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How to Grow a Garden

Gerry Lynn at the Tower Museum
by Amber Luckie

Gerry Lynn's title is "Guide." However, Lynn is so much more than a guide, he is a teacher, historian, philosopher and inspiration. I found Gerry in a chance meeting at the Tower Museum. I shared why our group was in Derry and how we are studying the peace process. He chuckled a bit and asked did you say peace process or peace building? I responded, I suppose both why do you ask? From there, Gerry was gracious enough to share his story. 

Gerry explained building peace as creating a field in farming or planting a garden. In his metaphor stopping the violence is the first step in preparing the field. Currently we are in the process of tilling the field which is in essence starting the conversation. The challenge that crops up currently is like rocks. Imagine plowing a field back in the old days and your plow hits a rock. Those rocks slow the process and the have to be removed. If you don't remove the rocks your field isn't going to be as nice as it could be. He sees the rocks as truth. 

The truth, if not dealt with, like a rock, tends to resurface causing problems if not properly addressed. He thought the most effective way would be a Truth Commission similar to what South Africa had done. Gerry grew up on the Bogside and remembers the Battle of the Bogside as a 10 year old. I had made the assumption that Gerry was Catholic but when I asked Gerry responded with, "If I was born in a stable would it make me a horse?"He is definitely gifted with the use of vivid imagery. I was interested to know how he viewed David Cameron's Apology for Bloody Sunday, he saw it as a positive step in the right direction. The apology enabled a lot of healing for a lot of people in Derry. Gerry also lost his father during the Troubles. His father was caught in cross fire between the IRA and British soldiers. Gerry still doesn't know which side fired the shot that claimed his Dad. He said he has reached forgiveness but still wonders exactly what happened. I asked why the details are important if he feels as he has forgiven the people involved. He responded with, "The Truth sets you free." 

What happens after we remove the rocks, I asked. He said, "Plant the seeds." The seeds are the children and this garden will grow better when the seeds are together. The separation of schools perpetuates issues. He viewed the increased immigration as helping the peace in Derry. The people that relocate here from other countries tend to send their children to the integrated schools. The integrated schools continue to grow and each generation it will improve. With education and exposure to each other prejudices will decrease. Gerry also covered a number of myths in the history most of us have learned, reasoning some history has had better P.R. than others. He told me we're not any smarter than we were we just have the gift of hindsight.

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