The Museum of Free Derry is a museum located in Derry, Northern Ireland that focuses on the 1960s civil rights era known as The Troubles and the Free Derry Irish nationalist movement in the early 1970s. Located in the Bogside district, the museum's exhibits include photographs, posters, film footage, letters and personal artefacts.
The main signature project of the Bloody Sunday Trust remains the Museum of Free Derry. The Museum of Free Derry opened in 2007 in order to tell the story of what happened in the city during the period 1968 – 1972, popularly known as ‘Free Derry’, and including the civil rights era, Battle of the Bogside, Internment, Bloody Sunday and Operation Motorman. The story is told from the point of view of those who were most involved in and affected by these events – the Free Derry community, and the Museum is situated in the heart of where these events took place, in a once-derelict housing block in Glenfada Park, in the middle of what was the Bloody Sunday killing zone. Three men were shot and wounded outside this housing block, and two more - William McKinney and Jim Wray - were murdered there. Jim Wray was already lying on the ground, wounded and paralysed by the first burst of fire, when a Para shot him twice in the back at point blank range. Poignantly, he died just in front of his grandparents home. The museum's story is told directly by people whose lives were changed by these events.
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 of Free Derry exists to remember and understand the local history of the city and its contribution to the ground breaking civil rights struggle which erupted in Derry in the mid-1960s and culminated in the massacre on Bloody Sunday. It puts the Free Derry period into a wider Irish and international context so that visitors see the events depicted not just in relation to the communal conflict in the North or the conflict between Britain and Ireland. They are invited to make comparisons with the civil rights movement in the USA as well as other massacres such as Wounded Knee, Sharpeville and Fallujah.
The Museum of Free Derry tells the story of how a largely working class community rose up against the years of oppression it had endured. The museum and archive has become an integral part of Ireland’s radical and civil rights heritage. The museum also tells the story of Bloody Sunday, the day when the British Army committed mass murder on the streets of the Bogside. It tells the story of how the people of Derry, led by the families of the victims, overcame the injustice and wrote a new chapter in the history of civil rights, which has become a source of international inspiration. The museum is a public space where the concept of Free Derry can be explored in both historic and contemporary contexts. Free Derry is about our future together as much as it is about the past. The struggle of Free Derry is part of a wider struggle in Ireland and internationally for freedom and equality for all.
The civil rights movement in Ireland has its deepest roots in Derry. It was here on 5 October 1968 that the issue of civil rights in the north first came to the attention of the world when the police attacked a peaceful demonstration in Duke Street. It was here that the first no go area was declared in January 1969, when the defiant slogan ‘You Are Now Entering Free Derry’ appeared on a gable wall in the Bogside. It was here on 30 January 1972, Bloody Sunday, that 14 unarmed demonstrators were killed and 17 others injured by the British Army in the streets around this building. By boldly taking on the might of the state, an oppressed people were demanding a different world where justice, equality and freedom were the entitlement of all. In this museum and archive rests part of their legacy. Their epitaph is the continuing struggle for democracy. This museum is dedicated to all who have struggled and suffered for civil rights everywhere, and who will do so in the future.
The history of the Bogside has been characterised by the relationship between two communities – one within the walls, safe, secure and powerful; one without, powerless, dispossessed and oppressed. The influx of migrants throughout the 18th century, which increased during and after the great famine of the 1840s, created a Catholic majority in Derry. Since Catholics were forbidden from living within the walls most settled in the Bogside. By the end of the 19th century, Catholics had a clear voting majority in Derry but no corresponding political power. Tensions rose across Ireland during the 1919-21 War of Independence. In the spring and summer of 1920, 40 people were killed in the city in clashes between republicans and an alliance of loyalists and British forces. When the Government of Ireland Act was passed in 1920, and partition became a reality in 1921, nationalist Derry felt abandoned, a very reluctant part of the north.
The area now known as the Bogside was originally underwater. The Foyle flowed round the island of Derry, and was first settled as the river diverted. It dried out into marshland: hence the name Bogside. The first known reference to it by name came in a report from Sir Henry Docwra, the commander of an English force who arrived in Derry in 1600. The first recorded settlers in the Bogside were 61 “British families” listed in a 1622 survey. This survey would have ignored any Irish inhabitants. Literally, they didn’t count. From the beginning, the relationship between the Bogside and the walled city was antagonistic. When the English settlement was attacked and destroyed by Donegal chieftain Cahir O’Doherty in 1608, the attackers came through the bog. During the siege of 1688-89, many of the attacking forces were based in what is now the Bogside, Brandywell and Creggan – the area that was to become Free Derry.
The influx of migrants throughout the 18th century created a significant Catholic population in Derry. Because Catholics were forbidden from living within the walls most settled in the Bogside. The steady growth of the Catholic population was reflected in the construction of the city’s first Catholic church, Long Tower (1784), and St Eugene’s Cathedral (1851). By the 19th century, the Bogside was hugely overcrowded and predominantly Catholic. Small houses and large families were the order of the day. By 1832, Abbey Street, which held 42 houses, was home to 63 families. Fahan Street, with 164 houses, was home to 244 families. A further influx of migrants during the potato famine of the 1840s gave Derry a clear Catholic majority. Sectarian tension flickered throughout the century. In 1869, three people were shot dead during inter-communal trouble. In the same year, the Catholic Workingmen’s Defence Association was set up to protect the Bogside. By the end of the 19th century, Catholics had a clear voting majority in Derry but no political power. The Londonderry Improvement Bill (1895), the first gerrymander of the city, ensured that Catholics could elect only 16 of the 40 members of Londonderry Corporation. Gerrymandering is the deliberate manipulation of electoral boundaries designed to ensure a particular group, especially one that is in a minority, retains political power. The term was created in the early 1800s by combining the name of Elbridge Gerry, Governor of Massachusetts (USA), who created a political ward that was so distorted it looked like a salamander (lizard).
By the beginning of the 20th century Catholic Derry was dominated by parliamentary Irish nationalism. Nationalist leaders and the Catholic clergy resisted any republican presence, even opposing the Gaelic Athletic Association as a ‘republican influence’. Although nine men from Derry were interned after the 1916 Easter Rising, it was not until 1917 that the first Sinn Féin “club” was formed in the city. Sinn Féin won the City of Derry Westminster seat in 1918 after an electoral deal with nationalists. In 1920, this alliance secured a majority in the Corporation election, and nationalist Hugh C O’Doherty became the first Catholic mayor of the city since 1688. The 1922 gerrymander restored unionist minority rule. In response, nationalist councillors boycotted the Corporation for the next ten years. In the spring and summer of 1920, during the War of Independence, 40 people were killed in the city in clashes between republicans and an alliance of loyalists and British forces. When the Government of Ireland Act was passed in 1920 Derry remained a part of the north of Ireland, kept by the Unionist government largely because of the unionist symbolism in the city of the Siege and the Walls.
Unionist leaders ran the north on the basis that to give something to Catholics was to take it away from Protestants. Working-class Protestants were urged to see equality for Catholics as a threat to their position. Catholics were virtually excluded from government jobs while private employers were urged to employ only “loyal men and women.” No effective opposition to the Unionist government was permitted. The Special Powers Act and the police and the Special Constabularies – essentially, militant unionists, armed and in uniform – were all used as sectarian political tools. At one point, there was one police officer for every two Catholic families in the north. Over the 50 years of Stormont rule, successive British governments, which retained ultimate authority over the north, including over Stormont, operated a policy of “out of sight out of mind.”
Derry was the starkest example of anti-Catholic discrimination in the northern state. A third gerrymander in 1936 ensured that the nationalist majority could elect only eight of the 20 members of the Corporation. Nationalist voters were corralled into one of three electoral wards – the overcrowded South, covering the Bogside and Brandywell. A smaller number of unionist voters in the North and Waterside wards could elect twelve. To give someone a house was to give them a local government vote. Preserving the sectarian arithmetic that ensured continued unionist rule was the key factor in who was housed and where. All housing allocation was in the hands of one person – the unionist mayor. When space in the Bogside ran out, construction of Creggan began in 1947, on a high windy hill unsuitable in all respects – except its location within the South Ward. Neither the Catholic Church nor the Nationalist Party offered vigorous opposition: the arrangement kept Catholics clustered around their “own” schools and churches. Between 1945 and 1960, 92 per cent of all houses allocated to Catholics were within the South Ward. Derry also suffered from massive discrimination in employment. Unionist politicians directed industries to unionist areas. The average unemployment rate for the north was 8 per cent. It was much higher in nationalist areas. In Derry it was well over 20 per cent.
Nationalist Derry settled into a resigned political routine that was to last into the 1960s. Almost all non-unionist councillors and MPs came from the Nationalist Party. Fully supported by the Catholic Church, it was said that Nationalists were not so much elected as anointed. Republicanism in the city went underground after partition, confined to small groups of veterans of past struggles. The main, but unsuccessful, challenge to the Nationalist Party came from labour and trade union groups. A visit to the city by Eamonn DeValera in 1951 re-ignited nationalist sentiment. When marchers tried to carry a tricolour inside the walled city on St Patrick’s Day that year, they were battered off the streets by the police. The same happened the following year. Internment without trial was introduced against republicans in the 1940s and again in the 1950s. However, there was very little IRA action in the city, even during the ‘border campaign’ between 1956 and 1962. There was much resentment against the internment of a small number of local men, but no mass protest. Nationalists in Derry, after four decades of oppression, entered the 1960s with no effective leadership.
On the brink of the 1960s, British Premier Harold Macmillan boasted: “We have never had it so good”. But in Derry, people were having it as bad as ever. Only householders could vote in local elections. Business owners had multiple votes. The gerrymandered system still operated. Thus, a city with a 67 per cent nationalist majority was still under unionist rule. This came with a human cost. Over 20 per cent of the South Ward lived in homes officially classified as overcrowded, compared to less than six per cent in the North Ward and eight per cent in the Waterside Ward. One local doctor wrote of 26 people living in two rooms of a condemned house in Walker’s Square. As the Corporation ran out of space to cram more nationalists into the South Ward, they built the high-rise Rossville Flats, extending upwards when they couldn’t build outwards. Mass unemployment remained endemic. Only six advance factories had been built in Derry where unemployment was around 20 per cent. Thirteen were built in Lurgan, where unemployment averaged six per cent, and ten in Bangor with four per cent unemployment. Prospects for the Derry working class were worse than ever. There was some work available for women in the shirt factories. But male unemployment ran close to 30 per cent. The time had come to demand change.
In the 1950s oppressed people around the world began to demand civil rights and change. Increasingly alert to events in the wider world, Derry noted the US, South African and other struggles for justice, and by the mid-1960s small groups in Derry and elsewhere were taking to the streets to demand action on housing, jobs and votes. Some unionist politicians were making promises of change, but opposition from within their own ranks frustrated this and civil rights protests spread. The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) was formed to coordinate actions. In the USA, in 1955, Rosa Parks refused to sit at the back of a bus in Montgomery, Alabama. In 1957, the National Guard had to escort nine black schoolchildren past racist protestors in Little Rock, Arkansas. In March 1960, 60 black anti-apartheid protestors were shot dead in Sharpeville, South Africa. In August 1963, 200,000 civil rights supporters gathered in Washington to hear Martin Luther King proclaim “I have a dream,” and Bob Dylan unveil “Only a pawn in their game,” highlighting the manipulation of the white poor by racist politicians. And in Dungannon in County Tyrone in 1963, housing protestors gathered outside a council meeting carrying placards: “If Our Religion Is Against Us Ship Us To Little Rock.” The demonstration led to the formation of the Campaign for Social Justice, the north’s first civil rights organisation. “We Shall Overcome” became the anthem of the civil rights movement in Ireland.
In 1963 the talk was of a new era and fairness for all. The ‘liberal’ Terence O’Neill replaced traditionalist Lord Brookeborough as the north’s Unionist Prime Minister. De Valera’s successor, the pragmatic Sean Lemass, became the first Taoiseach (Irish prime minister) to visit Stormont. New multinational industries with no vested interest in unionism seemed to herald fair employment, but ‘modernisation’ under Prime Minister O’Neill didn’t reach as far as Derry. In 1962, the Matthew Plan (designed to decentralize Belfast as the urban centre) identified Portadown/Lurgan, not Derry, as a major centre for development in the north: a new city, Craigavon, was also part of the Matthew Plan. One of the city’s last two rail links, the Great Northern line to Dublin, was axed in 1964, in response to the Benson Report. Significantly, the Lockwood Report of 1965 allocated the north’s second university not to the second largest city (Derry) but instead to unionist Coleraine. A protest motorcade to Belfast in 1965, led by professionals and business people, failed to reverse the decision.
The city’s unemployment rate, which had fallen to a post-war low of 10.1 per cent in March 1966, soared back to 20.1 per cent. In 1967, the South Ward’s only major employer, Birmingham Sound Reproducers (BSR), established at Bligh’s Lane in 1951, closed with the loss of 1,000 jobs. The closure prompted the formation by local trade unionists of the Derry Unemployed Action Committee (DUAC). Pickets, rallies and protests were organised. Alarmed by the rising spirit of political radicalism, Derry’s Catholic bishop, Dr. Neil Farren, warned young Catholics in an Easter 1968 pastoral letter, “not to be led by the mob.” The Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association (NICRA) was founded at a public meeting in Belfast in January 1967. A 13-member committee included representatives of the Dungannon-based Committee for Social Justice, the Republican Clubs, the NI Labour Party (NILP), the Ulster Liberal Party, the Communist Party of Ireland and the Irish Congress of Trade Unions. Regarding NICRA as a rival, the Nationalist Party declined to join. NICRA’s formation reflected the wider relevance of the issues already animating Derry activists.
A march was planned for Derry in October 1968. Despite the march being banned by the Unionist government, the protestors went ahead. On 5 October the marchers were confronted by police in Duke Street, and were physically battered off the streets. By chance, a single television cameraman had filmed the incident, and the truth of unionist abuse of power was splashed onto television screens across the world. There was an upsurge in support for the civil rights protests, and a concentrated series of marches in October and November led to a few reforms from the Unionist government. But it was too little and too late. The civic atmosphere in the north of Ireland had changed forever.
In early January 1969, as police attacked the Bogside, the slogan ‘You Are Now Entering Free Derry’ was first written on the gable wall. It was inspired by the sit-in protests in Berkeley University, California. Barricades were erected and the police, for the most part, repelled. Radio Free Derry began to broadcast from the Rossville Street Flats. The concept of Free Derry was born.
The barricades around Free Derry were taken down within a week, but the determination of the people remained. Resistance to reform grew in parallel to a demand for reform. In the February Stormont election, DCAC (Derry Citizens’ Action Committee) vice-chairman John Hume defeated Nationalist Eddie McAteer for Foyle. Civil rights candidates polled well everywhere. Within unionism, anti-reform candidates emerged strengthened. Major James Chichester-Clarke replaced Terence O’Neill as a more hard-line Prime Minister at Stormont. Many towns saw clashes between civil rights protestors and unionists. The police typically intervened on the unionist side. On 19 April, police burst into a William Street home and battered Sammy Devenny (42) and his family and neighbours. In the Brandywell, a policeman drew a gun and fired twice – the first shots of the conflict in the city. The DCAC, committed to constitutional campaigning in pursuit of moderate aims, faded out of existence. Orange marches celebrating the Battle of the Boyne sparked violence on 12 July. At Unity Flats, Belfast, gunshots were exchanged. The British Army was put on standby in Derry. Sammy Devenny died from his injuries on 17 July. His funeral was the biggest the Bogside had ever seen. At the end of July, the Republican Club announced that the Derry Citizens’ Defence Association (DCDA) had been established to replace the DCAC. Its purpose was to “defend the area.” Most groups active in the Bogside acquiesced.
In Belfast, a second police/loyalist attack on Unity Flats on 2 August intensified apprehension in Derry. Bogside residents made preparations to repel any incursion on 12 August, when an annual Apprentice Boys’ procession through the city commemorated the siege of 1688-89. The Apprentice Boys’ procession was seen by Derry unionists as marking a resolute stand by their forebears against despotism and the divine right of kings. It was experienced just as plausibly by Bogsiders as an annual reminder of their oppression. Recent events had helped dispel acceptance of that status. Barricades were erected late at night on 11 August, in anticipation. Petrol bombs, stones and barricade materials were stored close to the entrances to the area. DCDA chairman Sean Keenan told a rally in the GAA’s Celtic Park: “If we have to fight, then let us for God’s sake fight as peace-loving people.” British troops were put on standby to intervene if the police failed to maintain order on the Twelfth.
On 12 August, thousands of Apprentice Boys prepared to march through a Derry seething with anxiety and discontent. As the march passed the Bogside, it was greeted by jeering and stone throwing. The police, backed by loyalists, tried to force the protesters back. Unlike during previous incursions, Bogsiders were ready. Existing barricades were strengthened and new ones erected. Stockpiles of petrol bombs and stones were brought forward. Over three days and two nights of fighting, the Bogside held the barricades. The area had effectively seceded from British rule. On 14 August, the Bogsiders pushed an exhausted police back towards the city centre. At the same time, B Specials could be seen mobilising behind police lines. At 4.00pm on 14 August, as Derry prepared for confrontation between the Bogside and the B Specials, soldiers of the Prince of Wales Regiment were deployed around the area. Their initial guarded welcome would not last for long.
The appearance of British troops in Derry on 14 August was viewed as a victory over the police and unionism. Free Derry celebrated with the Freedom Fleadh, with The Dubliners, Tommy Makem and others performing on makeshift stages in the Bogside. Some warned that the British Army had come to save Stormont, but to most who had been on the barricades, it meant the end of the fighting and a buffer between themselves and the police, B Specials and loyalists. Tea and smiles greeted the first British soldiers in Derry, but within days the British Army were using the hated Special Powers Act to raid Catholic homes. In the absence of a political settlement, they became increasingly associated with unionist rule. Even the reform of the police proposed in the aftermath of Duke Street was now seen as too little too late. Free Derry could not be reconciled with Stormont. For many young people, the army was replacing the police as the armed wing of unionism, and clashes became increasingly common. After William King, a middle-aged Protestant, died following a sectarian clash in the Diamond on 23 September 1969, British Army checkpoints were erected around Free Derry. The British checkpoints were to keep Bogsiders in, the Bogside barricades remained until late October to keep the army and police out.
Disagreement on how to relate to a dramatically changed situation had led to the Republican Movement splitting in December 1969 into the ‘Officials’ (OIRA) and ‘Provisionals’ (PIRA). Both groups were making ready for an armed campaign. By April 1970, when republicans commemorated the Easter Rising, clashes between young people and the British Army had become a daily occurrence. By the end of July 1971, nine people had died in Free Derry, including the first British soldier killed in the city, and the first unarmed civilians shot by the British Army. Support for republicanism among northern Catholics generally was greater than it had been for decades. Recruits were relatively easily found among the ranks of teenage rioters.
In June 1970, three IRA members, members, Thomas McCool (40), Joseph Coyle (40) and Thomas Carlin (55), together with two of McCool’s daughters, Bernadette (9) and Carol (4), were killed in a premature explosion in Creggan. The men had been preparing bombs following the arrest of Bernadette Devlin MP for her involvement in the Battle of the Bogside. Bernadette was to serve four months in prison. There were further outbreaks of serious rioting in October 1970. Around the same period came the first evidence of an IRA campaign, with seven bomb explosions between 15 September and the end of that year in Derry alone.
1971 saw a steady escalation in violence across the north. The first British soldier to die in Derry, William Joliffe, perished in a petrol bombing at Westland Street on 1 March. In July, soldiers killed Seamus Cusack (28) and Desmond Beattie (19). A gulf opened between the British Army and the local community which has never been bridged. On 8 July, Cusack was shot in William Street. For fear of arrest, he wasn’t taken to a local hospital, but he bled to death en route to Letterkenny, 22 miles away in Donegal. He’d been unarmed when shot, but the British Army labelled him a ‘gunman’. Labelling victims of British Army violence as either gunmen or bombers became a pattern in official reporting of events. In the subsequent rioting, Beattie was shot dead in the Bogside. The Army labelled him a bomber. Later forensic tests showed he hadn’t handled explosives. There was intense, sustained rioting in response to Beattie’s death, as well as a siege of the British base at Bligh’s Lane and a number of IRA attacks. When demand for a public inquiry from the newly-formed SDLP was refused, the party withdrew from Stormont in protest. Later, a “people’s inquiry” – chaired by Tony (Lord) Gifford – established the innocence of Cusack and Beattie. On 24 July, Damien Harkin (9) was crushed by a British Army lorry in the Bogside. His death was officially recorded as a traffic accident and Damien is not listed as a victim of the conflict in the north.
As violence spiralled, the British Government, pressed by unionist leaders at Stormont, introduced internment (imprisonment without trial) in August 1971. The measure had been used against republicans in every decade since the foundation of the state. Internment enraged nationalist Derry. Barricades were again erected and Free Derry resurrected. Armed IRA patrols appeared openly. Within hours, six British soldiers were wounded. Across the north, 17 people were killed in the 48 hours following internment, including the first British soldier shot dead in Derry by the IRA. Around 7,000 people fled their homes. Internment united opinion in Free Derry in a way not seen since 1969. Angry protests became an everyday occurrence. A campaign of civil disobedience was undertaken. More than 130 non-unionist councillors withdrew from district councils. A rent and rates strike was launched.
In ‘Operation Demetrius’ (the British Army name for the internment arrest operation) in the early hours of 9 August, soldiers and police men smashed into homes and arrested 342 men across the north. Their intelligence proved faulty. The operation didn’t significantly damage the IRA. Sixteen men were arrested in Derry, not all of them republicans. Rioting erupted across Free Derry, and barricades again surrounded the area. A British soldier was shot dead by the IRA while on sentry duty at the British Army base in Bligh’s Lane, and Hugh Herron (31) was shot dead by a soldier in Henrietta Street.
Anger increased with news that a number of those arrested – “The Hooded Men” – had been tortured. On 18 August came the British Army response to reborn Free Derry. Over 1,300 troops, with helicopters and armoured cars, began dismantling barricades. PIRA Volunteer Eamonn Lafferty (19) was killed in a gun battle during this operation. Barricades were replaced as quickly as they were dismantled. John Hume and two other SDLP leaders were arrested during a protest against the British incursions. Annette McGavigan (14) was shot dead by the British Army on 6 September, the day the SDLP three appeared in court. In early September, the British Army embarked on large scale incursions into Free Derry. Gary Gormley (3) was crushed to death in his pram by an armoured car on 9 September. His death is officially recorded as a traffic accident. On 14 September, William McGreanery (41) was shot dead by British soldiers stationed in the army observation post in Bligh’s Lane. On 6 November, mother-of-six Kathleen Thompson (47) was shot dead by a British soldier as she stood in her own back garden in Rathlin Drive, Creggan. By the end of 1971 seven British soldiers had been killed in Free Derry. One IRA volunteer had been killed in action. British soldiers had killed eight civilians.
On Christmas Day 1971, People’s Democracy and Sinn Fein broke the ban on marches. On 2 January NICRA announced it would follow suit. The ‘illegal’ marches compounded establishment rage. On 22 January hundreds from Derry attended a NICRA march to Magilligan internment camp. Film of British paratroopers assaulting marchers on Magilligan beach further inflamed feeling. NICRA announced a Derry march for 30 January. The unionist government, now led by Brian Faulkner, demanded the British break Free Derry. Two unionist MPs resigned, citing a “softly-softly” approach to no go areas. The British Commander of Land Forces, General Robert Ford, wrote of a possible need to “shoot selected ringleaders” of young Bogsiders. On 27 January the IRA killed two police officers in a Creggan Road ambush. On 28 January a British cabinet committee approved security plans for the Derry march. On 29 January an Army/police statement warned that any violence the next day should be blamed on march organisers. Rioting in William Street ended with teenagers Peter McLaughlin and Peter Robson wounded by army gunfire. The next morning, reports came of paratroopers arriving in Derry.
On 30 January 1972, 15,000 people gathered in Creggan to march against internment. The weather was crisp, bright. Reports circulated of barbed wire across all exits from the Bogside, and of paratroopers behind the barriers. But the mood was set by an impressive turn-out. The intended route was down Southway, through the Brandywell and Bogside, then out from Free Derry into the city centre. Shortly after 3.00pm, the march began. Information that both IRAs had promised to stay away encouraged confidence that the day would remain peaceful. The march included many family groups. Roars of genial derision were directed at soldiers’ positions as the procession passed. At William Street, NICRA stewards directed marchers off the planned route, into Rossville Street and towards Free Derry Wall. Some younger marchers continued along William Street, towards the British Army’s Barrier 14, which blocked access to the city centre. A standard Derry riot ensued, gas, water cannon and rubber bullets versus any missiles to hand. It still seemed a normal day in Free Derry. General Ford observed the unfolding events from behind Barrier 14. At Free Derry Wall, a majority of the marchers waited to hear speakers including Bernadette Devlin MP and Lord Fenner Brockway. Then came the crack-crack of bullets from the William Street direction.
At 3.55pm, away from the riot in William Street, the British Army opened fire. John Johnston (59) and Damian Donaghy (15) were hit. John Johnston died from his injuries five months later in June. At 4.07pm the British moved into Rossville Street, opening fire again with live rounds. Jackie Duddy (17), who had been running alongside local priest Father Edward Daly, was shot in the back and fell dying in the courtyard of the Rossville Flats. Alana Burke (18) was crushed against a wall by an armoured vehicle. Thomas Harkin (32) was hit by the same vehicle. Peggy Deery (31) was shot in the leg in Chamberlain Street. Patrick McDaid (25) was wounded after he helped carry her to safety. Patrick Campbell (51) was wounded as he ran towards the Rossville Flats.
Michael Bradley (22) and Mickey Bridge (25) were wounded as they confronted the British Army after witnessing the shooting of Jackie Duddy. Pius McCarron (30) was injured by flying debris caused by rifle fire, and Patrick Brolly (40) was injured by gunfire as he sheltered in Rossville Flats. Daniel McGowan (38) was wounded as he helped Patrick Campbell to safety. Hugh Gilmour (17) was shot dead as he ran towards his home in the Rossville Flats. Michael Kelly (17), Michael McDaid (20), John Young (17) and William Nash (19) were killed at the rubble barricade in Rossville Street. William’s father Alex (51) was wounded as he went to his son’s aid. Kevin McElhinney (17) was shot dead as he crawled towards the doorway of Rossville Flats.
The shooting continues as paratroopers advance into Glenfada Park, a quiet cul-de-sac in the Bogside. In Glenfada Park: Joseph Friel (22) was wounded; Daniel Gillespie (32) was hit by a bullet on the head and fell unconscious; Michael Quinn (17) was wounded by a bullet in the shoulder that exited through his face; Joseph Mahon (16) was shot in the leg, and feigned death as British soldiers approached; William McKinney (27) was shot in the back and killed as he tried to help the wounded; Patrick O’Donnell (41) was wounded as he threw himself across a woman to protect her from the gunfire; Jim Wray (22) was on the ground, wounded and paralysed by the first burst of fire, when a paratrooper shot him in the back from point blank range. Gerald Donaghey (17) and Gerard McKinney (35) were shot dead in Abbey Park, both killed by the same high-calibre rifle bullet. Patrick Doherty (31) was killed in Joseph Place as he crawled towards safety. Bernard McGuigan (41), ignoring warnings for his own safety, waved a white handkerchief and tried to get to the dying Patrick Doherty. He was shot in the head and died instantly.
The British Army labelled the victims gunmen and bombers. They claimed their soldiers had met a “fusillade of fire”, even though no soldier or vehicle had been hit. They planted nail bombs on one victim, Gerald Donaghey, to reinforce their claims. The British Information Service carried their story around the world in the hours after the shooting ended. Derry people knew it was a lie but had no voice loud enough to be heard. The British government then established a public inquiry under Lord Chief Justice Widgery, the most senior legal figure in the land, whose deliberately biased report stood by the soldier’s version of events. This became the British government’s version, which would not be officially repudiated for another 38 years. Bloody Sunday helped plunge the north of Ireland into decades of conflict. According to the 2010 report of the second inquiry into Bloody Sunday it “increased nationalist resentment and hostility towards the Army and exacerbated the violent conflict of the years that followed … a tragedy for the bereaved and the wounded, and a catastrophe for the people of Northern Ireland.”
The museum has possession of approximately 20,000 individual artefacts. With the reopening of the new Museum of Free Derry in February 2017 most of these items will now be transferred to a specially built archive space, and public access will become much easier. In the longer term a major digitisation project will make this archive fully accessible. It's an exciting time for the Museum of Free Derry, which has long since established itself as a major visitor attraction for those who visit the city. To date circa 150,000 people have visited the Museum. It has been recommended in the Rough Guide to Accessible Britain as the only properly ‘accessible’ site in the city. The new museum is just as accessible as its predecessor, with lift access to its new upper floor. The Museum of Free Derry has become a major resource for schools and colleges from all over Ireland and beyond, and the new premises mean we now have a dedicated learning area for use by educational and other groups. It draws visitors from both the Unionist and Nationalist communities. It is open to anyone who wants to find out more about the history of the city and the civil rights movement. It has been visited by numerous high profile, national and international civil rights and political leaders. Assistance dogs are welcome.
Derry is a thriving, historic city in the north west of Ireland, on the banks of the River Foyle and bordering the hills of Donegal. The Museum of Free Derry is in the heart of the city’s Bogside, and with such great transport links, visitors from all over the world can easily find their way here. Ulsterbus runs regular buses throughout the city and the north of Ireland. The bus terminal in Foyle Street is an 8-10 minute walk from the Museum of Free Derry. For routes and timetables click here. From Derry’s bus station, you will arrive in Foyle Street. To your right, you’ll see the Guildhall and its historic clock-tower – walk towards and through Guildhall Square, going left when you reach Waterloo Place. Walk on towards William Street until you reach the roundabout. Turn left into Rossville Street. The Museum of Free Derry is the first turn to the right off Rossville Street, in Glenfada Park, about 100 yards from the roundabout. There is a regular train service from Belfast to Derry. From Dublin, you need to travel to Belfast and change there for a Derry train. To view details of train services click here. Translink also offer a shuttle bus service between the railway station in the city’s Waterside and Foyle Street bus station. The museum is just a few minutes’ walk from the bus station or 25-30 minutes walk from the train station via the Craigavon Bridge. Public parking is available in nearby William Street car park. City centre car parks are mostly within easy walking distance of the museum.
Location : Museum of Free Derry, Bloody Sunday Trust, 55 Glenfada Park, Derry BT48 9DR
Transport: Derry (NI Rail) then 25 minutes or shuttle bus. Bus Routes : Ulsterbus FY7 and FY8 stop near by
Opening Times: Monday-Friday 09:30 to 16:30; Saturday (April – Sept), 13:00 to 16:00; Sunday (July – Sept), 13:00 to 16:00
Tickets : Adult £4.00; Concessions/Group Adult (10+) £3.00
Tel: 028 7136 0880