From Simpson’s Terrace to Shantallow 1 (The O’Donaghues’ Story)

Micky relates: “I was born in 1 Simpson’s Terrace, Shantallow in June 1948. Simpson’s Terrace was located, where the Ballyarnett Roundabout is now. Behind the terrace was Brown’s field which bordered Fee’s Cottages, where some of my former neighbours still live.

I lived with my father, mother and my two brothers and four sisters. My Uncle Robert Devlin, my mother’s brother, also lived with us. No 1 had been the Devlin family home. It was a two-storey house. My mother’s family had moved to the Terrace from Springhill. We always heard that they had to walk from there to Cathedral for Sunday Mass.

We slept in two bedrooms upstairs and downstairs we had a living room and kitchen. There was neither electricity nor mains water in the house. We lit it with paraffin lamps and we drew water from a well. Our well was at least three hundred yards from our home and was shared by our neighbours.

There were six houses in the terrace, this had originally been four with two added later, before my time. Our landlord was Willie Brown, a local farmer. He had a small herd of cows for milking. I remember Minnie Brown walking the cows past our front door on the way to milking. My neighbours included Mrs Keys, Mrs Mc Fadden, Mrs Barr, Mrs Mc Connell and Mrs Mc Closkey. There were only the O’Donaghue children in our wee street, in my youth, but I know of many adults whose families originated there. My father was a mechanic and he drove a lorry for a local building contractor. My mother was a housewife. Among my neighbours, a number of women worked in one or other of the local factories in Derry. Some of the young men in the area sometimes found work in Hunters Bakery or in one of the many other bakeries in Derry. Bread was in turn delivered by bread- servers, like Johnny English and Tom Greenaway

As there was no mains water supply, our home had a dry toilet outside. The management of a dry toilet system was an unpleasant task beyond the imagination of those of us who enjoy a comfortable modern life-style. A more enjoyable chore was fetching water from the well. This was a task shared by both boys and girls. Mains water did not come to Simpson’s Terrace until the late 50’s and then only to a stand-pipe in the yard. This meant that emergency measures had to be used on frosty mornings to get even a drop!

Before my time, my Granny Devlin kept a wee shop in our house. This compromised the front room and other space so Granny made use of another house in nearby Rockfield Terrace, on the Racecourse, where some of the men and boys of the family would sleep some nights. In my day, I remember being sent for messages to a number of such shops: Annie Boyce’s at Bogstown, where Our Lady of Lourdes Chapel stands now, Kelly’s Shop in Erskine’s Lane, opposite to where Sandbank Cottages remain today, Jeanie Quigley’s shop was near where The Library is today. In later years Johnny Quigley had a shop and petrol station near that site. Our own aunt, Lizzie Dooley kept a shop in Tintown before moving to Dundalk. I remember going with my mother to Crawford’s Shop at the Garden City [now Myra’s] to get our groceries and part paying with ration coupons (my sister Frances had done this before I was old enough to go). Batteries for the “wireless” had to be taken to be charged in Thompson & Mc Geady’s? on the Strand Road.


My brother Robert, my sisters Philomena, Eilish and I went to St Patrick’s, Pennyburn for all our school days. Tommy and Frances went to Shantallow School, with Frances moving to the newly opened Pennyburn School for her final year. One of my earliest memories is Frances taking me to the old Shantallow School in the days before it shut its doors for the last time. I never enrolled there, as the school closed before I was the age for Primary 1. I understand that some of my grown-up neighbours had attended Ballyarnett School in their youth.

I recall playing cricket, football and tennis all in the sandpit at Sandbank. The pitch changed, depending on the “season”. Sometimes we recruited other wee boys from the Ballyarnett Boys Brigade to make up two decent sized teams and the matches in the Ballyarnett School grounds went on until dark. The games could be anything up to sixteen-a-side and we played with a heavy plastic ball or a “tube and cover”. In the playground at Pennyburn School, we played with a tennis ball, maybe to increase our skills but more likely to decrease the risk to windows or the crowds of other children who were playing, skipping and running around us. After Pennyburn, I left school at 15 and went to work as an apprentice joiner on the development of Meenan Park in the Bogside. Simpson’s Terrace was finally vacated in the late 60’s. We moved to Drumleck Drive. My sister Frances and her husband started their married life in 5, Simpson’s Terrace before moving to a new maisonette in Shantallow Estate. Frances married Tom Doherty, from the famous Collon footballing family. Tom and his brothers Matt and Pat represented Derry City, the only time three brothers played on the team together”.

Frances once gathered shamrocks in the field, where her current Shantallow house was built! She remembers one of the messages, which she had to do as a child. “My mother would send me for milk. So I walked down the Racecourse Rd past the Church and turned into the Fir Rd. Houston’s house was on my right beside Ballyarnett School. I had a can with me and I went to the front door and asked Mrs Houston for a can full of milk. If I wanted butter, I was given a pat of butter, floating on a leaf on top of the milk in the can”. Philomena remembers going in later years for milk. “My mother sent me to Houston’s farm at the foot of Miah’s Brae to get milk. I walked, with a bottle for the milk, along a pad to the Racecourse, then a short distance until I came to the house”. We think that Miah’s Brae was called for Miah Mc Clintock. Houston’s also sold paraffin oil, a vital supply for a home without electricity. This was another “message” carried out by the children.

When she was 14, Frances went to work in the City Factory. Philomena had to stay at school until she was 15 and went to work in Ritchie’s factory, in William St. Philomena got a bus to work from a stop at the Racecourse to the depot in Strand Rd. This bus stopped at Fern Terrace, Bogslea and then travelled along the Greenhaw Rd, then a country road where the hedges hit the sides of bus. Next stop was at the Garden City, then on to the City Centre. Frances travelled to work in style. She bought herself a bicycle in Patrick St and “paid in” for it on a Friday night after work. There were stands in North Edward St where the “country girls” parked their bikes. Micky still complains, nearly sixty years on, that Frances’ wee brothers were never allowed a run on that bike! Frances recalls another important use of her bike. In late Spring-time she remembers getting up at 6am to go to the women’s retreat in Pennyburn. “My pal Jean Quigley and I shared the one bike to shorten the road. Sometimes I cycled with her on the seat and then Jean took over for a bit”. This recollection also made Frances remember the “October Devotions”, which were as much a social event as a religious highlight.

Frances attended Shantallow School from 1948 to 1954. She moved from 5th class in Shantallow to 6th class in Pennyburn. Her final teacher in Pennyburn was Miss Devlin. She recalls Miss Devlin cycling out to Fee’s Cottages after school hours to give private instruction to a neighbour.

Frances has happy memories of her dancing days and other pastimes. “I went to my first dance when I was about 14 in St Patrick’s School Hall in Pennyburn. Then I graduated to the Corinthian and the Guildhall. I remember going to the pictures in the Isle Farm. Cowboy and other action pictures were the order of the day. Young and old went to the pictures together. I cannot remember many romantic pictures. Some nights we walked in to the Legion Hall in the Collon Lane and paid our sixpence to go to the pictures in the same place where we got our “jags”, cod liver oil and orange juice”. These were the days of the developing NHS. Frances and Philomena both remember going to the pictures in the “B” Hut in Steelstown. Philomena went far for her first dance. She and friends walked to St Mary’s Hall in Muff about three miles. Then when she was working in the factory, Philomena danced in the Cameo and Borderland.

The Harvest on Brown’s farm was a highlight to the autumn and Threshing Day was a memorable and exciting occasion. Philomena has a happy childhood memory of going by train to Buncrana on a summer’s day with her Mammy. Her father went alone by motor-bike and joined them there. Frances loved reading. She would read at the window-sill or outdoors, lying at the foot of a haystack. Sharing books, and swopping with neighbours meant there was enough reading material even before there was a local library service. Religious magazines like The Far East and the Messenger were popular and the old favourite Ireland’s Own provided an opportunity for Mrs O Donaghue to read to her children round the evening fire. “Kitty the Hare” evokes nostalgia to this day.

The Racecourse was a living part of the community. The family remember the local Harriers training and racing there and the achievements of George Williamson and others are still talked about. Frances thinks back to donkeys running on the Course and everyone remembers the Donkey Derby, as a much sought after and talked about prize at Pennyburn Sports, held annually in the Collon.

In summer men played “Horse Shoes” on the course and the tradition was carried on into the 80’s by some of these men and their sons throwing rings on the green at the front of Shantallow Estate. The sound of the Flute Band practising in the ‘B’Hut often came over the evening air. Draughts was popular and Micky, Frances and Philomena think fondly of long game sessions between their Uncle Robert, Dinny Mc Kinney and Stewarty Mc Connell. Whist drives occupied the people on many winter nights. Housey was played in a “shade”down Bonner’s lane beside Fee’s Cottages.

(As told to Joseph Martin by Micky O’Donaghue and his sisters, Frances and Philomena, March & April 2016)


Smuggling story Tom Stokes tipped off about. Mary Ann and Johnny Long. Biddy and Hughie.

Nicell’s Bar. Thran John’s. Hanlon’s Shop. One of the Sweeney girls worked in Mc Closkey’s Chemist in the Collon. Longs at foot of Miah’s Brae before Houston’s.

1 O Donaghue. Devlin’s. Granny had a shop. Letitia, Robert, Michel James and paddy. Living room was shop. 2 Kees (Keys?) 3 Mc Fadden, later Kay Pollock lived there. 4 Barr {Alfie} 5 Mc Connell {Gladys Hogg} 6 Mc Closkey

Fern Tce: Mc Dermott Burns Wards Stevenson’s Temples. Quigleys Barr Stewarts. Hughie Quigley’s shop. Later burned down. Name of Cottages where Dorothy Hamilton, now Robb lived?