‘Bobby Mitchell’s name should loom larger than it does in the history of Derry’

Eamonn McCann has paid tribute to the late Bobby Mitchell describing him as a constant figure on the streets during the campaign for civil rights in Derry in the 1960s.

Bobby died suddenly in his home in Rosemount last Wednesday and was laid to rest in the City Cemetery following Requiem Mass in St. Eugene’s Cathedral yesterday.

Mr. McCann said: “Bobby Mitchell’s name should loom larger than it does in the history of Derry. But then, he was a very modest man. On October 5 two years ago, a gang of us gathered to mark the 50th anniversary of the the civil rights eruption in Duke Street.

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“As we lined up to have our picture taken, Bobby hung back. It wasn’t until Bernadette shouted, ‘If you don’t get in the picture, Bobby Mitchell, I’ll not be in it either,’ that he edged himself onto the end of the line-up. Bobby had been one of the original organisers of civil rights in Derry. The first time I set eyes on him was in the Nook Bar (alas, long gone) in William Street in February or March 1968 where I’d been brought to a meeting of the Derry Housing Action Committee. I counted 10 in the room.

The late Bobby Mitchell.The late Bobby Mitchell.
The late Bobby Mitchell.

“Others will remember and write about Bobby with more detail and knowledge. What I do know is that the civil rights movement couldn’t have been built without the efforts and the daring of the likes of Bobby.”

As well as being involved in the street politics of the 1960s Bobby was a talented singer and well-known in traditional music circles. Favourites of his repertoire were ‘The Mountainy Farmer’ which he got from the late Francie Brolly, ‘The Louse House of Kilkenny’ and ‘Paddy’s Green Shamrock Shore.’

He used to recall bunking off work as a young man and hitch-hiking to fleadhanna ceoil all over Ireland. After working for spells in England and the Netherlands he spent most of his working life as a postman with the Royal Mail in Derry, where he lived with his late partner Maureen.

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He is mourned by his stepchildren Peter, Una, Fionnuala and Conal, grandchildren Sean, Eoin, Danielle, Conan, Kayleigh, Charlie and Caragh, siblings Kevin and Liam and a wide circle of friends.

“When I’ve bumped into him over the years since, it was almost always in the context of the continuing search for equality. He was a constant figure when people assembled - sometimes, again, in very small numbers - to demand an end to this or that injustice, here or in faraway places.

“I’m glad he was pressurised to stand in line when we reached the half century mark of our small beginning. The picture wouldn’t have been complete without him,” said Mr. McCann.

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