This was first published in 2009 on Harry’s Place, on the 20th Anniversary of the Hillsborough Tragedy. It was subsequently picked up by several others including the Liverpool Echo, Huffington Post etc. It was written in one draft, without edits and took as long to write as it is about to take you to read…
I knew three people who had gone to the match, so just hoped that they’d be okay. They were Rick Jones and his girlfriend Tracey – both of whom I’d been at Sheffield university with until the previous year – and one of my best friends Fran McCallister, a fireman and doorman, a colossus.
Me and Fran had hung out for days on end, smoking, listening to music (Cocteau Twins and Van Halen were his favourites, weirdly) and, well, just being scousers in Sheffield; taking the piss out of locals, getting drunk, having fun and being great…
At about three in the morning the first call came from my friend Kevin Fearon. He’d just identified Rick and Tracey’s bodies in a gym near to the ground. I was still sitting on the bottom step of the stairs at about 6am when he called back to tell me that he’d just identified Fran’s body as well.
My dad came down the stairs. “Any news son?”, he said.
I told him the news.
He made me a cup of tea and then did something I’ll always be grateful for. Without a word he climbed past me back up the stairs, packed me a bag, came back down, and pulled me up and got me into the car. “You need to be with your mates in Sheffield’. We drove in silence.
He dropped me off, putting a few tenners into my hand and left me to it.
Already the Broomhill Tavern, our local for so many happy years was open, despite it being early.
The next hours are hazy. People were coming into the pub having been wandering around for hours and hours, having been at the match – with blood on their hands from the batons of South Yorkshire’s finest. Struck down for trying to climb onto the pitch – often begging the police to let them – “I’M STANDING ON MY MATE”. “Shut your mouth you scouse bastard”. *THWACK*
It appears that people trying to get out were standing on the sensible ones – the ones who hadn’t left it until the last minute, but had got to the game nice and early, to pick a spot. Like Rick and Tracey.
Mates arrived. The landlord put a bottle of Jameson’s on our table and told us that whatever we needed, food, drink, money, transport to and from Liverpool – anything – would be provided. Amazing. And he was to prove as good as his word.
We walked to the ground wanting to be there 24 hours after this obscenity had occurred. The good people of Sheffield came out of their houses, giving us drinks and flowers to take to the ground.
We arrived and laid our flowers. We cried. Apparently we were on the news that night. Hugging and crying. The Salvation Army man was incredible. He gave me a cup of tea and told me that he wanted to share my grief. Please would I share it with him? It would help me, and would help him too. I was, and am, overwhelmed by this.
What followed was three funerals in five days and a shock that hasn’t gone away. Sometimes just hearing the word ‘Hillsborough’ is enough to make me burst into tears.
Fran’s girlfriend Sam asked me to play at his funeral. I wrote a song and was proud to sing it – it was called The Man That Was Larger Than Life.
Justice For The 96.