New plaque unveiled at Derry’s Star Factory

A new plaque was unveiled at the Star Factory on Saturday, honouring the work done there by the Factory Girls and celebrating the apartments in the factory.

By Daire Ní Chanáin
Thursday, 28th April 2022, 1:12 pm

It’s one of nine plaques that have been unveiled on buildings throughout the city. The plaque was unveiled by former factory girls, who were treated to tea and buns and a tour of the apartments that now occupy their former work place.

Speaking at the event, factory girl Clare Moore said: “We worked all last year on Zoom to be able to put up these plaques and we can’t believe how far we’ve come. There was a lot of work, research and background done to get here. I’m a factory girl and I get emotional when I read the wording on the plaques, they’re so special. We went round the trail and seen all the plaques and I was very emotional at the City Factory, which was my factory. It’s wonderful to be here a year later at the beautiful Star Factory. I had cousins who worked here but I never once asked what it was like to work here, we were too busy running to the dances!

“I was knocked out by the beauty of the building today and I’m delighted to be standing here, a proud factory girl, with my factory girls beside me.”

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Yvonne Norris, Co-Founder Friends of the Factories and Campaign Co-ordinator, said: “On behalf of Friends of the Factories we would like to thank the Derry Trade Union Council for their continued unwavering support in recognising the Factory Workers’ contribution to the City.

“The unveiling of the ninth plaque at The Star Factory has been an honour and a great addition to the Shirt Factory Heritage Trail. All made possible by Graham Murphy, William Carson, Andy Bonner (Star Factory residents) working in collaboration with Deirdre Williams, Mary Doherty, Isobel Doherty, Sadie Harkin, Mary White, Julie Piggott, Clare Moore and Yvonne Norris from Friends of the Factories.

“We are honoured to be part of a project, created by the Factory Workers, for the Factory Workers, keeping herstory well and truly alive.”

David Douglas, who runs Derrie Danders and whose mother was a factory girl, said: “The history of the Shirt Factories has probably been neglected over the years but it’s great to see an organisation like the Friends of the Factories. Tinnies bar also has a factory girls theme and, of course, I run a factory girls tour as well which all remember the factory girls.”

Former Factory Girls preparing to reveal the new plaque at the Star Factory.

Graham Murphy, who is a resident of the Star Factory, approached the Friends of the Factory and suggested getting a plaque for the building he now calls home. He said: “It’s a pleasure to have been in contact with the Friends of the Factories. Last year, I saw that they were unveiling plaques during lockdown so I got in touch on Facebook to see if we could get one here. We had plenty of conversations on Zoom with these fabulous and glamorous ladies.

“On behalf of the owners and residents here, it’s an honour to present this plaque. The Star Factory has gone through a journey where it was a factory for 100 years then it was derelict for 40 years. I think it was the first factory that we repurposed into apartments and saved from demolition. You had the factory workers and now you have the factory residents who will hopefully keep it alive for another 145 years.”

Eamonn McCann said: “If what the factory girls represent was to be honoured in plaques throughout the city, there would be hundreds of them. There isn’t a nook or cranny in Derry which hasn’t been affected by what the factory girls contributed to this town. This city wouldn’t be what it is if it wasn’t for the factory girls.

“There’s a mural of the Derry Girls at Orchard Street, which is something very appropriate. The mammy in Derry Girls is definitely a factory girl. Last week, she said she always wanted to go to university but that it wasn’t done by people like her. When we think of the achievements of these great people, we should always think about what could have been, had women been equal, had the classes been equal.

The new plaque was unveiled at the Star Factory on Saturday. Picture by Naomi Petropoulos

“The factory girls as a group in Derry didn’t just contribute to the economy, they contributed to the general atmosphere and the culture of the town. I think you can still see that.

“The plaques are not a tribute to the past, they are a living thing. They are a tribute to the future. If we don’t remember the factory girls and their contribution, then we’re not remembering Derry.”

The plaque can be found on the face of the Star Factory on the Foyle Road and more information on this and other projects by Friends of the Factories can be found on their website.

David Douglas from Derrie Danders speaking at the unveiling of the Star Factory plaque.
Deirdre Williams, Manager at the Fashion & Textile Design Centre.
Eamonn McCann speaking at the unveiling of the plaque.
The Star factory, on Foyle Road. Picture by Naomi Petropoulos