The Bloody Red Hand: A Journey Through Truth, Myth, and Terror in Northern Ireland

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The name “Lundy” is synonymous with traitor in Ulster. Derek Lundy’s first ancestral subject was the Protestant governor of Derry in 1688, just before it came under siege by the Catholic Irish army of James II. For reasons that remain ambiguous, Robert ordered the gates of the city opened in surrender. Protestant hard-liners staged a coup de ville and drove him away in disgrace, a traitor to the cause. But Robert is more memorable for his peace-seeking moderation than for the treachery the standard history attributes to him.

    William Steel Dickson’s legacy is a little different: a Presbyterian minister born in the late 18th century, he preached with famous eloquence in favour of using whatever means necessary to resist the tyranny of the English, including joining forces with the Catholics in armed rebellion.

    Finally, there is “Billy” Lundy, born in 1890, the antithesis of the ecumenical William, and the embodiment of what the Ulster Protestants had become by the beginning of World War I – a tribe united in their hostility to Catholics and to the project of an independent Ireland.

    The lives of Robert Lundy, William Steel Dickson and Billy Lundy encapsulate many themes in the Ulster past. In telling their stories, Derek Lundy lays bare the harsh and murderous mythologies of Northern Ireland and gives us a revision of its history that is especially relevant in today’s world of terror and conflict.

Published in the United Kingdom as: Men Than God Made Mad: A Journey Through Truth, Myth, and Terror in Northern Ireland

Review Excerpts



"A distinguished work: erudite, earnest, elucidative, even-handed in its attempt to probe the Northern Ireland Protestant mind and memory-box. . . . Written without rancour, the story nevertheless pulls no punches in depicting and analysing the horrors of a statelet that George Bernard Shaw called 'an autonomous political lunatic asylum'. . . . Lundy steps outside the scripture-politics, the 'standard received' versions of myth and history, and attempts, bravely enough, to correct them - or, at least, to restore complexities that long have been discarded for the simplicity of ritual."

                                                                                                — The Independent on Sunday


"Absorbing. . . Lundy's account [of Northern Ireland] projects the experience of the province through a fascinating and thought-provoking prism: the view of a Canadian writer, whose parents emigrated from Belfast when he was a child but who has episodically returned to visit relatives, write about the places and trace his family. . . . One of the strengths of the book is the author's ability to face unpleasant continuities, and his constant, needling presentation of alternative views. . . . The writing throughout is terse, idiomatic, and arresting, and the control of the material impressively assured."

                                                                                                                        — The Guardian


Using his own family as a springboard into Irish history, Derek Lundy brings a riveting 'insider-outsider' perspective to the myths that created, then sustained, endemic religious hatreds. The Bloody Red Hand will enlighten anyone who has felt perplexed by the tragedy of Northern Ireland."

                                              — Erna Paris, author of Long Shadows: Truth, Lies And History


"George Bernard Shaw dismissed Northern Ireland as … 'an autonomous political lunatic asylum'." In The Bloody Red Hand, B.C. author Derek Lundy cites Shaw's observations as he brilliantly dissects the root of the Troubles. [He] makes inventive and clever use of personal ancestral lore in crafting an engaging take on 300 years of bloody history…. A solid history with a memoirist twist that puts an engaging human face on what might otherwise seem dry and familiar."

                                                                                                                        — Toronto Star


"Lundy probes and questions … the ambiguous corners of accepted history, while tapping into and explaining deep-rooted sectarian hatred and rage and fear."

                                                                                                              — The Globe and Mail


"Lundy is an excellent historian. He begins with a point of view in clear context, then attacks it with evidence, weaving more and more layers into the picture with every opposing position. His commentary always rings true and is never sly or partial. . . . All three [of his] characters, or their corresponding archetypes, have been the basis for useful mythmaking by sectional interests and Lundy powerfully illustrates the waste, stupidity and stagnation that inevitably results from such endless exploitation of the past. His research is deep but lightly conveyed."

                                                                                                                      — New Humanist


"Personable and flavoursome . . . witty, fair and wry. . . Lundy traces the drama, conflicts, settlements, risings, sieges, battles and general Troubles which have continued in Northern Ireland for at least the last five hundred years."

                                                                                                            — Literary Review (UK)


"Stimulating and thoughtful, peppered with elegant aphorisms. . . [Men that God Made Mad] confirms that neither Ireland nor history is 'conducive to sure knowledge'. In the meantime, therefore, Lundy's quizzical uncertainty will do well enough."

                                                                                                  

                                                                                                   — Times Literary Supplement




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