Tribute to Cherry Campbell-Police Constable Royal Ulster Constabulary Reserve

During the first week of October 2010 I called at the Waterside home of Norman and Irene Campbell to enquire if they would give me permission to pay a written tribute to their daughter Cherry who was seriously injured whilst investigating a road traffic accident at Maydown in the early hours of 1st of November 1975 and later died of her injuries in the Intensive Care Unit at Altnagelvin Hospital without regaining consciousness at the early age of twenty-four years .

I will now go back in time to 11.55pm on 31st October 1975 when as a Section Sergeant I was detailing Y section as to what their particular duties would be until 8am. Cherry, who had already been on duty from 7pm, informed me if I required her she would be pleased to serve to 4.00am. I was very glad to avail of her services because by her offer I was able to have sufficient crew for a second mobile vehicle. At that time Waterside was rife with sectarian bombing and as well as the setting up of road check points and it being Halloween night. I realised we could get a lot of work completed before Cherry left at 4am. For example the supervision of licencing hours at three registered clubs in our area and to check for drivers who may have been driving under the influence.

At 12 midnight my crew, including Cherry, set off from Waterside Station to begin our nights duty. In the back of the Landrover, in a brown cardboard box which Cherry opened to show a new evening dress, colour blue, which she intended to wear that evening and she had purchased earlier that day.

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We then proceeded to Prehen Golf Club and Gransha Social Club to ascertain that the extensions to their entertainments licence was being adhered to/ As it was too early to visit DuPont Social Club I decided to have a road check point on the Limavady side of the Maydown round about. Whilst operating the check point a damage only accident occurred and Cherry asked if she could investigate. I was overjoyed for her because normally members of the the part-time reserve did not investigate accidents and I was aware that earlier she had submitted a completed file dealing with disorderly behaviour. It was my intention to be of assistance to her in the investigation and I was fully aware of the fact if she investigated one she would be able to investigate others with ease and no supervision whatsoever.

As she was nearing the completion I heard a shout “he’s not going to stop!” from the policeman who was son red torch duty to slow down traffic and to inform them to drive slowly through the accident scene. Roads were not closed in those days. Very soon after that four people, two men and two women were admitted to Ward Six Altnagelvin with serious leg injuries, also Cherry and a man from the Belmont area was admitted to intensive care with life threatening injuries. As the the day unfolded the young man sadly died from his injuries. Cherry fought her injuries but to no avail. She passed away on the 21st of November 1975. She was buried wearing her uniform and disreposing in Altnagelvin Cemetery.

Thirty five years have passed away and every year it was my intention to pay tribute , but I am glad I waited. When I was in her parents home I looked at her picture on the sitting room wall, how attractive and young she looked in her uniform she loved and wore with pride. Lovely eyes and pearl white teeth and no skin wrinkles and all of a sudden I realised here was a man approaching 70-years-old, grey hair, wrinkles and top row of front teeth missing and that Cherry would never age hence the saying: “They will never grow old.”

Cherry it was a pleasure to serve in the Royal Ulster Constabulary with you. I liked people who were willing to work and you proved that on a number of occasions, sadly on one of those you paid the supreme price. Your willingness to tackle police work without benefit for the police depot training showed me your calibre. I pay gratitude to you for joining the Royal Ulster Constabulary at an early age, living in and serving your local community.

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People who are now reading this tribute to Cherry may not have even been born in the 1970’s will soon realise what a truly courageous and lovely young girl this was. And I hope they will agree with me that she was a credit to her mother and father, sister and two brothers, her faith Royal Ulster Constabulary and her country.

I was unable to attend your funeral and now I can be at peace after committing to paper my thoughts about you I hope you will like my conclusion of a few lines from an old song:

“You will know where to find me,

Amongst the good and true

When a robe of white is given

For my faded coat of green.”

John Mullan, Limavady