It was exactly 30 years to the day since the Ulster Volunteer Force gunned down three members of the Miami Showband after a bomb attack the loyalist gang was planning backfired, killing two of their members.
Around 400 people, including relatives of the musicians killed in the atrocity, packed into Dublin’s Pro-Cathedral for an emotional remembrance service which celebrated their work.
Among those who paid tribute to the band were 1970 Eurovision Song Contest winner and former MEP Dana Rosemary Scallon and their former frontman, Irish showband legend Dickie Rock.
The showband, one of the Ireland’s most popular live bands in the 1970s, were returning from performing at a dance in Banbridge, Co Down, when their minibus was flagged down by men dressed in army uniforms on the road to Border town of Newry.
Band members were told to line up in a ditch while UVF members posing as Ulster Defence Regiment members tried to plant a bomb inside the minibus which they hoped would explode later on as the musicians headed home to Dublin.
As the gang loaded the bomb, the musicians were asked for their names and addresses but it exploded prematurely, killing two UVF members Harris Boyle and Wesley Sommerville.
After the explosion, the UVF gang was ordered to open fire on the band, killing lead singer Fran O’Toole, trumpet player Tony Geraghty and Brian McCoy.
Guitarist Stephen Travers and Des Lee survived.
Catholic priest Fr Brian D’Arcy and Anglican rector, the Rev Robert Dean conducted yesterday’s inter-denominational service.
Dana sang several hymns during the service and there was also a musical tribute from Dickie Rock.
Margaret Unwin of the Justice for the Forgotten Group described the service as “very special”.
She said: “This was a very important day for the O’Toole, McCoy and Geraghty families and for those who survived because it was the first time they have got together in this way.
“It was very heartening to see so many people from the showband era and members of the public turn out and celebrate the band member’s lives.
“It is important massacres like this are not forgotten but it is also important that people remember the victims for who they were.”
A memorial concert will take place in Dublin’s popular Vicar Street venue tonight in memory of Fran O’Toole, Brian McCoy and Tony Geraghty.
The line-up includes Brendan Bowyer of the Royal Showband and the Big Eight, Red Hurley, Tony Kenny, Johnny Fean of Horselips and Des Lee, Stephen Travers and Paul Ashford from the Miami Showband.