Dungiven man Cathal McGuigan is used to writing as a journalist, but he admits the sheer size of his latest project was a challenge.
The 26-year-old is the man behind ‘The Little Book of Derry’, described as “a compendium of fascinating, obscure, strange and entertaining facts about County Derry”.
The book, published by The History Press Ireland, includes details about Derry’s history and archaeology, its arts and culture, proud sporting heritage and “its infamous men and women”.
“My sister had a copy of ‘Haunted Belfast’, so I was looking to see if the publisher had put out ‘Haunted Derry’ as a Christmas present for her. They didn’t have it on their site, but they did have a note about submissions. So I sent them a proposal about doing a book about Derry and they accepted,” explained Cathal.
“I put out an ad for an illustrator and was immensely lucky that Adam Kee saw it and replied. His illustrations are amazing and I think they really bring the book to life.”
After six months of research and writing, Cathal is delighted with the 45,000-word end product.
“The closest thing I’d written to that before was a 10,000-word dissertation, so the sheer size of it was a challenge in itself. Even with 45,000 words though, there are stories and people that I would have loved to include, if I had the space.”
The Irish News digital journalist said the book illustrates how “intensely interesting and diverse Derry city and county is, that such a small area can produce world leaders and Nobel Prize winners as well as revolutionaries, inventors, actors, musicians and sporting legends”.
“County Derry has always been ahead of its time. The first settlers in Ireland came to Mountsandel, near Coleraine and I think the locals still have that pioneering spirit which means that Derry has links to events and places around the world that most people wouldn’t expect,” said Cathal. “Like surgeon William Beatty who tended to Admiral Nelson when he was shot and recorded his famous last words – ‘Kiss me Hardy’, or ‘Kismet, Hardy.’ John Edward McCullough from Coleraine became an actor in Philadelphia. He is said to have been a close friend of John Wilkes Booth – who killed Abraham Lincoln. After the assassination he had to flee to Canada because the authorites were looking for him. Which is to say nothing about former New Zealand Prime Minister William Ferguson Massey from Limavady or Coleraine’s Oliver Pollock who invented the US dollar symbol ($).
“I liked these the most because they reveal something new and interesting about familiar places and people and allow you to see the area in a new light.”