Gardening in Galliagh!

The Mayor of Derry, Alderman Maurice Devenney pictured the opening of a serenity Garden at the Galliagh Women's Centre (0803SL51)
The Mayor of Derry, Alderman Maurice Devenney pictured the opening of a serenity Garden at the Galliagh Women's Centre (0803SL51)

As the world celebrated International Women’s Day on Thursday, more people than you would have thought possible packed the garden of the Galliagh Women’s Group in Galliagh Park.

What was once a small back yard area has now been completely transformed into the Amelia Earhart Garden, a place of tranquility where people from the local community can take time out to enjoy a quiet moment in pleasant surroundings.

The Mayor of Derry, Alderman Maurice Devenney pictured the opening of a serenity Garden at the Galliagh Women's Centre (0803SL52)

The Mayor of Derry, Alderman Maurice Devenney pictured the opening of a serenity Garden at the Galliagh Women's Centre (0803SL52)

The transformation is outstanding with fresh flowers, as well as a colourful mural by local artist Andrea Redmond and mosaic by Yvonne Doherty.

The garden was officially opened by Derry’s Mayor Alderman Maurice Devenney and Thursday’s event was attended by local politicians Sinn Fein Councillor Elisha McCallion and SDLP Councillor Angela Dobbins.

Opening the event Marie Gillespie, Chairperson of Galliagh Women’s Group, said it was fitting that the garden at the women’s centre should be opened on International Women’s Day and dedicated to the memory of Amelia Earhart.

Looking around at the mayor, gardening personality Gareth Austin and a number of other male guests she joked that it was the most men ever at the women’s centre at the same time!

Local writer Felcity McCall, who has worked with the Galliagh Women’s Group for a number of years, gave an inspirational and thought provoking speech on the relevance of the meaning of the tranquility garden.

“As beautiful and artistic as it is tranquil, the Amelia Earhart garden is an inspirational reminder to us all that whatever the challenges, stresses, and pressure of everyday life, it’s vital to take time out to enjoy the stillness, to think our thoughts, to rest a while, to share the company of others and to simply be ourselves. This garden offers a great opportunity at the heart of a bustling and dynamic community, to do just that and I am confident it will be well and widely enjoyed and appreciated,” she said.

The local writer took the opportunity to remind all those at the official opening of the achievements of Amelia Earhart.

She said: “Eighty years ago this May Amelia Earhart ensured her role in aviation history by being the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic; a flight which ended not at the Paris Air Show as planned, but in a field at Ballyarnet. It says much about the Ireland of 1932 - where planes were still a comparitive rarity, and most certainly did not make forced landings in border fields, that the two most news worthy elements of her unscheduled arrival in Gallagher’s Field were that firstly she was a woman and secondly she was wearing trousers and had a short haircut.

“I believe Amelia Earhart is inspirational in many ways - not just because she secured a place in aviation history but because she had the courage and stength to follow her dream. And we, in 2012, cannot underestimate just how ambitious that dream was. She had already made history as the first woman to fly the Atlantic; in her own words tossed round in the back of a plane like a sack of potatoes as a token gesture while a male pilot and navigator earned the glory. It was a travesty and it was not enough. In the end her quest for bigger and better adventures would cost her her life somewhere over the Pacific. Her plane and her body have never been found.”

Felicity then paid tribute to the achievement of women on a more local scale here in Derry, particularly the women of Galliagh.

“Women have always been and always will be at the heart of our community, inspiring it, driving it, caring for it and nurturing it,” she said.

“The women of Galliagh have been at the heart and soul of every project I have worked with in this area with their sound common sense, ‘can do’ attitude, wise counselling, solid work ethic, their belief in self help, in challenging boundaries and their striving to make their world a better place. To that I must add their creativity, their flair and their sense of sisterhood and self and of living and loving life, no matter what it throws at us.”

Galliagh Women’s Group Co-ordinator Rosie Doherty said group members were absolutely delighted with the garden itself and the support for the official opening.

“It’s been a really great day and we think the finished garden looks wonderful. It’s something we can all be proud of and something we can really enjoy when we get the time! We really want to thank Derry City Council, The Arts Council and the Western Trust for funding the project.”

BBC Radio Foyle gardener Gareth Austin who oversaw the transformation of the garden said:

“It was great to work with the Galliagh Women’s Centre on this project, to turn a small space into something like this was a challenge, after working with the ladies on ideas we enlisted the help of Romac Landscapes to install the covered seating area, this ensures the garden serves a purpose all year round.”