This is the unique story of Fermanagh’s own miracle man.

It is the story of a young boy who grew up in a house with no running water and no electricity in Churchill, near Derrygonnelly, who rose to become a Chief Inspector in the PSNI.

That in itself would be pretty exceptional, but Roy Robinson has cheated death on at least six different occasions – recovered from aggressive cancer three times, and is a man of outstanding physical, mental and moral courage.

Roy has a forensic photographic memory as he unspools a few chapters of a hectic life where being a member of the RUC in The Troubles was a traumatic experience in itself.

He has seen plenty of horror and tragedy in his 63 years, including a serious incident in Belleek where he was in grave danger in the 1980s.

But he speaks with searing eloquence of the terrible effects of the Enniskillen and Omagh bombs, and he was right at the heart of the latter.

Roy speaks movingly of his involvement with the McLaughlin and Doherty families from Buncrana, and he is the policeman in the iconic photo of Omagh shortly after the bomb exploded.

He was also the sergeant in charge of the complex compensation claims of the families of the dead and the injured.

Roy also speaks of the search for missing Monaghan man Ciaran McAree, which ended in tragedy, and how he became close to the family.

But in person, he is warm, engaging, balanced and is grateful for his remarkable life.

When asked where he got the strength to overcome the many obstacles in his rich and varied career, he says it is his God.

For this man who was born in the Baptist faith firmly believes that God has seen him through life’s many vicissitudes.

Roy is a man of immense faith; an emotional man who has great empathy for others, and someone who has been working for various charities since he retired from the force in 2021.

He was given an MBE in 2011 for his outstanding work for charity and for his great work as a true community officer who had respect from all sides.

Roy was born in 1960 in Wheathill, Churchill, on a property belonging to a Geoffrey Rodgers, who was a farmer and a Justice of the Peace.

“He was always very generous to us and at times he would have handed the rent back and divided it between us as children.”

His recall of the details of that early Fermanagh childhood is astounding.

Roy and his family lived in a two-room wee cottage with a pantry at the back with a wood burning stove.

His father was Wesley Robinson, who worked in the forestry at Lough Navar, and his mother was Ruth, who was a Weir from Killycat in Boho.

Roy is the eldest of four, with Eric, Albert and Iris his siblings.

He walked to school in Churchill and went later to Derrygonnelly. He remembers characters like Wille Parke, who had a store and was also a well-known historian, as well as Sonny McGovern and ‘Old Pal’, who owned the Bond Store, [and] remembers blacksmiths like Doherty and Flaherty shoeing horses in those golden summers of the 1960s.

The Creamery and Knockmore butter were in Derrygonnelly, and Roy worked for a number of farmers, and it was a well-integrated community.

Roy went to the High School, and he remembers Toni Johnson, an art teacher, and he played rugby.

Thus began a series of narrow escapes in his storied life.

The Rodgers family took him down to Rossnowlagh when he was only six, and he was paddling a bit further out than he should have been in the sea.

He ended up underwater, but he was pulled and plucked out of the sea.

One evening later, when he was 14, he took out a canoe on the lake near the High School with his full school uniform on.

He paddled out to the middle of the lake – but the canoe overturned, and he could not swim.

“I thought I was going to drown but I managed to push myself out of it, and I was paddling like a dog, and the uniform and the shoes were heavy, and I grabbed the back of the canoe.

“The canoe was holding the air, and I kicked for the shore and got ashore, and that was a miracle and God was with me.”

Roy was an adventurous young man, always climbing trees, and he was no age when he took his father’s gun out of the wardrobe and was shooting rabbits.

But he had another near-miss in water when he and his friend, Davy Elliott, went out on Bunahome Lough, not far from his home.

Roy and Davy got a pole and went out on a flat-bottomed boat, and “you might as well have gone out on a bath” and they had their wellies.

“We went out quite a distance, and the wind got up, and if it had tumbled over, we would never have come up, as we had our wellies on.”

Meanwhile, the High School had a speedboat, and Roy learned to ski at the back of the Shopping Centre, and he went down to the Home Bay at Tully.

“I was waterskiing, and I had a tiny life belt, and I fell off the skis, and I was slapping and doggy paddling and going up and down in the water, and all of a sudden Gary Mitten and his wife came over and they pulled me into the boat, and that finished me and the waterskiing.”

Roy did not learn to swim until he was in his 20s. He finished school at 17, and his first job was in Basil Stewart’s Furniture Store on the Sligo Road.

When he was 18, he joined the RUC in 1978 as a part-timer in the Reserve.

“They were tough times, but I had an uncle who had served with the Irish Fusiliers in the Second World War, and he only passed away in November, and he was Bobby Robinson.

“He did 27 years, and my father did three years with the Enniskillen Fusiliers.”

But in a different and more sinister incident, he recalls an early encounter with the regular police in 1979.

“I was working the shop and a police officer whom I knew came to the back door in November of that year, and said there was a car across the road in the car park, and asked if I noticed anybody parking it?

“So, I went out and it was a red Ford Escort, and I gripped it by the spouting part, up at the roof, and I shook it from side to side to see if there was a bomb in it.

“I bounced the boot up and down, and told her that it was far too high on the springs, and, ‘There definitely is no bomb in that car’.

“So, three quarters of an hour later, she came back and said. ‘The man who works in the bank, Mr. Watson, has a car the same colour and the same make, and we believe it is suspicious’, so the area was sealed off.

“The Army Technical Officer (ATO) came and he put a booster device on the boot to blow it open, and he was reeling out the command wire, and he got to Whaley Terrace.

“Suddenly 150 to 200lbs of explosives went off, and it blew the car to smithereens. There was virtually nothing left, and it broke over 200 windows in Windmill Heights.

“It took the roof off the back of Stewarts shop, and it destroyed down as far as the laundry, and the ATO was blown down the road on his mouth and nose.

“He was lucky, as he had only a few scratches, and I think the timer had just gone, and I was thinking that I could have been blown up.

“It was by the grace of God that I was saved.”

Roy joined full-time Reserve in 1981, and was in Kinawley, which was “volatile”.

He was then sent to the District Mobile Support Unit (DMSU) in St. Angelo and it came under rocket attack, as did Enniskillen Station, which had 18 rockets fired at it, and it “was a miracle nobody was killed”.

Roy explained: “They were fired from the back of the Brook. Enniskillen was tense, and it was a very difficult time, and there was a 1,000lb bomb near Derrylin, and a number of Marines were blown over the hedge but survived.

“It was dangerous, but I was young, and there was loads of adrenaline and adventure, and it was a whole lot of emotions.

“There were lots of incidents where a number of people were killed along the Border, and quite often we ended up at some harrowing scenes, and the gunmen went back across the Border.

“There were colleagues I had pulled tug-of-war with who were killed near Fivemiletown – Drew Beacom and Ernie Smith, who were shot just over 30 years ago.

“There was a shooting at Ballygawley, where a man called George Gilliland, whom I pulled tug-of-war against, was shot.

“I also pulled against Cecil and Jimmy Graham, who were from Lisnaskea, and who were in the UDR, and their other brother, Ronnie, were all killed, and it was a very sad, traumatic time.”

Meanwhile, he also served in Lisnaskea, and was a full time Reserve officer.

Reflecting on those terrible years, he said: “It was all madness, [especially] when you realise the brevity of life, and a lifetime is not a long time.”

In March, 1991, Roy became a full-time officer but he had a tough battle to overcome first when he was initially diagnosed with cancer in 1985 when he was 25 – testicular cancer.

“I had a lump for the guts of two years, and I did not look about it. I went to a doctor after an unrelated injury, and he said I needed an operation to remove the lump.

“I went to Enniskillen, and it was removed, and it was malignant, and I was sent to Belvoir Park. I was lying beside one man who was from the Falls Road, and the other man was from Crossmaglen.

“Malachy Brennan was from Cross, and we became friendly.

"At the end of a week, they said they thought they had got all of the cancer. Us men are bad at talking about that type of cancer.”

On a happier note, he met his wife, Nuala, who came to visit him, who was a student, and they married in 1988.

The second bout of cancer was in 1986, when a scan showed a tumour on Roy’s lung.

“I was sent to Belvoir Park again, and was on a drip, and getting five gallons a week of a drug.

“I was very tired, and it was malignant, and I had six months’ chemo. The first person who had survived this type of cancer was Bob Champion, who went on to win the Grand National in 1981 on ‘Aldaniti’.

“The drug that was used to cure me had side effects, in that I lost my hair. It also damages your kidneys and your heart.

“I have chronic kidney disease, a non-alcohol fatty liver, and I had a heart attack in 2018.

“But I survived, and still they kept turning me down for the regular police, as I would need to be cancer-free for two years.”

His third bout of cancer came just six weeks after he got married in 1988.

“This was very stressful on my wife, and I wanted to have a family, and the evening I got the news she cried, and we prayed about it, and it was lung cancer again.

“It was well developed, and I spent seven months in Belvoir Park Hospital.”

This was a most gruelling time, but he met many inspirational people.

Roy was in a ward with only four people, and in the morning, somebody would pass away, and be wheeled out.

“There was death and life all around me. And I used to think, ‘They are killing each other outside that window, and here we are all different religions, fighting in here to live – to live a few more days, weeks or years. And those eejits are out there killing each other – what kind of a mad world is it?’

“I thought, if they could only come in here and see terminally ill people to make them think again.”

He added: “I put my trust in God, my Saviour, and said I was ready to die – but that I wanted to live another while.”

Roy went down from 15 and a half to ten stone, and the medical team were very worried about him.

“There was so many people praying for me that I thought, ‘If I die, I will only let them all down’.

“There were people from every walk of life and community praying for me, and I had never known the closeness of God before or after it.

“The hospital people put me in a room on my own, and they were monitoring my heart every 15 minutes, and I still have a tumour, but it is lying dormant.

“So, a doctor told me that I might never take cancer again, but I might take a heart attack, and that is what happened in 2018.”

In 1991, Roy was made full-time in the RUC, and when his consultant advised him against it, he said: ‘“I have waited all this time to be a police officer, and it is my dying wish to be one’, and the surgeon said if I was putting it like that, he had no option but to give me the written go-ahead.”

Roy has a great many memories from this time to look back on. For example, once he was in a Wessex Helicopter down at Lackey Bridge, near Roslea, where a road was being filled in.

“There were three boys arrested, and we took them to the helicopter. While it was rising and taking off, one of the men tried to jump out, as he leapt out of the seat.

“He ran at the door and he hit me a rugby tackle. I was just above the door, and it was a miracle that both us were not killed, and I managed to push him back as we were about the height of an ash tree above the ground.”

Roy was promoted to Sergeant in 1995, and his first boy was born in 1993, and the second in 1995.

But nearer home, and some years previously, he recalls the tragedy of the Remembrance Day Bomb in Enniskillen, when 11 people were killed, and 50 injured in a no-warning bomb.

“I was heading to church in Enniskillen and I heard there was a bomb, but I did not think all that much of it, as I figured the area had been cleared.

“But then we heard that people had been killed when we came out of the church. I had worked with one of the victims – Samuel Gault, who was Station Sergeant in St. Angelo.

“I can still see all the rubble, and we were at O’Doherty’s butchers, which is quite close to the Cenotaph.

“It was taped off, and all the bodies were removed to the hospital.

“I knew Gordon Wilson, who had a clothes shop in the town, and I knew Ted Armstrong and Johnny Megaw, who was well-known around the town.

“I was working as a Reserve member and securing the town. The Enniskillen bomb had such an effect on the lives of so many people.

“It was just devastating, and psychologically it affected so many people for so many years. The Enniskillen Bomb has left a chilling legacy.”

He was moved to Omagh, which was a lively town, and a lot of things were going on in it.

But Roy will never forget August 15, 1998 – the day when 29 people were killed in the terrible Omagh Bomb.

“I was on duty and coming into the town, and I heard the radio going, appealing to people to go to the hospital.

“This was around 3.30pm and I went in through Lisanelly Army Base, but the military were not letting anyone out.

“A friend of mine had a police car, so we headed down to the station and we went to the scene, and I met my Inspector coming up, and he was the colour of a ghost, after seeing the aftermath.

“He kept saying. ‘Oh My God, there has been an awful explosion, and there are an awful lot of people injured and killed’.

“We took him back to the station, and when I went back, it was utter devastation.

“The dead bodies had been moved into a shop, and the injured were taken to the hospital.

“The civilians were just unbelievable – people used cars, jeeps and vans to ferry the wounded to the hospital.

“There was debris everywhere, and I am the policeman standing at the white tape in the most-used photograph of the tragedy, and I was the Sergeant at the scene.

“The undertakers then took the bodies to Lisanelly Army Barracks for a temporary mortuary.”

Roy saw many of the injured, and he was in charge of the Family Centre the next day in the Omagh Leisure Centre, where the names of the injured were written up on the wall.

“I was there from 8am to midnight. I took a statement off the late Laurence Rushe, who lost his wife, Libby.

“The Spanish children and the Donegal children who had died had been identified overnight, and there were 19 bodies still to be identified, and 30 people who had loved ones missing, and they did not know if they were in the mortuary or the hospital.

“There was a notice on the wall when it was found out what hospital they were in.

“Some people were so relieved that their loved ones were in a hospital, and they could rule out that they were in the mortuary.”

He continued: “There were around 12 officers, and I met a number of the families, and they would go with a police officer and a social worker in the Transit van from Lisanelly up to the Leisure Centre.

“You never had to ask them when they came back if it was their loved one they had seen, because they were absolutely distraught, and beyond consolation.

“Later that night, the last four people could not be identified, and we sent a Scenes of Crime officer and a fingerprint expert to go the houses, and I spoke to the last four families.

“One of them was pleading, ‘Let me see my dad – I will know him by his hands’.

“I went to a lot of funerals, and that was a week of total and utter sadness.”

Before the centre closed, the families of Oran Doherty (8), and Sean McLaughlin (12), who had died, turned up with the mothers after the fathers had identified them during the night.

“Their local priest was with them, but my superior officer said the mortuary in Lisanelly was closed.

“I ordered a Transit from the station, and went with the families to the mortuary, and they were closing the gates.

“My superior officer said he had told me not to bring them, but I said they were very distressed, and wanted to see their wee boys.

“He relented and they got in to see them. I saw the wee boys, and I am still haunted by it.

“I shed tears with them, I prayed with them, and they hugged me, and we took them back to the centre.”

In another role, Roy ended up dealing with the mountain of compensation claims arising out of the carnage, with a team of six initially.

“There were 1,300 claims, and I ended up going to the families in Donegal, returning the property the child had on them, and to explain the compensation claim system.

“As soon as I went to the door, the families recognised me, and made me welcome.

“I and another police officer were also invited back to the Lake of Shadows Hotel for a meal at a later date, and they are lovely families, and that was a very emotional time.

“I still think about those wee Donegal boys, as I had a wee boy of my own at home, and I met the Barker family as well, who lost James, who was just 12.

“The people got compensated – but no compensation would ever pay you for losing a loved one, and not even a million pounds would do it.

“They had their whole lives in front of them, and they were cruelly snatched away.”

Roy still has flashbacks from some of the horror he has witnessed, but this man of great faith has made an immense contribution to his native county, and far beyond, and his undimmed courage and character is a great example to all.