I was up at my sister Phyllis’s house 13th March 1996. That’s twenty years ago. I was a young thirty-three with a full head of hair and a ready laugh, now I’m a baldy, miserable old cunt, so nothings really changed, but I remember that day because it was Dunblane. News coverage was running on loop, but it was the same picture of parents rushing towards the school, knowing like us that something terrible had happened. I’m not an emotional guy. I can watch the Twin Towers falling and hardly blink. But here was something that choked me up. The thought of those five-year old kids fired up at life and the games to come in a gym hall, babies, in three minutes, being picked off and shot by a gunman, crawls inside you and makes you want to weep. Worse, those parents and the abyss they faced. Knowing and not knowing. When even the winners in life’s lottery were the losers.
We can put a face to the killer Thomas Hamilton, but it was never about him and his distorted view of the world. It was what he had done. ‘Evil has visited us,’ said Ron Taylor, the headmaster of Dunblane. And here he is on film twenty years later. His view unchanged. He wrote it all down, a box he doesn’t want to open. The casualties were known then as now. Sixteen pupils in a primary one class and their teacher, Gwen Mayor.
Debbie Mayor, Gwen’s daughter, was in London at the time. Her mother was forty-three remembered for her death, rather that her life. Here Gwen tells the camera how she knew and didn’t know. How the pieces began to fit together, that yes, it was her mum, and she was dead. Gwen was another causality. The media focus was not on her mum, who had a life, but the children whose life’s were just beginning.
Amy Hutchison was a survivor. She was shot by Thomas Hamilton, but survived as did a little boy also shot who played dead. His parents appeared on this programme. The parents of a little girl murdered also contributed, as did the sister she never knew, filmed doing a poetry rap in Edinburgh. Life goes on, but there’s a gap where it should have been.
What are the lessons we have learned? That is a more difficult question. I can’t answer. But I can make some observations. Since then our society has become meaner, more ready to condemn, less willing to offer a helping hand. Evil can’t be put in a box. Nor can it be taken out of us. It can be nurtured and given the right conditions –of fear and backbiting—it will prevail. It takes a village to raise a child. Dunblane suffered more than most. But our fuck-you, I’m-doing- all- right society is a hothouse for extremism in which people are expendable and seen as things. A society Thomas Hamilton would feel more at home in. Perhaps I shouldn’t be saying that, just letting be will be.