My hometown is a place called Derry, in the NW of Ireland, so as a little Christmas treat I thought I’d share a few interesting facts about Derry.
- First founded as a settlement around 1400 years ago, the name Derry has its roots in the Irish word Doire which translates as Oak Grove. In 1613 the name was changed by Royal Charter to Londonderry to reflect the London Guilds involvement in establishing the planned city and Cathedral.
Actually we’ve got a few names Doire, Derry, Londonderry, Stroke city (as in Derry / Londonderry), The Maiden City, The Walled City and the rather French sounding L’Derry. Most people just call it Derry.
- The 17th century walls that encircle the old city centre make Derry the most complete walled city in Europe. They’re pretty much unchanged in four centuries with the exception of a couple of new gates that have been added in the intervening years.
- In the 19th century Derry became a major port for those leaving for North America, especially those fleeing the famine. Those emigrants included the founders of Derry and Londonderry in New Hampshire (yep, they decided to have 2 towns).
- In WW2 Derry was the most westerly Allied Naval Port, played host to American troops and witnessed the surrender of the 19 U-boats (scuttled off the north coast of Donegal).
- The 60’s saw Derry become the focus of the Civil Rights movement in Northern Ireland. The Battle of the Bogside in 1969 is often noted as the starting point of The Troubles. Bloody Sunday drew worldwide attention in 1972.
- St. Columb’s College (my old school) is the only secondary level school in the world to produce two Nobel prize winners – John Hume (Peace Prize) and Seamus Heaney (Literature).
- Derry (city and county) also boasts playwright Brian Friel, the Undertones (who wrote Teenage Kicks), Aston Villa and former Celtic manager Martin O’Neill, Eurovision Winner Dana, Girl’s Aloud singer Nadine Coyle, and that one from US show Touched By an Angel (aka Roma Downey).
- From the 1830’s until relatively recently shirt making was the one of the city’s main industries – making Derry, at it’s peak, the shirt making capital of the world. It even gained us a mention in Das Kapital by Marx.
- Derry is home to the world’s oldest independent department store – Austin’s – which pre-dates Harrod’s in London and Macy’s in NY by 15 and 25 years respectively.
- Amelia Earhart landed in farmland just outside Derry on her solo transatlantic flight.
Of course I may be glossing over a little of the city’s 1400 years.
Have a great Christmas!
Pic: Neil Rickards