Sunday 23 August 2009


(guardian newspaper)

There has been nothing in the newspapers about Swine Flu for at least five minutes – does that mean that the pandemic is over?

However, the English newspapers are full of stories linked to the Lockerbie Air Disaster of 1988.

The British are upset with the Libyans, the American’s are pissed (off) with the Scottish and the French are … well …. just complaining about ….everything.

The reason for all this is that Abdelbaset Ali al-Megrahi; the man convicted for the bombing, has been released on compassionate grounds and returned to Libya from the Scottish jail where he has been sine 2001.

In December 1988 I was working in the Christmas Pantomime at the Hackney Empire, London, and one weekend I received a phone call from an old friend, Bill, living in New York.

He had the chance to get cheap plane tickets to Britain and wondered if he and a friend, whose name I have shamefully forgotten, could come for a long weekend.

I was delighted. I hadn’t seen Bill for several years and his role as my host in New York when I fell in love establishing him as an essential friend at a pivotal time.

His advice when i asked him if i should take flowers to meet you at Central station was crucial.

I will ever owe him for letting us use his waterbed on that first night.

He came, he stayed, he had a brilliant time (the pantomime was right up his street) and he left the same morning that I left for a matinee, just before Christmas. His baggage was stuffed with Christmas presents for friends and family at home.

It was the 21st December.

I came home late that night, after an exhausting three shows and turned on the TV – the news was all about Lockerbie.

I turned to Krissie - “How many flights to New York are there out of Heathrow at that time?”

We simultaneously joined the fatal dots.

We rang the emergency number, later met the detectives and even later met his father for the first time when he came to visit the memorial.

We still grieve Bill's absence.

Bill was about 30 when the bomb exploded, his father when I met him was not a man consumed by anger seeking revenge.

He was not trying to understand something that is incomprehensible, probably even to those who perpetuate such acts.

He was picking up the discarded pieces of his son’s life, visiting those who had known him, who had been touched by his last few hours.

When I read today that the US Authorities are angry at the Scottish justice system I feel cynical.

I think they should grow up.

Maybe if they had had their way they would have invaded Libya and killed a few people. But would they have been certain to get the ones responsible?

Anyhow, when has vengeance ever been the same as justice?

They may well feel anger and distaste at the welcome the released man was given on arrival home - but will it ever be as justified as the anger that many still feel at the American Embassy that received, and posted, the bomb warning they had been sent, that lead to embassy staff cancelling flights and encouraged the company to offer cheap weekend flights to innocent people?

William Edward Mack r.i.p. (more on Bill here)


Vicki Hollett said...

Oh Chris. I'm so sorry. What loss.

popps said...

Thanks Vicki, it's hard now, 21 years later, to believe it's real.

Janet Bianchini said...

It's really not fair. Life can be so cruel. I'm sorry for the loss of your good friend.

Vicki Hollett said...

There are two interesting video interviews with parents of Lockerbie victims here:

There is a big disconnect between their views and the reports I'm reading in the press on this side of the Atlantic. Even the New York Times is expressing nothing but outrage:

My impression is that questions can sometimes take a little longer to surface in the US media, but things can move fast when they do. So I was sad not to find any whispers of anything that might support an independent enquiry here. 21 years on, that has to be painful for anyone touched by and trying to make sense the loss.

anne said...

So very sorry. Onward, blogger.

john lenahan said...

Boy, I remember that night. And I'm with you. I could care less about this guy they let loose.

popps said...

Hi John, you were there the night he leant me his water bed too.
Another essential friend at a pivotal time.
Seems to me that mercy (compassionate release) is what marks a nation out as civilized.
Maybe it's different if you are family?
But i think the same rules stand.

popps said...

Thanks for dropping in Anne, i've used your comment on my "blog roll" -hope that's ok?

popps said...

Hi Vicki, is the press just looking for a good story?
Or do they just not understand what it means to move on?

The Speaking Goat said...

I agree with popps - compassion marks civilisation. But unfortunately politicians and their ilk don't understand anything but power games - the outrage at the release is hypocracy

popps said...

Hi Simon, and welcome.
Thanks for taking time to drop in.
What's the reaction in Scotland, are people annoyed with the criticism?

The Speaking Goat said...

Ah! I'm too much of a recluse to speak for Scotland but I think the general feeling is it was a difficult decision that was bound to upset people whatever was decided. The UK is happy cos it can get its claws into all those lucrative oil contracts and the US is pissed cos it can't.