Thursday afternoon I took a weekend trip to Derry with two old friends from my Sligo dayz. I was particularly excited about this trip because I have never been to Northern Ireland before, and I have been learning about the Troubles and Bloody Sunday in Derry this past year. So before I delve into the juicy deets of my CrAzY LIT AF weekend in the big walled city, I’m going to give you a few hot facts about Derry so you can understand why I loved this place so much.
Derry, The Fresh Facts:
- Derry is the only completely walled city in Ireland. It was originally settled by some Protestants who built a beautiful medieval walled city. After this wicked city was built, some rascal rabble papists (I’m Catholic so I’m allowed to say these things) settled outside the city walls because no one liked them. Because of this, Derry grew to be a pretty big city, and it now spans way past the old medieval walls.
- Derry is a very culturally diverse (for white people) city. It’s a city mixed with Irish, English, and Scottish heritage, making it a very unique place.
- In the early 1960s, a civil rights movement started in Derry in response to gerrymandering and religious & political discrimination against the Catholic Nationalist community in Derry. Whilst there was a lot of sectarianism on both Catholic Nationalist and Protestant Unionist sides, Derry also had many Nationalist citizens who were part of peaceful change through NICRA.
- This being said, Derry faced years of violence, most notably during The Battle of the Bogside and Bloody Sunday. In 1972 14 unarmed peaceful protestors were shot dead during a civil rights march by British soldiers. Some of the victims included young children. For years the British government denied any wrongdoing in the massacre, but in 2010 an investigation into the actions of the British soldiers found that the paratroopers had used unnecessary violence against the protesters.
One of my favourite moments in Derry was when we walked around the Bogside, a nationalist neighborhood which is known for it’s murals depicting memorials, propaganda, and just beautiful art. Before exploring the neighborhood we went to the Museum of Free Derry (Free Derry is another name for the Bogside). If you go to Derry, you must see this museum. It was jarring to learn in depth about the tragic history of the troubles and civil rights movement in Derry. For me, learning about how rubber bullets had killed around 14 kids in Derry during the troubles was paramount. Rubber bullets and fucking huge, and it’s inhumane to use them against unarmed people. Learning about what the police in Derry used at the time to control riots and protests made me think about how our protests and riots are controlled back home. Tear gas, for instance, has been clinically proven to affect the health of women, impacting pregnancy and fertility. The museum had many artifacts covering protests, riots, and even clothing with bullet holes from Bloody Sunday. However, what affected me the most was watching the video at the end of the museum where the family members of Bloody Sunday victims gave speeches and celebrated after the 2010 conclusions of the Bloody Sunday investigations. These families had not only lost their loved ones, but they had been told for years by the government and society that the deceased had been criminals and their killings were justifiable. Just watching that video of the people of Derry finally having justice and reconciliation decades after the troubles made me realise that I want to be a part of that. I’m not entirely sure what my exact future career may be, but studying the troubles in depth has made me realise the passion I have for Ireland and it’s people. While peace is here in Ireland, the undercurrent of the Troubles is still prevalent, especially in the North and I want to be a part of this peace process and when that is complete I’d like to help others find peace and justice in other places too.
After the museum we walked around the Bogside to view the murals. It was a warm and sunny day, and the residents of the area were sitting outside or taking a stroll. It was almost unbelievable to think that so much violence could have happened in the neighborhood.
We also spent the first day just running around on the walls, walking around graveyards, having a cheeky mid day pint, and learning about the history of Derry at the tower museum. The next day we wandered around the city some more, but I also got my first tattoo! I had been wanting the celtic trinity knot on my arm for years (because I love Ireland and I’m Catholic AF and it just looks badass) and after my friends said they would get tattoos as well, I finally committed. My friend Joy who is a tattoo veteran told me that they hurt really bad, so I was kind of sacred out of my mind, but it actually didn’t hurt at all. I think my arm was partially asleep, as I have bad circulation because I am 90, so that could’ve been part of it. It’s all gross and scabby now but here’s a picture of when it was fresh off the press.
Lastly, Derry was an adventure because we had some crazy weirdos staying in our dorm. I always book a mixed dorm because they are the cheapest, however this means that sometimes there are weird men not wearing pants in them. So there were these three Northern Irish bros who were staying in the hostel on the weekend. However, they all wore suits and had business meetings in the common room because they were on a work trip and wanted to save money. It was kind of weird, because Joy, Dana, and I would be playing cards against humanity loudly in the common room while they were on the couch having a Skype meeting with their boss. At first, having suited men in our dorm was a dream come true, and I’m sure they were all seduced by my jim jam (pj) shirt depicting Old Liz with a stache captioned “God Shave the Queen”. They all probs still talk about how hot but humourous I was to this day. However, the last night all of the suited men got very drunk and decided to run around in their underwear and fall off of their bunk beds at 2am. It was mildly terrifying, but an experience nonetheless.
Overall, it was an awesome weekend, and I think Derry is my favourite place I’ve visited in Ireland so far. It was very different from the Republic. It wasn’t quite British; it wasn’t quite Irish, but a great combination of both cultures.
This week I’m going to spend a few days in Edinburgh and meet in person a long time friend from my FanFiction days!