Three Rivers of Ireland: History and Culture

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During the Irish War of Independence, the area was rocked by sectarian violence, partly prompted by the guerilla war raging between the Irish Republican Army and British forces, but also influenced by economic and social pressures.

In 1921, following the Anglo-Irish Treaty and the partition of Ireland, Derry unexpectedly became a border city, separated from much of its traditional economic hinterland in County Donegal.

By mid-1920 there was severe sectarian rioting in the city. Many lives were lost and in addition many Catholics and Protestants were expelled from their homes during this communal unrest. After a week's violence, a truce was negotiated by local politicians on both unionist and republican sides.

World War II

During the Second World War the city played an important part in the Battle of the Atlantic. Ships from the Royal Navy, the Royal Canadian Navy, and other Allied navies were stationed in the city. The United States military established a base in Derry. Derry was the United Kingdom's westernmost port, and the city was the westernmost Allied port in Europe. Derry, therefore, was a crucial jumping-off point, together with Glasgow and Liverpool, for the shipping convoys that ran between Europe and North America. The large numbers of military personnel in Derry substantially altered the character of the city, bringing in some outside color

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World War II Surrendered German U-Boats

to the local area, as well as some cosmopolitan and economic buoyancy during these years. At the conclusion of the Second World War, eventually some 60 U-boats of the German Kriegsmarine ended in the city's harbor at Lisahally after their surrender.

Springtime Camp

Springtown Camp, now known as Springtown Industrial Estate, was formally a United States navy base during the Second World War. Springtown Camp was America's first base on the European side of the Atlantic.

Springtime Camp huts, vacated by the United States after the war was over, were promptly squatted into by a number of families who at that time had been living with their parents in extremely cramped conditions.
It wasn't long before there were approximately three hundred families living in Springtown. The Unionist dominated Derry Corporation council, rather than carry out mass evictions, eventually gave every family a rent book and informed residents that this would be a short stay tenancy, i.e. six months duration, after which they would be rehoused. This short stay tenancy developed into a 20-year period of depravation and misery for many of the families.
There were 304 huts - about 90% corrugated tin and 10% wooden. At first each hut could best be described as a large empty space with neither toilet nor heating facilities. After much pressure the Corporation carried out a renovation scheme turning most into 3-bedrooms, a small living room which had a range, a minute scullery with a "jaw box" (sink) and a tiny toilet. There were no back doors in any of the huts, creating obvious dangers if fire was to catch hold at any time.
The 304 huts were occupied by close to 400 families. The reason for such overcrowding was due to the fact that young couples, after being married had nowhere else to go. It was considered "normal" practice for their parents to give them a room, if such a "luxury" could be offered. The sons or daughters were now registered as "sub-tenants" and so it was not uncommon to find as many as 16 persons per hut
A battle ensued between the Derry Corporation and the Rural Council as to who was responsible for the maintenance of the huts even though the Derry Corporation collected the rents for the huts of the people of Springtown. While they battled it out the huts quickly deteriorated into dreadful condition.
Official neglect was a scandal that was not ignored by some local journalists. They reported the fact that little or no repairs were carried out and so these totally inadequate dwellings fell into a state of disrepair. It was noted that rain penetrated as the tin rusted and holes began to appear near ground level. This combination made for intense cold and damp to a life-threatening degree. Tuberculosis was common.
The people of Springtown Camp endured great hardship in living conditions that were arguably the worst in the country, but through it all they fashioned a very strong sense of community and pride – the common bond, their meager circumstances.
As the 1950’s drew to a close there were still around 200 families living in 161 huts. As usual the Corporation was building very few houses for the homeless couples and families right across the city. It was common for Protestant families with one or two children to be given priority in housing over Catholics who were living 10-12 people per hut. A committee was formed in the Sixties to agitate for houses. As a direct result of the mounting protests more families were re-housed out of the Camp, but even more emigrated. However, as late as 1964 there were still over 150 families living there in conditions that were much worse than previously thought.
Eventually, in October 1967, one year before Derry's first official civil rights march, the last residents, Charlie and Sarah Lynch closed the front door of their hut, thus ending the tragic and appalling saga of Springtown Camp.
The personal stories of some of the survivors of the Springtown camp can be read at


Catholics were discriminated against under Unionist government in Northern Ireland, both politically and economically. In the late 1960’s the city became the flashpoint of disputes about institutional gerrymandering.

A civil rights demonstration in 1968 led by the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association was banned by the Government and blocked using force by the Royal Ulster Constabulary. The events that followed the August 1969 Apprentice Boys parade resulted in the Battle of the Bogside, when Catholic rioters fought the police, leading to widespread civil disorder in Northern Ireland and is often dated as the starting point of the Troubles.

On Sunday January 30, 1972, 13 unarmed civilians were gunned down by British paratroopers during a civil rights march in the Bogside area. Another 13 were wounded and one further man later died of his wounds. This event came to be known as Bloody Sunday.

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Photograph of the Trouble

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Murals by the Bogside Artists: Depiction of Bloody Sunday and a memorial to those killed

For over 35 years, the British Government and the military stonewalled all investigations and covered up the truth of the events of Bloody Sunday. After British Prime Minister John Major rejected requests for a public inquiry into the killings, his successor, Tony Blair, decided to start one. A commission of inquiry, chaired by Lord Saville, was established in January 1998 to re-examine 'Bloody Sunday'. Although the hearings were concluded in November 2004, the report was not published until June 2010.

The report concluded, "The firing by soldiers on Bloody Sunday caused the deaths of 13 people and injury to a similar number, none of whom was posing a threat of causing death or serious injury." Saville stated that British paratroopers "lost control", fatally shooting fleeing civilians and those who tried to aid the civilians who had been shot by the British soldiers. The report stated that British soldiers had concocted lies in their attempt to hide their acts, and that the civilians had not been warned by the British soldiers that they intended to shoot. The report states, contrary to the previously established belief that no stones and no petrol bombs were thrown by civilians before British soldiers shot at them, and that the civilians were not posing any threat.

The 1981 Irish hunger strike was the culmination of a five-year protest during The Troubles by Irish republican prisoners in Northern Ireland. The protest began as the blanket protest in 1976, when the British government withdrew Special Category Status for convicted paramilitary prisoners. This meant that the prisoners were no longer treated as political prisoners, but as common criminals. In 1978, after a number of attacks on prisoners leaving their cells to "slop out", the dispute escalated into the dirty protest, where prisoners refused to leave their cells to wash. In 1980, seven prisoners participated in the first hunger strike, which ended after 53 day.

The next hunger strike took place in 1981 and was a showdown between the prisoners and the Prime Minister, Margaret Thatcher. One hunger striker, Bobby Sands, was elected as a Member of Parliament during the strike, prompting media interest from around the world. The strike was called off after ten prisoners had starved themselves to death—including Sands, whose funeral was attended by 100,000 people. The strike radicalized nationalist politics, and was the driving force that enabled Sinn Féin to become a mainstream political party.

Bobby Sands Funeral Radicalization of Catholics

Violence eventually eased towards the end of the Troubles in the late 1980’s and early 1990’s. In 1998, the Anglo-Irish Accords, better known as the “Good Friday Agreement,” were signed and Northern Ireland has experienced a fragile peace since then.


The geography of Derry is characterized by its distinctively hilly topography. The River Foyle forms a deep valley as it flows through the city, making Derry a place of very steep streets and sudden, startling views. The original walled city of Londonderry lies on a hill on the west bank of the River Foyle. In the past, the river had branched and enclosed this wooded hill as an island; over the centuries, however, the western branch of the river dried up and became a low-lying and boggy district that is now called the Bogside.

Today, modern Derry extends considerably north and west of the city walls and east of the river. The half of the city on the west of the Foyle is known as the Cityside and the area east is called the Waterside. The Cityside and Waterside are connected by the Craigavon Bridge and Foyle Bridge, and by a walking bridge that will be completed and opened in 2011. The district also extends into rural areas to the southeast of the city.


The Derry City Council area had a population of 107,300 as of June 2006. Approximately 80% of people in Derry are from a Roman Catholic background and 20% are from a Protestant background.

The city was one of the few in Ireland to experience an increase in population during the Irish Potato Famine as migrants came to it from other, more heavily affected areas.

Concerns have been raised over the increasingly divided nature of the city. It is estimated that during the course of the Troubles, as many as 15,000 Protestants moved away from the city side. Fewer than 500 Protestants now live on the west bank of the River Foyle, compared to 18,000 in 1969, and it is feared that the city could become permanently divided.


The economy of the district was based significantly on the textile industry until relatively recently. For many years women were often the sole wage earners working in the shirt factories while the men, in comparison, had high levels of unemployment. This led to significant male emigration. The history of shirt making in the city dates back as far as 1831 and is said to have been started by William Scott and his family who first exported shirts to Glasgow. Within 50 years, shirt making in the city was the most prolific in the UK with garments being exported all over the world. It was known so well that the city and industry received a mention in Das Kapital by Karl Marx.

The industry reached its peak in the 1920’s employing around 18,000 people. In modern times however the textile industry declined due to, in most part, cheaper Asian wages.

A long-term foreign employer in the area is Du Pont, which has been based at Maydown since 1958, its first European production facility.

Significant multinational employers in the region include Firstsource of India, DuPont, INVISTA, Stream International, Seagate Technology, Perfecseal, NTL, Raytheon and Northbrook Technology of the United States, Arntz Belting and Invision Software of Germany, and Homeloan Management of the UK. Major local business employers include Desmonds, Northern Ireland's largest privately-owned company, manufacturing and sourcing garments, E&I Engineering, St. Brendan's Irish Cream Liqueur and McCambridge Duffy, one of the largest insolvency practices in the UK.


One of the most important landmarks in Derry is the City Wall. In the three centuries since their construction, the wall has been adapted to meet the needs of a changing city. The best example of this adaptation is the insertion of three additional gates into the walls in the course of the 19th century. Today, the fortification forms a continuous promenade around the city center, complete with cannon, avenues of mature trees and views across Derry.

Within the wall is St Columb's Cathedral. The Cathedral was the first post-Reformation Cathedral built for an Anglican church and is the mother church of the Church of Ireland Diocese of Derry and Raphoe. It is dedicated to Saint Columba, the Ulster monk who established a Christian settlement in the area before being exiled from Ireland and introducing Christianity to Scotland and northern England.

Also within the wall is St. Augustine’s Church. This church supposedly sits close to the site of the original monastic settlement and is an Anglican Church.

The city is also home to the world's oldest independent department store. Austins, is located in a five-story Edwardian building with a copper dome. Established in 1830, Austins predates

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Austins in Derry

Jenners of Edinburgh by 5 years, Harrods of London by 15 years and Macy's of New York by 25 years.

The Tower Museum is located within the City’s historic walls and has won four major awards since its opening in October 1992. The Tower Museum houses two permanent exhibitions.
1. "The Story of Derry" tells the colourful and dramatic history of the city from earliest prehistory to the present. 2. "An Armada Shipwreck - La Trinidad Valencera" tells the story of one of the largest ships in the Spanish Armada, La Trinidad Valencera, which sank off the Donegal Coast in 1588 and was rediscovered by divers from the City of Derry Sub-Aqua Club in 1971. The top of the Tower Museum (level 5) provides the only open air viewing facility in the heart of the city center with stunning panoramic views of the inner city and River Foyle.

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The Roman Catholic St Eugene's Cathedral, outside of the wall in the Bogside was built in the 19th-century.

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St. Eugene’s Cathedral

The red-brick late-Victorian Guildhall, also crowned by a copper dome, stands just beyond Shipquay Gate and close to the river front. The Guildhall is a building in which the elected members of Derry City Council meet. It was built in 1890. The Guildhall houses a large hall where many events of social and political nature have been held. It was the home to the Derry Feis – an event which celebrates Irish culture, and it was also home to the Saville Inquiry into the events of Bloody Sunday January 30, 1972 in Derry.

Guildhall in Derry

The Long Tower is a Catholic church outside of the wall, also near the location of the original church at the original monastery.

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Long Tower Church

The Bogside Murals are a series of outdoor murals, painted on the sides of buildings, called the People's Gallery, located in the Bogside neighborhood of Derry. The world famous murals depicts the events surrounding sectarian violence and civil rights protests in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. The Bogside Artists are a trio of painters consisting of Tom Kelly, his brother William Kelly, and Kevin Hasson. The Bogside Artists first began working together in 1993 to document the events surrounding the Northern Ireland Troubles. With supplies donated from local residents, they painted several murals on the walls of Rossville Street buildings commemorating the Battle of Bogside and Bloody Sunday. From 1994 to 2008, they painted a total of twelve murals, which they named the People's Gallery. The People's Gallery spans the entire length of Rossville Street. It was in this area on January 30, 1972 that 13 civilians were killed by British Army paratroopers in the Bloody Sunday disturbances (an additional civilian died later). The murals were officially inaugurated in August 2007 and an additional mural dedicated to Nobel Peace Prize Laureate and retired leader of the Social Democratic and Labour Party, John Hume, was completed in 2008.

The Free Derry Corner is a square in the Bogside neighborhood which lies in the intersection of the Lecky Road, Rossville Street and Fahan Street. On the Free Derry Corner is a memorial to the 1981 hunger strikers and several murals. There is also a memorial to those who died engaging in paramilitary activity as part of the Provisional IRA's Derry brigade.

In January 1969 a local activist, John "Caker" Casey, painted a sign on a gable wall stating: "You are now entering Free Derry". When the British Home Secretary, Jim Callaghan, visited Derry in August 1969, the "Free Derry" wall was painted white and the "You are now entering Free Derry" sign was professionally re-painted in black lettering. The houses on Lecky road and Fahan Street were subsequently demolished, but the wall was retained. It has been repainted at frequent intervals.

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Free Derry Corner

The square became known as Free Derry Corner by the inhabitants, while the media called it "the area". The square is located on the edge of the Bogside and, together with the surrounding streets were the scene of Bloody Sunday and the Battle of the Bogside. Because of the square's position the front lines when street fighting broke out was here.


Derry is home to the Magee Campus of the University of Ulster, which was formerly Magee College. However the Lockwood decision in the 1960’s to place Northern Ireland's second University in Coleraine rather than in Derry, despite the fact that Magee College (formerly part of Trinity College Dublin) was already 100 years old, was a major catalyst in the formation of the civil rights movement which ultimately led to The Troubles. In the mid 1980's a half-hearted attempt was made at rectifying this mistake by forming Magee College as a campus of the University of Ulster but this has failed to stifle calls for the establishment of an independent University in Derry that can grow to its full potential. The campus has never thrived and currently only has 3,500 students out of a total University of Ulster student population of 27,000. Ironically, although Coleraine is blamed by many in the City for 'stealing the University', it has only 5,000 students, the remaining 19,000 being based in Belfast.

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Magee University, University of Ulster

The North West Regional College is also based in the city. In recent years it has grown to almost 30,000 students.


The Giant's Causeway is an area of about 40,000 interlocking basalt columns, the result of an ancient volcanic eruption. It is located in County Antrim on the northeast coast of Northern Ireland, about three miles northeast of the town of Bushmills. It was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1986, and a National Nature Reserve in 1987 by the Department of the Environment for Northern Ireland.

The tops of the columns form stepping stones that lead from the cliff foot and disappear under the sea. Most of the columns are hexagonal, although there are also some with four, five, seven and eight sides. The tallest are about 39 ft. high, and the solidified lava in the cliffs is 91 feet thick in places.

Some 50 to 60 million years ago, Antrim was subject to intense volcanic activity, when highly fluid molten basalt intruded through chalk beds to form an extensive lava plateau. As the lava cooled rapidly, contraction occurred, and the columns fractured. The size of the columns is primarily determined by the speed at which lava from a volcanic eruption cools. The extensive fracture network produced the distinctive columns seen today.

Although the basaltic columns of the Giant's Causeway are impressive, they are not unique. Basalt columns are a common volcanic feature, and they occur on many scales (because faster cooling produces smaller columns).

Legend has it that the Irish warrior Fionn mac Cumhaill (Finn McCool) built the causeway to walk to Scotland to fight his Scottish counterpart Benandonner. Various versions of this legend have been told over the ages.

The site first became popular with tourists during the nineteenth century, particularly after the opening of the Giant's Causeway Tramway, and only after the National Trust took over its care in the 1960s were some of the vestiges of commercialism removed. Visitors can walk over the basalt columns which are at the edge of the sea, a half mile walk from the entrance to the site. The Giant's Causeway is today owned and managed by the National Trust and it is the most popular tourist attraction in Northern Ireland.

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Giant’s Causeway


Dunluce Castle is a now-ruined medieval castle in Northern Ireland. It is located on the edge of a basalt outcropping in County Antrim, and is accessible via a bridge connecting it to the mainland. The castle is surrounded by extremely steep drops on either side, which may have been an important factor to the early Christians and Vikings who were drawn to this place where an early Irish fort once stood.

In the 13th century Richard Óg de Burgh, 2nd Earl of Ulster, built the first castle at Dunluce.

Records indicate the Castle was in the hands of the MacQuillin family in 1513. The earliest features of the castle are two large drum towers about 30 ft. in diameter on the eastern side, both relics of a stronghold built here by the MacQuillins after they became lords of the district.

The MacQuillins were a warlike clan whose family motto was "Death Before Dishonor" ("Bás Roimh Obadh"). They were the lords of the district from the late 13th Century until they were displaced by the Clan MacDonald after losing two major battles against them during the mid and late-16th century. The last MacQuillin Clan Chieftain in Ireland was Rory Óg MacQuillin who was quoted as saying "No captain of the MacQuillin Clan ever died in bed." In the second decisive battle in 1583 Rory killed the opposing Clan Chieftain in combat on the first day and was himself killed on the second day in the general battle.

After losing its lordship, the MacQuillin Clan was displaced from Dun Luce Castle. The clan eventually becoming very early immigrants to America. The first MacQuillin documented to have arrived in America was Teague MacQuillin who arrived at Jamestown, Virginia in 1632. As the Quillins and Quillians, they are centered in Virginia, Georgia, and Texas.

Later Dun Luce Castle became the home of the chief of the Clan MacDonnell of Antrim and the Clan MacDonald of Dunnyveg from Scotland. In 1584, on the death of James MacDonald the 6th chief of the Clan MacDonald of Antrim and Dunnyveg, the Antrim Glens were seized by Sorley Boy MacDonnell, one of his younger brothers. Sorley Boy took the Castle, keeping it for himself and improving it in the Scottish style. Sorley Boy swore allegiance to James IV of Scotland and his son Ranald was made Randal MacDonnell, 1st Earl of Antrim by Queen Elizabeth I.

At one point, part of the kitchen next to the cliff face collapsed into the sea, after which the wife of the owner refused to live in the castle any longer. According to a legend, when the kitchen fell into the sea only a kitchen boy survived, as he was sitting in the corner of the kitchen which did not collapse.

Dunluce Castle served as the seat of the Earl of Antrim until the impoverishment of the MacDonnells in 1690, following the Battle of the Boyne. Since that time, the castle deteriorated and parts were scavenged to serve as materials for nearby buildings. Today Dun Luce Castle is in the care of the Northern Ireland Environment Agency.

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