Former Derry teacher pens novel inspired by the late Brendan Duddy

Teacher and author, Hugh Vaughan.
Teacher and author, Hugh Vaughan.

Hugh Vaughan’s ‘Cillefoyle Park’ will prove an entertaining read for people from Derry or anyone with an interest in the history of the The Troubles.’

The book is an historical fiction novel about a barman torn between the possibility of politics and violence exploding on the streets of Derry at the height of The Troubles’ in the early 1970’s.

“That’s the treacherous dilemma that Dermot Lavery finds himself in when an innocent friendship with a neighbour - a school teacher - leads them both into a precarious web of secrecy and intrigue with all sides of the endless conflict, ” explained Hugh.

Hugh is now based in Melbourne, where he lives with his wife, Rosemary, but spent the bulk of his life living and working in Derry, having taught in the North West Regional College and Ulster University. He also spent a period of time teaching in the Wee Nuns.’

And it’s in Derry where the Strabane native has set his most recent novel, inspired by the late Brendan Duddy.

“I think I may have read something about Brendan Duddy by Peter Taylor on the BBC website, ” said Hugh.

“I then started to research his story and the role he had as an intermediary between the IRA and the British Government. I knew I had the heart of my story. The characters emerged and I read as much as I could about the 1970s, including Duddy’s papers at NUI Galway and The CAIN Project from Ulster University. Well-known identities from that era all provided fodder for Cillefoyle Park.’ The story is based on these characters and the events of the time.”

Much of Hugh’s research centred around his own experiences of living and working in Derry, which he still has strong memories of, including his time as a pupil at the Brow of the Hill.’

“Mostly, I have good memories, ” he recalled. “I remember looking over the Gasyard towards Creggan. There were moments of fear, when a teacher slapped the entire class for something that one or two eejits did. I was a small child and learned quickly to befriend some bigger boys. I remember kind and interesting teachers like Gerry Wills and Paddy Carlin. Coming from Strabane, I would enter the school via St Columb’s College, escaping one of the Brothers who slapped the latecomers after school. I explored Derry as I waited for my father, who worked in the Embassy Building. Of course, after the Brow’ I left for St. Peter’s in Foyle Hill, the no-go zone and the Troubles were very apparent. We had to be evacuated a few times as gun battles raged around us.

It’s the combination of these memories and his in-depth research which have driven former teacher, Hugh, to write his most recent piece of fiction, a novel which he hopes will have resonance for people here.

Hugh explained how writing has opened a number of different avenues for him.

“When I get into a flow, time and place vanish. Research and reading offers great fun. I like meeting different people through pursuing this activity. It sends me in different directions and I have done talks on subjects like the Ballykilcline and Derryveagh evictions in Roscommon and Donegal.”

Cillefoyle Place’ is currently available in Foyle Books and at Little Acorns.