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1974: Birmingham pub blasts remembered

One November night in 1974, two pubs in Birmingham were destroyed within minutes of each other by two bombs planted by the IRA.

Twenty-one people were killed in the Mulberry Bush and the nearby Tavern in the Town and 182 were injured.

Six men imprisoned for the attacks - Hugh Callaghan, Patrick Hill, Gerard Hunter, Richard McIlkenny, William Power and John Walker - had their convictions overturned by the Court of Appeal in March 1991.

Both pubs were later renamed - the Mulberry Bush was turned into a tourist information centre in 2003 and the Tavern in the Town has been renamed The Yard of Ale.

Your memories:

On the evening that the bombs went off at the Mulberry Bush and The Tavern, I was waiting for my boyfriend, Nick Owen, a reporter for BBC Radio Birmingham, to return from Birmingham Airport.

He had been there all day waiting for the body of the Coventry Post Office bomber James McDade to be flown to Ireland.

Hundreds of police officers lined the approach to Birmingham airport for security.

In the early evening, Nick Owen called the night man on the news desk to let him know that it seemed unlikely the plane would leave and that he was going home.

It was then that the night man told Nick Owen: "I think the shit has just hit the fan." He was hearing, of course, of the first reports of the bombs going off.

That night we were planning to go to the BBC Radio Birmingham party for fans and listeners which was to be held very close to the Rotunda building.

Instead of going to that we were glued to the television for hours as time seemed to stand still and the screen was filled with images of the devastation.

David Hoare, who did a radio programme for BBC Radio Birmingham was one of the first people at the scene since he had been at the function getting ready for the night's festivities with Les Ross, the drive time DJ.

I'll never forget seeing him report on the incident with tears streaming down his face.

At the time I was a student at Gosta Green and I remember going into town a couple of days later, to my classes, and my bus route took me right past the Tavern, a pub I used to drink in all the time.

The front of the building was covered in flower tributes to all of those who had suffered and died in there.
Amanda Bradley, USA

Your memories so far

I occasionally went into the Mulberry Bush before the bombings but afterwards I was always anxious and did not want to go into either of the pubs because I could not get the bombings out of my head.

It was a terrible time. Changing the pub names did not make any difference - the destruction of so many lives had taken place.
Val Maitland, UK

My husband (then boyfriend) and I had just arrived in the city centre.

Being a Thursday we would normally go to The Tavern in the Town, but I had met a friend on the bus and we were walking with her up New Street to meet her boyfriend at Bogarts at the other end of New Street first.

We had just turned into the bottom of New Street when we heard the explosion at the Mulberry Bush.


" Glass shattered all around us from shop windows, my ears were ringing, but by some miracle we were physically unhurt "

Ellen Levick, UK

We were stunned and stood still for a short time wondering what to do, then a policeman came running around the corner from the direction of the Mulberry and he was shouting to people to clear the area.

There was another bomb, so we started to run up New Street.

As we drew level with the Tavern, the bomb went off.

We were on the opposite side of the road and there were cars parked at the side, which shielded us partly, but I still see this large pane of glass flying across the road at us. Instinct threw us to the ground and the pane hit the top of the nearest car.

Glass shattered all around us from shop windows, my ears were ringing, but by some miracle we were physically unhurt.

We picked ourselves up and ran as fast as we could up the road.

After leaving our friend with her boyfriend we somewhat stupidly went to another pub to get a drink to try and stop the shaking.

The next hour or so was a bit of a blur. I know I rang my parents to say I was safe, but they didn't know at that time what I was on about. The news hadn't reached them.

We decided to get a taxi back to my house, the queues were long, but when we did get one the driver apologised for the blood in the back of the cab.

He was one of the many drivers who had been ferrying the injured to hospital and then returned to work.

It was a long time before I could go out again and feel safe. It was the only time in my life that I took tranquillizers.

November 21st holds many memories, but the one I like to remember most was the birth of my daughter 14 years later on that same day.

The others I try to put to the back of my mind, but they still resurface every November 21st.

I count myself and my husband as two of the many victims of that dreadful night.
Ellen Levick, UK

I was in court in Bromsgrove on this day and was fined 30 for driving my Rover 110 without any tax.

I caught the bus from Bromsgrove to Birmingham where I decided, as I had the rest of the day off, I would go to the pictures in Station Street before catching the bus home to Sutton Coldfield.

I drank at the Tavern but that was usually on Friday, however as I had the whole day off I thought I might go down and see if any of my friends were there.


" Those who were native to Ireland never spoke out loud in the street in case people took revenge on us because we were Irish "

Lynn Evans, UK

But I remembered I had a drama class to attend at Sutton College that evening, so fortunately for me I decided to attend the class.

I would certainly have been among those killed or injured had I not gone to drama.

When I came home from drama I was watching "The Sweeney" when the programme was interrupted with a newsflash of what had happened.

I was mortified at what I saw and overwhelmed at my good fortune that I was not a victim.

The next day I went to visit my best friend from college, Pat Mcann, whose family, being from Belfast in Northern Ireland, were facing a huge backlash of animosity at their places of work as were the rest of the Birmingham Irish community.

The following months were characterised by unprecedented security in every pub in Birmingham.

You would not gain entry into any pub or club without being body searched.
Gordon Morris, UK

I was a small child when this happened.

My father was an Irish immigrant and we had a large Catholic family around us.

We were all shocked by the events in our own city and we felt the hatred for many years - I remember we all went around together after that point and those who were native to Ireland never spoke out loud in the street in case people took revenge on us because we were Irish.

It was a horrible time.
Lynn Evans, UK

I remember that night well as I was a member of the fire crew from Mosley Rd that attended the Tavern in the Town that night.

I was part of the first team to arrive on scene.

This happened by chance as we were sent first to the Mulberry Bush but due to traffic the driver had taken the only route he could which meant going down Corporation St the wrong way, and turning into New St, and coming across the bombing, we spent up to three hours at the pub.

The photos shown the next day were of our pump.

From that day to this I have never been inside the pub.
Nigel Brown, UK

I was 18 at the time and travelled to Birmingham with three friends from Cheltenham to see Spike Milligan at the Alexandra Theatre.

I remember at around 20.30 we heard what sounded like a booming sound and Spike raised his eyes to the heavens and said: " Don't worry God - I'll keep it clean!"

It wasn't until we left the theatre and started walking back to the car park did we realise something awful had happened.

Empty pubs with cigarettes left in ash trays, and half filled glasses. The police had blocked all exits out of the city - we eventually got home at 3.30 the following morning. A truly terrifying experience.
Malcolm Ball, UK


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