Derry? Londonderry? Stroke City? It is amazing how something as simple as a name can cause so much tension. Typically nationalists favor Derry, while unionists favor Londonderry. The compromise has been to call the city Derry~Londonderry, read Derry stroke Londonderry.
The walking tour in Derry~Londonderry was my favorite activity of our Northern Ireland study tour. Not only was our tour guide friendly and outgoing, he was extremely knowledgeable. He made the tour interesting and drew us in with his personal touches. He made us care deeply about the history of Derry~Londonderry. He spoke of many things, such as the Troubles, Bloody Sunday, and the Bogside murals.
The Bogside Artists’ murals draw you in easily. Perhaps it is their size or their location – facing out towards passersby. Though these factors might assist, I believe their subjects draw you in. They are each carefully planned to elicit strong emotions from the viewer and yet abstain from harsh political propaganda.
The earliest of the murals were painted during the Troubles. The artists were put on a hit list of the Ulster Volunteer Force, a loyalist paramilitary group. However, they had the support of the people of the Bogside, so they continued to paint their murals. Tom Kelly, one of the Bogside Artists explained the murals, saying, “We felt we were re-appropriating our story from the British media and telling it for ourselves.”
Perhaps the most evocative of the murals is “Death of Innocence.” In the center is Annette McGavigan, who was killed by a British soldier when she was only 14. She was shot in the head while collecting rubber bullets. The original mural featured a white butterfly and a black rifle to the left of the girl. This mural was unveiled on September 1, 1991. The artists said they would finish the mural by breaking the gun in half and painting the butterfly in color when guns no longer killed children. In 1997, the artists did just that. The impossible had happened, though it had been seemingly unforeseeable.
My favorite of the murals is “Peace Mural,” which is one of the newer murals. It was unveiled on July 30, 2004 by the then mayor. When painted, it was placed so that it was the last thing you see when leaving the Bogside. It was meant to sum up the hope of the peace process and capture the notion that the next generation may have a better future. With its bright colors behind the outline of a beautiful white dove, I believe they achieved exactly what they set out to do.
Foley, Denise. “The Bogside Murals: Derry’s History in Art.” Arts. Irish Philadelphia, 27 Jan. 2011. Web. 11 Feb. 2014.
Melaugh, Martin. “Death Of Innocence.” The Bogside Artists. CAIN Web Service, n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2014.
Melaugh, Martin. “The Peace Mural.” The Bogside Artists. CAIN Web Service, n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2014.
Melaugh, Martin. “The People’s Gallery.” The Bogside Artists. CAIN Web Service, n.d. Web. 11 Feb. 2014.
Murray, Denise. “Final Londonderry Mural Calls for Peace.” BBC News. BBC, 16 Aug. 2004. Web. 11 Feb. 2014.