: views from the Hill

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Derry, Ireland (a wee bit of trip report)

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Hands Across The Divide statue (by Maurice Harron) located in the middle of a roundabout west of Craigavon Bridge in Derry.

I shot the photograph through the window of a vehicle wheeling through the roundabout. There are much better ones to be found on the Web. The statue is supposed to portray a Catholic and a Protestant tentatively reaching out to each other in peace.

We had a few hours touring around Derry after our transport set us down close to the walls. John McNulty, the guy walking us about, covered Derry history far past (Siege of Derry, 1688) and new past (the Troubles and Bloody Sunday, 1972).

McNulty had been in Derry in 1972 -- although not in Bogside on that Sunday -- and had a lot to say about Bloody Sunday and the Troubles. He also told us that after much work and testimony, the results from the Saville Bloody Sunday Inquiry are due out some time soon-ish. Maybe early next year.

At great cost, I might add. According to Shaun Woodward, Secretary of State, Northern Ireland Office, "The cash spend on the Bloody Sunday inquiry was £178.264 million at the end of April 2007." with more costs sure to be added as the report gets written. Yikes.

We took a walk along the walls of Derry, spent time inside the Apprentice Boys of Derry museum,

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toured the murals by the Bogside artists

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and the Bloody Sunday memorial

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and visited the Guildhall before coming back to our hotel for a slightly drizzly picnic lunch on the grounds.

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Later on in the afternoon, John Hume joined us and gave a free-wheeling talk about life, the peace process and the universe. He wrapped up his talk by telling us what a fantastic president Hillary would be and asking us to always call Derry "Derry" not "Londonderry."

Then Hume sang the song he claims should be the American Irish anthem, Danny Boy. He claims the song is a lament of an Irish mother to her emigrant son. Oh, but his is a lovely voice and he sang the song with heart. No dry eyes here as the song ended.

After the talk, he retreated to the Beech Hill sitting room/bar and his nibs and I order up some Smithwicks and spent an hour or so with him and other fellow travelers, chatting in too comfy chairs, helping him kill time before he and his wife, Pat, joined the gang for dinner at the hotel. Man, has that guy seen a lot of history.

Derry was an interesting place. We spent three nights at Beech Hill, but only a day in Derry. (The other full day we had was filled with an absolutely glorious walk along the Giants' Causeway and the headlands.)

I'm glad we saw the bits of Derry we did. Glad to have heard Hume talk on the subject. Derry isn't a place I'd return to again and again but I'm glad we stopped there for the time we did. What we experienced brought the history of the place a bit closer to heart.

The history of that region is a sad one. Here's to the future envisioned in Hands Across The Divide. Here's to reconciliation.

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