Villa émigrés restage 1947 family portrait

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A family long separated through emigration got a chance to recreate a cherished family portrait taken over 70 years ago when they returned to Derry recently.

The Villas, originally from Marlborough Terrace, were all back in Derry to celebrate a family wedding.

It was a rare opportunity for the family to get together, to reminisce and to restage a family photograph that was originally shot back in 1947.

Teresa Kelly, née Villa, who travelled all the way from Melbourne, Australia, with her husband Harry for the nuptials, explains.

“We all lived in Marlborough Terrace in the family home. My mother was married 20 years when she got a house in Creggan.

“Within three years the three boys went to England because they couldn’t get work in Derry.

“Charlie worked in the BSR [Birmingham Sound Reproducers factory in Bligh’s Lane] and it closed down.

“‘Dinnie’ [Dennis] went first, then Charlie and then Pat went then,” explained Teresa.

This first wave of departures coincided with Teresa’s marriage to Harry Kelly from Laburnum Terrace.

“Between 1966 and 1967, I got married, Rosemary got married, and Bobbie went to Antrim,” says Teresa.

But within a decade they were on the move as well.

“We went to Australia in 1978. My family and Harry and I,” she adds.

Harry says a lack of work and the worsening conflict at the end of the 1970s led to them leaving the country.

“When we lived here we lived in Beechwood and then we moved to Marlborough Street and then we moved to Australia.

“We just left because of the Troubles as thousands of people did.

“Because of no work we all left,” says Harry.

Teresa explains that major social gatherings were the only opportunities for the family to see one another as they are now scattered to the four corners of the world.

Her brothers have all set down roots in England while she has been living ‘Down Under’ for over 40 years.

“They [her brothers] all got married and stayed there.

“They never came back to live in Derry,” she says.

It’s now a family ritual to line up in the pose adopted by the siblings in Marlborough Terrace all those years ago.

Last year the family convened in England for a special occasion and retook the photograph once again (see above).

They’ve done it again in Derry this year.

It’s always a bittersweet moment as Harry says: “It’s a shame when you have to leave your own town.”