ANDY Murray said he can never forget the Dunblane shooting in which 16 children and their teacher were murdered in 1996 but remains proud of the youth centre built in their memory.
The Wimbledon champion has contributed a foreword to a new book celebrating the tenth anniversary of the opening of the Dunblane Centre, the £2 million community centre built with donations that flooded into the town following the atrocity that shocked the world.
In the foreword, Murray, who was in a nearby classroom on the morning of 13 March 1996 when Thomas Hamilton entered the gym hall and murdered Gwen Mayor and 16 pupils from the Primary 1 class before killing himself, praised the community for rising above the town’s darkest day.
He wrote: “Dunblane is my hometown, the place where I grew up, where I went to school and where I learned to play tennis. In March 1996 the primary school I attended witnessed a tragedy, which I can never forget and will always find difficult to talk about and comprehend.
“But following such a dreadful event the community of Dunblane found a purpose and determination which everyone associated with the town, past and present, can always be proud of. It is an impressive and unique community facility.”
Murray ended by saying that the centre was “a project that demonstrates the most positive response possible following a terrible tragedy”.
The book, designed to raise funds for the centre which has a shortfall for running costs of £5,000 a year, also reveals the tensions in the community when the centre opened.
The construction of the centre was hampered by what was viewed as the insensitivity and greed of both central and local government. As the centre was funded from donations the project team did not expect to have to pay VAT on the construction costs. However the Treasury, under the chancellorship of Gordon Brown, insisted it could not be exempt and charged the centre £250,000.
Les Morton, who lost his daughter Emily in the shooting, wrote in a chapter about the centre’s construction: “Why should Chancellor Gordon Brown get a boost to his finances because of a tragedy? We all felt that the VAT decisions, whilst legal, was immoral.”
The VAT bill was eventually paid after the group secured a £200,000 grant from SportScotland.
Meanwhile, Stirling Council, who no longer needed to consider funding a youth or sports centre in Dunblane, still expected the management team to contribute £46,500 to a new mini-roundabout despite the fact the council had been planning to upgrade the nearby road for over a decade.
In the early years a number of the bereaved families resented the centre, including Pam Ross, who lost her daughter Joanna, but who would later work at the centre as a volunteer. “For a long time after 13 March 1996 I was really quite opposed to and had certain misgivings about the proposed project,” she said. “Dunblane had long been overlooked for a facility of this kind, and now suddenly, out of this overwhelming devastation, it seemed like the town had struck gold. The thought of its very existence only served to emphasise our loss.
“However I also understood that the love and thoughtfulness of so many people here in Dunblane, throughout the country and across the world, had offered an opportunity to turn such remarkable generosity into something which could become a very worthwhile reality. It wasn’t an easy change of heart.
“We should always remember how and why it came to be here. The Dunblane Centre has a unique origin and is a very special gift to us all, a gift which deserves to be respected, appreciated and supported, but above all enjoyed. Out of the loss, despair and pain of 1996, it is evidence of something truly positive.”
The Dunblane Centre: The Gift That Keeps Growing is now available priced £10.