the Beautiful city of Derry

The problem with blogging is that as soon as you haven’t touched it for weeks, everyone thinks you’ve done a runner.

Also when I haven’t done some serious writing for a few weeks I struggle to string a few words together to form a sentence…..

but,

let’s try…

End of 2004 we went for a holiday to the north of Ireland.  Amongst other interesting places we also visited Londonderry or Derry where we walked the old city walls (built between 1613 and 1618).  Derry is the second largest city in Northern Ireland and the fourth largest in the whole of Ireland.

End of 2012 we took another trip to Derry.  And again, we went for a walk on the old city walls – a fabulous way to see many sights including some of the beautiful churches, the four original gates and also some of the murals.

Back then (in 2004) there was still a British Army presence on the walls, it was tense although the peace process had by then be signed and everyone promised to be good….  Still there were some stations on the walls cordoned off by high wire gates and all sort of ugly looking contraptions.  This time around there were no soldiers, no army presence.  Here and there still left-over splodges of paint that couldn’t be washed off anymore.  But otherwise only a beautiful city relaxing in its knowledge that the old city walls will tell its tale and spin its magic on people.

There are a few places on the walls telling the history of the City of Derry including some memories about the Siege of Derry and the recent Troubles.

Reading these lyrics by Phil Coulter, written when he grew up in the town, really struck me:

The town I loved so well 

But when I returned, how my eyes have burned

To see how a town could be brought to it’s knees

By the armoured cars and the bombed-out bars

And the gas that hangs on to every breeze

Now the army’s installed by that old gas yard wall

And the damned barbed wire gets higher and higher

With the tanks and their guns,

Oh my God, what have they done

To the town I loved so well

It breaks your heart to read this and although this is hopefully something of the past, it is good to remember the hardships.  The murals also tells the story.

These murals – almost 2000 have been documented in Northern Ireland since the 1970’s – have become symbols of Northern Ireland depicting the region’s past and present political and religious divisions.

From the walls you can actually see some of the murals. One famous mural called ‘Bernadette – Battle of the Bogside’ depicts some scenes from this named battle that took place in August 1969.  This riot which sparked widespread violence elsewhere in Northern Ireland, is commonly seen as one of the first major confrontations in the conflict – the Troubles.  Bernadette is addressing the crowds on the streets of the Bogside.  She later received a prison sentence for taking part in, and inciting, a riot.

DSCN3857

The painting uses a number of triangular themes echoing the ‘Free Derry Corner’ gable wall which is a focal point of the painting. The bin lid in the foreground was used by women and children in Catholic areas throughout Northern Ireland to alert people of an impending raid by the British Army. The mural was painted in 1996.

Although most of the murals reflect events of the past, one mural looks to the future with the idealist image of a Dove.

A year or so ago the Peace Bridge was also built across the river Foyle and just in that action people can now easily reach both parts of Derry where in the past the river acted as a dividing line. Now both Catholics and Protestants live on both sides of the river.  This according to one of the locals also had to do with house prices, it being more affordable on the one side was a good enough reason for people to go and live on the other side, despite differences.

Maybe it is also time that heals and people have moved on.

The recent clashes between loyalists and police in the capital of Northern Ireland, Belfast, is definitely not a good beginning for 2013, but lets hope Northern Ireland can hang on to the peace it has enjoyed over the past 15 years.

Slán

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