‘Relocate Factory Girls sculpture to Carlisle site’

The Hands Across The Divide statue in front of the now demolished Tillie & Hendersons factory. (Photo: Portrait Of A City)
The Hands Across The Divide statue in front of the now demolished Tillie & Hendersons factory. (Photo: Portrait Of A City)

A former factory worker has called for a long-awaited sculpture dedicated to the women who powered Derry’s industry to be sited at Carlisle Circus.

Ruby Jordan (90) has suggested that the current ‘Hands Across the Divide’ statue could be removed and placed beside the Peace Bridge, freeing up the roundabout at the end of the Craigavon Bridge for the ‘Factory Girls’ public art work.

Ruby said that this would be fitting as thousands of local women had worked in the many factories which operated in and around the Carlisle Circus area.

The idea of a permanent sculpture honouring Derry’s Factory Girls was first suggested by former Mayor of the city Mary Bradley, 25 years ago.

It is now 11 years since renowned Cork artist, Louise Walsh, was commissioned by the now disbanded Department for Social Development to develop the project.

Ms. Walsh has worked closely with former factory girls on the plans.

However, the much anticipated project has been beset with funding and red tape problems over the years, causing widespread frustration among those involved in it and the wider Derry public.

Initially the sculpture was proposed to be erected at King Street Roundabout in the Waterside but was later changed to Harbour Square to the rear of the Guildhall. A planning application for the project was eventually lodged by Derry City & Strabane District Council in September 2016.

Mrs Jordan said: “I was thinking would the statue of these two men shaking hands not be better placed at the Peace Bridge and put the ‘factory girl’ on the roundabout?

“There were so many factories in that area so it would be ideal, surrounded by the former workplaces. She shouldn’t be placed hidden away behind the Guildhall.”

Ruby, who started working in the factories aged just 14, added: “It’s so sad to think of this still not up. Us Factory Girls were the breadwinners and it would be lovely to finally get it off the ground.”