Firstly let me deal with the issue of the name of the city. Officially it is Londonderry though the majority of citizens refer to it as Derry.
The situation where you have a city called two things is not peculiar around the world. In Vietnam the second city is officially called Ho Chi Minh City while, within the city, it is pretty much universally called Saigon – its name in pre-communist days. Other examples abound where city names have changed, for political reasons, often more than once (St Petersburg/Leningrad) and changes have not been to the liking of all.
In Vietnam I refer to Ho Chi Minh City as Saigon – as habitually its citizens do. In the case of Londonderry I shall here, and in my reviews, refer to it as Derry as the people do.
Derry has a colourful yet sad history, more than any other I know in the world, and so much here revolves around and is moulded from that often troubled history.
I visited Derry many times in my university days but had (bar one short visit) not returned until May 2013. Things are changing here – and I hope the change will be permanent. People are not trying to wipe history, and nor should they – harsh though it has been for many affected by the “Troubles” of the last almost 50 years. I sense that people, from both sides, are trying hard to embrace that history, learn from it and move on. Unlike 20 years ago there is great sense of warmth and love in this wonderful city.
The barricades are down and the scaffolding of development is up – this is a city embracing its future. Let’s hope it does so, learning from its past but not forgetting it.
In going through my photographs – and not helped by my focus on history when I visit places – to find a suitable one for this page I realised almost all of them had political/historical connotations and the selection of any one over the other might be construed as my making a statement on this introductory entry and thus siding with one side or the other.
In the end I choose the photo above – a memorial to nothing, a commemoration of nothing, but rather a sculpture that sides with nobody and asks one to look forward to the future with hope and high expectation. This, to me, symbolises a new Derry. More details on this sculpture in a later review.
Those who take the time to understand this city and its history will be richly rewarded and will leave Northern Ireland and indeed Ireland with memories that will outlast those of anything else in this great land.
While individually some of my tips may appear one-sided (I have endeavoured to ensure historical accuracy) I trust that, when all taken together, I have presented a balanced and fair view of the City – and certainly one sufficient to entice you to pop in.
The kettle’s on, as they say in these parts!
So do join me now on a tour of Derry.
This entry is the first of a group (loop) of entries based numerous visits to Londonderry/Derry. I suggest you continue with my next entry – Do not be afraid – just be careful.