Belfast Telegraph

Stories from Battle of Bogside to form new exhibit 50 years on

Jimmy Toye
Jimmy Toye
Jimmy Toye (front centre) during Battle of Bogside
Donna Deeney

By Donna Deeney

The stories of 50 people who lived through three days of intense rioting in Londonderry in August 1969 have been compiled as part of commemorations marking the 50th anniversary of the Battle of the Bogside.

The exhibition will run from August 4-8 in the Guildhall before moving to its permanent home in Free Derry Museum.

Bloody Sunday Trust member and commemoration organiser Maeve McLaughlin said the exhibition tells the story of 50 ordinary people who were present during this extraordinary period in Derry's history.

She said: "The Battle of the Bogside was significant and some will argue a turning point, it was a trigger to the British Army being brought into the area.

"Bloody Sunday Trust thought it was important to acknowledge and record the role of these people and the stories they have to tell.

"These are the stories of people who staffed the barricades, looked after the wounded, and those who stayed at home.

"The exhibition will run in the Guildhall before becoming a permanent exhibition in the Free Derry Museum."

Among those who have contributed to the exhibition is Jimmy Toye who, as a boy of 16, was among those who manned the barricades.

He said: "I was always politically aware even as a 16-year-old so I fully understood how extraordinary a time it was.

"I would have been in Rossville Street every day at the barricades and throwing stones, but I remember clearly the day the soldiers arrived in William Street, which was the first time I had ever seen a soldier.

"They saw us as the enemy and that was how we were treated but, looking back, it is hard to believe we came through those times."

As a mother of eight children, including a newborn daughter, Mary Nelis wasn't directly involved in the Battle of the Bogside, but was still fighting for improved living conditions for people there.

She said: "There was such tension in the air leading up to the Battle of the Bogside. It was unreal and at that time I was living in Creggan, where I had gotten involved in the Community Association, which was the prelude to the civil rights movement.

"The circumstances of how you live dictate the evolution of people getting off their knees, and the Battle of the Bogside was a part of that."

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