‘Pure Derry is my passion project, it’s the thing I love doing’

Pure Derry has been creating satirical and thought provoking content online for the past 20 years.

By Daire Ní Chanáin
Friday, 17th December 2021, 12:43 pm

Ciarán Murray is the man behind the project but he has managed to remain fairly unknown until recent times. Earlier this year he started a new line of merchandise for the brand with local place names and a healthy dollop of local humour.

The ‘Journal’ joined him in Pure Derry headquarters in Rosemount Factory to find out more about the man behind the mugs.

Ciarán said: “I have been doing Pure Derry for a long time and I have always dabbled in books and other things. Over lockdown, local ‘merch’ became a real thing in every town and I seen other people doing it so I thought I should do it. I had loads of ideas and a whole back catalogue of stuff.

Ciarán Murray with Pure Derry Christmas jumpers.

“I looked at what everyone was doing and they were all focussing on the town - it was all about Derry. But everyone is from somewhere, there’s people from Rosemount but they live in Culmore or they moved to Prehen or whatever. People have an affinity for different areas and that’s where the idea came from.

“I had the idea to do world popular brand as areas in Derry and that’s how it came about. We started with T-shirts, then we moved to mugs and next year we plan to have more things again to move into different areas.

“Carnhill was the first one I did. That idea came to me fully formed and it’s brilliant because Carnhill as Carlsberg - the first three letters are the same. That’s one of our biggest sellers too so I did that and then thought about the other ones I could do like Top of the Hill as Top of the Pops, Prehen as Pepsi. There’s a few unusual ones in there but that’s only the start.

“We plan to bring out a new range of ideas next year, moving away from the brands. I started doing videos this year to broaden the brand but I actually don’t enjoy it as much as I thought so I’m trying to let the brand do the talking more now.”

Ciarán Murray is the brains behind the business

Over the course of the pandemic, Ciarán recalls how he went through a really rough time. “My father died last year and then my sister died four weeks later. Before I knew it, I was keeping myself busy with work and launching another market place and after a while, I just hit a wall. I was suffering from depression and it took me months and months to come out of it. When I did come out, I looked at the T-shirts I had done and thought ‘these are really good; I’ve started something here, lets finish it.’ And over the course of the last couple of months, this has just given me a great focus. And I’m buzzing off it now, I’m really enjoying it, coming up with new ideas, talking to customers and getting stuff out. And it’s nice, people are enjoying it.

“If there’s anyone else there who is struggling I would just tell them to stick with it. I found myself at my absolute lowest point ever from summer this year through to probably October. In terms of advice for anybody- just hold in there and try and find your purpose. I got disconnected from my purpose and I didn’t know what I was doing and once I reminded myself that there was stuff I was doing and I got back to it, I felt back to myself again then.”

Ciarán said he came to a realisation that Pure Derry is like a reflection of his mental health. “I only write for Pure Derry when I’m in a good place. Looking back at the history of the page, it’s a record of the times I’ve either been happy or not. I think Pure Derry is known for going offline and me not writing for a while and this only stuck me over the past year. When I’m happy and in a good place, I can write good content and be funny. When I’m not, I don’t. All those times Pure Derry has been funny over the past number of years is when things have been good. And when it goes quiet, I’m at a low point. I could also be busy, there’s times that happens too but generally, it’s because I have receded back. It’s a constant struggle to produce what I do but I am so proud of what I’ve done over the past 20 years.

“I often get people criticising the page saying ‘Pure Derry used to be funny’ and things like that but I think if people understood why it ebbs and flows, that there’s a reason why it can be funny for six months and then can disappear for a year, is because there’s something going on in someone’s life. I know from experience that it’s so hard to be funny when you’re not in a good place. I’ve found that I can still be funny for the Ulster Fry, another page I work with and the work I do for Harp, I can channel that energy and be funny but Pure Derry is my passion project, it’s the thing I love doing. So I can only do it when I feel good.

Some of the mugs made by Pure Derry

“It’s such a competitive space there’s so many talented people in Derry doing a whole range of products for the local market so we’re trying to do something a bit different and unique.”

Ciarán has until recent times always tried to remain anonymous and he was a self confessed ‘angry young man.’ A lot of his writing in the earlier years was aimed at calling out some of the big media institutions in the city and he says there was a lot of negativity in his earlier work.

He has grown a lot since then and life has made him re-evaluate his outlook on things and on his work. He tries to take a more positive spin on things and praise the work done in the city instead of always criticising it. Some of his best work are fake news stories with headlines like ‘MAN RESCUED FROM CRESCENT LINK CAR PARK FOLLOWING 48 HOUR ORDEAL’ and ‘‘GON STOP LOSING STUFF, MY HEAD’S FRIED’ - PAT RAMSEY IN HEARTFELT APPEAL TO DERRY.’

He has also come out of the shadows and is more open to sharing himself with the public along side the brand instead of standing behind it.

Ciarán said: ”Pure Derry has never been about me. It’s always been about the page or the things talked about on it. But over the course of the past year and all the things I’ve gone through, I’m starting to acknowledge that people want to know who I am and what I do and what the craic is. People are left to fill in the blanks themselves. The older I get, the less inclined I am to be anonymous. It’s not about being known or people knowing me, it’s about being myself and being authentic and not being some anonymous eejit off the internet. That’s become more apparent with age and I’ve realised that the closer you are to being yourself, the happier you are. Being anonymous and having a persona, you’re not being yourself.”

He says that’s why some social media can be known for perpetuating poor mental health - people portray one image but then they actually are something else. “So I think me being anonymous has started to affect my mental health by not just being myself.”

*Pure Derry can be found on Facebook and the full range of gifts can be viewed online at purederry.gifts