Snapshot of a bustling, bygone Derry

Some of the receipts and documents found in the house in Inishowen.
Some of the receipts and documents found in the house in Inishowen.
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A treasure trove of historical documents relating to life in Derry and dating back to Victorian times have been uncovered in a house in Inishowen.

The business transactions, receipts, political pamphlets and court documents paint a picture of a bustling bygone Derry.

A nationalist candidate's Manifesto printed in Derry in 1930s.

A nationalist candidate's Manifesto printed in Derry in 1930s.

The collection, however, almost ended up being dumped in the rubbish but for a chance meeting, which resulted in Derry man Frankie McMenamin salvaging the documents.

Mr McMenamin said he got talking to a home owner who was planning on doing a clear- out and had come across the material in a box.

“I looked through them and saw these receipts and pamphlets from years ago and I was told I could take whatever I wanted.

“Together these create a piece of history. Every year, every day people dump a lot of paper work and sometimes it can be extremely important and historical, so it’s very important to check through it and that’s what has happened here.

Court document from the 1870s.

Court document from the 1870s.

“A lot of material relating to Irish history has been lost forever.”

Mr McMenamin said that looking through the material, he came across documents from many local shops and businesses and traders from Derry that his grandmother Kathleen Casey, mother Margaret McMenamin and auntie Sally Duffy would have spoken about in times past.

“There were people of all nationalities who used to run businesses in the city and a lot of the businesses disappeared in the 1960s and especially during the ‘Troubles’ and then there were all the changes due to development.”

Derry’s Central Library has taken copies of the documents to keep as a historical resource and to help bring back memories for older people and to help give a snapshot of the city in years past for future generations.

Among the receipts dating from the 1890s are for B Robinson Cabinet Makers at 71 Carlisle Road, W.J. Forsythe Bedding, 108 Bishop Street, ‘The Londonderry Sentinel’, Pump Street (1879), blue flannel, silks from Austin’s Department Store (1893) and Merchant Clothers James J Hall, 18 Shipquay Street (1897).

Later receipts include for a bag of coal from the Derry Relief Committee (1920s), Samuel Orr & Sons Building Contractors (1939), Hugh Stevenson & Co., Bread and Biscuit Manufacturers, Waterloo Place (1900) and MacMillan & Son family grocers, Ferryquay Street and Pump Street (1901).

Other documents hail from the Londonderry Gaslight Company, Lecky Road (1960), a Derry bookie’s court license with Petty Session stamps for Hugh McCann of Hamilton Street (1963), bags of Indian Meal from Foyle Steam Roller Mills (1901), Hugh C’ O Doherty Solicitors, Richmond Street (1904) relating to House Agents Association, Reid & Orr tea merchants, tobacco and snuff manufacturers, Shipquay Street (1901) and the Great Northern Railway Company (1902).

There is also a well preserved court summons issued from Dublin in the name of Queen Victoria calling on a ‘James John Joyce’ and a number of other men to appear as witnesses at a court in Derry in 1874, and account books for numerous businesses including B Ruben Drapers, Hawkin Street (1932) and Cavendish’s Furniture Store, Bishop Street (1968).

There is a rare 1933 general election manifesto from nationalist Sean McCool, calling for Irish unity and asserting: “I deny the claim of the British to suppress the Nation’s liberties, to partition the National territory, or to dictate the form of Government by which the Irish people are to be governed.”