Gunned down New Lodge man was waving White petticoat
The sister of a man gunned down by the British army in brutal circumstances has revealed he was waving a white petticoat when he was killed.
Tragic Ambrose Hardy has become known as one of the New Lodge Six – men who were shot dead in the New Lodge between February 3 and 4 1973.
Coincidentally that was the same date that the British army stationed at nearby observation posts had been issued with night-sights on their standard SLR high velocity rifles.
Ambrose, who was 26 when he was killed, was one of 11 children of George and Violet Hardy. He was the twin brother of Joseph Hardy and the last victim to be shot after a lull in the shooting. He had been trying desperately to get out of the Circle Bar where he had been having a drink, because he feared his mother or other members of his family would walk into the gunfire as they looked for him.
He had poked his head out the door some minutes before, but had immediately been shot at. He was so concerned for his family and wanted to get out, that he got a woman in the bar to give him her petticoat to wave to show he was unarmed.
Like the other men who had been shot dead before him that night, Ambrose was unarmed and posed no threat. His family had to endure misinformation from the British establishment that their loved one was killed in a gun battle between the IRA and British army.
Even when one British daily newspaper retracted its reportage based on the false British Army information, the family still had to suffer the stigma of establishment-led propaganda.
Rosaleen Beattie was a young mother of four children when her brother was killed. She had to run a gauntlet of “crazed” soldiers brutalising the people of Edlingham Street in a desperate attempt to find out the fate of her brother.
“My sister-in-law came up to tell me that the army wouldn’t let anyone out of the district at the time. The army were going mad, shouting aggressively at people and pointing their guns at them telling them to get inside. My brother came down and told my mother and father that Ambrose was dead and then all hell broke loose, it was hysterical.”
Violet Hardy is now 95 and is confined to bed suffering from senile dementia but she still pines for the “lovely” son she had.
“He was a lovely fella, a great brother and a very good son and he loved his family and his nieces and nephews. It really affected both my mother and my father. They had eleven of us, but part of her died when Ambrose died,” said a tearful Rosaleen.
“About seven years ago she starting asking me where Ambrose was and we tried to remind her that he had been shot dead. But she took it as if it had only happened that day.
She walked into the street to tell the neighbours, but of course they already knew. She was so distressed we finally had to pretend that he was in England working, but she would ask why he never wrote.”
For George Hardy, who worked in Shorts, the branding of his innocent son as an IRA gunman became a daily hell for him among his loyalist and Protestant former workmates.
“When my father went back to work after burying his son, they had put up all the newspaper articles claiming that he was a gunman. He kept going because he was proud of his son and there was nothing going to stop him from going in every day, despite it being hell.
“My father and mother didn’t want any compensation, but my uncle told us to go to the inquest so that it would be confirmed that Ambrose was innocent. I went with my father and the judge started to ask how much he brought into the house and things like what he took for his lunch. My parents were awarded only £90 and my father was so afraid to go home and tell his wife that this was all her son was worth. But he had to do it because Ambrose was innocent.”
Just six years after the New Lodge outrage, the Hardy family had to relive the horror of burying another son, this time after a UVF gun attack. John Hardy (43) had been having dinner with his six children when he answered a knock at his door. The killers shot him at point-blank range. When convicted it emerged that the gunmen had intended to kill an IRA man who lived nearby. But he was not in and they randomly picked John Hardy’s door.
Last weekend’s community inquiry has given added momentum to the campaign for truth and justice for the six men.
“People will ask why we waited until now to set up this inquiry. But all through the Troubles people were afraid to speak out. Now there is less fear and people are asking questions. My daddy died of a heart attack at 67, not long after John was murdered. We had never wanted to bring more trouble to the house. If we spoke out and demanded answers we might have been harassed and targeted. Now it’s time for answers,” said Rosaleen Beattie.
Survivor tells of his long night of terror
Charlie Carson’s life was only saved because the bullet which hit him had first struck and killed another man on the New Lodge Road on February 4 1973.
Even then doctors told him if the bullet had entered his hip a millimetre to the right he would have been killed.
February 4 1973 was the night that six Catholic men were gunned down in the New Lodge in a 90-minute shooting frenzy.
Charlie Carson was shot that night but lived to tell the story.
For Charlie that fateful night had begun with a few drinks in McLaughlin’s Bar at the top of the New Lodge Road.
As he left McLaughlin’s shooting broke out in the New Lodge.
Before he knew it Charlie, the father of six young children, found himself sheltering in the doorway of Rolston’s Upholstery shop.
Then moments later as he went to the rescue of a dying man in Stratheden Street he was shot.
“I can just remember being in pain and passing out,” recalls Charlie.
“I was carried into the Loughrans’ house and taken to hospital afterwards.
“When I got to the hospital the doctors operated on me and I have them to thank for saving my life.
“I was left with a limp which I still have to this day but at least I wasn’t shot dead like the six other innocents.
“Shortly afterwards two detectives came up to interview me about what had happened.
“At that point I was on morphine for the pain and I wasn’t able to say much.”
The next time Charlie Carson would give evidence about the New Lodge Six was at the inquest held in 1975.
From that day to this no one from the British government or MoD has ever contacted him or inquired of his well-being.
He says he is one of the forgotten victims of state violence.
“They didn’t want to know, I suppose they still don’t,” he says.
The shooting proved a major trauma for Charlie Carson, then struggling with his wife to bring up six children, the youngest of whom was just five.
He had never been politically involved in his life but that didn’t stop the media saying the British Army had shot dead six IRA men and injured one – a claim they were later forced to withdraw.
Proof, if it were needed, of Charlie Carson’s innocence came when the courts paid him compensation for his injuries – albeit a paltry sum.
Charlie Carson’s injuries left him unable to work for the next five years.
“I was out of work for the first time in my life and with six kids to feed as well.
“It was an absolute nightmare, I wanted to work because I needed the money and I was bored crazy being confined to the house.
“And when I read the newspaper reports saying that the British army had been engaged in a gun battle with the IRA I was furious.
“There I was completely innocent, never having been involved in anything in my life, and left crippled by a British army bullet and I was being labelled an IRA man.
“That just about summed up how the victims were treated.”
And Charlie says the shooting took its toll on his family life.
“It was very hard for me and my wife to make ends meet, I was the only person working in the house at that time.
“It put a great strain on family life.”
Speaking of last weekend’s public inquiry into the killings of the New Lodge Six, held in St Kevin’s Hall, Charlie Carson, now aged 74, says it was a chance for the truth to come out.
“This is the first time the truth of what happened that night was told in public.
“It is important for me personally and for the families of all the victims to have placed on the record what really happened.
“It is also an important step for the whole community in finding out the truth of what happened the night six men from the New Lodge were murdered.”