Nov 4, 2012

The North, Part III: legen...wait for it...

The wound is yet so fresh.  How is it that an entire week has passed?

Four hours to Galway, friends.  Thus ends the last class trip.  This morning began with a tour of Derry City, the longest continuously inhabited city in all of Ireland.  (People have been here since the 600s.)  It bears many names, including Londonderry, Doire (“DEW-ruh”), The Maiden City, and – perhaps most obviously – The Walled City.
A view from atop the wall.
Just over a mile long, this formidable barricade extends around the entire settlement.
Ferryquay Gate is one of the four original entrances to the city.  In December 1688, James II was met here with a famous stonewall (beg your pardon) when his troops tried to lay siege to Derry.  The Irish, being Irish, refused to budge.
In a sense, the residents still maintain that they’re under siege.  Even the curb is marked territory.
It’s actually directed toward the city outskirts – not directly at the Union Jack – but the way I saw it at first was amusing.  Perspective is a powerful teacher.
St. Columb’s Cathedral is a memorial of sorts to the original founder of Derry.  It’s said that this church inspired Newton to compose “Amazing Grace”.
This tower is the only remnant of the city jail, which closed years ago due to extreme inefficiency – more specifically, the escape of 27 prisoners on a single night.  Oops.
Bogside was the first community established outside Derry’s walls.  See the T-junction formed by the roads?  The four houses on the right side of that cross are the only Protestant families in Bogside.  The rest are Catholic.  Some thirty years ago, this was a terribly violent area.
And when I say “violent”, I mean Bloody Sunday-violent.  Here’s the memorial to the thirteen innocent lives taken that day.
Their portraits, on a mural in town.
Six of those victims were seventeen.  They were children.
Speaking of murals…Bogside was full of them.  The Troubles, horrific as they were, clearly inspired some thoughtful art.
A dove, painted by local schoolchildren a few years ago.
The Facebook icon – enough said.
Clockwise: John Hume, Martin Luther King, Nelson Mandela, and Mother Teresa.
Meet Annette McGavigan, 14.  Bogside residents deem her story “the death of innocence”; she was the hundredth victim of the Troubles, as well as the first child victim.  Early on a September morning in 1971, she was on her way to the store before school, to buy supplies for a school project…but before she got there, a British soldier shot her.  To this day, he hasn't been charged with the murder.  There are a few symbols worth noting here – the broken gun (a call for peace), the butterfly (a reminder of her innocence), and – in the right-hand corner – the crucifix (the hope of rebirth).
Civil rights marches were a regular way of life back in the ‘70s.  Inspired by Martin Luther King’s civil disobedience campaign, Derry residents – Catholics and Protestants alike – often took to the streets to demand their domestic rights.
It’s a shame that alongside all of those murals, this still hangs.
4 pm: There’s a curious fog along the hilltops.
102 kilometers to Galway.  We’ve stopped here in Co. Sligo to pay our respects to George Butler Yeats.  I understand that Yeats is Yeats and all that, but if I have to see another grave, tomb, cemetery…I will swim home.  (Or, more realistically, I might return to my bed for awhile longer.)

But Yeats is Yeats, so here you are.
Oops - I think that's my camera cord in there.
At this moment, there is one poem of Yeats’ that tugs at me.  May I share, friends?  It’s one that strikes me with both endearing melancholy and gentle hope.  The scene he paints, the sheer tenderness in it …well, it brings to mind the story of Ruth (which, even if you’re not into the Bible, is well worth the read.  It’s only four chapters long, and is such a special, poignant tale.)

“Cloths of Heaven”

Had I the heavens’ embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because
You tread on my dreams.

Tread softly, friends...tread softly.

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