Patricia Moore is an ex-republican prisoner.
Between Armagh and Maghaberry, Patricia spent a year in prison in the 1980s. After the case against her and other republicans collapsed, Patricia was released from prison and since that time she has worked as a republican activist.
In the last few weeks, Patricia, several other ex-republican prisoners and relatives of those affected by the Troubles completed an Open College Network course in giving guided tours. The scheme was funded by Creggan Neighbourhood Partnership (CNP) and facilitated by Michael Cooper of the Gasyard Development Trust and Free Derry Tours.
The group spent ten weeks studying and reading up on the Troubles and after completing the scheme they were awarded certificates which now qualify them to take guided tours for Free Derry Tours, Derry Blue Badge Tours and Derry Taxis. They can also work as a ‘standalone’ tour guide.
“I have lived and experienced the Troubles but there was so much that I had forgotten or didn’t know before doing the course.
“If anyone on the tour ever asks me a question and I am not sure of the answer, I take their contact details and tell them that I will find out the answer to their query and send it on to them as soon as I find out.”
She added: “I really enjoyed taking part in the scheme and I am glad to say that I already have over a dozen tours under my belt.”
Patricia, originally from Creggan, said that she enjoyed taking part in the course and added that there was competition amongst the group to see who could do the best work.
“I got involved in the course through Tar Abhaile [ex-prisoners’ group] and I have to say that I enjoyed every minute of it.
“There was a competitive streak running through the group but that was all part of the fun. Everyone wanted to see who could their work finished the fastest but like I said we all had great fun.”
The period of history covered in the course covers the start of the Troubles, Bloody Sunday, Operation Motorman, the Hunger Strikes and the Peace Process.
Patricia said that she finds that most people on the tours enjoy the fact that it is being delivered by someone who experienced a lot of what they are talking about first hand.
“When I introduce myself to the tourists I tell them my name and explain to them that I am an ex-prisoner. Some of them ask me questions about my time as a prisoner - they are always interested to find out more.
“It’s an honour to be able to talk about the history of the area to tourists. For too long the British media controlled what people knew about what happened here but through such schemes the people who lived through the Troubles are able to tell others about their experiences.”
Patricia’s first tour came a few days after she received her Open College Network certificate - and she was very nervous.
“I had done all the training and learned everything that I needed to know but that didn’t stop me from being nervous beyond my wildest dreams.
“There were two people from Scotland on the tour - I remember them because they gave me a nice tip afterwards,” she laughs.
“There were a few Americans and a few Australians on the tour. There were nine people in total and as soon as I found my stride I was fine.
“I enjoyed every minute of it and it makes it really easy when the people you are talking to are genuinely interested in what you are talking to them about - it went really well.”
Facilitator Michael Cooper described the scheme as a step in the right direction for the local tourism economy in the Bogside.
“I think it’s important to highlight that those who recently completely the course are either ex-prisoners or are relatives of those who were affected by the Troubles.
“These new tour guides have lived through the period they are talking about. They have experienced the Troubles first hand and they have a right to tell their story,” he said.
Michael went on to say that the introduction of the ten tour guides means that the Bogside’s history and story will become more accessible to people visiting the city.
“There’s an international interest in the history of the Bogside and because of our tour guides we are able to deliver an amazing insightful experience.
“People have come from all over the world to find out more about the likes of the Civil Rights Movement, Bloody Sunday and the Hunger Strikes but we are also able to talk to them about the Peace Process and where we hope to be heading in the future.
“It’s quite an achievement for the group and their tours are excellent - I, along with them, am looking forward to see more and more people taking the tour.”
For more information on Free Derry Tours contact Michael Cooper on 07793285972.