A newly-unveiled memorial to the people of Springtown Camp has been hailed as a “lasting reminder” of a key chapter in Derry’s recent history.
A specially commissioned art installation in honour of all those families who were housed in Springtown Camp between its opening in August 1946 and its closure in October 1967 has been erected at Springtown Road.
Springtown Camp was an American navy base in Derry during World War Two. Locals who could not get adequate housing moved in when the Americans left.
But the huts had no water, electricity or heating.
After a public outcry, the unionist majority Corporation granted temporary rentals to the new residents and charged rent.
Initially, this agreement was to last six months and the families were to be allocated housing. This did not happen and people remained in the camp until its closure in 1967.
The memorial project has been driven by former camp residents Willie Derry and Hugo McConnell. On the inspiration behind the project, Willie says: “The desire to keep the history of the Springtown Camp community alive was derived from my memory of the ‘Mothers of the Camp’ and a belief that their plight whilst rearing a family should be told to younger and future generations.”
Civil rights veteran Fionnbarra Ó Dochartaigh says the actions of the residents of Springtown Camp inspired many people who went on to become leading lights in the campaign for civil rights.
On their involvement in the project, the Housing Executive’s Eddie Breslin, Good Relations Officer for the area, added: “This art installation celebrates the history of the Springtown area and the Housing Executive is pleased to be able to provide community grant funding to support the local community.
“Excellent projects like this help us build vibrant communities and make our neighbourhoods safer and more settled places to live in.”
The new memorial is located next to property owned by the North West Regional College. Its principal, Leo Murphy, said: “We are delighted to support the unveiling of the new art installation next to our Springtown Campus, which recalls such a significant chapter in the history of the city.
“The college is also delighted that a group of our students assisted in creating the piece, which will now be on permanent display adjacent to the college.”