November 20 2014: Clutha: It’s still unsettling to stand here…even now

The Evening Times, November 20 2014

A bottle of Southern Comfort propping up a fallen wall inside the Clutha is a stark reminder of a fun Friday night that turned to horror.

Along the bar, on tables and across the floor, dust-filled pint glasses, scattered straws and buried bottles of tonic water stand as silent witness to the moment when a police helicopter crashed through the roof.

The ‘Rock the Clutha‘ mural still covers the back of the low stage, while yellowing gig listings, photographs of old Glasgow and a rain-stained Paolo Nutini poster decorate the walls.

It is a chilling scene.

Clutha owner Alan Crossan is standing next to a broken section of the bar.

He said: “This is where the helicopter came down.

“It’s very unsettling to be here.”

Alan – a grandfather-offour – was recovering from a heart attack at his home in Crossmyloof when his partner Gill got the call.

He said: “I’d had a heart attack a couple of weeks before, lucky white heather stuff.

“My manager phoned up and spoke to Gill.

“He said: ‘Don’t tell Alan but the roof’s came in.’ “I could see the panic in her face. She said: ‘How can that happen?’ “Literally 30 seconds later he phones back and says ‘a helicopter’s come through the roof’.

“I headed down straight away and police were all around.”

When Alan reached the Gorbals, at the other side of the Albert Bridge from the Clutha, he stared in disbelief at the site that confronted him.

He said: “I thought: ‘How the hell can that happen?’ “It was something out of a film. My immediate thought was: ‘Who’s injured?’ “I was getting reports back on members of staff who were found.”

Alan remembers each moment of the night clearly.

He said: “You had young John McGarrigle outside. Where his dad John stands is right on the spot where the helicopter came through. He knew 100% that’s where his dad stands.

“The boy’s standing outside, desperate, as anybody would be.

“I remember it vividly. Almost every minute of it.”

Alan needed medication for his heart, so police took him home and then, around 2am, they brought him back to the Clutha.

He said: “The police who ran me up were traffic cops.

“They didn’t know where they were going. They were from Falkirk. It’s just something I remember.”

A Lan finally returned home at 5am but still couldn’t take his eyes off the blanket TV coverage.

The businessman, who also owns the neighbouring Victoria Bar and Millport’s George Hotel, took over the Clutha about eight year ago, so knew some of the regulars.

He says: “I knew John McGarrigle but I didn’t know the other victims.

“The Clutha wasn’t a local pub, it was a destination.

“So you had a boy like Mark O’Prey, from East Kilbride. You had others from all over.

“They would all come in at different points.

“I wasn’t there all the time. But when I did go in you knew the faces, the staff and everybody else.”

The effects of the disaster were far-reaching and Alan believes more could have been done to help.

He added: “There were a lot of people affected.

“The authorities might have done a wee bit more for them.

“There’s maybe lessons to be learned in the future.

“There’s people who were killed, people injured and people affected in other ways, and that whole circle should be looked at.”

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