What about twinning with us? asks Derry historian

Derry, New Hampshire's official Town Historian, Richard Holmes (right) with Nuala McAllister Hart, Chairperson of Foyle Civic Trust, and former Mayor Martin Reilly.
Derry, New Hampshire's official Town Historian, Richard Holmes (right) with Nuala McAllister Hart, Chairperson of Foyle Civic Trust, and former Mayor Martin Reilly.

Derry’s Town Historian says the Council here should look again closely at a proposal to twin this city with its most obvious counterpart in the United States.

That’s Derry, New Hampshire, by the way, where proud native Rick Holmes, has been arguing for a formal relationship for years.

Last year Mr Holmes spoke at the unveiling of an Ulster History Circle Blue Plaque in memory of his home town’s founding father, Magilligan-native, Rev. James McGregor, in Aghadowey.

He said there was an ideal opportunity to establish formal links between what’s sometimes called Derry/Londonderry here and the twin towns of Derry and Londonderry in New England.

As the Mayor, Elisha McCallion, signals her intention of exploring closer links with Berkeley, in the Bay area on the other side of the North American continent, Mr Holmes says twinning with the town established by Rev. McGregor, just an hour’s bus ride from Boston, is a no-brainer.

“The reasons I gave a year ago and in fact five years ago, still stand. It would be a benefit for both the sister towns of Derry and Londonderry, New Hampshire and your city to formalise through twinning the historical and cultural bonds which tie us together,” said Mr Holmes.

“We are now starting to form committees to celebrate the 300th anniversary of our settlement by that pioneer band of 16 families led by Rev. James MacGregor.

“Having our sister city in Northern Ireland being a part of the celebration in 2019 has always been a personal dream.

“I, unfortunately, have been lead to believe that a ‘sisterhood’ with Londonderry, Northern Ireland must be a dream deferred.

“I was told that it was the permanent policy of your city council not to twin with any other town or city. Hearing that your city is establishing ‘Sister City’ links with Berkeley rather makes us feel like the older son in Luke’s parable of the Prodigal Son, in that we are Londonderry, Northern Ireland’s ‘oldest’ son (or is it daughter) having been established by Londonderry expats in 1719 and have been denied (polity) official sister status, despite years of trying with several Mayors.

“We wish that city and college in California well and hope that the ties between Berkeley and your city are formalised for the economic and cultural benefit to both communities but I encourage the Londonderry/Derry City Council not to forget their city’s 296 year old progeny here in New Hampshire.”

A spokesperson for Derry City and Strabane District Council explained that a number of relationships were developed with a number of cities and towns in the US and Europe by the former Derry City Council but no formal twinning arrangement was agreed.

The spokesperson stated: “The new Derry City and Strabane District Council is very keen to examine the prospect of Derry becoming a Sister City and there are plans for the Council to attend the Sister City conference in Dublin next year.

“The Council believes that such an arrangement would be beneficial to the city and region in terms of developing economic, educational and cultural links and attracting inward investment.”

The Council spokesperson added that any formal sister city arrangement would have to come before Council for consideration by members.