Hugh McMonagle has been described as “an unsung and courageous hero of Bloody Sunday” after he sadly passed away on Thursday at the age of 75.
Mr McMonagle was immortalised when he was photographed helping to carry the body of teenager Jackie Duddy behind former bishop of Derry, Edward Daly waving a blood-stained handkerchief. The photograph and footage has become one of the most enduring images of conflict in the world.
“Hugh was a great friend and supporter of the Bloody Sunday Families,’ said Bloody Sunday campaigner John Kelly.
In his evidence to the Saville Inquiry in 2001, Mr McMonagle recalled leaving the cover of a low wall to help the then Fr Daly and others around the teenager’s body.
He said: “I thought that, if I was going to be shot, it would be better if I was shot next to a priest so that he could give me the last rites.”
He said that as they carried the youth, British soldiers were firing shots over their heads. As they eventually left the Bogside, he asked a soldier to get an ambulance but the soldier said he knew nothing of any shooting.
“I just went for him. I leaned over the barbed wire between us and dragged him towards me. I told him I would ‘tear his f***ing head off’. The other soldiers started hitting me with the muzzles of their rifles,” he recalled.
Jackie Duddy’s sister, Kay last night said her family would never forget what Mr McMonagle had done.
“We are very grateful for what he did for Jackie on that particular day. As far as we are concerned, he was one of the unsung heroes of Bloody Sunday. He was a very modest unassuming human being. The Duddys will never forget what he did for us.”
John Kelly, brother of Michael Kelly, who was one of the 13 people shot dead on Bloody Sunday, and someone who has led the campaign for justice for the victim’s families, said that Derry was a poorer place following Mr McMonagle’s death.
He added: “I knew Hugh for many years and, in fact, we worked together, but we never ever talked about Bloody Sunday to each other.
“He was always the perfect gentleman and never ceased working with the families to try and get justice.
“If there was a function, a march or anything connected to Bloody Sunday, Hugh was there supporting the families.
“Hugh was one of the true heroes of Bloody Sunday, but he would have been the first to pull you up if you had called him that.
“A modest gentleman, Hugh will be sadly missed.”