In previous centuries, walls were breached with battering rams and siege towers. In Derry, in 1972 the Paras Support Company used armored personnel carriers, four ton trucks, and a Ferret Scout car to invade through Barrier 12, while C Company charged through Barrier 14 on foot. (1) Crashing through Barrier 12, four of the Pigs (the British armored personnel carriers) stopped at the Rossville car park. In the next 10 minutes they would fire 108 rounds of live ammunition as well 64 rounds of rubber bullets. In response, eyewitnesses describe a lone Catholic gunman fire off two or three shots from a revolver before retreating. (2)
17 year old Jackie Duddy was beside Father Edward Daly amid a crowd running across the Rossville car park, retreating from the foot charge of Company C. As Daly ran beside Duddy he heard a single a shot from behind them and saw Duddy fall. Willie Barber, another youth, and an unknown compatriot tried to lift the fallen teen and found him bleeding profusely. (3) Daly had taken cover behind a low wall at the end of the park and looked back to see Duddy laying motionless. Grabbing his white handkerchief and waving it in the air, he began to slowly move towards the dying boy. Three more joined him beside Duddy despite a few more gunshots seemingly aimed in their direction. Together they were able to carry Duddy’s body out of the maelstrom, the first to die that fateful day. (4)
Duddy being the first to die seems almost a fitting microcosm to the whole experience of the British experience in Ireland. Dáibhí Ó Cróinín has argued that when the Anglo-Normans first arrived in 1167, Ireland had been on the cusp of coalescing into a unified nation. That progress was violently arrested by the arrival of the English invaders however. (5) Similarly Duddy at 17 was full of promise, an aspiring and talented young boxer, some thought he even had Olympic potential. He neither drank nor smoke, he was only at the parade at the behest of his friends. Yet so too was all of this promise of a bright future cut short by a British incursion.
- Peter Pringle, and Philip Jacobson, Those Are Real Bullets: Bloody Sunday, Derry 1972, New York: Grove Press, 2001, pp. 139.
- Ibid. pps. 143-144.
- Ibid. pp. 147.
- Ibid. pps. 153-155
- Ó Cróinín, Dáibhí. Early Medieval Ireland 400-1200. New York: Longman, 1995.