Unfolding History: Exploring Free Derry and its Civil Rights Legacy
The free derry corner has been a symbol of civil rights to the events of Bloody Sunday.
Its been over 50 years since the civil uprising in Derry's Bogside district (Northern Ireland). A teenager, Liam Hillen, painted "You are now entering FREE DERRY" across the housing sidewall on one of the many derelict houses in the Bogside district.
The black lettering on a white wall, as in this photograph, is what remains today. The words "You are now entering free Derry" are inscribed in the monument. The writing is repainted professionally by John Casey. The monument and its saying are now internationally recognized as a symbol of civil rights resistance worldwide.
The Bogside area of Derry, Northern Ireland, is full of history and hardship leading up to 30 January 1972, when British soldiers shot 26 civilians during a protest march against internment without trial.
Bogside area of Derry, Northern Ireland
These photographs are a stark reminder that the events of that fateful day almost 50 years ago are not forgotten. Large murals painted in the Bogside illustrate the Irish's struggles, and the sign on the West Bank attests that the struggle continues regardless of whether you side with the British or the Irish.
Museum of Free Derry
The small city of Derry / Londonderry, Northern Ireland, has a rather interesting museum. The small museum is operated by locals who had family members and friends that tragically lost their lives on Bloody Sunday in 1972. As a result, it has become known as the "The Bloody Sunday Museum."
The Museum of Free Derry opened in 2007, situated in a once-derelict housing block in Glenfada Park, where many of these events took place. The museum focuses on telling what happened in Derry from 1968 – to 1972; the Battle of the Bogside, Internment Bloody Sunday, Operation Motorman, and the civil rights movement. The Museum of Free Derry exists to remember and understand the city's local history and its contribution to the groundbreaking civil rights struggle that erupted in Derry in the mid-1960s and culminated in the massacre on Bloody Sunday. In addition, the museum attempts to tell the story from the point of view of those who were most involved in and affected by these events. The museum curators tell the story that three men were shot and wounded, and two more - William McKinney and Jim Wray, were killed there.
Jim Wray was already lying on the ground, injured and paralyzed by the first burst of fire, when a soldier from the 1st Battalion of the Parachute Regiment shot him twice in the back at point-blank range. Poignantly, he died just in front of his grandparent's home. The museum's story is told directly by people whose lives were changed by these events.
The story continues that on Sunday, 30 January 1972, as an anti-internment march in Derry drew to an end, British paratroopers attacked the marchers, shooting dead 13 unarmed civilians, six of them still legally children, and wounding another 18, one of whom subsequently died.
This marked the end of the civil rights campaign in Northern Ireland. As the Report of the Bloody Sunday Inquiry (widely referred to as the Saville Report) acknowledged, it led directly to a massive upsurge of violence, death, and destruction, which did not come to an end until the signing of the Good Friday Agreement in 1998. The museum's focus is to share the Irish people's history and encourage visitors to see the struggle for human and civil rights as an ongoing contemporary undertaking.
The visit was excellent and well worth the time to explore and learn. I highly recommend a visit to the Museum of Free Derry. The museum facilities were really informative, and the exhibitions were fascinating. I spent hours reading every word and listening to every audio clip of the events that led to the day when so many young, innocent lives were lost. And the video was disturbing. You can watch the Bloody Sunday rare footage on YouTube.
Although this documentary footage is not the video shown in the museum. The video in the museum where these images were taken was actual amateur footage from one of the protesters. Sadly he was shot and later died of his injuries.