A cohort of Derry’s legendary ‘Factory Girls’ helped launch a new artwork paying tribute to the working-class women who sustained the city’s economy for much of the 19th and 20th centuries.
The women gathered in the Craft Village yesterday to view a new mural that shows girls coming down the steps of the old Tillie and Henderson factory.
Charlotte Bonner, aged 75, who worked there from 1959 to 1969, was pleased with the tribute, painted by UV Arts, and based on a work by the local artist Joe Campbell.
“I didn’t come down them stairs because I was always locked out! I was never in time with that shirt factory horn,” joked Charlotte.
Harriet Hippsley, aged 80, worked in the Star factory. She said it was a beautiful tribute but felt Derry’s unsung female workers of yesteryear should have been recognised earlier.
“I think it’s 20 years too late. It’s a shame that the ‘Factory Girls’ that kept Derry on its feet and kept the families all going, that recognition is only happening now,” she said.
Mona Kivlehan Hegarty, who worked in Tillie and Henderson, agreed: “It’s long overdue. Those were the steps we used to come down there. They wore those scarves because the rollers were underneath them. You just brought out your fringe!”
Mona said it was a great shame the old factory - famously mentioned by Karl Marx in ‘Das Kapital’ - was tumbled.
“They should never have knocked down that factory. They could have renovated it and put flats in it or opened it up and kept it as a heritage building,” she said.
Joe Campbell, the artist behind the mural that also features a pair of hands stitching with an old Singer sewing machine, said: “Those women put clothes on my back, food in my mouth and saved this city for decades when there was no work for any of the men in the city.
“From my heart, I’d like to thank you, ladies. Every time you come in here and look at this mural I want people to think about you and the contribution you made to this place.”
Helen Quigley, from the Inner City Trust said: “I think we all have a deep appreciation of what the ‘Factory Girls’ mean in this city. They were, in effect, the backbone of this city in years gone by. They leave a fantastic legacy.”
Artist Joe Campbell pictured with former factory girls at the launch of the ‘Factory Girls’ mural in the Craft Village.