Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Remembering when!

The Falklands Conflict was thirty years ago, yet it only seems like yesterday.

For me, the conflict holds a number of things that stick in my memory, but for all the wrong reasons. The first one was Sgt Ian McKay VC. I knew his parents Freda and Ken as well as Ian and his two younger brothers Graham and Neal.  I had known everyone from when we were kids and all living on the same street. Later I worked for British Steel at Shepcote Lane in Sheffield as did Freda, Ian's mother. I remember seeing Freda around the site from time to time, I would smile hello whenever passing. I always felt uncomfortable, because while I wanted to say to Freda how sorry I was for her loss. But I also did not want to intrude in her grief and bring up the subject.

For me, I thought Freda was the tower of strength in the family and like many of us, Freda blamed Margaret Thatcher for her warmongering. Freda refused to meet Thatcher, but eventually they did and a typical inconsiderate Thatcher, enthused about "true Yorkshire grit" and Freda was not impressed. But it did not stop there. Prince Charles asked Freda "if, despite everything, she thought it had all been worthwhile." The true "Yorkshire Grit" reply was "No, I'm sorry. Not in a thousand years." Like his gaff prone father, Freda doesn't think it was a question he should have asked of a mother who had lost her son. Freda's refusal to conform to the polite conventions of grief or the necessity of war are to be admired.

Over the years I have from time to time picked up bits and pieces about the McKay family. What was on the outside a pretty normal everyday family. Living on a street you would find anywhere in Britain.  Tragedy did not start and end with the loss of Ian. Both Graham and Neal died quite young. Freda and Ken also had health problems.

"There are so many stages of grief. You blame yourself, you blame them for dying, you blame the politicians. But I never blamed those who killed Ian. The Argentinian soldiers were doing the same as he was doing - and most of the time none of them knew what the hell they were doing." Freda McKay

Soldiers in any conflict often hold a view on the country. So the final words should be those of Ian. In a letter home, Ian said how much he hated the Falkland Islands. "To be quite honest, once we have given them a hammering... the Argentinians can have the place. It really is fit for nothing."


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