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The story of Derry’s famous Golden Teapot

Figure 1 The Golden Teapot hanging in Waterloo Place around 1908. In the background the Guildhall is being re-built after a fire in January 1908. Photo by courtesy of the National Library of Ireland

The Golden Teapot hanging in Waterloo Place around 1908. In the background the Guildhall is being re-built after a fire in January 1908.
Photo courtesy of the National Library of Ireland

It first appeared in September 1866 but it is not known where it was made. At that time, notices in the Londonderry Sentinel and Londonderry Standard headed, “THE GOLDEN TEAPOT,” advertised John Parkhill’s new grocery business in Waterloo Place.

It was taken over in 1885 by Holmes and Mullin who called their business “The Golden Teapot Warehouse.” The firm prospered but in 1912 they sold it to Mr W. J. McCullagh who had been one of their employees for the previous 11 years.

1920’s

During the civil disturbances of the 1920’s the teapot suffered two bullet holes . One report in that year stated:

“Tension continued to build as preparations were being made by the government for the partition of Ireland. In April, May and June of that year serious rioting and gun-battles took place in the city. In all, forty people were killed. By Christmas 1920, Ireland had been effectively partitioned and, despite the total opposition of the local (majority) Catholic and nationalist community, Derry remained in the United Kingdom, part of the six counties that formed the state of Northern Ireland.”

1930’s

The Golden Teapot hanging outside McCullagh’s shop in Waterloo Place around 1934. Photo courtesy of the Bigger and McDonald Collection.

The Golden Teapot hanging outside McCullagh’s shop in Waterloo Place around 1934. Photo courtesy of the Bigger and McDonald Collection.

From left to right….Robert S. Neely assistant, Robert Kenwell assistant, Jack Dunlop provisions manager, Harold McCullagh proprietor, David Riddles storeman, George Hudson assistant, Eddie Devine fowl butcher, unknown, unknown. Circa 1934.<br />Photo courtesy of Kate Porter

From left to right….Robert S. Neely assistant, Robert Kenwell assistant, Jack Dunlop provisions manager, Harold McCullagh proprietor,
David Riddles storeman, George Hudson assistant, Eddie Devine fowl butcher, unknown, unknown. Circa 1934.
Photo courtesy of Kate Porter

1940’s – Lord Haw-Haw and the Teapot

“Germany calling, Germany calling,” was how the infamous William Joyce began his nightly propaganda broadcasts from Nazi Germany. It sounded more like, “Jairmany calling,” in Joyce’s strange, phoney upper class accent with his curious nasal intonation. Born in New York of an Irish father and an English mother and brought up in Galway, Joyce was a strange character indeed. He fought with the Black and Tans in Ireland’s War of Independence before living in England where he was a prominent member of Mosley’s “Black Shirts” or British Union of Fascists. Sympathetic to Adolph Hitler he slipped out of England in 1939 for Germany and began his nightly broadcasts. He quickly established an audience of millions and set about undermining public confidence in Britain. Soon the Daily Express dubbed him, “Lord Haw-Haw.”
In the heightened atmosphere of 1940, with the U.K. facing sustained bombing, a wave of “Haw-Haw rumours,” swept the country. One of these was that Joyce referred to British forces, “hiding behind,” the golden teapot, when naval ships were lined along the nearby docks. Although in reality, very few of these rumours were correct; this one took hold and has gone down in popular folklore.

For example, it is mentioned by, Tomás Ó Canainn in his partly autobiographical novel, Home to Derry,

“Derry was pushing its way out of a pre-war obscurity and into the international scene. Sean and his mother listened to Lord Haw-Haw’s broadcast one night and heard him telling the British Navy to come out from behind the Golden Teapot or Germany

would blast them out of it. Sean knew what he meant; the Golden Teapot hung outside McCullough’s shop in Waterloo Place and the ships were crowded in the docks behind it. It was exciting to think that Germany knew so much about Derry. He just hoped the anti-aircraft gun on top of Bryce and Weston’s factory would frighten away any Germans who succeeded in avoiding the barrage balloons that ringed the Derry sky.”

On the other hand, academic Martin Doherty, a lecturer in history at the University of Westminster sets out the reality,

“….there occurred a wave of rumours which would begin, “Lord Haw-Haw said…” Normally the rumours took the form of a story that Haw-Haw had referred to some particular town or village and, by mentioning an item of purely local interest, revealed his detailed knowledge of British life and geography – a town hall clock five minutes slow at Eastbourne, a card school in a munitions factory disrupted by a German raid, a reference to the Golden Teapot (an advertising sign) in Londonderry… Of course, as the Ministry of Information was forced to repeat time and again, rarely if ever did the Haw-Haw broadcasts include threats to specific towns or cities and certainly they never included references to named factories or installations, or teapots or town hall clocks.

1960’s – 1970’s

teapot clooney Terrace

Taken by Mabel Colhoun

In 1963 when McCullagh’s shop at Waterloo Place was demolished to make way for the new Savings Bank, the Teapot was moved to their other branch in 55 Clooney Terrace, which had been opened in 1938, when W.J. was succeeded by his sons Harold and Norman.

It was taken down from Clooney Terrace in the early 1970s when McCullagh’s closed after Norman’s death and Noel Faller bought it from Mrs Jean McCullagh in 1974.

The teapot’s restoration

Fallers began restoration work on the teapot in the 1990s. David Thomas, a highly skilled silversmith who had previously worked in the firm’s jewellery workshop carried out the restoration. He carefully removed the dents, repaired holes, replaced the iron base with copper and strengthened the teapot on the inside with fibreglass matting. Finally he applied fine gold leaf to the entire exterior.

At that time a replica iron wall bracket was made in a local engineering works but in 2000 it was decided to re-design the fixing to meet to-day’s safety standards. Local engineer Edward Meenan designed and built a new bracket in stainless steel box section coated in black powder for long term ascetics and to prevent water staining on the teapot. It will also allow the teapot to be easily removed for cleaning and re-gilding every five years or so.

Just prior to erection the teapot was again partly re-gilded with gold leaf by Moville sign writer, Kieron McLaughlin.