Memories of our ‘big house on the Walls’

Hugh and Myra Doherty outside their house on the Walls with Siobhan, Nuala and the twins, Paul and Gerard. (Visible in the background, Victoria Buildings at the top of Orchard Street). (1105BM06)
Hugh and Myra Doherty outside their house on the Walls with Siobhan, Nuala and the twins, Paul and Gerard. (Visible in the background, Victoria Buildings at the top of Orchard Street). (1105BM06)

By the mid-sixties, myself and my husband Hugh had a young family - Nuala, and the twins Paul and Gerard, and badly needed a bigger house. I was reared on the Foyle Road near the original Dodds Bar.

Through living in that parish, myself and Hugh had got to know Father Walter Carolan of the Long Tower. He knew that we needed a house and he let us know that the nuns had a house for rent up on the Walls directly opposite the former Artillery Street Primary School (which now houses The Playhouse) and next to Battisti’s at Ferryquay Gate.

Siobhan Doherty and her big blue suitcase.... (1105BM03)

Siobhan Doherty and her big blue suitcase.... (1105BM03)

We had to see the solicitor H C O’ Doherty as well as go down to Artillery Street to see Sister Gertrude. We got renting the house for 25 shillings a week. Fiona, Myra and Siobhan were all born in that big house on the Walls.

In those early days of the Troubles, the so-called “honeymoon period”, from the autumn of 1969, we got to know some of the soldiers stationed in and around the Walls at their vantage point on Ferryquay Gate.

Things were different then, much more innocent, as you can see from the photograph of the young soldier entertaining children from Artillery Street Girls’ Primary School.

We didn’t feel threatened then by the Army’s presence. We chatted with the soldiers and rubbed along as best we could, stepping over the barbed-wire on the steps on Artillery Street to gain access to our home.

British soldiers with girls from Artillery Street Primary School in Spring 1970.'(1105BM05)

British soldiers with girls from Artillery Street Primary School in Spring 1970.'(1105BM05)

The children would walk up the Walls and round to Bishop Street on their journey to the Longtower School.

When you’d get a break from “minding weans”, we’d nip over from the house on the Walls to Battisti’s to enjoy their wonderful ice-cream. We got to know the Battistis a little as they were in effect our closest neighbours.

We lived in that big house on the Walls from 1966 to 1971. Then we moved down to Shantallow in January 1971 to Liscloon Drive where we lived until 2009. Our youngest child, Ivor, was born in Shantallow.

(Interview by Eamonn Baker on behalf of the Diverse-City project)