Joan Lingard, The Twelfth Day of July
The novel is set in Belfast in the late 1960s, shortly before the Orangemen’s Day
celebrations. The Protestant siblings Sadie and Tommy Jackson have recently got to
know Kevin McCoy and his sister Brede, two Catholic teenagers, in a number of hostile
encounters. The Catholic youths feel provoked by the upcoming parades of the
Protestants. In Chapter Sixteen, they find themselves on opposing sides of a street
For a moment there was silence. They could hear the hum of the city traffic in the
distance, but they were only concerned with what was going to happen here, in this
street. This is what they had been waiting for all week: to stand face-to-face, on
either side of the road. One or two shivered, either with fear or the thrill of
expectation. But none moved away. It was as if a magnet held them there irresistibly.
The moment of quiet passed. Now the voices were raised, soft and taunting to begin
‘Filthy ould Prods!’
Tempers flared. The voices grew louder.
‘Kick the Pope!’
‘To hell with King Billy!’
No one knew who threw the first stone. One seemed to come from each side
It was as if a whistle had been blown. Suddenly, children appeared from every
direction; they came swarming out of side streets, yelling, cheering, booing. Their
hands scoured the ground for any ammunition they could find, large stones, small
ones, pieces of wood, half-bricks. They advanced on to the road. The
gap between the
two sides narrowed.
Sadie was in the front line. Her face glowed, and her heart thudded with excitement.
She felt as though a fever possessed her. And then for a second she paused, a yell
trapped at the back of her throat. She had seen Brede’s face. Brede stood behind the
Catholics, not shouting, or throwing, just standing.
At that moment a brick flew high over the heads of the crowd. Sadie saw Brede duck.
But she was too late;
the brick caught her full on the side of the head.
Brede went down and disappeared amongst the swirling bodies of the Catholics.
‘Brede!’ roared Sadie.
Brede was hurt. Brede … why Brede? Inside Sadie felt cold. There was no fever now,
no excitement, only a desperate need to get across and find out what had happened
to the fallen girl. With another roar Sadie
‘Come back, Sadie,’ someone yelled behind her. ‘They’ll murder you.’
Sadie fought through the lines, hauling children out of her way. She felt hands trying
to grasp her, but the strength in her body was so great they could not stop her. She
reached the group gathered round Brede’s body.
A boy caught hold of her roughly.
‘Leave her be,’ said Kevin McCoy quietly, looking up from where he knelt beside his
Sadie knelt beside him.
‘Is she bad?’
Brede lay still, her arms sprawled at her sides, her eyes closed. There was blood on
The sound of a police siren screamed further along the road. Children flew to right and
left, dropping their ammunition as they ran. By the time the police car arrived the
street was almost empty. Only four children remained.
Tommy crossed the road to join Sadie and Kevin. He squatted beside them, staring
down at Brede.
‘Stupid,’ he said. ‘Stupid, stupid, stupid!’
The car doors slammed; two policemen got out and came towards them.
‘Now then, what’s been going on?’
‘We’ll need an ambulance,’ said Kevin.
An ambulance was summoned, and arrived within minutes with its blue light flashing.
Sadie, Tommy and Kevin went into the back of the police car. […]
At the hospital the lights were bright and blinding. Brede was taken away; doors
closed behind her.
The waiting-room was warm, but Sadie could not stop shivering. Kevin took a bar of
chocolate from his pocket and broke it into three pieces. They ate in silence, sitting
side by side on a bench.
After a few minutes a police officer appeared to take down their statements. He shook
‘Why can’t you kids keep to your own sides of the road?’
‘Will she die?’ Sadie burst out, unable to control the question any longer.
‘We don’t know yet.’
The door opened, and in came Mr McCoy looking white and shaken. He began to shout
when he saw
‘I can’t trust you kids an inch. I knew you’d end up in trouble. And there’s your ma in
‘Come on,’ said the police officer to Sadie and Tommy. ‘I’ll get someone to take you
‘Can’t we wait and see how she is?’ asked Tommy. […]
Sadie looked back at Kevin. ‘I hope she’ll be all right.’
They left him with his father. […]
‘If I got my hands on the one that did it!’ said Tommy.
‘Does it matter?’ said Sadie wearily.
‘You mean it could just as easily have been me?’
‘Aye. Or me.’
Joan Lingard, The Twelfth Day of July, London 1970, pp. 117-120
 Micks: derogatory term for Irish Catholics, comes from "Mc" in many Irish names (McSorley, McNeil, McFlannagan etc.)
 ould: here: old
 Tyrone: one of the six historic counties of Northern Ireland