Sunday Life

My Hero" - Dog saved my dad in IRA attack

28 December 2003

David with dad Johnson and another family pet in 1991

AN ULSTER dog lover wants his faithful Alsatian honoured - for saving his dad from an IRA assassin's bullet.

David Hamilton believes his old dog, Rebel, deserves a posthumous medal for sinking his fangs into the gunman, who came to murder his father, Johnson.

Sunday Life is backing David's campaign to have Rebel's bravery recognised.

Said David: "If Rebel hadn't been in the house, when the gunmen forced their way in, my father would certainly have been killed.

"I'll be doing everything in my power to have him recognised with a medal or a bravery award."

AN ANIMAL-loving Ulsterman is spearheading a campaign to have his old dog posthumously honoured - a quarter-of-a-century after it saved his father from an IRA murder gang.

Farmer, David Hamilton, opened his heart to Sunday Life, to talk about his crusade to obtain a bravery award for his old pet, Rebel.

The 49-year-old, from Dromore, Co Down, hopes the Alsatian will be honoured, for its courage and selflessness, when IRA gunmen almost killed his father, Johnson, in November 1979.

Rebel lost an eye, and was shot in the stomach, when it pounced on one of the gunmen, after they forced their way into Mr Hamilton's Finaghy home.

Mr Hamilton, who died in 2000, was blasted in the arm and side, before the dog sunk its teeth into one of the masked gunmen.

The terror gang - who had targeted the lorry driver in a case of mistaken identity - panicked, and shot the dog, before fleeing.

Rebel never fully recovered from his injuries, and died in 1981.

Although the Ulster Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (USPCA) initially said it supported plans to honour Rebel, the dog has never received any recognition for its bravery.

Speaking to Sunday Life, Mr Hamilton said it would be a "great tribute" to his father, if Rebel received a bravery award.

He said: "The award for Rebel was mentioned at the time of the shooting, but, as the years went on, nothing ever came of it.

"This is something I have been thinking about for a long time, and just thought it was a good idea to have the dog honoured now, because it would be a great tribute to my late father.

"I don't know who or what organisation would honour the dog, but I will be doing all I can, in 2004, to have Rebel recognised with a medal, or bravery award."

"Rebel was a great pet, and if it had not been in the house when the gunmen forced their way in, my father would have been killed.

"If a person can receive an award for saving someone's life, I don't see why an animal can't. The incident may have happened a long time ago, but if any pet deserves recognition, it's Rebel."

The farmer's campaign is being backed by Lagan Valley MP, Jeffrey Donaldson.

Said Mr Donaldson: "I very much support Mr Hamilton's bid to have Rebel honoured with a bravery award.

"There are numerous examples of animals playing courageous roles in Northern Ireland, and Rebel deserves this, because he saved a man's life.

"Dogs which worked for the security forces in the fight against terrorism have been honoured in the past, and I don't see why this pet should not be honoured.

"I will do everything I can to assist Mr Hamilton in his campaign."

sbreen@belfast telegraph.co.uk

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