Day in History 30 January – Betsy Ross – Bloody Sunday

Betsy Ross presenting the first American flag to George Washington by Edward Percy Moran

On this day in 1836, the woman widely credited with making the first American flag, Betsy Ross, died in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania at the age of 84.  Born Elizabeth Griscom on 1 January 1752 in Philadelphia.  Ross married three times; John Ross (1773 – 1775 his death), Joseph Ashburn (1777 – 1782 his death), John Claypoole (1783 – 1817 his death).  The Final Footprint – Ross’s body was first buried at the Quaker burial ground on South 5th Street in Philadelphia.  Twenty years later, her remains were exhumed and reburied in the Mt. Moriah Cemetery in the Cobbs Creek Park section of Philadelphia.  In preparation for the United States Bicentennial, the city ordered the remains of Ross and her third husband, John Claypoole, moved to the courtyard of the Betsy Ross House in Philadelphia in 1975; however, workers found no remains under her tombstone.  Bones found elsewhere in the family plot were deemed to be hers and were re-interred in the current grave visited by tourists at the Betsy Ross House.

Bloody_Sunday_memorialOn this day in 1972, in the Bogside area of Derry, Northern Ireland, 26 civil-rights protesters and bystanders were shot by soldiers of the British Army.  Thirteen males, seven of whom were teenagers, died immediately or soon after, while the death of another man four-and-a-half months later was attributed to the injuries he received on that day.  Two protesters were also injured when they were run down by army vehicles.  Five of those wounded were shot in the back.  The incident occurred during a Northern Ireland Civil Rights Association march; the soldiers involved were members of the First Battalion of the Parachute Regiment (1 Para).  Two investigations have been held by the British government. The Widgery Tribunal, held in the immediate aftermath of the event, largely cleared the soldiers and British authorities of blame.  Widgery described the soldiers’ shooting as “bordering on the reckless” but was widely criticised.  The Saville Inquiry, chaired by Lord Saville of Newdigate, was established in 1998 to reinvestigate the events.  Following a 12-year inquiry, Saville’s report was made public on 15 June 2010.  The report found that all of those shot were unarmed, and that the killings were both “unjustified and unjustifiable.”  On the publication of the Saville report the British prime minister, David Cameron, made a formal apology on behalf of the United Kingdom.  The Provisional Irish Republican Army’s (IRA) campaign against the partition of Ireland had begun in the two years prior to Bloody Sunday, but public perceptions of the day boosted the status of, and recruitment into, the organisation.  Bloody Sunday remains among the most significant events in the Troubles of Northern Ireland, chiefly because those who died were shot by the British army rather than paramilitaries, in full view of the public and the press.

The Dead

  • John (Jackie) Duddy. Shot in the chest in the car park of Rossville flats. Four witnesses stated Duddy was unarmed and running away from the paratroopers when he was killed. Three of them saw a soldier take deliberate aim at the youth as he ran. He is the uncle of the Irish boxer John Duddy.
  • Patrick Joseph Doherty. Shot from behind while attempting to crawl to safety in the forecourt of Rossville flats. Doherty was the subject of a series of photographs, taken before and after he died by French journalist Gilles Peress. Despite testimony from “Soldier F” that he had fired at a man holding and firing a pistol, Widgery acknowledged that the photographs showed Doherty was unarmed, and that forensic tests on his hands for gunshot residue proved negative.
  • Bernard McGuigan. Shot in the back of the head when he went to help Patrick Doherty. He had been waving a white handkerchief at the soldiers to indicate his peaceful intentions.
  • Hugh Pius Gilmour. Shot through his right elbow, the bullet then entering his chest as he ran from the paratroopers on Rossville Street. Widgery acknowledged that a photograph taken seconds after Gilmour was hit corroborated witness reports that he was unarmed, and that tests for gunshot residue were negative.
  • Kevin McElhinney. Shot from behind while attempting to crawl to safety at the front entrance of the Rossville Flats. Two witnesses stated McElhinney was unarmed.
  • Michael Gerald Kelly. Shot in the stomach while standing near the rubble barricade in front of Rossville Flats. Widgery accepted that Kelly was unarmed.
  • John Pius Young. Shot in the head while standing at the rubble barricade. Two witnesses stated Young was unarmed.
  • William Noel Nash. Shot in the chest near the barricade. Witnesses stated Nash was unarmed and going to the aid of another when killed.
  • Michael M. McDaid. Shot in the face at the barricade as he was walking away from the paratroopers. The trajectory of the bullet indicated he could have been killed by soldiers positioned on the Derry Walls.
  • James Joseph Wray. Wounded then shot again at close range while lying on the ground. Witnesses who were not called to the Widgery Tribunal stated that Wray was calling out that he could not move his legs before he was shot the second time.
  • Gerald Donaghey. Shot in the stomach while attempting to run to safety between Glenfada Park and Abbey Park. Donaghey was brought to a nearby house by bystanders where he was examined by a doctor. His pockets were turned out in an effort to identify him. A later police photograph of Donaghey’s corpse showed nail bombs in his pockets. Neither those who searched his pockets in the house nor the British army medical officer (Soldier 138) who pronounced him dead shortly afterwards say they saw any bombs. Donaghey had been a member of Fianna Éireann, an IRA-linked Republican youth movement. Paddy Ward, a police informer who gave evidence at the Saville Inquiry, claimed that he had given two nail bombs to Donaghey several hours before he was shot dead.
  • Gerard (James) McKinney. Shot just after Gerald Donaghey. Witnesses stated that McKinney had been running behind Donaghey, and he stopped and held up his arms, shouting “Don’t shoot! Don’t shoot!”, when he saw Donaghey fall. He was then shot in the chest.
  • William Anthony McKinney. Shot from behind as he attempted to aid Gerald McKinney (no relation). He had left cover to try to help Gerald.
  • John Johnston. Shot in the leg and left shoulder on William Street 15 minutes before the rest of the shooting started. Johnston was not on the march, but on his way to visit a friend in Glenfada Park. He died 4½ months later; his death has been attributed to the injuries he received on the day. He was the only one not to die immediately or soon after being shot.

The Final Footprint – A Bloody Sunday memorial was erected in the Bogside.  Paul McCartney (who is of Irish descent) recorded the first song in response only two days after the incident.  The single entitled “Give Ireland Back to the Irish”, expressed his views on the matter.  It was one of a few McCartney solo songs to be banned by the BBC.  The John Lennon album Some Time in New York City features a song entitled “Sunday Bloody Sunday”, inspired by the incident, as well as the song “The Luck of the Irish”, which dealt more with the Irish conflict in general.  Lennon, who was of Irish descent, also spoke at a protest in New York in support of the victims and families of Bloody Sunday.  The incident has been commemorated by Irish band, U2, in their 1983 protest song “Sunday Bloody Sunday”.  Black Sabbath‘s Geezer Butler (also of Irish descent) wrote the lyrics to the Black Sabbath song “Sabbath Bloody Sabbath” on the album of the same name in 1973.  Butler stated, “…the Sunday Bloody Sunday thing had just happened in Ireland, when the British troops opened fire on the Irish demonstrators… So I came up with the title ‘Sabbath Bloody Sabbath’, and sort of put it in how the band was feeling at the time, getting away from management, mixed with the state Ireland was in.”

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