Derry Quay

During summer holidays always went to my Aunt Annies in Derry, then up to Uncle John and Anna at Lisbunny Claudy.


As a boy the quay was on e of my favourite places, exciting, ships coming in, going out, fishing with a hook and sinker.

It was a quite busy port 50 odd years ago, with it’s  docks and warehouses, misterious places.
Emigrants sailed from here to USA and other Irish ports,between March 1803 and March 1806.  The top four departure ports were Dublin, with 28 sailings, then Derry
with 26, Belfast 22 and Newry 19.
Derry is the only town in Ireland which can legitimately tell the complete story of Irish emigration because it was a major Irish emigration port throughout all the most significant phases of emigration from Ireland.

Genealogist Brian Mitchell puts the case for creating an emigration centre, similar to New York’s Ellis Island, on Derry Quay. See the article here

From Derry quay we sailed away by Brian Mitchell

It is said that nine million people globally can trace their family story back to Derry and the North emigrants2[1]West. Now, local genealogist Brian Mitchell explores the emigrantsdrawing[1]potential of Derry’s Quays as a significant visitor attraction – perhaps like ‘The American Immigrant Wall of Honor’ in New York, upon which the names of over 700,000 immigrants who came through Ellis Island and helped build America are inscribed…


From Derry quay we sailed away
On the 23rd of May

We were taken on board by a pleasant crew
Bound for Americay
Fresh water there we did take on
Five thousand gallons or more

In case we’d run short going to New York
Far away from the Shamrock shore.

“In my view, everyone involved in the relocation and upgrading of the Derry Emigrant display at the quay, in front of the Sainsbury’s café, should be congratulated.

I think it is an impressive tribute to Derry’s important role as an emigration port.

It contains three elements: Statues depicting three generations of one family at the quayside who are either about to leave Derry or to wave farewell to those going. Benches inscribed with the names of six ships involved in Derry’s emigrant trade over 3 centuries (i.e. the Faithful Steward commemorating the 18th century Ulster-Scots who departed here; 19th century Derry-owned sailing fleets of emigration ships represented by the Erin and Minnehaha; the Seamore and Columbia recalling the days, right up to 1939, when Derry, in the age of steamships, was a transatlantic hub for the emigration and tourist trade; and the Lairdsloch symbolising ‘the Scotch Boat’, the Derry to Glasgow passenger and livestock steamer, which was such an important part of Derry’s maritime history until 1966).

It also features an illustrated panel which summarises the history of Derry as an emigration port.

I believe it should be highlighted and mapped as a significant part of Derry’s ‘visitor attractions’.

Commemorating our past

In Philadelphia and New York, for example, they are well aware of the value of an iconic piece of public visual artwork as a focal point to commemorate the contribution of immigrants to the United States.

At Penn’s Landing there is a sculpture, by Glenna Goodacre, depicting the Irish arriving in Philadelphia in the mid-19th century.

In New York, the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc. promotes ‘The American Immigrant Wall of Honor’ at Ellis Island as a ‘National Treasure’ which symbolises and celebrates the courage and hope that immigrants and their ancestors brought to America. One hundred million Americans can trace an ancestor who arrived, from 1892, in the United States at Ellis Island.

There are nine million people out there whose family story includes Derry and the North West. The potential is there to build and promote Derry as the place where their story began: for example, an ancestor may have boarded a sailing ship at Shipquay Place, or stopped at Gweedore Bar, Waterloo Street on their way from west Donegal to Glasgow on the Scotch Boat, or arrived in Derry by rail, lodged in Bridge Street and then headed down Foyle, on a tender, to connect with transatlantic liners at Moville.

The emigration display at Sainsbury’s could be a fantastic opportunity to build on ‘Spirit of Place’ and ‘Power of Place’ to connect with the North West’s Diaspora.

Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in America, was established in May 1607. Bill Haley, Designer of the Rediscovering Jamestown 1607-1699 exhibition passionately believes that “the ‘power of place’ is the essence of a visit to Historic Jamestowne.

And the centre point of that power is the site of the James Fort. There is an ethereal almost magical feeling of standing at the very spot where modern America began. It is a feeling amplified by the exceptional archaeological remains and artifacts that have been found there”.

This concept could be very powerful in any telling of the story of emigration to Derry’s nine million overseas diaspora. Derry is the only town in Ireland which, with authenticity, can tell the complete story of Irish emigration.

Derry remained a major Irish emigration port throughout all significant phases of emigration from Ireland, such as the 18th century outflow of Ulster-Scots to colonial America; pre-Famine, Famine and post-Famine emigration to North America; and cross-channel migration to Britain via Glasgow and Liverpool.

Just as Ellis Island is seen as the entry point for American immigrants (100 million Americans can trace an ancestor back to Ellis Island) Derry can be positioned as the starting point of the emigrant’s journey.”


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Irish Travellers

The Tinsmith and the Fiddler

The Tinsmith 

Ted Maughan

Watching this man work is a piece of art for the heart and soul.
Times gone by,happy days,good yarns,and a great craftsman, does everything without apparent effort.

County Mayo native Ted Maughan demonstrating his immense skills as a Tinsmith. Ted is a member of the travelling community and has kept this great craft alive for many years. His work is a credit to him and this is only a small example of the quality work that Ted is able to carry out.

The Fiddler, Jobber, Storyteller

Johnny Doherty

Another lovely man, hard to find his kind these days.
Irish countryside, roads, hills, people cottages,towns and music.

The way we were

“Tinsmith, storyteller and traditional fiddler, John Doherty, still travels the hills of Donegal. Here he talks to Sean O’Haughey of the Irish Folklore Commission.”

Part 1 of 5 of a TV documentary about the great Donegal fiddler Johnny Doherty. Made by Ulster Television, and first aired on RTE on 04/09/1972.