From wee Texan lass to Derry Girl

Photo courtesy of Harper Leigh

By Mary Kate Montgomery | Guest Contributor

When a binge-watching obsession turns into a face-to-face encounter, it’s the ultimate fulfillment. Like seeing photos of iconic sites in books and then actually going to see those places in person, the experience comes full circle with emotion and deeper insight.

My trip the weekend of June 11 to Derry/Londonderry in Northern Ireland was inspired by Netflix’s “Derry Girls.”

“Derry Girls” was set in Northern Ireland during the Troubles. The honest and humorous portrayal of this era is told through four Catholic high school girls and a wee English fella. The show perfectly captures the darkness behind the Troubles and the brightness of teenage life.

Out of the ordinary was normal for the people of Derry. Bomb scares, armed forces and death were present alongside companionship and craic (the Irish word for fun). There is no doubt that the show invalidates the violence behind the Troubles, which is contrasted with the innocence of teenagers.

The last scene on season two shows the girls performing at their school’s Our Lady Immaculate College talent show. While the girls are dancing innocently at the show, the parents are back at home watching the news, which shows their town of Derry getting bombed.

The innocence that comes with young teenagers reminds us that the world is changing every day. Nostalgic innocence comes before the realization of how violent and cruel the world really is. This contrast makes the show feel so realistic.

According to Michelle, one of the characters, “being a Derry Girl is a state of mind.” If you can find companionship, shared solidarity and joy in spite of a time of trouble, then consider yourself a Derry Girl.

My experience of becoming a Derry Girl started with my newfound education of Ireland’s history. Coming to a new environment far away from home, I was unaware of all the history that the little town of Derry held.

Walking alongside the Derry murals opened my eyes and heart to the time of the Troubles. The murals create a political statement that protests strategies against the Catholics made by the British while also highlighting the impoverished social and economic conditions.

Being a Derry Girl represents that there is life behind the Troubles and madness. Through the joy of companionship, a time of trouble can feel less isolating.

This wee Texan lass and newfound Derry Girl was humbled and honored to walk alongside the lovely folks of Derry, even if only for a weekend. Their resilience and spirit will remain with me.