Historic documents to be put on display as part of a regional tour of local libraries by PRONI

Date published: 14 November 2023

A Seamus Heaney letter and passenger logs from emigration ships that departed Foyle Port for North America in the mid-1800s are to be put on display as part of a regional tour of local libraries by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland (PRONI).

Historic documents to be put on display as part of a regional tour of local libraries by PRONI

Currently celebrating its centenary, PRONI is taking some of its most interesting records on the road, visiting Derry Central Library on 21st November and Enniskillen Library on 14th December, with further visits, including to Lurgan Library, planned for the New Year.

The initiative, which has been organised in partnership with Libraries NI, will see historical documents specific to the region put on display at each local library.

Documents available to view at Derry Central Library on 21st November include:

  • A letter from Seamus Heaney to fellow renowned poet John Hewitt in September 1966 following the publication of Death of a Naturalist.
  • A passenger book of shipping agent J & J Cooke listing the names of those leaving Foyle Port for Philadelphia, Québec and St. John, New Brunswick between March 1858 and July 1867.
  • A register from Coleraine National School dating back to the late-1800s, noting the names of the male and female pupils who attended between 1872 and 1899.
  • A register from St Eugene’s Convent (formerly St Columb’s Convent) National School, noting the names of the girls who attended the school between 1892 and 1903.
  • A highly decorated map depicting the siege of Londonderry in 1689 (digital viewing only).
  • Footage from the UTV Archive depicting the North West, including 1960s footage of Foyle Street, a 1965 news clip on a four mile long motorcade in support of a university in the city and a piece on Derry’s selection as City of Culture in 2013.

Acting Director of PRONI, David Huddleston said:

“As the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland celebrates its 100th anniversary, I am delighted that we are taking unique and original records on the road to local communities where they were first created.

“Archives are for everyone. They tell us about our people, and our places, so this is a fantastic opportunity to see original historical records up close in a local library. They may contain details of names and addresses that will resonate with visitors or show them family connections.

“This is the first time PRONI has worked with Libraries NI to take historical records on tour, and we look forward to reaching new audiences. I hope it will inspire visitors to think about the archives and records that have survived, what they tell us about the past and our shared history.”

Libraries NI Chief Executive Jim O’Hagan said:

“Libraries NI welcomes the opportunity to work with PRONI on this exciting initiative and to provide members of the public with a wonderful opportunity to see a selection of important items on display, helping to shine a light on the history and heritage of the local community.

“We are delighted to host the first event in Derry Central Library and look forward to welcoming people as they come and connect with their shared past at their local library.”

PRONI officials will be available on the day to help visitors to Derry Central Library uncover details of their family tree, delve into the history of the local area, and answer questions about the vast array of records held by the Public Record Office of Northern Ireland.

Notes to editors: 

1. Image caption 1 – Seamus Heaney’s letter to John Hewitt, September 1966 (PRONI reference D3838/3/7); Image caption 2 - A passenger list of those who boarded the ‘Elizabeth’ bound for Philadelphia in Spring 1858 (PRONI Reference: D2892/1/3)

2. PRONI is visiting Derry Central Library on 21st November (10am to 4pm).

3. The Libraries NI regional tour is just one event of a year-long programme of activities to mark the centenary of PRONI which was established on 22nd June 1923 and opened its doors to the public on 3rd March 1924.

4. PRONI is based at 2 Titanic Boulevard, Titanic Quarter, Belfast. For details on opening hours, see NI Direct: or call 028 90 534800.

5. The Department for Communities funds the public library service, which since 1st April 2009 has been administered by the Northern Ireland Library Authority, known as Libraries NI.

6. Media enquiries to DfC Press Office.

7. Follow the Department on X @CommunitiesNI

8. The Executive Information Service operates an out of hours service for media enquiries only between 1800hrs and 0800hrs Monday to Friday and at weekend and public holidays. The Duty Press Officer can be contacted on 028 9037 8110.

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