Valuable maritime photographic archive bequeathed by Derry man to Inishowen Maritime Museum.

Inishowen Maritime Museum has received a significant photographic archive of shipping in local ports, bequeathed to it by the late Alwyn Armstrong, of Kilfennan, Waterside.

Tuesday, 30th March 2021, 9:42 am
Left: A youthful Alwyn, heading out on the Smith family's mooring boat to tie up, or let go, a ship on Derry's Quay and on right, the late Alwyn Armstrong.

Alwyn, who passed away in October, last year, was a keen photographer and a dedicated shipping enthusiast.

Alwyn’s family moved to Derry when he was 11 years old and lived in Richmond Crescent, off the Strand Road. This was very close to the docks and Alwyn probably developed his love of ships from early on.

He worked as a joiner for Derry Construction, in Pennyburn Pass, and, when Derry Construction closed down, he went to work for Robert Keys & Co., in Strand Road. All his working life was spent within sight of the river and the docks, further strengthening his love for ships.

He was a long-time member of the World Ship Society and a co-founder of the Foyle & Bann Shipping Association, in 1978.

This Association was founded by Alwyn, Roy Johnston, of Derry Harbour, John Baird, seaman and marine artist, of Letterkenny, Ian Wilson, maritime historian and author, from Coleraine, and the late

Robbie Anderson, dredging master and marine historian, from Coleraine.

The association’s first official meeting was on board the Coleraine dredger, “Bar Maid”.

All of these men have made significant contributions to the maritime history of this area.

As an association, and as individuals, they travelled around the UK, Ireland and Europe in pursuit of their specific maritime interests.

Alwyn’s interest was in ship photography and he travelled around the coast of Ireland photographing ships and maritime events. He attended Tall Ship events in Ireland and Scotland and made some short coastal voyages on ships that he knew.

He spent a lot of time at Culmore Point and Greencastle photographing passing ships and talking to people about them. Such was his attention to detail that he knew more about some ships than some who had sailed on them.

Alwyn and his co-pilot, Roy Johnston, would have been frequent visitors to the Maritime Museum, in Greencastle, as they waited on ships to pass or simply for a friendly chat.

Alwyn died in the midst of the Covid lockdowns and travel restrictions but his sister, Maud, retained and collected all his archive and was instrumental in getting it safely to Greencastle pending a full examination when Covid restrictions are relaxed.

The donation of the Alwyn Armstrong archive to Greencastle Maritime Museum now means that the North-West area has three significant donations of local shipping material to collate.

The Tower Museum, in Derry, has the Darlow collection of ships alongside Derry Quays.

The late Willie Darlow was a school teacher in the City. He visited the quays almost daily and photographed any ship that he saw. He also took notes about the ships, where they had come from, where they were bound, cargo carried. Where possible, he also noted the names of the ship’s master and of the inbound and outbound pilots.

This is a valuable contribution to the history of work and life on Derry’s quays. Covid has caused delays but the presentation and archiving of the material is a ‘work-in-progress’, in the Tower Museum.

The Ulster Transport Museum and University of Ulster, Coleraine, have been given custody of the Madill collection of boat line drawings.

Harry Madill is a retired engineer, amateur sailor and traditional boat enthusiast, from Portadown. His collection of line drawings, photographs, recorded interviews, historical research and reports, was created by Harry over a 30-year period and covers a variety of traditional vessels used in fishing around the Ulster coast, including drontheims, skiffs, punts, cobles and currachs.

Ulster University, Coleraine, has been awarded a National Lottery Heritage Grant to curate and digitise the Madill archive.

UU Coleraine, the Tower Museum and the Inishowen Maritime Museum are members of the Ulster Maritime Heritage Hub, Titanic Quarter, Belfast, so all the material will be accessible to each other to create local displays.