The bonfire of the tragedies

p30828UK-News-7-1

Published: Sunday 22nd March 2015 by The News Editor

Comments (0)

The memories of thousands of people have gone up in flames as an intricately hand crafted wooden temple illuminated a Northern Ireland city.

Personal messages on the Londonderry bonfire remembered victims of tragedy: babies; suicides; a young policewoman killed in a crash; those who died during the 30-year conflict.

Among the fire starters were people whose lives were blighted by one of the most infamous events of the Troubles – the Bloody Sunday shooting dead of 13 demonstrators by soldiers.

One message said: “Happy birthday daddy, watching over us all.”

Another said: “Baby Kath, we look forward to meeting you one day.”

Around 60,000 people have visited the 70ft tower made of carved plywood which has been erected over the past two months in the Waterside area of Derry. Many have left personal messages remembering loved ones.

Artist creator David Best said: “It is an incredible gift people are sharing with you.

“We had a father bringing his son’s picture, it was a picture of his son who had hung himself, and trusting us to put that up.

“It is an incredible gift betrothed on us.”

He said there were probably 40,000 names on the bonfire, etched into its wood or pinned to its structures on handwritten notes, some with flowers and photos.

The oldest visitor was a man of 89, who came to leave a tribute to his wife of 40 years who died from cancer.

Mr Best added: “There is a baby’s picture in there, those are tough. I have spent a lot of time talking to thousands of people about loss and they don’t seem to mind it.”

He said one man’s relative was killed at Bloody Sunday, in January 1972, when British paratroopers opened fire on innocent civil rights marchers in Derry.

“They have all moved on, Ireland has made peace, you don’t see any machine guns or barbed wire here.

“What I was building was a piece of celebration, that people of Ireland have come to grips with the Troubles and this is a place for them to celebrate their accomplishments.”

The fire was lit by Tony Doherty and his son Rossa, among others. Their relative, married father-of-six Patrick Doherty, was 31 when he joined the march. A report by Lord Saville said he was unarmed and unjustifiably shot.

Flames from an inferno at the base streaked up the steep sides of the structure, starkly highlighting its supporting beams in vivid shades of orange and yellow until the tower collapsed, prompting a roar from thousands of people gathered on the hillside overlooking Derry.

Within half an hour most of the structure was gone – transformed into flames illuminating a city with the snaking River Foyle at its centre.

Presbyterian minister the Rev Graeme Orr has said he fears the burning could leave people open to the influence of Satan.

But Mr Best said he believed it would help the bereaved end their pain. “If this is paganism then I am Donald Duck,” he said.

The aim behind the temple was to bring together the artist from the USA’s Burning Man Festival in Nevada and the people of Derry to offer an alternative perspective on bonfires.

It was brought to the city by Artichoke, the London-based company behind the Lumiere lights festival which was a highlight of Derry’s year as UK city of culture in 2013.

Mr Best said his work could help heal families for generations.

“If I am challenging the church and contemporary religion it is only because they have got to do their job; if they are not out there helping people and lending a hand with the issues in the country and our world then it is their problem.”

Published: Sunday 22nd March 2015 by The News Editor

Comments (0)

Local business search