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Blue plaque for Sir William McArthur - 26 April 2012

The threatened rain stayed away and the cool and breezy late morning did nothing to dampen the cheerful and enthusiastic group of local and international businessmen and interested Derry citizens from celebrating the life and achievements of a local entrepreneur. William McArthur had started his business life in this spot and gone on to mighty achievements in London, becoming an international businessman, a Member of Parliament and Lord Mayor of London as well as being the founding President of the London Chamber of Commerce.

Chris Spurr, Chairman of the Ulster History Circle said that when William McArthur opened his first business within Derry's walls in 1831, he little knew this enterprise would lead to him becoming a prominent businessman in London, the city's Lord Mayor, a founder of the London Chamber of Commerce, and its first President. The Ulster History Circle was delighted to commemorate McArthur's achievements with this blue plaque, the tenth in the city, and was grateful to the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Derry Chamber of Commerce for their support. He thanked Mr Colm Cavanagh for his valuable help and advice throughout the preparations. He thanked Mr Willie Walsh, the current President of the London Chamber who had come from a very busy business life to unveil the plaque to his distinguished predecessor.

Alderman Maurice Devenney, Mayor of Derry City, welcomed everyone to the City and hoped that their visit would be a pleasant one. Like Sir William, he also was a Donegal man who had settled in the City. He thanked the Ulster History Circle, the Heritage Lottery Fund and the Londonderry Chamber of Commerce for organising the event.

Gerry Burns, Member of the Heritage Lottery Fund Committee for Northern Ireland said that the Fund was delighted to be involved in this project to raise awareness of individuals like William McArthur who have made significant contributions to the development of our society. The Blue Plaques were an excellent way of linking the buildings where these people once lived or worked to their lives and achievements, enabling us all to learn more about our heritage.

Tim Martin, owner of the Wetherspoons Inns chain, revealed that he had been born in Derry and remained a supporter of Derry City Football Club. He was delighted to be at the unveiling of the plaque on one of the firm's premises.

Colm Cavanagh, London~Derry Connections, gave a short but interesting talk about Sir William, whom he described as a role-model for anyone seeking to be a success in life as well as business. Having started his business in Londonderry he expanded into Australia after his brother moved there for the good of his health, eventually moving to London where he became an Alderman and an MP, helping to set up the Chamber of Commerce and becoming its Founding President. His working day started at 6.00 a.m. and he faithfully followed a set of eight 'rules' which included an hour of scripture reading. He never drank alcohol. A devout Methosist all his life, when he died he left 150,000 to Methodist causes. He was grateful to Ulster History Circle for agreeing to erect the plaque to Sir William, to the Londonderry Chamber for inviting Mr Walsh to unveil the plaque to his predecessor and to Mr Walsh for agreeing to do so.

Padraig Canavan, President of the Londonderry Chamber of Commerce, said that the Chamber was pleased that Mr Willie Walsh, CEO of International Airways Group and President of the London Chamber of Commerce, had agreed to speak to the Chamber's Annual President's Lunch and to unveil the plaque to his distinguished predecessor as President of the London Chamber, Sir William McArthur. The Chamber was pleased to support the unveiling and thanked the Ulster History Circle for its work in the City and elsewhere.

Mr Willie Walsh said that when he became President of the London Chamber of Commerce he was described as the first Irishman to hold the position, so it was a surprise to discover that this was not the case and that indeed the founding President in 1881 was also an Irishman. Apart from the fact that they were both Irishmen, he could find little in common other than that they both arose at 6 o'clock in the morning! One major difference was the fact that during McArthur's Presidency no alcohol was allowed in the Mansion House! Indeed looking at the work he had been involved in, he reckoned McArthur was more hard working than he himself was. He was delighted to have been invited to unveil the plaque and he thanked the Londonderry Chamber and the Ulster History Circle for inviting him.

Here are some photos of the event.

People gather for the plaque unveiling - PHOTO Patrick Devlin
People gather for the plaque unveiling
Chris Spurr chats to Willie Walsh - PHOTO Patrick Devlin Willie Walsh with Mayor Devenney and Colm Cavanagh- PHOTO Patrick Devlin
Chris Spurr chats to Willie Walsh
Willie Walsh with Mayor Devenney and Colm Cavanagh
Chris Spurr introducing the event - PHOTO Patrick Devlin Mayor Maurice Devenney welcoming the guests to the City- PHOTO Patrick Devlin
Chris Spurr introducing the event
Mayor Maurice Devenney welcoming the guests to the City
Gerry Burns, Heritage Lottery Fund - PHOTO Patrick Devlin Tim Martin, Wetherspoons Inns - PHOTO Patrick Devlin
Gerry Burns, Heritage Lottery Fund
Tim Martin, Wetherspoons Inns
Colm Cavanagh talks about Sir William - PHOTO Patrick Devlin Padraig Canavan - PHOTO Patrick Devlin
Colm Cavanagh talks about Sir William's life and achievements
Padraig Canavan
Willie Walsh talks about his predecessor as President of the London Chamber of Commerce - PHOTO Patrick Devlin Willie Walsh unveiling the plaque. Mark Durkin MP and Tim Martin applaud - PHOTO Patrick Devlin
Willie Walsh talks about his predecessor as President of the London Chamber of Commerce
Willie Walsh unveiling the plaque. Mayor Devenney and Mark Durkan MP applaud
Chris Spurr, Willie Walsh, Mayor Maurice Devenney, Tim Martin and Padraig Canavan - PHOTO Patrick Devlin
Chris Spurr, Willie Walsh, Mayor Maurice Devenney, Tim Martin and Padraig Canavan


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