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John Bingham
File:John Bingham.jpg
John Bingham
Birth name John Dowey Bingham
Born c.1953
Died September 14, 1986(1986-09-14) (aged 33)
Place of birth Northern Ireland
Place of death Ballysillan, north Belfast, Northern Ireland
Allegiance Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF)
Rank Lieutenant Colonel
Unit D Company, 1st Battalion, Ballysillan
Conflict The Troubles

John Dowey Bingham (c. 1953 – 14 September 1986) was a prominent Northern Irish loyalist who led "D Company" (Ballysillan), 1st Battalion, Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF).[1] He was shot dead by the Provisional IRA after they had broken into his home.[2] Bingham was one of three prominent UVF members to have been killed in the 1980s, the other two being Lenny Murphy and William "Frenchie" Marchant in 1982 and 1987 respectively.

Ulster Volunteer Force

Ballysillan, north Belfast, where John Bingham lived and commanded the Ballysillan UVF

John Bingham was born in Northern Ireland in about 1953 and was brought up in a Protestant family. Described as a shopkeeper, he was married with two children.[3] He lived in Ballysillan Crescent, in the loyalist estate of Ballysillan in North Belfast, and also owned a holiday caravan home in Millisle, County Down.[4]

He was a member of the "Old Boyne Island Heroes" Lodge of the Orange Order.[5] On an unknown date, he joined the loyalist paramilitary organisation, the UVF, and eventually became the commander of its "D Company", 1st Battalion, Ballysillan .,[6] with the rank of lieutenant-colonel.[7] He was the mastermind behind a productive gun-running operation from Canada, which over the years had involved the smuggling of illegal weapons into Northern Ireland to supply UVF arsenals; however, three months after Bingham's death, the entire operation collapsed following a raid on a house in Toronto by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in December 1986.[8]

Bingham was one of the loyalist paramilitaries named in the evidence given by supergrass Joe Bennett,[6] who accused him of being a UVF commander.[9] He testified that he had seen Bingham armed with an M60 machine gun and claimed that Bingham had been sent to Toronto to raise funds for the UVF.[10] These meetings opened contact with Canadian businessman John Taylor, who became involved in smuggling guns from North America to the UVF.[11] As a result of Bennett's testimony, Bingham was sentenced to 20 years imprisonment having been charged and convicted of committing serious crimes.[12] He publicly denounced the supergrass system before live television cameras outside Belfast's Crumlin Road Courthouse when he was released in December 1984 after his conviction had been overturned, having spent two and a half years in prison.[13]

On one occasion, Bingham allegedly placed a loaded pistol inside journalist Martin Dillon's mouth because he had not liked what Dillon had written about him. In an attempt to make amends for his threat, Bingham invited Dillon to visit him at his home in North Belfast. Dillon accepted the invitation and after several whiskeys and brandishing a pistol, Bingham offered to show him his racing pigeons as he was an avid pigeon fancier. He then told Dillon that he shouldn't believe what people said about him claiming that he couldn't harm a pigeon.[14] As they said farewell at the front door, Bingham reportedly murmured in a cold voice to Dillon: "You ever write about me again and I'll blow yer fuckin' brains out, because you're not a pigeon".[14]


In July 1986, a 25 year-old Catholic man, Colm McCallan, was shot close to his Ligoneil home. Two days later, he died of his wounds and the IRA sought to avenge his death by killing Bingham, the man they held responsible for the shooting.[6] He was also believed to have been behind the deaths of several other Catholic civilians.[15] At 1.30 a.m. on 14 September 1986, Bingham had just returned to Ballysillan Crescent from his caravan home in Millisle. Three gunmen from the IRA's Ardoyne 3rd Battalion Belfast Brigade, armed with two automatic rifles and a .38 Special, smashed down his front door with a sledgehammer and shot Bingham twice in the legs. Despite his injuries, Bingham ran up the stairs in an attempt to escape his attackers and had just reached a secret door at the top when the gunmen shot him three more times, killing him.[16][17] He was 33 years old. He was given a UVF paramilitary funeral, which was attended by politicians from the two main unionist parties, the Ulster Unionist Party and the Democratic Unionist Party. Members of the his "Old Boyne Island Heroes" Lodge formed the guard of honor, around his coffin which was covered with the UVF flag, and his gloves and beret.Prominent loyalist activist George Seawright helped carry the coffin whilst wearing his Orange order sash and called for revenge.[18] In retaliation, the UVF killed Larry Marley, a leading IRA member from Ardoyne who was also a close friend of Sinn Féin president Gerry Adams. The IRA in their turn gunned down William "Frenchie" Marchant the following spring in the Shankill Road.[19] The deaths of three leading UVF members caused suspicion amongst the UVF leadership that someone within their ranks was setting up high-ranking UVF men by passing on pertinent information to the IRA; therefore they decided to conduct an enquiry. Although it was revealed that the three men: Shankill Butcher Lenny Murphy, Bingham, and Marchant had all quarrelled with powerful UDA fund-raiser and racketeer James Pratt Craig prior to their deaths, the UVF did not believe the evidence was sufficient to warrant an attack against Craig, who ran a large protection racket in Belfast.[20] Craig was later shot to death in an East Belfast pub by the UDA (using their cover name "Ulster Freedom Fighters") for "treason", claiming he had been involved in the assassination of South Belfast UDA brigadier John McMichael, who was blown up by a booby-trap car bomb planted by the IRA outside his Lisburn home in December 1987.

In Ballysillan Road, there is a memorial plaque dedicated to the memory of Bingham.[7] His name is also on the banner of the "Old Boyne Island Heroes" Lodge.[5]


  1. Taylor, Peter (1999). Loyalists. London: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.p.196 ISBN 0-7475-4519-7
  2. CAIN: Sutton Index of Deaths
  3. "These Cash Payments Don't Take Account of the Pain of the Victims". Belfast Telegraph. Eric Waugh. 27 January 2009. Retrieved 30-03-11
  4. Belfast Telegraph. 27 January 2009
  5. 5.0 5.1 Taylor, p.151
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Taylor, p.196
  7. 7.0 7.1 CAIN: Physical Memorials of the Troubles in North Belfast
  8. Taylor, p.189
  9. McKittrick. Lost Lives. p.1048
  10. Steve Bruce, The Red Hand, Oxford University Press, 1992, p. 140
  11. Bruce, The Red Hand, p. 169
  12. McKittrick,Lost Lives, p.1048
  13. H. McDonald & J. Cusack (1997). UVF. Poolbeg. p.232. Google Books. Retrieved 31-03-11
  14. 14.0 14.1 Dillon, Martin (1989). The Shankill Butchers: the real story of cold-blooded mass murder. New York: Routledge. pp.282-283
  15. Dillon, p.262
  16. Taylor, pp.196-97
  17. David McKittrick. Lost Lives. p.1048
  18. Brian Kennaway The Orange Order-A Tradition Betrayed p.49
  19. Taylor, p.197
  20. Dillon, Martin (1989). The Shankill Butchers: the real story of cold-blooded mass murder. New York: Routledge. pp.262-263. Google Books. Retrieved 30-03-11

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