Lough Foyle is a long arm of the North Atlantic that for twenty miles slips between the mountains of Donegal and the green fields of Ulster until it laps at the feet of the walled city of Derry.
by Matthew Brock, LC | Source:
Lough Foyle is a long arm of the North Atlantic that for twenty miles slips between the mountains of Donegal and the green fields of Ulster until it laps at the feet of the walled city of Derry. In 1690 the warships of William of Orange sailed up its waters to raise the siege of Derry by James II, England’s last Catholic king.
That event and the events that followed, James’ defeat at the Boyne, his subsequent exile, and the beginning of the Penal Times, where priests were outlaws and Catholics were persecuted, have haunted the Irish imagination ever since, and nowhere more so than in Derry itself.
There the past seems part of the present. It seems to meet you at every turn of the narrow, cobble-stoned streets, behind every parapet still manned by William’s cannon. Little wonder then that it was here in the 1970s that the simmering tensions of 300 years flared into the bloody violence now known simply as “the Troubles”.
It was as if history had whiplashed, leaving in its wake miles of barbed wire, concrete barriers, and divided, mistrustful communities.
Most have gotten over it, moved on, forgiven, forgotten. Others remember the scars of the past every day. And a few, like Richard and Charles, do both.
It was May 4, 1972. Richard Moore was a ten-year-old boy returning home from school, in the wrong place at the wrong time.
It was only four months after Bloody Sunday, where thirteen people had been shot dead by British troops, and disturbances were common.
Richard ran in to one of these disturbances that afternoon. Scared and confused, he took shelter in a burnt-out building nearby, but then stuck his head out a window to see what was going on. That’s all he remembers.
From across the street, Charles, a British Army captain, fired a rubber bullet that struck Richard in the temple. He is blind to this day.
One would think that wounds like that would leave a scar of bitterness and hate. Not so with Richard. He has moved on, and learned from his experience to become the founder of an international children’s charity, Children in Crossfire.
That’s not all. Last year, Richard met Charles in a hotel in Scotland.
“The meeting with Charles was the end of a long personal journey for me,” says Richard.
“I have always wanted to meet him, not to criticise or rebuke him, but to build up a relationship with a stranger who was, and who remains, one of the most important people in my life.
“I told him I had forgiven him and moved on. We got along very well … He said that he was sorry for the damage caused and that if he had known what was going to happen to me he would never have fired [the rubber bullet]. It was a fantastic meeting.”
It is men like these whose good will has finally turned Northern Ireland’s cities of war into citadels of peace, and her valleys of tears into a garden of God.
- Information taken from the Irish Times, February 14, 2007.
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