After wandering around Europe for just over three months now, it has occurred to me that Marsha and I are ‘Walking History.’ We have rambled the grounds of Pre-Historic societies and reverently strolled the cities with events that happened within our lifetimes. Time and again I have thought about all the tribes, cities, and communities, and their struggles to find a place in this world. Although over-simplified, I see Power as the one continuing factor that upsets the balance of peace and harmony for people throughout the places we have experienced. Power: the striving for and the reaction to. From the French Revolution to the painting of Irish Murals, Power has been the disquieting factor. Our last two weeks in Ireland were an education far beyond what we could have learned from books.
In Derry, we slowly walked through the Bogside to absorb the events of 30 January, 1972: Bloody Sunday. Fourteen people were killed by the British military. At the time, we in the states, were shown the IRA as the really bad guys. It’s just not that simple.
July 11th Bonfire Prep
The Bogside Murals are very impressive and show a struggle that is still just below the surface of everyday life. Marsha and I could sense the tremor of unrest. We weren’t exactly fearful, but mindful and respectful of the present tension. We had a pint in the Bogside Inn. This Inn was ground zero. On its walls, you will see that terrible day through black and white photos.
Belfast continued our education. Little did we know that July 12th in Northern Ireland is “July 12th” also known as “Orangemen’s Day”, “Orange Day”, “the Glorious Twelfth” or just “the Twelfth”. This celebrates the Battle of the Boyne, 1 July 1690, when Prince William of Orange defeated King James of England. Although Prince William was Protestant and King James was Catholic, the battle was more than just about religion. The point of who was in power was, and still is, the issue.
When we got to Belfast on July 12th, EVERYTHING was closed. We got into our lodging and headed into the town center to get dinner … nothing. After Marsha talked to a local about safety issues, we decided to watch the parade. There were parades throughout Northern Ireland. In fact, we left Derry very early to avoid being caught in a small village parade along the way. The parades began in small communities, joined up with others and marched all day, many of them over 25 miles of banging drums, playing fifes, and singing.
It was in Belfast that we learned more about ‘The Troubles’, 1969-1999. These were the years most of us in the US saw played out on the TV. Belfast is also a city of murals. These murals are reminders and warnings of a country that is still working it out.
We feel our Irish education has only started. In the future, when we see new events of this beautiful land, we will have a little better foundation to grapple with their ongoing struggle. It’s Complicated.
Let’s change gears a bit. In Derry, we walked the City Walls that enclose the old city. They are in remarkably good shape. On the wall sits the old church, St. Augustine. It is known as “The Wee Church on the Wall.” We attended a boys’ choir concert there. During the intermission, we were served tea and biscuits (cookies) in the pews. I’ve been a part of several churches that would have lost their sanctification over ANYTHING being consumed in the pews.
On our way to Belfast, we went to see The Giants Causeway. The story is the giant Finn made a causeway over to Scotland to spy on a giant there. After seeing that the Scottish giant was bigger than he, he returned to Ireland, dismantled the causeway and left only the remnant on the Irish coast.
In Belfast, I dropped off the car … in the same shape as when I started out, 10 LONG days before. Although I was the picture of cool on the outside, on the inside I was doing a very enthusiastic happy dance. If this doesn’t make any sense, please see post, “Week 19 – Ireland: Left Handed Shifting, Millie the Sheep, and A Red Wig.”
We visited the very well-done Titanic Museum. Belfast was THE ship building city for many years. The Titanic was one of three from the Olympic class ships. We know about the 2nd ship, Titanic, but the Olympic and Britannic also met with unfavorable ends.
Opened last Fall in Belfast, Jack’s birthplace
On Saturday, we took an Uber to the bus station. We had booked an afternoon bus thinking we would be cutting it too close for the late morning bus. However, after talking to the earlier bus driver, we eventually wound up going with him. It is an interesting story about an entire football team getting off the bus, a 9:30 am drunk talking to us constantly, and stopping at the next village so some passengers could get to the ATM to get money for their fare. It all works out.
Next post will be about our time in Scotland. ‘Hey, it’s raining here.’
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Preston & Marsha
Don’t Retire: Reload – Groovin’ on the Flip Side