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It happened on a Saturday evening and on that day I changed my normal routine for three reasons. The first was that someone in our large family had decided there should be more family get together's of the children of Walt and Ruby Tuffs. So, instead of visiting the pub nearest to my Guildford shop with my branch managers, I went straight home to prepare for a night at the Black Horse Restaurant in the nearby village of Gomshall. Another reason for my routine change was because it was my wife's 23'rd birthday, so that day was a special occasion for Jenny and I. A third reason for us to celebrate was Jenny had given birth to our first child just six weeks earlier, and this was to be our first outing since that wonderful day. So, as I envisaged seeing my mother and all my siblings, all seemed well with the World. But all was not well with the World for on that day in 1974 some people planned death and mayhem!
My brother Wally and his wife picked us up and drove us to the gathering and there was much merriment as we all enjoyed our pre-dinner drinks. My sister Dot left the alcohol alone because, in her words, alcohol didn't agree with her. My sister Phyl always did the opposite for, in her words, alcohol agreed with her most favourably. The meal was excellent and we were half way through it when some alarming news was conveyed by the head waiter. It seemed there had been some sort of serious event in the centre of Guildford and all the roads, in and out of the town, had been closed. We all continued eating but our conversation became muted, for we were all concerned about what on earth could have happened?.
One of the staff brought a radio into the restaurant and on it we heard that The Horse and Groom Pub, in the upper part of North Street, had been blown up just before eight thirty of that evening. Within minutes we heard that another Guildford pub had also been bombed, this one, The Seven Stars, in Swan Lane. I do not remember eating the remainder of the meal for every one had lost interest in food. I saw that my Jenny was as white as a sheet, for she knew that the Horse and Groom was where I always spent the early part of every Saturday evening. Of course I re-assured her that I would have left the pub long before the explosion, but we were both fearful for my Managers who could still have been there. Remember this happened in long ago 1974 when mobile phones didn't exist. So to get in touch was almost impossible.
We finished our meal as the news continued to arrive and we all strained to hear the radio. We heard that all the pubs in the town had been closed, as had the cinema's, restaurants and nightclubs. We were to discover that the ambulance service could hardly cope, as they struggled valiantly to assist the large number of wounded. Blood plasma had to be rushed down from London's hospitals to Guildford's St. Luke's Hospital, so they could treat the more serious of the casualties. Later we were to learn that sixty five people had been injured and, to the eternal shame of those responsible, five innocent people died. That family gathering, held on my wife's birthday, took place on the fifth of October in 1974. The night that started with such joyous hello's and noisy merriment, ended with subdued and thoughtful goodbye's.
Somehow Wally had to get us home to Guildford and we feared long delays due to the road closures mentioned on the radio. I suggested we take the back road that began close to the Drummond Arms in Albury to avoid this. My brother agreed, so we took this quiet uphill road that passed the back entrance to Newlands Corner. We then joined up with White Lane and ten minutes later we had crossed over the busy Epsom Road. Without incident we arrived at my home and we hadn't seen a single Police car, let alone a road block. We commented if it was that easy to get into Guildford unseen, it would surely be equally easy for the bombers to get out. That may have happened for the true culprits escaped and were never caught!