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Aspects of Sectarian Division in Derry Londonderry - First public discussion: The Name Of this City?

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First Public Discussion
The Name Of this City?
Central Library, February 19, 1995


Two Viewpoints

1. Anne Doherty


Does anyone else remember that little spelling chant from primary school? Yeah? Once learned, never forgotten - right. And its certainly a lot more memorable than I-D-A-H-O-D-E-R-R-Y would have been.

Funnily enough, I was talking to two American visitors today and I was telling them about this event tonight and trying to explain the ongoing Derry/Londonderry saga and they were totally bemused. "But why don't y'all just call it whatever you want?" asked one of them. (Everything's always so simple to the Americans). So I asked them to imagine how it would be if heterosexuals referred to their nation's capital as Washington D.C., gay people called it Washington A.C. and bisexuals called it Washington A.C.D.C. Absurd of course but the whole questions of what we citizens call our city becomes equally absurd at times.

I don't remember being particularly conscious of the Derry/Londonderry controversy when I was growing up. I do remember, in my final year at school, awaiting a provisional ( if you'll pardon the term) acceptance from N.U.U. (and N.U.U. was a really popular choice in 1970 when the vast majority of one's fellow citizens were still outraged that the province's second university was not sited in the province's second city!) and I didn't get my acceptance although all my friends were getting theirs. Eventually it arrived, having been sent to Derby instead of Derry ( some of my friends interpreted this as a deliberate act of sectarian sabotage but I was never big on the conspiracy theory - I trustingly accepted it as a genuine postal error.) Anyway, the ten days allowed for a reply had gone by, so there was a major panic but my careers teacher sorted it out and everything was okay. She informed me however that "Londonderry" was the correct postal address and I should use that henceforth on all official correspondence, which I duly did and most of the time, it didn't cost me a second thought.

Like everyone else, I occasionally received letters where "London" had been added in large red writing to the "Derry" in the address and, on one occasion, a British Telecom operator put the phone down on me because I said "Derry" instead of "Londonderry". But the whole thing didn't really impinge on me that much.

And then came 1968 and up went the barricades and up went our political consciousness. And in came the checkpoint saga, and the "Where are you going to, madam?" and the "Sorry, Do you not mean Londonderry?" and the six hour searches and so on. Still, on a point of principle or out of pure thickness, many people insisted on saying "Derry" and put up with the subsequent hassle.

There was the famous story of an unnamed SDLP councillor who was stopped at a checkpoint one night and went through the "Sorry Sir, where did you say you were going, Sir?" several times and then totally exasperated said, "Ah fuck it, I'm going to Strabane". Is this the only city in the world where you make a political statement by giving your address?

Rather than give in to the psychological pressure, to say "Londonderry" some people when asked where they were going would offer alternatives such as "Home" or "the Waterside" or if it was an army checkpoint, took a chance and made up a town-name. My brother got round it by always handing over his licence straight away and when asked where he was going he replied, "to the address on the license".

And sometimes the whole thing became totally surreal - a friend of mine was asked one day at Aughnacloy " And where are you travelling to?" and played safe by saying "Londonderry" and the soldier said " Do you not mean "Derry?" and she said "No, Londonderry".

One night I was coming back from Dublin and for some reason there was a diversion at Monaghan and so we had to go through South Armagh. I trustingly and naively assumed that, since we'd been directed off the main road, then we'd be directed back on it again once the danger was over. This however, proved not to be the case and I found myself in Armagh City driving round and round since I didn't have a clue what my route home would be. The signposts were of no use to me. Eventually, remembering the Enid Blyton stories of my youth, I stopped to ask a policeman and I said "Excuse me officer, could you help me, I'm trying to get to Londonderry". Significant pause and then "W-e-e-l-l-l", he said slowly, "you know the old joke - if I was trying to get to Derry, I wouldn't start from here".

Of course, even those of us who opted to play safe didn't always remember to say "Londonderry" -"Derry" came more naturally to us. And that's one of my big problems with "Londonderry" - it sounds so awkward and unwieldy. I've never heard it trip lightly off anyone's tongue. It always seems to take a conscious effort and it always sounds to me as if people are deliberately using the longer form of a word instead of a popular abbreviation - like saying, "The baby's in the perambulator" or the football spectator shouting, "Have you ever considered a visit to the optician, referee?" or someone asking me what I do, and me answering. "I'm a part-time lecturer in the North West Institute of Further and Higher Education". It's awkward, it's stilted, it's unnatural, and our fellow citizens deserve better!

Some years ago, I saw a play called " All the King's men" which is about two brothers in a Catholic family. The elder brother was in the IRA, the other was a quiet academic type who just wanted to get on with his life. He was applying to do a course in Magee College and came into the room to find his brother reading over the application form he had been filling in, and on which he had written "Londonderry". The younger brother immediately became very defensive and, in an impassioned speech, said something along the lines of, "Don't start me. I know how you feel but I really want to do this course and I can't take the chance that some wee man in Magee, who was dealing with my application might be bigoted enough to turn me down because I'd written "Derry"." And the elder brother relied " You're wrong, I don't care if you call it Timbuktu - what does concern me is that you feel the need to make that decision and go through all that soul searching - that's what I really resent." And that seemed to me the best synopsis of the whole situation that I'd ever heard. I remember filling in various official forms and agonising about whether to write "Derry" or "Londonderry", "Irish" or "British".

If it were a simple matter of choice, I would have no problem with that, but when there's a real possibility of being penalised for making the "wrong" decision, then it's no longer a free choice and the odds are definitely weighted on one side. And that to me is the crux of the matter - that balance has to be redressed. But how?

Over the years, various compromises have been worked out. I thought that "Stroke City" idea was very ingenious, although not everyone agreed. This originated with Gerry Anderson on Radio Foyle, who started referring to Derry stroke Londonderry which was soon abbreviated to Stroke City - a stroke of genius, I thought. I know that many people considered it stupid, patronising and/or offensive, but I thought it was a noble, valiant and creative attempt to solve an age-old problem.

Some people and some businesses compromise by making educated guesses as to the viewpoint of the recipients of letters and using either "Derry" or "Londonderry" as they consider appropriate. Some banks actually have alternative cheque books and, of course, all the tourist souvenirs have to double up "A present from Derry" or "A present from Londonderry". It would certainly simplify the tourist market if we came up with an acceptable alternative.

Of course, its an ill wind that blows no good and the River Foyle has certainly achieved a very high profile. Look in the telephone directory sometime and just see how many businesses and organisations use the word "Foyle" in their title, - from "Foyle Accountants Bureau" right down to ( 'down' alphabetically, I mean) to "Foyle Women's Aid" - 64 in all and all, consciously chosen to avoid giving offence to any one section of the population. Terms like "Maiden City" are also used in this way, although that particular name isn't terribly popular with the feminist movement, with its implications that the Apprentice Boys were stepping in to prevent Date Rape.

I now humbly proffer a few new suggestions. The original Irish name "Doire" means "oak grove". Apparently, when Colmcille was around, there were a lot of trees in the area, and not a whole lot else. Maybe we could re-name the city by its current description - we could call it "Smallish-city-with-lots-of-shopping-centres-and-new-roundabouts." Or, inspired by a current high profile advertising campaign, we could call it "I-can't-believe-its-not-Belfast".

In fact, we don't really need a name for the city. Since we all have postcodes now, why not just use the street name followed by the postcode? It's just as well, by the way, that the Post Office considers the whole of Northern Ireland to be suburbs of Belfast. So if we had our own postcode would we have to have two - DY and LY?

I honestly don't care what the city is called so long as everybody calls it the same. Now there's an idea. Meave Binchy called her first book, "My first book"; there's a shop in the Waterside called "The Shop". Simple but brilliant - yeah? So let's be simply brilliant and henceforth let our beloved city be know as" The Same".

2. Alistair Wilson

"What's in a name?" you may ask and in general the answer would be, "Very little." That is, of course, unless the name identifies your family, profession, address, nationality or allegiance. It is, of course, the nationality and allegiance tags which effect most people, particularly when it comes to which name is included in the address of this town. Like many things here, such as the name of the school one attended, or a family name, what you use as the name of this city is usually a very good indicator of religion or politics.

For me, the name Londonderry incorporates an identity, a past, and a desire for a future which, in my opinion, would be to the benefit of every member of this society. Growing up in a predominantly Protestant and unionist - as opposed to loyalist - working class area, it was early on in those formative years that I became aware of my religion and allegiance. I was Protestant because of the church I attended, and a unionist because I was part of the United Kingdom and was taught British history in school as part of the curriculum. However, as I grew and could rationalise and think for myself, I decided that I could be quite comfortable with the opinions I now held and that the British way of life, however watered down in this part of the realm, was better for me than an all-Ireland republic.

Throughout those years, I can not say with any degree of honestly, that that decision reflected in any obvious way in my attitude to any other individual. And, like all of my family and most of my neighbours, there was never a conscious attitude of superiority. If there was any show of tribalism or coat-tailing, - terms only used in latter years, - it would have been on the "eleventh nights", when everyone gathered around bonfires, as our counterparts did in nationalist areas on their celebratory nights. These evenings however were used more as escapism from a mundane existence than they were to annoy other sections of the community, particularly those from those communities who came into our streets to join in the fun.

In my late teens, a new phase was on everyone's lips, - that of civil rights - and we, myself included, were told that we were privileged, that I had more opportunities and more benefits than others, because of my religion. I was informed that, because I was a Protestant, a unionist and by choice gave my allegiance to the British monarch, I had more rights than my counterparts on the nationalist side. This I found hard to accept, as, - living in a two up, two down house, in what would now be described as a ghetto which was shared with nine other family members, with no heating except a fireplace in one room, no running hot water, and a toilet at the back of the yard, - I certainly didn't feel privileged.

In the early years there was only our father working, and, with so many mouths to feed, there was no extras for luxuries. In fact, most of the time there wasn't even enough for day to day living. With so many others in the area in the same situation, I suppose it was accepted that this was the norm, and so there was never any questioning of rights or privileges, just an acceptance of the status quo.

As the Civil Rights movement gained momentum, the local branch, - the "Derry" branch - began making demands for all of the things that my family and all the others in the area had been existing without. Things such as proper housing, jobs, and the right to think of achieving more than our environment would allow. Along with the demands came the accusations that the unionist were the cause of all their problems, and that, among that section of the community, there were no needs, no wants and no need for any ambition, - they had it all already. We, it seemed, i and included in the collective noun, I, - was in some way responsible for the plight of others. It was then, most of all, that I noticed the name of this city in it's political context, and the attempts by some to wipe out an identity which is as relevant to it as any other.

The Derry Civil Rights Movement was, by implication, an organisation aimed at righting the wrongs, real or imaginary, of one section of the community - and that was not the section which included me. In fact, in many of the statements, it was my community which was blamed for their lot and all the related problems. Strangely enough, I could never remember a time when anyone called at our home to give us clothes, fuel or food because of our allegiances or religious preference. Coming from a family of eight children, - quite unusual in Protestant circles, - there were hidden benefits in that all the old shoes which we had were kept, and filled with slack so that we would have a fire on winter evenings. Apart from that, the close proximity of all eight in one bedroom formed a natural heating system.

Set menus allowed us to guage the day of the week as the same day each week saw chips and egg for dinner or stew on another and so on but nothing extravagant, only wholesome, filling fare. Still, we were content to accept whatever our situation was and expected or received nothing for our support of the system.

This, of course, may seem to have little to do with the name of Londonderry, but in fact it had everything to do with it, as the lifestyle we accepted was all part of that ethos of work and tradition. Certainly, there were problems for the community regarding work and housing, but that was across the board and not reserved for one section over the other. I didn't relish going out to the back yard to use the toilet on wet and windy nights, to dodge the drips of condensation or leaks from the ceiling. Neither did I expect the Government to call especially to our house to remedy the problem.

Londonderry as a name is symbolic of a history of freedom, of choice, and of moving forward to a new century. It involves us in a nation which affords us better prospects for our future, when the situation allows. Yes, I can accept that sometimes those opportunities can seem a long time in coming, but there are more chances of them happening as part of a forward looking people than one constantly cloaked in the past. Londonderry is a way of life, of enterprise and non-demanding, of sharing and of family.

These pages are not long enough to explain all of the benefits, but suffice to say that an identity which still holds fast in many parts of the world is more advantageous than one which is backward looking and dependant on others.

The Historical Context of the Name of the City
Brian Lacey

There is a tendency to assume that the controversy surrounding the name of the city here is a unique phenomenon. However, there are many towns and cities in Europe, just to take that example, where, because of competing cultural or linguistic groups or because of changing political circumstances, a choice of names is available.

The debate surrounding the name of this city often assumes that there is - or was - only two names for the place. I deliberately use the word 'place' as it is important to make a distinction between the legal and geographical entity of the city, and the place (indeed places) where the city is located.

This place has been known by many names, some of which we will never know because they were in use long before recorded history. However, a study going back to the ancient and medieval texts relating to the city since the 7th century would show over fifty variations of its name in Irish, English and Latin. Basically, these can be reduced to five names, in a variety of versions and combinations: Daire Calgach (the oldest name), Daire/Doire, Doire Cholm Cille, Derry and Londonderry. All of these names have one element in common - the reference to oak trees in the words Daire/Doire/Derry. The term "Roboretum", used by Adomnan, in the 7th century, is a direct translation into Latin of the Irish word "Daire". Two kinds of oak tree are native to Ireland: the English oak (Quercus robur) and the sessile oak (Quercus petraea). Does Adomnan's translation imply that the original oaks of Derry were English oaks?

As far as I can see, Doire Cholm Cille was used comparatively rarely until it was re-introduced in modern times. Its first contemporary appearance is in the annals for the year 1121, when it is used in the death notice of the powerful king, Domnall MacLochlainn, who had died in the settlement: (one poem actually calls the king "Domnall Debthach Daire - the contentious Domnall of Derry"). This first use of Doire Cholm Cille is as a poetic/celtic allusion, more akin to the modern phrases "Joycean Dublin" or "Dickensian London" - it is not used as a place-name in the strict sense. Indeed, the Derry propaganda text known as the Irish Life of Colm Cille, written here between 1150 and 1182, uses the name Daire/Doire only.

Manus O'Donnell, writing in 1532 (again, significantly, in a propaganda work on behalf of Colm Cille), normally uses the term Doire, with the occasional Doire Calgach.

James I's first charter to the city, dated 11 July 1604, set up "for ever a free, entire, and perfect city and county of itself, to be called the city and county of Derrie". On the 10 May 1605, Mrs Montgomery, the wife of the first Protestant bishop of Derry, wrote that she hoped his appointment would "make us all merry", indicating in her rhyme the then-accepted pronunciation of the name. The city and county of Londonderry was set up by another charter of James I, dated 20 March 1613. However, on the city's state sword, which was a gift in 1616 from the Corporation of London, the name "Londonderre" is inscribed, curiously reproducing the phonetic spelling of the Irish name Doire.

I am not sure at what point the use of the alternate names Derry or Londonderry became a badge of political identity. Clearly, things have always been a bit more fluid than all sides give credit for. For instance, in the Tower Museum (actually in glass cases opposite each other) there are two objects which, as it were, give the lie to the 'official' versions.

In one case there is a rule book of the loyalist Apprentice Boys of Derry. It uses the name Derry throughout, and the name Londonderry never appears at all. In the other case, there is a small souvenir teapot, dated 1898, commemorative of the 1798 Rebellion and of the nationalist hero Robert Emmet. On the reverse of this clearly republican artifact is the inscription "a present from Londonderry".

Logic is not the most widespread of human virtues, and perhaps it is wrong to look for it on every occasion, but the BBC seems to defy all logic on this matter. In relation to the name of this city, BBC Northern Ireland have a rule which insists that the first reference to the city in an item must be to "Londonderry". This involves them frequently misquoting their original sources, such as reporting Sinn Fein statements about "Londonderry" or mentioning articles in the Irish News about "Londonderry". They freely admit that they have no such policy in relation to any other place on the face of the earth - i.e. not for another single square inch of the planet. Truly, Londonderry is a place apart!

One other point, Derry is the name of a diocese of both the Church of Ireland and the Roman Catholic Church. There is no such thing as a bishop or dean (or cathedral) of Londonderry. That Derry (the diocese) is a totally different geographical entity to the city or county, and includes parts of counties Donegal and Tyrone as well as of Londonderry.


Submission from the floor: William Houston, Londonderry Unionist Association

The question of the name of our ancient city is one which has generated a lot of political argument over recent years, and the decision taken by the city council as to the name of this city only served to alienate the minority Protestant people, and made them feel unwanted in their own community.

In seeking to change the name of this city of Londonderry, the council were able to do so to legislation enacted in the early seventies, by the hated unionist government. Without this legislation, which gave local councils the power to change their council name, where the majority within that area were in agreement, the nationalists would not have been able to force a change of the local authority name.

I have no problem with this change at all. It was lawfully done and, I am certain, met with the approval of the local community, but no thought was given to the minority Protestant and unionist population of the Londonderry area as to what their views might be.

The architect of the proposal, former Councillor McAteer, wished to create a controversy and perhaps prove that he was as green a nationalist as his late father. Whatever the reasoning behind the move to change the council name, there was no attempt at compromise, with the use of a name, such as "Foyle". The nationalists pushed the proposal through, and that was that.

Many excuses were given - don't the Church of Ireland have the local Diocese of "Derry and Raphoe?"- what about the Apprentice Boys of Derry"? It did not occur to those asking the question that these bodies were founded a few hundred years ago when the City name was in fact "Derry".

I do note that one of the local Irish language activists, a gentleman whose name I can't recall and probably could not pronounce, has accused the Derry City Council of discriminating against the unionist community within their area, by deciding as they did. He suggested that the council should have recognised all cultures by the use of the names "Doire", "'Derry", "Doire Colmcille" and "Londonderry". I could not agree more. Here was the opportunity for the city fathers, who preach so much about the recognition of all cultures, to show that actions speak louder than mere rhetoric. However, we are now blessed with the "Derry" City Council, and any reference to the proper legal name of the city is totally ignored.

Should anyone send a letter to that illustrious body using the name "Londonderry", the least I and I hope all of you would expect, is to get a reply to the address as given. But no, it will be to "Derry", or as over three quarters of the council area is outside the city, "County Derry". Now the nationalists can perhaps have some argument that the name was Derry before it was Londonderry, but they certainly cannot say the same of the county. There never ever was a "County Derry", - it was "County Coleraine", and bodies such as the Derry County Board of the Ancient Order of Hibernians and of the Gaelic Athletic Board are a total misnomer.

The young lady who spoke earlier, thought the word Londonderry was cumbersome and did not roll off the tongue in the same way as Derry. I was always taught that practice made perfect, so perhaps a lot more use of the proper and legal name of the city and indeed the county and she will find that her earlier instincts were sadly mistaken.

To me the word "Derry" is like using slang. It does not create an aura in the same way as the word "Londonderry". it suggests a certain laziness to use the longer word; another example being the local preference for the use of "Hi" instead of "Hello".

It is not peculiar, of course to this city to shorten the name. Perhaps the reasoning why it is done is, though. Just across the border, the locals will talk of going into "Carn" instead of Carndonagh and likewise "Newton" and "Manor" instead of Newtowncunningham and Manorcunningham, respectively. Likewise in Carrickfergus and Newtownards, the locals speak of "Carrick" and "Ards".

The reason, of course, why nationalists cannot bear the use of the word Londonderry is of course, the traditional hatred of any semblance of anything British. In earlier times, within our lifetime, we had the concerted assault on the Honourable The Irish Society, with many wild claims made against that fine body; - a body that over a couple of centuries has done sterling work for this area. it is worth noting that the arch-Republican, Paddy "Bogside", was recently pictured accepting keys to a building in this city, from that same body. A typical republican /nationalist example of give and take - you give and we'll take.

I thank you for addressing the question of our city name and fully understand why you wish to work for all whilst not seeking to offend anyone. I trust that your interest is totally genuine and not just an exercise to support your claim of being cross-community. In deciding what name your letter head should display, may I suggest that you take the view of a number of local businessmen, whom I would presume to be nationalist in outlook. They have their vehicles and letter headed notepaper emblazoned with the proper and legal name of out ancient city - Londonderry. If the nationalists wish to change that, let them put their money where their mouth is and sponsor the necessary legislation to enable the city name to be officially changed.

I do not foresee this happening however. Greater men than they created this city, built up its business life and, in recognition, had the appendage "London" added to "Derry", the anglicised form of the Irish "Doire". Many of those who support the use of "Derry" did the opposite, they reduced its streets to rubble, and in so doing, caused the Protestant and Unionist people to leave the West Bank of the Foyle.

Letters received by Templegrove Action Research after the public discussion

Letter 1

Ladies and gentlemen,
I feel that my rights firstly as a Protestant, and secondly as a citizen have been violated. I do feel that the S.D.L.P. have discriminated against my fellow Protestants and I by the role of "reverse-discrimination". They (S.D.L.P.), would seem to have rode blind and rough-shod over the heads of the Protestant community and that of our elected representatives on Council. Despite very strong and vitriolic opposition to the name change they forged ahead with all haste and without constructive consultation, implemented the change.

It is said that things can be seen much clearer on hindsight and it is on this assumption that I draw my main points of argument. In support of these contentions, I need only cite one example which will clearly demonstrate the decline of Protestant participation in civil functions throughout this city, because they no longer feel that they are welcome or part of this city's cultural celebration.

In March of this year the City Council embarked on a major Cultural Celebration programme which included Scottish performers from the Western Islands. The scheduled programme for Friday 18th March 1994 in the Guildhall had a very wide advertising campaign behind it, and of which was thought would be a very well attended 'do' because of the Ulster-Scottish element. In fact it turned out to be 'on the verge of pathetic' because of the very low attendance turn-out. Unfortunate as it was, particularly for the performers, that here was a clear-cut-case of "politics killing culture". Normally, the Protestant Community would have thronged to such an event but the S.D.L.P. had taken away "a very important part of Protestant symbolism."

As everyone knows, especially those involved in organising cultural celebration performances, that "symbolism is the key element to a particular culture, and once the symbol has been removed, then, the culture can only suffer as a consequence of the action."

As it turned out, the Protestant community did not feel obliged to support this event because of the feeling of isolation brought on by the removal of one of its most important prestige symbols, i.e. the name 'Londonderry.' However, the following night (Saturday March 19th) at the Broomhill House Hotel had painted a very different picture. At the launch of the former Ulster-Scottish Association, now the (Ulster-Scotland Cultural Society), in conjunction with the City Council, they had run an advertising campaign on behalf of their cultural programme and it was quite clear, 'especially' from the press released which produced 'clear evidence' of their commitment to cater for a "plural society". The attendance of this particular event was around 150 people with some of these coming from counties "Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan" and indeed many of those people were 'Irish-Scottish' both Protestant and Catholic alike, who felt very welcome and part of this particular cultural celebration and which is all down to the good office and foresight of the Ulster-Scottish Association's planning committee who had consulted with the citizens of our collective and much wider.

Often, the very narrow and dim-lit corridors of political thinking and decision-making can produce "an obverse effect on the citizenship of a 'plural society" and all evidence would suggest that the S.D.L.P. trod these same corridors whenever they had taken the decision to change the name of this city without consulting the entire collective. By making this unilateral decision, "the S.D.L.P. have severely constricted and restricted the greater plurality of this city" and of which has produced a very marked effect on the Protestant community's willingness to participate fully in civic functions.

We, the citizens of this city, have certain duties to it, there is a framework of duties for every citizen which provides us with the basis of 'participatory citizenship' in which we collectively decide on our civic obligation to it. However, the Protestant community feel that they are no longer part of the collective because their opinions were not sought when the 'unilateral decision was taken.' The Protestants of this city hold the belief that the reasons behind the name-change consist of two essential points, and these are.

1. "That the S.D.L.P. are demonstrating to the Catholic/Nationalist community that they are in total command of all major and minor decision-making within and without this city."

2. "That the S.D.L.P. are pointing a more sinister finger towards the eye of Unionism, and Protestant culture."

For whichever or whatever true reason that really lies behind the name-change, be it dexter or sinister, one can only come to the conclusion that those who hold the reins dictate the terms and road to the horse, without the need to consult it,....after all, they (the S.D.L.P.) have been taught to ride rough-shod by one of four horsemen!! The Protestant community are aware of the fact that grave mistakes were made when the Unionists held the reins of this city, but they are equally aware of a very blatant fact that the S.D.L.P. are wholly guilty of "reverse-discrimination"...the worst form of all discriminatory practices."

There are a few lessons to be learnt from hindsight, and maybe the S.D.L.P. should take a long hard look at them.

L.T. Carrickmore (Sept. '94)

Letter 2

As a Protestant working in the city, I do not mind calling the city 'Derry'. Sometimes I use 'L'derry' when writing at work and 'Londonderry' on official documents. I was interested to hear of other Protestants who say they have "always called it Derry" and remember the city being referred to as 'Derry' when growing up i.e. that this was accepted use among some people in the Protestant community. However, in recognition of those who feel strong by about calling it Londonderry, I felt some sort of compromise might be best (e.g. L/Derry) to attempt to reflect both opinions."


Y. Boyle

Letters sent by Templegrove Action Research

Room G1, 2nd Floor 13, Pump Street,
Derry/Londonderry, BT 48 6JG, Northern Ireland
Telephone/Facsimile: O1504 374556 email:

December 13, 1994

To all local councillors,
Westminster & European

Dear Representative,

I am writing to you in connection with a piece of work we, in Templegrove Action Research, undertook in relation to the name of the city. As part of our brief to work on issues relating to sectarian division in the North West, we held a public meeting in the Central Library on the name of the city, - Derry or Londonderry. The meeting was open to the public and was well attended by people from both communities.

At the meeting, an exchange of views took place. Strong feelings of exclusion and upset were expressed by some members of the Protestant community who attended the meeting, because of the exclusive use of "Derry" by some organisations in the city. The view was expressed by some of the Catholic/Nationalists in attendance that they did not object to both names for the city being used. Some people were angered by their experiences of writing to public bodies

(and other organisations) using Londonderry, and receiving a reply which used Derry - or vice versa. Various proposals about possible solutions were also tabled, including the naming of the walled city as "The Ancient City of Londonderry" and the remainder of the city as Derry.

We have discussed the proposals subsequently, in an attempt to find a strategy which respects both traditions in the city, and excludes no-one. We are writing to you and to all public representatives in the area, to ask you to consider two specific proposals:

1. That the official name of the city and the city government be both Derry and Londonderry in order to respect the two traditions in the city, and that this policy is reflected in headed notepaper and other official communications and publications.

2. That official bodies adopt a policy of replying to correspondence using the form of name used by their corresponds: where the public body initiates the correspondence that both names for the city are used.

We would ask that you consider these proposals, and if you support them, to place them on the agenda in the arenas in which you have a public role and influence. Thank you for your attention.


Marie Smyth
Projects Director, Templegrove Action Research.

Letter 2 sent by Templegrove Action Research

Room G1, 2nd Floor 13, Pump Street,
Derry/Londonderry, BT 48 6JG, Northern Ireland
Telephone/Facsimile: O504 374556 email:

Mr John Keanie
Town Clerk
Derry City Council
The Guildhall
Derry Londonderry

January 11, 1995

Dear Mr Keanie,
RE: Our recent work on the name of the city.

I enclose a copy of a letter which was sent by our organisation recently to city councillors after a public meeting which we held in the Central Library. Our proposal has attracted a certain amount of interest by the media, and several councillors have been involved in commenting on the proposals. We would be grateful if you would arrange to have the proposal considered by the full City Council. We would like the proposal raised as an agenda item at the full council meeting, but wish to avoid making alliances with any particular political party in order to have the item raised..

We would be grateful for your assistance in this matter.

Marie Smyth
Projects Director
Templegrove Action Research

Letter 3 sent by Templegrove Action Research

Room G1, 2nd Floor 13, Pump Street,
Derry/Londonderry, BT 48 6JG, Northern Ireland
Telephone/Facsimile: O504 374556 email:

Mr John Keanie
Derry City Council
Derry Londonderry

June 4, 1995

Dear Mr Keanie,

RE: Our work on the name of the city.

I refer to my letter of January 11, 1995, a copy of which is enclosed for your information. Unfortunately, we do not seem to have had a response to this letter and I am concerned that it may not have reached you. A number of members of the public who have attended our meetings have been in touch with us in connection with following up to the issue of the name of the city. We would still like the proposal raised as an agenda item at the full council meeting, and would like to take a delegation to that meeting to speak on the issue. I would be grateful if you would organise this for after the summer recess.

We would be grateful for your assistance in this matter, and for information about the date of the council meeting at which it can be raised.

Marie Smyth
Projects Director
Templegrove Action Research
c Prionsius O Meanain
Alderman Campbell
Cllr O hEara

Letters received in response

Handwritten Letter: House of Commons Notepaper

From: Rt. Hon. John D. Taylor M.P.
Strangford Unionist Hqrs.,
6 William Street, N'ards,
Northern Ireland


Dear Marie Smyth,

Just a personal note to say that I found your letter of the 11th inst. of interest.
I look forward to your report on the movement of population which will be available in early 1995. The name of the local authority - decided by the local residents - is DERRY CITY COUNCIL. The name of the city - decided by the people of Northern Ireland - is Londonderry. We all should accept these democratic decisions and not squabble over names.

John D. Taylor

Typewritten Letter: House of Commons Notepaper

William Ross, M.P. for East Londonderry
89 Teeavan Road, Turmeel, Dungiven
Tel: 05047 41428
Fax: 05047 42291
Ref: Nov2208

22nd November, 1994.

Ms Marie Smyth
Projects Director
Room G1 2nd Floor
13 Pump Street,
BT48 6JG

Dear Ms. Smyth,

Thank you for your letter of 11th inst. and enclosure which I have read with interest.

I would have thought that so far as the City itself is concerned there is no good reason why the official title of Londonderry should not be used at all times.

Yours sincerely,


Letter on headed notepaper with the city crest and "City Council, Londonderry"


Dear Mrs. Smyth,

Thank you for your communication regarding the name of Londonderry and possible changes to it.

It would be advantageous if I were to outline for you the events which brought about the controversy in the first place.

Prior to 1973 and Local Government re-organisation there were issues which the Nationalist community felt strongly about and campaigned regarding, the name of the City or of the Council was not one of them. After 1977 when there was an overall Nationalist majority on the Council the issue began to be raised initially by the now defunct IIP and then by the SDLP. It is worth noting that up until the late 1970's there wasn't a controversy surrounding the name. There was no demand or clamour from the ordinary people to have the name Londonderry made into a political football. It became clear in the early 1980's that the SDLP, who by this time had effective control of the Local Council were determined to demand the deletion of London from Londonderry in relation to the Council Name.

The basic misunderstanding of some people regarding this issue is that they believe the two names represent Unionist and Nationalist Backgrounds. The reality is somewhat different. The term "Derry" is a Nationalist one and in 1984 took on a triumphalist tone because of the way it was rammed down unwilling Unionist throats. The fact that this happened courtesy of a political party whose main philosophy is "Agreement between divided people", "acceptance of diversity" and "agreement threatens no-one" only ensured that Unionists saw HYPOCRISY writ large over the SDLP's hallowed portals. The term "Londonderry" on the other hand is a combination of the British and the Irish, of the Unionist and the Nationalist. LONDON and DERRY seemed to the Unionists to be the ideal and practical way to deal with a conflict of identity regarding a name, particularly so when there was no demand to change it for decades previously. During 1984 the then Environment Minister Mr. Chris Patten acceded to the demand to delete London from the name of the Council, this meant that the Unionist community saw the "Agreement" policy practised by the SDLP as a cover for domination.

I am afraid the suggestion which you make does not address the difficulties using both names would mean a very long version which is "Derry" (Nationalist) / "Londonderry" (Unionist and Nationalist). When I and other suggested the name FOYLE for the newly renovated Eglinton Airport those who want agreement between our divided people voted through the name CITY OF DERRY Airport to annoy Unionists almost as much as the original trouble making decision in 1984.

I would only be too happy to assist you if you wish to keep contact for the future.

Yours sincerely,

Gregory Campbell (Alderman)

CAIN contains information and source material on the conflict and politics in Northern Ireland.
CAIN is based within Ulster University.

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