'˜Bomb was an attack on Walker's memory'
This week marked the 45th anniversary of a symbolically charged IRA bomb attack that destroyed a monument held dearly by the unionist community - a nine-foot statue of one of the heroes of the Siege of Derry.
Visitors to Londonderry’s historic walls are today greeted by the peculiar sight of a fenced in, fully refurbished plinth on which no column or statue stands.
Until August 27, 1973, a pillar standing nearly 100 feet tall stretched high above the walls, on top of which stood a statue of the siege hero Rev George Walker.
On that date, a 100lb bomb planted by the Provisional IRA exploded, devastating both the sculpture itself and the lofty pillar on which it stood.
Rev Walker, the rector of Donaghmore in Co Tyrone, was one of the heroes of the Great Siege.
He became joint governor along with the infamous Robert Lundy when the siege began, and it was the clergyman’s leadership during the intense hardships of the three-and-a-half month blockade that helped inspire the ‘No Surrender’ approach taken by the city’s defenders.
Rev Walker, who died at the Battle of the Boyne, was remembered by the monument with a large inscription at the stout base of the plinth.
“This monument was erected to perpetuate the memory of Rev George Walker who, aided by the garrison and brave inhabitants of this city, most gallantly defended through a protracted siege, from the 7th December 1688 to the 1st August following, against an arbitrary and bigoted monarch, heading an army of upwards of 20,000 men, many of whom were foreign mercenaries, and by such valiant conduct in numerous sorties and by patiently enduring extreme privations and sufferings, successfully resisted the besiegers and preserved for their posterity the blessings of civil and religious liberty,” the inscription reads.
The foundation stone of the monument - which stood on the central western bastion known as Royal Bastion - was laid on December 18, 1826, by the city’s mayor, Major Richard Young.
The column itself was completed in August 1828 at a total cost of 4,200 guineas, including 100 guineas for the statue.
The cost was defrayed by members of the “Apprentice Boys and friends” and included a donation of 50 guineas from The Honourable The Irish Society and 50 from Londonderry Corporation.
Inside the soaring stone column was a spiral staircase with 105 steps - one for each day of the siege.
The statue depicted Governor Walker with a bible in his right hand and his left hand extended and pointing down river towards the Boom, the breaking of which heralded the end of the siege.