One of the advantages of the Derry Journal’s huge archive is undoubtedly its role in recording the story of Derry and events that shaped its history.
Now, our archives have again proved invaluable in a new Guildhall Press/Museum of Free Derry book ‘Free Derry: Protest and Resistance’ – which is launched this Friday, January 25.
The book is the culmination of extensive research by its author Adrian Kerr, Manager of the Museum of Free Derry in Glenfada Park, and details the era leading up to the creation of Free Derry – when an entire community declared the Bogside a ‘No-Go Area’ and defied the ruling British establishment.
An insightful foreword by local activist Eamonn McCann summarises the ethos behind Free Derry from a personal perspective, effectively leading into the engaging narrative that follows. As McCann notes: “It is startling that Adrian Kerr’s book is the first to focus on Free Derry in a way that lends it the centrality and signifiance which history demands it be accorded.”
The Derry Journal reported the emergence of Free Derry and captured the essence, the motivation and the local perspective so often missing from official accounts of the time and since. Newspaper accounts are so vital, as Kerr says, as they were a source “where hindsight and revisionism, for whatever motive, had not yet had a chance to affect the story.”
Kerr told the ‘Journal’ yesterday: “The ‘Journal’ was so important because it was immediate - events were reported as they happened and so too were accounts of how people felt about events as they happened. The ‘Derry Journal’ provides the most comprehensive source material there is on that period - and obviously its reporters were in direct contact with those involved. So, in a way, local newspaper coverage helped shape the events that happened next.”
“We also used a number of history books as source material, and the narrative of the Museum itself was obviously a very good road map for the book too as it tells the story so concisely,” the author adds.
The book covers, in fascinating detail, events including the Battle of the Bogside, Internment, Bloody Sunday and Operation Motorman.
‘Protest and Resistance’ paints a picture of a city with an arbitrary history – centuries of oppression that shaped the region and its populace. The area housed the majority of the city’s Catholic population and overcrowding and deprivation was rife. By the 1960s, when discontent led to dissent in Derry, nationalists throughout the North had endured almost 40 years of “deliberate neglect and electoral manipulation”.
As Kerr notes: “From the 1600s to the 1900s it was a place apart, looked down on from a height by those with power and privilege.”
As manager of the Bogside museum, Adrian Kerr gradually became aware of the need for clarity in the story of Free Derry.
“The reason behind the book was that I’ve now spent seven years at the Museum answering questions from visitors and finding out in that way which parts of the story needed more detail and more clarification. That essentially spurred me on,” he says. “But I also hope it will appeal to people who already have a knowledge and understanding of Free Derry and what it represented.”
The book is launched this Friday as part of the annual Bloody Sunday Commemoration programme.
“Guildhall Press have done their usual fantastic job of putting it all together and I’m really pleased with the final product,” Kerr says.
We Derry folk may presume we know the story of our city, but ‘Protest and Resistance’ offers for the first time a glimpse at the finer detail behind the Free Derry story, the catalysts for resistance and the local people who were pivotal during this brief liberation from British rule.
A compelling read, ‘Free Derry: Protest and Resistance’ will hit the bookshelves following it’s launch this Friday at 1pm at Museum of Free Derry. All welcome.