The Bloody Red Hand | Penguin Random House Canada

The Bloody Red Hand

A Journey Through Truth, Myth and Terror in Northern Ireland

Publisher: Vintage Canada
A bestselling chronicler of the sea turns to a trio of his own ancestors to see what memory and the selective plundering of history has made of the truth in Northern Ireland.

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 seems particularly relevant in today’s world.

Excerpt from The Bloody Red Hand:

The other thing I remember is the look the young man gave me, after he had taken the cash, put his pistol away and was standing with his hands in his jacket pockets. It wasn’t the expression of someone who was thinking of shooting me too; I never had that feeling. But the way he looked at me was so familiar – wary and calculating. Many people in Belfast had stared in the same way since I’d arrived for a visit. For a long time, I couldn’t understand what it meant. Eventually, I knew. They were trying to decide “what foot I kicked with” – what religion I was. There were supposed ways to tell, subtle indicators. Was I someone they should fear? Or was I one of them? That was what the armed robber was doing, too. He had just shot a man who knew him by his first name. But he was looking at me, the stranger, and trying to figure out whether I was a Prod or a Taig.

From the Hardcover edition.



The story has two versions. In the first, a Viking war party in a lean, ­dragon-­headed longboat closes with the coast of northern Ireland. It is hunting priests’ gold and ­red-­haired, ­smooth-­skinned slaves. The leader of the fierce Northmen urges on his...
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“A blend of meticulous research, storytelling, and memoir…. Balanced and suggestive, this book throbs with intelligence.”
The Vancouver Sun

“A hybrid work–mostly a history, but partly a memoir, and leavened throughout by return-to-my-roots travel writing…. The Bloody Red Hand is a brilliantly conceived and wonderfully executed look at Irish history. And Lundy’s ploy of using his family as an entrée to that history gives the book a kick and immediacy that makes it a joy to read.”
Winnipeg Free Press

“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 (lead review, Sunday February 19)

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

Praise for The Way of a Ship:

• A Globe 100 Best Book of the Year

“An exceptionally rich and satisfying weave. Hoisting sail aboard his ship Beara Head in 1885, Lundy sails her on an enthralling voyage through maritime literature, history, sociology and folklore. . . . Lundy is so intelligent and vivid a writer that The Way of a Ship earns its place as a worthy 21st-century descendant of such classics as Two Years Before the Mast and Typhoon.”
–Jonathan Raban, author of Passage to Juneau

Praise for Godforsaken Sea:

• # 1 National Bestseller

“One of the best books ever written about sailing. Lundy’s knowledge of sea lore and history is rich, his pace perfect.” –TIME

“Lundy not only makes stirring narrative drama but also draws the lineaments of an archetypal hero, a human driven by fear, addicted to adrenaline, in need of the edge.”
The New York Times

“Dramatic . . . Powerful . . . Remarkable . . . Derek Lundy’s riveting and wonderfully expressive chronicle . . . is also a compelling example of creative non-fiction at its best.”
Ottawa Citizen