Last night I read up on Derry's history, the siege, the unrest, Bloody Sunday. Probably if any town in Ireland encapsulates the chequered history that has led to 21st century Northern Ireland then Derry is it.
Take The Troubles, for example. It is probably reasonable to say it started as a civil rights movement here in Derry. Gerrymandering meant that the overwhelming percentage of Catholics in the city were in the minority when it came to local government representation. A city with high unemployment and poor housing, Catholics, many disenfranchised from the vote, underrepresented anyway and feeling discriminated in the workplace, took their lead from the popular movement led by Martin Luther King in America and organised peaceful demonstrations in the city. Just like in Alabama the local police had a tendency to over-react and once a few demonstrators had felt the weight of a police baton then it didn't take long for extremists to up the ante and page the way for the infamous Battle Of The Bogside. The British intervention with armed forces was initially welcomed, as it be was seen as a more neutral policing but soon strong-arm tactics changed that and the folly (as admitted by many in England) of interment without trial led to daily scuffles, recreational rioting as it be was know, that culminated in Bloody Sunday.
Today The Bogside is awash with reminders
That Starry Plough is an IRA ensign.
Not all murals were reminders of the past, some held hope for today and the future
Whilst others were apposite to today's and possibly the future's potential problems
Mind you should you think that all street art here is political
Of course, I'd spent quite a bit of last night reading up on all this, the siege and all. I needn't have done - this morning we took the excellent Martin McCrossan walking tour. £4 for a 75 minute tour with 74 minutes of commentary (I suspect the guide did actually stop taking occasionally, just to breath). Mainly around part of the walls, packed with history, anecdotes and good humour. Absolutely recommended. I think no-one failed to round up to a fiver when money was collected at the end. Oh, and it ended at a local tea/coffee shop where a complimentary beverage (as our transatlantic friends would say) was included.
Tour completed we went down to the Bogside for those mural pictures and then on to St Columb's (Protestant) cathedral. The oldest post-reformation (1630s) cathedral in Ireland, beautiful stained glass and a small museum of artifacts mainly from the 1689 siege, but a no photograph policy. Mind you they would probably have waived it for us as we mentioned our new found friend, the charity shop lady who stopped for us last night and is also pretty involved with the cathedral.
Just outside the city walls, close to the cathedral is the Fountains estate, a strong Protestant enclave still separated by a peace wall
Mind you, just around the corner the famous Roaring Meg, still defends the city. I'm sure it's a coincidence she's pointed towards the Catholic Bogside
Time has run out, we wanted to visit the Free Derry Museum, The Tower Museum and The Siege Museum with it's Apprentice Boys material but... Maybe next time. Today's title is taken from their cry in closing the gates on the Jacobites back in 1688, yet somehow I get the feeling that it typifies all the Derry community actions.
However we can't leave Derry/Londonderry without one last picture, hands of the communities coming together in. a gesture of peace