Injured In The Troubles:
Interview with Sam Malcolmson

Marie Breen-Smyth, Associate Dean International of the University of Surrey, talks to Samuel Malcolmson about the injuries he received in a terrorist attack and how it’s affected his life.

In 1972 Samuel Malcolmson was stationed in Crossmaglen in South Armagh when he and a colleague drove into an ambush, they were both shot in the back but they managed to make it back to their Police Station because of the driver, even though he too was shot. “I do owe my life to him because he was able to control the car to the police station, I think he was just about to pass out, he actually crashed into the gates.”

He remembers being injected with morphine by the local doctor. “I didn’t think you could suffer so much pain, and then I can remember on the way down to the hospital in the ambulance the attendant was trying to keep us on the plinths as they were going around the twisty roads and then after that I don’t remember anything.”

Samuel was airlifted to the Royal Hospital in Belfast, where he spent nine months. “My two legs were out of action for quite a while, but then lucky enough one of my legs came back to full use but the left leg is now left with paralysis. I accepted the fact that somebody shot me, I was a legitimate target in his eyes but the one thing I could never accept was weeks later when my father had to come up to the hospital and tell me that my mum had dropped dead at my bedside, that was the hardest thing to take and to this day him and I can not talk about this incident.”

Samuel now suffers from severe back pains and shooting pains up and down his leg, he has to use elbow crutches to walk long distances. “The home and the car are my life, as far as walking is concerned I would do as little as possible because it triggers the pain.”

Samuel still thinks about the man who did this to him. “I still want to meet the person who pulled the trigger and I’m convinced I know him – circumstances would narrow it down to a couple of people, there’s not a day in life that goes by were I don’t think of that person, when he and the person with him shot me. The following day when my mum dropped dead beside my bed, did he think ‘I’ve gone too far here, I didn’t mean for an innocent person to suffer’. I was a legitimate target in his eyes but did his conscience have a twinge and did he think, ‘There’s a family left now without a mum’ or did he think ‘No that’s even better than I thought, I went out to get two cops and I’ve got three people, I’ve ruined their lives in different ways’? So I still want to meet that person, I want to sit eye to eye and talk to them.”

Although it has affected his everyday life, Samuel is still determined to keep a level of independence.

Samuel had joined the police force in 1969 and because he had served three years when he was shot, this means his pension is very low. “Pain can leave you sometimes very depressed and in a bad mood.” His family have had to live with this, but he is very grateful of their support over the years.

“To date we’ve survived, a lot of that is down to the guidance of my wife.”

This interview was supported by the WAVE Trauma Centre, University of Surrey and the Community Relations Council.

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