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on 20 September 2002
On Wednesday 13 March 1996, in Dunblane Primary School, sixteen children and their teacher were murdered by a gun-wielding madman. Author Mick North, whose daughter Sophie was one of the victims, analyses the events leading up to the attack. He then examines the social and political effects of the tragedy from his own unique perspective.
Mick begins by providing the background to his own life, from age twenty-seven up to the tragedy. He talks about his marriage to his wife Barbara, the birth of their daughter Sophie, and Barbara's tragic death from cancer. Mick further speaks fondly of his life with Sophie and of their many travels abroad before her untimely death. Intersposed with this are episodes from the life of Thomas Hamilton, and how police ignorance allowed a clearly twisted man to perpetrate mass murder.
The author then provides a sensitive and restrained account of his feelings about the massacre, as well as a rigourous examination of public and political response to it.
North is highly critical of the Central Scotland Police force, in their complacent renewal of Thomas Hamilton's firearms license when it was evident to all but them that the man was unfit to own such weapons. He further criticises their sloppy and inconsiderate treatment of the victims' families in the aftermath of the tragedy, as well as their refusal to be held accountable for those mistakes.
As well as dealing with public sympathy and the Lord Cullen Inquiry, North also charts the campaign against handguns against the wishes of the gun lobby, who sought to prioritise their hobby over the interests of public safety. He also examines the conflicted attitude of the Dunblane community towards the grief of the victim's families, and considers the issue of gun control on a more global.
North's analysis of events is rigourous and thorough. He leaves virtually no stone unturned in his quest for the truth. The incompetence, ignorance and downright arrogance of some of the people he discusses leave the reader bewildered at times, but he is never less than fair.
Running through all this is a strong emotional thread and he talks in a very honest and restrained way about the feelings of both himself and the other bereaved families, who found themselves in a situation they never had any right to expect. He never gushes about his feelings, which makes what he writes all the more touching.
The final words of the book, addressed to his much-missed daugher, are heart-rending.
A brilliant, but very painful read.
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on 7 December 2000
Mick North has opened a window on an event of horror in order that we may reflect, understand and act. He does this in a most personal way through his own experience.
He begins with a truth, intensely personal in the book and yet universal, that life is precious, fragile and a thing of hope. This is an account of his work, of his life with Barbara, and the joy of Sophie's arrival; of Barbara'a sickness and slipping from life; Sophie and Mick together beginning the task of reconstructing their lives; and by March 1996 having reached a mutuality of understanding and support. They were happy together.
Contemporaneous episodes in Thomas Hamilton's life are interspersed through these pages. With dread one reads of his involvement in boy's clubs, of his dealings with police and politicians, of his acquisition of firearms. An awful climax builds.
An incredible compression of experiences on the day of the tragedy and in the weeks and months that followed is detailed. The issues arising from these experiences make up the bulk of the book. As if his loss alone were not enough, Mick North is to discover simultaneously its power to distil weaknesses in public and private spheres. After describing ways in which police mishandled the event he looks at gestures of acccountability made by the police, concluding that there is very little. Other central concerns raised are gun control and the role of public enquiries.
This book is a 'must read', not only for a range of professionals, students and policy makers concerned with the ways disasters are and should be dealt with, but for anyone. Mick North encourages us all to become involved in public and political debates on these issues. In this book he has spelt out warnings and consequences for us to heed.
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on 27 May 2009
This is a book that is as difficult to put down as it is to pick up. At the heart of it, a 5-year old girl who was shot dead, along with 15 of her classmates and teacher, at the start of a school day in 1996. The author is the girl's father, Mick North, and through this book he unravels the circumstances behind this awful event; and details the action taken by the parents of the victims, who, at a time of incalculable grief, campaigned for tighter gun control in memory of their children, and for the good of the wider society.

There was undoubtedly a great deal of support for the parents and the campaign, but it is the reaction of some of those in positions of authority - senior police officers, councillors and politicians, as well as those who have a misplaced importance in their `right to shoot', that will linger long in the memory for the reader, for it is truly shocking. Yet you never feel that Mick is anything but fair in his criticisms - indeed it is a remarkably restrained and dignified approach. Twelve years on from the event (eight years after this book was published), we find there is no shortage of gun enthusiasts - and politicians - wanting to relax the gun regulations so painfully won by those families and their supporters And with the number of shooting atrocities gradually burgeoning in other countries - we can surely be grateful for their achievements. Such is the danger of `sweeping `Dunblane' under the carpet and `moving on' as some, to their shame, would prefer - indeed, we should never forget.

There is plenty here to get angry about, for at times it is an unbearable read. But be reassured. In exposing the shortcomings of the authorities, Mick makes a simple plea for the future - that lessons should be learned; that accuracy, transparency and accountability should be a prerequisite to examining where, as a society, we went wrong, and how, as a society we can make things better. He does us all a favour. And beyond and above that, there is something heartening to be gleaned from this book, for it is a reminder of the precious and special nature of life and its fragility - so touchingly represented here by the portrait of a 5 year old girl - and somehow this shines through the grim tangle of everything else - and will make you feel like getting up and doing something positive for society - because you owe it to her, to Mick, or anyone you care about.
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on 1 February 2016
A truly tragic and emotional read that takes you on a journey of such sorrow. The events of Dunblane should never be forgotten, nor should those whose failed the victim's families. Time and time again politicians and the police force were flawed in how they conducted themselves and the investigation into this tragedy. How many more lessons do we need to learn? Class, greed, corruption and injustice serve those who slave to its master. Well done Mick for such an honest and truthful account that was at times difficult to read, my tears ran unashamedly down, but also had me silently screaming out for justice: banning all weapons of mass destruction. A timeless classic piece of writing that should be read to generations to come, so that hopefully lessons will be learnt and those that tragically lost their little lives that day will never be forgotten.
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on 3 April 2008
I doubt that anyone who is able to remember the 13th of March 1996 could deny that they were knocked flat by the horror that shattered the town of Dunblane that day. In a mere three minutes seventeen families had lost loved ones and seventeen people had sustained serious injuries. The events that day dramatically changed the lives of all those connected to the tragedy in all forms, none more so than the families of those who died. Four years on, one Dunblane parent tells his story.
Academic Dr Mick North lost his daughter Sophie that day, just three years after the untimely death of his wife from cancer. Mick North's story begins with a recollection of the events which led him from England to Central Scotland and finally to Dunblane: his new job at Stirling University, meeting Barbara and the birth of his only child. Their happiness was to be short lived as shortly after Sophie was born, Barbara was diagnosed with cancer, from which she died three years later. As hard as times were for the family, Mick illustrates how Sophie was his light that guided him through the dark days of Barbara's illness and death, a light which too was to be untimely extinguished that day in March.
After Sophie's death Mick's story moves on to role of the Dunblane parents in the anti-gun campaigns. Here again it can be argued that in some form Sophie was to guide her father in his quest to bring tighter gun laws to Britain.
Mick North's story is one of human life following tragedy, yet at a deeper level it is a story of determination that everyone should read to ensure that we 'never forget'
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on 1 June 2008
I read a lot of biographies as people interest me and so do World events. Just bought this book some 12 years after the horror of Dunblane ... of course I remember the event, who could forget such a horrible event which touched the whole world, not just the United Kingdom.

This book is excellent - it must have been painful for Mick North to have written it - he lost his only child in this terrible tragedy. However, he also writes about his life before Dunblane and what brought him to Dunblane in the first place. I was very moved by this book, not just for the events of 13th March 1996 but by the way this book has been written. Mr. North is obviously very passionate about gun control (understandably) and this book is a painful but brilliant read. I loved the way it had been written and would recommend this book to anyone who likes well written, honest writing. The content is obviously painful but also because of the way it's written exceptionally good. Mick North is to be recommended and his message of "Never Forget" is so apt as he will never forget and by my reading this, neither will I. An excellent book.
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on 5 February 2015
Very sad, but very good book, could not put it down.
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on 26 August 2014
Absolutely heartbreaking but informative story. Cannot believe how much suffering the author went through and how strong he was to take on such a task as changing gun laws for us all as well as challenging police procedures at such an awfully desperate time. Thank you! An amazing man! I hope he has some semblance of peace now!
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on 12 March 2016
There's so much in this book that we can all learn from, particularly but not exclusively police and community representatives. Also supporters of the gun lobby. I will always remember the children, their teacher and their families of Dunblane. May those murdered rest in peace and their families find comfort.
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on 23 April 2016
Although many years have elapsed since this book was written it remains thought provoking, informative and utterly heartbreaking. Mick North has an engaging and confronting manner of writing, his opinions are clear but the book is in no way self righteous.
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