Where there are crumbling homesteads there exists stories of the families who once lived there and, around County Derry, there are plenty of tales.
That was the thinking of one local community association which has illustrated just how many stories there are in a 260-page book that delves into the history of 18 townlands in the Gelvin area - around Drumsurn.
The Gelvin Community Association launched the book, published by the Gelvin Historical Society - Gelvin. The Home Place - on Saturday at Dungiven library.
Such was the interest in it, from young and old, the 50 chairs requested originally fell far short and, even after another 30 or so were made available, it was standing room only at the launch.
“This is a marvellous occasion for us today,” chairman of the association, Liam Begley told a packed audience. “It has been two years of hard work and it’s been a long road, rocky from time to time, but this makes it all worthwhile.”
Eugene McCloskey, the man whose brainchild was the book, was relieved launch day had arrived.
“It’s taken three years and a bit to get here. Gelvin has an abundance of abandoned dwellings, many with no wallsteads and some in the early stages of dereliction. Many were demolished 50-60 years ago to make way for modern houses. They are proof that where you have had people live there are stories to tell, stories of hardship and suvival.”
Mr. McCloskey said he and 17 other contributors had made the book possible. It covers family histories, and topics such as immigration, the flax and linen industries. One of the people who contributed to the book is 90-year-old Paddy Mullan, who was presented with the first copy of the book. He was commended for his wealth of knowledge, facts ranging from the bad winter of 1939 to who scored what at a football match to the weather at harvest time.
The book - spanning life from the Great Famine - is packed with black and white pictures of families on farms, getting married and families emigrating, accompanied with a detailed history of each.
Mr. McCloskey hopes the book will preserve the history of the area for future generations and other community groups will take inspiration.
“So many people have made this possible it’s impossible to speak of one individual, so a big thank you to all concerned,” he added.
The Heritage Lottery Fund provided funding of £21,000 for the project, and on hand to congratulate those involved in the “impressive book” was Martin McDonald. He said the next step is documenting everything in the book online in a community archive.
“Heritage is not just about buildings,” he said. “It’s about people and landscapes, the people who lived through the heritage. This publication opens the door to the history of the Gelvin area.”
The project was also supported by the Causeway Museum Service. Community Outreach Officer, John Hamilton said it should serve as an inspiration for community groups all over the country.
“You have done a fabulous job. It’s a very precise picture of one small area,” said Mr. Hamilton.
Mr. Begley thanked all involved in producing the book with Gelvin Historical Society, including Limavady Borough Council, Causeway Museum Service, The Heritage Lottery Fund and Guidlhall Press.
Gelvin Road woman Eileen McLaughlin hailed the book as fantastic while Drumsurn man, contributor Seamus Devlin said it was great to find out so much about the local area.
“The more you got into it the more interesting it was,” he said.
Dungiven man, Denis Hegarty said: “It’s fantastic for such a small community.
“There are so many memorable photos in the book.”
The £5 book is on sale at the post office and local shop in Drumsurn For information call 028 777 42377 or go online to gelvinca.ning.com
See pictures on page 41