Hundreds of mourners pay final respects to tragic Bessbrook drowning victim

August 4, 2014

By Christine Keighery

Residents from both sides of the community came together last Thursday to pay their final respects to Oswald Bradley, the pensioner who tragically drowned in Bessbrook Pond last Monday evening.

The 68 year old widower died as he swam to the island in the centre of Bessbrook Pond where it is believed he intended to remove two tricolours which had recently been placed on the trees and replace them with a Union Jack flag.  It is understood Mr Bradley wanted to remove the flags due to the upset they had caused to Kingsmill’s relatives from the area. His cousin John McConville was one of the 10 Protestant workmen killed in the 1976 Kingsmill Massacre and Mr Bradley was a member of FAIR (Families Acting for Innocent Relatives).

He had been heavily involved in the campaign for justice for those killed at Kingsmill and had been part of delegations which met with Taoiseach Enda Kenny and First Minister Peter Robinson.

The death of the well known painter and decorator, who also ran the village chip shop for several years, sent shockwaves through the local community and many political representatives expressed their sadness and sympathies in the days that followed.

Hundreds of mourners united in grief to line the main street of Bessbrook village as a moving service took place at his home, in keeping with family tradition.

During his sermon, Rev Brian Colvin described Mr Bradley as a “generous and kind-hearted man” and “a family man who went out of his way to help others.”

He recalled his devotion to his late wife Violet and his daughters Diane and Andrea and grandchildren Rebecca, Caitlyn, Adam and Kelsey.

“The death of one who was so loved and respected by many is a great loss, not just to his family but to this wider community of Bessbrook,” added Rev Colvin.

The mourners included UUP MLA Danny Kennedy, a native of Bessbrook who had known Mr Bradley all his life.

Following the funeral, Mr Kennedy said,

“Oswald was well-known and well-liked by everyone locally, and as we try to come to terms with his passing and the circumstances leading up to it, the people of the village will always hold fond memories of him.

“It was heartening to see people from all parts of the community uniting to pay their respects to Oswald and his family. Throughout the darkest days of the Troubles, Bessbrook maintained good community relations, and this was evident today as people from across the political and religious divide gathered to mourn the loss of a well-loved figure in such awful circumstances.

“My thoughts and prayers are with Oswald’s family as they, along with the entire village, try to come to terms with this tragic loss.”

Alan Black, the sole survivor of the Kingsmills massacre and close friend of Mr Bradley was also in attendance, as was victims’ campaigner Willie Frazer.