Knights of Malta role during Troubles: New Bloody Sunday 51st anniversary exhibition to open in Derry

A new exhibition focusing on the incredible and often overlooked role of the Knights of Malta during the Troubles will be unveiled as part of 51st Bloody Sunday programme.

The exhibition at the Museum of Free Derry in Glenfada Park has been organised as part of the Bloody Sunday Trust commemorations following the publication of a book by talented Derry author Jude Morrow.

The Ghosts of Riots Past is a powerful novelisation of the troubled conflict in Derry through the eyes of a young, female volunteer first-aider in the Order of Malta Ambulance Corps.

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The acclaimed work is based on a never before told true story, inspired by teenage girls who found themselves suturing people with household needles and thread and praying over and lifting the bodies of the Bloody Sunday dead off the streets.

“I saw two casualties who had collapsed from the effects of CS Gas. I escorted these casualties, together with Jim Norris, a fellow Knight of Malta, to the Rossville Flats car park…” Noel McLoone. Photo Colman Doyle (via Museum of Free Derry)

There is an appendix in the novel which features a series of firsthand true life accounts of women, and some men, who administered to people in Derry.

The exhibition, which Jude has been involved in creating, will be launched next Monday, January 23 at 7pm and will run until the end of February.

Jean Hegarty, whose brother Kevin McElhinney was murdered on Bloody Sunday said: “I know I can speak for all of the Bloody Sunday families when I say we have always been very grateful for the actions of the Order of Malta on Bloody Sunday.

“Those volunteers – a lot of them very young like so many of the victims that day - went out on Bloody Sunday, as they had on many other days, to help people.

Paul McLaughlin and Antoinette Coyle shelter at the end of Rossville Flats. Photo Fulvio Grimaldi (via Museum of Free Derry)

“Like those who were marching against internment, they had no idea what was ahead of them that Sunday afternoon.

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“But even if they had I have no doubt they would have been there anyway.

“When the Paras came into the Bogside intent on murder, white coats and medical bags were no defence.

“Some of them were shot at. Some were beaten. Others were threatened. Any one of them could have been a victim that day.

“I saw two casualties who had collapsed from the effects of CS Gas. I escorted these casualties, together with Jim Norris, a fellow Knight of Malta, to the Rossville Flats car park…” Noel McLoone. Photo Colman Doyle (via Museum of Free Derry)
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“But they carried on. Putting themselves in harm’s way to help the wounded and give comfort to the dying. Fourteen people lost their lives that day. It could have been more without the help given by the Order of Malta volunteers.

“Even though we can see some of their brave actions in photographs taken that day I don’t think they have ever been given enough credit, for what they did on Bloody Sunday and on other days. And they have never asked for any. But they do deserve it.”

Adrian Kerr, Curator, Museum of Free Derry said: “When Jude was researching his book he kept calling into the museum with new artefacts from the local members of the Order of Malta, treasured items that had been stored away in family homes for decades. That was the inspiration for this exhibition.

“We wanted to find a way to acknowledge the role of the Order of Malta volunteers on Bloody Sunday, and this is our opportunity to do that. I don’t think they’ve ever been given enough credit for their bravery and determination that day, and hopefully this will go some way to addressing that.

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“We would like to thank Jude Morrow for his help with this exhibition, and the members of the Order of Malta, and their families, who have loaned artefacts for display.”

On Sunday, January 29, the Annual Remembrance Service at the Bloody Sunday Monument on Rossville Street at 11am will be followed by the unveiling of a plaque dedicated to the Derry Corps of the Order of Malta.

*The Ghosts of Riots Past by Jude Morrow is available to purchase from local bookshops and via Amazon.