Northern Ireland

Uncle of child (3) killed by British Army Land Rover says he has 'never been forgotten' 50 years on

Jim Dorrian was just three when he died
Jim Dorrian was just three when he died Jim Dorrian was just three when he died

AN uncle of a child killed by a British Army Land Rover 50 years ago has told how he has "never been forgotten".

Jim Dorrian was just three years old when he was knocked down yards from his Short Strand home in east Belfast.

His older brother Robert, who was five at the time, witnessed the collision on January 12 1970.

The little boy was the first child to be killed by a British Army vehicle.

Jimmy McLarnon recalled how his nephew had been at a shop on Altcar Street, where the family lived, minutes before the tragedy.

"The soldier was coming along the street and cut the corner and mounted the pavement," he said.

"It could happen to anyone."

Mr McLarnon, who Jim was named after, said one of his last memories of his nephew was him playing outside the evening before he died.

"I remember the day before it happened, Jim and his brother Robert playing out on the street, they were bored as their TV had broke," he said.

"They were waiting on the TV man coming round to fix it.

"That night before, it was about 6pm and I saw wee Jim out dancing in the puddles in the street.

"When he came in, I remember he had red and grey clothes on he had got at Christmas and I said 'Look at the state of him'."

Mr McLarnon said Jim, son of the late Betty and Robert Dorrian, had been "up to the corner shop on Altcar Street" prior to the collision.

"Robert was on the other side of the street," he said.

"At the inquest, the soldier said he had seen Robert on the side of the right-hand side of the street and he mounted the pavement on the opposite side and hadn't seen Jim.

"He went over him, the soldier said he just felt a bump. The soldier was in a terrible state, he was so upset.

"Jim was rushed to hospital, but he had a laceration to the brain.

"Robert was shaking too, he wasn't well for a long time afterwards, it hit him hard as you would imagine."

The young boy's death was recently included in the book Children of the Troubles, by Irish Times journalist Freya McClements and RTÉ broadcaster Joe Duffy.

It tells the 'untold story of the children killed in the Northern Ireland conflict' and recorded that 186 children aged 16 and under were killed between 1969 and 2006, including Jim.

Mr McLarnon said the family believe Jim's death was an accident.

"People have said he wouldn't have died if the British Army weren't here," he said.

"Jim was the first child killed by a British Army vehicle, but it was an accident.

"We never wanted Jim's death politicised, we didn't want that.

"The soldier was coming along the street and cut the corner and mounted the pavement. It could happen to anyone.

"My sister never claimed anything after Jim died, the lad didn't mean to do it.

"But she never got over it, she would say 'Not my Jim'. She had another wee boy afterwards and she called him Jim, he was born the June after.

"She reared her boys so well, but she never got over him, he has never been forgotten."