Week 9 : Derry – Ballintoy – Ballycastle (North Channel)

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VIDEO Our Lady’s Island, county Wexford, Ireland : klik HIER

Maandag 16 juli – Bezoeken van Derry

 

Tegen halftien trok ik naar het Museum of Free Derry om meer te weten te komen over de voorgeschiedenis en gebeurtenissen van Bloody Sunday waarover Eddie (13 juli, Cappry/Ballybofey) me verteld had.
Om 10 uur kon ik mee op een rondleiding met uitleg over de muurschilderingen in de buurt van het museum.

 

 

De gids, John Mc Kinney, is de jongere broer van William Mc Kinney, die op de parking van het huidige museum op Bloody Sunday (30 januari 1972) door Britse paratroopers doodgeschoten werd. 27 jaar was hij. William was video-amateur en hij filmde de burgerrechtenbetoging vanaf het begin. Op een gegeven moment schiet zijn camera enkel nog beelden van de grond, en daarna is het gedaan. Dit waren de laatste beelden die William maakte toen hij vluchtte. Kort daarna lag hij dood op de grond, op de plek waar op een van mijn foto’s een witte wagen geparkeerd staat, voor de gevel van het museum. De film en de videocamera worden getoond in het museum.

 

De vertikale strepen op de voorgevel van het museum op die foto zijn de Soundwave van ‘We Shall Overcome‘ dat tijdens de mars gezongen werd. Alle 13 slachtoffers vielen in de onmiddellijke omgeving van het museum, daarom werd het op die locatie gebouwd.

 

 

De geschiedenisles en de vele feiten die ik vandaag gepresenteerd kreeg, zijn te veel om hier uit de doeken te doen. Die hou ik voor mijn lezingen indien er groepen zouden zijn die in dit aspect van mijn Ierlandreis geīnteresseerd zijn.

 

Enkele markante gegevens:
De omwalde oude binnenstad werd begin 17de eeuw gebouwd door Britse protestantse settlers op een moerassig gebied naast de rivier Foyle. De inheemse Ierse katholieken mochten zich niet binnen de muren vestigen, zij moesten genoegen nemen met de ‘bogs’ errond. Vandaar de naam ‘bogside‘ voor de wijken waar de rellen plaatsvonden.

 

Die systematische discriminatie van de, met de vlucht naar de steden sinds de 19de eeuw, katholieke meerderheid (gebrekkige huisvesting, alleen stemrecht voor huiseigenaars in gemanipuleerde kiesdistricten – jerrymandering – en jobdiscriminatie) werd doorgetrokken tot de 20ste eeuw en leidde uiteindelijk tot de burgerrechtenstrijd eind jaren ’60, geïnspireerd door de acties van Martin Luther King in de VS.

 

 

Groot Brittannië schaarde zich altijd aan de zijde van de Unionisten en verspreidde een onwaar verhaal over de moorden van onschuldige — volgens GB gewapende — burgers om de paratroopers en hun militaire leiding uit de wind te zetten.

 

Het comité van families van slachtoffers — onder wie onze gids John — voerde jarenlang campagne om de ware feiten boven te krijgen en slaagde hierin. Na een tweede onderzoek dat 12 jaar duurde, gaf de toenmalige Britse Eerste Minister David Cameron in 2010 toe dat alle slachtoffers onschuldig waren en bood zijn excuses aan voor feiten die nooit hadden mogen gebeuren.

 

 

Edoch: slechts een Britse officier en een soldaat (soldier F) worden ter verantwoording geroepen. De rol van de politieke en militaire elite bleef/ blijft onderbelicht. Het comité van nabestaanden blijft hierover verder procederen.

Soldier F vermoordde vier betogers, onder wie de broer van onze gids John. Het proces begint in augustus en zal minstens twee jaar duren. John kijkt ernaar uit en leeft momenteel in grote spanning over het verloop en uiteindelijke verdict.

 

Tuesday July 17th – Derry visit

 

Day of rest due to heavy rainfall. Some more pictures and reflections about (London)Derry.

 

While overviewing Derry pictures, including a few I had not yet posted, I realised that in Derry many of the stories I have been following during my trip from southern to northern Ireland converged.

 

Demography: When I entered the city, I saw a monument on the location where formerly trans-Atlantic ships departed for America that reminds visitors of the Irish diaspora. A young family departs, the parents stay behind. The Titanic story…

 

 

Politics: At the Free Derry Museum, the stories of the Irish battle of independence against the British, the subsequent Irish civil war (cf. my story about the Ballyseedy Memorial) and finally the Troubles in Northern Ireland. In the museum, I also met volunteer Jimmy Toye, who had participated in the Battle of Bogside in 1969. He showed me a photo collage including one picture of himself that he had received on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of this battle.

 

 

Religion: at the IOSAS Centre and Celtic Prayer Garden, the story of pagan Celtic traditions that influenced rural monastic christianity in Ireland vis à vis urban and hierarchically structured Roman Catholicism.

 

Bike troubles: on my way out of Derry I met two boys who were struggling with a bike chain that got stuck between the rear wheel. Since this also happened (and will happen) to me on several occasions, I have become a proficient chain wriggler and helped them with my cycle repair tools.

 

My Irish journey was intense and emotions became stronger as I moved further north. I hope emotional upheavals will quieten down when I am in Scotland some time next week, with only the normal long-distance cyclist’s concerns to worry about: searching for nice cycling routes, looking for food and water, trying to stay as dry as possible, finding accommodation, cycle problems and, in my case, trying to raise funds for Cipriano and finding wifi networks that are strong enough to get my stories and pictures posted for followers.

 

But I certainly want to return to Ireland some day. It is a special and warm country, though not in the climatological sense.

 

 

Wednesday July 18th – Final 30 km in Ireland

 

Today I cycled my final 30 km in Ireland/County Donegal until the river Foyle ferry in Greencastle. At the other side of the river is Northern Ireland/county Derry.

 

I immediately sensed a difference of culture. Just beyond Point Magilligan I rode for several kilometers alongside a prison fence and a huge, nearly 1-km long prison wall. I do not remember having seen such a huge prison in Ireland.

 

The names of the villages are only mentioned in English. No more Irish names.

 

In the villages I saw many British flags. These have been there since last week’s Orange Marches (12 July).

No more Irish Crosses at graveyards.

Tickets to visit monuments are more expensive.

Church doors are closed. In Ireland I often entered churches to hide from the rain or to rest a while, because along Irish roads there is very little to be found to sit on, not even a tree trunk.

Fortunately, the people are still very friendly 😀.

 

 

 

Thursday July 19th – Ballintoy – Bushmills and back (26,7 km)

 

This morning the weather was forecast to be sunny, so I decided to first visit the Carrick-A-Rede suspended bridge which is located close to my hostel. The coastal scenery is magnificent, but I declined to pay 9 pounds to walk over a 20-m long bridge, followed by a 150-meter path over the rock.

 

 

In former times, the bridge had only one cord to hold on to while crossing it. Fishermen had to cross it with their nets and other fisheries equipment. They attached their nets to the rock’s extremity and strechted them into the ocean with their little boats, to catch sea salmon.

 

Subsequently, I rode 13 km back to Bushmills to purchase food in the nearest-by supermarket. After yesterday’s long ride, I had to have diner in a pub because there was no grocery store in Ballintoy and I only had a can of soup and some bread left. This seemed me to be insufficient to stop my hunger.

 

Since I was in Bushmills, I decided to visit the oldest whiskey distillery of Ireland which is located there. Apart from the details of the distilling process, I learned a few interesting things. The whiskey matures in wooden casks that formerly contained Bourbon, Port, Sherry or Madeira wine. These tastes are passed on to the whiskey. These casks are reused three times, after which they are being sold for decorative purposes. It was forbidden to take pictures inside the distillery.

 

A visit to the Giants’ Causeway, the volcanic phenomenon with vertical basalt rocks, will be for tomorrow because this afternoon it has started raining again.

 

Bushmills Whiskey Distillery

Friday July 20th – Giant’s Causeway

 

During the day the weather had been bright and sunny, so I decided to visit this remarkable natural phenomenon at dusk, hoping for a sunset with beautiful colour effects on the basalt stepping stones.

 

My hope die not come true. When I departed with my bike, it was cloudy again. By the time I reached the stones, it began to rain, which made the walking and climbing over the stones a wee bit more exciting.

 

The basalt columns were formed 60 million years ago after a volcanic outburst. Given the late hour, the visitors’ centre was claused, so I cannot give any further information than what you can find on Wikipedia:

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Giant%27s_Causeway

 

Saturday July 21st – National Holiday in Belgium

 

Last Thursday, during the long ride from Derry to Ballintoy, I enjoyed a steady tailwind which at a given moment was so strong that the Belgian flag which I had attached to a rear panier got entangled with my chain.

 

This means I am cycling with an amputated flag on our Belgian national holiday today, since repairing it was unfeasible.

 

I feel sorry to have to leave Sheep Island View Hostel. It was a fantastic place to come to rest for a few days: extremely friendly people and a beautiful coast with nice walking trails, highly recommended!

 

As of this evening I will be in Scotland, Campbeltown. Most probably in the rain again…

 

Crossing of the North Channel

 

The short crossing of the North Channel with a 15 passenger ‘bus boat’ between Ballycastle and Campbeltown turned into a hell. The storm with gale 4,7 that had been forecast for the evening, arrived in the late afternoon and the sea was rough. For this reason, the boat arrived half an hour late from Campbeltown. Passengers had been requested to report at the marina gate 15 minutes before departure time, so the waiting time increased to 45 minutes, and there was no shelter to hide from wind and rain.

 

After we left, my stomach endured the heavy shaking of the boat for about an hour, with my eyes fixed on the horizon. When we sailed around Mull of Kintyre, the boatman warned that the shaking would become worse due to strong currents around the land’s tip, and then I had to start using the puke bag for the next 30 minutes. Due to the storm, the crossing lasted 45 minutes longer, which I did not particularly enjoy this time….

 

When we arrived, the boatsman said he had hesitated to sail off given the seriousness of the storm. And on the internet I read: ‘Notoriously strong currents plague the tip of the Kintyre Peninsula creating a hazard to unmotorised craft and virtually impossible for distance swimmers.’

My bowels indeed suffered from the consequences of these currents.
In the future I will rather cycle a detour of 100 km to a harbour with big ferries and a few truck decks that stabilize the ship.

 

End good, all good: my bicycle on the rear deck was not catapulted overboard and I found a bed at Campbeltown Bunk House, so I was warm and dry in the evening.

 

Hopefully it will not get any worse than this in Scotland, but this is probably wishful thinking.

 

 

 

Sunday July 22nd – Campbeltown – Carradale (25 km)

 

I was wise enough to keep my first cycling day in Scotland rather short. The first campsite after Campbeltown was located at a distance of 25 km, the next one, 72 km. A bit too far on this tougher trajectory with longer slopes including sections of 15%, my absolute limit which I can hold out no more than a few dozen meters. Moreover, for the first time it was quite hot today, +20°, quite sweaty during the uphill sections.

 

Tomorrow I should cycle 50 km. This will be my maximum daily distance in Scotland, I presume…

 

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