Clinton says he ‘cherishes’ memories of Derry visits in letter to local artist

Former United States President Bill Clinton has fallen in love with a painting by a Derry artist which features him alongside the late John Hume and Martin McGuinness.

Joe Campbell’s digital painting of Martin McGuinness, Bill Clinton and John Hume on Derry’s Peace Bridge.
Joe Campbell’s digital painting of Martin McGuinness, Bill Clinton and John Hume on Derry’s Peace Bridge.

The triple portrait is by Joe Campbell, from Galliagh, who sent it to the ex-Commander in Chief back in 2019.

It features the three politicians on Derry’s iconic Peace Bridge.

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However, it was just this week that Joe received a personal letter from Mr Clinton in which he hailed the picture as “wonderful”.

He adds that both he and his wife, Hillary, will “always cherish our memories of our time in Derry”.

The Clintons first visited Derry as President and First Lady in 1995 and, since then, have each been back on several occasions.

Mr Clinton’s most recent visit to the city was for the funeral of Martin McGuinness in March 2017.

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In his letter to the Clintons, Joe wrote that their visits played a “vital role” in bringing peace to Northern Ireland.

He also reveals that what inspired him to paint the portrait was Bill Clinton’s “obvious friendship” with both John Hume and Martin McGuinness.

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Joe’s letter reads: “I grew up with these two remarkable men on my horizon. I, too, experienced the troubles. It’s still difficult to describe what over thirty years of conflict will do to a life. My art is now dominated by my past experiences. I now produce images and poetry that refer back to the ‘Troubles’. They are a cathartic form of therapy and release for me. My hope is that they may also, in some small way, help others to expose their wounds to healing air.”

In his letter to the Clintons, Joe also included a poem he wrote about legendary aviator Amelia Earhart - one of Hillary Clinton’s childhood heroes.

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Earhart’s historic landing in Derry in May 1932 made her the the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic.

Joe tells Mrs Clinton he hopes the poem, entitled “Amelia’s Ghost”, will mark “our mutual respect for that elegant, American, frontiers woman, who, like you, dropped in on us long ago for tea and, in so doing, not only opened new horizons but, also, discovered a lost people and a welcome that stayed with her for the rest of her days.”

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Speaking to the ‘Journal’ this week, Joe said the reply from Bill Clinton came as a complete surprise.

“There was radio silence for months and months and I thought to myself, ‘Ah, well, nothing ventured’. But, today, in came the reply, a signed headed letter of endorsement from Bill Clinton himself.

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“I’m proud to be a Derryman today.”

○ To see more of Joe’s work, check out https://joecampbellart.com/