derry city of culture"From Derry quay we sailed away
On the 23rd of May
We were taken on board by a pleasant crew
Bound for Americay
Fresh water there we did take on
Five thousand gallons or more
In case we'd get short going to New York
Far away from the Shamrock shore.”

Paddy's Green Shamrock shore



A city of culture

As part of the Fleadh Cheoil 2013, and the Derry City of Culture celebrations, 'Derry to the Sea' was a specially commissioned song cycle which celebrates the Foyle and the history of Derry from its founding to the present day.

The Foyle has always shaped Derry's story, and it has shaped the story of countless exiles whose parting from their homelands was finalised by the fast flowing streams of the Foyle.


A tale of two epochs

Derry was probably an island on the Foyle when it was founded, reputedly by Colmcille, in the year 544.

Perhaps its location as a defensible redoubt on the mouth of the Foyle was important, or perhaps it was seen by Colmcille as a hermetic retreat. Whatever the reason it is the connection to the sea which would become the enduring theme of Derry.

Colmcille would later become the first, and most famous, of Derry's exiles.

His parting, we know, was self-imposed, but none the less sorrowful. It is no wonder he would become the patron of emigrants; and that in later times exiles would sleep on his reputed birthstone, Leac na Chumhaidh, on the night before departing Ireland, in hope that their exile would not be a sorrowful one.


derry and emmigration

The major story of Derry in the 19th century was one of departures.. From the beginning Derry has been defined by the Foyle and its connection to the sea. This is all too apparent in the well known political history of the Derry, but it is also apparent in countless personal histories which are told in the ballads of exile of the 19th century.




I am the foyle

From Derry to the Sea told two stories. The story of the people who left Derry. Their perspectives, and how they viewed the world they left behind, and the new lands and situations they found themselves in; and the story of Derry in 2013 as perceived by the people who live there.

In a series of workshops with over 300 writers and musicians from all across Derry's communities, they were asked to tell "how do you see your city and its great shaper, the River Foyle"?

In recounting their stories and histories they gave many perspectives of their city. I am the Foyle tells how they told the tale of their city of today. It imagines the music of these memories, and the other stories which are nestled in their words and minds?

Performing the piece were over 70 citizens of Derry in St Columb's Cathedral on August 11th 2013. A celebration; or even an anthem to the city, it optimistically poses the question: "What do they want their city to represent;, what do they want it to become"?




follows the writing of "I am the Foyle"
words and melody by Lorcán Mac Mathúna
orchestration by martin tourish
conducted by tom doorley
Final Performance was in:
st Columbs Cathedral, Derry
August 11 2013