John Hume recalls the influence of his family and education on his early years in Derry,
John Hume was born in Derry in 1937. He came from a catholic working class background, won a scholarship to attend Grammar School and then University and became active in the early civil rights movement in Northern Ireland. He was a founding member of the SDLP, an MP in Westminster and Member of the European Parliament.
John Hume tells David Hanly about his life growing up in Derry. He describes his father Samuel Hume as a highly intelligent man, who like many people in Northern Ireland, did not get the opportunities afforded to others. He worked in the shipyard until John was eight years old and from then on was unemployed. Times were hard with seven children to feed. Samuel Hume had a great interest in what was going on in the world and the family home became an advice centre to many in the area. He understood how the system worked and would write letters for people about all sorts of problems they were encountering in their lives.
John Hume grew up in a mixed district of Derry with Protestants and Catholics living side by side. While people had very little, they had nothing to compare it with. John Hume believes it is tougher today for people as they are aware of the inequalities.
No matter how poor people are today, there's a television set in the corner and they can watch Dallas.
John Hume's mother Anne was a seamstress and worked at night at home after the children had gone to bed to earn extra money. This was typical of many families at the time.
Despite the poverty, it was a happy upbringing in a neighbourhood based on a sense of community.
There was a great neighbourhood consciousness.
John Hume believes poor planning and design have led to the destruction of neighbourhoods with the development of high rise flats and huge sprawling housing estates with no soul. He welcomes a return to the neighbourhood style of housing which he sees as an important force in stabilising communities.
Encouraged by his father's insistence that education was the only forward, John Hume received a scholarship to attend Saint Columb's Grammar School. The 1947 Education Act was one of the most important things that happened in Northern Ireland and specifically for Catholics.
It gave, for the first time, educational opportunity for everybody no matter where you came from. If you had the ability, you could make it.
Without that act, someone like John Hume would never have got to grammar school let alone university. This generation was the first from John Hume's background to have such opportunities. He later went on to St Patrick's College Maynooth to study to become a priest. While he did not complete his clerical studies, he did leave Maynooth with a Masters degree in French and history. His decision to become an seminarian was largely down to an expectation placed on many of his generation that this was the path he should take. His attitude to religion has changed over the years from one that was largely based on devotion to one that follows the Parable of the Talents.
Life is what you are given and then what you do with it.
This episode of 'Hanly's People' was broadcast on 13 April 1987. The presenter is David Hanly.