Father whose life was greatly affected by his son’s murder

David Wright
David Wright

DAVID Wright, who died on Friday after a short illness, was a member of a family whose roots run deep into the very fabric of Portadown.

Mr Wright (78) was one of a family of three born to William Wright - the first alderman to be appointed to Portadown Borough Council when it was founded in 1947 - and Margaret Wright of David Street, one of a number of streets demolished in the 1960s to make way for the Magowan Buildings complex.

His grandfather, Bob Wright, was a member of the old Portadown Urban District Council, which preceded the borough council.

His only brother Bobby died in England in 1964, which leaves his sister Mrs Joan Proctor - who lives in South Street, near Mr Wright’s home - the only survivor of the original family.

Mr Wright also leaves four daughters, Elizabeth, Jackie, Angela and Connie, and he was predeceased by his only son Billy, the LVF leader who was murdered inside the Maze Prison by members of the INLA in December 1997. There are seven grandchildren and two great-grandchildren.

During David’s childhood, the family moved to West Street where they ran a fruit and vegetable shop. He worked there at his first job after leaving Church Street Public Elementary at the age of 14.

In 1952, the Wrights moved to Wolverhampton and the young David worked in the foundry department of C&B Smith which supplied steelwork to the thriving motor industry in the Midlands, and married Sally McKinley whom he had met back in Portadown.

He then moved to Tilbury Docks in London where he worked for the John Thompson Kennicott Water Treatment Company which had branches throughout England. Brother Bobby worked in the Birmingham branch of the same company, and died suddenly at the age of 32. At that stage the family moved back to Portadown and was involved in the shoe trade, and dabbled in antiques. Mr Wright enjoyed the antiques trade and was involved in the business full-time until he retired.

The murder of his son Billy in the Maze changed Mr Wright’s life dramatically, and he spent the last years of his life seeking “Justice for Billy Wright” after the LVF leader was shot dead by INLA gunmen on December 27, 1997. They clambered over a roof and murdered him in a minibus where he was sitting, waiting to be transferred to the visiting area.

Mr Wright consistently accused the prison authorities and the security forces of collusion - he took his protest all the way to Downing Street - and was such a thorn in the flesh of the government that they initiated a full public inquiry which cost an estimated £30 million and lasted three years.

He was bitterly disappointed and angry when the inquiry delivered the conclusion that there was no collusion, instead claiming that there was gross negligence by the prison services. Speaking to the media at the Stormont Hotel in Belfast in September last year when the findings were made public, Mr Wright branded the report a “total whitewash and a failure to get to the truth”, adding the investigation “had adapted a narrow interpretation of collusion”.

He added, “Having considered the factual findings, they look like collusion, they sound like collusion and in my mind amount to firm and final proof of collusion by state agencies in acts of omission. The inquiry has endorsed the suspicion that evidence has been concealed which might have been damaging to the reputation of the RUC.”

His sister Joan and daughter Connie told the Portadown Times that the findings dampened Mr Wright’s zest for life. They said that he never accepted the findings, and the fact that he had fought so long and hard, attending every day of the inquiry, had drained him.

Around 400 mourners attended Sunday’s funeral at Killicomaine Baptist Church which was conducted by the minister, Pastor Harvey Shaw.

His granddaughter Ashlene Wright - Billy Wright’s daughter - sang the hymn ‘Amazing Grace’ and paid tribute to her grandfather as “a man of integrity and grit who personified the word courage”.

His daughter Mrs Connie McCann told the congregation that he had assiduously sought the truth over Billy’s murder but it had been denied him. Her husband, Jim McCann, read the Bible lesson.

The mourners included Upper Bann MP David Simpson and his Lagan Valley counterpart Jeffrey Donaldson, on whose constituency the Maze Prison stands, and with whom David Wright had forged a close and trusting friendship.

Burial was at Seagoe Parish Churchyard.