Magee: my part in its ‘downfall’

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My father, Charlie Hamill, was Mayor of Coleraine when Lockwood recommended the closure of Magee. With an element of irony, he was still the mayor in 1967 when I became a Magee student. His son had just acquired a foot in both camps, so to speak.

My father, Charlie Hamill, was Mayor of Coleraine when Lockwood recommended the closure of Magee. With an element of irony, he was still the mayor in 1967 when I became a Magee student. His son had just acquired a foot in both camps, so to speak.

My father was proud that Coleraine was to be a ‘university town’. It was a big deal in the 60s. Much pompous talk about links between “town and gown” was hard to stick, but Coleraine was fairly progressive and I could share my father’s pride.

The poor man was soon tortured. At Magee the scales fell from my eyes. Coleraine had only 15 per cent of Derry’s population and the city was far more impressive than parochial little Coleraine. My father had to endure my many rants about the outrage that a few “faceless men” amongst Derry’s unionists and Stormont had perpetrated on the city. He readily accepted, particularly after trouble erupted a year later in October 1968, that the city’s betrayal had been wrong and short-sighted.

Vibrant Magee, at that time, was full of ‘characters’. Academic standards were high but students also partied hard in Andy Cole’s on Strand Road, Davy McDaid’s in Great James Street, Muff, Bridgend, Buncrana and at the Great Hall dances. Incidentally, eccentric publican Davy McDaid was fond of saying, “Ah ha, Mr Hamill, you’re a unionist but you’re OK once you cross the bridge”. Davy began every sentence with, “Ah ha…” He wasn’t entirely right though, I don’t think I was ever a unionist.