CAIN Web Service

Hemmed in and Hacking it
- The Fountain Interviews



[CAIN_Home]
[Key_Events] [Key_Issues] [Conflict_Background]
[Templegrove Action Research Limited - Main Menu]

Text: Ruth Moore and Marie Smyth ... Page Design: Fionnuala McKenna

              The Fountain Interviews

              [photograph]

              First Fountain Man interviewed

              The Fountain pre '68
              It would have taken in
              part of the north ward.
              It would have been bounded
              by Bishop Street Without
              as far as Bennett Street,
              right round The Diamond
              taking in Magazine Street
              and up Butcher's Street.
              Down Ferryquay Street,
              through Ferryquay Gate
              and Carlisle Road,
              right down to Tilly's Brae
              and along Foyle Road
              and back up to Bennett Street
              and everything to the right of
              Bennett Street.

              The houses on Foyle Road,
              is now sheltered accommodation.

              The shirt factory is closed.
              Tilly and Henderson's and

              Hunter's factory is closed.

              As is Hamilton's.

              Welsh Markinson's is closed.
              It's now a wine store.

              The Richmond centre is there
              where you had a lot of shops.
              Austin's was there
              and you had the Home and Colonial
              and the May Pole and Rosborough's.

              They were grocer's shops.

              You had an umbrella shop
              where Woolworth's is now.
              The Protestants had the Derry Wool Centre
              owned by Anderson's.
              They used to have a knitting factory.
              Lapsley had a shoe shop in Butcher Street
              and Canning had a butcher shop
              in Butcher Street.

              You would notice a marked difference
              within the Fountain itself.
              We had 16 cul-de-sacs.
              You wouldn't have been able to move
              for children playing in the streets.
              That has all gone now -
              we're an aging community.
              The children have practically
              gone from the streets.
              Before, you might have had 400 children.
              You'd be lucky now
              if you had one hundred.

              It started to change in the mid 60's.
              Houses were being built around Culmore Road,
              Hampstead Park and Woodburn on the Waterside.
              Westbank Protestant people started to move out
              to private housing areas.
              The working class and self employed Protestants
              of the Dark Lane and the Fountain
              moved out to the houses being vacated,
              up around the Northland Road.

              You had a shift from the
              densely populated Fountain into these areas.
              Protestants who were stepping up,
              moving up-market.
              Working class Protestants, educated,
              coming in as professionals
              would not be going back to their roots.
              A natural shift, - that wasn't alarming.

              In the early stages of the troubles
              the Fountain held well.
              There was a lot of rioting in '69, '70 and '71
              but it was a defensible area
              because of the narrow streets
              the protection of the city wall
              and the jail wall.
              The Fountain held where other enclaves
              were exposed and fell.
              Part of the South Ward
              from Bennett Street to the Gas Light Company
              had about 1400 Protestants in '68.
              They're now down to nine.

              Republicans put barricades in Joyce Street,
              Dark Lane was changed then to Joyce Street.
              Some were trapped behind the barricades.
              The people of the Fountain went down with lorries
              and brought 13 families out
              into prefabs in the Northland Road area.
              They were later re-housed in the Waterside.
              Belmont would have been one of the first
              housing estates to go.
              The security forces were pulled out of Belmont
              gradually followed by the reduction in the Glen,
              the Northland Estates
              and the Protestants in the private houses
              in the Marlborough area.
              A lot of people from the Glen and the Northland
              moved into the Fountain,
              wanted to remain on the Westbank
              and reckoned it was reasonably safe.

              We noticed a change in 1984,
              by the security forces.
              The 10th of March
              there was a demonstration in the Diamond
              about the name change.
              The DMSU's were brought in force that day.

              They recklessly charged the people
              and batoned them into the ground.
              I saw a policeman trapping a boy
              and he hit him four times
              on the skull with a baton.
              He had to get two plates in his skull.

              I made a complaint
              but they said there was no policeman
              with that number in this city.
              I knew I was wasting my time.

              This came out of the blue.
              Up until then relationships
              between the Protestant in this city
              and the security forces
              were pretty good.
              Then a complete change.
              The young people of the Fountain
              were getting harassed by the police.
              This was a reason for families moving.
              I made another complaint in '86,
              which went as far as the Police Authority
              and didn't go any further.
              The young fellas were
              getting accused of breaking windows.
              The police egged them on,
              "Yous are no good,
              at least the Republicans fight us!"
              Calling "Orange bastards!"
              out of the back of Landrovers.
              The young boys had enough
              and rioted for three nights.
              The police were up with cameras.
              All taken to court and charged seventy pounds.

              A very important factor
              would be the redevelopment of 1971 up to 1978.
              A lot of families were displaced
              to the Waterside.
              People got new houses, gardens dug
              and were disinclined to come back.
              Naturally enough you weren't going
              to come back to maisonettes, slab blocks.
              The old Fountain population
              was very disrupted, - halved.

              The mid 80's was difficult
              because we had the Stevens Enquiry.
              Nine people had house raids and were taken
              in on trumped up charges.
              One boy was lifted for having a whistle
              and being part of a neighbourhood patrol.

              We lost 30 families because of that.

              There's quite a lot has happened since '89.
              It's an uphill struggle now
              to attract people into the Fountain.
              It's Protestant people from the country
              that's moving back,
              from Strabane, from Letterkenny.

              But the determination to regenerate
              the Fountain is there.

              interviewed 1995







              [photograph]




              Pam Mitchell

              I have my own identity. I am what I am.
              The Queen is my figurehead,
              a few hundred years ago
              I would have been classed as a royalist.
              In saying you are unionist
              you are holding your right to be a British subject.

              Since the age of fourteen,
              I've built up friendships
              and some of these are with Catholics.
              These friendships are very important
              and all through the troubles
              they have been secure.
              It is immaterial to me who I live beside.
              If the peace process holds
              everyone could live in peace.
              There is an awful lot of thrashing out to be done yet.
              Everybody is looking for
              the sun, the moon and the stars
              they want to hold it in their hand.
              They don't want to give anything in return.

              Some people moved out because of the troubles;
              the wall is not a peace wall,
              it's a security wall.
              There's an element on both sides,
              given the slightest provocation
              something could flare up.
              You feel hemmed in by the wall,
              anybody that says they don't
              have become accustomed to it.

              A lot had to move for the re-building.
              They were told they could move back
              when the houses were re-built.
              There wasn't enough built.
              These houses destroyed the character.
              It hasn't done anything to enrich anybody's life.
              They are just concrete boxes,
              too closed in.
              Young families didn't want upheaval again,
              didn't want to come back into the town again -
              the troubles were really bad.

              We are a glorified car-park.
              They pay road tax and insurance
              they think they can do whatever they like.
              People in here, paying rates and taxes
              have rights too.

              The shirt factories were the life blood of the city,
              but even they have been depleted,
              moved out to industrial estates.
              There is a need for work in the city.
              The majority of people
              only work a couple of hours a day.
              Even in the big stores.
              If you are only a few hundred yards from your work
              the shoe leather would be a bit cheaper.

              We want young blood, to keep life flowing.
              On that score, it would be important
              for young families
              that really want to belong some place
              and to contribute something
              to move back.

              Maybe ... there will be a chance.

              Pam Mitchell: interviewed 1995





              [photograph]



              Alistair Simpson

              Prior to 1968 the people of the Fountain
              didn't feel isolated or under threat.
              Since the troubles started
              we have lost three or four people.
              Murdered.
              To see people you grew up with, worked with,
              getting their life snuffed out
              had a severe effect.




              photograph






              [Newspaper extract]
              Caption: The Londonderry Sentinel, Oct 1, 1969
              The wake of the William King Killing

              First, William King was kicked to death in London Street.
              Some say it wasn't a political thing,
              but we saw it as the first Protestant being murdered.
              They used to come up Bishop Street and shout,
              "We might not have got King William
              but we got William King!"
              This made Fountain people determined.
              We were going to stick it out as long as we could.

              Intimidation was rife,
              handwritten notices
              threw in letterboxes, especially B specials and U.D.R.
              Youths, - not from the Bogside
              because Bogside people told us it wasn't them -
              come up night and night
              throwing stones, petrol bombs
              into the Fountain.
              I got my house petrol bombed three times.
              My determination - I would not move.
              In the end I had to
              because the roof collapsed.

              We had to get the army to put the barricades up in 1969.
              That then segregated the Old Fountain Protestants
              against the Roman Catholics.
              Even today there is a barrier wall
              put up after Bobby Stott was shot
              at his own front door.

              We presumed this happening
              was to drive the Protestant population
              out of the West Bank.
              But it had the opposite effect.
              "If you want us out,
              you'll have to go for the whole lot of us"
              People weren't just going to give up
              and walk away.

              There was quite a lot of Protestants on the West Bank;
              down in the Belmont area
              up in Rosemount.
              Gradually they started to move out.
              The more they moved,
              the more the Fountain withdrew within itself.

              "Are we going to give up our Protestant heritage?"
              Understand
              the city walls means a lot
              because of history.
              We felt if we get out,
              that was the history of the city gone.







              [Newspaper extract]
              Caption: The Derry Journal November 1975

              We formed a Tenants association,
              the Wapping Community Association.
              That seemed to hold quite a number
              who at that time were determined to move out.
              I was accused many, many a time
              of trying to talk people out of moving.
              We would do anything we could
              to help them stay.

              1962 to 1968 was relatively peaceful:
              people able to move in and out of the Fountain,
              irrespective of their religion or anything else.
              Four public bars in the Fountain
              all owned by Catholics.
              On the celebration nights
              the twelfth of July,
              twelfth of August and eighteenth of December,
              these bars were packed.
              Entertainment out in the streets
              music,- all types of music -
              it went on all night
              with the bonfires
              that we hope was no offence to anybody.
              Coming up to the twelfth holiday
              down in the Bogside
              they used to say to me,
              "here's the wee Orangeman coming now".
              But those people were able to come up,
              enjoy the entertainment
              and go away again.

              In 1970, redevelopment started in the Fountain.
              people had to shift to the Waterside
              mostly to Lincoln Courts
              with the promise
              they would get back
              if they wanted to.
              Once they got settled in
              we knew
              they weren't going to come back -
              not the way the Fountain was built.
              It took people away
              who had no notion of moving
              but had no option.
              The bars
              they went with the redevelopment.
              There is a building that was built for a bar
              which is now a nursery.
              Although the Fountain people liked their wee drink,
              they said no to the bar,
              because of the troubles, it's too dangerous.

              Protestants who moved out -
              if they had been like us in the Fountain,
              - and I say with pride -
              if they had stood their ground
              it would have been a different situation.
              Alright, there was some in the security forces
              had to move
              and young families in the Fountain
              wanted their own homes
              and they seen the Waterside as a thriving area
              things would be better..
              Only a madman would have
              bought a house in the Fountain.
              Protestant politicians said,
              "Move over to the Waterside
              we can get you a good house".
              Because politicians were only interested in politics
              they weren't interested in the Fountain as such.
              They tell me
              " You stay were you are
              you're doing a good job".
              I turn and say
              " Aye and come on in along with me,"
              they wouldn't come in.

              The re-development twenty five years ago
              was a sham.
              It should never have been allowed.
              Now they know we are not going to move.
              The thing to keep us quiet - give us something.
              We need good housing,
              its a losing battle if we haven't got that.
              But then you need the peace to last.

              I would like to see the Protestant population,
              coming back to the West Bank.
              Hopefully, if the peace develops
              that's if it develops
              people themselves will decide.
              It's like the wall in the Fountain,
              people saying to us
              "that wall has got to come down."
              That wall can only come down
              when the Fountain people say its coming down.
              When the time is right
              the people will turn and say,
              " We've lived behind walls long enough.
              Let's get rid of it".

              People might say that it is a Protestant population
              trying to take hold again.
              It's not.

              It's trying to make a normal city.
              We are doing our utmost
              to bring the standard of living up.
              We are hoping the government agencies will help us.
              It will put a different face on the Fountain
              and a different face on the whole city.

              I think the majority on the West Bank
              would like to see that
              it would bring more harmony.
              The way I look at it
              political wise
              if you haven't the Fountain
              the city would be a divided city.
              Whether people agree with our politics or religion
              if we had moved out
              it would have been a loss.
              The powers that be
              couldn't say
              "its a mixed city".

              Alistair Simpson interviewed 1995



              [photograph]






              Third Fountain man interviewed

              I like living here
              born and bred here.
              Handy to the town.
              People are very close.
              At times, we may be badly divided
              but there is a sense of community.
              The Catholic population has increased.
              There is nothing you can do about it.
              The Fountain,
              its virtually all Protestant.
              That's the way it is.

              Two headed monsters.
              Quite a few look upon us like this.
              I went to the tech.
              They read my name
              and my address as the Fountain.
              Everyone turned to look.
              I stuck that for a year.

              This area has been overlooked
              and neglected;
              the housing, the roads, the sewerage, the water.
              The mains pipes have been dug up
              fifteen times.
              Never has it all been replaced.
              The Housing Executive
              play silly buggers.
              Means-testing the grants
              is ridiculous in this area.
              The houses are one hundred and forty years old.

              We have lost the better off families.
              The people
              with a few quid behind them
              went.
              An aunt and uncle moved last month.
              My brother and his wife - a year ago.
              A brother in law, his wife and family
              eighteen months ago-
              a lot of neighbours
              all mostly to the Waterside.
              There are still some
              who want to move but can't.

              It is common hearsay
              the council have an interest,
              in getting us out of here.
              The Fountain, it's a valuable site
              in the city centre.
              A lot of space badly utilised
              having a couple of hundred
              Protestants living in the area.
              But they have denied it,
              they will never say,
              "Yes, we want them out."
              Go to the marching -
              each year, a little piece cut off the route.

              The area has caused problems,
              for the police.
              It took up resources.
              When really needed,
              there were not here.

              If they want people to stay,
              they are going to have to
              do something drastic -
              redevelopment on a higher, bigger scale.
              better quality housing,
              similar to the top of William Street.
              Suitable housing for the elderly and disabled -
              more grants for older houses,
              more cosmetic work, like street lighting.
              They need to re-locate people from the new estate
              into the empty houses in this area.
              It needs to be done gradually
              because once you move them out
              they don't come back.

              Maybe they think
              we are a crowd of complainers
              always moaning.
              Moaning is no good.
              Need to demand things,
              take more action,
              like Civil Rights in 1969.

              In the past months,
              they've taken a bit more interest.
              They got the school started.
              Personally, it was not what was most needed.
              There are those which feel
              the school might be the downfall.
              Let Catholic [children] go to it
              and Catholic families move in...
              It would be like a deck of cards falling.
              Push[ing] the Protestants out.

              interviewed 1995





              Second Fountain woman interviewed

              The neighbours
              they depended on you
              and you on your neighbours.
              You were in and out of each other's houses.

              The house - it was a cosy wee house.
              We bought it just after we were married
              got the grant.
              It was just the way we wanted it.

              It was bottles,
              stones and abuse being fired up the lane.
              Then windows were broken
              petrol bombs one night.

              We used to sleep
              with a baton beside the bed.
              Going to bed at night you were just waiting..
              lived on your nerves.

              The worst attack
              was on the 15th of August.
              We were in our beds.
              Ten to five in the morning.
              I could hear this big drum
              thudding
              sure enough
              5 boys had come up the lane
              with big burning logs
              beating this drum.

              I could hear the beating
              getting closer and closer
              and closer.

              My windows went in
              top and bottom.
              They pulled the curtains,
              tried to set the curtains alight.

              [My husband] had gone to the front door.
              I had to pick the splinters of glass
              out of his head.

              It seemed like they were there for ages.

              We phoned the police.
              They did not come.
              We says
              "Right we'll go to the barracks".

              We went to the front desk,
              I said "look I've a child in its cot
              it is covered in glass".
              The answer I got
              IT WAS MADDENING
              "What do you want me to do about it?.

              It was always us caught them
              and we came out the worst.
              One night
              my husband came out
              to defend his house.
              He was arrested -
              arrested for disorderly behaviour
              outside his own house.
              It was broadcast over Radio Foyle.
              It was terrible.
              I was expecting at the time.
              I was so cut up about it.

              We were treated badly.
              The community police
              they popped in for a cup of tea
              but the ordinary patrols
              in their eyes
              you were the guilty ones.
              At night, in a situation,
              you were innocent,
              people causing the bother
              were let go.
              We were treated like scum
              from police and all.

              The Bother

              It was sheer vandalism
              another part of it was sectarian.
              It was ninety nine point five percent Protestants
              lived in it.

              I did feel very threatened
              especially around July and August.
              The flags would have been up in the lane,
              as was done every year.
              Every year
              they got put up later and later and later
              just sort of last minute
              because we knew
              once they went up
              that was it.

              Don't get me wrong.
              I'm not saying there wasn't Fountain boys too
              that I chased manys a night,
              in my dressing gown.

              At the end of the day
              if the boys are coming back
              for revenge
              they'll pick the first houses they come to
              and the Fountain boys will be up
              sleeping in their beds.
              It was a different matter
              when there were attacks on the Fountain
              from Hawkins Street of Bishops Gate.
              Then, the people up in the Fountain
              were up in arms,
              then they knew
              what it was like.

              Something happened.
              People were going around saying
              "He deserved it".
              [My daughter] said to me,
              "Mummy what's everyone saying they did right"?
              I said
              "Wait till I tell you this love,
              nobody has the right to shoot anybody".

              If the windows got broke,
              it wasn't Catholics,.
              It was just bad boys.

              I wanted to move
              and I didn't want to move.
              I didn't want my wains growing up
              and making a difference.

              The house below us had shutters on the window.
              I couldn't live like that.
              You might as well be in a prison.
              I wanted to get out of this situation right.
              It was no way to bring up children.
              But I loved my house.
              It was easy kept
              it wasn't a big mortgage.

              We weighed things up
              we had had enough.
              At the end of the day
              we had no options
              but to consider the Waterside.






              [Newspaper extract]
              Caption: The Londonderry Sentinel
              December 1975



              [photo]


              One day I had the house up for sale.
              When people came to view
              I was praying that they would come
              earlier in the night
              in case anything flared up.
              I felt guilty in a way,
              selling my house to someone else.
              I kept saying to myself
              "well good luck".

              All I wanted was to live there
              get to my bed at night
              and have a good sleep.
              If there had been peace then
              I would have stayed on.

              I thought
              the day I move out
              I am going to feel bad.

              I didn't.

              I was so glad to go.

              interviewed 1995





              Fourth Fountain man interviewed

              The Fountain
              I regard it as a small Protestant enclave.
              You felt safe and secure
              within the area
              especially with the walls and barricades.
              If you had been living
              as a Protestant
              in a predominantly Catholic area
              you might not have felt
              that same security.

              The walls and barricades
              did limit you.
              I was frightened
              of going outside the area.
              I was forever getting kickings.
              You couldn't go to the cinema,
              go up the town.
              You were frightened of being chased,
              being given a beating.
              People tend to stick
              to their own area.
              It leads to a siege mentality -
              an "us and them" mentality.

              You felt a camaraderie,
              as though under siege -
              you knew who your friends were
              and you felt close.
              That closeness might not have come
              had it been another situation.

              The Fountain would be seen as
              the last bastion of Protestantism
              on the West Bank.
              It would be seen as a hard line area -
              Catholics frightened to move in,
              with certain adverse publicity
              about Catholics being put out of the area.

              As an insider,
              I wouldn't look at the area like that.

              The number of Protestant people
              that shifted from the city side
              intimidated out of their homes -
              the people who moved
              out of their own free will -
              there was two thousand of them.

              We had to show this
              as a hard-line area
              in order to preserve the area -
              make Catholics frightened
              in order to ensure that
              the remaining Protestants
              could stay.
              There was manys a case,
              where it was gradually two, three -
              until all the Protestants were forced out.

              So we had to give this image
              that it's not safe
              for yous to come in.

              For a time,
              we had to set up vigilante patrols
              to protect the area.
              Police presence was inadequate.
              When patrols were set up,
              there seemed to be more police in the area.
              They weren't in to protect the area -
              more to harass people
              who had to take to the streets.
              They didn't seem to be around
              to catch the people smash windows
              and petrol-bomb houses.

              I regard myself
              as part of the majority in Northern Ireland.
              In the city
              I see myself as a minority
              in Londonderry as a whole
              especially on the West Bank.

              I've a feeling the Catholic majority
              look upon us
              as refusing
              to assimilate with the population as a whole.
              There's a fear
              by assimilating
              our culture will be eroded,
              our heritage will be watered down.

              There's nothing for young people around here.
              There's no play areas
              only the community centre,
              only open two or three times a week.

              There's a football pitch
              but its not that great.



              [photo]




              We have no unionist political representation.
              We have a Sinn Feiner
              representing the area.
              A lot of people
              would be reluctant
              to go looking for help
              or anything done in the area.
              I think a Sinn Fein councillor
              would be more than willing to help -
              more to prove.
              People may be frightened of going
              because of what other people would think.

              The Fountain
              being treated like any other area
              won't happen as long as
              SDLP are in control.
              I don't think there is anything to gain
              from staying here.
              At the same time,
              it might be seen as an act of surrender.
              I think now with the cease-fire
              you will get more people leaving the area.
              With the troubles,
              leaving was seen as giving in.
              With the cease fire
              there is no reason to stay.

              Interviewed 1995









              Caption: The 1688 Seige





              Third Fountain woman interviewed

              I lived over in Bond Street.
              Catholics lived there
              but everyone looked at it
              as a Protestant area.
              When we married in '78.
              We put the Fountain as first choice.
              Believe it or not
              back then we couldn't get a house
              in the Fountain.

              We got word one night
              that they were moving
              twelve Catholic families
              into the new houses getting built
              in the Fountain.
              They were looking to stop this
              looking for people to squat in the houses.
              We went over and squatted.
              My father came over
              all annoyed,
              "I reared you better than that".
              He thought it was awful.
              I was anxious for a home.
              My father took me right away,
              the next day, to the Housing Executive,
              to say what I had done
              and how desperate I was
              for a house.
              I had a house in Nelson Drive
              a week later.

              So we settled for Nelson Drive,
              as second choice.
              But I couldn't get the wee boy into school.
              I was travelling by bus
              over to First Derry.
              So we moved into the Fountain then.

              The Fountain would be
              the only Protestant area
              in the whole of the city side.
              The wall being there
              other people think
              we are hemmed in.
              But day to day,
              it would not bother me.
              You'd feel it more,
              at night, if it wasn't there.
              I don't think it's abnormal,
              or segregated.

              There's gate ways in.
              People go into each other's estates
              and down to the shops.
              I know we are in a minority
              but it doesn't make me feel afraid.
              I'm just living my life.
              I'm as happy as anybody else.

              It's more convenient for the shops.
              You haven't buses back and forth.
              The church is down the road.
              The school for the younger ones
              is down round the corner.
              My older ones bus over to Clondermott.
              They are old enough to do that on their own.

              The children don't have
              the same kind of freedom as I had.
              They couldn't go in to other areas,
              play football, and mix.
              They are hemmed in,
              especially at night.
              It would be totally unheard of
              sending them to the chip shop
              on their own -
              anywhere out of the estate.

              Its their town,
              we dwell in it.

              There's times I can't send
              my older boy down the town.
              People know he lives here.
              He's come under attack.
              He knows the people that give him a hard time -
              he would shout at them too-
              it works both ways.

              You're kind of labelled by other people.
              They ask you your address
              and your religion is
              automatically known.
              [If] you are kept waiting you think,
              "Is it because of where I come from"?
              It's labelled a paramilitary area
              Protestant and UDA.
              You get one's who think it's a deprived area.
              People that have lived here
              and who still visit here
              understand and see us
              as ordinary people living
              like anybody else - just as they did.

              As for the police,
              I don't think they minded
              coming into the area.
              They'd have an easy enough time.
              People's friendly enough to them.
              They know the children.
              They know the parents.
              The community police are good enough.

              There's been nights
              police not familiar with the community
              were going to lift people
              for standing at their own front door.
              Other nights there's been bother
              by the time they came,
              it was too late.
              They didn't know what happened.
              They didn't automatically believe you either.
              I find it unbelievable
              that descriptions have been given
              and they
              have not went after those causing the trouble.




              [photo]





              With the move of the Protestant population,
              it's important that we stay here
              to keep it Protestant.
              Once we start to move out,
              the whole city will be entirely a Catholic area.

              All our heritage
              the twelfth, all the celebrations
              are all now just confined to this area.
              I don't think there would be a twelfth of July
              or August
              or burning of Lundy -
              it would all be done away with
              if there were no Protestants living in the Fountain.
              There's a lot of people
              come and visit us -
              on those set days,
              you'd be glad you stayed.

              Years ago, people did move.
              Housing wasn't really an issue then.
              It was the troubles.
              There's an estate -
              Lincoln Courts,
              the majority of the people living there
              came from the Fountain.
              People say
              it was the new Fountain.

              A close friend of the family,
              lived in Belmont.
              It was nearly all Protestants -
              a lot of policemen.
              They moved right away.

              Often, I wonder why?
              They weren't in the minority
              living there.

              What was the fear?

              When they first redeveloped the Fountain,
              they knocked down the terraced houses.
              They put up maisonettes,
              - a monstrosity.
              A lot of families moved then
              because families didn't want
              a house
              on top of a house
              especially with children.
              They were dangerous.

              Over the past few years,
              its got a bad name.
              It seems you can
              get a flat in the Fountain
              with no problem.
              The Executive is moving in drunks.
              It puts families off.
              You could count on one hand
              the young families.
              I've heard people say,
              the Executive's moving undesirables in
              to force people out.

              When it's an all Catholic area,
              it makes their job easier.
              They wouldn't have to
              fix so many broken windows.

              The Housing Executive's attitude
              is that they have to get the rent
              and families just aren't applying -
              but a lot of people think differently.

              I was too young then
              so I don't know
              what [Catholic] housing conditions
              were really like.
              From heresy and from listening to TV,
              Catholics says that they didn't get houses.
              They say that the Protestants got the houses
              because Protestants sat
              on the boards and committees,
              which decided who got houses.

              Where I'm sitting
              the Catholics run the town.
              If that is fact,
              the tables are turned.

              My mother, a Protestant,
              was born here
              and listening to [her] stories
              [it was] four and five in one bed
              in a room [where] you could touch the ceiling.
              If your money run out,
              someone next door or on the street
              would help you -
              they wouldn't see you stuck.
              But Protestants weren't sitting in palaces.
              They had it hard.
              There is poverty on both sides.






              [photo]







              The Executive are on about building houses
              in the Fountain.
              People in the Fountain can't apply.
              It's for people from the Waterside.
              They are not
              looking after people in the area -
              people have stuck it out here for years!
              People that haven't lived here
              are getting preference.
              I don't think it is fair.

              Better housing would encourage people back
              and encourage people to stay.
              The town should be for Protestants as well
              and I'd like to see more moving over.
              But I can't see Protestants automatically
              moving into Catholic areas.

              But when people learn
              to trust one another
              they mightn't think twice about it.

              interviewed 1995





The fifth Fountain man interviewed

This interviewee preferred that an edited prose version of his interview, rather than the "poem" format be used.

A loyalist's reflections on the past and future.

I was lifted in 1989 after an uproar in the press regarding official documentation. The authorities wanted to prove that they were impartial by lifting as many Protestants as Catholics; and in late 1991 held a show trial to appease the pan-nationalist front. I believe I was a victim of these policies of appeasement, as were many more at the same time. What I mean by that is that I was held on remand on trumped up charges.

Back then, I thought the only way to get rid of conflict was to hit back. The IRA had a free hand. I've had relatives killed, and for over 20 years our people were being butchered. The British government was not willing to deal with it and the UDA believed the only way was by retaliatory killings. They kill one of ours, we take two of theirs. When we started, the IRA were fighting a war on two fronts.

Before, the IRA could carry out attacks like Enniskillen, Le Mon, Darkley and could get away with it, and the Protestants weren't going to hit back. From the end of the 1980's when republican terrorists carried out atrocities like Teebann and the Shankill, our people did Ormeau and Greysteel. It was a strong message - an evil necessity, I suppose. When our people were being butchered, John Hume never went near Gerry Adams. But when his people were getting the same medicine, his people put pressure on him to go to Gerry Adams to bring an end to this war.

Sinn Fein have yet to show they are committed to peace. The British government have given something - opening border roads, taking soldiers of the streets, taking battalions from the province and re-introducing 50% remission. Fringe loyalists are using progressive language, state a willingness to compromise, will sign up to de-commissioning and have stated that they will not fire the first shot. Sinn Fein have called for parity of esteem but have been involved in street protests likely to provoke a loyalist response, and have no intentions of giving up arms. We are a separate people, we have separate roots. we are mostly cruthin and they are mostly celts. The Sinn Fein 'parity of esteem' must be backed by actions. It must be shown that our culture will not be affected in an all Ireland state. We can only move forward by a commitment of all to disarm, with all party talks but not under the shadow of the gun.

Autumn 1995





Peter Simpson

Peter, like the previous interviewee, preferred to be presented in prose format.

The thing about living here is that it is central. You are a five minute walk from everything, except the hospital and the cemetery. The population of the area is overwhelmingly Protestant, all kinds of Protestant. They're a friendly bunch of people and, as an Englishman, they are an easy people to live among. Because of the situation, the area has become a focal point. People identify with it, in a same way as people identify with the Bogside. Collectively, we identify with loyalism, and ours is a loyalist area, a loyalist culture - of which I am part, with which I identify. I am what I am, - too old a dog to learn new tricks.

There are a couple of Catholics, but there isn't sectarian bother, except at flash points which are the foot of Wapping Lane, and sometimes Horace Street and Artillery Street. Periodically, you'd get the odd flash, mainly young fellas drunk. Apart from that, we live a fairly quiet life. Bearing in mind that I am English, I, and the majority of us, have always been able to move freely. The known younger element, watch where they go but this doesn't apply to the majority of us, we go and we come. Our Catholic neighbours leave us alone and we don't bother them.



[photo]




The Housing Executive wanted a mixed estate, but we did not. I believe there would have been murder done, and they were wise to listen to what we were all saying. They didn't take a decision, that this was not to be a mixed estate. What happened was, that there was so many

from our community looking for houses, it was a relatively simple matter to house them in there.

Going back twenty five years, community relations were deteriorating. Many of us, were convinced there was going to be civil war. In which case, from a purely defensive point of view, it would be handy to know who your neighbours were, - to not have to look over your shoulder. There were some who just bailed out. But those who didn't felt, we are going to have a foothold, in spite of what we saw as an intention - that we should all be transported to the Waterside. We wanted to feel safe, and so the attitude we had to adopt was, it was better to live in a circle of wagons, on our own reservation.

But you know, twenty five years is a long time. There isn't the depth of hatred, of suspicion. But there is a desire on the part of the people here to keep a foothold, to keep the community in being, and I can sympathise with that. For historical reasons, it is important that such an area remains. It' s been populated from early sixteen hundreds. Some years ago, an excavation found the town ditch, up at the top of the estate. I have not seen maps prior to 1850, but the area has been settled, mostly working class, - if you could call it that in those days: artisan class would be better.

In the early days, they had to move some families in order to make way for new houses. Originally these families were to come back to the new houses. For one reason or another, that didn't happen. There was the problem of people having to move, from other areas where they didn't feel safe, such as the Glen. Some of these moved into the Fountain. One family in particular moved out of the Fountain, so that their son could visit. Because of the peculiarities of the job, the army put it out of bounds. I believe the same applied to the navy. There's been a tradition, that the services were a useful occupation. When young people join up now-a-days, they consider carefully whether they ought to move. You can see why. A number of people I knew moved, for various reasons, not all to do with the troubles. UDR families moved for obvious reasons, - the city side wasn't the safest place for them. There would be people afraid for tangible reasons, getting stones through their window. Some moved to be where their families are. Some moved because they needed accommodation. You can understand young families wanting some place quieter. The Waterside is a desirable place, there's a lot of Catholics have moved from the cityside too.

I've come across two or three different attitudes. One is - these people are living in a ghetto, they've a wall around it, to keep us out. They are quite right. The wall is to keep them out. If they want in, they can come in the same way we go in. [The wall] was originally conceived as being necessary at the time, when street riots were an everyday occurrence. The object of the exercise was to erect some kind of buffer. The worst a rioting crowd could do, would be to throw something over it, rather than come in. Everytime there is a flashpoint incident it reinforces our belief, - the thing has to stay for the time being. One day, the damn thing will blow down and maybe that will be the time not to put it up again. But much depends on the prevailing attitude.

Other people say 'they've fought it out, leave them to it'. Yet another group feel a great regret that there isn't more to-ing and fro-ing, as there used to be. People used to come into the Fountain to have a drink and watch the bonfires and we used to go to Long Tower. The council often say, " How do you get Protestants to participate"? When people feel under threat, or besieged, if you like, they withdraw into themselves and become as self reliant as possible. That is true of any ghetto, if it is a ghetto. Lately, people have been taking more interest. The cease-fires have made a difference. The chances of walking into a shop and being blown to bits are much slimmer. People feel easier going into pubs. People will participate more. Personally, I wouldn't go and watch Irish dancing. I wouldn't take part in a lot the council do, because it doesn't interest me, simply.




[photo]




I don't think Westminster gives a damn whether we live or die. I hear it said every day now, they are doing deals, telling bloody lies. That's okay as long as the cease-fire holds. Let them do all the deals they like. But once that cease fire fails, then it is a whole new ball game. When you have two sets of people, with opposite beliefs, you are not going to get them to agree, to give up any of their beliefs -it's going to be a republic or nothing for one crowd or integration for the other. There are moves afoot to dislodge barriers in hearts and minds. The more of it is done, the less likely we are to go back to bombs and bullets. Time will tell.

We know the majority of people in this city happen to be of a different political view point to ourselves, and that is not difficult to live with. There are one or two advantages to being a minority: one - you can always complain. It is better to be a large minority as you can have your view points heard more readily. Small minorities wishes are over-ridden. Another advantage of being a minority is, you can ignore them. That is their biggest complaint. We have a collective contribution to make, as well as individually. A lot of us haven't been making it. That has its roots in the political situation, and that could all change. We could make improvements for ourselves, if everyone got together and ran this city the way it should be run. A few things constantly rankle people, - little things rather than big things - like the failure of the SDLP to represent us. You don't get rid of the nagging feeling overnight.

There is a goal in sight, and that is the improvement of the city. We should be up there pitching along with the rest. It happens to begin with individuals. The rest of the crowd hang back to see who gets their head lopped off.

Interviewed 1995

 

Return to list of contents


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


go to the top of this page go to the top of this page
Last modified :