Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Where Were You?

One Ton Humber Armored Car (Pig) and a typical
Londonderry street scene from the 70's.
In 1976, I first heard this album in a "hippie den" in Hamilton, Scotland. I was never a hippie, but I did bounce around the British Isles back then. I can't recall the name of the guy who put the record on the turntable and cranked up the sound while he smoked a joint but he said, "You won't forget this one in a fortnight, yank." He passed a bottle of Bell's Scotch Whiskey - rotgut by anyone's standards. I didn't forget the song. The Emerald was perhaps the first rock Irish War Tune.

Thin Lizzy - The Emerald

Down from the glen came the marching men
With their shields and their swords
To fight the fight they believed to be right
Overthrow the overlords

To the town where there was plenty
They brought plunder, swords and flame
When they left the town was empty
Children would never play again

From their graves I heard the fallen
Above the battle cry
By that bridge near the border
There were many more to die

Then onward over the mountain
And outward towards the sea
They had come to claim the emerald
Without it they could not leave

Of course the bridge near the border was the bridge that separated Londonderry, Northern Ireland from "Free Derry" in the Irish Republic. It's a single city, separated by a national boundary

There's a fancy sign now that tourists pose before to get their snapshot taken but when I was there, the sign was on the side of this house. The river runs before the house and there was a bridge, fortified and braced with razor wire and calthrops. 

I didn't arrive in Ulster until well after the civil war there peaked. Bloody Sunday - 1972 took place there in Derry near this sign, painted on the house. There are different accounts of what happened, but British troops fired on kids throwing rocks and killed quite a few of them. There were many more injured and pulled from the fight by their mates. Baton rounds - so-called 'rubber bullets' were 40mm solid rubber rounds the size of a policeman's baton. The soldiers were supposed to fire them into the pavement so they'd bounce up and deter the unhappy Irish population. They fired them directly into the kids. Much later I watched that sort of projectile hit a kid's head when I was there. It killed her on the spot.

The Irish band, U-2 sang a song about Bloody Sunday

Broken bottles under children's feet
Bodies strewn across the dead end street
But I won't heed the battle call
It puts my back up
Puts my back up against the wall

Sunday, Bloody Sunday


Opus #6 said...

A lot of us look to our Irish nationality every March 17th. Yet there is a lot of history Americans don't know, and this is part of it.

WoFat said...

There IS a lot of history Americans don't know about. How many guys killed in Vietnam had had any idea of Viet history, and the lovable French?
How many Americans killed in the Middle East know about the 6 thousand years of violent history in that region?

LL said...

The history of Ireland is the history of English oppression and a lot of pain. It's been said that if it wasn't for whiskey, the Irish would have ruled the world.

It was illegal in Northern Ireland for people to own firearms. That was the left to the Royal Army, their protectors - some of the time - when it suited the crown.

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