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1972 was Northern Ireland’s darkest year: ‘There was a bomb, then another… Chunks of the city fell apart around us’

As the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday approaches, writer and Belfast Telegraph columnist Malachi O’Doherty looks back half a century to our darkest year, when he was a young journalist witnessing the unfolding horror of the Troubles 

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Bristol LH's Nos 1108 and 1109 burn in the aftermath of Bloody Friday at Great Victoria Street depot on July 21st 1972 - Credit - British Pathe LTD

Bristol LH's Nos 1108 and 1109 burn in the aftermath of Bloody Friday at Great Victoria Street depot on July 21st 1972 - Credit - British Pathe LTD

April 1972 72-4637 (Photo by WATFORD/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images)

April 1972 72-4637 (Photo by WATFORD/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images)

Mirrorpix via Getty Images

Londonderry. Bloody Sunday 31/1/1972

Londonderry. Bloody Sunday 31/1/1972

File photo dated 31/1/1972 of a man receiving attention during the shooting in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, which became known as Bloody Sunday. A former British soldier has been arrested by detectives investigating the incident. PRESS ASSOCIATION

File photo dated 31/1/1972 of a man receiving attention during the shooting in Londonderry, Northern Ireland, which became known as Bloody Sunday. A former British soldier has been arrested by detectives investigating the incident. PRESS ASSOCIATION

British troops arrest civilians on Rossville St, Londonderry during a civil rights march. The day went on to become known as Bloody Sunday as British paratroopers shot dead 13 civilians. (Photo by William L. Rukeyser/Getty Images)

British troops arrest civilians on Rossville St, Londonderry during a civil rights march. The day went on to become known as Bloody Sunday as British paratroopers shot dead 13 civilians. (Photo by William L. Rukeyser/Getty Images)

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A young boy is held by British soldiers from the Gloucester Regiment after he was caught in the act of hurling stones at a Saracen Armoured Personal Carrier in the IRA (Irish Republican Army) stronghold, the lower Falls Road area, March 1972, Belfast, Northern Ireland. The boy claimed he was paid by extremists to toss rocks at the British troops. The year 1972 the most violent year of the Troubles in Northern, Ireland. (Photo by Oliver Morris/Getty Images)

A young boy is held by British soldiers from the Gloucester Regiment after he was caught in the act of hurling stones at a Saracen Armoured Personal Carrier in the IRA (Irish Republican Army) stronghold, the lower Falls Road area, March 1972, Belfast, Northern Ireland. The boy claimed he was paid by extremists to toss rocks at the British troops. The year 1972 the most violent year of the Troubles in Northern, Ireland. (Photo by Oliver Morris/Getty Images)

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Ulster v All Blacks 18/11/1972 Jeff Matheson, the All Blacks prop, in training under then watchful eye of then Army at Ballymena rugby ground, Eaton Park. 17/11/1972

Ulster v All Blacks 18/11/1972 Jeff Matheson, the All Blacks prop, in training under then watchful eye of then Army at Ballymena rugby ground, Eaton Park. 17/11/1972

C and C Office Supplies. Royal Navy Buccaneer jet crashed into the East Belfast office supply showroom at Orby Road. 6/10/1972. **BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE*** Managing Director Robert Calvert.

C and C Office Supplies. Royal Navy Buccaneer jet crashed into the East Belfast office supply showroom at Orby Road. 6/10/1972. **BEST QUALITY AVAILABLE*** Managing Director Robert Calvert.

John Taylor: Ulster Unionist. The interior of MP John Taylors car after the Stormont Minister for Home Affairs was shot and injured. 25/2/1972

John Taylor: Ulster Unionist. The interior of MP John Taylors car after the Stormont Minister for Home Affairs was shot and injured. 25/2/1972

EXPLOSIONS:BELFAST: EUROPA HOTEL. The extensive damage caused to the Europa Hotel, Belfast, following a bomb explsoion in the first floor ladies toilets. 9/6/1972

EXPLOSIONS:BELFAST: EUROPA HOTEL. The extensive damage caused to the Europa Hotel, Belfast, following a bomb explsoion in the first floor ladies toilets. 9/6/1972

A woman eyes a British soldier on patrol in the republican New Lodge district of Belfast, 21st January 1972. (Photo by Alex Bowie/Getty Images)

A woman eyes a British soldier on patrol in the republican New Lodge district of Belfast, 21st January 1972. (Photo by Alex Bowie/Getty Images)

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Londonderry. Bloody Sunday. Funeral. Mrs Ita McKinney, 9 months pregnant cries behind the hearse carrying her husband James from St Mary's, Creggan. 2/2/1972.

Londonderry. Bloody Sunday. Funeral. Mrs Ita McKinney, 9 months pregnant cries behind the hearse carrying her husband James from St Mary's, Creggan. 2/2/1972.

When you're three-years-old and looking forward to a fortnight's holiday you can't wait to get away. But Ingrid Doherty, of Bligh's Gardens, Derry, shows real what real patience is as she wait for the train at Waterside station. 8/8/1972

When you're three-years-old and looking forward to a fortnight's holiday you can't wait to get away. But Ingrid Doherty, of Bligh's Gardens, Derry, shows real what real patience is as she wait for the train at Waterside station. 8/8/1972

An injured man is led away following the Abercorn Bar Bomb in March 1972.

An injured man is led away following the Abercorn Bar Bomb in March 1972.

Wrecked buses lie among the ruins of Smithfield Station in the centre of Belfast, which was completely destroyed by a bomb. 21/1/1972.

Wrecked buses lie among the ruins of Smithfield Station in the centre of Belfast, which was completely destroyed by a bomb. 21/1/1972.

Orange Order:Twelfth Parading at 12th July celebrations in Belfast. 12/7/1972

Orange Order:Twelfth Parading at 12th July celebrations in Belfast. 12/7/1972

York Road Railway Station. Bloody Friday. The bomb damaged interior of the railway station after an explosion. 21/7/1972

York Road Railway Station. Bloody Friday. The bomb damaged interior of the railway station after an explosion. 21/7/1972

Ulster Defence Association/U.D.A: 1972. UDA in Londonderry. 30/09/72

Ulster Defence Association/U.D.A: 1972. UDA in Londonderry. 30/09/72

Sydney Agnew. Murdered at Home. 18/1/1972. Mrs Agnew (right), widow of Mr Sydney Agnew, the murdered Corporation bus driver, comforts her two children before the funeral cortege moves off. 21/1/1972

Sydney Agnew. Murdered at Home. 18/1/1972. Mrs Agnew (right), widow of Mr Sydney Agnew, the murdered Corporation bus driver, comforts her two children before the funeral cortege moves off. 21/1/1972

Edward Heath in 1972 in Northern Ireland.

Edward Heath in 1972 in Northern Ireland.

Bloody Sunday compensation...File photo dated 02/02/72 of the inside of St Mary's Church, on the Creggan Estate, during a Requiem Mass for the 13 who died on 'Bloody Sunday' in Londonderry. The Ministry of Defence is preparing to pay compensation to relatives of those killed or injured by soldiers on Bloody Sunday in Northern Ireland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Thursday September 22, 2011. Fourteen people died after paratroopers opened fire in January 1972 during a civil rights protest in Londonderry. Prime Minister David Cameron has already apologised to victims and said the shootings were wrong. See PA story ULSTER Sunday. Photo credit should read: PA Wire...A

Bloody Sunday compensation...File photo dated 02/02/72 of the inside of St Mary's Church, on the Creggan Estate, during a Requiem Mass for the 13 who died on 'Bloody Sunday' in Londonderry. The Ministry of Defence is preparing to pay compensation to relatives of those killed or injured by soldiers on Bloody Sunday in Northern Ireland. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Thursday September 22, 2011. Fourteen people died after paratroopers opened fire in January 1972 during a civil rights protest in Londonderry. Prime Minister David Cameron has already apologised to victims and said the shootings were wrong. See PA story ULSTER Sunday. Photo credit should read: PA Wire...A

Northern Ireland Troubles...File photo dated 20/03/1972 of a British paratrooper taking a young girl in his arms to comfort her after she had been hurt in a bomb blast in Belfast. Sandra Peake, CEO of Wave trauma centre has told the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee that halting investigations into the majority of unsolved Troubles killings will send a signal to dissident republicans that they can get away with violence. PA Photo. Issue date: Wednesday July 1, 2020. See PA story ULSTER Victims. Photo credit should read: Derek Brind/PA Wire ...A

Northern Ireland Troubles...File photo dated 20/03/1972 of a British paratrooper taking a young girl in his arms to comfort her after she had been hurt in a bomb blast in Belfast. Sandra Peake, CEO of Wave trauma centre has told the Northern Ireland Affairs Committee that halting investigations into the majority of unsolved Troubles killings will send a signal to dissident republicans that they can get away with violence. PA Photo. Issue date: Wednesday July 1, 2020. See PA story ULSTER Victims. Photo credit should read: Derek Brind/PA Wire ...A

EXPLOSIONS: BELFAST: ANDERSON STREET (SHORT STRAND). 28TH MAY 1972. 8 people killed when a bomb exploded in a house in Anderson Street. Four of the dead were members of the IRA.

EXPLOSIONS: BELFAST: ANDERSON STREET (SHORT STRAND). 28TH MAY 1972. 8 people killed when a bomb exploded in a house in Anderson Street. Four of the dead were members of the IRA.

Aftermath scenes of the Lenadoon Estate siege during which 3000 rounds were fired on a rocket and a bomb at the army post. July 1972 72-7407-003 (Photo by WATFORD/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images)

Aftermath scenes of the Lenadoon Estate siege during which 3000 rounds were fired on a rocket and a bomb at the army post. July 1972 72-7407-003 (Photo by WATFORD/Mirrorpix/Mirrorpix via Getty Images)

Mirrorpix via Getty Images

The Year of Chaos, Northern Ireland on the Brink of Civil War, 1971-72

The Year of Chaos, Northern Ireland on the Brink of Civil War, 1971-72

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Bristol LH's Nos 1108 and 1109 burn in the aftermath of Bloody Friday at Great Victoria Street depot on July 21st 1972 - Credit - British Pathe LTD

Whenever TV documentaries look back on the early days of the Troubles, they will often play the pop music of the time over images of funerals or bomb wreckage.

This doesn’t work for me. When I stood watching funerals or riots I wasn’t humming those songs to myself. Was anyone? I doubt it.


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