Norn Iron (part the second)

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!DSCF8125
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. DSCF8128I 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 …

DSCF8150This 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.

DSCF8155This 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.

DSCF8154This 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.

DSCF8151 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: images

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.)DSCF8190DSCF8193DSCF8188 DSCF8186

(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!

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10 responses to “Norn Iron (part the second)

  1. I can’t help but feel a great sense of injustice when I read your story about what has happened, and is till happening, in Northern Ireland.

    • I had that feeling too. But things are so clear in hindsight, aren’t they? Sometimes I think it’s just too bad we can’t project ourselves into the future to see how certain actions will affect future generations.

  2. The Giant’s Causeway is fascinating. I WILL get there one day.

    • It really is fascinating, isn’t it? Those hexagonal rock formations are so unique! The Giant’s Causeway is a UNESCO World Heritage site, so hopefully it will stay the way it is now for many, many years.

  3. Excuse the liberty, Bevchen, but you will love Killarney. I wanted to stay there for the rest of my life. Thank you, meanwhile, dear sister, for the tour of Derry. We didn’t make it up there as time ran out. Bloody Sunday, indeed. We were looking for my ex’s great uncle when we were there. We found that he live on Falls Rd. , or sectarian tumult central a few weeks later. Very poor, rather squalid neighborhood.

    • Definitely working-class these days, but I didn’t find Falls Rd as poor as it must have been 30 years ago. The area is still Catholic and Republican, we were told, and that will probably never change.

  4. I somehow suspect that Ireland will never forget.

  5. Love the photos! Derry would have been on my lust if we’d decided to do Northern Ireland… but we decided to do the Killarney area instead.

    • I was really quite taken with Derry, particularly since I have such a weakness for walking the walls of old cities (up till now, my favourite was York. Canada’s only walled city, Québec City, is right up there too.). And even in such a small country as Ireland, you just can’t do it all, can you? At least you live close enough that you could go back next year for not TOO much money, if you wanted. It’s a little tougher, and much more expensive, for me out here in Vancouver. 😀