Radio review: Gripping story of the seven million dollar man

Nuala McCann

The Seven Million Dollar Man RTÉ Documentary on One

Sam Millar's life reads like one of his crime novels.

From his time on the H-Block blanket protests to his role in one of the biggest cash robberies in US history – this documentary had a story to tell.

After all that, there was the return to Belfast and the discovery of a talent for crime writing that has made him a best seller.

RTÉ documentary makers Michael Kealy and Tim Desmond created a vivid world.

Millar grew up in the 1960s in north Belfast. His mother left when he was about eight.

“I never saw her again for the rest of my life.”

He lived in hope – waiting for her to come and pick him up from school. Looking back, he realises now that she probably had depression.

His father was a merchant seaman who came home with suitcases stuffed with American comic books – and between that and the Central library, Millar lost himself in those worlds.

A visit to Derry on the day that happened to be Bloody Sunday had a profound effect on the young Millar: “When we finally escaped, the CS gas was still in the car.”

Then, his friend, Jim Kerr, who got a job as a petrol pump attendant on Belfast's Lisburn Road was murdered by loyalists. He was 17 years old and was shot six times in the head for being a Catholic said Millar.

He went on to join the IRA and went “on the blanket” in Long Kesh.

He talked about the stench of the dirty protests – the heat and the dirt of a cell that became “an oven and a coffin”.

“If somebody had told me I would be there eight years, I would have committed suicide. There was no end to it,” he said.

But it ended and he escaped to a new life in America. Only a friend was working at the Brinks Depot and took him to see it - All those millions of dollars just guarded by a pencil stuck in the door.. and that's another story.

This was an addictive, fast-paced listen, you couldn't have made it up.

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