Derry mammies were the real ‘unsung heroes’

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A mother of 11, May Bradley (nee Harris) was well known to many people around Derry - and especially within her community in Creggan.

She was, according to her daughter, Geraldine Quigley, one of many of Derry’s “unsung heroes” - proud and capable women who held together home and hearth during the toughest years in our city’s history - from pre-war, to the height of the Troubles.

May passed away in 2008 - and in dealing with her death her youngest daughter, Geraldine decided to pull together a book not only detailing her mother’s eventual ailing health as she developed vascular dementia but also the strength of character, warmth and love Geraldine remembers her sharing with her family throughout her life.

“When mammy took ill, she was determined she would stay at her home in Creggan Broadway,” Geraldine said. “There were 11 of us children, and of course all the in-laws as well - so we took it on ourselves to share the care for her.

“To make sure we always knew how she had been and to keep a track of her care we kept diaries in the house which each of us could refer to detailing mammy’s care and treatment.

“There were funny moments, and of course sad moments - and when mammy died I asked if I could hold onto the diaries.”

Saying she had always hoped to one day write a book, Geraldine said the diaries gave her the basis for the story not only of her mother’s death but also of her life.

“I suppose in a way it was part of my grieving process, but it felt right.

“I wanted to write not only about mammy and her own experiences but also as a tribute to a generation of women who fed, clothed and raised a city when no-one had anything.”

The book recalls many memories - from Geraldine’s brother Michael’s heady days with The Undertones, to the filming of the Bloody Sunday movie at the family home.

“I suppose, I wanted, and needed to put it out there and to tell her story - and my own story too.”