Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Easter Break-Final Day

The City of Derry/Londonderry

Before making our way home we stopped off at another impressive ring fort. This one was called Grianan Aileach. It sat right outside of the city of Derry and came with an impressive view. The fort was made sometime in the Iron Age around the time of Christ and was a royal stronghold to the O'Neil clan. The dry-stone walls are 12 feet thick and 18 feet tall. We loved this fort because you could run/walk along the upper walls.
The interior sanctuary was 80 feet in diameter.
The great walled city of Derry was the next stop. Derry or Londonderry has a tumultuous history. The city is geographically located in the Republic of Ireland but when Ireland was being divided up the North kept the city for economic reasons. Thus this city has seen many conflicts throughout it's life. The walls around the city were built in 1613 and are almost 20 feet high and form a mile long loop. In 1688 a group of apprentice boys slammed the city gates shut in the face of the approaching Catholic forces of King James II. The Protestant defenders were kept inside through months of negotiations which was followed by a 105 day siege. 20,000 refugees and defenders died within the city walls. In 1689 the siege was broken by supply ships breaking through a boom and the new King William of Orange arrived in Ireland and defeated James at the Battle of the Boyne. This is just one of the many battles fought in this city. We took the mile long walk along the top of these walls.
Looking over the top of these walls we saw the murals of the Bogside. This is the gut retching historical site of so much sectarian violence. In the '60s the Catholics were fighting for their civil rights, better housing, fair voting rights, and to end employment discrimination. The British Army was called in to keep the peace.
This is the H block memorial to the Hunger Strikers. The Hunger Strikers died while in prison refusing to be treated like criminals, refused to wear the prison uniforms or eat in hopes to be treated as legitimate political prisoners.
The Bloody Sunday memorial. In 1972, a group protested and marched around the Bogside neighborhood. They were fired upon by members of a British regiment, who claimed that snipers had fired on them first. The result were 14 civilian deaths and tensions mounted.
Two brothers and a friend started painting the murals along the Bogside neighborhood in 1994.
There was a powerful sense of sorrow felt in my gut as I walked, read, and looked through these paintings and memorials.
The British army withdrew it's forces from Londonderry in 2007 and there is now a feeling of cautious optimism as the city continues to learn from it's history and recover from the pain of so many losses.

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