Iconic Springtown Camp photo to be recreated

1959... The famous photo of the '19 Mothers from Springtown Camp' which is to be recreated next month.
1959... The famous photo of the '19 Mothers from Springtown Camp' which is to be recreated next month.

An iconic photograph of women from Derry’s Springtown Camp protesting for better housing is to be recreated in the city next month.

The sixty year old image - from the Derry Journal archive - is to be restaged on the steps of the city’s Guildhall.

The original photo, taken in November 1959, shows 19 women from the camp who’d had enough of living conditions in its huts - originally built for wartime occupation by the US Navy and later branded as “unfit for human beings”.

On August 1 next, daughters and granddaughters of the 1959 women will restage the photo as part of a series of commemorative events including a civic reception.

Willie Deery, a former resident of Springtown Camp, says reviving the photograph will be a poignant moment for many people

Willie says: “The Journal photo of the ‘19 Mothers from Springtown Camp’ is regarded by all ex-Camp residents as iconic. These women asked permission to address a meeting of the housing committee of the Corporation but the unionist members refused to let them speak. They later occupied the Council chamber and refused to leave until they were allowed to speak. The women threatened the Corporation that they would bring their children with them if they were not allowed to speak.

“The unionists finally relented and allowed them to address a meeting after all their other business was discussed. Given the importance of these protests - in reality the first civil rights demonstrations in Derry - we’ve decided to recreate the famous ‘Journal’ image of the women standing on the steps of the Guildhall. We hope to get as many of their daughters or grand daughters to stand in their place.”

Mr Deery added: “After 60 years, the circle has been completed. Our mothers were once evicted from the public gallery of the Guildhall by the RUC at the request of unionist councillors. Now, 60 years on, their sons and daughters are to be given a civic reception in the very same Guildhall. How times have changed.”

In the aftermath of WWII, people in Derry who could not get adequate housing squatted in the recently vacated huts at Springtown Camp. At one stage, the camp was home to 400 local families.