Free Derry!

The City of Derry in Northern Ireland has had “London” affixed to its name ever since the City of London was bullied into supporting a Protestant settlement there in the early seventeenth century, so that for the past four hundred years it has generally been known as “Londonderry.” But people have long memories in Ireland, and most nationalists refuse to call it “Londonderry,” referring to it instead by its original name, which is now the official name of the City Council. Unionists, of course, retain the prefix. You’d think, therefore, that the dispute would also be heraldic: (London)Derry’s coat of arms is one of those wonderfully enigmatic creations, featuring a black field, a castle, and a pensive skeleton sitting on a “mossy stone.”


From Heraldry of the World.

In the chief, however, are the arms of the City of London, a combination of St. George’s cross and St. Paul’s sword, and were presumably added to the Derry arms when Derry’s name was changed to Londonderry.


From Wikipedia.

Why then do nationalists not want the chief removed, just as they paint over the “London” part of “Londonderry” on road signage? That would be logical, I guess. Instead, the current coat of arms of the Derry City Council features an Irish harp at the fess point of the chief.


From Wikipedia.

According to the Wikipedia article, the harp was there originally, then fell out of use over the years, and was officially restored in 2003. This apparently counts enough!

But harp or no harp, you’ve got to give the city council credit for still using these arms. You’d think that they would have ditched the coat of arms long ago in favor of some nondescript logo (cf. the practice of many Derry businesses naming themselves after the River Foyle as an avoidance strategy), especially since the skeleton might remind people of the Troubles.