These sources relate to events at Burntollet Bridge on 4th January 1969. Why have these events produced such different historical interpretations. Refer to sources A to C and any other interpretations of the events from your studies to help you in your answer. There are three sources that come from different understandings of what took place on the 4th of January 1969. These events happened on the last day of a four-day march from Belfast to Derry. The march was carried out by the People’s Democracy who was mostly made of students from Queen’s university, Belfast.
There were riots at Derry before the march had started that were started by Reverend Ian Paisley who had provoked the Protestants by encouraging negative feelings towards the marchers. When the marchers arrived at Burntollet they were confronted by a group of Protestants that were waiting for them at the bridge. The first source was written by Bernadette Devlin in 1969, it is an account from her autobiography called ‘The Price of My Soul’. She is a leading member of the Civil Rights movement; at the age of 21 she became the youngest woman to enter the House of Commons.
She was one of the marchers at Burntollet and witnessed what happened but is likely that she will be bias towards other points of view. She starts by describing what happened when they arrived. “A curtain of bricks and boulders and bottles brought a march to a halt” she describes that the protestants ambushed the marchers and attacked them with several different types of weapons. Some marchers escaped but the rest were left behind. She also says that she witnessed one man being attacked by four or five ‘Paisleyites’ with a policeman looking on.
A few policemen were at least trying to stop us from being killed” but others were pleased that the marchers were getting “What, in their terms, we deserved. ” Bernadette was brought up in a Catholic school with teachers that were very patriotic and passionate about a protestant-free country. In her autobiography she says that at school she learnt Irish history, but because she attended a Catholic Grammar School she is likely to have bias opinions and probably has grown up to dislike Protestants and the British.
She decided to write her autobiography to get attention from around the world like other people had around the world before like Ghandi and Martin Luther King and other civil rights activists. She was at this incident so she is a primary source but would have a one sided opinion about what happened. The second source is a report written by the Cameron Commission. They were part of the British government and they wrote the report to try to defuse a difficult situation because the police where being accused of leading the marchers into a trap. They were not at the incident so everything that they say is second hand evidence.
It is meant to be neutral and is not supposed to take sides on the matter. They were expected to write a valid report on what occurred on that day because the Catholics were getting very impatient because they were there on a peaceful march and did not expect violence. They explain that the remarks said by some people about the police provoking the violence is not true. The report says that police where being criticised because they did not act quickly enough to the violence. The police that was meant to be protecting the marchers where made up of normal police and the B-Specials.
The B-Specials where a voluntary police group that where mainly built up of Protestants. This is why people believe that the police did not react to the violence, as they should have. But this report says that any ideas about the police deliberately leading them to the violence are not true. The final source is a poster produced by the Peoples Democracy for the 10-year anniversary of the incident at Burntollet Bridge. The poster is made up of a picture of a group people holding banners flags etc. and a caption saying ‘A People Undefeated’.
This poster was written for the purpose of reminding people of what had occurred on that day. It suggests that the Catholics have been fighting a war against religious prejudice in Ireland. ‘A People Undefeated’, that is a very this shows the idea of them fighting a war and says that they have not been defeated they have put up with quite a lot but are still not defeated. This event have produced very different historical interpretations because there was a lot of peoples feeling and emotions wrapped up for a long time and the Catholics did not provoke any violence and expected no violence form their peaceful marches.
Throughout their 4-day march they had been insulted and called names but they expected that, but they did not expect the police turning on them and the ‘Paisleyites’ to attack them. I believe that 1 of the main problems was that this march had been banned, but the peoples democracy still carried it out. I believe that the police where involved in the violence but did mean to lead the marchers into a trap, the Cameron Commission was a good idea because it diffused a difficult situation.