I was a trainee accountant in 1974, working for a small firm of Chartered Accountants in Birmingham city centre. Us articled clerks – four or five of us, would work away either in the office in Cornwall Street, or else out on site at a client’s premises. We were all studying for exams at the time. And whereas the large auditing firms would send their trainees away on residential courses, at Ernest T Kerr & Co it was correspondence courses all the way. You’d be sent the course work, buy the recommended text books, send away the test papers and somehow get yourself in shape for Intermediate, Final Part 1 and Final Part 2.
Thirty five years ago today was a Thursday, a pretty ordinary day I guess. All that week I’d left work and gone with my fellow trainee Pete to the Reference Library with our papers and books. We’d work away for a couple of hours, often testing each other on case law and stuff. At closing time, 8 o’clock, we’d head off for a few pints. Quite often that meant the Tavern In The Town, a lively cellar bar in New Street, next door to the Odeon. But that Thursday I was knackered and we agreed that, with the weekend in sight, that an early night was a sensible idea.
Sure enough, once home in the city’s eastern suburbs, I crashed out straight away. Only next morning did I find out as Mum pointed silently to the TV screen. The previous evening 21 people had been killed and 182 injured, many of them horrifically. Bombs had detonated without adequate warning at the Tavern In The Town and at the Mulberry Bush, just around the corner. Most of the victims were young.
The actuality was awful. The aftermath was chilling. For days people, myself included, avoided the bombing scenes and tried to deny what had happened. For a time there was a strong anti-Irish feeling in the city which faded with time. The Birmingham Six were arrested, charged, convicted and later released on appeal. The perpetrators, whoever they may be, are still amongst us today – living, working, socialising.
On the 35th anniversary of the bombings it is still chilling to flick through the photographs of the young victims, none of whom I knew personally but many of whom I would have regularly bumped into making my way to and from the bar of the Tavern. Their lives were too short.