Free Derry Corner – Front

****On-Going Project****

 

All that remains now is the gable wall of what was, in 1969, 33 Lecky Road, the last house in the row, also known then as Fox’s Corner, and now known as Free Derry Corner.

 

Here is an aerial image, (taken from the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, as presented here), of the bogside (in 1972). The view is looking northeast; the river Foyle is visible at the top, the walls of the old city run from top to bottom just to the right of centre, and the steep grassy slope that sweeps down to Free Derry Corner is in the bottom centre. The houses of Lecky Road are still in place, with Free Derry Corner at the end.

 

princi10

 

A picture of the original, hand-written, version can be seen in this BBC gallery.

 

A Derry Journal piece suggests that the original graffiti version (in January 1969) was by Liam Hillen, while John “Caker” Casey did the more professional version in August, ahead of a visit by UK Home Secretary James Callaghan on August 28th — black block letters on a white-washed background.

 

Here is a still taken from video of Callaghan’s visit, from the BBC documentary No Go (at 7m 26s). RTÉ also has video of Callaghan being applauded in the Bogside, at 9m 50s, and the crowd is then shown singing “We Shall Overcome“.

 

 

According to the Derry JournalWar And An Irish Town, and The Bogside Artists, the inspiration for the slogan was the U.S. civil rights movement, specifically in Berkeley, California. At the protests in (and concerning) People’s Park, a sign stating ‘You Are Now Entering Free Berkeley’ was for a time displayed in May 1969, though the slogan must go back further than this, as the Derry version was first painted on the night of January 4th-5th, 1969. (Culture Northern Ireland says the slogan is an imitation of signs at the East-West Berlin border, but does so without attribution or citation.)

 

Here is a shot (from the Peter Moloney Collection M00075) of the wall in 1972. The words “Free Derry” are in white, on black squares.

M00075 Rossville St 1972+

 

And here is a shot (unfortunately without attribution) of the gable wall at street-level, perhaps in 1973.
entering free derry

 

The houses were demolished in the mid 70s but the gable wall was retained. Here is an image from 1976 (M00077)
M00077 Rossville St 1976+

 

And from 1978 (M00076) with the wall surrounded by fencing.
M00076 Rossville St 1978+

 

By 1981 the fence has been removed and the painting spruced up. (M00078)
M00078+

 

This 1986 image (M00389) shows the wall with an apex and buttresses, and a full-size slogan painted on the gable. The old maisonettes are still standing in the background.

 

 

This version stood for a number of years (see 1987) though it was paint-bombed (1989) and cleaned (one, two, three). (M00639)

 

 

Sometime between 1990 and 1994 the mural was first “augmented” in the sense that other pictorial elements were added to the slogan. An image from this period (pre-The Petrol Bomber) from Sinn Féin’s collection shows a version with a rainbow. (M01098)

 

In 1994, around the time that The Petrol Bomber (the first mural by the Bogside Artists) and the 25th anniversary mural for the Battle of the Bogside were painted beside it, the gable was painted bright red and lettered in yellow. (M01112)
No RUC added to the wall (and also to The Petrol Bomber) (M01174)