Dunblane Massacre: Andy Murray's Successes Can't Stop Town Being Defined By Notoriety


In 2013 Andy Murray became the first Briton in 77 years to win the Wimbledon Men's Singles. It was a triumphant end to an epic wait that began in 1936.

Even during such a nation-stirring victory there were no tears from the Scot, who had wept a year earlier after defeat in the 2012 final by Roger Federer.

Murray cries after losing Wimbledon in 2012 (above) and kisses the trophy a year later (below) after his victory

But a year after Murray's greatest tennis milestone, and 18 years after the horror of the massacre at Dunblane Primary School, where Murray and his elder brother Jamie were students, the then 26-year-old was unable to hold back the tears as he was presented the Freedom of Stirling.

As an eight-year-old pupil at the time of the massacre, Murray was heading to the school's gymnasium with his class when they heard the sound of Thomas Hamilton shooting 16 pupils, their teacher and finally himself.

Murray's success might have given the town "a positive focus", but Mike Robbins, the man who presented the emotional Olympic, Wimbledon and US Open Champion with the Freedom in 2014, says the notoriety of the school killing will always be with Dunblane.

"How do you move on? What happened there was always going to be with us and will never go away."

Mike Robbins presents Andy Murray with Freedom of Stirling in April 2014. The tennis champion became emotional during the ceremony

Robbins was chairman of the school board and its spokesman in the days and weeks after the shooting on March 13, 1996, talking to the press about the tragedy.

When he presented it at Murray's former school, Dunblane High, Robbins said: "Here in Dunblane, and, from one Dunblane person to another, I'm delighted."

On accepting the award, a tearful Murray replied: "Everyone knows how proud I am of where I come from, so this is a huge honour.

"Moving away was one of the sacrifices I had to make for my job and every time I come back it's quite emotional. It's been a very emotional today - I wasn't in tears when I won Wimbledon."

Ahead of the 20th anniversary of the massacre on Sunday, Robbins, now Provost of Stirling, tells The Huffington Post UK the moment was a "positive focus" for the town that is, to the rest of the country, still synonymous with the massacre.

"It was wonderful to see a young local lad do so well so early in his career... Every day, every weekend, you still see kids playing on the tennis courts where Andy Murray played."

Robbins, who has lived in Dunblane with his wife since 1987, says the shocking memories of what happened could return easily: "On the first anniversary, most of the people I spoke to felt this sense of felt this sense of shock and disbelief. I can remember, the next day, waking up, looking out the window and saying to me wife 'did that really happen?'

"That shock and disbelief will never, ever go away. It's part of our lives."

He adds that the trailer for the documentary 'Dunblane: Our Story', broadcast on Wednesday, has brought back the memories back very quickly.

The shock "is still there", he says, adding: "You watch these reports coming from America, something similar happening every other month. That's bad enough there but here...

"I saw the trailer of the BBC programme. The police car coming up the road, the scenes outside the school. It's just three to four seconds but it all comes back."

Robbins was thrust into the spotlight after police asked if he could speak for the school board. Three broadcast journalists helped him get to grips with how to satisfy the huge level of media interest.

His media work included appearing before cameras when the school's gymnasium was demolished the month after the shooting. He told reporters it would remove the "focal point" of the killing and allow teachers to "move forward, to think ahead".

Mike Robbins speaks to journalists as the school's gymnasium is demolished

Robbins, a Catholic, refers to the stained glass windows at the town's Holy Family Church, which are themed around the triumph of good over evil and were unveiled in 1998 as a monument to what happened, as a metaphor for the healing process and the gradual, personal journey each person makes.

He says: "They go from darkness into light. Everyone has their own journey to make. It's debatable whether you ever move on. It's a terrible thing."

Robbins stepped back from his media role in the years after the tragedy. He notes that speaking to HuffPost UK ahead of the 20th anniversary was the first time he had discussed it with journalists for a decade.

When asked how the town would mark the anniversary, Robbins says it would be low key, returning to his theme of individuals moving on in their own way, saying large public demonstrations would not work for everyone.

"There will one or two people I will meet up with... It will be very quiet," he says.

He says changes to Dunblane influenced how the tragedy has affected it. The town has grown from just under 8,000 people to around 9,000 now and, as a commuter town for Glasgow and Edinburgh, many come and stay only for a "few years".

But the new arrivals are all aware of what happened: "Even people who arrive from outside have that sense of what happened... but 99% treat it with dignity and respect."

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