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  • Christina Drummond

Private John McCaig, Private Dougald McCaughey and Private Joseph McCaig, 1st Battalion, Royal Highl

Remembering the Fallen: on this day in 1971, Private John McCaig, Private Joseph McCaig and Private Dougald McCaughey (centre in the photo) were shot dead on a mountain road overlooking Belfast, the first in the Troubles to be killed off-duty. Each died by a shot to the head, and their bodies were found by young children. They had previously been drinking off-duty in a pub in Cornmarket, Belfast, and at that time such occurrences were still commonplace for off-duty soldiers. They were bogusly befriended and lured away by the promise of a party, getting into a car and being driven to their deaths at White Brae in North Belfast. Twenty-five-year-old I.R.A. staff captain, Patrick McAdorey was killed before he could be charged with the murders, shot dead during Operation Demetrius on the 9th of August that year. The other wanted man was Anthony Doherty, who was interned at the Crumlin Road jail but managed to escape. No-one was ever charged for the murders.

While their funerals took place in Scotland, 20,000 people turned out in Belfast and Carrickfergus to attend silent rallies of sympathy, and city-centre traffic came to a halt as 10,000 went to the city hall grounds as many laid wreaths.

John and Joseph, brothers who were 17 and 18 years old respectively, and Dougald, who was 23 years old, had only been in Northern Ireland for three weeks.

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