Bogside History Tours & Museum of Free Derry
The tour begins at Derry's towering guildhall- a good meeting point as you can't miss it, no matter where you are in the city. There (inside, where it is nice and warm and out of the bracing January wind, I found!) Paul gives a rundown on Irish history- all important as it acts as the build up to the main issues to be discussed. It's when Paul leads you further into the guildhall and talks about attending the Saville Inquiry that was held there in 2010 that you realise you've been holding your breath. I knew the outcome of the inquiry, yet there I was, with baited breath, waiting for Paul to tell it. He's that kind of guide- utterly engaging!
The back of the guildhall is where the famous windows are, where relatives of the innocent victims of Bloody Sunday gave the 'thumbs up' to the crowds waiting outside as they discovered that their loved ones had been vindicated and confirmed the guilt of the British army- Beyond guilt- what occurred was shocking, horrific and out-and-out slaughter of innocent people. Paul talked about hearing the announcement, and rushing, with a friend to these windows- determined that it not be a British politician who announced the findings to those waiting- It should have been, and thanks to these men, was, people of Derry- people connected to those who lost their lives. The image of the 'thumbs up' was beamed around the world. Paul stood before this window and kindly let me take a photo. It was one of those moments where I am truly humbled by the people of Northern Ireland, who are so open about their history and so kind to those who visit.
It was then time for a wander into the Bogside. Paul led the way through the streets, explaining where the events of the day had unfolded- this was eye-opening- later in the day at the Museum of Free Derry I was able to look at photos from the day and could easily identify where I had stood. He spoke about his father, who had given his mother a hug goodbye that morning, the last time she had seen him. Patrick Doherty was shot from behind, unarmed, and attempting to get to safety. A photograph taken of him only moments before clearly showed he was trying to move to a safe area and that he was unarmed. Another man, Barney McGuigan, went to Patrick's aid waving a white handkerchief and was shot through the head. The number of the victims of Bloody Sunday shot from behind, or while fleeing, is damning for the army- it makes it clear to any observer that the British were guilty as hell.
Paul explained the events of the day with honesty and openness, including mentioning the horrifying fact that some of the soldiers from the day have openly posted on social media about their involvement- so secure are they that their sins won't be addressed. That such evil could exist is further proof that there are, even after Saville, answers to be had.
Paul also gave a tour of some of the murals, explaining the background to them and linking back to the Civil Rights campaign. He also led the way to, and explained, the memorial of those who died on Bloody Sunday- this is where the tour ends, and to see Paul stand in front of the memorial that bears his father's name and speak of the struggle for truth that the families of those who died on the day faced was overwhelming. Paul is a fantastic guide- I'll recommend that without hesitation. If you want an honest and first-hand account of the events- this is the man to see.