Unique ‘Barman’ Duffy expo at Verbal Arts Centre

Barman Duffy's sons John and Gavin with their sister Marie at the exhibition in the Verbal Arts Centre.(DER3913JB063)
Barman Duffy's sons John and Gavin with their sister Marie at the exhibition in the Verbal Arts Centre.(DER3913JB063)

An exhibition celebrating the life of the late Paddy ‘Barman’ Duffy opened at the Verbal Arts Centre yesterday.

Paddy was a well-known character in the city and during his lifetime was everything from a professional heavy weight boxer to a keen amateur sketcher and wood carver.

The public is invited to come along to this free exhibition to learn more about his remarkable life, see some of his artwork and hear from the people who knew him best - his sons and daughters.

A plumber by trade, Barman was born in Violet Street and soon moved to Prospects House in the Waterside.

His often quoted “Once a Derry man always a Derry man, once a Waterside man always a gentleman,” leaves room for little comment on the subject. A self taught musician, he could competently play the violin, harmonica and Jew’s harp, and was a good friend of another gifted Derry man, Josef Locke. Barman also sang in the local choir and was fond of songs like “My Lagan Love” and “She Moved Through The Fair” sang by that great Irish tenor, Count John McCormick.

In a time when Derry “characters” were in abundance, Barman Duffy stands out as someone who made his mark in the tough world of boxing, as well as in the creative fields of art, poetry and carving.

Indeed, in the early seventies when young Bogsiders couldn’t see past the next riot, a quiet gentleman could be seen sitting at street corners and on the window sills recording a city that has now virtually disappeared.

Barman was first and foremost a family man. He married Sadie Smith, whom he lovingly called “the big bird”, in 1944. Sadie hailed from Nelson Street and they set up what was to be a busy home in 105 Lecky Road in the Bogside.

The Duffy home seldom emptied as Barman kept his door opened for friend and stranger alike. He was a proud and doting father of five children: Marie, Gavan, Sheila, Patrick and John.

During his boxing career, he sparred, and became great friends with, Bruce Woodcock, the then British heavyweight champion. A dedicated trainer, the large figure of Barman Duffy could be seen running through the Bogside at six o’clock on biting cold winter mornings as he prepared for another fight.

In 1946, he fought for the Ulster cruiser weight title defeating Alex Woods from Randalstown in a fight that is still talked about to this day. Joe Louis was his favourite boxer whom he regarded as being the greatest fighter ever. In the days when Barman was boxing, even professional boxers had to work, and after driving transport vehicles for the Irish Army at Mullingar and Finner camps, he eventually returned to Derry to work in the local Gasworks.

To earn some extra money, in what were lean times, he used his renowned diplomacy as head doorman in Borderland to keep the Derry men in good humoured order.

A famous 1947 picture of Paddy minding the door of the old Gasyard as local people queued for coke will be on display at the exhibition.

The exhibition will run until Wednesday, September 25, 1pm-4pm each day in the Blue Coat Room of the Verbal Arts Centre. Admission is free.

A book documenting his life will be on sale with proceeds going to Foyle Hospice and Foyleview School.