Martin McCrossan & Derry City

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Derry City

Tuesday, May 26th, 2009

Today we visited the city of Derry, which has been inhabited by the Irish people since 546 AD. Derry means the land of the oaks; it’s name remained the same until 1597 when the Queen of England took over. Derry was desirable because of its ports. The London Company received permission from the Queen to inhabit the city and use its accessibility to the water. The Queen had the city’s title changed to Londonderry as a concession to the London Company and in order to make English occupation ubiquitous; however, this change has caused some confusion. Many Irish, for example Catholics (2/3 of Derry’s population) and citizens of the Irish Republic, never adopted the city’s new name, while the Protestants do address the city as Londonderry. As a result, maps and signs are inconsistent. In 2006 there was a courtcase to change the name of Derry from Londonderry back to Derry to eliminate confusion and hostility. Finally, when the jduge had to make a decision, he said that only british monarch had the right to change it back. Most recently, there is less tension between the Protestant and Catholic inhabitants of Derry; however we were shocked to still see a physical divide between the Catholic and Protestant sides of the city.

Pre, during, and post famine, Derry was one of two major ports of emigration. People came from all over Ireland in hopes of finding new opportunities overseas. At the ports in Derry there were delicing centers where each emigrant was medically examined before boarding the ship. The emigrants had to be checked to ensure that they were fit enough to make it through the brutal journey across the Atlantic. Even if people seemed healthy at the start of their journey many died along the way; because of this, these boats were known as “coffin ships.” Most of the ships that left the port at Derry were heading for Canada or Ellis Island.

We also learned that the unequal treatment between the Irish and the English spurred many to leave Ireland. When the English occupation began, the Queen ordered the construction of a wall around the circumference of the city. This wall physically highlighted the divide between the Irish and the British. While King James was leading England he tried to enter Londonderry but the walls were locked and the guards refused to let him in. These guards were known as the Apprentice Boys. Their famous line in response to King James’ assault was “no surrender” because they wanted to show the that they would not submit to a Catholic king. On the 105th day the “boom” was broken and the Siege of Derry ended. Subsequently, King James’ forces were defeated at the Battle of the Boyne. The Jacobite War and Seige of Derry set the stage for the division between the Catholics and Protestants for centuries to come in Ireland.

On January 30, 1972 a peaceful march was scheduled to protest the internment and discriminatory voting regulations, as well as make the case for Catholic civil rights. The government called this march illegal and brought in the British army to “control” the situation. However, instead of overseeing the march, the army opened fire on the peaceful protesters and killed 14 marchers when they fired 108 bullets in 22 minutes. This atrocity is called Bloody Sunday and is considered one of the most devastating events in Irish history. Most devastating is the fact that 6 of the 14 individuals killed were 17 years old. When statements about Bloody Sunday were issued to the general public around the world, the British government made it seem as if the marchers had weapons and were threatening the safety of others. It was only recently that the truth was uncovered about the lives of 14 innocent civilians taken that day.

While walking around Derry today we saw the murals and memorials that commemorate the Irish protestors who lost their lives on Bloody Sunday. The various murals touched upon key people during the movement such as Bernadette Devlin, a female civil rights activist known for her boisterous personality. Another mural was of a young girl asked to pick up some art for a still life painting for school, and instead, she tragically became the subject of a still life painting herself. She was innocently shot in the crossfire with two bullets in the back of her head and died instantly. The mural contains a rifle and a butterfly surrounding the girl. The butterfly used to be black and white and the rifle was whole and black as well. The artists returned recently to change the butterly to orange and purple to represent the hope of a vibrant future and the rifle broken, to show that violence is never the answer. Overall, this mural is a representation of a new life for the people of Northern Ireland and the promise of hope that one day the people will all be accepting of one another.

In 2006 there was a court case to change the name of Derry from Londonderry back to Derry to eliminate confusion and hostility. Finally, when the jduge had to make a decision, he said that only british monarch had the right to change it back. Most recently, there is less tension between the Protestant and Catholic inhabitants of Derry; however we were shocked to still see a physical divide between the Catholic and Protestant sides of the city. Our tour guide, Martin, expressed that the past 4 years have been the most peaceful that he has ever seen in Derry and hopes to see the wall come down so that the Catholics and Protestants can work towards equality. Martin is one of the most pro-active individuals involved in the conflict between the people in Derry. Due to his own personal experience, the tour was extremely interesting and engaging and we feel very privileged to have had the pleasure of meeting him.

Written by Group C – Caroline, Leah, Lindsay, Jeremy, Mike, Dana & Miranda

STAY TUNED – Post(s) to come during trip.

Tuesday, March 31st, 2009

STAY TUNED – Post(s) to come during trip.