Derry residents answer call to arms at city walls
‘Derry’s walls are hugely significant not just in the history of the city but in the history of the island’
The Derry Wave on the Walls begins, led by Derry Mayor Martin Reilly, with Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness and a few folk from the past. Photograph: Trevor McBride
Historically, they have been a symbol of division, but Derry’s ancient walls – the only such fortification in Ireland and Britain to remain intact – were yesterday the site for some late-summer fun and fundraising.
To celebrate their 400th anniversary, hundreds of volunteers performed a Mexican wave along the city walls, as part of the City of Culture festivities.
The charity event, which was filmed from the air, also raised money for Foyle Hospice.
Stormont environment minister Mark H Durkan had asked for 1,000 volunteers to turn up as a gesture of cross-community solidarity.
‘Symbol of tolerance’
“Derry’s walls are hugely significant not just in the history of the city but in the history of the island,” he said.
“The City of Culture year . . . has helped to further transform the walls to a symbol of hope, pride and tolerance.”
Last week, Dinny McGinley, Minister of State at the Department of Arts, Culture and the Gaeltacht, visited Derry to endorse the Wave on the Walls project.
“The walls are certainly a great attraction for anyone fortunate enough to visit this beautiful, ancient and historic city,” he said.
Measuring one mile in total, the walls were built as part of the plantation of Ulster by King James I in 1613, when the city was granted its charter and renamed Londonderry, a move which remains controversial to this day. The ramparts are strongly associated with the 1689 Siege of Derry, in which soldiers representing King James II unsuccessfully stormed the Williamite stronghold.
The Mexican wave was one of a number of events to celebrate 400 years of city status. Guildhall Square was transformed into a medieval market, complete with livestock, sword fighting and actors in period costume.
Derry, this year’s United Kingdom City of Culture, has had a busy summer, peaking earlier this month with an estimated 300,000 visitors for the all-Ireland Fleadh Cheoil na hÉireann.