When starting a tour of the town of Derry one of the first thing you can see is a winding bridge known as the Peace Bridge. This Bridge represents a long awaited union between the Catholics and the Protestants of Derry, or as Protestants in the north call it Londonderry.
The name Londonderry comes from the merchant companies sent in by the Queen who renamed the city when the walls surrounding the city were built in the early 1600’s. The Irish Catholics were very angry because this land had been known as Derry, “The land of the Oaks” for as long as it had been inhibited. In recent years the city counsel took it to court but the judge made his final decision remarking that only the Queen has the power to change the name back to Derry. The Protestants and the Catholics have fought in Derry for many years. As the tour continues you learn that there was war in Derry long before the “Troubles.”
You see the walls where in 1689, King James of England laid siege to the city of Derry. James wanted to take control of and occupy the city, because he wanted to reclaim his throne, and it was a gem because it was major port city that would provide major trade. James also thought it was the “backdoor” to England. He believed the French were going to use the port of Derry to send their ships just before they invaded England. So in 1689 King James led an army to the walls of Derry and when he found the gates closed and a group of men called the “The Apprentice Boys” screaming “No Surrender” he responded by bombarding the city for 105 days without pause. After the bombardment the “Apprentice Boys” stood true to there word and did not surrender, when all was said and done it was the longest single siege in English military history.
There are many different murals around the city of Derry, each depicting a different story about the “Trouble,” a dark time in the history of Derry. One such mural was of a young man wearing a gasmask and holding a Molotov cocktail, this was a very common scene on the streets of Derry during the “Troubles.” Another mural was of Bernadette Devlin, she was elected into parliament and one day when another elected official bad mouthed Ireland, she punched him in the face and when asked if she regretted it her only regret she said was “not killing him.” She would also go on to organize many marches, and one of the leaders of the infamous “Bloody Sunday March,” which resulted in the deaths of many young lives.
There are many cultural markings around the city other than the Foyle River, which lies underneath the peace bridge. There is also the peace statue slightly up the street from the WWI and WWII memorial. There are four main city gates around the city, which allowed access into the center of town.
The City of Derry has endured a lot throughout history and there are still some tensions between Catholics and Protestants; however they are not as intense as they were during the time of the “Troubles.”