23-year delay to Factory Girls sculpture ‘a disgrace’

Factory girls working in Derry.
Factory girls working in Derry.
  • Factory Girls art work first raised by Mary Bradley in 1992
  • Project has been beset by delays
  • Former Factory Girls themselves asking questions

An outgoing Derry City Councillor has branded the years of delays to the installation of the Factory Girls public art work a disgrace.

SDLP Councillor Ann Donnelly was speaking as she chaired the last ever Derry City Council Regional Services Committee meeting on Tuesday.

The new Derry & Strabane Council comes into being next month and will take over from the current council, but Ms Donnelly did not stand for election on the new body.

In a parting shot from the chair, Colr. Donnelly said she wished to express her disappointment that something first raised almost 25 years ago was still not sorted out.

She said: “Here we are in 2015 and there still isn’t anything up in this city to mark the hard work those women did.

“As I have said many times over the years, women were the backbone of this city for many years. They did a great job of keeping the economy of this city flowing at a time when there was little male employment. I think it’s a disgrace.

Councillor Ann Donnelly.

Councillor Ann Donnelly.

“The older people, the factory workers are asking ‘where is it?’ Two people who asked me last year have since died, and I think it is a disgrace that there is not something up.”

Colr. Donnelly added that the proposal to commemorate the Derry women who worked in the shirt factories was first raised by now retired former SDLP Councillor Mary Bradley during her term as Mayor of the city back in 1992.

“It is time we had some movement on it,” Colr. Donnelly said.

Tens of thousands of women from across Derry, Donegal and Tyrone worked in the city’s textile factories in the 19th and 20th centuries, and secured the city’s place in the history of the industrial revolution.

Two people who asked me last year have since died.

Colr. Ann Donnelly

Renowned Cork artist Louise Walsh was commissioned by the Department for Social Development to take the Factory Girls public art project forward back in 2006 and worked together successfully with local women on developing it.

The women and the artist however have expressed frustration over the multiple delays, hurdles and red tape which they have encountered since, and which have prevented the artwork from being installed.

The set backs have included its location being changed from King Street Roundabout to Harbour Square at the back of the Guildhall and uncertainty over funding.

During the City of Culture year there were exhibitions, temporary public art projects, a themed shop at the City Factory and a play commemorating the factory women.

Also back in January 2013, local singer Mairead Carlin paid tribute to the women during the Sons and Daughters concert with a rendition of ‘Scarlet Ribbons’, a favourite among the women who worked in the factories in the 1950s. Many of them would sing in unison as they worked.

Mary Bradley first proposed the Factory Girls commemoration art work back when she was Mayor back in 1991/92. She is pictured here wearing her Mayoral chain in June 1991 during the walk to the Foyle Hospice with Dean Orr, Rev Best, Dr Keith Munro, Bishop Mehaffey, and Dr Tom McGinley

Mary Bradley first proposed the Factory Girls commemoration art work back when she was Mayor back in 1991/92. She is pictured here wearing her Mayoral chain in June 1991 during the walk to the Foyle Hospice with Dean Orr, Rev Best, Dr Keith Munro, Bishop Mehaffey, and Dr Tom McGinley