Explanation of the Bog Side Murals

The one thing that I’ve come to learn about Derry, is that this tiny city has such an amazing, rich history behind it.  The Bogside is a big part of that.  A little history on the Bogside-Bloody Sunday, which is sometimes called the Bogside massacre occurred on January 30th 1972 in the Bogside area of Derry, Northern Ireland. On this day 26 unarmed civil rights protesters and bystanders were shot by soldiers of the British Army.  Thirteen males, seven of whom were teenagers, died immediately or soon after, while the death of another man 4 1/2 months later was attributed to the injuries he received on that day.  Two protesters were also injured when they were run down by army vehicles. Five of those wounded were shot in the back.

The Bogside Murals not only depict this day, but also Derry’s history, its spirit and its people.

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The above mural is referred to as the “Peace” mural which was designed and painted by ‘The Bogside Artists’.  The painting is based on the events of the Hunger Strike.  The first of the two major hunger strikes began on October 27th, 1980 and ended on December 18th 1980 after a period of 53 days.  Raymond McCartney, who is the main subject of the mural, was one of those who took part in the strike. initially seven Republican prisoners in the H-blocks of the Maze Prison volunteered to go on hunger strike. They were followed on 1 December 1980 by 3 women prisoners in Armagh prison. A further 23 Republican prisoners joined the strike on 15 December 1980. The first hunger strike was called off when the prisoners thought that the government had conceded on the issue of political status. The entire episode together with the second hunger strike in 1981 when ten men, including Bobby Sands, lost their lives left an indelible scar on the Bogside psyche. Raymond Mc Cartney’s face is emblazoned on many people’s minds to this day because his photograph smuggled out of ‘the Maze’ seemed to tell the whole story of the grief and suffering of the inmates.

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The above photograph is referred to as the “Civil Rights” Mural.  This picture portrays the beginning of the struggle in Derry for democratic rights. This struggled involved both Catholics and Protestants. On October 5th 1968 Duke Street (where the Mural is located) was covered in bloodshed when the RUC ran amok beating up on protesters with all the hostility and abandon of a group of Stormtroopers.  The event was captured by television crews and sent shock waves throughout the civilized world. These early marches were inspired by the civil disobedience campaigns of Martin Luther King.”

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The above mural is referred to as “The Runner” and is dedicated to Patrick Walsh. The mural depicts a very typical sight from the troubles.  Tear gas was used extensively in riot situations. This image shows a young boy in full flight, seconds after a canister of CS gas has been fired. It compliments the mural of the soldier on the adjoining wall, relating to Operation Motorman, which took place mainly in the Creggan area of the city. Beneath are two small portraits of Manus Deery and Charles Love (who also has a plaque dedicated to him). Both of these youngsters met their deaths during the troubles. The artists intended this mural to be a cautionary reminder to the young of the dangers inherent in civil conflict.

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The Mural above depicts the actual scene from Bloody Sunday which occurred on January 30th 1972.  On this day the British Army opened fire on a Civil Rights demonstration and killed 14 people.  The mural shows a group men, led by a local Catholic priest (later to become Bishop Daly), carrying the body of Jack (Jackie) Duddy from the scene of the shooting. Depicted in the background are the marchers carrying a ‘civil rights’ banner.  The same banner became bloodstained when used to cover the body of one of those killed.

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The above mural depicts some scenes from the ‘Battle of the Bogside’ which took place in August 1969.  The mural depicts Bernadette McAliskey (Devlin at the time) addressing the crowds on the streets of the Bogside.  She later received a prison sentence for taking part in, and inciting, a riot.

The painting uses a number of triangular themes echoing the ‘Free Derry Corner’ gable wall which is a focal point of the painting.  The bin lid in the foreground was used by women and children in Catholic areas throughout Northern Ireland to alert people of an impending raid by the British Army.  The mural was painted in 1996.

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The above mural depicts some scenes from the ‘Battle of the Bogside’ which took place the Bogside area of Derry in August 1969.  The mural shows a young boy in a gas mask – which he used to try to protect himself from the CS gas used by the RUC – holding a petrol bomb.

If you’re visiting Derry or even anywhere in the UK, this is a must see.  Not only do the murals provoke such intense feelings and empathy, the history of actually standing where Bloody Sunday occurred is quite the experience.

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8 thoughts on “Explanation of the Bog Side Murals

  1. I have pictures that I took there in 1995. I did a Belfast/Derry trip when I was studying in Galway. It happened to be during a cease fire that only lasted for a few months….

    but those murals are powerful! The ones in Belfast are also amazing!

    1. I’m actually going to Belfast this weekend! I can’t wait to see the murals there! It’s such a powerful feeling walking through the bog side and seeing all the history! I’d love to see the pictures you took back then!

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