Miami massacre: How Hugh’s band avoided the road to hell

Popular Donegal musician, Hugh McLean, spoke this week of the night 36 years ago when the showband he fronted at the time, the Mighty Avons, had avoided the road travelled by the ill-fated Miami Showband on the night of the bloody massacre because they were leaving another performer to Magherafelt.

Popular Donegal musician, Hugh McLean, spoke this week of the night 36 years ago when the showband he fronted at the time, the Mighty Avons, had avoided the road travelled by the ill-fated Miami Showband on the night of the bloody massacre because they were leaving another performer to Magherafelt.

“We were playing in Kilkeel that night and the Miami were in Banbridge, in County Down about ten or 15 miles away. And had we not been giving Brendan Quinn a lift to Magherafelt that night we would have been travelling on the same road as the Miami. Instead we went in a different direction.”

Three members of the Miami group were slaughtered after their minibus was stopped at a bogus military checkpoint on the Newry to Dundalk road on the night of July 31st, 1975. Two of the assailants were killed when a bomb they were hiding on board the vehicle exploded prematurely. Other gunmen at the scene, members of the Ulster Volunteer Force, subsequently opened fire on the members of the Miami, killing three of them, including lead singer Fran O’Toole, and wounding two others.

“When we heard what had happened we just could not believe it. We were totally shocked,” Hugh related at the launch of a C.D. in Ballybofey on Tuesday night.

Speaking to the ‘Democrat’ yesterday, the Letterkenny musician said several months before the massacre, his band, the Mighty Avons, had been in a recording studio in Dublin with the Miami. “Fran was there and we had great craic with them.

“It shocked us to the core, it was so difficult to take in. We were very reluctant to play in the North after that and eventually after a year we did return to perform there.”