Derry's main museum
Derry City Museums Service spans five separate sites throughout the City, providing a range of attractions which each showcase a different aspect of the City’s rich heritage.
The Tower Museum is undoubtedly the Jewel in the Crown of Derry’s museums. Located in the heart of the City inside the Walls and opposite the Guildhall, the Tower Museum is Derry’s top visitor attraction.
The museum was opened in 1992 and is centred around the O’Doherty Tower, a major landmark in the City. The O’Doherty Tower is a modern reconstruction of a medieval structure that was located on or near the site. The main body of the museum is contained in space beneath the Craft Village, with the Tower itself soon to be opened up as a dedicated Spanish Armada exhibition. This new exhibition will tell the story of the Spanish Armada's journey around the Irish coast. It is expected to open in Autumn 2005.
The Tower Museum takes the visitor on a high-tech audio-visual narrative tour of the Story of Derry. From the first evidence of human habitation in 7000BC through to the troubles and the peace process, it is all here and exemplified by models and a wide range of artefacts. The Story of Derry is told here not just through the place but also through the people that Derry has produced and inspired. This is combined with a frank and forthright approach to the many traumatic incidents in the City’s history to produce an overall experience that has seen the Tower Museum receive a number of awards.
The museum is the only institution to have been nominated as both Irish and British Museum of the Year and in 1994 was awarded Second Place in the European Museum of the Year Awards.
Some Examples of Current Content
Spanish Armada Siege Gun
The Siege Gun is made from a Bronze cast and originates from a foundry in Malines, Belgium. The casting mould stands upright in a deep pit, Breech down, with the molten metal being poured from the furnace into the gun pit. The bore is reamed out by a thread mill powered machine.
Date Of Production: 1556
Creator: The Siege Gun was manufactured by Remigy De Halut on the instructions of Juan Manrique De Lara.
Painting of the ‘Minnehaha’
Oil painting of the ‘Minnehaha’, most famous of the McCorkell Line ships which operated out of Derry between 1860 and 1896.
Date of Production: 1890’s - 1910
The Minnehaha was the flagship of the McCorkell Line in Derry. This impressive ship was practically the last great locally owned vessel to be involved in trans-atlantic shipping before the advent of steam power, which eventually caused the McCorkell line to close in 1896.
The Minnehaha is noted as a key carrier of emigrants from the north west to America. This was a huge trade through the latter half of the nineteenth century, involving several locally owned vessels, from both the McCorkell Line and J and J.L. Cooke, with the Minnehaha acknowledged as the finest.
Named after the heroine of Longfellow’s epic poem ‘The Song of Hiawatha’ Minnehaha was the last memory of Ireland for the tens of thousands of emigrants that departed from Derry’s docks in the nineteenth century. Derry was a key port for emigration to the North Atlantic in the whole of Ireland.
Model of the ‘Mountjoy’
A scale model reconstruction of the ‘Mountjoy’, a supply ship which is reputed to have played a decisive role in ending the Siege of Derry in 1689.
The model is made from a variety of woods, including Beech and Balsa, and features detailed metal and rope work. This reproduction dates from the late 19th Century.
The Mountjoy has secured a place in the history of the Siege of Derry as the ship which broke a boom which had been constructed across the Foyle by the beseiging Jacobites. The boom was installed to prevent sea-borne relief from reaching the City.
The Mountjoy was almost certainly not alone in Breaking the boom but did play a key role in freeing the River. The ship’s Captain, Michael Browning, was a Derry native and sealed his place in Siege lore when he was killed by a bullet shortly after breaching the boom.
Within days of the River being opened up the Siege was ended as the Jacobite forces retreated, allowing supplies to reach the triumphant defenders within the City Walls.
World Championship Boxing Gloves
One pair of Red Leather Professional Boxing Gloves, Signed ‘Best Wishes, Charlie Nash’ and inscribed ‘World Title’ in pen on the inside.
In 1981 Charlie Nash fought for the World Lightweight Boxing Championship at the Kelvin Hall in Glasgow. His opponent on the night was Jim Watt. Despite a strong start, the fight was stopped in the Fourth Round with Nash suffering from a severely cut eye.
Watt was declared the winner and retained his title. Nash was the reigning European Lightweight Champion at the time and had fought many of his professional bouts at Derry’s Templemore Sports Complex becoming a hero in the City and putting Derry firmly on the Boxing map. These are the gloves that he wore in the fight against Watt.
Assorted Metal Badges Celebrating ‘The Undertones’
The Undertones are some of Derry City’s most famous sons. The four piece punk band was hugely popular in the late 1970s across Ireland, the UK and beyond. The band was made up of John O’Neill (Rhythm Guitar), Damien O’Neill (Lead Guitar), Michael Bradley (Bass), Billy Doherty (Drums) and Fergal Sharkey (vocals).
The group developed out of Derry City at a time when the Northern Ireland conflict was impacting hard upon the City. The ‘Casbah’, a bar in the town, became a focal point for a number of musicians and it was from this hub that the Undertones exploded onto the wider scene.