Barman, soldier, bouncer and artist

Family members, Sheila Duffy, John Duffy and Marie Duffy pictured at the Barman Duffy exhibition at the Verbal Arts Centre. DER4113SL208
Family members, Sheila Duffy, John Duffy and Marie Duffy pictured at the Barman Duffy exhibition at the Verbal Arts Centre. DER4113SL208

Paddy ‘Barman’ Duffy packed about a dozen lifetimes into the 76 years he had on this Earth.

January 8 will be the 18th anniversary of the death of the well known Waterside man.

Paddy was well known as a boxer, an Irish Army soldier, a bouncer, an artist and a poet.

In a fitting to tribute to one of Derry’s unforgettable characters, Paddy’s family have put together an exhibition which tells the story of the man many in Derry came to know as ‘Barman’ Duffy.

“Daddy was totally self-taught and he’s still an inspiration to this day. He was so talented and many people have memories of daddy sitting with his dog in some place in Derry where he would be sketching away,” said Paddy’s daughter Marie Duffy.

The Paddy ‘Barman’ Duffy Exhibition opened in the Verbal Arts Centre earlier this week; it closed on Wednesday afternoon but there are plans to open the exhibition to the public again in the Gasyard Centre in the near future.

“It’s lovely when you see people come here and enjoy themselves. We even had one woman who came in here yesterday and started crying after she spotted herself in an old photograph taken outside the Gasyard way back in October 1947.”

There are 118 people in the photograph. One of them is ‘Barman’ Duffy, who can be seen standing studiously at the very left of the image.

“It’s a great photo and one which has really struck a note with the people of Derry. We are trying our best to identify as many of the 118 people as possible. Since the people were waiting in line for coal outside the Gasyard when the photo was taken, we decided to call it ‘The Coke Queue’,” smiled Marie.

Paddy was born in 1920 and reared in the Waterside and at the age of 13 he was hired out as a farm hand at a Hiring Fair held in the Diamond.

Paddy was the youngest of six children and from an early age he displayed great fervour and talent for music, art and boxing.

“Daddy could make the most amazing things out of just about anything. Sometimes when I think of him, I picture him whittling away in a corner, with a piece of wood and his trusty pen knife,” added Marie.

“Daddy didn’t say much when he was working - he could literally spend hours working with a piece of wood and then at the end of it all he would have created the most amazing wood carving or ornament.”

Marie and her brother, Gavan penned a book titled ‘Barman Duffy ...Always a Gentleman’ in 2006; the book details Paddy’s life right up to his death in 1996 and his subsequent funeral.

“The exhibition was the next natural step for us to take after we published the book in 2006.

“Recently we were arranging to put many of dad’s sketches, sculptures and wood carvings into storage but we thought that with 2013 being the City of Culture year the collection would make a great exhibition.

“Thanks to the Verbal Arts Centre we have been able put on this exhibition and the response has been 100 per cent positive,” said Marie.

Many of the items profiled in the 2006 book are included in the exhibition and despite being surrounded by her father’s work for all of her life, it’s obvious that all of the items still hold a degree of magic for Marie, her sister Sheila; brothers, Gavan, Patrick and John.

“The stuff you see on show here today is just a snapshot of the work my father did throughout his life,” said son John.

“Look at the wood carving of Christ’s head - that was the newel post in our house,” he smiled.

“My da was really talented and he was well known throughout Derry. We hope anyone who came to the exhibition enjoyed seeing the wide array of work created by my da and I can’t wait until we take the exhibition to the Gasyard Centre in the future,” added John.