Northern Ireland news

Battle of the Bogside photographer recalls defining moments of his career

Clive Limpkin's most iconic picture.

CLIVE Limpkin almost slept through the defining moment of his career.

Having taken nine hours of pictures with little happening, the photographer - working at the time for London's Daily Sketch - fell asleep on a settee in the foyer of Derry's City Hotel.

When the trouble that would become known as the Battle of the Bogside broke out in August 1969, it was a young barman who woke him to tell him the rioting had started.

"I lifted my camera and just started to run towards the Bogside. He ran after me shouting that I hadn't paid for my drinks. I dipped into my pocket and gave him £1 for the drink and £1 for saving my career."

Now aged 81 but still as sharp as ever, Clive will return to Derry next month to discuss the pictures that made him world famous, won multiple awards and were the inspiration for one of the Bogside's most striking murals.

 Clive Limpkin

His picture book 'Battle of the Bogside' documenting his time in Derry was first published in 1979 and is now a collectors' item.

It has been republished to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the three-day battle that followed an Apprentice Boys march in the city.

Clive Limpkin was working at the time for London's Daily Sketch

Recalling that time, Clive said: "When I arrived in Belfast first, my initial thoughts were 'this isn't going to happen'. I could see a Woolworths - you don't have wars being fought in front of a Woolies."

Clive travelled to Derry for what was his first big assignment and what would result in his most famous picture, that of a young rioter holding a bottle and wearing a Second World War gas mask .

"It was August 12 1969 and that picture simply fell into my lap," he said.

"I do say that in the book - you stood still and kept pushing a button and the pictures just came.

"The press were treated so tolerantly by both sides, it was a situation I can't see ever happening again. The tolerance was unnatural, we were avoided by rioters from both sides.

"I was shooting Bernadette Devlin, who was one of the few names I knew, and he just appeared - I got one shot and then he was gone.

"Years later I traced him and made contact to see if he'd let me photograph him. He begged not to identify him because of his business. When I heard that I realised the scale of it all, the lasting impact of that time."

Rioting in Derry in 1969 by Clive Limpkin.

The idea for the book came when Clive, who had at this stage was working for The Sun, realised that the news agenda had moved on and there was a dwindling interest in Northern Ireland among the Fleet Street press.

"A mum and her kids were trapped hiding from bullets and gas. I shot the sequence and sent it off. London said it was great stuff but they'd no room for it.

"So I decided to do a book instead. Most publishers said we'd never touch a book where the situation could be resolved, so I went to Penguin and they said 'we'll take it'."

Fighting in Derry in 1969.

After Derry Clive travelled to cover conflicts in places such as Angola and Cairo, but says Northern Ireland was still his biggest assignment.

"The right girl came along (his wife of 48 years, Alex) and then children - I wasn't chasing it any more, it didn't hold the same appeal, and sadly tabloid journalism came in even more so than before.

Pictures by Clive Limpkin of the Battle of the Bogside.

"I've lived a charmed life every day, I knew I'd never do better work than I did at that time and you know what, I'm fine with that."

The Battle of Bogside is available from the Museum of Free Derry and bookshops priced £12.95.

It will be formally launched on August 13 at a Feile event in the Museum of Free Derry, where Clive Limpkin will discuss his experiences.

Photographer Clive Limpkin

Enjoy reading the Irish News?

Subscribe now to get full access

Northern Ireland news

Today's horoscope


See a different horoscope: