His daughters were painting his kitchen, so he thought he’d let them continue in it. And it was his 68th birthday, so having a couple of drinks seemed fine. Jim headed into town from his home castlemilk He met up with his colleagues at Clutha’s Tavern.
Jim’s daughter, Susan Sims, explains, “My dad’s nights at the pub were only Wednesdays and Saturdays, not Fridays.”
She adds wistfully, “That night devastated my father. He talked his friends into going. And people lost that night.”
“He never got over it, the guilt stayed with him. Even though everyone told him he couldn’t know what was going to happen—how could he? How could anyone…?”
I stopped. However, he never got over it.
On November 29, 2013, a police helicopter crashed into the roof of Clutha, killing all three crew members and seven patrons of the pub, and injuring 31 others.
“My dad left the pub minutes before this happened,” says Suzanne, who is making Jim’s story into a short film, produced by Hill Films.
Mr. D: The Clutha Survivor Story has already attracted international attention and won several screenplay awards.
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“I’m so amazed by that,” she admits. “It was actually quite overwhelming.
“I couldn’t believe some of the comments we got online when the news came out. I think people thought I was doing a big disaster movie, or action movie about that night, but of course I don’t — I never will.
“I tried to do it as calmly and sensitively as possible and we had it run by the Clutha Trust to make sure they were happy with what we were doing.”
It was her father who told Susan that she should be the one to tell his story. An accomplished actress, singer and stand-up, she is known locally as a performer, and Jim thought she could write a script for a play or movie based on his memories.
“I said I couldn’t, that I wasn’t nearly qualified to do something like that, but he insisted,” she says. And then, in May 2018, my father sadly passed away. He was 73 years old.
“His stories of that night, those memories he shared with us — stayed with me and I decided I was going to do what he asked me to do and write his story.
“My dad and I were very close. He worked as a guard on the railroad and was famous locally. I miss him so much.
I wrote this script and then other things got in the way – the pandemic, work, life. I worked with Scott at Heel Films on another project together and he suggested we look at my script again, and make the short.
“I never imagined it would get to this point.”
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Heel Films, founded by Scott McMillan, is now hoping to raise funds to help cover production costs and plans to hold a screening night at the Glasgow Film Theater (GFT), with all proceeds going to The Clutha Trust.
“This isn’t about making money,” Susan says firmly, “the proceeds will go to the trust.” “Not many people will ever forget that night in Glasgow, it affected the whole city. But this is a personal story for me. I don’t remember anyone else, and I don’t want to upset anyone.”
“This is not anyone else’s story but my father’s.”
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