Policeman who lost an arm in IRA attack

This picture was taken in August last year when Jim Davison and his wife Florrie celebrated their 60th anniversary. Mrs Davison passed away in November.
This picture was taken in August last year when Jim Davison and his wife Florrie celebrated their 60th anniversary. Mrs Davison passed away in November.

An RUC Reservist who lost an arm in an IRA gun attack in Gilford in February 1977 has died in hospital after taking suddenly ill.

James (Jim) Davison, 87, was hit in a gun attack during an IRA ambush after he and his colleague Robert Harrison were called out on a bogus mission. Robert was killed instantly, and Jim survived after spending two weeks in Craigavon Area Hospital. He was later fitted with a prosthetic limb and lived a full and productive life.

He constantly mourned the loss of his great friend. Mr Harrison was a deeply respected member of the Gilford community, having worked in Bannview Special Care Unit, and the flute band in which he had played was re-named in his memory.

Mr Davison had been married to wife Florrie for over 60 years, prior to her death in November past. Her passing affected him profoundly, although he had a caring extended family around him to look after and care for him.

He is survived by son Jimmy (daughter-in-law Fiona), daughters Moira Neill (husband Sam) and Rosemary Montgomery (husband William). There are 11 grandchildren and Jim also leaves brothers Noel, Robert and Glennie and sister Jean Sloss. He was predeceased by sister Marjorie.

Born in Moneymore, Jim Davison was the son of James and Sarah, one of a family of six. He was educated at the local primary school – and it was a poignant coincidence that, on the day before he died, he began to write a potted history of his long life.

He started the memoirs on the Thursday, but was taken to hospital at 4am on the Friday and died the next day. He recalled that he had to walk four miles each way – across fields and fords – to school, after which he worked on the family farm.

He wrote, “I left school in June 1941 – no further high school in those days as it was wartime. I did work for the neighbours as we had a tractor and they still had horses. I earned some money which was very handy.”

He combined farming with joining the B Specials, as there was some terrorist activity in the region, and he also joined the Orange Order. He was also a keen piper with the local Ringsend Pipe Band, where his most cherished memory was leading them – as pipe major – down Princess Street in Edinburgh to Holyrood House and the Orange ‘field’.

It was at this stage that he met his future wife at a social in Second Moneymore Presbyterian Church Hall and they wed on August 4, 1954. “Honeymoon, as you might have guessed, was spent in Edinburgh,” he wrote.

He was ‘mobilised’ to various police stations – he travelled by motor cycle which his mother bought him – and in the meantime he was employed as a meat inspector with the Ministry of Agriculture, having passed the relevant exams. At that stage, the family moved to Londonderry and then to Strathfoyle five miles out of the city, and their church was Ebrington, the family being devout Presbyterians. Then, when the IRA campaign started in earnest in the late 1960s, the Davisons moved to Portadown.

He wrote, “In 1973, I was asked if I would like to join the RUC part-time. I was interviewed and based in Gilford.” For the remainder of the time, he was a meat inspector at Denny’s Bacon Factory in Obins Street.

Of the fateful night in 1977 he wrote, “We arrived at Gilford and searched the premises (where the call-out stated there was a suspicious object). We got nothing and proceeded back to the car. We were ambushed by the IRA, two firing at us. Bobby was killed instantly and I was hit in the forearm.”

He had to leave the RUC, but eventually returned to Denny’s for another 11 years, adding up to 32 years’ service with the company. He retired in 1981, having in the meantime been elected to the committee of his beloved church, First Portadown (Edenderry) Presbyterian. He also served the church by “meeting and greeting” in the front vestibule and helping to organise funerals.

His own funeral saw the church packed to capacity – it was conducted by the Rev Colin Harris (in charge of the current pulpit vacancy) assisted by Dr Martyn Cowan and Mr Jack Bennett.

Burial was at Vinecash Presbyterian Churchyard and donations, in lieu of flowers, are to Vinecash and Edenderry Presbyterian Churches, c/o Ian Milne, 59 Seagoe Road, Portadown BT63 5HS.