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Federations meet in Derry City - Weekend of 11th Oct - 13th Oct 2013: By Larry Breen

The Autumn field trip took the Federation north to the ancient city of Derry for a weekend during which both Federations joined together for a memorable tour of the city in this its year as the U.K. City of Culture.

Forty eight FLHS members from fifteen different societies and representing eight counties travelled north on the Friday morning stopping at the Ulster American Folk Park for a visit. On a beautiful sunny afternoon the group were welcomed by three great friends from the FULS namely John Bradley, Walter McFarlane and Johnny Dooher. After lunch in the restaurant and courtesy of John Bradley and Walter McFarlane the visitors were given a personal conducted tour of the Folk Park. All were captivated by the story of the Mellon family, their subsequent emigration to the United States and the depiction in the park of life as it was then in both the old and new worlds. Many thanks to John, Walter and Johnny for the personal touch and for making it such an interesting visit.

At the Folk Park-Group with John, Johnny and Walter Old World House-exterior
At the Folk Park- group with John, Johnny and Walter
Old World House - exterior
Old World House - interior Old World House - exterior
Old World House - interior
New World House - exterior

After dinner in the Tower Hotel we were treated to a most interesting and absorbing talk by Roy Hamilton from the FULS. Roy interspersed the history of Derry with the history of the river Foyle in a most informative and interesting way. It was a most entertaining lecture delivered in Roy's very own inimitable style.

Saturday saw the coming together of both Federations when the FLHS was joined by twenty six members of the FULS representing societies from around Ulster. The day commenced with a walking tour of the City walls by award winning guide Martin Mc Crossan. Martin, again in his own unique way, presented a fascinating, thought provoking and interesting history of the City from the walk around the walls.

Our next stop was St. Columb's Cathedral where we were cordially received by the Dean of the Cathedral, William Morton. After an excellent video on the history of the Cathedral and the story of some of the Cathedral's unique silverware Dean Morton gave a virtuoso performance on the beautifully restored Church organ including a rendition of the "Derry Air". Martin McCrossan then led the group on a tour of the Bogside which included the Bloody Sunday Memorial, Free Derry Corner, the H-Block Memorial and the Wall Murals. It was then back to the Apprentice Boys' Centre on the walls where we were given a most interesting and informative tour of the building by excellent guides.

Austin's Department Store, The Diamond St Columb's Cathedral
Austin's Department Store, The Diamond
St Columb's Cathedral

Both groups at the Guildhall
Both groups at the Guildhall

It was now time to eat and a chance for everybody to relax and sit down together as a whole group in the Tower Hotel. We were now seventy four strong and it was a credit to the guides who had managed to do an excellent job around the city with such a large group. During the dinner Dick Ryan of the FLHS and Johnny Dooher of the FULS complimented the Federations for maintaining and developing the close friendship and co-operation that existed between the groups. Joint ventures, sharing a common interest and working together has now become an integral part of that relationship.

Ferryquay Gate In the Bogside
Ferryquay Gate
In the Bogside

The Peace Bridge
The Peace Bridge

Siege Heros Museum, Society Street Ebrington Centre
Siege Heros Museum, Society Street
Ebrington Centre

The Guildhall beckoned and after dinner the group were afforded an official welcome by the Deputy Mayor, Gary Middleton. With everyone seated in the Council Chamber, the deputy Mayor extended a warm welcome to the visitors and wished them every success with the remainder of our stay. Dick Ryan responded on behalf of the group thanking the Deputy Mayor for his kind invitation and hospitality and expressed how much we were all enjoying the attractions of the city. Larry Breen and Johnny Dooher on behalf of both Federations presented the Deputy Mayor with history publications as a token of appreciation. The Deputy Mayor then presented Larry and Johnny with plaques illustrating the city Coat of Arms. The visit to the Guildhall finished with a tour of the building and a excellent presentation on the history and significance of the stained glass windows in the Main Hall. The day concluded with a walk across the Peace Bridge and a guided tour of the Ebrington Centre in the Waterside. We then sadly bade farewell to all our friends in the FULS with whom we had shared and enjoyed a memorable day.

Grianan of Aileach
Grianan of Aileach
The final gathering at Grianan
The final gathering at Grianan

Sunday morning and the group were on their way into Donegal to visit the ring fort "Grianan of Aileach". Situated eight hundred feet high on the summit of Greenan it presented an impressive sight in the morning sunlight. The view across Lough Foyle and Lough Swilly was stunning. We were met by local guide Dessie Mc Callion an expert on the site who presented a fascinating story on the history and significance of this ancient fort.

The happy band then made their way homewards with a stop at the Silver Birch Hotel in Omagh for an excellent lunch and then onwards to Dublin and Naas after a weekend to remember.