Family encouraged Wilson to pen memoir

FLORENCECOURT farmer, James Wilson, has published a memoir to pass on a record to future Wilsons of his life.
Wilson, 72, will launch his book, “Minding The Coppers” at the Larganess Centre in Florencecourt on November 11 at 7.30pm.
The book explores his life growing up on the farm before serving close to 30 years as a police officer in the RUC before commencing a second career as a farmer.
His story covers a number events from amusing stories and Halloween pranks to the tragic death of his father and his time serving in the RUC during The Troubles.
“Growing up, I would have loved it if my great-great grandparents in the 1850s and 1860s had kept a wee record of their lives,” he said.
“I thought about this for a while and went, ‘hold on – what about my great-great grandchildren?’. Maybe they would like it if I did that?
“So I started to write and had done twenty pages. I sent Marion Maxwell – a second-cousin of mine and a local historian – what I had written. She said, ‘oh Jim this is great. Carry on writing – that will make a book’. So I carried on writing.
“As you get older, you start thinking about those before you. Unfortunately, it’s not until you get to your mid-50s and 60s before you start thinking, like most people, ‘I wish I talked more to my granny, great-granny, granddad and great-granddad’, only to find they’re gone and it’s too late to do that.
“I was lucky in that I had elderly neighbours who I did talk to. My grandfather died in 1928 and yet I was able to talk to a neighbour who remembered him which I thought was fantastic. I mentioned the book to a few neighbours and showed them a few snippets and they can’t wait for the book to come out.
While James admits that his time in the RUC exposed him to a number of horrific sights during The Troubles, he made a conscious decision to not get into the full details of each bomb blast and murder scene that he had to attend to.
He added: “I saw some horrible sights when in the police but none worse than being present when I was eleven-years-old and seeing my father keel over in front of my eyes during the storm known as Hurricane Debbie in 1961.
“I was stationed in Bessbrook for two and half years and saw some horrible sights there followed by a posting in Lisnaskea for twenty-six and a half years. I then retired and went back to farming.
“I didn’t put in the nitty-gritty of all the murders I attended – especially in the Bessbrook area. There were a couple of bombs that were just horrendous.
“One Christmas Eve in 1973, three IRA men pulled up outside a pub. Two got out and went in, set the bomb down which then blew them to bits. I had four bags of flesh, bones and bits and pieces up to the hospital.
“I didn’t want it to become a gruesome book so I didn’t go into all the graphic details. I wanted it to be a happy book. Especially for the younger relatives for whom the book is for.
“Even describing my father’s death when I saw him on the ground I wanted to avoid the nitty-gritty. Some of the things I’ve seen when in the police too. One incident was another IRA man on a motorcycle delivering two rockets which went off underneath him. We searched and searched for what was left of him and all we were getting were wee bits of flesh until the end of the road when we saw the (motorcycle) helmet and the man’s head still in it.
“I didn’t want the book to be gruesome but I wanted to state a few facts at the same time.”
Once out of the RUC after three decades of service, it was back to farming and James reveals he had no difficulty in getting back in it.
He said: “I left the police in 2001 after The Patten Report . I was let out a year and a half early under Patten reforms of creating a 50-50 (Protestant and Catholic) police force.
“I would have not long after completed my 30 years had that not been offered the pay for the 18 months that I had left to do.
“Going back to farming was not an issue because while I was based with the police at Lisnaskea, I would help my cousin out on his farm – so I had kept in touch with farming for all those years as it’s in my blood.”

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