herald

Sunday 4 December 2016

Bridge honour for showband murder victim Fran O'Toole

Fran O'Toole and the Miami Showband.
Fran O'Toole and the Miami Showband.

Music star Fran O'Toole, murdered in the Miami Showband Massacre, is to have a major bridge named in his honour - and a plaque placed on the house where he was born.

The bridge in Bray over the River Dargle will commemorate the singer 40 years after one of the most horrific atrocities in The Troubles.

The lead singer with the band was just 29 when he and fellow band members Tony Geraghty and Brian McCoy were shot dead.

They had been playing a gig in Northern Ireland and were heading for the border in the early hours of July 31, 1975, when the band's van was stopped at a roadside checkpoint in Northern Ireland by members of a loyalist paramilitary group.

A friend of the O'Toole family, Peter Carroll, has addressed councillors from the Bray area on a number of occasions about the importance of a significant memorial for the hugely popular singer.

Mr Carroll (52), who was a school pal of Fran's nephew David O'Toole, told the Herald he remembered meeting the singer on a couple of occasions and how he was revered as a very big star in his hometown.

The Miami Showband played to huge crowds throughout Ireland in the 1960s and 1970s. In the late '60s, more than 1,000 fans were turned away from a full-to-capacity Miami Showband gig at the Arcadia Ballroom in Bray.

plaque

"I'm glad that the council are planning to put a plaque on the building in Albert Avenue in Bray where Fran grew up. It is hoped that Tony Geraghty and Brian McCoy can also be mentioned on the plaque," he said.

Fran's single 'Love Is' shot to number two in the Irish charts in 1975 and it was widely believed the handsome and talented performer was "on the cusp of international stardom".

He said a proposal to rename the avenue in Fran's honour was unsuccessful but a suggestion by Independent councillor Brendan Thornhill that the town's bridge be renamed after Fran won wide approval.

Mr Thornhill told the Herald: "I felt a bridge would be a very fitting symbol for Fran's memory as he and his band were bridge-builders in the way they linked both communities in Northern Ireland with their music."

John Brady, Sinn Fein cathaoirleach of Bray Municipal District, said he was been in contact with the singer's nephew, David, who was liaising with family members. The singer's wife, Valerie, and their two daughters emigrated to Canada not long after the atrocity.

Independent councillor Joe Behan and Fianna Fail councillor Pat Vance have both spoken out in favour of naming the bridge in honour of one of the town's most famous stars.

"It's an excellent idea to honour him. His murder along with his two colleagues was a national tragedy," Mr Behan said.

aokeeffe@herald.ie

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