Derry, aka Londonderry, is a lovely city. It’s small and extremely walkable. First of all, there are the old stone walls around the – uh – old part, dating from the early 1600s. I have seen city walls before, but I have never seen city walls like these: they were so WIDE and so STRONG and so INTACT!
See what I mean?! That is an actual person (actually, me) walking on the actual Derry walls. Looks like a real street, doesn’t it, complete with curbs and sidewalks and trees, but it’s the top of a wall! Fabulous!
Another great attraction for us was the Tower Museum. It’s built into one corner of the city wall and there really is a medieval tower, though it is reconstructed. Inside the museum, there is an excellent history of Derry, very similar to the way in which Belfast had been presented at the Ulster Museum. We learned even more about how the British organized the plantation of Protestant English and Scottish settlers to Ireland, which forced the native Irish Catholics to less desirable and boggy lands and created much resentment back in the 1600s. And again, there is a great deal of information on the Troubles, this time with the focus on Derry, both historically (the plantation of the 1600s) and more recently (starting in the late 1960s and continuing, more or less, till the 1990s).
And so, on to our favourite part of our visit to Derry: the Bogside Murals Walk. Bogside is the predominantly Catholic neighbourhood (the English Protestants had pushed out the Irish Catholics to less desirable and boggy land way back when, remember? Hence the name “Bogside”, despite the lack of bog there nowadays.), below the old city walls, where the modern Troubles began with Bloody Sunday. I mentioned Bloody Sunday in a previous post, so I’m not going to go into great detail here (you could also look it up yourself, if you were interested), other than to show you a few of the 12 murals painted on the gable ends of buildings along Rossville Street, which is where that infamous march occurred in January 1972. Some of them are all graffiti-ed up now, and some are quite faded, both of which are a shame, because these murals have a very important story to tell. You know, those who forget the past …
This is “Bloody Sunday”, a mural of the iconic photo of a priest waving a bloodied white handkerchief asking for safe passage to get a mortally wounded protester to hospital. We saw this photo quite a few times on our trip, and it never fails to move me.
This is “Bloody Sunday Commemoration”, and it was done in 1997 to observe the 25th anniversary of the tragedy. The faces are those of the 13 unarmed people who were murdered by the British Army that day, plus one other man who died of his injuries a few months later. Apparently, when the Bogside Artists (the three men who painted all the murals) started work on this one, many relatives of the dead came out to watch and to lend them photos so that they could paint better likenesses.
This is called “The Death of Innocence”, and the young girl portrayed is Annette McGavigan. She was only 14 years old in 1971 when she was caught in the crossfire and killed at the corner where this mural now is. She was the 100th person killed in the modern Troubles, and the first child. So sad.
And this is Free Derry Corner, which was where people met to hear speakers during the Troubles. It was the gabled end of a row of houses that no longer stand there, but this wall has been preserved for posterity. Unfortunately (to me, at least), there was a photo of the Israeli-occupied West Bank on the white wall instead of black lettering spelling out “You are now entering Free Derry”. I was quite disappointed, as I’d been very much hoping to see this:
But apparently, this famous wall periodically has different messages upon it, often ones relating to injustice and hopes for peace, so I guess we just hit it at the wrong time for entering Free Derry and the right time for an image of the West Bank.
Then, after our emotional and thought-provoking time in Derry, we took a train ride and then a bus ride up the Antrim Coast to check out the Giant’s Causeway, one of the most incredible natural sights you will ever see, I’m convinced of it. Just look at these photos – if I hadn’t seen it with my own two eyes, I would never have believed that nature, in the form of a volcanic eruption, could make such rocks and such a coastline! (You might want to embiggen the photos to get a real good look.)
(Apologies for our blurred-out faces – hope they don’t detract TOO much from the beauty of the landscape!)
That’s enough for now. Next installment: Dublin!