Dunblane tragedy: 20th anniversary ‘vital’ - ex-headtacher

Ron Taylor speaking to reporters on March 22, 1996 - the day pupils returned following the massacre. Picture: PA

Ron Taylor speaking to reporters on March 22, 1996 - the day pupils returned following the massacre. Picture: PA

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THE headteacher at the time of the Dunblane shooting has spoken of the “huge importance” of marking the tragedy’s 20th anniversary.

Ron Taylor, who was one of the first people to arrive at the Dunblane Primary gymnasium after the shooting, said although the date would be “very difficult” for some people in the community, it was vital to help those that survived and support the families and friends of those who lost their loved ones.

A police officer in the playground of Dunblane Primary School a day after the shooting. Picture: PA

A police officer in the playground of Dunblane Primary School a day after the shooting. Picture: PA

In a forthcoming BBC documentary, Mr Taylor recalled the morning of 13 March, 1996 when Thomas Hamilton killed 16 children and their teacher, Gwen Mayor.

After the shooting, he “burst into the gym” where he was confronted with an “unimaginable sight”. He explained: “Hamilton was lying, still twitching. There was an incredible silence. The air was thick with smoke. And there was a group of children standing. The first thing we were able to do was get them out of there and I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing.

“It was unimaginably horrible, to see children dying in front of you.”

In the hours after the shooting, Mr Taylor recalled how officers from the former Strathclyde Police asked staff to return to the gym to try and confirm the identities of the children who had died.

I have a box full of newspaper articles - it’s quite easy to keep that box locked. It’s much more difficult to keep the box in my head locked

Ron Taylor

“This was particularly difficult for me, because these were primary one children, and I didn’t know many of them,” he said.

“So I had to take with me into the gym previous members of staff who did know them and we had to begin the awful process of confirming identities of the kids lying there.”

Two decades on from the worst mass shooting in British history, Mr Taylor said that others struggled to understand his reaction to the event afterwards.

“People couldn’t understand why I felt so guilty after the event, because there is no way any of us could have anticipated what happened,” he said.

“There’s no way we could have adequately prepared for what happened. And yet, I felt enormous guilt – more than just a survivor’s guilt. It was my school. I felt violated, I felt I should have been able to do more, and that guilt lives with me today.”

He added: “People have to cope in their own way. One of the things I have at home is a box full of newspaper articles, statements and cuttings. It includes my own written version of the events of the day, and I did that to help.

“I locked it away, and thankfully I have never looked at it again. And it’s quite easy to keep that box locked. It’s much more difficult to keep the box in my head locked.”

Despite the painful memories of that day in 1996, Mr Taylor told the documentary that people should recognise what happened in order to give comfort to those affected.

“This event was so unprecedented and so huge with so many implications for different people that we really must mark this important anniversary,” he explained.

“It’s very difficult for people, it’s very difficult for the community. Many people might not agree with me but it’s hugely important to help as best we can those that survived and support those that lost.”

The documentary features interviews with survivors and the families of those killed, including Mrs Mayor’s daughter, Debbie, who said she was “very, very proud” of her.

• Dunblane: Our Story will be shown on Wednesday 9 March at 9pm on BBC 1 Scotland.

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