Bogside

The Bogside is a Catholic/Republican residential area just outside the walls that became international known during the Troubles. During its early history Derry was actually considered an island, the valley formed by the hill of the walled city and the hill containing Creggan on the other side was originally part of the river Foyle, as the Foyle shifted east it became a stream. By the time the walled city was built it was a marshland that was only passible in a few places. Over the years the marsh dried up and Derry was no longer an Island.

Pre siege there would have been some protestant houses outside of the walls mostly for farming purposes some of these would have been outside Butcher Gate next to the grazing meadow of cowbog which would have made them the first inhabitants of the Bogside. During the attacks of 1641 and the siege these would have been vacated and probably completely destroyed.

Following the Siege when it was known for Catholics to secretly use the area for saying mass when they were banned from doing so. This would have started the mainly Catholic residence of the area that continues till today. In the 18th century poverty across Ireland led to a lot of rural inhabitants flocking to the cities many with the plan to leave the island all together. The cost of emigration was high so many of them set up temporary residence in the area and worked to earn enough to leave, a lot of them would have lived in the Bogside.

Emigration from Derry
Following the introduction of the penal laws and years of conflict, Ireland was sometimes a hostile place for people of different faiths to live. The first to leave Ireland in Large Numbers were Presbyterians, Reverend James McGregor, who fought in the Siege led his congregation to America they arrived in Boston in 1718 and went on to found the town of Derry and Londonderry in New Hampshire. This began the long history of Emigration from Ireland leaving from the city.

Given the large number of people planning to leave and lack of decent employment it meant that many were unable to earn enough to leave. Several rope manufacturers were located in the Bogside at the time but people would have been lucky to earn enough to live making rope let alone earn the travel fees required. This led to a poteen trade starting in the Bogside, despite being illegal and authorities being fully aware of it they were resistant to go into the area and seize them as they were organised by well-armed groups.

The migration to the cities only increased during the 19th century and there was little other choice for Catholics to live anywhere but the Bogside. Poor conditions and overcrowding in the Bogside led to it being severally affected by the cholera epidemic. It was hoped that when the elected corporation started in 1841 that conditions would improve in the Bogside but they didn’t which led to protests which weren’t well received and developed into rioting. This began the conflict between the Protestant inhabitants of the walled city and the Catholic inhabitants of the Bogside that would continue for over 100 years.

During the fight for Irish independence despite what you would expect Irish republicanism wasn’t strong in the Bogside the local clergy were anti violence and well respected by the people, this stopped people from the area joining the republican movement in large numbers. The area was however highly interested in politics and supported the Home Rule movement of the late 18th century.

When for the first time there was a greater number of Catholic Republicans that Protestant Unionists elected to the Londonderry Corporation in 1920. This led to severe rioting and as you would expect a lot of this was focused on the Bogside. It lasted for about 6 months and during a particularly bloody week of bloodshed 20 civilians were killed. Following partition and the boundary commission of 1925 the electoral boundaries of the city were changed and Unionists regained control of the Corporation.

The mass gerrymandering and discrimination in the city led to the beginning of a civil rights movement which was primarily centred in the Bogside by the late 1960s there were considerably more Catholics in the city than Protestants but Protestant Unionists still had control over the local council. Part of this was to due to Catholics being contained to a limited number of wards resulted in a lot of overcrowding and poor conditions.

The civil rights marches were not well received and often banned or came under attack by Protestant Loyalists, this lead to protests and riots against the police. After the police refused to protect a march between Belfast and Derry that was attacked, fighting broke out between supporters of the march and police and that night police broke into the homes of people in the Bogside and assaulted several residents. This started the Free Derry movement were the streets were barricaded to keep the police out.

Museum of Free Derry
The Museum of Free Derry is a museum in the Bogside area of the city that focuses on the civil rights movement in Derry 1968-1972. It doesn’t just cover local events it also covers civil rights movements a massacres in other parts of the world, so that people can make comparisons.
Free Derry Corner
In 1969 during the Free Derry civil rights movement, people of the Bogside declared the area as an autonomous nationalist area, “You are now entering Free Derry” was painted on the wall at the end of a row of houses to show this. It is now a free standing wall in the middle of the Bogside as a monument to the movement.

During the Apprentice Boys march on 12th August 1969 despite knowing that it was going to turn violent was still allowed to pass the Bogside, it started with pennies being thrown from the walls by marchers at residents in the Bogside then a violent clash when it passed the Bogside on William street. Police tried to enter the Bogside but petrol bombs were thrown from the top of Rossville flats injuring 43 of the 59 officers that forcing them to retreat. The battle lasted for 3 days and resulted in the prime minister of Northern Ireland requesting that British troops be deployed in Northern Ireland.

The Troubles in Derry
The Troubles refers to the period of 1969 to 1998 when there was intense violence across Northern Ireland between Catholic Republicans and Protestant Unionists. It is generally considered to have started in Derry with the Battle of the Bogside and didn’t end till the Good Friday Agreement. At least 10,000 bombs were set off and a of total 227 people were killed in Derry and 3,532 across NI.

The Bogside was also the were Bloody Sunday took place when on the 30th January 1972 British paratroopers killed 14 unarmed civilians that were attending a civil rights march. An inquiry afterwards said that all the people killed were armed and attacking security forces. it was considered a whitewash as it took little into consideration other than what they were told from security forces, a later in depth inquiry showed that all the people killed were innocent. The result of this was a massive upsurge of republican activity and the Bogside that largely stayed out of the Republican movement for Irish independence now became one of the main recruitment areas for the IRA.

Bloody Sunday
Bloody Sunday was a massacre on 30th January 1972 in the Bogside when 14 civilians were killed and at least 15 were injured by British Paratroopers during a protest match against interment without trial. Inquires after it cleared the soldiers of wrong doing but were widely considered a whitewash, in 1998 a new enquiry “The Savile Enquiry” was started, after 12 years the report branded the killings "unjustifiable".

The Bogside still remains a largely catholic residential area, it is also a key area visited by tourists popular sights include, the Bogside murals that tell the story of the Troubles in the area and the Free Derry corner which is a popular spot for tourists to stop and take a photo in front of and are part of many tours of the city. The Free Derry Museum is also located in the Bogside and offer an exhibition telling the story of the Bogside and there are several tours specifically focused on the Bogside.

Bogside Murals
The Bogside Murals are a set of 12 large scale murals in the Bogside area, they were painted and maintained by the Bogside Artists®, a group of 3 artists Tom and William Kelly, and Kevin Hasson. The murals represent the people of the Bogside and their history of seeking justice and democratic rights.


More Details: Wikipedia, History of the Bogside , 1920 riots