Sunday, 12 April 2009

A catastrophic day

All photos in this entry © BBC

I’ve now watched the minute’s silence at Anfield four times and it brings tears to my eyes every time. It may come as a surprise to some that I am a life-long Liverpool supporter (indeed, it might come as a great shock to one of my acquaintances – an Everton supporter who wouldn’t even drive a red car, as I wouldn’t drive a blue one, that I don’t share his abhorrence of all things Liverpool City). However, I was born in Liverpool, and, although my parents left when I was a baby, in my relatives’ home no-one spoke to anyone else on Saturdays; half the front doorstep was painted red and half blue. We were a family divided by religion and football. Born Catholic to a convert mother and a cradle Catholic father, I should have been an Everton supporter, but I’ve always preferred red to blue.

On that day, 20 years ago, we were about to celebrate Ben’s 15th birthday the next day. We had decided to let him have a party on the eve and he’d invited some friends from school. So as not to give them total free rein, Marea was to stay in, in our bedroom while I went out to a political meeting; we were coming up to a County Council election and I was standing again. I returned home to find that someone had locked Marea in the bedroom and the house was in chaos; furniture and pictures had been broken, someone had thrown up on Ben’s bed and there were drunken young people everywhere. Having released Marea, we rang all the parents to come and collect their youngsters while we listened to lurid tales from the neighbours.

It turned out that most of the offenders were not Ben’s friends but gatecrashers from his school in Lutterworth. Indeed, some of his friends were good enough to come back to help clear up. Ben was devastated that an innocent birthday party had turned into a near-riot. We were told of young people making their way into the village already drunk and rowdy. The birthday party never had a chance of going off quietly.

The next morning we began to hear the news from Hillsborough where police stupidity had mistaken the distress of spectators attempting to escape from being crushed for a pitch invasion. The police were, and are, so contemptuous of football fans that they had corralled them into 2 small pens with high fences and barbed wire between them and the pitch. There was space available elsewhere, but fans were not allowed to move out of the pens where many died of suffocation.

“Some fans tried to break through the police cordon to ferry injured supporters to waiting ambulances, and were forcibly turned back. (44 ambulances had arrived at the stadium, but police prevented all but one from entering, and that one was forced to turn back due to the vast amount of people who needed help.)”

Police lied about opening gates to let even more fans in but the officer concerned escaped prosecution and retired on full pension.

If you want to read about the Sun “newspaper’s” (sic) lies about Liverpool fans and find out why it doesn’t sell in Liverpool, and read about the duplicity of Sun editor Kelvin Mackenzie and Tory MP Irvine Patnick, have a look at this Wikipedia page.

At home, clearing up after the disastrous party, we felt doubly distressed; our small mishap paled into insignificance against the catastrophe of Hillsborough, but the date and the circumstances have stayed in the memory ever since.


  1. Wow, that is some story! I remember being horrified by the football disaster, and to have these two things happen together, WELL!

    Quite enterprising of the lads to lock Marea in her room. She must have been absolutely beside herself. I'm afraid this happens at least once to every parent, unfortunately. Usually when you least expect it.

  2. Hi Expateek, the only good things to come out of the party were that our boys don't really drink too much, like many young people, and every other parent planning a party after that hired a barn in the middle of a field and so saved their homes.

    The Justice campaign for the dead Liverpool fans and their relatives continues to this day.