We meet our last of a line of guide/drivers…this one named Hamilton (call me Hammy) Lowe in the Lobby at Bushmill’s Inn. They are flying the American Flag today, anticipating lots of Yankee golfers, but reminding us that we’re a bit homesick and ready to travel.
But, first, Derry. On the way, we wend our way down the Irish Coast through seaside vacation towns – Portrush (where they will play the Irish Open later in June), Portstewart (where they drive on the beach, called “The Strand”) and on into Derry, which sits on the border of Donegal, of the Irish Republic. Actually Donegal is more northerly than any part of North Ireland…go figure. Derry was renamed by Londonderry by Brits, who came over in the 1600’s to throw the real Irish off their land. (You can see why many of the Irish refuse to call it anything but Derry.) So, the arguments go way back.
They built a wall – those Brits – to protect themselves and we walked it with a local guy, named John McGinty. Over the years, the Brits became a small minority (about 10% now) and by the 1960’s the Irish Catholics dominated all the numbers, but had no rights (reminds you of the Sunni minority ruling Iraq or the whites in the US keeping the blacks in political bondage for so long). So, in the 60’s, when the US civil rights movement was starting to stir hearts around the world, the Catholics started their own demonstrations. There was a “Bloody Sunday” where the British troops (who were brought here by the thousands and garrisoned in the City to keep order) fired on and killed a bunch of Catholic protesters in the Bogside area.That’s the Bogside today, an economically depressed area (the Troubles didn’t much happen in the middle or upper class areas; it needed unemployment and poor housing to fuel the flames). There are lots of murals again, as in Belfast. Our guide, John, treated the history very even-handedly & celebrated the peace and told stories of the bright times of the past 10 to 15 years…and there are many.
One is the Peace Bridge over the River Foyle; opened in 2011 as a walking-only symbol of a coming-together time. You can see it goes across into the former British Army garrison area.So, there’s lots of that same “Reconciliation” here that we saw in Belfast. The hope is what comes through and this miracle of peace for this city, too.
Our guide has decided it’s summer and he’s not going back to long pants. It was really chilly; I’ll attach a photo and you can see Nancy in the crowd with her gray hood…she’s 2nd from the right.It was drizzling part of the time we were “walking the walls”. We are looking forward to some weather in the 80’s. We need to be spoiled again.
We came back for another warm evening of reading and a good meal at Bushmill’s. We may even see the Distillery down the road a mile as we spend Sunday re-packing, heading to Belfast airport hotel and ” Safe Home” on Monday. Safe Home is another of those great ways the Irish have of turning a phrase in English…bless their hearts.