t believe it. She was shocked, and I’m sure close to tears. I knew it was terrible, but I couldn’t take it in. Every day in the 1970s I had heard reports about bombings and shootings.

My memories of most of those numerous newsflashes are hazy. But perhaps because it came at the end of an idyllic hot summer day by the seaside, my memory of the moment I heard about the Miami Showband massacre has never faded.