Mr Quigley said becoming a Freeman was also a moment he will forever treasure following the special ceremony at the Guildhall on Monday.
The huge honour means the endurance athlete joins a small and distnguished list of recipents including former Bishops of Derry, the late Most Rev Dr Edward Daly, and the Most Rev Dr James Mehaffey; Dr. Tom McGinley, of the Foyle Hospice, Nobel Laureate John Hume and Derry City’s treble winning manager Jim McLaughlin.
Back in August 2021, Danny Quigley became a local hero when he completed the challenge he undertook in memory of his father Colm Quigley, who died by suicide 10 years previous, and to raise awareness of mental health and suicide prevention.
His original target was £10,000 but in the end he managed to raise over ten times that for Pieta House and the Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum’s 1-2-1 Counselling service.
Councillors from all parties were united in their praise for the fitness instructor with many of them describing him as a ‘mental health champion’ for the city. Mayor, Alderman Graham Warke said he was ‘honoured’ to be conferring the Freedom of the City and District on him. He said: “The man is an inspiration and the mammoth funds he has raised for local charities will have a positive impact on so many lives. He continues to inspire by using his profile and knowledge to spread his message of how to take care of your mental health and the positive role physical activity can play in that.”
Deputy Mayor Councillor Christopher Jackson said he had tabled the original motion in what was “a very dark time for our city and what Danny did was bring people together and give people hope”. “The challenges of mental health across our city and district has been well rehearsed and what Danny did was shone a light on a very dark place. Our city has been crying out for a mental health champion for such a long time and while doing the Ten in Ten which was a fantastic achievement in itself and raising a huge amount of money to support people in need and what Danny has done since then in being a spokesperson and a champion for those struggling with their mental health is as remarkable as the Ten in Ten.” Alderman Ryan McCready talked about Danny’s ‘physical application, determination and stamina’, while Councillor Sean Mooney, a friend of Danny’s, spoke of the unique mental battle involved in completing the challenge. He said: “It was a massive feat of spirit and endurance. I want to acknowledge your contribution and your continuing service to our city and district.” Councillor Brian Tierney and Councillor Sandra Duffy talked about the impact the money Danny raised will have, calling him a ‘voice for people going through a mental health crisis’. Following the conferrment, Danny said: “The Ten in Ten, when I started it, it was something I was going to do in memory of my daddy and that’s why I did it. If there had been ten people at the finish or thousands, I did it for my da. “It’s important to realise that with mental health problems it doesn’t matter if you are sat on the dole or if you are sat making millions, if you are Catholic or Protestant, it doesn’t really matter because you can’t hide and that’s the message I was trying to get across. “This is a huge honour, difficult to fathom really, never did I expect to be awarded something so meaningful. It’s not everyday a fitness instructor gets given the Freedom of the City. Thank you Derry City and Strabane District Council for being so considerate as to think of me for this honour and of course thank you to everyone who helped me along in this journey, my friends, family, Bogside and Brandywell Health Forum and everyone who put their hands in their pockets and raised funds for suicide awareness. “This award is for everyone who has ever been affected by suicide or has ever been harmed by mental health issues.
“I know I’ve done my father proud and to everyone out there who has lost anyone to suicide know that you too have done them proud. This is only the first step, our city has a long way to go before we can heal the streets but the first step is always the hardest. “I urge everyone to keep talking, keep shouting, keep raising awareness and together we will lift the shame and destigmatise this common affliction.’
Local Democracy Reporter