Fifty years on from first civil rights march

Dungannon-born presenter Lynette Fay with Mary Rafferty, who took part in the first civil rights marches 50 years ago, during recording for Stories in Sound: In The Footsteps, due to be broadcast on BBC Radio Ulster this Sunday (August 19) at 12.30pm.
Dungannon-born presenter Lynette Fay with Mary Rafferty, who took part in the first civil rights marches 50 years ago, during recording for Stories in Sound: In The Footsteps, due to be broadcast on BBC Radio Ulster this Sunday (August 19) at 12.30pm.

On August 24, 1968, Northern Ireland’s first civil rights march took place between Coalisland and Dungannon.

On the march were teachers, students and politicians who all wanted the same thing, equality and civil rights. Their actions made history but Dungannon’s pivotal role in the quest for social justice was soon forgotten as images of beaten and bloodied marchers on the Duke Street march that October grabbed headlines around the world.

Dungannon-born presenter Lynette Fay with Bernadette McAliskey during recording for Stories in Sound: In The Footsteps, due to be broadcast on BBC Radio Ulster this Sunday (August 19) at 12.30pm

Dungannon-born presenter Lynette Fay with Bernadette McAliskey during recording for Stories in Sound: In The Footsteps, due to be broadcast on BBC Radio Ulster this Sunday (August 19) at 12.30pm

Born in Dungannon only a decade later, presenter Lynette Fay had no idea that people she knew growing up – her brother’s primary school teacher, and her next door neighbours – were among the organisers of that first march.

In this Stories In Sound documentary for BBC Radio Ulster, she follows ‘In The Footsteps’ of those first civil rights marchers. She revisits the issue of housing discrimination and the ground breaking protests of the young mothers of the Homeless Citizens League, and learns first-hand about the organisation of the march from the so-called “Protestor Number One”. She hears from Bernadette McAliskey about how the march turned her into a lifelong campaigner, as well as from those who took part in a counter protest.

Using a blend of highly personal interviews and archive audio, Lynette asks what spurred them to take to the streets in pursuit of civil rights, whether or not they achieved their aims – and at what cost. Fifty years on from that first civil rights march, how has Dungannon – and Northern Ireland – changed?

In the Footsteps - presented by Lynette Fay and produced by Freya McClements – is broadcast on BBC Radio Ulster on Sunday, August 19.