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Then one hot day when fields were rank
With cowdung in the grass the angry frogs
Invaded the flax-dam; I ducked through hedges
To a coarse croaking that I had not heard
Before. The air was thick with a bass chorus.
Right down the dam gross-bellied frogs were cocked
On sods; their loose necks pulsed like sails. Some hopped:
The slap and plop were obscene threats. Some sat
Poised like mud grenades, their blunt heads farting.
I sickened, turned, and ran. The great slime kings
Were gathered there for vengeance and I knew
That if I dipped my hand the spawn would clutch it.
from Seamus Heaney’s Death of a Naturalist

Well last night the city of my father, my father’s father, my father’s father’s father and at least his father as well* was awarded with the privilege of being the UK’s first City of Culture in 2013. Doire, Lunnonderrie, Daire Calgaich, Doire Cholmchille, the Maiden City, Stroke City call it what you will, Derry/Londonderry is about to make history.

As well as Nobel Laureate Mr Heaney above, Restoration Dramatist George Farquhar, authors Joyce Cary, Seamus Deane, Jennifer Johnston and Neil McCafferty all add to the rich history of culture in Northern Ireland’s second city. Which is being build on all the time by new contributions to culture of a variety of forms.

Then there are the City Walls the only remaining intact example in Ireland and one of the finest in Europe dating from 1613-1619. The history dates back to the 546 when St. Colmcille,like a lot of my family crossed just over the county boundary from Donegal to set up his monastery.

In the 1600s it was the livery companies from London who came over as part of the plantation to built the City on the West side of the Foyle across from the earlier monastic settlement. It was the first planned city in Ireland with roads off the the central diamond within the walls leading to the four gates of the strong defensive pattern that was followed by many of the North American British colonial settlements.

So from the architecture, through the literature, to music and even the mural of both communities and other aspects there is a thriving culture in the City. Like myself there are Donegal influences in there as well as rural Londonderry and Tyrone. It is a river community and a last stopping off place for many emigrants embarking on the trip to America. But now it is embarking on a new trip to prepare for the future as the City of Culture to showcase the best that the place has to offer to draw people in rather than bid them goodbye.

The City motto is ‘Vita, Veritas, Victoria’ – ‘Life, Truth, Victory’. In 2013 they will embrace life to the fullest, the city probably won’t ignore the truth of its past but move forward to a shared future and make the most of this victory with the eyes of the country upon it.

* Beyond that needs some more genealogical digging.

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