Belfast Telegraph

Derry public pay for funeral of 'street character' Jimmy

Familiar face: Jimmy Brolly
Familiar face: Jimmy Brolly
Donna Deeney

By Donna Deeney

A crowdfunding page set up to cover the funeral costs of one of Londonderry's best known 'street characters' surpassed its target within hours - leaving enough to pay for a headstone too.

Jimmy Brolly (59) was not a native, coming here from Kilmarnock in Scotland more than 20 years ago.

He lived a nomadic life, sleeping under the stars during the summer months and seeking shelter in various refuges during winter.

There was widespread sadness in Derry this week as news emerged that 'Wee Jimmy', as he was affectionately known, had passed away in Altnagelvin Hospital.

Since 2011 Jimmy was a resident of Damien House, a refuge for men with alcohol addiction. Deputy manager Lexie Doherty paid tribute to him.

"Without a doubt Jimmy was a character that touched the hearts of the people of Derry," said Mr Doherty.

"He has been with us on and off since 2011, and before that he was in the Lighthouse hostel in Ballymena, but he has been on the roads of Northern Ireland for at least 20 years.

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"Since Jimmy passed away the staff here at Damien House actually tracked down two sisters and a daughter of Jimmy's, who hadn't seen him in decades.

"They were sad to hear he had died, but his daughter hadn't seen him in 20 years, and before that she was two, so they won't come for his funeral, but there will be a big turnout for Jimmy in Derry."

He added: "I put an announcement on my Facebook page with his picture just to say he had died and within two hours it had been shared 1,700 times and almost 350 people had left messages.

"Jimmy was part of the fabric of Derry, everybody knew Jimmy and they looked out for him, people were always giving him money, food and clothes."

He said that Jimmy "lived his life according to his own rules".

"He certainly never followed the rules of Damien House! But he was never abusive to our staff or the other residents," he explained.

"He never did anyone any harm so we turned a blind eye if he brought a wee drink into his room the odd evening.

"He was a great storyteller - but I was never sure how much truth there was in what he was saying or if it was a yarn."

While Damien House had been prepared to cover the cost of the funeral, Foyle MLA Mark H Durkan suggested asking the people of the city to contribute to a crowdfunding campaign. The target of £2,000 was reached within hours of the page being set up, so the additional funds will pay for a headstone in the City Cemetery, where Jimmy will be laid to rest.

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