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The Town I Love So Well…

by Kathleen Fueston

Arriving in Derry was like coming home to a comfortable, familiar place.  Derry is a welcoming, historical, complex and charming town.  The cultural experiences are to be found at every turn, but on the Friday evening as we were looking for a theatre where peace stories are told, we ended up at the Millennium Forum, where the High Kings, Ireland’s folk band of the year the last three years were completing their most recent tour.  On a whim Jill, Shelley and I decided to attend and we were not disappointed to say the least.  The opening act was a band called the Screaming Orphans – an all sister band from Bundoran County, Donegal. The girls have been playing since they were wee lasses and it was clear Irish music runs deep in their blood.

Jill & Kathleen at the High Kings
The High Kings were a class act, very polished yet having a wonderful time. They had the audience clapping and singing along as they played from over 13 different instruments. At one point in the performance Martin Furey, the accordion and piano player introduced a song that was written by one of Derry’s own, Phil Coulter, a well known Irish musician.  The song was entitled The Town I Love So Well.  This song tells the story of him growing up in Derry and the struggles the town has been through over the decades but it also shares the pride and the determination of many Northern Irelanders to continue the work for peace.  It brought tears to my eyes realizing this audience had actually lived the words of this song.  Some of the closing lines go as such: 

For deep inside, was the burning pride,
in the town I loved so well.
They will not forget, but theri herts are set,
on tomorrow and peace once again. 

On that same day, we got to meet two of Derry’s finest sons.  James Greer and Charlie McMenamin are both peace builders, but happen to come from opposite sides of the conflict.  In their teens, Ireland was in the midst of "the troubles" and they each became involved in the conflict.  Both spent time in prison, both lost friends and even family members to the conflicts.  Through hard fought lessons learned, but both chose to support and in many ways lead efforts toward peace in their country. 
With Charlie (2nd from the left) and James (8th from the left-back)
with the Gonzaga group. Butcher's Gath is in the background and
is where Charlie's Grandfather, an IRA member was shot in the
troubles before Bloody Sunday.
It was not evident that these two men had been on opposite sides of this debate when they entered the room. As a matter of fact, James poured Charlie a cup of tea. But as they told their stories, we got a glimpse into some of the deep running reasons for why they were on the side they chose and then the very personal but compelling reasons they are now working together for peace in Ireland.
After one of my questions regarding his peace efforts, James made this statement about peace building by quoting an Irish saying,
 “It is a long road that has no turning back.”

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