‘60s was a great time in Derry’

Tommy Mullan.
Tommy Mullan.

Tommy Mullan is a veteran of the local community sector and for decades has been an ardent campaigner for more jobs to be brought to Derry.

And the youthful 71-year-old, who has been at the helm of the Galliagh Residents’ Group for decades, shows no sign of slowing down.

Tommy Mullan from the Galliagh Residents' Association.

Tommy Mullan from the Galliagh Residents' Association.

Speaking about his family roots in the heart of Derry, Tommy says: “I was born on 23rd March 1944 just at the end of the war. There were six girls and five boys in our family. Life in the Brandywell was a great, it was a great place to live,a great community. There was no bother, you know. There was no such thing as anti-social behaviour in our time because it just wouldn’t have been tolerated..

“My mother’s people come from the Brandywell. She was reared by her granny and aunt because her own mother moved to Belfast and my mother just didn’t like Belfast.My mother was a Presbyterian living there, but she even went to Mass with the girls she ran around with. She ended up working in a factory and nobody ever says this, that or the other.She married my father when she was 18. He lived two streets away at Donegal Place. He was a Catholic and my mother turned. The granny and the aunt also became Catholics. My father was very religious. And when you look back in life, Christian values means a whole lot. In them days you knew what was right and what was wrong. My father would have been right and strict but he was alright. When he died [in 1980] I didn’t just loss a father I lost a good friend as well. They were good parents.”

It was while growing up in Brandywell Avenue beside the racing track and stadium that Thomas inherited his father’s passion for greyhound racing, an interest he has kept alive through to the present time.

Looking back on his days as a young Derry man, he said: “The 60s was a great time to live in Derry. I started my work life at Iriscots in Shipquay Street, which means ‘Irish and Scots’ Whiskey. It was a bottling plant owned by Geoffrey Watt. He was a great gentleman. He lived in Ramelton and he came in the Letterkenny Road every morning. You could time him. He would be passing the Daisy field about 10 o’clock. His saying was ‘support your own home industries’ because his belief was when you stop supporting your own... well we see what has happened to Derry.

The Children Of Hope statue in Galliagh.

The Children Of Hope statue in Galliagh.

“I would have went to five dances a week in the 60’s. You would have went to Burton’s on Ferrquay Street and got your Italian three-piece suit. The Corinthian was on on a Monday night. You might have been working late to 8pm. I would rush home to the Brandywell, I had two sisters, Kathleen, God rest her, and Liz, and they would have had my suit ready, shirt ironed, my shoes polished, so a quick wash and then away to the Corinthian in Bishop Street. You had the Cameo opened up where the Stardust is , The Embassy and the Memorial Hall.

”The thing about the 60s was if a girl smelled drink off you she wouldn’t dance with you. There was very little drinking. You might have danced with a girl and took a we fancy and you might have danced two or three times with her and said, ‘Right, do you want a lemonade?’ and if you got a lemonade then there was a good chance of leaving her home.

“You had Borderland on a Friday night, The Embassy, the Stardust, the Plaza or the Castle in Dungiven or you might have went to Strabane. We enjoyed ourselves. I was 27 when I got married to Margaret Gillespie. I met her at the Plaza in Buncrana on August Monday night 1969, and the band was Dickie Rock and the Miami Showband. I went here, went there and at the end of the day I married a Derry girl from Creggan.”

Together the couple have raised four sons and a daughter. “Thank God they are all working. That is my interest, to see young people getting a chance at working, and to see work coming to Derry,” Tommy said.

“When I came to Galliagh nearly 36 years ago I was a member of the Committee for the Co-Op and the whole idea was to create jobs within the area. We went round on Friday night maybe got 50p, maybe £1 and it wasthe struggling people of Galliagh built the Co-Op. I was always against it being sold. I’m a great believer in the residents having their say.

“There’s still a great community sprit in Galliagh. The people are great people. You get anti-social behaviour in every estate not just Galliagh and there are a lot of good young people as well.

“We have done a lot of good work. The Residents Association was started by Fr Boland and Fr Hegarty in the 1980s. We have the centre here used by people of all ages. The Galliagh residents owns it, and I must say thanks to William Hay who really got this up and running. The roundabout at Slievemore was another job well done. We campaigned for that because there was a lot of children here and the traffic was flying. We also fought hard for the Skeoge Industrial Estate. We were hoping at that time that major companies would come not only to Skeoge but to the west bank of the Foyle because it has been starved of jobs. You only have to walk around and see all the buildings boarded up. Nobody seemed to be fighting for these jobs when they were pulling out. You have a lot of politicians that might say this or that but at the end of the day you should be representing the people like you are supposed to do.”