The history of the Bogside has been characterised by the relationship between two communities – one within the walls, safe, secure and powerful; one without, powerless, dispossessed and oppressed.

The influx of migrants throughout the 18th century, which increased during and after the great famine of the 1840s, created a Catholic majority in Derry. Since Catholics were forbidden from living within the walls most settled in the Bogside.

By the end of the 19th century, Catholics had a clear voting majority in Derry but no corresponding political power.

Tensions rose across Ireland during the 1919-21 War of Independence. In the spring and summer of 1920, 40 people were killed in the city in clashes between republicans and an alliance of loyalists and British forces.

When the Government of Ireland Act was passed in 1920, and partition became a reality in 1921, nationalist Derry felt abandoned, a very reluctant part of the north.

  • Early Map of Derry

    The Bogside

    The area now known as the Bogside was originally underwater. The Foyle flowed round the island of Derry, and was first settled as the river diverted. It dried out into marshland: hence the name Bogside.

  • Map of the Bogside in the 1830s

    Population Changes and Gerrymandering

    The influx of migrants throughout the 18th century created a significant Catholic population in Derry. Because Catholics were forbidden from living within the walls most settled in the Bogside. The steady growth of the Catholic population was reflected in the construction of the city’s first Catholic church, Long Tower (1784), and St Eugene’s Cathedral (1851).

  • Early political wall mural satirising the British Army, Abbey Street, 1920s.

    Political tensions and partition

    By the beginning of the 20th century Catholic Derry was dominated by parliamentary Irish nationalism. Nationalist leaders and the Catholic clergy resisted any republican presence, even opposing the Gaelic Athletic Association as a ‘republican influence’.