Some photographs stay with you permanently, haunting your memory long after the pages of the newspaper in which you saw them have crumbled into dust. Images from the American civil rights movement, Kennedy’s assassination, the little girl burned by napalm running down a road in Vietnam, the lone protester in front of the tanks in Tiananmen Square in 1989, the woman screaming as she kneels over the body of a fellow-student shot dead during an anti-war protest at Kent Sate University in 1970…
Each of these images has come to represent more than the fleeting instant they captured: each now stands for the historical moment from which it emerged. And so it is with the iconic image of Edward Daly, the terrified priest waving a bloodied white handkerchief, calmly leading a group of men carry a dying teenager to safety under British paratrooper gunfire, in Derry on 30 January 1972, the day which came to be known as Bloody Sunday, on which 13 unarmed civil rights demonstrators were shot dead.
When I heard of Daly’s death yesterday I didn’t have to look up the image on the web: it was there, imprinted in my mind’s eye.
At the time Father Daly was a curate working in the Catholic Bogside. He was present at the demonstration that day protesting against internment without trial when British paratroopers opened fire on unarmed protesters. Jackie Duddy was a 17-year old boy shot as he ran alongside Father Daly, fleeing from the soldiers’ gunfire. The image of Daly leading the group carrying his body – and Daly’s own powerful account of what he had seen that day – proved to be an important part of the evidence that in 1998 finally pushed the Labour government to set up the Saville inquiry.
Interviewed by the BBC on the day of the shootings, Daly described Duddy was hit: “I said a prayer with him and I anointed him and gave him the last rites. We decided to make a dash for it. I went in front with this handkerchief in my hand and they carried Jackie behind me.
“All hell was let loose. They were firing lead bullets in all directions. They call themselves an army, it was utterly disgraceful. There was nothing fired at them, I can say that with absolute certainty because I was there. The people were running in all directions. Most of them had their backs to them and they just opened fire.”
He wrote later: “There were dead and dying and wounded everywhere. I administered the last rites to many … I don’t know how many.”
– from Edward Daly’s Guardian obituary
Today a mural in the Bogside recreates the photograph of Father Daly (who was later appointed Bishop of Derry) waving a white handkerchief as he attempts to ferry the wounded teenager to safety. He later administered the last rites.
I can remember him holding my hand and squeezing it. I knelt beside him and said, ‘Look son, we’ve got to get you out,’ but he was dead.
38 years later, in 2010, the Saville Report concluded that Jackie Duddy was had been shot by Soldier R, as he ran away from soldiers.