Monday, October 20, 2014

Walking Around the Derry City Wall

We got up early on our first full day in Derry so we could maximize the beautiful day. From our hostel window high up on the hill, we got a great view of the River Foyle and the city below.

Derry from the Hills
Derry from the Hills

Our first target was the old Derry city wall. Derry is known around Ireland for its recent contentious history and its 17th-century wall. Almost all of the original wall is still standing and intact, and the local authorities have thankfully opened the top of the wall for a scenic walk around the old fort city.

A few (unmanned) British guard towers still stand along the wall as a reminder of the very recent problems with violence and terrorism in the city. We saw more evidence of that later in the day...

Guard Tower Derry, Northern Ireland
Guard Tower

Old cannons (and replicas) still line the battlements of the wall. Some are (somewhat ominously) pointed out at the town below. Take that, King James II

A cannon on the Derry City Wall, Northern Ireland
Here's Lookin' at You!

Derry City Wall Exterior, Northern Ireland
City Wall Exterior

From the top of the wall, we could see most of the largely-Catholic Bogside neighborhood. The poorer Catholic population of Derry was long ago forced out of the high and dry ground and pushed into the low-lying, soggy, boggy Bogside. From the wall, the dip of the earth is clearly visible.

We could also just make out some of the Republican political murals, which we would revisit later in the day.

Bogside Neighborhood
Bogside Neighborhood

But not everyone on this side of the Foyle is Republican, and we were reminded (here in Derry more than any other city) who was on which side with flags, graffiti (including murals), and walls. Connected to the old city wall was a much newer, higher wall. This protects a small Unionist neighborhood from the marauding Catholics in the wilds of this Bogside area. Ironically and sadly, it is called the Peace Wall. It must keep peace, but the message isn't very friendly...

It's extremely sad and frustrating- to an outsider like me- that people refuse to live together in peace here, and the high fences make it clear that real, lasting peace is still a long way off.

Peace Wall Derry Northern Ireland
Peace Wall (?)

Iron Maiden's Eddie Hoover, Symbol of Britain's Military Might in Derry, Northern Ireland
Iron Maiden's Eddie Hoover, Symbol of Britain's Military Might

Londonderry West Bank Loyalists Still Under Siege No Surrender
Loyalist Message

...But at least some people are trying to push the peace process along. Not all the murals and artwork are sectarian or violent in nature. This beautiful mosaic depicting the Peace Bridge, a robin, and an oak tree (the symbol of Derry, from the Irish word for oak tree, Doire) is made of pictures of faces tinted different colors. 

Peace Mural Derry, Northern Ireland
Peace Mural

A sculpture around the corner depicts two colorless, sexless humanoids back to back. Passers-by can look through the eyeholes of one and see out the eyeholes of the other. This symbolizes the hope that two disagreeing sides can see the world as the other sees it, through the other's eyes.

Peace Sculpture Derry, Northern Ireland
Peace Sculpture

We ended our morning at the Guildhall, Derry's most iconic city building. From Guildhall Square, U.S. President Bill Clinton gave a rousing pro-peace speech. He even refused to say the name of the city (Derry or Londonderry?) to make sure no one was offended.

The Guildhall Derry, Northern Ireland
The Guildhall

Today, it houses the City Council chambers and a so-so (but free) museum.

Much more from Derry next Monday!


  1. Loved this post! It actually got me to reading more about the troubles and Ireland island (both countries) histories. Something I should do more often as the months draw closer.

  2. There is a lot to consider- and the fallout of The Troubles, IRA, and other organizations continues in Irish politics today.


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