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Extracts from 'Blood in the Street',
by Fulvio Grimaldi



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Text: Fulvio Grimaldi ... Page Compiled: Fionnuala McKenna

The following extracts have been contributed by the author Fulvio Grimaldi, with the permission of Guildhall Press. The views expressed in this book do not necessarily reflect the views of the members of the CAIN Project. The CAIN Project would welcome other material which meets our guidelines for contributions.

These extracts are taken from the book:
BLOOD in the STREET
by Fulvio Grimaldi (1998)
ISBN 0 946451 50 8 Paperback 78pp

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Guildhall Press {external_link}
Unit 15, Rath Mor Business Park
Bligh's Lane, Creggan
DERRY. Northern Ireland.
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These extracts are copyright Fulvio Grimaldi (1998) and are included on the CAIN site by permission of the author and publisher. You may not edit, adapt, or redistribute changed versions of this for other than your personal use without the express written permission of the author and publisher,Guildhall Press. Redistribution for commercial purposes is not permitted.


Contents

Editorial Note
Incubators of Violence: Introduction
by Don Mullan
Preface
Foreword by the Authors
Introduction
Story of a Sunday Afternoon
The March
William Street
The Mass Murder
Target Practice: Death from the Walls
Kill the Reporter
Aftermath
On the Scene
In Hospital
A Visitor


BLOOD in the STREET

"Today we march. And march we can, 'cause our streets are free."

On 30 January 1972 Italian photo-journalist Fulvio Gnmaldi and his English partner Susan North joined an anti-internment march in Derry, to photograph and record a day that wasn't thought to be "particularly out of the ordinary". There was no foreboding, no thought that that day, that march, was to become indelibly inscribed as one of the blackest moments in the dark history of the Northern Ireland conflict. Within hours, thirteen civilians lay dead, a further thirteen injured.

In Blood in the Street, written in the immediate aftermath of Bloody Sunday, Grimaldi and North vividly recall the events of the day. Unashamedly partisan, "...impartiality didn't even cross our minds.., we belonged to the running and screaming and falling and dying", their account, in Grimaldi's sometimes faltering English, reads like blank verse as he describes the "sudden realisation of horror, death, horrific mass death..."

Lost to the public eye for so long, Blood in the Street captures in such an immediate way the mood of the day, bringing back into stark reality the horror of Bloody Sunday.

…awash with throbbing details and insights which, at times, leave the reader breathless. One can sense the eye of an artist surveying an unfolding nightmare with deepening despair and foreboding.
Don Mullan, author of Eyewitness Bloody Sunday


EDITORIAL NOTE

Blood in the Street was first published in March 1972, prior to the publication of the Widgery Report. Most of the text, ie Grimaldi and North's account of the events of Sunday 30 January 1972, was written in the days immediately following Bloody Sunday, much of it directly transcribed from tapes made on the day itself. The taped conversations recorded in the homes of some of the victims and with some of those injured and still in hospital took place within two to three weeks of Bloody Sunday. Only 2-3 00 copies were produced in the English language (a similar amount were produced in Italian), making it one of the rarest publications on the Northern Irish conflict.

In producing this reprint we have tried to duplicate the original, beginning on page 10, as closely as possible, staying with the original design and layout, and only correcting any spelling mistakes. The front cover, reproduced on the title page, has been changed at the request of the family of the late Bernard McGuigan. The original back cover image, a photograph of Free Derry Corner, and the now out of date contact addresses on the inside back cover, have been omitted. Many of the original negatives were unavailable at the time of going to print, so copies had to be made from the original publication, hence the poor quality of some of the photographs contained within the book.

Guildhall Press would like to extend our thanks to the Bloody Sunday Justice Campaign and the Bloody Sunday Trust for their support for this publication, to Fulvio Grimaldi for allowing us to reproduce his work and for providing a new preface for the book, Don Mullan for writing the introduction, the Bogside Artists for the inspiration for the cover design, and to June McCloskey and Sean O'Doherty, without whose foresight in preserving original copies of Blood in the Street this reprint would have been impossible.


Adrian Kerr
October 1998

Return to Contents


INCUBATORS OF VIOLENCE
An Introduction to BLOOD in the STREET
by Don Mullan

BLOODY SUNDAY - SOUNDS AND SCENES

An anonymous Derry boy, shortly after the massacre of Bloody Sunday said, "I am glad that people like you exist". The compliment was spoken to, and about, Italian photo-journalist Fulvio Grimaldi.

Grimaldi had come to Derry with his English born partner, Susan North, to record the sounds and scenes of a Northern Ireland civil rights march to be held in Derry on Sunday 30 January 1972. By then, civil rights demonstrations were common occurrences and the fact that this one had been banned, wasn't particularly out of the ordinary. What occurred, however, shocked Grimaldi and North to the core and propelled them to counteract the malevolent untruths about Bloody Sunday which the British establishment were successfully choreographing around the world.

We should not lose sight of the fact that the first edition of this book was published in March 1972 with Grimaldi's narrative written within days of Bloody Sunday. It is obvious the first edition was prepared hastily, lacking perhaps the finesse which might otherwise have characterised a publication which was not motivated by a prophetic sense of urgency to tell the truth and to defy the barefaced lying on the part of powerful British Institutions of State.

It should be remembered that Fulvio Grimaldi and Susan North risked their lives in the common service of humanity that day. Grimaldi, in fact, could easily have been the 15th victim of Bloody Sunday and his name might well have adorned the Rossville Street memorial, if the Para's had their way. Amongst the many crimes committed by the 1st Battalion the Parachute Regiment on that day, against a civilian population, it must never be forgotten that they attempted to murder an Italian photographer on at least two occasions. A photo-journalist who was simply doing his job of recording history and the truth.


WE BELONGED

Those of us who survived the chilling terror of those 30 minutes of military madness can easily identify with the surreal language which Grimaldi uses throughout his text. There is a poetic quality woven throughout by a man who, along with his partner and the people of Derry, confronted and defied death on several occasions and, in the process, became as one:

"...bang-kchhhh, bang-kchhhh, against real human beings. The scream hit louder than all the explosions. It hit and stunned. It's live. And suddenly we were faced with death. It wasn't a question of sores, bruises, lung congestion, freezing water any more. It was death or life. The absolute alternative. For everybody. Those with camera and press card included. As never before, more than political and human affinity and solidarity had ever achieved, we, observers, reporters, uninvolved parties, were part of the one side, the people's side. And we accepted the identification, automatically, naturally. The mechanism of death was after us too, ready to catch up, grind, obliterate. The alternative of running in the opposite direction, away from the people who had to be killed. Behind the barriers of safety and officialdom, of 'impartiality', didn't even cross our minds. And it certainly wasn't because [on] this side of the fence better professional opportunities were offered, the prospect of some unique scoop, recognition, popularity, money. The message that those live bullets carried directly to you, did away with that. It wasjust that we felt, without thinking, without rationalising, that we belonged to the running and screaming and falling and dying and hating and despairing: the people, and not the ludicrous little death-spitters that invisible strings made hop around and chase and shoot and kill. As simple as that..."

DEATH FROM THE WALLS

Grimaldi and North, it should be remembered too, were amongst the first to suspect that some of the Bloody Sunday dead had been shot from the Derry Walls. And this, back in 1972! On page 37, one of their headings reads: "Target Practice. Death from the Walls". Their interview with 32 year old Daniel McGowan in Altnagelvin Hospital, clearly records his suspicion that he had been wounded from on high: "I think the shot came from the Walls. The position I was in, the bullet went in the left side of my leg, came out at my foot, the right side. There was no Saracen. It must have come from Derry Walls..." McGowan was shot at the bottom of the steps which ran from the Rossville Flats forecourt up to Fahan Street.

In this context there is also an extraordinary interview with Alexander Nash, himself wounded as he tried to recover the body of his son William from the Rossville Street barricade. William we now suspect was shot dead on Bloody Sunday by a hidden marksman operating in the vicinity of the Derry Walls, alongside John Young and Michael McDaid. Alexander Nash and his family only discovered this as the 25th anniversary of William's death approached. But Grimaldi records Alexander Nash saying the following:

"We don't know who's doing this shooting from the Walls. You don't know it. Another dead. Them boys are being let loose with the rifles. We don't know who is doing the shooting from the Walls..."
The Lord Chief Justice of England, Lord Widgery, if he possessed the integrity his high office demanded, had the powers to discover the full truth about how, why and from where, all of the Bloody Sunday dead and wounded were shot. As Grimaldi, North and Daniel McGowan demonstrate, there was enough suspicion and evidence to warrant investigation. The fact that Widgery choose to ignore this evidence serves only to increase our suspicions that the Walls might yet prove to be the British Establishment's Achilles heel. It is not the presence of a hidden marksman, I suspect, which Widgery wished to hide, but rather that of very senior military personnel (and perhaps others), which would lend weight to our belief that Bloody Sunday was a politically sanctioned massacre.


THROBBING DETAILS

Grimaldi's narrative is awash with throbbing details and insights which, at times, leave the reader breathless. One can sense the eye of an artist surveying an unfolding nightmare with deepening despair and foreboding.

"A helmet shone under the sun and caught my eye. The area in front of me was getting deserted. The glimmer on the helmet bounced up and down as its owner ran after a tiny, unreal group...

The Saracen is there. Heavy and still, like a big beast after its meal...

...more Saracens were moving in, with soldiers flanking and following on foot, guns at the ready. Germans mopping up some Warsaw ghetto, I reflected. And as I hurried up the street, the glimpse of childhood fantasy shot through my mind: when walking along narrow alleys, I imagined some huge ice-breaking vessel moving up the road, with steel pushers wiping away whatever they met on the way and I tried to figure some way of getting away, flying up perhaps, and ended up with images of smashed flesh, of bones crunched against the walls flanking the street, and dreaded the thought that this icebreaker should ever come true. There it was, slowly and horribly moving up the street, determined to crush anything. Come true.

The man who shouted crumbles to a heap and slowly stretches out. Like the gradual deflating of a balloon."

Grimaldi's ever growing outrage and revulsion at what he is witnessing finds expression in a mocking disdain for the Paratroopers whom he describes throughout as "spitting insects".
"The soulless mechanical tools. And their masters, the mad, frothing, mad scientists.

I keep remembering the paratroopers as tiny, artificial, mechanical, and the people as normal sized, or even larger than life.

Paratroopers. The helmet, round and bulky like a casserole...

… first aid men and girls among them, red eyes, tears in their eyes, working professionally, pedantically, not giving a damn about themselves. The bravest people in the world. In front and under the guns, under the narrow, masked gaze of insects, the greatest cowards in the world."


CURSE OF THE DEAD GENERATIONS

This small volume is a treasure chest of aching memories written and compiled by an Italian and an English journalist who are unapologetic about their partisan and passionate crusade. In many respects Grimaldi and North provide an essential insight into the mountain of hurt and humiliation, compounded by decades of official acquiescence and state sanctioned terrorism, which helped spawn and strengthen a generation of urban guerrillas whose discipline, deathly determination and defiance shocked and sometimes horrified even their own communities. This perhaps is best illustrated in Grimaldi's recording of a deeply traumatised mother who invokes the curses of dead generations on the paratroopers and their masters:

"Tell the world, tell about the murderers... We shall not surrender... The curse of the dead generations on the murderers... and all the generations to come. They won't get us, never. And they will not beat us..."
Grimaldi reflects on the impact of the paratroopers actions and the official cover-up. Actions which were to exacerbate the consequences of that day for quarter of a century to follow. His words are indeed prophetic:
"And one can see why these things produce IRA, victory. Because they produce togethemess, closeness, understanding of who and what the enemy really is, force. They feed the monster for minutes, hours, days perhaps. But they make togetherness, Sinn Fein, IRA, Revolution, for ever."
Grimaldi also records the gentler side of Derry life which was, and remains, part and partial of a unique community spirit. Amidst the growing anguish of that day, the mother of the murdered Jim Wray takes pity on a young shivering woman who was soaked by a water cannon. She invites her back to the Wray family home in the Bogside to let her have a warm bath and to find her a change of clothing. Later, when she had discovered the horrific circumstances of her son's death (Jim was shot in the back as he lay already wounded in Glenfada Park), and in spite of her pain and unfathomable sorrow, Mrs Wray told Grimaldi:
"They let my son die like a dog in the street, and if a paratrooper was laying there now, I would go to him and see could I do somethin' for him, and I would bring his clergy to give him the last rites of his church."

POLITICAL OVERTONES

The cold and calculated nature of Bloody Sunday makes it very difficult to conclude that what happened on the day was the result of a small band of soldiers losing control or mistaking incoming fire from the Derry Walls as an IRA attack. The presence in Derry of General Ford, the commander of British Army land forces in Northern Ireland, of 1800 troops and eight regiments, all of whom were engaged in sealing off the no-go areas of Creggan, Brandywell and the Bogside, form a pattern which suggests that an unprecedented military operation was in progress. When this is coupled with the genuine forewarnings given by some British military personnel to local girlfriends, and others, to stay away from the civil rights march because something dreadful was going to happen, we are left with no other conclusion than Bloody Sunday was a planned massacre with strong political overtones.

Was, for example, Bloody Sunday part of a last gasp effort by the old Stormont regime to kill the Northern Ireland Civil Rights Movement and to so traumatise the Nationalist community in general whereby it would be beaten back into submissiveness for a few more generations? I believe it was. Quite the opposite, of course, happened. The resulting decades of brutal political and sectarian violence owes much to what British Paratroopers did in Derry that day and the labyrinth of official lies which a British Prime Minister, a British Parliament and a British Lord Chief Justice concocted to cover-up the horror of those actions.


NEW BLOODY SUNDAY INQUIRY

With the establishment of the new Bloody Sunday Inquiry, the British Government has the opportunity to put right great wrongs of historic proportions. Lord Saville of Newdigate, Chairman of the new Inquiry, and his two Commonwealth panellists, Sir Edward Somers, New Zealand, and Mr Justice Hoyt, Canada, have assumed an enormous responsibility. They cannot presume the confidence of the families who lost their loved ones, the Bloody Sunday wounded, or the wider Nationalist community of Derry and beyond. Lord Chief Justice Widgery has cast a long shadow of suspicion and our engagement with the new inquiry will always be in the knowledge that their predecessor caused enormous distress and hurt through the abuse of the same powers they now possess. Saville, Somers and Hoyt might yet contribute to the healing process so necessary between the peoples of Ireland and their British neighbours, if on this occasion they apply themselves to the fair and impartial unravelling of the truth which they promised in their opening statement on 3 April 1998.

An essential part of that truth is a recognition of the primary source of the political violence which has so characterised the unresolved consequences of British colonialism on this part of the island, better known as 'Northern Ireland'. Grimaldi's photographs, narrative and the sound recordings he made with Susan North, help to bring into sharp relief one abiding truth which I personally know from my upbringing amongst the good people of the Creggan, Brandywell and Bogside: The community into which Iwas born was not itself conceived with a genetic defect that made it prone to violence.

How and why a peace loving community (which I come from), can begin to produce and support a deadly and disciplined guerrilla army, demands greater honesty and accountability from politicians and lawmakers. Centuries of colonial abuse and decades of political corruption are surely the incubators which breed the despicable virus of violence.

Don Mullan
Derry, 1 October 1998

Return to Contents


PREFACE

Thank you, 1st Battalion Paras. Thank you. Much of what helped me detect, in my human and professional experiences, the difference between right and wrong, justice and injustice, valour and cowardice, love and contempt, slavery and freedom, I owe to you, 1st Battalion.

Almost 27 years have gone since what was to become the most important event in my professional, political, social and ethical life. Whenever, upon coming to write or speak about a news item, I happened to be in doubt over who should be supported and who criticised or condemned, the Bloody Sunday experience, the faces on one side and those on the other, helped me take my decision. If I managed to remain an honest journalist, ever biased in favour of the oppressed, this I owe you, 1st Battalion.

You showed me with utmost precision and efficiency what lurks behind power, wealth, self-righteousness, conceit, officialdom, media-obedience. You showed me violence and death, fraud and dishonesty and, in contrast, the dead, or dying or suffering faces of the working (or more likely unemployed) people of Derry offered me a flower whose petals I remember as courage, sincerity, liberty, solidarity, love, life. This flower I have never stopped watering. Its blossoms are as strong and as beautiful as ever. May they shine over our precarious future.

Fulvio Grimaldi
Rome, 28 September 1998

Return to Contents


Foreword by the authors

What Hitler, by Capital and Business created and supported, did to Jews, Czechoslovakians, Italians, Poles, French, Soviets, Creeks and many other nationalities, and to his own working people, the British ruling class, as led by the City and represented by British Governments, are doing to the national and working class population of Northern Ireland. Concentration camps, torture, murder, suppression of political liberties and human rights included. Plus neocapitalistic forms of exploitation and economical blackmail.

In the planned and efficiently executed genocide of the Irish national working class in the North, the British enjoy the complicity and the encouragement of Northern Irish fascist puppet governments, representing the local ruling class whose survival as holders of the power and wealth monopoly can only be guaranteed by continued exploitation and oppression, and today, as the ordinary people of Northern Ireland have taken to armed revolution, by total coercion through the means of the British Army.

The mass murder of the Derry poor, which we had the extraordinary luck and unneasurable grief to witness from the side upon which it has been inflicted, is the culmination of a design intended to break the revolutionary national and social struggle, and to pave the way for deceitful "reforms" that the people, and their advanced level of struggle, would have never accepted and would have fought as long as armed with the one power that oppressors respect, understand and fear -the gun.

But the slaughter of the Derry poor, in the moment of their defencelessness, is also something else. It is the paranoiac reaction of a schizophrenic society in its final convulsions, feeling the death sting of total challenge and of total rejection. Challenge and rejection by 40,000 working class people during three years of freedom and resistance.

Offensive Resistance, that has made exploiting and oppressing minorities shudder with terror, from Belfast to London, from Dublin to Bonn, from Paris to Rome, from Moscow to Washington, from Saigon to Tokyo, from Madrid to Athens, from Ankara to Rio de Janeiro. Offensive Resistance, the infectious power of which is encouraging and strengthening the efforts and determination and hopes of the oppressed, exploited, persecuted majority of the human race throughout the world. Free Berry is the guiding light of the marching have-nots.

It will be said that this book about the State-butchery in Berry is one-sided and partial. That it is emotional. We, who have written it, and the people about whom it is and the people for whom it is, don't mind and don't care. Our emotions are criticised and feared because they carry us to victory. Our partiality and one-sidedness is indicted because it reflects the part and the side of us, the masses, the people. We are not interested in objectivity, aloofness, that can only derive from indifference or vested complicity with those who have everything to lose.

We have nothing to lose but the truth. We have everything to gain. This is our strength, our invincible strength.

We apologise if the imperfect knowledge of English of who wrote down the story of Bloody Sunday will cause difficulties to the reading friends. We hope in their indulgence, considering that this account may well be seen as the loving contribution of the friends of Free Berry in all the world.

DUBLIN Fulvio Grimaldi
ROME Susan North
LONDON February 1972

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THE MASS MURDER

It is 4 o'clock. One more hour's light for pictures, if these damned eyes open up again and the cough relents. Never had so much gas in about a hundred outbursts of state-poison. Tripping and falling about, I almost end up under the gush of vomit of some woman. Several people are vomiting. The others are all coughing their lungs out. We are in that waste bit of land between a burnt out house facing William Street, and the courtyard of Rossville Flats. Facing the flats, there is Rossville Street at the right and the houses that open up on Chamberlain Street on the left. We are huddled around the entrance to Eden Street, some 20 yards of road up into Chamberlain Street. Who has somehow recovered, moves on to Free Derry Corner.

There is suddenly a commotion near the corner of Rossville Street and William Street. The horizon is a wall of white gas, lingering in the still air, and beneath, like escapees from some underworld, a group of men, four or five, tries to make its way in our direction, through a still coughing and spluttering crowd. The concern with one's own condition suddenly, instinctively, gives way to something more serious: there must be somebody REALLY ill, for the group of men appear to be carrying a body. As we approach, a sudden scream of a woman:

"It's a real bullet"
"No, no, it's only rubber."
"I think it's a gas canister."
"No rubber bullet causes that kind of gash."
More voices, shouts, three or four layers of people around the body. Also some first aid people with gas masks. Following them, we get through to the injured. A boy. Long blond hair. He has been laid down, but a nurse is holding up his head: a mask of blood. Blood pouring from under the nose and from the mouth, all over the face, into the neck, on the shirt, in the long curly hair. Blond and red. The face white, whiter. Eyes half closed, dazed. A first aid man, unreal gasmask close to the all too human white face, tries to stop the blood with some white cloth: an island of white in the dark huddle of Sunday suits. But within seconds the white is all red again. Must take a picture. A picture of a wounded man has always eluded me.


Unreal gasmask close to the all too human white face. . . stop the blood. . .

The group and us, with the boy again lifted in a makeshift stretcher of arms, moves on to the little passage that is Eden Street. Calls for an ambulance. Helpless expressions. Everybody looks around. No telephone till Chamberlain Street.

4:05 pm. There are no more than about a hundred people left in Rossville Square. Perhaps twenty on our side, near the entrance to Eden Street. For the second time the wall of white poison growing up from William Street is suddenly broken. Grey, dark, bulky forms rapidly growing into more precise contours and shapes, advancing at unbelievable speed, shooting out in all directions, one coming straight at us, another one speeding down Rossville Street towards the Flats and the tiny barricade at the end of the Flats.

One moments hesitation and incredible silence. Then scattering, running, shouting, falling, getting up, tripping again, pushing, pushing harder into barriers of flesh, shouting on, trying to reach the safety of the Flats, or behind the Flats, or of Eden Street. But no panic yet, no despair, no astonishment: the usual dispersion under a coming onslaught of gas, or rubber bullets, or batons. Enough gas, enough dyed water, enough rubber bullets for today. It hasn't been that bad for some time. Nobody is prepared. No hankies, no vinegar, nor any more banners to turn into sticks.

On our side, cut off as we are from the main escape route towards the Free Corner, there is a mad rush towards Eden Street, which squeezes us in and turns the street into a thick human sausage. I don't want to be trampled on again, like under the waterspray in William Street, and stay behind, among the last, with Susan, who turns her tape on, for more rubber bullet bangs, for more hissing of gas. And I want to see the scene through the reflex, in order to get anything worthy on film.

The Saracens career into the square and stop, scattered at some twenty yards one from the other. Perhaps three or four of them. Loud bangs of the backdoors opened fast against the metal body, crouching figures leaping out of the inner darkness with long, thin weapons in their hands, and running left and right, mostly forward, behind the fleeing crowd. It shoots through my mind: this will look like an American war film, Yokohama or something. Same characters: men under extreme determination, operating like machines, like little military robots in a perfect war game. Helmets tied with double straps to the chin, camouflage, black gas masks, things round their belts, weapons, leaping crouching, running.

Why? We weren't throwing anything. None of the boys had been throwing stones or bottles any more. Reprisal? For what? The stoning and yelling of before was a mini copy of what happens in William Street regularly, normally, every day. And this time there hadn't even been a single nailbomb, a single petrol bomb. Our tape recording was singularly poor: only gas and rubber, not one decent explosion.

Why? An ever growing why. And we were all drifting away from the trouble area, we were all sick and eager to get out. There was only gas left.

Why? What were they after? A quick snatch operation, to make a few boys pay for the immeasurable humiliation of three miles of broken ban?

But then, again, why? Why these soldiers different from all the others, different from those that one coped with daily at the 3 o'clock riots in William Street, different from the ones of earlier, behind the barrier, different from any soldier, at any time? Why no shields, or batons; why no big short rubber bullet guns, or screens on the helmets?

Paratroopers. The helmet, round and bulky like a casserole, proved it. But why paratroopers in a Rossville Square filled with tired, coughing, poisoned, soaked, fleeing people? What the hell do they want? The camera would see. Peering through the reflex, I follow one of the leaping figures from the Saracen. He jumps out, runs a few yards to the right, towards Rossville Street, turns, runs up towards the courtyard of the Flats, stops, lifts the carbine to his shoulder, looks for a split second over to another paratrooper, ten yards to the left, in identical position, fires, his head swinging slightly back, fires again, another shock of the head, fires again. Then starts running again.

Another one, chasing a boy with a handkerchief on his face; the boy falls; the paratrooper steps over him, on him; stops; points the rifle from 10 inches into the contorted mass from which an arm raises, to shield, to plead; fires - the mass jerks, lays still. Another one: grabbing a small, oldish, fleeing fellow, lifting the baton, smashing it down -smash, smash, smash... on head, shoulders, back, head.

I clicked once, twice. Another one -black gasmask, helmet, camouflage - turns round, points the gun at me, from the hip, from ten yards.

Somebody pulls me from behind, forcefully, the second click goes off while I am falling backwards, I stagger, follow the pull, the pull lets go, I walk backwards, then run backwards, then turn, see Susan at the top of Eden Street with her hands stretched out, shouting something to me, still holding the microphone. I run. Everybody around me runs. Not a word. Only shuffle and trampling then.

Only life in mind. Screams mounting into a tornado a little further away. Come on, lad! Somebody passing and pushing at my right shoulder, to pass, to help.

The Why that had grown as big as the whole square suddenly shrinks to the dimension of a carbine. And the answer comes like a frantic hiccup: as if a Saracen is having the hiccups after vomiting. Bang, bang, bang, bang, bang, bang-bang, bang.

And every bang followed by a little ranting, a hoarse hiss: kchhhh, kchhhh...

Why? The answer is fired at you by some thirty or forty minute men, wrapped up in comic inspired clothes of virility and power, altogether unbelievably grotesque and ridiculous, like all soldiers anywhere, and more so. Little stuffed men, incapable of speaking, of looking into your face and seeing your eyes, incapable of hearing and listening, incapable of understanding and knowing. Little robots programmed on the use of a gun against a target. Little toys out of some magic box concocted by the mad scientist to help him become the master of all men and the owner of all Earth, told to march out, like human beings, then to jump, like human beings, to run a bit, like human beings, to go down on one knee, like human beings, to lift their little deadly stick and make bang-kchhhh, bang-kchhhh, against real human beings.
IT'S LIVE!...

The scream hit louder than all the explosions. It hit and stunned. It's live. And suddenly we were faced with death. It wasn't a question of sores, bruises, lung congestion, freezing water any more. It was death or life. The absolute alternative. For everybody. Those with camera and press card included. As never before, more than political and human affinity and solidarity had ever achieved, we, observers, reporters, uninvolved parties, were part of the one side, the people's side. And we accepted the identification, automatically, naturally. The mechanism of death was after us too, ready to catch up, grind, obliterate. The alternative of running in the opposite direction, away from the people who had to be killed. Behind the barriers of safety and officialdom, of "impartiality", didn't even cross our minds. And it certainly wasn't because this side of the fence better professional opportunities were offered, the prospect of some unique scoop, recognition, popularity, money. The message that those live bullets carried directly to you, did away with that. It was just that we felt, without thinking, without rationalising, that we belonged to the running and screaming and falling and dying and hating and despairing: the people, and not the ludicrous little death-spitters that invisible strings made hop around and chase and shoot and kill. As simple as that. And a deep perception ran underneath all, realised only much later at the level of conscience, that it had always been like this and would always be. Now, more than ever before.

"The bastards are shooting live..." It had to be seen, again, better. To know, to understand, to tell, to fight better tomorrow. For a moment I lost sight of Susan. I just saw her, mike waving, expression strained by the most utter astonishment I had ever seen in a familiar face, moving with the tide of the crowd along Eden Street, towards the place of mass executions, as we later saw. Then I ran back, to the corner of Eden Street and the square. One or two minutes had passed. The firing was getting hectic, like one, long burst.

I saw the back of the paratroopers. Almost all were facing the courtyard besieged on three sides by the towering flats: the ideal place for a massacre. Some were kneeling and aiming, others were standing and aiming, others yet were darting towards the street in an effort to cut off the escape route of those few who had been overtaken by the roaring monsters as they sped in. The tiny monsters - and I keep remembering the paratroopers as tiny, artificial, mechanical, and the people as normal sized, or even larger than life. People in fact was almost all I saw, perhaps I wanted to see. The killers had diminished to dimensions of crawling lizards - had black gasmasks on their blackened, irresponsible faces. The humans had big, white faces, tense with effort and purpose: the purpose of running, of getting to safety. There wasn't room yet for horror. Small crouching, bouncing, death-spluttering insect-faced science fiction monsters, after men, human beings.

I saw a young man running, then slowing down and looking over, where an old grey-haired man was limping frantically away, sliding into slimy puddles of poison-drenched rainwater, nearly falling backwards, raising his arms, waving for leniency and compassion. The youth leaped over, put his arm under the old man's, pulled him on. Five yards to his right, a little further on, a boy with short, dark hair, lifted his hand to his face as he raced past one of the killers. Should he be shot, he didn't want to see. The mercenary let him go past, glanced down at his weapon, settled something on it with his hand, moved a few steps forward, calmly, lifted the carbine to his shoulder, pointed with the black barrel at the back of the fleeing boy, calmly. Shot. Calmly...

A helmet shone under the sun and caught my eye. The area in front of me was getting deserted. Everything had moved on towards the Flats. The glimmer on the helmet bounced up and down as its owner ran after a tiny, unreal group. A man in his older years, but tall and incredibly erect, with a cap on his white head, walking stealthily in his own direction, towards Rossville Street, away from the mainstream of chased and pursuers. Close to him, holding him up in a gesture that he didn't seem to need, a girl nurse, in her white coat the most evident object in all the blurred, moving scene. They were the only ones who weren't running, not even hurrying. Just walking, slowly, step-by-step, without turning, looking. Firm and erect. Courage and dignity.

The events had by-passed my position. I turned and ran up Chamberlain Street. Just in time.., from the William Street end more Saracens were moving in, with soldiers flanking and following on foot, guns at the ready. Germans mopping up some Warsaw ghetto, I reflected. And as I hurried up the street, the glimpse of childhood fantasy shot through my mind: when, walking along narrow alleys, I imagined some huge ice-breaking vessel moving up the road, with steel pushers wiping away whatever they met on the way, and I tried to figure some way of getting away, flying up perhaps, and ended up with images of smashed flesh, of bones crunched against the walls flanking the street, and dreaded the thought that this icebreaker should ever come true. There it was, slowly and horribly moving up the street, determined to crush anything. Come true.

Susan was waiting at the top of the street, among the last of the fleeing. She was pressing against the wall and shouted: "Can't you see, they are here too, they are coming up, can't you see, Fulvio watch out, Fulvio..." I got to her. "Keep the tape recorder going." Keep everything going. We MUST keep going. We are the ones that can tell, that get listened to. We must tell. Tell about them, tell what is being done to them, human beings, our human beings, our friends, our smiles, our handshakes, our time, our shelter, our confidence and trust. We ARE them. Keep going.

I find a way to the corner which opens up on the courtyard. There is no movement, no running now. Everything transfixed, still. Only bang-kchhhh, ... bangkchhhh. One starts reacting, registering at level of conscience. One is still alive. One feels the wave inside coming, mounting, spilling over. "You bastards.., stop it, stop it..." In front of them, looking at them, madly. Perhaps some unconscious feeling still that your camera, your ridiculous press card makes you invulnerable. The science fiction toy in front points his black insect trunk at me, aims, fires. Later they tell me, three times. Forceful arms grab me again, pull me back: "You out of your mind or something?", "He's cracked up, they almost got him". People still manage to think of other people. Of helping them to be alive, and happy, and walking, eating, talking, thinking, suffering, hating, loving, giving, taking.

The insects are only one big, monolithic thought, wrapped in khaki and lawfulness: kill, hit, hurt, eliminate. Somebody carries a woman past me. A trail of blood behind. Lumps of flesh, red, grainy, like strawberry jelly, dangling from her thigh [1]

A man like an hallucination, clear and high in the dazzling confusion of impressions, blonde, moustached, thin, towards the middle of the square, the cesspool of death. Raises his arms: "Shoot me, you bastards... Shoot me, not women, not a mother of 15 children." Demanding logic, even understanding and compassion, humanity, from mechanical insects with black trunks that were told to sting. Sting anybody till they fall and die. Up to thirty. "Thirty is the limit", somebody heard the chief insect yelling. Thirty. Thirteen dead, sixteen wounded, one woman killed by a heart attack at the perception of the horror. Thirty. Perfect mechanised insects. The man who shouted crumbles to a heap and slowly stretches out. Like the gradual deflating of a balloon. A bullet hit him in the knee. Serves you as a lesson. Who are we to tell the difference between a mother of fifteen and anyone else?

Susan and I follow the man in the house at the left-hand side corner of Chamberlain Street. Commotion inside, but subdued. Two wounded have to be attended. Also, the mother is here. On a couch in the living room. Moans, weeps, can't understand. Why so much pain, so much, the leg coming of f, so much pain? For what?

Somebody wraps a towel round the torn thigh, presses the big lump back into place. But it won't fit, spills all over. So much pain. For what? British people, for what?

The moustached man lies in the courtyard, head on somebody's lap, long and stretched out, his trousers lowered on one side. No panic. Concern. Efforts for some organisation. Help, save, alleviate: everybody around has this thought. And he, he doesn't want to be attended. Knows that there are others in worse condition. Waves of f smiles and hands. Doesn't want to be hurt. Doesn't want to show pain. Smiles more than all the others. His hurt leg trembling wild. Then his own body trembling and shaking. To his annoyance. Every effort in controlling the shaking. Not the pain. The pain isn't even there, friends.

Bang-kchhhh, bang-kchhhh. Going on and on. Nobody has pushed the stopping button on the mechanical insects yet, like on some alarm clock. Programmed on shooting, to the end of the magazines. Up to thirty. The sacred, official number. Consecrated in London, in the dungeons of the mad scientist.

We must get out again. The commotion has become a whisper. Nothing must add in the slightest to the ill-being of the hurt. Yet, how many desperate worries. How many friends and brothers and sisters and fathers and dear ones out there, in the hell, perhaps never to come back or to be the same again?

Whisper, silence, as the dark shadow of the monster appears behind the front door window. A Saracen outside the house. They have made their way up the road. God save us. A pole is firmly planted against the door handle. The shadow doesn't move. Everybody stares at it through the dimming glass. Like a television screen gone stuck and who knows what happens next.

But we must get out, we must see, record. "They are going to come in and kill us all. Don't go. And they are going to kill you. Do you think they want the press to see this and tell the world? Don't go." When I attempt to climb over the backyard wall, somebody opens the door. A woman decides to get an ambulance, come what may. The Saracen is there. Heavy and still, like a big beast after its meal. A soldier at the side of the door. Not a paratrooper. "Press. We want to go on." The man in khaki doesn't seem to grasp. His eyes are fixed, wide open, his mouth too. Does he wobble or is it imagination? "Yeah, Yeah..." he mumbles, not knowing it. His well trained head hasn't been trained well enough. The horror got him. Horror inflicted on others, of all things, on hooligans, terrorists, snipers. Needs some revisioning. Isn't mechanised enough yet.

A group of about twenty, mainly boys, some girls in fresh Sunday dresses, for the great march, now all stained and creased and forgotten, huddled against the corner of the concrete wall that runs from the backside of Chamberlain Street to the small arcade leading from the courtyard to the back of the flats, where Joseph Place opens up towards Free Derry corner. They didn't make it to the back of the flats, to the corner where 20,000 would have certainly kept you safe against death, warm against horror, to the corner which was life, and as dear as life, to which every little atom in you, fleeing, pulled you, called you, urged you. They had been cornered. The paratroopers had come into the courtyard and had stopped at its front line, so as to be able to sow death impartially, both in the yard and towards the street. So as to close the death trap. Only the arcade was open: amusing for target practice. As soon as one dares the passage to life, bang-kchhhh.

The boys squeeze desperately into the corner. The corner doesn't give away. The bullets fly nearer and nearer. They are huddling like small, young frightened animals under the onslaught of the hurricane. Feet pushing against the concrete path to get into the mount of life and cover. Feet slipping.

Feet and head drawn in, to shrink, disappear. There, at twenty yards, the arcade. Beyond; life. Between here and there an invisible buzzing, clanging wall of death, the passage into nothing. Bullets ricocheting from the concrete wall.

In the middle of the yard a small body [2], with outstretched arms, face to the sky, head to the Flats. Like on the cross. Under the hail vomited by the filthy insects, heroes come to life and to unforgettable memory. A first aid boy, in the uniform of his duty, in the spirit of his love. Kneeling near the body, lifting the head gently: white, thin face framed in black, a young boy's face, as clean as the early sky, as empty of life. Eyes slowly fading away, back into himself. A priest crawling towards the two, and then another man.

I wave a white handkerchief and go to the group. Get down on my knees, want to see, pale face, half open mouth, eyes back into himself, whiter, whiter still, tattered pullover, poor boy's pullover, slipped up, white chest, fragile, vulnerable, white skin, skin of a living boy, skin without blood gradually, chest without air, slack, thin stomach, caving in, poor boy's stomach, delicate, weak. I see between the shoulder of the priest and the first aid man, see like through a pipe because of the two leaning over Kevin, or perhaps because I am looking through the reflex, to see better, to make you all see. Never to forget. To know what to do. To them. The murderous sub-humans. The soulless mechanical tools. And their masters, the mad, frothing, mad scientists.

The priests kneels. He raises his right hand. He drops it. His mouth is strained like in a forced smile. He weeps. He raises his hand again and draws a cross over Kevin, weeping.


A first aid boy ... near the body ... lifting the head gently ... a priest ... another man

I didn't know then. I now remember that it was then and there that I changed the film. Automatically. Subconsciously obeying through the means of experience and conditioned reflexes the one imperative: keep going. At least beat them by one photograph. One more picture than bullets.

The men lift Kevin in their arms. There is a hole in the back of his thigh and one in his shoulder. The same bullet. The sort of ammunition one would use for elephants.

The priest raises a white handkerchief which drops with blood saying: Kevin is dead, Kevin has been killed by you. Now let us through. Wrath bigger than any fear of monster, however nightmarish. Now death is with us. We have it in our arms. Nothing can hurt us any more. Not all those bullets buzzing over our heads, past our ears.

A perfect opportunity for whoever exists in a condition where the values of life and death, of love and destruction, have been turned upside down. A great occasion for the mechanical insects. As the group gets going towards the entrance of Chamberlain Street the firing livens up. Perhaps they don't want to kill us now, just a little scare. We may as well know that a dead boy means nothing to insects. Whether he has a clean face and a vulnerable little chest or not. Whether those people carrying him, limp and so weak, so completely weak, to somewhere beyond strife and even crime and murder, are men, heroes, and you, just tiny black nothings with trunks, capable only of doing bang-kchhhh, or not.

The priest bends down and keeps his bloody handkerchief high, the others proceed at his side. The bullets keep getting directed at us. The priest bends lower, hankie still high, goes into a crouch, handkerchief on the ground to support him. The bullets fly lower. Then suddenly, before being finished like worms crawling on the ground, we all get up together, straight, forward. And are invulnerable. A scream, unbelievably loud: "You see now what the British Army is like?"

I am back at the huddle of fright in the corner, where Susan is waiting, unbelievable in her absence of fear, microphone recording for the world the sounds of murder. It is crazy to remain here, where one boy has already been shot dead [3], his blood is all over the place, and as the feet in the huddle draw away from it and from exposure, it follows, slowly expanding, lingering around heels and hands, meaning you must get away, take a chance, save yourself.

The huddle of scared to death humanity is the only living thing in the area. For some moments nothing seems to move. Then suddenly the SS Panzers get going again. Slowly now they rumble on. Some three, deeper into the courtyard, slowly, horribly, appearing from behind the corner at the back wall of Chamberlain Street, getting bigger and bigger, they can now aim at the huddle in the corner above, which squeezes against the wall, squeezes, squeezes, hopelessly. It will only be a matter of seconds before the beasts can rain death upon the huddle. Other grey monsters move on, along Rossville Street, towards the first barricade of Free Derry, and vanish behind the towering grey mass of the Flats.

Everything is grey. The preposterous thought that it is just as well that I have only black and white film crosses the blurred mind. The huddle at the end of the concrete wall, a pyramid of white and black, fading into grey, black Sunday suits, white shirts, white faces, white of wide eyes, a pyramid literally piling up against the corner, is a trembling mass of grey gelatine, melting away towards the footpath and then frenziedly freezing up again, solidifying into the corner again. The high walls of the blocks of flats, all those grey, blind windows, pour grey onto the courtyard, engulfing insects and their Panzers, drenching the air and the soil with grey. Sunless air, skyless air. Livid. Or maybe the eyes see grey, because the blood, feelings, thoughts, are all getting grey. Some days later I shall have a grey dream: grey, huge, dust-grey curtains descending from nowhere into nowhere, and I filter through, into nowhere, wide nowheres, and then grey curtains again, and grey nowheres, endlessly. Death? And eventually, in the middle of nowhere, between four endless grey curtains, on a grey, soft, delicate bed of grey, a white pearl, shining and throwing a halo a few inches around it.

There is no perception of sound, then. But the urge to move. Not to be squashed into a mass of torn flesh in that dreadful corner. Like a bunch of mice. What is there, between us and the other end of the footpath along the concrete wall, the arcade, the passage, the back of the High Flats? A dash, or eternity?

At the edge of the huddle, a trickle, slow, tentative. A few men crawl away, on their fours, like ants, eyes fixed on the passage beyond the Flats. And beyond, death. A row of three, four. Crawling. God, maybe we'll make it. Just 10 yards, 8, 6. Crackles, hissing... bullets again. The last in the row jerks to the side.

His jacket jerks up, falls back, limp. He breaks down, onto his elbows. But holds on, carries on. Like a horse that stumbled over a barrier, and doesn't want to give up. Which would mean, to die. An-other crackle. Another jerk. Terror eyes from the corner spilling over him, urging him on, with all the love for life. And he crawls on, wriggles on. Makes it.

I pull Susan to my side, lift that handkerchief again, lift the camera, push on towards the Earth, out of hell. Look back, wave to the huddle, it dissolves little by little, raises into distinct figures, figures moving behind us, cautiously, then with more conviction, faster, along the path, along the wall, like a wall for an execution squad, grey.

I look back again, towards the corner at the back of Chamberlain Street, where the monsters lurk. I see a man, or is it an insect, with his little deadly pipe pointed at us, looking straight at me. Squeeze Susan to me. Suddenly the thought of her face still, motionless, like little Kevin's, squeezes my stomach in a hard, painful grip. I don't want to see her like that. God, no. Please, if you must, shoot at me. Please, you bastards, please.

All of a sudden, sound again. Loud, powerful, maddening sound. The huddle of before is all on its feet. Susan, in front with me, turns half way and urges them on. Come, come, fast, for Christ's sake, fast. They are not shooting now. And the sound grows, furiously, uncontrollable. Fear into anger. The total risk is taken. And with the total risk, life is there, with all its extreme power. And with life, anger, contempt, rage. Things stronger than death. The paratroopers at the corner stand like salt figures. Paralysed. Uncomprehending, in front of total courage out of total despair.

They can't figure it out. A crowd of defenceless, hopeless, completely vulnerable people, at the prolonged end of the barrel that can give death in the flicker of a mood, yelling, defying, cursing, weeping and not giving a damn. Murderers, bastards, come on, shoot, kill, bastards, BASTARDS.

Just before the passage, five feet away from it, a step. Men crouching in frozen fear, but now hearing the storm of strength, rising, walking away, come what nay. One, big, forceful, un-rolling from under the step, getting between me and Susan, taking our hands, weeping, smiling, squeezing our hands, thank-you, thank-you, I'll come with you, thank-you. And as we file through the passage, under the arcade, then under a little bridge from one block to the other, slowly, composed; others at the other end, alongside the block of flats, who had been lying against the wall, where the wall blocked their escape, get up as they see us, move towards us and our immunity, in single line, one by one, slowly, almost unbelievingly.

And here is when insect machinery gone stuck, starts grinding again. The hitting, the killing-conditioning of the programme reasserts itself. Ideal lineup for target practice, one target after the other, in a row, slowly moving on, like in rifle ranges in fun fairs. Like that white bear in the electronic rifle range, that screams and gets up on its hind feet when hit in that glass hole on his belly. "Don't shoot, don't shoot." Cry into empty space, to empty shells of insects, everlasting.

Bang-kchhhh, bang-kchhbh... three, four, five. Of our group almost everybody has gone through the passage. Down there, though, a girl screams and falls, a boy, some steps ahead, throws his arms into the air and plunges. Bang-kchhhh...

Another boy, three feet from the passage and from me clutches his side, looks at me wide-eyed, bewildered, drops onto himself in a pile, stretches slowly out, crawls on. Bang-kchhhh. In a row, faster all the time. Chips from the wall fly around my head. Bullets into the wall make small instant whirls of stone-dust, in a row.

Round the corner, at the back of Rossville Flats. Over there. Free Derry Corner. And a moving grey mass away from it, like lava and cinders pouring from the fire hole, some cinders falling away, little human figures that panic drew from the mass, melting frantically into it again.

Round the corner, at the back of the strong, good, familiar High Flats. Not in waste ground any more, not along lifeless concrete walls. But where shops are, normal, everyday life, words, smiles. So normal and familiar that nothing crazy can happen to you here. Round the corner, where normal, warm life is, always. We made it.

Round the corner. Three people dead. Stretched out in a line, with large gaps in between. Two with their heads towards Free Derry Corner and their feet towards the flats. One the other way round. And all along the front of the flats, under the arcade, people, pressed against the wall, like in that corner of before. It's still going on, the same thing. And we must keep going. Body and mind work like a machine, anticipated reflection and impression. Thank heavens for that.


Footnotes:
[1] Margaret Deery, 37 years, 15 children.
[2] Kevin McElhinney, 16 years
[3] Jack Duddy, 17 years

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CAIN contains information and source material on the conflict and politics in Northern Ireland.
CAIN is based within the University of Ulster.


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