The four-pound bomb blast that marked the start of the Troubles

Storeman Robert Ramsey with RUC Inspector (later Chief Inspector) George Jackson survey the damage caused by the town's first bomb at the Electricity Board premises in Goban Street.
Storeman Robert Ramsey with RUC Inspector (later Chief Inspector) George Jackson survey the damage caused by the town's first bomb at the Electricity Board premises in Goban Street.

IT was the first bomb to explode in Portadown at the start of the Troubles - which was placed in a cooker in the Goban Street premises of the then EBNI (Electricity Board for Northern Ireland), later NIE (Northern Ireland Electricity).

It was a small device, weighing about four pounds, but causing quite a bit of damage, blowing a small hole in the roof and creating havoc internally.

Robert Ramsey was in charge of the stores at that stage (circa 1970) and recalled that it caused a real sense of excitement rather than dismay as the police, the staff and the community rallied round to have everything up and running within a few days.

“The police arrived in numbers - constables, sergeants and inspectors - and I remember that I had to lead them in, something which would never have happened later in the troubles with the fear of other devices,” he said. “But we didn’t really grasp the significance of it all - nor what was ahead of us for the next 30 or so years.”

Goban Street was the main town showroom of the EBNI in those days, with Robert having started his career as a junior linesman in 1957, but he fell off a pole and was in crutches for 18 months before landing an inside position.

And after Goban Street closed, he moved to Carn - the current site - and ended his career there. He recalled that his colleagues included Eric Ewart, Alec Baird and Florence, and that the area manager was A.B. Johnston and the district foreman was Stanley Gray.

Police officers attended the bomb incident included the well-known Inspector George Jackson and Detective Sergeant Drew Coid, both deceased.

One reporter from the Portadown Times (still with us) remembers covering the incident, which hit the front page. His grandmother - the late Mrs Minnie Roney - lived in Goban Street. She was loathe to give an interview, but our man used the family card and was given an ‘exclusive’ on-the-spot eye witness account.

It happened late at night - around 11pm - and although in her 80s, Mrs Roney was soon out in the street watching all the excitement.

Sadly, the bomb was far from being an one-off, and the Portadown area suffered gravely from the troubles - multiple murders and revenge killings, with the worst bombing being in May 1992 when the centre of the town was blown asunder.

Little did we known at the time of the Goban Street mini-bomb what was ahead, as Robert Ramsey recalled that it took just two or three days to clear up the mess.