Exciting new Shantallow history project - 1916-1966

One of Shantallow's marvellous memories - when flight pioneer Amelia Earhart landed at Ballyarnett in May 1932.
One of Shantallow's marvellous memories - when flight pioneer Amelia Earhart landed at Ballyarnett in May 1932.

A new project to establish a permanent history of Shantallow, Ballyarnett and the Middle Liberties from 1916 to 1966 will be launched next week. ‘From the Collon to the Donegal border’ aims to build a digital memory bank, which can then be used to develop a range of heritage resources. These will include: exhibitions, a dedicated book, smartphone apps, tourism kiosks, heritage trails (and signage), and, eventually, a permanent heritage facility.

A steering committee, made up of representatives from Northside Development Trust, Outer North Neighbourhood Partnership and Guildhall Press, is inviting anyone interested in contributing to the project to attend a meeting at Shantallow Community Centre, Drumleck Drive next Friday 27th November at 11am.

A spokesman for the organisers said: “The Ballyarnett District Electoral Area, formerly known as the Middle Liberties and more commonly known as Greater Shantallow, today houses six Council wards and is home to up to 30,000 of Derry’s citizens. But until 50 years ago, this area – situated between the old City Boundary and the Derry-Donegal frontier - was essentially a rural community. “Despite the fact that this area had both a distinct and defined populous, no proper history of its origins, or its people, exists – nor is there any authoritative record of its important and sizeable contribution to regional, national and global heritage. We intend to correct that situation.”

The organisers are particularly keen to capture oral histories, stories and photographs from those who lived in the area before 1966, and the housing boom.

“The population and housing explosion from the late 1960s to the 1990s has changed the nature of the Middle Liberties dramatically. And many of those who lived between the City Boundary and the Border, before this shift, have sadly passed on.

“So, with all that in mind, it is our proposal to collaborate with remaining members of the old Middle Liberties community to establish a memory bank – in the form of a digital archive (initially) – to preserve the history of the area for future generations.

“There is also an opportunity here for younger generations, whose parents or grandparents grew up in Shantallow before 1966, to get involved in capturing the old stories and histories.”

Once material has been collated and edited, it will be uploaded quickly to a dedicated website. This will feature: oral/video interviews; contributed photographs and archive film; book, magazine and newspaper articles; maps and aerial photographs. archive material.

Specific areas of research will include: the ‘pre-history’ of the Ballyarnett / Shantallow area and archaeological finds; the 1914-1918 war; Amelia Earhart’s arrival; the Racecourse; agriculture/farming/markets; local traditions/folklore; the introduction of the border; industry; rural villages and hamlets – Steelstown, Ballyarnett, Galliagh, Coshquin; the old railway and other transport; WWII and the Collon bomb; the camp for Gibraltarians; the US Army camps; post-war squatting in Springtown; schools and churches; sports; and smuggling.