Bloody Sunday 50: It cast a long and enduring shadow: Bishop Edward Daly

In this abridged extract from his first volume of memoirs, the late Bishop Edward Daly vividly recalls the horror of Bloody Sunday.

Bishop Edward Daly holds a picture of Jackie Duddy in the study of his home in Derry.
Bishop Edward Daly holds a picture of Jackie Duddy in the study of his home in Derry.

Some minutes after I returned to Rossville Street, the revving up of engines, motor engines, drew my attention.

I looked across towards Little James Street. I noticed three or four Saracen armoured cars moving towards me at increasing speed, followed by soldiers on foot. I observed them for a few moments. Simultaneously everyone in the area began to run in the opposite direction - away from William Street and across Rossville Street towards Free Derry Corner.

I ran with the others but veered to my left towards the courtyard of Rossville Flats. I was running and, like most of the crowd, looking back every few moments to see if the armoured cars and soldiers were still coming. They kept coming.

As I was entering the courtyard, I noticed a young boy running beside me. I was running and he was running and, like me, looking back from time to time. He caught my attention because he was smiling or laughing. I do not know whether he was amused at my ungainly running or exhilarated by nervous excitement. He seemed about 16 or 17. I did not see anything in his hands. I didn’t know his name then, but I later learned that his name was Jackie Duddy.

Advertisement

Hide Ad

When we reached the centre of the courtyard, I heard a shot and simultaneously this young boy, just beside me, gasped or groaned loudly. This was the first shot that I had heard since the two or three shots I had heard some time earlier in the afternoon. I glanced around and the young boy just fell on his face. He fell in the middle of the courtyard, in an area which was marked out in parallel rectangles for car parking. My first impression was that he had been hit by a rubber bullet. That may be because the noise of the shot had been masked by the general din and chaos which prevailed at that time. The shot seemed to come from behind us, from the area in which the saracens were located. I thought, initially, that the shot had been the report of a rubber bullet gun; I could not imagine that he had been struck by a live round.

I ran on, still looking back. Some or all of the saracens were still progressing towards the Rossville Flats. I looked at the passageway between Blocks One and Two of the Flats, the exit I had intended and hoped to use to escape from the courtyard. It was jammed by a mass of panic-stricken and frightened people. The air was filled with the sound of panic and fear. With considerable apprehension, I realised that there was no way out of the courtyard. Then there was a burst of gunfire that caused terror.

I could not be sure whether they were shots from several weapons simultaneously or from one weapon. These were live rounds - there was no doubt any more. I then sought cover behind a low wall at the rear of the garages at the foot of Block Two of the Rossville Flats. There were about twenty or thirty people already taking cover there.

During a lull in the firing, I looked over from where I was lying and saw Jackie still lying out in the middle of the car park where he had fallen. I then decided to make my way out to him. I took a handkerchief from my pocket and waved it for a few moments and, then, I got up in a crouched position and I went to the boy. I knelt beside him. There was a substantial amount of blood oozing from his shirt; I think it was just inside the arm, on the right or left side, I cannot remember which.

Advertisement

Hide Ad

I put my handkerchief inside the shirt to try and staunch the bleeding. Then a young member of the Knights of Malta, Charles Glenn, suddenly appeared on the other side of this boy. He immediately set about treating the wound. I felt that I should administer the last rites to the boy and I anointed him. The gunfire started again around this time. We got as close to the ground as we could. Then there was another lull; a group of two or three people came out and stood behind us. They offered help. We asked them to go back - we felt that we were safer on our own - so they went back.

Shortly after this, two other men, William Barber and Liam Bradley, joined us. They took up positions beside the young injured man whom we were attending. There was sporadic gunfire at this stage - bursts of automatic gunfire, from time to time, interspersed with single shots. Jackie was rapidly losing blood and there was obviously a great need to get him to hospital as soon as possible. At one stage, a woman nervously appeared at the window of one of the lower flats and a member of our group shouted to her, ‘Have you a phone, have you a phone?’ But she shook her head. Few people in the Rossville Flats had phones. The other men in the group then said that, if I was prepared to go before them with a handkerchief, they would be prepared to carry this young man somewhere where he could receive the necessary medical attention. There was a discussion as to whether we should carry him back towards the front of Rossville Flats or carry him through the Army lines. Willie Barber was a telephone engineer. He said that there was no point in bringing him back to the flats because the telephone kiosk there was out of order. We reached the conclusion that we had a better chance of calling an ambulance if we carried him to Harvey Street or Waterloo Street. We decided to do that. We desperately needed an ambulance.

We got up first of all from our knees and I waved the handkerchief, which, by now, was heavily bloodstained. I went in front and the men behind me carried Jackie Duddy. We made our way into Chamberlain Street, along that street and then turned into Harvey Street. Soldiers challenged us at this point and we saw the BBC News camera crew with cameraman, Cyril Cave and reporter John Bierman. We then proceeded to the corner of Waterloo Street and Harvey Street. At this point Willie Barber took off his coat, spread it on the ground, and we laid Jackie Duddy on it. We waited until the ambulance arrived. I am not sure how long it took. It wasn’t very long. Jackie Duddy’s body was brought to the hospital. John Bierman of the BBC asked me to do a television interview... In that interview, I described what I had seen as murder.

Bloody Sunday cast a long and enduring shadow.

Advertisement

Hide Ad

* ‘Mister, Are You A Priest?’, by Bishop Edward Daly, is published by Four Courts Press.