Killer whale Dopey Dick to make a splash in Derry again 45 years on

The killer whale who caused a sensation when he swam up the River Foyle back in 1977 will be celebrated as one of several new characters at this year’s Maritime Festival.

Dubbed Dopey Dick by local people, the orca brought thousands to the quayside when he popped up close to the city centre that winter.

At a meeting, local Councillors have been told that the Maritime Festival, which returns on July 20 for five days, will re-create the spectacle, scale and splendour of the underwater world and its inhabitants, in a celebration and awareness of ‘What Lies Beneath’ in our rivers and oceans.

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Dopey Dick will reappear on what is the 45th anniversary of his first visit to the city ‘to spread a very important message’ local representatives have been told. 

KIller whale ('Dopey Dick') trapped in the river Foyle at Derry. Army patrol boat tries to persuade Dopey to leave the river....12/11/77 Ref 252/77/bw

As well as Dopey Dick there will also be a ‘Walk Through Arco’, a giant shark’s mouth, while those gathered can also ‘watch in wonder’ as Hakim the ancient Sea Turtle takes a stroll along the river-front.

“The penultimate interpretation of ‘What Lies Beneath’ will be the Festival Spectacle which will see the river-front come alive on the evening of Friday, July 22 between 8pm and midnight through an interactive landscape production both on and off the water.

“A range of artists, performers, singers, musicians and dancers will bring several of the festival installations to life using special effects, lighting, sound and pyrotechnics,” Council’s Head of Culture Aeidin McCarter told those gathered.

Sinn Féin Councillor Conor Heaney spoke of his ‘delight’ that Dopey Dick is coming back adding: “As someone who is old enough to remember watching the original from the roof of Nazareth House Primary School, I look forward to seeing that attraction and what he has to say.”

Agreeing, SDLP Councillor Rory Farrell said: “Like Councillor Heaney, I’m looking forward to seeing the return of Dopey Dick, Derry’s favourite whale!”

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Dopey Dick has retired to Scotland
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Programme highlights include a showcase of the new Derry North Atlantic museum in the heritage tent, the Science of Water, Tall Ships and Navy boats, Clipper Race tours and excursions, river races, taster sessions and trips, Maritime and Merchant markets, Maritime Melodies, the new look Boardwalk Empire along Queens Quay which will include a big wheel, city beach, river-front dining, festoon lighting, bespoke animation, vintage fairground rides and large scale creatures from the deep.

Yachts from the Clipper Round the World Yacht Race will begin arriving in the Foyle from July 14 onwards and welcoming them will be the three-day LegenDerry Street Food Festival bringing together the very best of local street food, complemented by craft drink producers, live DJ Sets and a totally unique dining experience. 

Colr. Farrell added: “I can confidently say that my experience of the Maritime Festival and Halloween have been second to none. They are fantastic showcases for the city and district so it’s great to see the Clipper Race is going to be here in five weeks time.

“The buzz, the excitement, the atmosphere, the spectacle, it’s quintessential Derry. It’s great to see the finalised plan for Clipper, it promises to be a fantastic event and it’s a long time since we welcomed the race to the banks of the Foyle and it’s a long time since we had the tall ships and the navy boats.

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“Something we haven’t seen before is Arco and his mouth so I’m looking forward to walking through that and I’m looking forward to seeing Hakim the ancient sea turtle.”

By Gillian Anderson

Local Democracy Reporter