Derry/Londonderry. - Stroke City.
There was to be a new start at work one Monday morning and the question was asked, " Is he a Derry man or a Londonderry man". There was laughter all round for everyone understood the joke. One tradition of our citizens, the Catholic and mainly politically Nationalist, will refer to the place as Derry. The other tradition, the Protestant and mainly politically Unionist, will insist that it is Londonderry. The vast majority of us get a lot of laughs out of this one, as truth to tell, we don't feel particularly fussed either way. Hence the 'Derry stroke Londonderry' line: Stroke City. The City has had a lot of publicity over the past thirty years or more and a lot of it of a very negative nature. A great pity for this is one of the friendliest and most welcoming places I know (and I've been around just enough to be able to say that). All but a tiny minority live peacefully and in good natured tolerance of their fellow citizens.
The City is also visually a very pleasant place for the most part. In the past there were some real eyesores but one positive result of the IRA bombing campaign was that many of these were flattened and the sites have since been redeveloped or in some cases just landscaped. Foyle Street was one such area which was an ugly street of dirty run down buildings. The area is now part shopping centre, part offices and with large open spaces. My own view is that the bombers should have got a grant for demolishing it, they did the town a favour in the long term!
This is an overview of the city from the southwest. Taken from a place known, rather unimaginatively, as 'Top of the Hill'. It shows the main part of the old city, this being the hill in the centre, the river flowing through and beyond in the distance the Scalp and Eskaheen mountains in the Inishowen Peninsula. The mountains are in County Donegal, the Irish Republic; the City has expanded over the years to the point where it is now nearly reaching the international boundary and some of the cross border villages are becoming almost detached suburbs of the city.
Another view taken from a point less than a mile away shows the view looking west from the hill on the east bank. Just across the river is the Foyle Street area I mentioned above which was destroyed and rebuilt. As you can see the Foyle is quite a large river and this used to be a busy port and naval base. I can remember destroyers, frigates and submarines moored two and three deep at the quayside. Nowdays the port is further downstream and the only ships of any size reaching the old docks area are occasional cruise liners. The naval presence is no more and the base known as HMS Sea Eagle (an anti-submarine warfare centre) became Ebrington army barracks. The barracks closed in 2003 and the land is to revert to the city.