The niece of Paddy Gormley, the man who famously outed the ‘nameless, faceless men’ for allegedly sabotaging Derry’s chances of becoming HQ of the North’s second university in the 1960s, has presented a ‘life’ of her late uncle to the library in Magee.
During her visit to the city Jennifer Gormley said Magee always should always have been the main campus of what’s now known as the Ulster University.
Ms. Gormley believes Derry was shortchanged when Sir John Lockwood recommended that a second university be located in Coleraine rather than Derry when he reported on third level provision in the North in 1965.
She made the observation after handing over a copy of her ‘Life and Times of Paddy Gormley: From Nationalism to Good Friday’ to Janice McQuilkin, subject assistant librarian, at UU’s Magee campus this week.
As the 50th anniversary of what in 1968 was known as the ‘New University of Ulster’ fast approaches, Ms. Gormley said it was only fitting a copy of the biography of the late Nationalist Party stalwart from Craigbane, originally published in 2004, was available for reference for students studying in a city that was so close to her late uncle’s heart.
She said: “I just want wanted to ensure that there is some material at hand for anybody who was interested in Paddy’s story. People don’t know about it.
“I find it’s very difficult in that it’s like a poisoned chalice in the city. The SDLP don’t own him or want to know about him, nor do Sinn Féin, so he kind of is, or always was, a maverick.
“For me, that’s why I did the book. It’s no justification for not recognising his work and his thinking.”
The late Mr. Gormley blazed a memorable trail as Nationalist MP for Mid Derry from 1953 to 1969 and was a close associate of the former leader of the party, Eddie McAteer. The St. Columb’s College old boy who was born in Craigbane in 1916 was spectacularly thrown out of the old Stormont for waving a tricolour during his maiden speech in 1953.
However, it was for his role in naming a cabal of prominent Derry unionists suspected of having used their influence to undermine the campaign to have the new university sited here that he is remembered best.
After Lockwood snubbed Derry arguing “political considerations” and “other considerations” would distract the Maiden City from the task of delivering an effective new third level institution, North Down Unionist MP Robert Nixon claimed a group of “nameless, faceless men” in Derry had actively plotted to have the university sited in Coleraine.
Mr. Gormley followed this up with his bombshell of naming former Mayor and President of the Londonderry Unionist Association, Major GS Glover; retired Professor at Magee, Rev. RL Marshall; Magee lecturer, Rev. John Brown; Secretary of the Londonderry Unionist Association, JF Bond; North Ward Unionist Association treasurer, Robert Stewart; Apprentice Boys Governor, Dr WR Abernethy, and Londonderry Sentinel editor, Sidney Buchanan; as the “nameless, faceless” men.
From a perspective of half a century his niece thinks it was a brave decision.
“Eddie McAteer was involved and John Hume was on board but he was the one who named the people who were plotting against the siting of a university here, which was a very courageous thing to do,” she said.
Ironically, Ms. Gormley, whose late father Tom was also a politican for many years, first as an independent nationalist, later as a member of the Alliance Party, was among the first intake of freshmen at Coleraine in 1968.
“It was just a personal choice. I wasn’t brought up thinking along the lines of ‘Uncle Paddy said this so I have to do this’,” she said.
“There were significantly fewer Catholics. I chose it becuase it was the first year of a new university. How many times can you experience that?”
Despite her fond memories of Coleraine where she now lives, she believes Paddy was right all along.
“It should have been in Derry but I’ve no time for negativity. There is too much navel-gazing. Look at the new medical school with the hospital. It’s a fantastic opportunity, a teaching hospital, the kudos that comes with that, would make such a contribution to the community.”