Gordon Wilson (peace campaigner)

Gordon Wilson

Gordon Wilson with his wife Joan
Born September 25, 1927(1927-09-25)
Manorhamilton, Co. Leitrim, Irish Free State
Died June 27, 1995(1995-06-27) (aged 67)
Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh, Northern Ireland
Occupation draper, peace campaigner, politician
Known for forgiving IRA bombers and opposing Loyalist revenge

Gordon Wilson (25 September 1927 — 27 June 1995) was a draper in Enniskillen, County Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. During The Troubles Wilson was injured and his daughter Marie was killed in the Enniskillen Remembrance Day Bombing on 8 November 1987.

Whereas many Northern Ireland terrorist attacks were followed by acts of revenge by opposing terrorists, the Remembrance Day bombing was followed by acts of forgiveness and reconciliation that came to be called the Spirit of Enniskillen. Gordon’s response to the bombing, "I bear no ill will. I bear no grudge", were reported worldwide and may be among the most-remembered from The Troubles' decades of conflict in Northern Ireland.[1]


Personal Life

William Gordon Wilson was born in the town of Manorhamilton in County Leitrim in the Irish Free State on 25 September 1927, a few years after the partition of Ireland. His parents, George Wilson and Henrietta Conn married in 1926. Wilson was the eldest of four children, had a happy childhood in a strongly Methodist household, with his three sisters Joan, Wilma and Dorothy.[2] Educated at Wesley College, Dublin, Wilson was a man of strong Christian faith; he attended Enniskillen Methodist Church. He spent most of his adult life running the family drapery in High Street, Enniskillen, County Fermanagh.

He came to national and international prominence with an emotional television interview he gave to the BBC only hours after the bombing in which he described his last conversation with his daughter, a nurse, as they both lay buried in rubble.

Wilson had many meetings with members of Sinn Féin and one with representatives of the Provisional IRA, seeking the reasons for the Enniskillen Remembrance Day bombing. In Wilson's own view he failed to get a satisfactory answer. He also had several meetings with Loyalist paramilitaries in an attempt to persuade them to abandon violence.

Wilson died of a heart attack in 1995, aged 67, survived by his wife, Joan, and their surviving children.

Remembrance Sunday 1987

The Remembrance Day bombing (also known as the Enniskillen bombing or Poppy Day massacre[3][4]) was carried out on 8 November 1987 in Enniskillen. The Provisional IRA exploded a bomb at the town's war memorial (cenotaph) during a Remembrance Sunday ceremony held to honour those who were killed whilst serving in the British Armed Forces. The explosion killed 11 people and injured 64, one of whom died from his injuries several years later.

The BBC has described the bombing as a turning point in The Troubles, and an attack that shook the IRA "to its core".[5][6]. Pivotal to turning point was Wilson's reaction to the murder of his daughter Marie in an interview that he gave to the BBC only hours after her death. Wilson forgave the terrorists and said he would pray for them. He also begged that no-one took revenge for Marie's death and pleaded with Loyalists not to do so.

The Aftermath

William Ury wrote in his 1999 book The Third Side:

In an interview with the BBC, Wilson described with anguish his last conversation with his daughter and his feelings toward her killers: "She held my hand tightly, and gripped me as hard as she could. She said, 'Daddy, I love you very much.' Those were her exact words to me, and those were the last words I ever heard her say." To the astonishment of listeners, Wilson went on to add, "But I bear no ill will. I bear no grudge. Dirty sort of talk is not going to bring her back to life. She was a great wee lassie. She loved her profession. She was a pet. She's dead. She's in heaven and we shall meet again. I will pray for these men tonight and every night." As historian Jonathan Bardon recounts, "No words in more than twenty-five years of violence in Northern Ireland had such a powerful, emotional impact."

In 1989 the Spirit of Enniskillen Trust was founded to run international programme for young people.[7] The Trust gives Spirit of Enniskillen Bursaries to promote reconciliation in Northern Ireland. "The idea was to encourage young people aged between sixteen and nineteen from Northern Ireland to travel outside the Province and to use their experience to help build community bridges at home".[8]

In 1993 Wilson, although a resident of Northern Ireland, was invited to become a member of Seanad Éireann on the nomination of the then Taoiseach, Albert Reynolds.

On Remembrance Day 1997, Sinn Féin leader Gerry Adams formally apologised for the bombing.

The Spirit Of Enniskillen Trust

In a deeply divided community the Spirit Of Enniskillen Trust works to support young people to lead dialogue, learning and working towards a shared society. To do this it supports a sequence of inter-linked projects working with young people in their schools, their communities and other divided regions internationally. The Trust also provides background facilitative leadership training, mentoring and resource support for school pupils, young volunteer facilitators, parents and teachers. All Trust learning activities are led by experienced and committed young volunteers.


  1. ^ "Interviewing Gordon Wilson was nearest I’d ever get to being in presence of a saint". Belfast Telegraph. 05/10/2008. http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/sunday-life/interviewing-gordon-wilson-was-nearest-irsquod-ever-get-to-being-in-presence-of-a-saint-13993509.html. Retrieved 01/07/11. 
  2. ^ McCreary, Alf (1996). Gordon Wilson, An Ordinary Hero. Marshall Pickering. p. 1. 
  3. ^ Mary Harney (2001). "Dail Remarks by Mary Harney, T.D., Tánaiste and Leader of the Progressive Democrats in Response to the Recent Terrorist Attacks on the United States". DETE press release. http://www.entemp.ie/press/2001/180901.htm. Retrieved 2008-05-07. 
  4. ^ McDonald, Henry (2006-04-23). "Gadaffi sued by 160 victims of IRA". London: Guardian Unlimited. http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2006/apr/23/uk.northernireland. Retrieved 2008-05-07. 
  5. ^ "Educational Television Programmes for lectures, training seminars and exhibitions". BBC Active. 2010-09-14. http://www.bbcactive.com/BroadcastLearning/MediaSupportFiles/Age%20of%20Terror%20synopses.pdf. Retrieved 2010-12-29. 
  6. ^ "Age of Terror" (Television Documentary). BBC. 2008-03-25. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/age_of_terror/7306395.stm. Retrieved 2008-05-07. 
  7. ^ The Spirit Of Enniskillen Trust
  8. ^ McCreary, op. cit, p. 120

External links

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