Beezer sayings from the ‘Derry dictionary’

Rachael McConnell Doherty, daughter of the author, Seamus McConnell pictured with Seamus's brother, Hugo McConnell at the City of Culture edition of the Wile big Derry Phrasebook which was launched last night. (0108SL22) Photo: Stephen Latimer
Rachael McConnell Doherty, daughter of the author, Seamus McConnell pictured with Seamus's brother, Hugo McConnell at the City of Culture edition of the Wile big Derry Phrasebook which was launched last night. (0108SL22) Photo: Stephen Latimer

THE Wile Big Derry Phrasebook’ - a rib-tickling crosssection of the many colourful words, sayings and expressions to be heard in the Derry area - has been updated for City of Culture and is now available from booksellers.

This definitive collection of the wit and wisdom of generations of “Derry wans” was launched in the city on Thursday night.

All lovingly captured by social historian, musician, songwriter - and proud Derryman - Seamus McConnell, who died in 2010, the newly illustrated book is published by Guildhall Press priced £6.95.

In the original foreword to the last edition of the book, Seamus explained that, around 1981, because of his general interest in the history of Derry and its people, he got the idea to “jot down” some of the very humorous sayings unique to our city.

He recalled: “As time went on, I began to take seriously the idea of compiling some sort of ‘dictionary’ of Derry words and phrases, with the vague hope of having it published some day. So, around 1984, I got down to some serious research: eavesdropping on people’s conversations, skulking around crowded places like supermarkets and football matches, notebook at the ready, picking up phrases here and there (wakes turned out to be a rich source of material).

“‘Talk of the Town’, first published in 1989, was the end result of all that nosing around. For a while, I believed that I had published the cream of local expressions, but I kept hearing more and more.

“One day, I was sitting in a local café and I couldn’t help but overhear two ladies ‘discussing’ a neighbour’s little boy and, because it sounded so funny, I decided there and then that a second book was a must. So, ‘The Folly Up’ was published in November 1990.

“That had to be it, I thought at the time. But there was still so much out there, I couldn’t help writing it all down. Collecting local patois had become almost an obsession. Every time I left the house, I found myself seeking out more. I wanted to produce a definitive ‘Derry Dictionary’ - The Wile Big Derry Phrasebook, the complete collection of Derry’s very own words, phrases and linguistic peculiarities.”

Seamus’ brother, Hugo, and daughter, Rachael, say he never did lose that obsession of “eariwiggin’” on people’s conversations.

They add: “If he’d been around to welcome the inaugural City of Culture 2013, along with the rest of us Derry wans, he would have considered it his civic duty to ensure that all visitors to our great city would have an updated, ultimate (plus one), definitive (perhaps) ‘Wile Big Derry Phrasebook.”

Hugo and Rachael say Seamus was a naturally modest and quiet man who possessed a wealth of talent.

“Not only was Seamus a prolific writer (much of his work never seen by the public eye), he was first and foremost a very gifted musician and featured heavily on the music scene in Ireland and beyond, from Showbands to Blues, from Skiffle to Jazz, from the 1950s through to the 1980s.

“Slowing down in his, dare we say it, more mature years, concentrating more on recording, arranging and producing, he amassed an extensive back catalogue of songs and instrumentals across all genres, again most of which has never been heard by the public ear.

“Indeed, one of his secret ambitions was to have some of his music used in soundtracks on the big screen. He left behind a formidable legacy, a lifetime’s work.

“We feel that this legacy should be preserved and made available for all to enjoy. So, with this in mind, a website - www.seamusmcconnell.com - archiving Seamus’s work, is planned. In the meantime, however, a small sample of his music and both published and non-published works can be enjoyed at www.springtowncamp.com.”

See pages 22-23 for photos from Thursday’s book launch.