When Derry students Molly Babington and Theresa Mulholland enrolled on a BA Honours course in Business and Public Relations at Liverpool John Moores University each expected to be the only student from Derry.
But in the lecture theatre they were delighted to find a dozen more ‘Derry wans’ alongside them, and others from various parts of the North West and Belfast.
To make them feel even more at home one of their lecturers, Darragh Ball, turned out to be someone with a long term love of Derry and a great knowledge of the city and its surrounding countryside. And when they arrived for their first lecture he raised a laugh by greeting the students with a cheerful ‘bout ye’.
Said Darragh: “I have been visiting Derry for some years with my father whose PR firm, Derek Ball Communications, looked after the national and international media promotion of the Beech Hill Country House Hotel. At the time I was studying for my Masters degree in public relations as well as working in the family business. Even though we came here on business I was usually able to get away into the city centre or to explore Inishowen, the Antrim coast or the Sperrins. The North West of Ireland is one of the most beautiful and friendly places I have ever been to - and I say that as someone born in Dublin and brought up in the North of England. So it’s great to have so many students from there on our course.”
In their turn the students are pleased to have a lecturer who knows their home city so well. Said Molly Babington from Rosemount: “Ever since we arrived at Liverpool John Moores University we have been made to feel at home and it’s great to be able to talk to our lecturer about Derry and what’s going on there.”
That’s a view shared by another Rosemount resident, Theresa Mullholland, who hopes that when her studies are over in 3 years time she will find a PR job in the glamorous world of high fashion. She says: “It was nice to discover that our lecturer was so familiar with Derry - and to find so many other Northern Ireland students here at the university. There’s a great atmosphere here.”
Student Stephen Ryan comes from Eglinton, Co. Derry. He wants to work in public relations management when he graduates. Says Stephen: “Liverpool John Moores University is a really friendly place and the city of Liverpool is just fabulous. There is so much going on here and I am very happy to be part of it.” So are the other students who are delighted that their imposing, newly-built place of learning gives panoramic views across the city and the River Mersey.
“It is surrounded by lively bars and cafes and stands next to the dramatically designed Roman Catholic cathedral that’s affectionately known to all Liverpudlians as ‘Paddy’s Wigwam’.
Said lecturer Darragh: “The biggest surprise I’ve had so far was while showing my students some Press cuttings resulting from the Beech Hill PR campaign. One showed a photograph of the hotel’s owner Patsy O’Kane and it caused Molly Babington to shriek ‘do you know Patsy - that’s amazing. She’s a family neighbour and we know her really well too.’
“It is,” says Darragh, “a small world.”