Ever since we started our travels we have run into walls.


Fortunately not the kind currently under the microscope along the US – Mexico Border, but walls both current, past and historic. We’re not talking of walls to keep sheep or cattle fenced in though there are plenty of them, we’re talking about ‘Walls’ of some great (or alleged) great significance.


Some are quite recent. Like the Peace Wall we’ll be seeing in Belfast in later September that divides the Catholics and the Protestants. Built in 1969 during “The Troubles” this wall, along with a bunch of other ones in the Northern Irish Capital runs between the Shankhill Road and the Falls Road.


What was the point?...


Most of the people in Northern Ireland say it could come down, however there it stands, brick, concrete, barbed wire and covered in graffiti. At various intersecting roads, there are gates in the wall which are open for much of the day but locked at night. This is a great eyesore despite the name Peace Wall. It soars up to eight metres (about 27 feet). And while most Belfast Citizens claim to have ‘gotten over’ The Troubles you can still find examples where some brain deficient yobs have tried to throw molotov cocktails over the top. Ever try to throw anything that high that isn’t going to come right back down? Can’t do it. Neither can they so they end up having to dodge their falling, on fire gasoline bombs. Brilliant.


Something that no one seems to realize is that if you are desperate to get to the people on the other side you simply walk to the end of the wall, either end, and there you are. 


This wall was deemed necessary by the politicians of the day. Today the vast majority of the people of the north have truly intermingled but none of the political wizards are prepared to ‘tear down that wall’. 


So it stands in all its ugliness a great blot in a city which, with some minor exceptions, just wants to get on with life.


The Peace Wall is a great example of how to keep reminding people that they should not trust others who go to a different church or have different political beliefs. It’s an ugly thing that perpetuates terrible times.


Walled Cities of ‘olden days’...


Go to Derry aka Londonderry, dependent on whether you are a British supporter or a Loyalist who wants to join the rest of Ireland, and you’ll see another wall. But this one is old, historic, dating back to the 17th century when walls around cities were common. Now it must be said that Derry (or Londonderry) still has some left over factions that would like to duke it out every night but really that’s not much different from any other city when the pubs shut down.


Later, when we go to Wales, we’ll be able to walk the walls of Conwy Castle built by Edward II to keep out the wicked Welsh whom he was trying to destroy. This is a great wall that has become a tourist attraction (and a very narrow gate for coaches to skinny through).


Same with Chester but here the walls around the city were started by the Romans – again to keep the locals out so the Romans could properly civilize them. On the border between Wales and England there are the remains of a large hundred mile earth wall, called Offa’s Dike built by the Anglo-Saxons to keep those nasty Welsh away from what was to become Jolly Olde England.


How about Hadrian’s Wall in Northern England? Seventy miles of Roman construction designed to keep the Picts away from the Romans and the Romano-British.


Walls – they’re everywhere. How about the Berlin Wall built by the East German Communists to either keep those wicked West Germans out or to keep their own people from heading West. We all know what happened to that one.


Why build them?...


Then there is the Great Wall of China mostly built from the 12century onwards to keep the Mongols in their place. It didn’t work. The Mongols came over anyway. And today? Yep, another tourist attraction.


Which brings up back to the Peace Wall of Belfast. It’s main purpose today as another tourist attractions with Cab drivers giving a lurid description of all the horrible things that one side did to the other (depending on whether the driver is pro-British or pro-loyalist).


Walls really don’t have much of a positive purpose except to give tour guides something more to talk about.


Just like Borders...


In one sense walls are much like borders between countries. Do they work? Look at the EU. Twenty seven countries – with no discernible borders. Oh, the borders are still there but people have finally matured enough to be allowed to travel and trade with each other with no suspicions. Sure there are ‘problems’ with immigration but there has been no demand from the ordinary people to build more walls or border posts. The open borders have been great for the people. A good example being the open border between Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland.


Almost everywhere where there have been walls, the remains are now reduced to encouraging people to visit and walk the walls.


Walls and borders are dividers. 


In The Once and Future King by T.H. White there is a fantasy moment where young King Arthur was turned into a bird by Merlin. Young Arthurs  main awareness of that time is that from the air one can’t see borders between countries or people. 


Walls and even borders came about because of fear. Maybe some of them served a purpose for a time, but today?  Good photos and great for the tourists.


(Photos:  Peace Wall – and tourists, Belfast; Town Walls, Conwy)