Perry Zachary

Perry Zachery, 96

Perry Zachery, 96

I went into Van Buren in 1948. I moved into Church Lane around 1955. We were in number 28 for about ten years and then we moved to number 24. Gerry Kavanagh took over the shop at one stage and we moved out to Belmont Church Road and did the processing there. We produced a colour lab at the back of it and Ruth (my wife) and I worked there for the last ten years up until 1984. We stopped functioning in Church Lane in 1974. Gerry looked after the shop there. He died about two to three months ago, he was twenty-two years younger than me.

The day the bomb went off was a Saturday, April 1st 1972. I was processing some films and looking out the window, and I saw that there was this hearse parked outside, all lovely and shiny. It was parked on the pavement at the pub which was across the road from us. At the time, I was looking out there was an army patrol of four soldiers who were coming down Church Lane. Because it was so close to the pub they had to hold their rifles above their heads and they went on down. I thought this was very strange that there was a hearse in Church Lane on a Saturday and seemingly parked there with nobody in it so I telephoned down to Gerry and asked him if he could find out anything about it. He said he would and I went upstairs and spooled I think was about four or five films wedding films and put them into the developer. Then I came down and just as I came down the phone rang and Gerry said “we have to get out as there’s a bomb, we had a warning.” I said, “well I can’t leave the films, I’ve just put them into the developer.” So I said “you go on ahead,” not that he needed any urging. 

I went upstairs and I took the films out a minute early and dashed down and grabbed my coat. I had a peep out at the thing outside. Church Lane all empty. I went up to the end and round the corner and five minutes after that - boom!. I went back again later when they allowed us back in and that’s when I took those pictures. Then I went upstairs and looked out from where I had been looking before and I looked at the wall behind me and there was all this glass stuck in the wall - terrible. I should have taken a close-up of that! But I grabbed that Olympus camera that seems to be so attractive to Bill Kirk and took some snaps. It had a black and white film in it, thats how the pictures came about - snap shots.

The roof was taken off and I had to get some felt type stuff put on the roof to keep the water out but luckily it was dry and it was one hell of a job to clean up the whole place, so much glass and everything, shattered. I don’t know how we managed but we did so eventually. The shop was restored but for a long time there was just a temporary front put in with a thing saying, ‘business as usual’ but it wasn’t quite. However, it was all an interesting experience in retrospect.

My wife heard the bang, I was on the phone to her and she heard the explosion from Belmont Road. 500 pounds of home-made explosive in the coffin, the story you can read from the cuttings I have where they hi-jacked the hearse and put the bomb in it. What I wonder at is just how accurate  their timer would be, that they could predict more or less when it was going to go off?  However, having being in the bomb-making business in the army, I knew while I was in the back of the building I was reasonably safe. But certainly I wasn’t safe while I was looking out the window. Well, I didn’t delay too much at that. It took a lot of getting over but that’s the story. When one thinks back now how I had a lifetime of, well, I was in the army and for four years. I can only marvel at how near I was to getting the chop.

February 2019.

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