St Columba’s Day in Derry

June 9th is the Feast of St Columba or Columcille the patron saint of Derry. This  veneration is evident in the naming and decoration of churches within and without the Derry Walls. Also important are the St Columb’s Wells, which were marked in both Docwra’s 1600 and Neville’s 1689 maps. Here are some photographs which illustrate this.

Map from 1600 showing St Columb’s Wells.
Map from 1689 showing St Columb’s Wells.
1949 Derry and Glendermot Presbytery Booklet
Long Tower and Nazareth House Primary Schools reenacting key events in the life of Columcille.
St Columb’s Stone


The procession leaves Long Tower Chapel for the annual blessing of the well.


Recent communicants join the procession to the blessing of the well.


Bishop McKeown leads the Blessing of St Columba’s Well
Bishop Donal McKeown helping to draw water from St Columba’s Well.


Mural at the Long Tower Chapel depicting key events in the life of Columcille.


St Augustine’s on the Derry Walls, probable site of the medieval monastery, dedicated to St Columba.
The life of Columba illustrated in the Phillips Window in St Columb’s Cathedral.
Oak leaves in the Long Tower Chapel.


The day the Deputy First Minister turned up for Walls400

We don’t do politics, except those of 400 years ago. However with today’s news, it’s appropriate to mention the day in August 2013 when Martin McGuinness turned up with 1,970 other Derry Londonderry people to form a red line around the rampart tops to mark the 400th anniversary of the start of the building of the Derry Walls. It was quite a surprise to the organisers, since the only formal invitation issued  to a politician had been to the Mayor, Martin O’Reilly. The Deputy First Minister had responded to the open public invitation in a personal capacity, queuing with everyone else to collect his red t-shirt. A demonstration of his personal interest in the Derry Walls, in the shadow of which, Martin McGuinness  grew up. Condolences at this time to his wife, Bernie, his children and his extended family. Photo credits: Stephen Latimer Photography.

East Wall

An interesting undated photograph from a collection of images curated by the late Annesley Malley. Taken in Market Street looking the length of East Wall, before the building of both the Millennium Forum and a side extension to St Columb’s Hall. Also visible at the corner of Market St and Newmarket St is the facade of Sir Edward Reid’s Market, which survived as part of the Rialto Theatre until the Rialto was demolished to make way for Primark.

Is your great granny in these photos?

Late Victorian and early Edwardian photographs of Derry’s streets are everywhere on social media  but have you ever zoomed in, to see the background detail? Here are selection of things which we at the Friends found interesting. If you spot your great-granny, let us know!

When bus fares into town were only a penny.

This vehicle, belonging to the Londonderry Omnibus Company, was parked just outside Magazine Gate. As well as advertising its lowest fare for passengers willing to brave the element sitting on top, the Company used the sides of its ‘buses to advertise local businesses. Most clear are “Singer’s of 8 Ferryquay St.” and “Holmes & Mullin’s for Tea and Coffee”.

Getting through Waterloo Place on a bicycle.

As well as having to navigate through a street dominated by horse-drawn carts, ladies-who-cycle did so in full length skirts. Safer at times to dismount and wait until a safe passage appeared.

Buying spuds under Butcher Gate.


This tightly bonneted lady has her stall within the shelter of Butcher Gate and amongst her wares there appear to be potatoes. The three children in the photograph are barefoot.

Pushing your bike up Shipquay Street.


On a wet day, Shipquay Street looks busy with a cart with milk (?) churns in the foreground. A male cyclist has wisely decided to push his bike up the steep gradient. Beyond the Gate can be seen the horse-drawn ‘taxis’ in Shipquay Place waiting for passengers, railway trucks on the quayside and a coal-powered vessel in the river.

Did Holmes and Mullin supply the best tea and coffee in Derry?


The golden teapot in Waterloo Place gives an obvious clue to the trade carried out inside the premises of Holmes and Mullin; the sign marked with Tea & Coffee House confirms it. On the kerbside is a little hand cart.

Richard Gallagher in his Waterloo Street shop?


Looking closely at the window of this shop, you can see a butcher looking out, perhaps Mr Gallagher himself. Over the awning is a very handsome lamp. Standing within the doorway of Roulston’s shop notice a little girl. A display board indicates that excellent family tea is available inside.

A New Yorker in Derry.


The headstone of  Charles John Merry of New York stands out in a photograph of St Columb’s Cathedral. Dying in 1838 aged 32, he was mourned by his wife and parents who added a poignant epitaph: “His body rests with Strangers in a foreign land. His soul we trust is in the Paradise of God.”

Can you add to our knowledge about these or other historical photographs?

Images courtesy of the National Library of Ireland.