IRA firebomb attack changed Derrick’s life

Derrick Herron.
Derrick Herron.

A Dromore man who lost his parents and youngest sister in an IRA firebomb attack in town 39 years ago, has died at the age of 67.

James Derrick Herron, of Sunmount Park, passed away at Newry Hospice after battling illness.

Derrick was one of five children born to William and Elizabeth Herron, the youngest, Noleen, murdered along with their parents by the IRA in a firebomb attack on the family’s Dromore drapery store on April 7, 1976.

In light of Derrick’s reputation as a “quiet, unassuming and modest” man of few words, ‘family’ was one of just four key words central to the Rev. Gary Trueman’s tribute at Derrick’s funeral service in Banbridge Road Presbyterian Church.

Derrick is survived by his wife Sally, whom he met in 1967 and married three years later; sons Gordon, Brian and Noel; daughters-in-law Louise, Heather and Sarah; grandchildren Louise, Alissa, Sasha, Nancy, Emily, Jessica and Jacob; brother, Alastair and sisters Mrs Carol Mackey and Mrs Joy Bingham.

“Derrick’s love for his grandchildren was exceeded only by their love for him,” said Mr Trueman.

“His eldest granddaughter, Louise, has been a tower of strength over recent weeks, both in helping to care for her grandfather and also by being a great support to her Nanny.”

‘Tragedy’ was another of Mr Trueman’s key words.

It was impossible, he said, to speak of Derrick without making reference to the terrible events which claimed the lives of his parents and sister and so devastated him and his twin brother Alastair and their elder sisters,twins Joy and Carol.

“Following the events of that day,” he said, “life changed for Derrick, but with courage and fortitude, despite the great difficulties he faced, he carried on with the family business.

“Indeed he did so until March of this year when illness made it impossible for him to continue.”

The third of the minister’s words was ‘interests’ and he recalled Mr Herron as a man with a keen interest in politics, and a love for reading and radio, a man who also eagerly anticipated his holidays, wherever the destination.

He was too, he said, a devoted member of the Orange and Black institutions, and his absence this year, due to illness, from July 12 and Black Saturday demonstrations, was his first in 49 years; only in recent days his family received Derrick’s 50-year service medal.

Noting how Derrick died peacefully with his wife and sons by his bedside, Mr Trueman turned finally to ‘faith’.

“Because of his faith and Trust in Christ,” he said, “Derrick faced his increasing frailty without fear and on Wednesday morning (September 9) he had a great homecoming, where his welcome into the presence of his Lord was assured.”

Mr Trueman was joined in officiating by Pastoral Assistant Dr Lena Morrow, with Mrs Elizabeth McDonald as organist during the hymns, ‘The Lord’s my Shepherd’ and ‘How great Thou art’.

Burial was in Banbridge Road burying ground and funeral arrangements were by John Gamble, Dromore.

Donations in lieu of flowers, if desired, may be sent to John Gamble, Funeral Director, 7 Meeting Street, Dromore, BT25 1AQ, for Newry Hospice and Banbridge road Presbyterian Church. (Cheques should be made payable to John Gamble).