Saturday, 25 July: Walking Tour of the Derry City Walls and Tour of Murals with the Bogside Artists

Today, we’ll be spending a full day on the history of Derry.  In the morning, we’ll do a walk of the 17th century city walls with commentary by Professor Cope.  This will include discussion of the siege of Derry during the War of the Two Kings, Derry’s experience after partition in the 20th century, and the Troubles.  In the afternoon, we’ll have an opportunity to tour the famous Bogside murals with the artists who created and maintain this important public art.  In the late afternoon, students will have time for exploration of the city, and Professor Cope and Doggett can help point you in the right direction for other sites of historical or cultural interest.

Before the walking tour, please be sure to have read the coursepack on civil rights in Northern Ireland and the selected poems from Seamus Heaney.

The map below plots out the general plan for our walking tour today.
derry walking tour

Links to Sites on the Walking Tour

  1. Tower Hotel
  2. The Diamond and the World War I Memorial
  3. Ferryquay Gate
  4. The Fountain Neighborhood
  5. St Columb’s Cathedral
  6. Bishop’s Gate
  7. The Bogside and the Civil Rights Movement
  8. The Apprentice Boys Museum and the Walker Plinth
  9. Bloody Sunday Memorial Mural
  10. Death of Innocence Mural
  11. Petrol Bomber Mural
  12. Free Derry Corner and the Battle of the Bogside (1969)
  13. Bernadette Devlin Mural
  14. Bloody Sunday Mural
  15. H Block Memorial and the Hunger Strikes
  16. Operation Motorman Mural
  17. The Runner Mural
  18. Bloody Sunday Memorial
  19. Museum of Free Derry
  20. Civil Rights Mural
  21. The Saturday Matinee Mural
  22. John Hume Mural
  23. Hunger Strike Mural
  24. Peace Mural

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5 Replies to “Saturday, 25 July: Walking Tour of the Derry City Walls and Tour of Murals with the Bogside Artists”

  1. Our time in Derry was my favorite yet in terms of gaining perspective on the situation about which we have been learning so much. At the first pub the servers were quite rude to us, and I am not entirely sure but I think one can safely assume it is because we were obviously American. This seemed to be the running trend: we were silly Americans who would, if we bothered to look at the history, make a spectacle of their suffering, or completely ignore it.
    In the next pub I was fortunate enough to speak to multiple locals about their views on both Americans and British people. The security guard in the pub, upon his realization that we were American, immediately assumed we were “dumb Americans” and questioned why we would holiday there. When we told him we were studying there, he proceeded to tell us about the “Irish Holocaust” in which “five million died because of the English scum”. He said that the Irish are great farmers and were forced to export their goods and starve from the potato blight. He then continued to tell me about Irish dance and the traditional arm movement because the “English hated [the Irish] and didn’t want [the Irish] to have any fun”. We told him we were studying there and had, in fact, been largely ignorant of their situation prior to this class, but had learned a lot since then. He seemed to have trouble believing this, though but was still very nice though.
    Another patron was shocked when he heard our American accents and asked if he could sit with us because he was so excited to see Americans. He and his friend however told us to stay away from the other pubs “at that time of night” because as Americans “we would not be welcome there” and could go to one pub safely, or return to the Republic (they both lived in the Republic). The one, however, said that we would probably be alright if we were sure to stress that we were not English when we walked in.
    Their attitudes toward women as a whole was also interesting to see. The bus driver commented on a woman driving an ambulance that drove past us. It was a joke, but I still found it odd that it was noteworthy enough that he thought to make a joke about it. One of the albeit drunk fellows also made a “joke” about a boy backhanding me-a woman- to get me in line. While one could probably hear this from an American man at two in the morning, it does not change the fact that joking about assaulting anyone is not, in fact, a joke.

  2. After reading Belfast Diary, I was really excited to see relics of the contentious political climate of the north, some of which still exists today. I absolutely loved the bogside murals tour and learning more about figures like Bernadette Devlin, particularly from the mouth of someone who has been directly personally affected by the political violence. The murals were remarkably powerful, and I loved the fact that they were all painted to face the walls that symbolize the Protestant population. I would have loved to have had the chance to hear more stories from the tour guide about what it was like to grow up in an atmosphere of perpetual violence and how he thinks that impacts the population as a whole. Overall, our time in Derry was a short but very personal and interesting look at a political issue that I have become pretty invested in learning more about.

  3. I heard a lot about Northern Ireland, but I was excited to get a chance to go. To an outsider it might seem like a casual city to visit. I’m thankful that I have been part of this class and that I was wandering with professors that had been to the city before and were able to point out the minute details like the stained glass windows in houses that make it clear that the inhabitants are more than likely Catholic families. There were fewer tourists here and I liked that, I felt like I was able to watch people just be people and live their daily lives rather than constantly trying to cater to tourists. It was also fun to wander the city on the weekend. Seeing little kids with their parents enjoying a typical day makes the people feel real. You don’t realize that these people live in a city with such an extensive history of conflict. We know that the city has faced a sharp divide based on religion. You can see this in the layout of the city with the city walls protecting the protestant region and looking down upon the catholic slums.

    Being an American, where everyone’s ancestry is mostly mixed, it’s hard to imagine being able to tell the difference between these two groups of Christian descent. When we went into a liquor store though, we met a very interesting man who wanted to visit America. He told us how he didn’t understand the racism in our country and he told us how he thought it was like the protestant vs catholic divide in his country. We commented that it was probably very similar, except that race is very easy to see. He responded that when someone walks into his store he can normally tell their religion just by the look of them and their walk. I thought that was incredibly interesting that he had grown up to become accustomed to such acute differences in people.

  4. So far, I’ve been loving the variety in terms of all the places we visited in Ireland. In light of everything we’ve discussed so far, it’s become apparent to me that there is a big difference in atmosphere when it comes to southern and Northern Ireland. In southern Ireland, the people appear to have settled on milking a common Celtic “essence,” manifesting in the Celtic tourism of the cities we visited as well as their traditional symbols and clothing. After a long time of not really knowing how to define itself, and dealing with a lot of tensions both in and out of the country, southern Ireland seems to have stabilized for the most part in terms of what it wants to represent. It also seems to be a country that is very proud of its history and how far it’s come, indicated by all the statues and plaques in honor of old Irish “heroes” and leading political figures. In Northern Ireland, we only visited Derry, but it was clear that tensions were still very high, and that its bloody history was still tangible for a lot of people. There were plaques about the rich history of the area, but they were mostly defaced; signs reminding us of the peoples’ past oppression and persecution were still up. The Bogside Artists stressed that the area is still working towards some form of peace and closure, but it’s clear that the people are still attempting to cope with the semi-recent traumatic events. Their history was definitely not as much of a source of pride, and that largely colored the atmosphere of the area.

  5. The atmosphere of Derry was unlike anything I have ever experienced before. Upon entering the city, I was struck with the feeling of walking through the wreckage of a place a few days after a great storm swept through it. The Bogside Artists did a beautiful job of memorializing the past conflicts of the area while also calling for a future of peace and reconciliation through their murals. Tom Kelly, one of the three Bogside artists, gave us an incredible tour and great insight into the hardships Derry has endured. After the tour and a quick lunch, I joined the professors on a quick trip over the river to the traditionally Protestant side of Derry. We just happened to have chosen our second day in Derry to take place on the first day of a two-day festival, so all the while we walked around the city, there was food and music and dancing all around the city. So right over the peace bridge the professors and I took to cross the river, there was a graffiti contest and more of the same food and music. However, when we looked around the Protestant neighborhood just beyond the festivities, the atmosphere of the area shifted dramatically. There were British flags everywhere and even the sidewalks were painted red, white, and blue. Along the sides of buildings, there were more murals, but all of these had fallen into disrepair and depicted imperialist propaganda. We saw fewer people present in the streets and even the architecture was different. The neighborhood was unsettling and very obviously still wrought with the tension of a time still raw in the memories of the residents of Derry.

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