27 Years

Memorial

On the 15th April 1989 I was nine, and I can remember playing a game with my younger brother Sean. We were in the bedroom of our house in Burscough, messing around on the bunk beds. At some point we wandered downstairs, to get a drink or a ‘Toronto Snack’ – a fruit salad like the ones I used to get at nursery in Canada when Dad was teaching there for a year and Sean was just a baby. In my memory we came into the living room to find him watching the television.

“Something’s happened at the match,” is what I remember him saying. I remember the green of the pitch and the blue of the sky and the people milling around on the grass. People running as they carried others on makeshift stretchers. A line of police. As the afternoon progressed we learned of the deaths. 10, 20, 30… until it got to 95. Mum and Dad never hid the truth of the world from us, and so we knew what had happened but of course, at nine years old, I don’t know if I could really comprehend it. That night and over the next days Dad met many of the survivors as they returned from Sheffield. He knew, we knew, the truth from the beginning, whatever that newspaper wrote. A week after the disaster we went with Mum and Dad to Anfield, to pay our respects and to leave scarves on the pitch in front of the Kop. At 3.06pm we were in Stanley Park and held the line of scarves that linked Liverpool and Everton. It was the start of a bond between the two clubs, between the two sets of fans – between the people of Liverpool – that remains to this day.

#

96 people went to a football match and never came home. We have long known, but now we have it decided by a jury, that they were unlawfully killed. This was the first injustice of Hillsborough. The shameful cover-up by the police and the other authorities, enabled by the establishment including elements of the press, was the second injustice. That it took 27 years to get to where we are today, in which time many family members died and survivors lived with a guilt they should never have had to take upon themselves, that was the third injustice.

From those first days after the disaster Hillsborough became a part of our lives. Not, of course, in the way that it has been for the families and the survivors of the disaster, but through Dad’s work it has shaped us as a family for the past 27 years. When I think of Dad back in the 1990s, as Sean and I grew up from the children we had been at the time of Hillsborough to the young adults who reflected on the tenth anniversary of the disaster, I see him with a pad of papers on his lap and a pen in his hand. In Burscough on the couch as we waited for Match of the Day. On Anglesey, outside our tents. In the car park of Formby Hockey Club on a Sunday morning, as Sean and I trained and he wrote, and marked and read. I can remember going in to Edge Hill during half term, to help sift through the Stuart Smith Scrutiny. I remember the proofs of Hillsborough: The Truth on our kitchen table.

He needed to do it like this because Hillsborough, and the many other campaigns and injustices he worked on, came on top of his job at Edge Hill. But he was always there for us. When we came home from school. Friday night guitar lessons. Hockey matches across the North West and beyond. Concerts in Liverpool and Manchester. And all the while, in the background, was Hillsborough.

In his work with the families, from the Hillsborough Project via No Last Rights, Hillsborough: The Truth, and later the Hillsborough Independent Panel report and now the inquests, they became our family friends. We didn’t think of them as “the families”, but as people who celebrated birthdays with us, helped me move out of university, and came to visit us in Berlin after both Sean and I made our homes in the German capital. So I think I can speak for Sean when I say that we never questioned Dad’s commitment to the families and to the pursuit of justice for the 96 who died that day. It was what he could do, what he was excellent at doing, and what he had to do…. He shouldn’t have had to, but in all his work Dad has been driven by a desire to challenge authority, fight injustice and speak truth to power.

Sometimes I know that it felt hopeless, especially in the long, fallow years leading up to the 20th anniversary of the disaster in 2009. But if Hillsborough teaches us anything it is that you can fight for a cause that is right and just, fight with dignity and without resorting to the tactics that so often are used against you, and you can win. What the families, the survivors and their supporters have done is remarkable, and I am immensely proud of my Dad’s role in it and the love and support his partner Deena has given to both him and the families during that long journey.

#

On the 26th April 2016 I was thirty six. Three quarters of my life has passed since that day Sean and I were playing in our room in Burscough. As I tried to follow the inquest verdicts in Berlin Sean called me from London.

“Are you watching?” he asked, but I couldn’t get the stream to work. “Unlawfully killed,” he continued. “It’s what we wanted…”

“What about the fans?” I asked. I got the BBC News stream up and running just as the question flashed up on screen.

“I think its No,” he replied and then the journalist confirmed it.

Unlawfully killed. Fans exonerated. Justice after 27 years.

I put the phone down and sat at my desk. My partner Katrin was at work, my daughter Lotte – who is exactly the same age now as I was in 1989 – was at school. As the reality of the verdicts hit home, as the families emerged into the sunlight to hold hands and sing ‘You’ll Never Walk Alone’ I began to cry. I have done that a lot over the years. Watching the Memorial from Anfield each year, feeling very far away. Watching Dad and the rest of the Panel deliver their findings in the Cathedral. But this felt different. Yes, the journey is not over. Yes, there must be accountability. But this, in the words of Margaret Aspinall, felt like the peak. That we had reached the summit.

I have only ever once written about Hillsborough before, in the aftermath of the Hillsborough Independent Panel report and I described it as a “shadow lifted.” But the biggest shame – and yet another injustice of Hillsborough – was how, during the inquests, the authorities attempted to cast those shadows, of lies and smears, once again.

No chance. The truth is out and justice is coming.

The day after the verdicts I was reading the Liverpool fans website Red and White Kop, where I read a comment about Dad, Hillsborough and the impact it must have had on his life and that of his family. My only response is this: 27 years is too long and the sacrifices for everyone – for the families, the survivors, and for my Dad and Deena – were too large, but what choice was there? You have to keep going. You have to.

I couldn’t be more proud.

Justice for the 96. You’ll Never Walk Alone.

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36 thoughts on “27 Years

  1. cathannabel

    How extraordinary that I’ve been following your blog for ages now, and never consciously made the connection with your father’s work, which I’ve also been following for years. So many threads drawn together. I along with so many who have no direct connection with Hillsborough have wept with those whose lives it irrevocably changed, through all of the setbacks along the way to this complete vindication. My admiration for the families, and for those like your father who never gave up fighting for truth and justice on their behalf, is immense. Truth & Justice.

  2. Pingback: Justice at last for those ‘driven by the power of love and the bonds of family’ – That's How The Light Gets In

  3. Neil Young

    Paul, I remember us walking around Wansee in October talking about football. Me with my Hillsborough Justice Campaign badge on my bag, rattling on about safe standing like some sort of expert, not having put two and two together that you are Phil Scraton’s son and that you knew more about Hillsborough than just about anyone. I felt a bit of a fraud to be honest.

    But a thought that has come back to me since then was that I actually do know an awful lot about the disaster. I have always known that it was caused by catastrophic police failings. I was 15 at the time and a regular match-goer at Anfield. I watched the news and read the papers in the following days and it was clear where the blame lay. I even read the Taylor Report to prepare for a GSCE English presentation that I did on all seater stadia in 1990. It was obvious that the fans weren’t to blame. The horrific campaign of disinformation by the authorities was aimed at making the thousands (millions?) of people like me doubt what we knew. But for the most astonishing campaign by the families, the survivors and people like your father, Andy Burnham, Kenny Dalglish, Jimmy McGovern and so many others it would have succeeded.

    As I said to you on Tuesday, your father’s work has been inspirational. I was pleased to see him being given very public credit he deserves by Kenny Dalglish and Owen Jones.

    Like you, I also cried on Tuesday morning (I’m in a shared office). I cried this morning when I watched Andy Burnham’s speech in Parliament from yesterday. The tears probably won’t stop, but it feels different now. The feeling of hopelessness has gone.

    The truth has been unearthed and held high. It shames British society that it was ever allowed to be buried.

    Thanks again to Phil Scraton and those who supported him.

    All the best

    Neil

  4. Janice Ward

    Having known your dad when he first arrived at Edge Hill College in 1975, being part of his Sociology lectures/tutorials and then having shared an interest in watching Liverpool whilst I was at college I understand how you must be so so proud of everything he has achieved not only for himself but the many causes he has chosen to fight for and to read so many tributes on social media is truly wonderful. Thanks too for sharing your memories
    Janice Ward (nee Westwell)

  5. Antony Phoenix

    Hi Paul, I “know” your father from RAWK,having been a moderator on the site in the past I’ve had the privilege of seeing the dedication and hard work that he,along with others put into the fight for Justice.A wonderful man and you must be immensely proud of him.

  6. Phil Scraton

    To all who have read our Paul’s beautifully written, generous reflections, especially those who have commented, a huge thankyou. Deena and I are now back in Belfast after one of the most moving weeks of our lives. I’ve completed over 50 interviews for radio and TV – the highlight being the two hour special with Kelly Cates on BBC 5Live on Wednesday. We also shot the last scenes for the EMMY nominated two hour documentary Hillsborough. It could not be shown during the inquests but is in Sheffield (6 May), Liverpool (7 May) and Belfast (10 May) introduced by the director, Dan Gordon, and me. It will be screened on BBC2 on the evening of the 8 May. The new edition of Hillsborough: The Truth, with three new chapters, will be published by Random House as soon as I finish the final chapter. To our Paul, our Sean, our Deena and our friends, thankyou for all the love and support down the years … reminding me and the families in our darkest moments that we were never walking alone. xxx

  7. Female, Fables and Fares.

    Firstly, apologies for commenting on my wife’s WordPress account because I think she’s somehow permanently logged into it on my pc and I don’t want to log out in case I do something wrong!

    Paul, thank you so much for sharing your thoughts. You, Sean, Deena and Professor Scraton have made sacrifices above and beyond what even the most generous people would ever make. The fact that you have just brushed it off like “oh well that’s the least we could have done” makes me marvel at your humility and compassion as a family and brings even more tears to my eyes. The fact that you have stood together with Sean and Deena in supporting your dad’s work is just a microcosm of the reason why we were victorious and the liars were defeated; the magnificent community spirit and socialism of our city, standing shoulder to shoulder with each other and supporting each other along the way. Without doubt, if I didn’t hold the establishment in such contempt, I would recommend Prof Scraton for a knighthood. But seeing as the same people who dole them out are the very same people who have conspired to deny us justice for so long, I honestly don’t know whether he would accept it or whether I can bring myself to ask them for anything. However, if you think your dad might accept one, please let us know your thoughts on here and I’m sure there’ll probably be about 500,000 or so queuing to second a nomination.

    If I can be so bold, I’d like to ask you and Sean to make one more small sacrifice, with the greatest respect. I haven’t had many heroes in my life Paul. Aside from Shanks, “Sir” Bob, King Kenny and Dave Grohl that I’ve shared with many, I’ve always had my dad all to myself with my siblings. The love and regard you hold your dad in is clear for anybody who reads this blog. I hope that’s one more thing you don’t mind sharing with so many of us, because to us, he is a hero. In the history of our city and our club, he always will be.

    Sean

  8. Phil Scraton

    Thanks Sean, for taking the time to write such a moving and heartfelt comment. It is really appreciated. You’re right about the knighthood … as I’ve said so many times the only honour I would ever accept is the freedom of our city because that is a people’s honour and one that reflects the unswerving dedication of so many people in the region to revealing the truth. In those darkest moments despite all the mud slung at us it was solidarity with the bereaved families, survivors and all affected that provided the platform on which we could build. Again, thank-you. Phil.

  9. Alan

    A superbly written blog on how it felt for you to be so close to the fabulous work undertaken by your dad over the last 27 years. You are an extraordinary family and as a lifelong Liverpool fan I would just like to pass on my sincere thanks to Phil and his family in everything you have done. We achieved justice in the end.

  10. Andrew Gray

    Lovely words Paul. Your Dad is a truly great man who we have much to thank him for. He is recognised for what he has done for the British People by those that matter. Your proudness of him shines through, and so it should. God bless to the Scraton family – yet another family directly affected by such a needless tragedy and subsequent cover up.

  11. marie poole (@thinnnerredlady)

    a great piece of writing Paul. We as fans owe your Dad so much. Yes I remember sitting watching it all unfold knowing that friends were there. I have had to remember the feeling of hopelessness I felt not knowing whether they made it out alive, sadly some did but some didn’t.
    What your Dad has done has made the whole world aware they we were not the drunken yobs of 27 years ago but in many cases hero’s.

    YNWA

  12. Francesa

    Hi Paul, You have every right to be proud of your Dad, a truly remarkable man. I have followed the Hillsborough story since the beginning. I am not from Liverpool even though I am a Liverpool fan and had been before that dreadful day. I was watching it all unfold on that day, and was screaming at the television because the police were doing nothing !. From the outset you could see the people franticly trying to help each other, and in all the short footages that were shown it was the fans who were doing there best…none of the things that were reported as being done, drunks, pickpocketing and the likes could be seen. . I followed all the stories and even wrote a couple of poems which I posted on RAWK. which has also taught me a lot, and helped me understand it all. I was truly moved and in disbelief of what was being reported. Yes its been a long and heartbreaking journey to get to the TRUTH and I am so glad I have lived to see it happen. without your Dads input and many others it would never of happened.” Fight the good fight ” comes to mind. So as a fan , I would like to say from my heart a big thank you .

  13. theboyler

    That’s a beautiful thing you’ve written Paul.Next time I’m in Berlin, we’ll get those beers we didn’t get to get after you gave me and my friends the wonderful tour of the city. #jft96 (and the 97)

  14. Phil Scraton

    Thanks again for all your kind and supportive posts … I’ve just written a long reply of thanks on the RAWK Hillsborough documentary thread. The showing of the Hillsborough documentary has brought a response the like of which I’ve never experienced. Again, thank-you.

  15. MARY SHIELS

    i to cannot believe it,we personally never lost any one close to us we were lucky six of us went to the match, six of us came back, then a few days the guilt kicked. it is a guilt we have lived with for TWENTY SEVEN YEARS THAT WE SURVIVED.they should show this program-me every ten years IT IS ALL ABOUT the JUSTICE

  16. Chris Wells

    Well written, a special insight into your life and your wonderful Father, who is an absolute star! I think the documentary should be shown to every person in authority, or training to be, as an example of what not to do.

  17. Paul Scraton Post author

    Thanks to everyone who has left comments on this blog… it means a lot to me and I am really happy you have felt motivated to respond! Paul

  18. Paul creamer

    Phil scraton hopefully soon to be sir Phil scraton. Thanks for all you have done. Y.N.W.A.XXXXX

  19. Brendan

    I was 13 at the time of Hillsborough. I’m 40 this year. I don’t remember much detail at the time as I was taken to Australia in 1986 by my parents and technology wasn’t like it is today. So we got bits in the news and never really got the full scale of it at 13 yard of age . Over the years living back in the UK I started to understand more as I got older. You become more and more attached to it as you have more understanding of the whole injustice.

    I just wanted to say that when my father was alive I was immensely proud of him just for the fact he was hard working and he always took care of our family. So I can only imagine how proud Paul you must be of your father to not only be hard working, but to take on such a responsibility of helping all the families to get their justice and reveal the truth to the world. What a man. I’m proud of you Phil Scraton, you are an example of what a human being should be. YNWA.

  20. Janet Hopkins

    Thank you for your beautifully written reflections Paul. As a Liverpool supporter since the 1960’s I have followed the events of Hillsborough very closely over the past 27 years and am immensely grateful for all your Dad has done in the fight for justice. I share your view that you can’t just let injustice happen without doing something to put it right. After reading your article I realise there’s one more accolade your Dad deserves: He knows how to raise wonderful kids. Thank you to the whole Scraton family.

  21. Alice

    Thank you, Paul for your reflections, & thank you to you & your family for the sacrifices you have made in the shadow of the Hillsborough fight. Thank you too to your father for his work; I don’t imagine, given the lies & statement-changing practices of the police, that the resistance to the truth made by the SYP & other establishment interests began & ended in the press & in court rooms. Phil is a brave, principled man & I wish him & the rest of your family well.

  22. Pingback: Hillsborough: exposing the criminals – That's How The Light Gets In

  23. Diane

    No one can possibly comprehend the suffering of the families and those closely involved in this tragedy. The documentary touched many a heart, mine was no exception. I, like most have ‘watched’ from a distance whilst these families and all involved have suffered and waited 27 years for justice, but that has not stopped me from feeling so very proud of all involved. If ever you are in South London Phil……the drinks are on me! Hopefully I will be addressing you as Sir! X

  24. Phil Scraton

    Thanks all, once again … and to Paul for this fine blog. Thanks also for the honorary knighthood!!!! Honours would not be my scene but recently heard that they will be giving me the freedom of the City (Liverpool) and that is brilliant. It is, however, the families and survivors who deserve our acknowledgement and praise in their relentless, painful fight for the truth. A real inspiration and a privilege to know them. Phil.

  25. Chris

    Freedom of the city is richly deserved and unanimously popular, many congratulations. A small gesture of thanks for all your painstaking work.

    Sent from my iPhone

    >

  26. gasdoc2857

    An amazing piece of writing Paul. I read your Dad’s book shortly after it came out and it left me incredibly disturbed as to how the state and the police had conspired against an entire city in the way it did for so long. And even then it took many more years for things to be laid bare in a court of law and the lies and deliberate deceptions publically exposed.
    I too sat in my office in tears as the inquest findings were read out – I cant even begin to imagine how those whose families were involved felt at this final very public vindication.
    Thanks Phil for your painstaking work in making this happen – I’ve sent several people off to buy your book since the documentary – but thoughts as ever with the families, survivors who have had to endure this fight for justice and of course the 96 who just went to watch a game of football and never returned

  27. casnations

    Hi Paul,
    We had your dad and Deena here at home last night and today at our school, where his honesty is still resonating even on a Friday afternoon. I agree with you and I told him: too long, that’s been too long for so many people. He’s the greatest, and we can’t feel honoured enough to have been able to share with him and in a way with all the victims. They’re on their way to you. Hug from Geneva.
    Lola and John

  28. Phil Scraton

    Thanks Lola and John … it was a memorable day and evening. See you next in Belfast! PandD x

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