Hugh Callaghan of the Birmingham Six still haunted but supports campaign by bombing victims’ families

Posted By: November 16, 2014

The Birmingham Six case was one of the first big cases that the Irish National Caucus brought to the attention of the U.S. Congress— and the Irish Embassy of that time (1974) tried to demonize us for attempting to free the six innocent victims. We had to battle both the British Embassy and the Irish Embassy. But most Members of Congress would eventually recognize that the British Embassy and the Irish Embassy were covering up a great injustice—that the Birmingham Six were totally innocent

Steve Myall Mirror ( London).Saturday, November 15, 2014

The innocent man spent 16 years in prison for the bombing of two Birmingham pubs 40 years ago and still wants the real culprits brought to justice

A quiet life: Hugh Callaghan today

On the anniversary of the IRA pub bombings, Hugh Callaghan found himself paying his ­respects like hundreds of others at Birmingham Cathedral.
Joining mourners outside afterwards he made his way to the stone memorial which lists the 21 names of the dead.

“A woman came up beside me,” ­Hugh told the Sunday People.
“She said it was such an awful thing, but there weren’t just 21 victims, there were the six who went to prison for something they didn’t do.
“I didn’t tell her who I was, but it makes me glad people know what happened and that we were innocent.”
Hugh was one of the Birmingham Six – the six Irishmen wrongfully jailed for murdering 21 people in two pub bombings in 1974.
It’s now four decades ago since Hugh was dragged from his family and had a false confession beaten out of him

Fitted up: Hugh Callaghan after his arrest 40 years ago

He’ll never get back the 16 years he spent in jail and although the physical scars he received from police officers and prison inmates have faded, the terrifying dreams he has suffered since show no sign of stopping.
Now 84, he explained: “In the nightmares I’m being questioned and whenever I say something they don’t like they kick me hard under the table and tell me what I am supposed to say.

“Then there are the dogs. The police left my cell door open and kept bringing in this police dog, an Alsatian and geeing it up to bark at me – I see it in my bad dreams.
“I also see the faces of the policemen who questioned me. I shout and kick and in my sleep and I wake up covered in sweat. I’ve fallen out of bed twice because the dreams are so violent.”

After Hugh was finally freed he moved to London. His daughter had grown up and left home and while he remained in touch with his wife Eileen until she died recently, he says returning to his old life “was not an option”.
Hugh struggled to readjust until he met his partner Adeline, 82, who he credits with “saving” him. He received almost £1million compensation, but used most of it to secure his family’s future.

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Hugh explains: “My grandkids were very small when I came out and their mum hadn’t told them anything about what happened.
“It’s up to her – she had to live in Birmingham while I was in prison. She lost all her school friends because they thought her dad was an IRA bomber and I wanted to see her right.”
Listening to Hugh today it is astonishing how he came to end up in jail.
“On the day of the bombing, it was my wife’s birthday,” he said. “I’d gone around to see Richard McIlkenny (one of the other Six) to pay back £1 (£10 in today’s money) and he said he was heading to Ireland for the funeral of James McDade, an IRA bomber who had been killed.
“I’m not a republican, I wasn’t interested in politics. But I had nothing else to do so I went with him to the station to meet the other four who I knew to say hello.
“If only I had gone home. After they left I went out for a few more drinks and got home at 11pm.
“The next day when I heard the police had arrested the five I thought they’d want to talk to me. When I got home the police were waiting and my wife and daughter were in a right state.”

Free at last: William Power, Richard McIlkenny, John Walker, Chris Mullin MP, Gerry Hunter, Patrick Hill and Hugh Callaghan

Hugh was taken to a police station and “slapped about a bit”.
He said: “They got out a gun and told me to say what happened.
“Every time I said something they didn’t like they would pull the trigger and it would click and I thought I was going to be shot.
“I was terrified and signed what they wanted me to, thinking the solicitor I was promised would sort it later.
“I got remanded and the prison officers let the inmates beat us up.
“We were sent to the bathroom afterwards to clean ourselves. I was last and by then the bath was full of blood – it was awful.”

Atrocity: Firemen survey the damage outside the Tavern in the Town in Birmingham in 1974

His hopes for freedom were dashed when a jury convicted Hugh and the other five – Patrick Hill, Gerard Hunter, Richard McIlkenny, William Power and John Walker – of bombing the Mulberry Bush and the Tavern In The Town in Birmingham.
“Even the priest told me to confess and it turned me from God until I came out,” said Hugh. “But the campaign on the outside and thousands of letters I received kept me alive.

“I’m not bitter, only with those policemen – it doesn’t change anything being angry.” This week campaigners for the victims were planning an appeal for new inquests into the deaths – something Hugh supports.
“It could mean the real killers being caught and the last bit of suspicion gone,” he says.