Bloody Sunday 50: The first draft of the history of one of Derry’s darkest ever days

On February 1, 1972, less than 36 hours after 13 innocent anti-internment protestors were gunned down by British paratroopers in the Bogside, the first draft of one of the darkest days in Derry’s history appeared in this paper.

The front page of the Tuesday edition of the ‘Journal’ led with a prepared statement by seven Derry priests Rev. Anthony Mulvey, Rev. Edward Daly, Rev. G. McLaughlin, Rev. J. Carolan, Rev. Denis Bradley, Rev. Michael McIvor, and Rev. Thomas O’Gara, which baldly stated the facts as they were and had been witnessed on the ground in the Bogside that awful Sunday.

It ran under the banner headline, ‘IT WAS WILFUL MURDER, SAY DERRY PRIESTS’ and indicted Lieutenant Colonel Derek Wilford, the Commanding Officer of 1 PARA and Major General Robert Ford, Commander of Land Forces and the men under their command.

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“We accuse the soldiers of shooting indiscriminately into a fleeing crowd, of gloating over casualties, of preventing medical and spiritual aid reaching some of the dying.

the first two pages inside on which were printed the names of ‘The Thirteen Who Died on Bloody Sunday’ alongside their pen portraits.the first two pages inside on which were printed the names of ‘The Thirteen Who Died on Bloody Sunday’ alongside their pen portraits.
the first two pages inside on which were printed the names of ‘The Thirteen Who Died on Bloody Sunday’ alongside their pen portraits.

“It is untrue that shots were fired at the troops in Rossville Street before they attacked. It is untrue that any of the dead or wounded that we attended were armed. We make this statement in view of the distorted and indeed conflicting reports put out by army officers.

“We deplore the action of the army and Government in employing a unit such as the paratroopers who were in Derry yesterday. These men are trained criminals. They differ from terrorists only in the veneer of respectability that a uniform gives them.”

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At a special Mass celebrated in St. Eugene’s Cathedral celebrated on the Monday in memory of the dead it was reported that the Most. Rev. Dr. Farren, the Bishop of Derry, had appealed for restraint.

The front page of the first edition of the Derry Journal after Bloody Sunday.The front page of the first edition of the Derry Journal after Bloody Sunday.
The front page of the first edition of the Derry Journal after Bloody Sunday.
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“By the very fact that you do exercise restraint, don’t do things you would be urged to do by yourselves or others, for that very fact will give consolation to the relatives and bring mercy to the dead.”

On the Sunday night Dr. Farren had sent a telegram to the British Prime Minister Edward Heath expressing shock and deep sadness as the ‘terrible events this afternoon in Derry’. “I protest in the strongest possible manner against the action of the army resulting in so many deaths and injuries. I demand an immediate and public inquiry.”

This was echoed by Cardinal Conway who also contacted the British premier: “I am deeply shocked at the news of the awful slaughter in Derry this afternoon.

“I have received a first hand account from a priest who was present at the scene and what I have heard is really shocking.”

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‘Shut Down As Derry Mourns Its Dead’ was another headline on that front page as the ‘Journal’ reported how ‘a silent, shuttered Derry yesterday mourned its dead’ and how ‘factories, shops, stores, banks and offices all closed down in mute but eloquent protest’.

The report described a city stunned by what had happened: “Thinner than usual traffic moved down streets peopled only at occasional corners by heavily-armed, jumpily alert British soldiers. It seemed that almost the whole population had voluntarily vacated the open air to grieve in private yet community sorrow. But underneath the calm, exterior, resentment, anger, revulsion, and shock still blended in a population stunned by the enormity of the city’s disaster. And beneath and behind it all there was determination that the British Army had long outstayed its welcome and that 40,000 Catholics were determined to work for the speedy removal of the troops from the streets of at least the westside of the Foyle.”

Bloody Sunday 50: ‘How many brothers do you have?’ ‘I have two.’ ‘You have only one now’Derry’s famous shirt factories all closed down, it was reported, while workers at DuPont, the British Oxygen Company and Molins, at the city’s industrial zone in Maydown, walked out and said they would not return until the victims had been buried.

The Molins workers sent telegrams to both Heath and Lieutenant General Harry Tuzo, the British Army’s General Officer Commanding (GOC) in the north.

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To Heath they declared: “All the water gone under the bows of Morning Cloud [the British Prime Minister’s yacht on which he had been at sea competing in the Admiral’s Cup on the day internment was introduced in August 1971] can’t wash away your guilt and complicity in the deaths of anti-internment demonstrators. We demand the immediate withdrawal of your troops from the streets of Derry.”

To Tuzo the cigarette-machine workers implored: “In the interests of peace and prosperity we demand a full-scale public inquiry into the slaughter which occurred on the streets of the city at the hands of Black and Tan type troops.”

All the Catholic employees at Crown Buildings and telephonists at the Derry exchange walked out while restaurants, cafés and hotel kitchens were closed, the ‘Journal’ noted. Hundreds of teachers went on strike.

In a statement following a mass meeting they said: “Eye-witness accounts from teachers present refute utterly the blatant lies of the British Army.”

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A special fund was set up for the dependants of the victims while internees on HMS Maidstone in Belfast held a vigil to express their revulsion at the actions of the paratroopers. On the front page of the paper was printed the confirmed funeral arrangements for William Nash, Gerald [Bernard] McGuigan and John Pius Young. The first three funerals were to take place from St. Mary’s Creggan at 10am on the Wednesday.

Bloody Sunday 50: ‘My mother started screaming Willie, Willie, Willie...I’ll never forget that’Across the first two pages inside were printed the names of ‘The Thirteen Who Died on Bloody Sunday’ alongside their pen portraits.

WILLIAM MCKINNEY (27), son of Mr. and Mrs. Michael McKinney, 62 Westway. He was the eldest of a family of ten. He was a printer employed by the ‘Derry Journal.’

MICHAEL KELLY (17), an apprentice electrician employed at Maydown. He resided at 9 Dunmore Gardens.

GERALD DONAGHEY (17), 27 Meenan Square. He was unemployed.

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PATRICK DOHERTY (32), Hamilton Street, who for the last six years was engaged on DuPont construction work at Maydown.

MICHAEL McDAID (20), a barman who lived in Tyrconnell Street.

JAMES JOSEPH WRAY (22), who worked with the Lee Refrigerators firm. He was one of the family of Mr. and Mrs. James Wray, Drumcliffe Avenue.

HUGH GILMOUR (17), who resided at Garvan Place.

JOHN YOUNG (17), who resided at Westway. He was a salesman, and was the youngest of a family of six.

GERALD MCKINNEY (34), of Knockdarragh House, Waterside.

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JACK DUDDY (17), of 21 Central Drive, who was a weaver in the factory of Thomas French, Springtown Estate. He was one of a family of fifteen.

KEVIN MCELHINNEY (17), a grocery assistant, of 44 Phillip Street. He was one of a family of fifteen.

BERNARD MCGUIGAN (41), of Iniscarn Crescent, an ex-foreman at the BSR. He was the father of six.

WILLIAM NASH (19), a dock worker, who resided at Dunree Gardens.

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Poignantly, the ‘Journal’ paid particular tribute to one of its own staff William McKinney, under the simply stated: ‘Our colleague is dead.’

“There is an atmosphere of shocked disbelief in the ‘Journal’ office today. Our colleague, Willie McKinney, is dead. He was shot on Sunday by the British Army. Willie was not a stone-thrower, a bomber or a gunman. He had gone to the Civil Rights march in the role of amateur photographer. He was a printer to trade, an outstanding craftsman; the lay-out of some of the reports and advertisements in this very issue, which also records his untimely death, bear testimony to his professional ability. Personally he was a quiet, pleasant, hard-working young man, helpful to, and co-operative with, all who were privileged to be associated with him. He was engaged to be married. He had the expectancy of a long and happy life.”

The names of some of the wounded and their conditions were recorded. They included Joseph Mahon (16), Rathkeele Way, Alana Burke (19), Bishop Street, Alexander Nash (52), Dunree Gardens, Joseph Friel (20), Donagh Place, Michael Bridge (25), Tremone Gardens, Patrick McDaid (24), Dunaff Gardens, Michael Bradley (22), Rinmore Drive, Margaret Deery, Swilly Gardens, M. Quinn, Marlborough Street, John Johnston, Marlborough Street [Mr. Johnston would become the 14th victim of Bloody Sunday when he succumbed to his injuries in June 1972), Mr. Campbell, Carrickreagh, Mr. O’Donnell, Rathowen Park, Mr. McKeown, Lone Moor Road, Damien Donaghy, Rinmore Drive, Mr. McQuaid, address not known, and Ann Richmond, Swilly Gardens.

Bloody Sunday 50: Republicans to honour Fian Gerald DonagheyAn account of events entitled ‘The March That Ended in a River of Blood’ told how ‘Derry was still reeling yesterday from the shock of its Bloody Sunday, and anger against British troops mounted to a new height, as the full horror of the death toll - 13 people plucked into eternity in the space of a few horror-filled minutes - and of the list of injured - 17 people, including three women - sank into the minds of stunned and stricken people’.

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It continued: “And as more eye-witness accounts of the holocaust that was the Bogside of Sunday, January 30, 1972, became available, deeper was the conviction that it was a day of the deepest shame for the British Army and for the soldiers of the 1st Battalion of the Parachute Regiment in particular.

“All the protestations of official British Army spokesmen and of commanders on the ground that the army opened fire only after they had been shot at by snipers from the high flats in Rossville Street were swamped by the deluge of opinions of on-the-spot observers, including several priests, that the paratroopers raced into the Bogside, shooting as they went at anti-internment demonstrators fleeing before them and at other demonstrators moving towards a meeting about to begin at Free Derry Corner.”

The accounts of several eye-witnesses laid bare the mayhem. Father Daly, who at the time was CC. at St. Eugene’s, said: “The British Army should hang its head in shame after today’s disgusting violence. They shot indiscriminately and everywhere around them without any provocation.”

He told the ‘Journal’ that the anti-internment march was ‘reasonably peaceful’ but the paratroopers appeared as though under orders to move in and ‘shoot away at anyone’.

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“The quicker the British Army get out of NI after today’s violence, the better for everyone concerned. It is the only way to achieve peace.”

Eddie McAteer, president of the Nationalist Party, said: “It was a simple massacre. There were no petrol bombs, no guns, no snipers, no justification whatever for this well organised slaughter. Derry’s Bloody Sunday will be remembers as the British Army’s greatest day of shame.”

This was echoed by Michael Canavan, chair of the Derry Citizens Central Committee: “It was a massacre. The troops opened fire as Miss Devlin [MP for Mid Ulster and civil rights activist] picked up the microphone to address the huge crowd at the Free Derry corner.” Bernadette Devlin herself said: “Let nobody say the British Army fired in retaliation.”

Civil rights leader Finbarr O’Kane also said the troops fired when ‘Miss Devlin picked up the microphone’ and it was a time before those gathered at Free Derry corner realised what was happening and threw themselves to the ground.

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“The shooting seemed to stop after a bit and everybody got up on all fours and started to crawl away. But it started again. I’ve never seen anything like it. Everybody was trying to crawl away, hitting walls and stumbling.”

William O’Connell, a member of the SDLP, who would go on to serve as Mayor of Derry, in the early 1980s, said:“I saw a detachment of three armed personnel carriers come up Rossville Street. Paratroopers jumped out and started to fire at the people - including people lying on the ground. It was completely indiscriminate.”

Ivan Cooper, the SDLP MP, said: “I was shot at even though I raised a white flag as I tried to help a wounded man.”

On Sunday night, at a meeting called by the Creggan Peace Corps, and attended by both wings of the Republican Movement, the local Labour Party and residents, there was a call for a general strike north and south until the funerals of the deceased had taken place.

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The Buncrana branch of the Irish Transport & General Workers’ Union (ITGWU)agreed to a one-day shutdown in sympathy with the relatives and friends of the dead.

Staff at ‘the Tech’ sent a message of sympathy following a meeting of the Derry Branch of the Association of Teachers in Technical Institutions. The following statement from the Provisional Wing of the IRA was also carried.

“We deeply regret the brutal murders of innocent people in Derry on Sunday. Our sincere sympathy is extended to the sorrowing relatives of all the victims.”

The decision of the Taoiseach Jack Lynch to withdraw the Irish Ambassador to London in protest at the massacre was acknowledged.

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While a statement issued from Thiepval Barracks in Lisburn that was contradicted by every eyewitness account and would later be proven entirely incredible was carried under a succint headline ‘The Army Version.’ The army lines contained the long discredited claims that paratroopers only opened fire after coming under nail bomb attack and gunfire.

The events in the Bogside provoked a ‘Reported Clash Between British Soldiers’ at Ebrington.

“It is understood that after the Derry massacre on Sunday there was a difference of opinion among men of the Coldstream Guards and men of the Parachute Regiment.

“It is also understood several soldiers came to blows in Ebrington barracks and that the disturbance was quelled only when several men of both regiments were put under restraint.

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“The Coldstream Guards, it is understood, objected to the massacre of Derry civilians, and also pointed out that while the paratroopers, who are not stationed in Derry, would soon be moving out, the Coldstream Guards, would be left ‘holding the baby’.”

The first edition after the massacre included widespread coverage of the national reaction to the killings, which was one of utter revulsion. And an editorial under the header ‘A Ghastly Atrocity’ summed up the feeling of stunned disbelief in the city .

“However hard one tries to keep a grip on his feelings and on his words in face of what has happened in Derry, the facts cry out for themselves in condemnation before the world of such a mass murder, for it was nothing less. Sunday was the blackest day for the name of the British Army since Amritsar [where hundreds of pro-Indian independence supporters were massacred in the Punjab in 1919].”

It stated that the slaughter in the Bogside was made all the worse by the ‘military allegation by blimps with a voice of brass that such an atrocious order to fire on a defenceless throng was solely and in selective reply to attack upon them by snipers and nail bombers, which everyone on the scene at the time when it was swept by fire from the troops knows to be false.’

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“The people of Derry have already known what credence to give to military statements after their version of the shootings of unarmed civilians before now....”

This was reference to the six civilians shot dead by British troops in Derry in 1971 - Seamus Cusack and Desmond Beattie (aged 28 and 19 respectively, shot dead by the British Army on July 8, 1971; Hugh Herron (aged 31, shot dead by the British Army on August 13, 1971), Annette McGavigan (aged 14, shot dead by the British Army on September 6, 1971), William McGreanery (aged 43, shot dead by the British Army on September 15, 1971) and Kathleen Thompson (aged 47, shot dead by the British Army on November 6).

However, the concentration of brutality on Bloody Sunday marked a new low.

“...but never on such an atrocious scale as this butchery and never with such flagrant disregard of the truth in their brazen account of their action,” the editorial observed.

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The Leader asked ‘on what British military standard will be emblazoned this exploit, which now ranks, with Sharpeville [the slaying of dozens of anti-apartheid protestors in the Transvaal in 1960] in its horror?’

“After Sunday’s massacre, the sooner the British Government, if it has not sold out to Stormont completely, takes such as its paratroops out of the sight of the minority in this area, the less prolonged will such an outrage on that people’s feelings be.”

It ended with another appeal to restraint.

“We would most earnestly implore those in this stricken city who have been wrackedwith horror and indignation at such a deed to set their face against any such primeval counsel of vengeance as an eye for an eye, since one evil is no sort of remedy for another but can only bedevil all the more an already horrible situation. Rather should they preserve their souls in Christian patience, however, poignant their grief, and they can count upon it that a regime that has brought such black disgrace and degradation on its own head stands self-condemned and will have hastened its political undoing thereby.”

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