Free Derry Corner

****On-Going Project****

All that remains now is the gable wall of what was, in 1969, 33 Lecky Road, the last house in the row, also known then as Fox’s Corner, and now known as Free Derry Corner.

In the image below, Free Derry Corner is the northern wall of the unit marked in red. Fahan Street comes in from the right, St Columb’s Wells comes in from the bottom middle to meet it, and Lecky Road runs along the left-hand side.

Some sources give “Columb’s Street” as the address of Free Derry Corner, intending “St Columb’s Street”, citing Eamonn McCann’s War And An Irish Town. A “St Columb’s Street” is listed in a 1911 directory of Derry. Maps of the time (1969) appear to show Fahan Street and Lecky Road intersecting but perhaps St Columb’s Street is the span at the end of Fahan Street between Lecky Road and St Columb’s Wells.

Here is an aerial image, (taken from the Bloody Sunday Inquiry, as presented here), of the Bogside in 1972. The view is looking northeast; the river Foyle is visible at the top, the walls of the old city run from top to bottom just to the right of centre, and the steep grassy slope that sweeps down to Free Derry Corner is in the bottom centre. The houses of Lecky Road are still in place, with Free Derry Corner at the top end. St Columb’s Wells is the street at the bottom-centre of the image.

The Slogan
The original, hand-written, January 1969, version of “You are now entering Free Derry” was done by Liam Hillen. Hillen tells the story like this:
“We were standing around there, it must have been two or three in the morning, heating ourselves up, and I said to Eamonn McCann, ‘Jesus, I am fed up standing around here doing nothing.’
And Eamonn turned around and said, ‘Why don’t you go and paint a sign on that gable wall over there?’ I asked what we should we paint up, and guys made suggestions like “We Demand Free Beer” and various other things. Then McCann turned round and said, ‘Why don’t you stick up “You are now entering Free Derry”?’ I said, ‘That’s it, we’ll stick that up,’ and turned round and said, ‘anybody know where I can get some paint and a brush?’ And this wee fella standing on the right-hand side of me said his aunt lived up the street a bit.
So we went and found a can of yellow paint and a can of blue paint, anything else didn’t have much in it. I remembered that yellow and blue made green, so I mixed them together. I got this old hard brush and me and the wee boy walked back down to the corner and up to the gable wall. Big Danny Begley was about six foot tall so he leaned up against the wall with his hands interlocked and gave me a lift up. Chris Armstrong held the paint and I dipped into it.”
(Derry Journal) (Hillen died on Christmas Day, 2018 – Derry Journal.)

(Unattributed image)

(Image from Free Derry Museum, perhaps taken by Jim Davies)

John “Caker” Casey did the more professional version in August, ahead of a visit by UK Home Secretary James Callaghan on August 28th — black block letters on a whitewashed background. Here is a still taken from video of Callaghan’s visit, from the BBC documentary No Go (at 7m 26s). RTÉ also has video of Callaghan being applauded in the Bogside, at 9m 50s, and the crowd is then shown singing “We Shall Overcome”. (Casey died in 2000 – FindAGrave.)
According to the Derry JournalWar And An Irish Town, and The Bogside Artists, the inspiration for the slogan was the U.S. civil rights movement. At the protests in (and concerning) People’s Park (in Berkeley, California) a sign stating ‘You Are Now Entering Free Berkeley’ was for a time displayed in May 1969, though the slogan must go back to earlier protests than this, as the Derry version was first painted on the night of January 4th-5th, 1969. (Culture Northern Ireland says the slogan is an imitation of signs at the East-West Berlin border, but does so without attribution or citation.)

And here is a 1971 shot (unfortunately without attribution) of the gable wall at street-level:

(A similar image appears in this Derry Journal article.)

There is a Guildhall Press image (possibly by Barney McMonagle) of “care-Free Derry”.

Here is a shot of the wall in 1972. The words “Free Derry” are now in white, on black squares.
(1972 M00075 and in this condition in 1973-08)

The Wall
The houses were demolished in 1975 but the gable wall was retained (Derry Journal: 1974 discussions | 1975 final decision).

Here is an image from 1976. The wall, including the slogan, has been repainted.
(1976 M00077)

A Derry Journal article from 1976 reports a petition of 154 signatures claiming that the wall is unsafe.

An image from 1978 with the wall surrounded by fencing.
(1978 M00076) (Victor Patterson also has an image of the fenced-in wall from 1978.)

By 1981 the fence has been removed and the slogan re-painted in chunky lettering.
(1981 M00078)

This 1986 image shows the wall now with an apex and buttresses, and a flagpole. A new, full-size slogan in sans-serif font is painted on the gable. The old maisonettes are still standing in the background.

(1986 M00389)

This version stood for a number of years (see 1987) though it was paint-bombed (1989) and cleaned (one, two, three). (1989 M00639)

Some time between 1990 and 1994 the slogan was first “augmented” in the sense that other elements were added to the wall.
One image from this period (pre-The Petrol Bomber) from Sinn Féin’s collection shows a rainbow. (M01098 | Stones Speak 10m07s)
Another shows a board in the apex with the words “Johnny Walker”. (Stones Speak 9m42s)
In 1994, around the time that The Petrol Bomber (the first mural by the Bogside Artists) and the 25th anniversary mural for the Battle of the Bogside were painted beside it, the gable was painted bright red and the slogan painted in a skinny serif font in yellow.
(1994 M01112)
“No RUC” added to the wall (and also to The Petrol Bomber)
(1995 M01174)
With a green ribbon for the ‘free the political prisoners’ campaign
(1995 M01252)
Green ribbon and celebrating volunteer/’sniper at work’
(1996 M01267 J0029)

Ribbon + sniper + Kurdish flag (M05512)

1997-?? “Saoirse” with dripping blood (Stoyke | M07593 shows the mostly-restored wall after Saoirse)
“Sam You Are Now Entering Free Derry” (date unknown, skinny lettering) (Stones Speak 7m23s)
1997-01: 14 small flagpole holders were added to the rear for a black-flag commemoration of Bloody Sunday.
(Unattributed image)
Black ribbon and new lettering, still serif but thicker than previously (1998)
(1998 M01385 Also seen with the 14 flags
(1999 M02110)
Perhaps in 2000, upon his death 2000-09-18: “Caker Casey Was Here January 5th 1969” graffiti. (The original was in fact by Liam Hillen.)
2001, with a black ribbon
In the snow
(2001 M01568)
Flying a Palestinian flag
(2002 M01612)

“Bush Not Welcome” (2003) (M02042 M02043 pinterest)

“Iraq – troops out. Vote McCann” graffiti (NWPressPics date given is 2000-03)
“McCann’s Your Man – Vote no 1” (200?) graffiti (M05510)

Repaint. This style of lettering has persisted until the present day (2018). We will refer to this wall as “normal appearance” in what follows.
(2004 M02135)

2005-01 background of Palestine flag (BBC)
2005 normal appearance (M02641)

2006 normal appearance but with “Wear A Black Shamrock” stencil on buttress (M02759).

2007-01 normal appearance but with Toussaint l’Ouverture on right buttress, Mairéad Farrell on the left (as you look at the wall)

2007-07 Pink background for the first time, for “Foyle Pride”


2007-08 Normal appearance + black ribbon

2007-12 Normal appearance + Christmas hat (pinterest)
2008-07-26 and 2008-07-27 “Vision of the Future” by “Non Stop” graffiti artists from Switzerland (BBC)

2008-08 Normal appearance + “Civil Rights” oak leaves (Tovey)

2009-01 “Free Gaza” – warplane bombs pram (indymedia)
2009-02 “You are now entering free Gaza” – remnants of previous (geograph)
2009-10 Derry To Gaza – blockade trip (indymedia)
2010-01 eyes (for ‘Set the truth free’ Bloody Sunday campaign) (Clare Courier)
2010-04 Set The Truth Free (Barnes)
2010-05 “One World 28 – 30 May” blue, pink, green, red hands (Flickr)
2010-06 No More Bloody Sundays (M05856)
2010-08 “Not for sale” (indymedia)
2010-08 “Free Derry” in rainbow colours (Flickr)
2011-?? flying rainbow flag (M06381)
2011-?? flying large Tricolour (M06521 M06522 M06630)
2011-?? Release Brendan Lillis posters (M07108)
2011-08 Cosmos (M07232 M07234 M07260)
2011-?? Cosmos with “Support the POWs” graffiti (M07285) (M07441 shows Cosmos being painted out, the wall being restored to standard – see M07444)
2012-?? Free Marian Price lime-green posters
2012-03 “International Women’s Day – interned and isolated” – Marian Price posters (pommietravels)
2012-04-03 Stan Petrov graffiti (Derry Journal)
2012-04 red and black background (Flickr)
2012-06 Free Political Prisoners (Latuff) (M08306)
2012-09 RIP Alan Ryan (pinterest)
2012-09 flying a Cuban flag (M08898)
2012-11 roughly “Never Again” Savita Halappanavar posters (Blue Badge Guide)

2013-01 (M10154 M10245)

2013-04 “Thatcher’s dead – let’s bury greed with her” (M09430 M09431 M09432)
2013-04 “Thatcher’s dead …” + “Ding dong …” (Reuters)
2013-04 Ding dong, the witch is dead (Thatcher) + “Two snakes too many – end internment” (Whorriskey)
2013-04 “Two snakes too many – end internment” St Patrick – Theresa Villiers – David Ford (M09212 | McLaughlin)
2013-05 flying a black flag (M09532)
2015-06 “You are now entering the final stage of the Walled City Marathon 2013”
(X05235)2013-06 “RUC not welcome in Bogside – BRY” (Menzies)
2013-?? flying a green, white and black flag (M09633)
2013-06-07 or 08 “You are now entering Colmville” (BBC)
2013-06-21 flying AOH flag (Flickr)
2013-07 photo of Occupied Territories wall (plus Spanish Civil War flag M10075 M10076 M10077)
2013-?? pink background (M10277 M10278 M10378)
2013-09 (
2013-09 Derry To Athens: No Pasarán (El Norte De Irlanda)

2013-12 Mandela (Whorriskey)

2014-04 the plaster on the wall is replaced

2014-05 DEED – Derry Engages and Empowers Dementia (M11003)

2014-05 JFTC2 + RIP Oscar Knox (Whorriskey)
2014-06 “Gerry Conlon 1954-2014 fighting injustice until the end” (Checchi)
2014-07-12 “End Genocide In Gaza” – tears of blood (M11228)
2014-07 “The forgotten cancer” sarcoma awareness (N&SF Flickr | M11293 shows the normal appearance being restored)
2014-07-29 “End Genocide In Gaza” (Bakr children, at first without names M11297 M11298 M11299 M11300, then with names M11319 M11320)

2014-09 Free Scotland (

2015-01 Hand Up Don’t Shoot – Derry – Palestine – Ferguson (Younge)

2015-06 The Craigavon 2 (M11699 M11700 M11701 M11702; Miossec)
2015- Paul’s Campaign – sarcoma awareness – “wear the colour yellow” poem (M11594 M11595 M11596 M11597)
2015-?? three posters Maghaberry – brutality – isolation (M12814)
2015-08-28 “Queer Icons – Foyle Gay Pride” – flying rainbow flag (M12820 M12821 | Derry Journal)
2015-09 “Smash fortress Europe – no one is illegal” – RIP Aylan (M12831 M12832)

2015-12 “Don’t Mourn – Organise” Joe Hill (tripadvisor; faded M12898 M12899)

2016-01-11 RIP Paddy Bogside (
2016-01-31 flying ‘Irish Republic’ flag (M12913)

2016-05 “JFT96” (Hillsborough) (Cottrell-Boyce)
2016-05 and 06 James Connolly centenary quote (X03602)
2016-08-04 “Paul’s Campaign – Sarcoma Cancer Awareness” (Hendrickson)
2016-08-11 Edward Daly posters (Derry Journal)
2016-08-27 “You are now entering – use a condom” (NewsWireNI)

2016-11 “Fidel Castro 1926-2016” (tripadvisor)
2016-11 flying Cuban flag (An Phoblacht)

2017-01 Rojava Revolution (Derry Now)

2017-02 You are noT entering free Derry (Saoradh)
2017-04-01 Easter Commemoration Saoradh (Murney)
2017-05 Benefit Cuts Kill (The Mirror)
2017-05 Solidarity With Palestine – Saoradh (Flickr)
2017-06 Relay For Life (Huffer)
2017-08 “We Have The Rainbow” – LGBTQ ransom note (Bradley | BelTel)
2017-08 Take Our Wood? BRY (irishnews)
2017-09 Catalonia Resist (Flickr)
2017-11 #worldwithoutwalls #BDS (McCaffery)
2018 Swedish flag (for World Cup match England v Sweden) (irp1916)
2018-05 Palestine flag (Irish Times), with photos in July (Flickr)
2018-07 yellow for Paul’s Campaign (Derry Journal)
2018-09 Pink for organ donation campaign (BBC-NI)

2018-09 Derry Girls Against Borders (WaPo)

2019-04 “#NotInOurName – RIP Lyra