Tower Museum Explores Derry’s Historic Links With 1916

The Tower Museum, in partnership with Creative Centenaries, will mark the 1916 Centenaries with a new exhibition, and a full programme of fascinating events highlighting some of the most significant historical moments of the era, including a dedicated schools programme.

Delivered in conjunction with the Nerve Centre’s Creative Centenaries project, the series begins on April 14 with the launch of the 1916: Untold Stories exhibition which focuses on both the events of the 1916 Easter Rising and the impact of the Battle of the Somme for those living in the North West.

This unique exhibition will reveal some of the fascinating untold stories of the time, through exhibits and a new film capturing some of the personal accounts of local families about relatives living through the era.

A series of special events are planned over the coming months focusing on a variety of themes from the time led by some of the most respected local historians, authors and academics.

Mayor of Derry City and Strabane District, Councillor Elisha McCallion, said she looked forward to finding out more about such a significant period in local history. 'I think that while people are obviously aware of the seismic shift in the political and historical landscape which came about as a result of both the Easter Rising and the First World War, less is known about the impact on our own city.

'This is a great opportunity for local people to find out more about some of the prominent figures of the time, and stories about some of the exceptional deeds and events which took place during this era.'

Education Officer with Derry City and Strabane District Council, Margaret Edwards, said she was delighted to see so many local people and historians contributing to the programme. '1916 was such a significant year in terms of both the conflict taking place at home and abroad, and the programme seeks to give a more in depth insight into local events.

'We are delighted to be working with the Nerve Centre and welcome the many prestigious speakers who are taking part in our event programme, taking a comprehensive look at how these events touched the lives of individuals on both sides of the political divide.

'Drawing on a range of historical sources - from personal accounts to poetry and theatrical production - this series will offer some new perspectives on one of the most momentous years in modern history.  There will also be a programme of workshops available for schools to accompany the exhibition'. 

Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF) has provided funding for the Creative Centenaries project which is a wide ranging cultural heritage programme around the Decade of Anniversaries, led by the Nerve Centre. The programme aims to bring together a partnership of heritage and cultural organisations to celebrate our shared differences and explore our past together.  

Paul Mullan, Head of HLF NI said: 'The Creative Centenaries project has been working across NI promoting and coordinating activity linked to this turbulent period of local history.

“We are delighted to see this latest collaboration with the Tower Museum. The comprehensive range of activities will help people to explore and learn about the complex period of 1916. It is thanks to National Lottery players that we can support these fascinating projects.'

The 1916: Untold Stories exhibition will launch at the Tower Museum on April 14 at 7pm with guest speakers including historian and author Brian Lacey who will provide an insight into the preparations for the Easter Rising by Derry republicans. He will be joined by local historians Trevor Temple and Seamus Breslin speaking about the impact of the Battle of the Somme on the North West. Special guest for the evening is Brid ni Dhochartaigh, daughter of leading Derry republican Joseph O’Doherty, who features in the exhibition.

The exhibition will be followed on April 21 with a talk by Catherine Morris on the Life of Alice Milligan, and the launch of new graphic novel produced by the Nerve Centre on the influential poets Alice Milligan and Francis Ledwidge.

Following this April 27 sees a special talk by Adrian Grant focusing on Republicanism in Derry and what life was like in the North West in 1916, before, during, and after the Easter Rising.

On May 4 Emmet O’Connor will explore Labour in Derry, 1889 – 1923: Portraits of James McCarron and Peadar O’Donnell, examining the era between1889 and 1923 when Irish Labour was rocked by three waves of trade union militancy.

May 11 brings a talk by Seamus Breslin, taking a look at the Easter Rising’s impact on Derry soldiers on the Western Front and asking if Derry nationalists turned their backs on the men who risked their lives fighting for ‘the rights of small nations’?

On May 18 culture comes under the spotlight, as Feargal McGarry explores Theatre and Revolution: the Abbey Rebels. He will be asking how theatre shaped the Irish revolution and focusing on the experiences of the seven members of the Abbey Theatre who took part in the Easter Rising.  

On June 1 Sinead McCoole turns the spotlight on Women and the Easter Rising. As a curator and historian Sinead has uncovered the hidden stories of many women involved in the struggle for independence, in particular the part played by the women volunteers of Cumann na mBan and the Irish Citizen Army in the Easter Rising. 

On June 15 find out more about the Battle of the Somme with a special talk by local historian Richard Doherty, placing the 1916 Somme campaign in its overall context as part of an Entente strategy involving all three major theatres of war in Europe.

June 23 sees the author of the Road to the Somme, Philip Orr, explore the experiences of the 36th Ulster Division who faced all the horrors of the conflict.

Finally the series concludes on June 29 with a talk by Trevor Temple focusing on how the people of the North West have chosen to memorialise the First World War, reflecting the shared grief and suffering of so many across the North West at that time as expressed in the Memoriam pages of the local press. There will be further events planned for the autumn.

For more information on the exhibition and details of the full series of events please check out the Tower Museum’s Facebook page, or go to as well

The exhibition runs at the Tower Museum until the end of November 2016.