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Extracts from 'NO GO - A Photographic Record of Free Derry',
by Barney McMonagle

[Key_Events] [Key_Issues] [Conflict_Background]

Photographs: Barney McMonagle ... Page Compiled: Fionnuala McKenna

The following photographs and extracts have been contributed by the author, Barney McMonagle, with the permission of Guildhall Press. The views expressed in this section 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.
front cover The following photographs and extracts are from the book:


by Barney McMonagle (1997)
Edited by Adrian Kerr

ISBN 0 946451 41 9 Paperback 120pp

Orders to:

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Guildhall Press {external_link}
Unit 15, Rath Mor Business Park
Bligh's Lane, Creggan
DERRY. Northern Ireland.
BT48 0LZ
T: (028) 7136 4413
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This section is copyright © Barney McMonagle 1997 and is included on the CAIN site by permission of the author and the publishers. 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 or the publisher, Guildhall Press. Redistribution for commercial purposes is not permitted.





Details of Plates


Barney McMonagle was born on the island of Malta in October 1944. He moved to Ireland, to the city of Derry, on 12 August 1947, where his family settled in Anne Street in the Brandywell area. He lived there for twenty-two years before moving, first to Shantallow, then Prehen, and finally to the Culmore road, where he still lives today.

He first took up photography in 1968, just as the situation in Northern Ireland was beginning to transform so radically. He felt that what was happening had to be documented, and, with his camera, attended most of the major protests and disturbances, taking more than 1,000 black and white photographs of the events between November 1968 and the late summer of 1971.

He remembers his feelings during the riots, recalling a sense of excitement more than danger. To most of those involved it was unthinkable that this could lead to the widespread death and destruction that followed, and to similar scenes being repeated in the city almost thirty years later. The real danger was brought home to him in the late summer of 1971 when, as he was taking photographs during a disturbance in William Street, a soldier, possibly mistaking his camera for a gun, took a shot at him, missing him by inches. He never took another photograph of a riot.

This book is intended to be a purely photographic record of events in Derry between 1968 and 1971. Brief captions for each photograph are contained at the back of the book, but there is no attempt to analyse or to explain. For those interested in a much deeper analysis of the background and meaning of the "Free Derry" period the following books are recommended. The list is by no means exhaustive. Curran, Frank, Derry: Countdown to Disaster (Gill and Macmillan 1986); McCann, Eamonn, War and an Irish Town (Pluto Press 1993); McClean, Raymond, The Road To Bloody Sunday (Guildhall Press 1997); O Dochartaigh, Fionbarra Ulster's White Negroes: From Civil Rights to Insurrection (AK Press 1994); O Dochartaigh, Niall, From Civil Rights to Armalites: Derry and the birth of the Irish Troubles (Cork University Press 1997).


Time tends to impose order on the past. We look back on the early days and think we discern the outline of what comes later.

Knowing now how things happened, we assume this is the way it was bound to be.

But the trajectory wasn't pre-set. The chaos we felt around us was for real, and rich in possibilities other than those which came to pass.

The well-composed, neatly cropped photograph doesn't always tell the truth. The out-of-focus picture is sometimes more accurate.

It's said now with a certain sadness that nothing ever changes. We inscribe the thought ourselves on our own gable walls: "1968-1997 - No Change". It's the same thought from a different direction as comes more disdainfully from London or Dublin. The integrity of their quarrel... attitudes cemented into history... no change, or changing them, ever.

It's hard to recall now what a heady sense of change there was then in the trembling Derry air, what a tumult of ideas and bright seeming glimpses of a different future beckoning.

What was said then was 'Everything's changed. Nothing will ever be the same again.'

In part, the feeling arose from the fact that, indeed, nothing at all had shifted in the political landscape, not so that you could feel it, for a whole half century. There's a story, probably made up but possibly true, of a ten-year-old girl hurling a stone down Rossville Street at the RUC and shouting 'I've waited 50 years for this!' Everybody will have known what she meant.

From the earliest I can remember, the Bogside was an immobile place to live. Society around us was simply-structured, too. The Unionist minority ran the town and there wasn't much to be done about it except occasionally indulge in riot and patriotic whimsey, especially around St Patrick's Day. The first riots I was in the thick of erupted on 17 March in, I think, 1952. Somebody raised a tricolour inside the Walls which was accounted sacrilege by illegitimate city fathers.

'Inside the Walls there were some squalls...
Some Irishmen they raised the flag of orange, white and green,
Brook's RUC would not agree to let the flag be seen.'

So the cops broke Nationalist heads and fighting surged all around the city centre. The impressive display outside Gault's at the corner of Little James Street ("Fresh Fruit, Flowers and Vegetables Daily") was purloined for ammo. A fusillade of turnips, tomatoes and carrots stopped a baton charge up Sackville Street.

The Derry Journal published a picture of a cop with a club about to crack down on the head of Helen Kelly, daughter of Paddy and Gretta, the horse dealers. It caused no end of outrage at the time. Eddie McAteer created a fuss at Stormont over it. It was talked about in Derry for years.

That's how little was happening. Incidents of that sort seemed of historic significance.

Typical pictures from that period, now commonly seen ornamenting earnestly authentic pubs, present sepia tableaux of stoic people with wan smiles, suffused with stillness.

So when the log-jam shifted and a deluge was let loose, the change was instantaneous and bewildering. The times were now of shemozzle and hullabaloo, best caught in snatched shots taken on the run.

Nobody had anticipated 5 October 1968, when the first civil rights march, a few hundred strong (four out of five people who say they were on it were not) was battered into disarray on Duke Street. Or, more accurately, nobody had anticipated the response, the Bogside having little tradition then of vibrant responsiveness.

As far as returning elected representatives was concerned, the area had been on automatic Nationalist pilot for decades, fervently, religiously as it might be said, supporting Mr McAteer's party, it's candidates not so much selected as anointed.

Now all of a sudden, as pent-up anger against the RUC burst forth, everything was a ferment. Street politics were the order of the day, and the ideas flourishing on the street were different, new, exotic, dangerous, exciting. At least in comparison with the stolid political fare which had been dominant until just a week or so previous.

To an extent that had never been experienced before, and has never been repeated since, the mass of the people were active participants in political events, authors of change, creators of, not spectators at, the political show. The crowd on the street was the lead actor, not an amalgam of anonymous extras, or supporters to be summoned up when a leadership thought it appropriate to stage a mass demonstration.

No political tendency had hegemony. Nationalism still surged strongly, although now tending to by-pass Mr McAteer's party and beginning to gouge out the new channels which were eventually to lead to the formation of the SDLP and the revival of Sinn Fein. Socialist ideas, some flinty in their absolute ideological correctness, some flamboyant in their premature celebration of revolution, some common-sensible, were taken up and debated in lively fashion all around.

The prominent role of the Derry Labour Party in the street agitation and civil disobedience which had paved the way to 5 October, and then the prominence and popularity of Bernadette Devlin from the far-left student group the Peoples Democracy, gave socialist ideas resonance and real credibility.

This was the most democratic period Derry has known, when every voice against oppression was given a hearing and history was not something we appealed to for validation but something we were conscious of being in the process of making. It is by no means coincidence that it was a period of most rapid progress, too.

Effectively, there had been only three Stormont Prime Ministers in almost half a century, then three in three years and Stormont abolished when the last of them fell. Gerrymandered Derry Corporation, the focus of anger against sectarian discrimination since before the foundation of the State, was whisked away in a twinkling. The B Specials, the bane of vulnerable Catholics since the 1920s, were abolished. A points system for the allocation of houses was drawn up in the time it took to write it down. By March 1972, 41 months after Duke Street, Stormont itself was no more.

The changes that came about may not have been, or turned out eventually not to be, the changes we had wished. The Specials became the UDR and then the RIR. Stormont was gone at a cost in a general curtailment of accountability. And so on. But movement there had been, after the long years of the political permafrost.

If these weren't exactly the shiny new things we had wanted, at least the notion of newness wasn't abstract any more. And one of the advantages of nobody knowing exactly where we were headed was that you could advocate almost any direction without seeming daft.

This democracy of the streets is well depicted in these pictures. It's in the pell-mell rushing of undirected crowds towards a common objective, in the casual cooperation of young women selecting throwable stones, in the orderly militancy of a chorus of cat-callers pressed against a security barrier outside the Corner Boot Stores.

The scenes here are presented from the heart of what's happening. Every shot is an action shot, but there's none with action orchestrated. B-Men unsure now in Waterloo Place, b-tech pick-axe handles ludicrous alongside the BA weaponry, Bernadette as one of the crowd except that everyone is arranged around her, a water-cannon at McLaughlin and McLaughlin's squirting a thin jet-stream at something or other, squaddies with looks of perplexed alarm perusing the Belfast Telegraph in exhausted Sackville Street, steady handed schoolboys on pouring duty for petrol bombs... scenes glanced out of the corner of the eye or taken in when passing by or recorded running at full tilt amidst mayhem all around or captured in an instant from a maisonette balcony.

Some of the street-scapes are well past recognition. The houses that Free Derry Wall formed a gable-end for are gone, changing, not for the better, the relationship between the slogan and the entity for which it proclaims liberation. It's an inscription on a reverential monument now, not a slogan on a neighbourhood wall.

What hasn't changed is hurly-burly at Butcher's Gate, the carpeting of William Street in rubble, soldiers erupting into the Diamond or inching up Rossville Street before making a scurry into rioters in the hope of bringing a captured native back by the scruff of the neck, and, always, men uniformed to represent the State in mutual attitudes of enmity with the plain people of the place.

What hasn't changed either, fundamentally, is what it's about. The questions posed then had to do with how and whether Catholic working class areas with their general sense of Irishness might be incorporated in the State on terms congenial to themselves. The main reason militant Republicanism won out and for a long time held dominance over local political thinking was that the State proved unwilling, maybe on account of being unable, to make space for the Bogside to exist and develop in.

Politically, that's what's there to be seen in the comportment of the State's forces.

But now? Can the Bogside become associated with the State, after all, on terms congenial to itself?

We have passed across pitiful, terrifying terrain to come full circle, those among us who have made it. Perhaps we can regenerate our democracy and begin to move forward again, no rigid requirement to follow a path gouged out by history, no arrogant imposition of one political morality on all.

What if there is no space for the Bogside even yet within existing constitutional propriety? Does it follow we must have communal war and a common ruination?

Or are there different, new, exotic, dangerous, exciting possibilities? Perhaps stiffened with realism now, and more understanding of the persistence of elderly notions?

That heady feeling we had back then was a whiff of revolution. Lenin said that revolution was 'the festival of the oppressed.' Like the time we were robbing petrol from the garage owned by Marcus Harrison on William Street and Fr Mulvey arrived in a flurry of outrage at such disrespect for the rights of private property. 'But, Father,' explained somebody, 'we need the petrol,' and elaborated further, since the priest seemed unsure that this constituted adequate moral justification, speaking as one would to a slow thinker, 'for the petrol bombs...' Mulvey left the scene looking back, saying, 'alright then, as long as you don't take more than you need,' and wondering, I think, what our little world was coming to. To each according to their need, from each according to ability.

What we were hoping, even if we didn't articulate it exactly, was the world turned upside down, the most festive thought of all.

Nothing has changed, it's said. But everything must. Unless it's everything that's being changed we can't bring everybody with us. Can we free the Bogside into a society in which Nelson Drive [a Protestant estate in Derry's Waterside], too, would delight to live?

One solution, revolution.

It was the best and broadest-minded time we have seen, and we must bring the best of it back.

It's here to be seen, if we look to see it.

Eamoun McCann

July 1997

map of derry

- Walls
(1) Guildhall (4) St Columb's Cathedral
(2) The Diamond (5) Rossville Flats (high flats) - now gone
(3) Free Derry Corner(6) St Eugene's Cathedral


Front coverRUC Officer in full riot gear, Rossville Street, 13 August 1969.
Plates 1 - 5Civil rights protests in Derry, November 1968, organised to protest against discrimination in local government, and in defiance of a Stormont government ban on all non-traditional parades in Derry. Plate 1, Guildhall Square; Plates 2 & 3, Docker's protest in Ferryquay Street addressed by John Hume; Plates 4 & 5, Great James Street.
Plates 6 & 7The burning of the "Back Stores" in William Street, January 1969, during an outbreak of rioting following the arrival of the People's Democracy "Burntollet" march in Derry.
Plates 8-10An RUC armoured patrol under attack from Nationalists in Rossville Street in the Bogside, early 1969.
Plate 11Prominent local civil rights activist Eamonn McCann at one of the many street protests during the early part of 1969.
Plate 12 Nationalist youths suffering from the effects of CS Gas (Ortho-Chlorobenzal-malononitrile - a chemical used as a riot control agent by the security forces in Northern Ireland), Little Diamond, May 1969. Local residents, without the benefit of police-issue gas-masks, were advised to breathe through a handkerchief soaked in water, lemon juice or vinegar to counter the effects of the gas.
Plate 13Nationalist youths preparing petrol bombs, Lecky Road, July 1969.
Plate 14RUC using a water cannon in William Street, July 1969. Brightly coloured dye was frequently added to the water to make it easier for the police to identify rioters.
Plates 15 & 16A young victim of CS Gas lies unconscious, Little Diamond, July 1969.

PLATES 17-29:12 AUGUST 1969
Plate 17The annual Apprentice Boys Parade, 15,000 strong, passes through Waterloo Place.
Plate 18Local youths, held back by police and Derry Citizen's Action Committee (DCAC) stewards jeer as the parade passes.
Plates 19 & 20Police guarding the parade come under attack in Waterloo Place.
Plate 21John Hume, Stormont MP for Foyle, attempts to calm the situation in William Street.
Plate 22Bernadette Devlin addresses the crowd from a barricade in Rossville Street.
Plates 23 -25As the fighting moves back towards the Bogside local youths hold off the police in Harvey Street.
Plate 26Bernadette Devlin, Unity MP for Mid-Ulster. She was later sentenced to six months in prison for her actions during the Battle of the Bogside.
Plates 27 & 28Scenes of the rioting in Rossville Street, taken from a vantage point in the flats overlooking the street.
Plate 29As the RUC, followed by a Loyalist crowd, attempt to enter Rossville Street they come under increasingly heavy attack. They replied with rubber bullets and over 1,100 canisters of CS Gas over the next few days.

PLATES 30-47:13 AUGUST 1969
Plate 30Barricade in Wellington Street. Journalist Mary Holland can be seen in the background having an early morning cup of tea.
Plate 31Exhausted RUC Officers in William Street, early in the morning of 13 August.
Plate 32Bogside youths on the roof of the high flats prepare for another day.
Plate 33Bernadette Devlin helping to clear the streets after the trouble of the previous day.
Plates 34-44The RUC again attempt to enter the Bogside, but come under attack as they move down Rossville Street.
Plates 45 & 46The world's media, regular visitors to Derry since the events of 5 October 1968, find plenty to cover as the Battle of the Bogside ends its second day.
Plate 47An RUC officer takes a break during the evening lull in the fighting in the Bogside.

PLATE 48-57:14 AUGUST 1969
Plates 48 & 49As the rioting enters its third consecutive day the B Specials make an appearance on the streets of Derry. Although they didn't become involved, the arrival of a force that was viewed by most Nationalists as a sectarian militia made the already dangerous situation even worse.
Plate 50Bogside youths prepare for another day's fighting.
Plates 51-53RUC again come under attack in Rossville Street.
Plate 54A foreign journalist who got too close to the action is helped by members of the public and an RUC officer.
Plate 55RUC Officers fire rubber bullets from Rossville Street towards Abbey Street. The rubber bullets, the predecessors of the plastic baton rounds used today, were 14 cm long and weighed 140 grammes. They caused three deaths in Northern Ireland before they were replaced in 1973.
Plates 56 & 57At the end of the third day of fighting the Stormont government is forced to call in the British army to relieve the hard pressed RUC. 300 soldiers of the Prince of Wales Regiment appeared on the streets of Derry at 5.00pm on 14 August. The army were initially given a cautious welcome by Nationalists, but many were sceptical. 'This is a great defeat for the Unionist Government. We do not yet know whether it is a victory for us... The presence of the troops solves nothing. We must not be fooled into taking down the barricades. We do not go back to square one.' (Barricade Bulletin, produced by the Derry Labour Party, 14 August1969.)
Plate 58British military personnel in the Bogside, September 1969. The army were initially able to move freely around what were yet to become "No Go" areas for them.
Plate 59 British soldier on checkpoint duty, Carlisle Road, September 1970.
Plate 60"No Way Street." The entrance to the Protestant Fountain Estate from Bishop Street, now permanently closed to traffic, September 1969.
Plate 61British troops on the Strand Road in late 1969.
Plate 62An injured British soldier is helped away from trouble in Pump Street in the centre of Derry. Their initial welcome soon faded as they came into conflict with Nationalist protesters.
Plates 63 & 64British soldiers erecting barricades at the Bishop Street and Ferryquay Street entrances to The Diamond in early 1970.
Plates 65 - 67British Army snatch squads in operation after a confrontation with Nationalists in William Street early in 1970. Such confrontations were by now becoming commonplace.
Plate 68A British sniper in position at the back of the high flats in Rossville Street, March 1970.
Plates 69-77Rossville Street, Easter Sunday 1970. As troops move into Rossville Street they come under stone and petrol bomb attack from Nationalists and snatch squads are sent in to catch the rioters. Even though it is Spring the trees have the look of Winter, their leaves killed by the CS Gas used by the army.
Plate 78Lorry used as a barricade in Rossville Street, late Spring 1970.
Plates 79 & 80William Street, Summer 1970.
Plates 81 & 82 Francis Street, Summer 1970.
Plates 83 & 84Little James Street, Summer 1970. The top hat was looted from a burnt-out clothes shop earlier in the day.
Plates 85 & 86British troops relax in Sackville Street with the daily paper, Summer 1970.
Plates 8 7-90British Army Saracens attacked by local youths in the Broadway area of Creggan, September 1970.
Plates 91-96Eastway in Creggan, September 1970.
Plate 97A photographer gets a close up shot of British troops firing rubber bullets in Abbey Street, Bogside, late 1970.
Plates 98-102 British patrol in conflict with local youths, Laburnum Terrace, March 1971.
Plates 103 & 104 British army in action in William Street, Spring 1971. No-one thought to tell them that the bus service to Creggan was always the first casualty of any trouble in Derry.
Plate 105A local youth confronts soldiers in riot gear, Abbey Street, June 1971.
Plate 106 Barricade in Chamberlain Street, facing on to William Street, June 1971.
Plates 107-116After British soldiers come under attack at Butcher Gate they chase the rioters down Fahan Street and into the heart of the Bogside, where the riot continues. Summer 1971.
Plates 117-123British Army snatch squad in William Street on a Sunday afternoon in Summer 1971. Those caught are brought back to be held behind army lines.
Plates 124 & 125A typical afternoon near "aggro corner" in the Bogside as a British army saracen is stoned by local youths.
Plates 126 -128 Scenes around Free Derry Corner before it became a free standing monument. Late Summer and back cover 1971.

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