The Ghosts of Riots Past

The Troubled Conflict in Derry Through The Eyes of A Volunteer First Aider.

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Pub Date 27 Oct 2022 | Archive Date 26 Sep 2022

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Set against a backdrop of the late 1960s Bogside, Martha Bradley is inspired to join the Order of Malta Ambulance Corps at the age of fifteen, following a family tragedy that changes her life forever. This prompted her family to move to the legendary Rossville Flats that dominated the skyline of the Bogside.

The teenage first-aiders begin their service by attending sports fixtures, fairs, and religious services, to suddenly administering first aid in a most forbidding active war zone with live ammunition. Martha's journey with the Order of Malta places her at The Battle of The Bogside, the daily clashes between the Free Derry residents and the security forces, Bloody Sunday, and Operation Motorman, whilst guarding a secret of her own from her unit and her family.

Even though we all wore the same thing, white coats and kit bags, everybody wore them and carried themselves a wee bit differently. I would learn everybody’s mannerisms, walks, and small details. I became so close to my unit that I could tell them all apart, even wearing my gas mask during a riot, outside and in the dark. I feel it quite symbolic that we wore white coats, almost like we were ghosts. We were the ghosts of riots past, the ghosts of riots present, and the ghosts of riots yet to come.

The Ghosts of Riots Past captures the nostalgic perspective of the troubles in Free Derry, the togetherness of the first-aiders, and the spirit of Christian charity and courage of the Order of Malta Ambulance Corps, many of whom were still in their teens.

This novel was written in partnership with members of the Order of Malta Ambulance Corps from the Free Derry period, some of whom have included their perspectives as appendices at the end of the book.

Set against a backdrop of the late 1960s Bogside, Martha Bradley is inspired to join the Order of Malta Ambulance Corps at the age of fifteen, following a family tragedy that changes her life...

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ISBN 9798842187638
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Average rating from 15 members

Featured Reviews

I really enjoyed reading this book, it was such a well done novel. I was invested in what was going on in the time-period and what was happening. I enjoyed getting to know Martha Bradley and the rest of the characters, they really felt like real people. I enjoyed the way Jude Morrow wrote this and was glad I was able to read this.

"I turned eighteen in 1971. I didn’t have an eighteenth birthday party believe it or not. I had been so deterred by some man putting his hand up my skirt that I didn’t even bother to go out. Wee Caroline's eighteenth birthday was a scream; she had turned eighteen the previous December!"

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Compelling, heartbreaking, triumphant. I could not put this book down. Jude Morrow has written Martha’s story as if she was talking to me, the reader. I think the Knights of Malta should have a monument dedicated to them someday!

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I partially picked this book for selfish reasons. My great aunt is from Northern Ireland.

This book felt like home to me. I grew up listening to stories of the political unrest, suppression and poverty in Northern Ireland. My Aunt emigrated to the US several years before the Bloody Sunday massacre.

The trauma that the people of Derry and Northern Ireland faced was real and this book really captures that.

Martha’s character was a hoot - but you can see her personality change as the events and riots ramped up.

The author did such an excellent job researching and writing this book. It was a hard read because of the human element but a story that needs to be told.

Thank you for writing this and allowing me to read an advanced reader copy.

I could not find this book on good reads, but I plan on posting a review on Instagram.

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This book was amazing couldn't stop reading it. The way the author captured all the events I could picture and hear everything in my head. It was a really mix of emotions at times I was laughing at the characters other times I was near tears reading about the cruel cruel way those poor people where treated and killed. Everyone should read this brilliant piece of historical fiction you will not be disappointed. Jude Morrow had done a fantastic job on this one.

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This book gripped me right from the start and didn't let go, it is an utterly riveting read that was both heartwrenching and hopeful in equal measure. I really took the characters to heart.

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Imagine living through the nightmarish horrors of constant riots that carried on for decades and witnessing the traumatic demise of beloved family members and friends in your community. Imagine a Bloody Sunday where many close ones were indiscriminately fired at with live bullets, from behind, and many of them murdered before your very eyes. Now imagine having to relive this scenario because in the latter years of your life, you were attacked by Alzhiemer's and that was the niche of life you could vivdly remember.

This was Martha's life in Derry, Ireland, and God help her, she and her people were Catholic and the ones to have gotten the brunt of most of the violence. She did recall her years, along with her good friend Caroline, who became members of the Knights of Malta, first aiders akin to the Red Cross, who would treat people from both sides of the opposition, fairly and equally.

I'm glad I got to read this book as it has opened my eyes, that yes, there is another side to the IRA story from the negative perspective which is generally painted. Kudos to author Jude Marrow, from Derry, Northern Ireland for this enlightenment. Although written as historical fiction, there is much truth incorporated in this work that reads almost like an autobiography, along with true-to-life testimonies at story end, of and from those who have lived through those terrrible years of chaos and carnage. I encourage readers everywhere and from both sides of the divide to read and judge for yourselves, with an open mind, where justice was or was not meted out.

You may be surprized.

~Eunice C., Reviewer/Blogger~

Disclaimer: This is my honest opinion based on the review copy given by NetGalley and the publisher.

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This is an important book and a great read. Telling the story of the start of the troubles in Derry this is a chapter of history that people in uk have distanced themselves from and do not understand. This really needs to change. But the book is more than that, picking up the history of a first aid group, the knights of Malta and their presence in some of the most troublesome encounters in Northern Ireland’s history. They worked bravely under intense pressure and offered their services indiscriminately. They are true heroes, but you can’t go through that without it having a psychological effect on you and the account of a character descending into alcoholism is distressing. There is a positive ending so the book relates in no small way a notable triumph against adversity. I really enjoyed this book.

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I'm going to highly recommend this book at the beginning because I really enjoyed reading this book.
I couldn't put it down once I started.
This book just had your emotions running all over the place for sure and certain!
The author has done a fantabulous job of bringing these events to life and I felt like I've learned something new I didn't know about! Wow!
Plus as I was reading I felt like I was "there."
Even the cover seems to match perfectly with the story inside. The cover itself feels emotional too. It made me want to read it to be honest. I'm glad I did!
I love a good fast paced novel so i I wasn't disappointed at all! I hope to see more of Jude Morrow's work in the future.
My thanks for a copy of this book. I was NOT required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are my own.

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Firstly thank you Netgalley for this ARC

I really enjoyed those book and coming from Belfast in the troubles I can relate to a lot of things

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"The year 2022 marked the fiftieth anniversary of the Bloody Sunday Massacre, which occurred on the 30th of January 1972." The author lets us know that "nobody was present at every event, which is why Martha was created. I could place her as an observer within the Order of Malta Ambulance Corps and capture emotions and feelings rather than simple factual occurrences. Martha is not based on anybody! I made her up."

I loved that Martha was a flawed character, who did what she could to help at a very difficult time in Ireland's history, even while dealing with her own personal demons. Being Catholic and of Irish descent, I was intrigued by this book's description, and was very eager to read it, and I wasn't disappointed. The descriptions of Derry, Ireland in the late 60s and early 70s were very evocative of the atmosphere at that time. The characters were well written and the plot was easy to follow. This was a quick read and hard to put down.

I definitely recommend this book to anyone wanting to learn more about The Troubles and the events leading up to and following the Bloody Sunday Massacre.

5/5 stars.

*** I would like to thank NetGalley, BooksGoSocial, and Jude Morrow for the opportunity to read and review this book.

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The Ghosts of Riots Past opened my eyes and helped me to see what happened in Northern Ireland. The author must have done an amazing amount of research to be able to write such a compelling story. Give yourself time to be engrossed in this wonderful book because it is very hard to put down.
Thanks to NetGalley and BooksGoSocial for this advance copy. The review is totally my opinion.

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A historical fiction story set in Ireland in the 1960s. Martha joined the Order of Malta Ambulance Corps as a teenager. During her service with the Corps she is taken on a journey through different battlefields, the Battle of Bogside, Bloody Sunday, and Operation Motorman. This is a great book to begin your journey about modern Ireland history. The author did a wonderful job researching and giving the reader an easy timeline to follow. This is a sensational coming-to-age story.

Disclaimer: Thank you to NetGalley and BookGoSocial for this book, I received a copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.

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I thank NetGalley and BooksGoSocial for providing me an ARC copy of this novel/fictionalised story, set in Derry in the times of the “troubles” and highlighting the role played by the Order of Malta First Aiders, all volunteers and many very young.
As the author explains in the introduction, he became intrigued by the role played by the first aiders of the Order of Malta in Derry during Bloody Sunday, after seeing them appear in many of the pictures, and he was surprised to find out that nobody had written about them, and none of them had written a personal account of their experiences either. His research lead him to talk to many of them, to collect plenty of material and information, and he decided their story should be told, and people should become aware of the heroic role they played. To do so, he created a character, because, as he explains, he wanted to write about many of the events and locations and it was easier to do by using a fictional character than by jumping through different perspectives and points of view. It would also have the advantage of allowing readers to become familiar with Martha and follow her personal story, without intruding into any of the protagonists’ personal lives and causing even more disruption and upset than they had already gone through.
Despite the book being classed as historical fiction, it does include the true accounts of several of the first aiders, written in their own words, at the end of the book, and also poems and other testimonies as an homage to some of the protagonists no longer with us, as well as a glossary detailing some of the most commonly used Northern Irish words and expressions. The book is divided up into 5 parts, and it also contains a section of acknowledgments. The author further clarifies any deviations from the facts appearing in the narrative, and, being born and bred in Derry, his inside knowledge of the locations where the story takes place makes it all the more immediate and realistic. Although I’ve never been to Derry, I had the feeling that I knew the place and its people by the end of the book.
Does one need to know a lot about the situation in Northern Ireland in the late sixties and early seventies to enjoy this book? I don’t think so. I imagine most readers will have heard about it, watched some movies or series, and some even done some reading and research. Unfortunately, there have been debates and different versions of what really happened on that Sunday, the 30th January 1972, and the most recent inquiry only saw the light in 2010, so it is far from gone and forgotten. The book goes beyond Bloody Sunday, and it also talks about The Battle of the Bogside, and Operation Motorman among other episodes, but it goes well beyond that, as it creates a picture of what life was like in Derry at the time, of how people lived, on what a strong sense of community they shared in the Rossville flats, and of the conflicts and difficulties they had to face in their everyday lives.
Martha Bradley, who narrates the story in the first person, and who is known as mouthy Martha for very good reasons, is writing the story because she has been diagnosed with early Alzheimer’s (as she was a heavy drinker as well, one wonders if her dementia might not be due to a combination of things), and her mother suggests she should write her story, especially her time with the Order of Malta. Martha’s voice is pitch-perfect, as is the tone of nostalgia because this is not a young girl telling the story as it happens, but an older woman looking back at her young self, being fully aware of how things would turn up. Martha goes through major trauma from a very young age, and the Order of Malta and becoming a First Aider give her a reason to live and a self-confidence she is sorely in need of. She is not particularly interested in politics or religion, at least when she is young, but she joins in with her community, and there are plenty of amusing episodes and vivid descriptions of life in Derry, as well as the tougher moments when the riots, the violence, and the repression escalate, destroying so many lives. The story of Martha and the story of those years in Derry are both moving, compelling, and horrifying. There are light and funny episodes aplenty, but there are also terrifying moments and others where it is almost impossible to keep reading without feeling angry and upset. Everybody involved experienced a nightmare, and the first aiders were incredibly brave to have kept helping the injured from both sides, despite the impossible circumstances. They truly deserved an homage, and this book is no mean contribution to it.
I like Martha, and even though some of her behaviours result frustrating (but realistic), what I found most endearing about her was the fact that she didn’t blame others or the situation for her problems. If anything, the opposite was true. She goes to pains to tell everyone that her problem with alcohol started well before the riots, and she does not complain for her own sake, although she is very vocal in her defence of others.
This is not an easy read, and the author suggests that people who prefer to avoid the most graphic depictions of violence and the deaths can move on and not read the chapter about Bloody Sunday, as there are sufficient references to what happened in later chapters to ensure that the narrative is not broken, but there are other incidents in other chapters that might upset readers as well, so people need to carefully consider if they are prepared for what they might find in these pages.
On the other hand, I cannot recommend it enough. The fictionalisation works very well in helping us learn about the events and also become acquainted with a city and its people, and that makes what happened to them even more shocking. There are so many happy moments and such joy and community spirit that you wish you had been there until you remember what is coming next. With the caveat mentioned (and I would also recommend caution to people who find it difficult to read about people with serious alcohol problems), if you want to learn about the troubles in Derry, the role of the First Aiders of the Order of Malta, and about a community changed forever by a historical event, do read it. And read all the extra materials as well. They provide a comprehensive picture and make us feel what being there must have been like.

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