27/Aug/2014 - Last News Update: 13:01

Hungerford massacre: Reluctant remembrance 25 years on

Category: England

Published: 18th Aug 2012 04:48:01

"People just want to forget about it, but they can't," says Bryan Geater, whose daughter was nearly killed by gunman Michael Ryan 25 years ago.

Say the name Hungerford and most people will associate the town with the events of Wednesday, 19 August, 1987.

That summer afternoon Ryan, a 27-year-old unemployed labourer, killed 16 people, injured 15 more and then turned the gun on himself to end a six-hour shooting spree.

He changed the lives of residents in the west Berkshire town forever and society's attitudes towards possessing firearms.

With the anniversary this weekend, visit Hungerford today and you will find a town which remembers the tragedy, but respectfully consigns the horrific events to the history books.

Mr Geater's daughter Myra was seriously injured by one of Ryan's bullets, which hit her in the leg after flying through the front window of their family home.

The 74-year-old still lives in the same house with his wife Diana and every year the family leaves town on 19 August to escape mention of the events.

But Mr Geater admits a turning point came three years ago when the detached house opposite was demolished and replaced by four new properties.

Jack and Myrtle Gibbs were among Ryan's last victims as he entered their Priory Road detached home and shot them.

From his porch bench across the road, Mr Geater looks forlornly at the new builds as he ponders the question of what the massacre means a quarter of a century later.

He said: "To see that house opposite come down was a God-send.

"Jack and Myrtle were great friends of ours, who were callously murdered inside their home.

"To step out the front door everyday and see that was a terrible reminder."

He added: "He (Ryan) just flipped that day and the more the media highlights these things, the more it becomes an eye-opener for people who want to try and make a name for themselves, like we keep seeing in these terrible shootings in America."

Hungerford will not be marking the 25th anniversary with a memorial service either at the town's St Lawrence Church or by the memorial plaque and gates at the entrance to the football and recreation ground.

The decision to take a low-key approach was made in 2007, as the then town mayor Peter Harries decided 20 years was a better time to remember the events.

And that's how many people in Hungerford want it to be conducted.

The Reverend Andrew Sawyer moved to Hungerford in 1990, while memories were still raw.

He said: "There'll be prayers during the Sunday service and we'll mark it in the same way we do every year. There's a small memorial by the vestry inside the church and fresh flowers will be placed in a vase beneath it.

"The town has moved on dramatically in terms of population and character in 25 years. What Michael Ryan did that day is only a small part of Hungerford's history, it doesn't define it.

"It's understandable when people don't want to talk about it. Within the town, there's a reticence, we don't want to be labelled forever because of what Michael Ryan did.

"But of course, it was the first place where one of these terrible tragedies happened."

Ron Tarry was the town's mayor in 1987. In the months and years which followed, he helped play a part in setting up a memorial fund for the victims' relatives which raised in excess of £1m.

Years later, he would also be contacted by families affected by similar shooting sprees, by Thomas Hamilton in Dunblane in 1996 and Derek Bird in Whitehaven, Cumbria, in 2010.

He said: "People from both towns would call me and say 'how did you deal with it all?'

"In Dunblane, it was hard to compare, as Thomas Hamilton went out and deliberately shot at children in a school.

"There were warning signs about him in the run-up to that tragic day, he was known to authorities and was being watched. If all that information had been put together then something or someone could have stopped it.

"With Michael Ryan, nothing like that was feasible. Nobody had any idea it would happen and I think there's absolutely no way anyone could have avoided it."

Following the massacre, the government came under pressure to tighten the law on gun ownership.

The resulting Firearms (Amendment) Act 1988 banned a variety of weapons and controls were tightened further after the Dunblane killings.

Source:
BBC News External Link Show Citation

Latest News

Harvard Citation

BBC News, 2012. Hungerford massacre: Reluctant remembrance 25 years on [Online] (Updated 18th Aug 2012)
Available at: http://www.ukwirednews.com/news/1446898/Hungerford-massacre-Reluctant-remembrance-25-years-on [Accessed 27th Aug 2014]

News In Other Categories

  • Wes Naiqama: London Broncos to sign Fiji centre

    London Broncos have agreed a deal to sign Fiji international centre Wes Naiqama from Penrith Panthers on a two-year deal from the 2015 season.
  • Plastic bag use down 72% in Northern Ireland since 5p charge

    Plastic bag use in Northern Ireland has fallen by almost 72% since a 5p levy was introduced last year, the Department of the Environment has said.
  • Plea to save derelict Grantham Hospital building

    A Lincolnshire councillor is calling for the preservation of a Victorian hospital building that has fallen into disrepair over the past few years.
  • Bristol Academy extends reach overseas with first foreign students

    With the doors to its brand new £1million training centre officially open, one of the UK's leading apprentice training providers, Bristol based S&B Automotive Academy, is showcasing its world-class facilities by launching a series of foreign student exchanges for the first time in its 41-year history. To get a flavour of what life is like as an apprentice in the UK, the Academy hosted 16 apprentice engineers and bus drivers from the G9 Automotive College in Hamburg, Germany, as part of a Europe-wide vocational training initiative called the ‘Leonardo Programme’ with support from the European Social Fund. In a reciprocal arrangement, S&B will be sending nine apprentices to Germany during February 2012 so that they can get an appreciation of life in the automotive industry on the Continent. A further three German exchange groups are being planned for next year. Designed to assist the development of vocational skills and training across Europe, including work placements for trainees, the Leonardo Programme has a budget of €1.75bn, which is helping to encourage UK organisations to work with their counterparts abroad. In what is expected to be another challenging year for employers in the UK automotive sector, S&B’s Chief Executive, Jon Winter, claims that the exchange initiative will bring many benefits to the Academy and its apprentices: “In a world of global automotive brands, it’s important for our learners to understand the international context of the industry they have chosen to make their career. This new exchange programme will enable apprentices and Academy staff alike to achieve a better understanding of the challenges and opportunities within the automotive arena in Europe. With the Academy’s influence also extending to the USA and Asia, there’s every possibility that this initiative could move further afield in the future.” Continued Winter: “The need for skilled technicians across the world is on the increase and we actively encourage our apprentices to look at broader horizons during their training. Many of them have already learned the phrase ‘Vorsprung durch Gelehrtheit’, quite simply, ‘Advancement through learning.” In the 2010/11 academic year, S&B doubled the number of successful Apprenticeships over the previous year with some 350 apprentices graduating from the Academy. At the same time, achievement levels reached an all-time high with an overall success rate of 85%. For those learners on the Advanced Apprenticeship three-year programme, success rates were even higher, at over 98%. PHOTO CAPTION: As part of their exchange visit, S&B Automotive Academy arranged for the German apprentices to visit Hampshire bus operator, Bluestar, at its Barton Park depot. The students are pictured with S&B’s Andy West (3rd right) and Steve Prewett, Bluestar’s Area Engineering Manager (2nd right). Ends http://www.sandbaa.com
  • Ebola outbreak: Nigeria closes all schools until October

    All schools in Nigeria have been ordered to remain shut until 13 October as part of measures to prevent the spread of the deadly Ebola virus.
  • Enniskillen stabbing accused 'highly volatile', say police

    A 15-year-old boy has appeared before a youth court in Enniskillen after a 14-year-old was stabbed in the stomach.