Boom Hall

In 1779, ninety years after Derry was saved from the starvation of the great siege of 1689, Colby’s book records that Boom Hall, a fine example of a classical villa, was built by John Alexander on the west bank of the river Foyle. It was named after the wooden boom that was erected across the river by the Jacobean forces. Its purpose was to prevent help from reaching the besieged city. It was a formidable obstacle, which defeated many onslaughts until three merchant ships, the Mountjoy, the Jerusalem and the Phoenix succeeded in breaking it. There was a delirious welcome for the ships’ crews when they landed at Shipquay to unload their cargo of food. Unfortunately Captain Browning, the captain of the Mountjoy, died of wounds received in the battle to relieve the city.

The land known as Gunsland, on which Boom Hall was built is reputed to be a ghostly visiting place of the aforesaid Captain. When a mist lies over the water there have been sightings of a tall, erect figure, which is said to have an almost transparent form although other recordings say that, the man is wearing a dark blue tailcoat with gold braid.

The Boome

The building was later handed down through John Alexander’s grandson Robert, to his son Henry. He was a diplomat who eventually died in South Africa in 1818. The estate then passed to Lord Caledon, a distant relative who sold it in 1849 to Daniel Baird, a wealthy merchant of the city for 6,000. It was let to several people until the Navy requisitioned it for the WRNS during the Second World War. The last owner was Michael Henry McDevitt. The last person the live there was his daughter who was an English teacher in a local school until she retired. Most of the house was closed up when she lived there.

There is a fund of stories about things that happened during its history. One story involved a girl who was a relative of the family. She had been sent there to remove her from the attention of a young groomsman employed in her own home in England. However the young man followed her and hid out in the stables where they had secret trysts. When they were discovered the girl was locked in an upstairs corner bedroom but the young man got away. The girl pined and a few weeks later the bedroom went up in flames. The family frantically tried to get into the room but to no avail. When eventually the flames were distinguished the ashes were searched for the body of the young girl but nothing was found. Either she was burnt to death and nothing remained or she made her escape and eloped with the young man. Stories circulated that her ghost was seen walking along the corridor at the top of the house. A servant at the time said that the young lady appeared to her and whispered something indistinguishable. After several failed attempts to understand she felt herself being taken gently by the hand to the stables where she found a brooch belonging to the girl. The servant immediately gave it to the mistress and she took it as a sign that the girl had fled.

About twelve years ago a group of young people swore that they saw the apparition at the top window of the derelict Hall.

Boom Hall, Derry

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