1972 was the year in which the biggest overall loss of life during the Troubles took place. In all 496 people perished. In January that year fourteen people in Derry were shot dead by the British Parachute Regiment on a day that will forever be known as ‘Bloody Sunday’.
Whilst this city was still reeling from the enormity and horror of that day, a few months later in May, darkness again descended. This time it descended literally, physically and instantly upon the life of a ten-year-old boy. Richard Moore was a short distance from his home at Malin Gardens in Creggan when a British soldier took his sight away. He was merely a passer by to the ‘bother’ that was going on around him and was no way involved in it.
In his autobiography Richard Moore wrote: “I was about ten feet away when the soldier fired the rubber bullet that struck me on the bridge of my nose. I didn’t hear the bang of the discharge. All I remember is that everything went blank. And, that was the moment my life changed forever.”
The easy thing for anyone in this situation would have been to become another forgotten statistic of the Troubles-just another kid caught in the crossfire. The word crossfire indeed would become highly significant to not only Richard Moore, but to countless poor children around the globe.
Richard Moore’s story is also now known around the world. He counts amongst his friends one of the most significant religious leaders on earth in the person of the fourteenth Dalai Lama. It is now apparent that when that British soldier, Charles Innis, pulled the trigger of his weapon over 40 years ago, what he did in fact was trigger the ability of a human being to transcend hate, put a harness on tragedy and drive it towards triumph. In recent years Richard has befriended the man who blinded him and they both have given talks together on the situation that has inextricably linked them.
Richard began his education at Holy Child Primary School in Creggan before moving to Rosemount Primary School before taking a short journey across the playground to St Joseph’s.
He said: “I started at St Joseph’s in September, 1973. I suppose on my part there were all sorts of difficulties, because a year and a bit before I had been blinded just a few yards from St Joseph’s playground. But still, going to the ‘big school’ for me was like any other young boy from the area-it was a big event.
“The school was very much a part of the community. It wasn’t something that sat there separately. Going there was a big step for me and it was significant that Mr Armstrong, then the principal, met my daddy and agreed to take me into the school, because in those days there was no obligation to take a blind student in. The norm was that you were expected to go to a school for blind students, but Mr Armstrong agreed that he would certainly try and facilitate me within the school.”
The forethought shown by teachers at St Joseph’s and St Mary’s is something that Richard Moore has never forgotten.
“It was very much a suck-it-and-see scenario and working on the hoof, and it required a lot of people being flexible, such as the teachers and friends in my class. Initially the management at the school were flexible by agreeing to take me, then the teachers adjusted lessons to help me and there were students that had a blind colleague who needed to be guided around the school. But, I think the school moved with me when they saw me making an effort.”
I started at St Joseph’s in September, 1973. I suppose on my part there were all sorts of difficulties
Like all other school children decisions about the future came quickly. The first step was C.S.E Examinations. Richard only took five and achieved five Grade 1s.
This feat was marked on the front page of the ‘Journal’ on July 21, 1978.
The report said: “When he was ten-years-old, Derry boy, Richard Moore was blinded by a rubber bullet fired by a British soldier, in May, 1972, his future looked bleak. But six years later, Richard, now 16, has overcome his dreadful handicap, in a manner that is an example to the entire community.
“He has received the news that has achieved top grades in the five C.S.E subjects in which he sat the examination. He is now going to study for ‘A’ Levels. The story of Richard Moore is the tale of how a young boy conquered the severe handicap of blindness to lead a normal teenage life. It is also a tribute to his parents, teachers, friends and fellow pupils.
“For some years, Richard who lives at 42 Malin Gardens, Creggan, has been a student at St Joseph’s Secondary Intermediate School. He decided to sit five C.S.E subjects. To enable him to study the courses text books Richard’s teachers taped chapters from them and Richard listened to them. The teachers and pupils also read relevant chapters from the text books to him. Richard was taught braille and so as a result of his teachers determination and his own determination he was able to study English Literature, English Language, History, Commerce and Social Education.
“During April and May Richard sat his examinations and he received Grade 1s in each of them, the equivalent of an ‘O’ Level pass.
“The only subjects I could not do were Geography and Maths, because in Geography I couldn’t carry out the necessary field work and in Maths there is a special braille which I would have had to learn. I September I hope to do ‘A’ Levels in English Literature and History at St Joseph’s and an ‘O’ Level in Sociology. If I don’t do so well in the ‘A’ Levels I will do Audio Typing, then I will discuss my career with the careers officer in the school.
“I owe an awful lot to the teachers in St Joseph’s and to my friends there as well. Sometimes a few of the boys dropped in to help me with my homework. Two of the other teachers who spent a lot of time with me were Mrs Marian Donnelly at St Mary’s who taught me to type and the late Miss Maguire who taught me braille,” he said.
The ‘Journal’ report also said: “Richard is also a very competent musician. He plays for the New Courtelles group and they play about three engagements per week. He specialises in guitar and mandolin and is indebted to the other members for teaching him how to play the instruments. He has also taught himself how to play the piano and as each day goes by he seems to discover some new challenge.”
Not only did Richard Moore complete his A Levels but later on took a degree as well in Business Administration.
Whilst at university he was compensated for being shot.
“I bought a part share in a pub and we had two pubs by the time I left university,” he said.
In the mid-1990s however, a lack of satisfaction from his business ventures saw Richard begin to query what was missing in his life. He felt the need to utilise all that he had learned and put it towards helping others, particularly those in the developing world. Specifically this meant helping children, who like himself had been caught in the crossfire of war.
In 1996, he founded and continues to head Children in Crossfire an organisation that has raised millions in an effort to combat the ravages of child poverty around the world.
Richard said: “What I would say is that the tools developed in earlier days and a lot of the principles that govern Children in Crossfire and a lot of the work we do were learned at St Joseph’s. I am able to type, send emails, do everything with the typing skills I learned. I am still using the recording method that I learned at St Joseph’s.”