Transition Derry

Tackling Peak Oil, Climate Change and Economic Breakdown

Here is the first response to the call for memories of allotment plots in Derry. Thankyou Jim.

Growing Together.doc

The Plot.

My father John was a country man.He came from Castlederg in Co. Tyrone to work in Derry when he was 14 years old.
He never lost his love of the land in all his sixty years in the city.
A hard worker all his life he was happiest out working in the plots behind the houses on the Lone Moor Road.
And as a boy I was never happier than when I was out in the plots "helping him."
After his work on the buses and we had had our tea, he and I would head off to work in the plots on those ever sunny, never ending summer's evenings.
The plots were marked out on the sloping hillside and most had a wee hut for the storage of tools ,sacks ,buckets,seed catalogues and "stuff".
I suppose they provided shelter if it rained but in my recall it never rained in those days.
John would grow all sorts of food for us ,his family of seven, cabbage,beans ,peas, lettuce, onions,vegetable marrows, scallions,turnips and lots of spuds.
They kept us going in good fresh food.
We would weed and water ,thin out ,turn over the soil,plant and harvest and he would talk me through the stages and explain why he was doing these tasks.
I am sure he taught me well but maybe I was not a great horticultural student.
But I did love those times together in the plot. Sometimes talking , sometimes watching him at work , sometimes just hoking in the little corner he allocated to me for my own wee garden.
He would sometimes take a break to talk to Sergeant Burke or some other man about their efforts.
It seemed to me that the gardeners were mostly countrymen or policemen.
When they talked I was free to roam,to go to the tap, fill a bucket and water my patch.
I was warned about the dangers of over watering.
As the light began to leave the sky and the city's silhouette of The Derry Walls, St.Columb's Cathedral, the Long Tower Church, St.Columb's College and Walker's Pillar began to fade he would put his bag of potatoes astride the crossbar of his bike and hang a few lettuce and a couple of heads of cabbage over the handle bars to take home or to give to someone he might meet on the way.
Off we would go up Bligh's Lane to our house in Creggan.The return of the gatherers.

At some stage my father expanded his domain to include an adjacent plot and there he marked off an area for his cash crop.Flowers.
We prepared the ground and planted the seedlings at the regulation distance apart and kept the rows straight by a cord marker with a stick at either end.
They seemed to me to take a long time to grow and bloom.
But when they did they were beautiful pink chrysanthemums.
We cut and gathered them and carefully took them home.
They were put into buckets,basins, vases or anything that would hold both them and water.
Then my mother and father would start to make bunches of the flowers and tied each with a piece of string.
The scent of chrysanthemums still transports me to that time and place.
When they were all sorted the next stage was to get them to Mr.Canning's Greengrocer's shop in William Street as soon as possible.
Freshness was vital.
I do not know the profit margins or any financial information but money changed hands and I was given a
One of Mr Canning's regular customers was Mrs O'Leary.
She just loved the pink flowers and so did her daughter.
Only many years later did she meet my father and learn that he was the source of her favourite flowers.
Mrs O' Leary's daughter is now my wife.

Jim Craig

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Comment by Jane on February 6, 2010 at 17:31
Thank you for this, it is really inspiring and transported me back to the aul days.

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