It was smiles all round as the descendants of John Gwyn arrived in Derry over the past few days for a sneak preview of Brooke Park ahead of the grand unveiling.
Members of the Gwyn family travelled to Derry from New Zealand, Australia, France, Norway, Scotland, England and Ireland to visit the park ahead of its grand unveiling to the public in the coming weeks.
A total of 30 descendants of the park’s founder were welcomed by the Mayor of Derry & Strabane Hilary McClintock, who took them on a tour of the grounds, including the newly built Gwyn’s Pavilion, named in memory of their ancestor.
In an unparalleled act of generosity, merchant John Gwyn, who came from Muff, stipulated in his will that the facility was to look after destitute children regardless of whether they were Church of Ireland (as he was), Catholic or Presbyterian.
John Gwyn bequeathed £40,000 to establish what was the city’s first orphanage in 1839.
The new Gwyn’s Pavillion is a glass walled new cafe facility in the site of the former orphanage for boys from poor backgrounds, which was founded by John Gwyn almost 200 years ago.
To the front, the cafe’s glass wall has panoramic views over Derry’s city centre, while the rear the cafe looks on to a large new children’s play park.
One of those who was in Derry for the tour, Robin Gwyn, told the ‘Journal’ that his ancestor would be very proud that the site is still being developed for the community- something he pioneered in Derry.
Robin Gwyn said: “The area itself is a lovely area with a beautiful view across the city centre and it is a great asset to the community. I’m sure John Gwyn would be pleased it is being used for the community good. That was his entire driving force all his life.
“He started with nothing, and his mother and he moved to Derry having gotten hold of £50. In his will be left £40,000 - a massive sum by today’s standards. Every penny he ever made went into that orphanage.”
Brooke Park is expected to reopen to the general public in the Autumn following a £5.5m regeneration project.