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John Hume: Statesman, hero and gentleman... people from the city he loved pay their own tribute

In the city he loved so much, among the people who loved him so much, the sense of sadness and loss was profound.

John Hume's passion for Londonderry and its people knew no bounds.

As news of his death broke early on Monday morning, it drew tributes from across Ireland and beyond.

But the feeling of grief was at its greatest in Hume's home city, among his people.

He will never be forgotten here, and on Monday some were calling for the city's Peace Bridge to be renamed in his honour.

Walking through the streets of the city, people were reminiscing about this most treasured son of Derry.

John Hume 1937 - 2020: A life in pictures Close

John Hume playing with his children

John Hume playing with his children

John Hume is carried aloft through Londonderry city centre after being returned as MP for Foyle in 1987

John Hume is carried aloft through Londonderry city centre after being returned as MP for Foyle in 1987

John Hume on his wedding day with wife Pat

John Hume on his wedding day with wife Pat

John Hume is detained by soldiers during a civil rights protest in Londonderry in August 1971.

John Hume is detained by soldiers during a civil rights protest in Londonderry in August 1971.

John Hume

John Hume

John Hume in thoughtful mood at the SDLP party conference in Newcastle in 1979

John Hume in thoughtful mood at the SDLP party conference in Newcastle in 1979

Bertie Ahern and John Hume as they took part in a press conference on the 10th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement in Belfast. Picture Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker.

Bertie Ahern and John Hume as they took part in a press conference on the 10th anniversary of the Good Friday Agreement in Belfast. Picture Charles McQuillan/Pacemaker.

U2 star Bono is flanked by David Trimble and John Hume on stage during a special concert in Belfast to promote the ‘Yes’ vote in the referendum on the Good Friday Agreement (Chris Bacon/PA)

U2 star Bono is flanked by David Trimble and John Hume on stage during a special concert in Belfast to promote the ‘Yes’ vote in the referendum on the Good Friday Agreement (Chris Bacon/PA)

PA

John Hume with his good friend, Senator Ted Kennedy, in the Bogside

John Hume with his good friend, Senator Ted Kennedy, in the Bogside

John Hume with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan

John Hume with UN Secretary General Kofi Annan

John Hume and his wife Pat at the Foyle Arts Centre in Londonderry after hearing that he and David Trimble were to share the Nobel Peace Prize

John Hume and his wife Pat at the Foyle Arts Centre in Londonderry after hearing that he and David Trimble were to share the Nobel Peace Prize

Photopress Belfast

John Hume with party colleague Seamus Mallon

John Hume with party colleague Seamus Mallon

John Hume and David Trimble with U2 frontman Bono celebrating the Good Friday Agreement

John Hume and David Trimble with U2 frontman Bono celebrating the Good Friday Agreement

The SDLP team led by leader John Hume arrives at Stormont in 1999 to start the process of selecting ministers for the devolved government

The SDLP team led by leader John Hume arrives at Stormont in 1999 to start the process of selecting ministers for the devolved government

John Hume waiting for the verdict of the referendum on the Good Friday Agreement, David Trimble, Tony Blair and John Hume at Dunadry in Co Antrim

John Hume waiting for the verdict of the referendum on the Good Friday Agreement, David Trimble, Tony Blair and John Hume at Dunadry in Co Antrim

Photopress Belfast

John Hume waiting for the verdict of the referendum on the Good Friday Agreement, David Trimble, Tony Blair and John Hume at Dunadry in Co Antrim

John Hume waiting for the verdict of the referendum on the Good Friday Agreement, David Trimble, Tony Blair and John Hume at Dunadry in Co Antrim

Photopress Belfast

Hometown heroes: John Hume celebrates with Derry City players after their 2010 First Division win

Hometown heroes: John Hume celebrates with Derry City players after their 2010 First Division win

SPORTSFILE

Former SDLP leader John Hume and Bill Clinton pictured in front of the Guildhall. Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye.

Former SDLP leader John Hume and Bill Clinton pictured in front of the Guildhall. Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye.

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams (left) and SDLP leader John Hume (Chris Bacon/PA)

Sinn Fein president Gerry Adams (left) and SDLP leader John Hume (Chris Bacon/PA)

PA

John Hume worked with Ian Paisley

John Hume worked with Ian Paisley

PA

SDLP leader John Hume with his wife Pat speak to the media after he and David Trimble won the Nobel Peace Prize (PA)

SDLP leader John Hume with his wife Pat speak to the media after he and David Trimble won the Nobel Peace Prize (PA)

PA

John Hume in front of the Stormont Building in 2002 (Paul Faith/PA)

John Hume in front of the Stormont Building in 2002 (Paul Faith/PA)

John Hume with David Trimble (PA)

John Hume with David Trimble (PA)

PA

Bill Clinton in front of the Guildhall with former SDLP leader John Hume and his wife Pat. Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye.

Bill Clinton in front of the Guildhall with former SDLP leader John Hume and his wife Pat. Photo-Jonathan Porter/Presseye.

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

SDLP Conference, St Columb's Hall, Derry 12th March 2016. SDLP Leader Colm Eastwood John Hume at the conclusion of the conference Photo:Presseye.

SDLP Conference, St Columb's Hall, Derry 12th March 2016. SDLP Leader Colm Eastwood John Hume at the conclusion of the conference Photo:Presseye.

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Eye.

File photo dated 19/10/2000 of the Dalai Lama (left) meeting with fellow Nobel peace laureate John Hume, the former SDLP leader has died at the age of 83. Photo: Martin McCullough/PA Wire

File photo dated 19/10/2000 of the Dalai Lama (left) meeting with fellow Nobel peace laureate John Hume, the former SDLP leader has died at the age of 83. Photo: Martin McCullough/PA Wire

PA

File photo dated 24/08/2014 of John Hume and his wife Pat, the former SDLP leader has died at the age of 83. PA Photo.Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

File photo dated 24/08/2014 of John Hume and his wife Pat, the former SDLP leader has died at the age of 83. PA Photo.Photo: Niall Carson/PA Wire

PA

Handout File photo dated 12/04/2000 of Former South African President Nelson Mandela meeting John Hume at the South African Embassy in Dublin Photo: PA Wire

Handout File photo dated 12/04/2000 of Former South African President Nelson Mandela meeting John Hume at the South African Embassy in Dublin Photo: PA Wire

PA

John Hume playing with his children

Right across the community, there was great and genuine affection for what some described as Ireland's last great statesman.

Taxi drivers waiting on their fares listened as John Hume's contribution to peace and the Good Friday Agreement was discussed on radio programmes.

A book of condolence was opened in the Guildhall, which will allow people to pen their own tribute to Mr Hume and offer messages of condolences to his widow Pat, children and grandchildren, over the coming days.

One of the first to sign it on Monday was SDLP leader and Foyle MP Colum Eastwood, who described his predecessor as "Ireland's Martin Luther King". He wrote poignantly: "Thank-you from a grateful generation."

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Colum Eastwood signs a book of condolence yesterday

Colum Eastwood signs a book of condolence yesterday

Photo by Kelvin Boyes / Press Ey

Colum Eastwood signs a book of condolence yesterday

The mayor of Derry and Strabane, Brian Tierney, wrote that he was a "hero of Ireland".

In the Guildhall Square, the memories shared by people were warm and varied.

Pointing to the Peace Bridge across from the square, Ciaran O'Donnell suggested naming the landmark structure after John Hume, saying it would be a most fitting tribute.

He said: "The Peace Bridge should have been called after him when it was first built but it is not too late to do that now. The three words go together - John, Hume and peace.

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Ciaran O’Donnell

Ciaran O’Donnell

Ciaran O’Donnell

"I know he hadn't been well for a long time but it is devastating that John Hume has died. The things that man did for this city, what he did for the country, is beyond reproach and I wish we had more like it - it is as simple as that.

"He always had a smile and a nod for everybody. He was a giant of a man who had real passion for this city - both the Waterside and the City side.

"He had a passion for people and a passion for peace and he was the last great statesman."

Graeme Service from Limavady said John Hume will be remembered with affection by both communities.

He said: "John Hume was a good man who wanted to do the best for people and it didn't matter if you were a Protestant or a Catholic or anything else.

"He wasn't overly successful in achieving everything he set out to do, but that wasn't through any fault of his own."

Joe Gallagher said John Hume will always be remembered as a peacemaker.

He said: "It is such a sad day for the city, it is a big loss for Derry. I met John a couple of times years ago when he was still involved in politics and he was such a gentleman.

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Joe Gallagher

Joe Gallagher

Joe Gallagher

"He loved Derry and he loved people and that came across when you talked to him.

"He will always be remembered as a champion of civil rights and as a peacemaker and he will be sadly missed by everyone."

Hume's legacy spread far beyond his home city.

Donacha Keane, who is from west Cork on his first visit to Derry, said even in the part of Ireland farthest from Northern Ireland, John Hume was a name everyone knew.

He said: "I have to say Derry is completely different to what I imagined and I suppose that had a lot to do with John Hume.

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Donnacha Keane

Donnacha Keane

Donnacha Keane

"I would only have been a teenager when the Troubles were going on and to be honest, it didn't mean much to us but even a teenager I was aware of John Hume and I think that was true of most people."

While John Hume is recognised around the world as the architect of the peace process and as the broker of the Good Friday Agreement, in Derry, he is also recognised as the man who did so much to create job opportunities in one of the UK's unemployment black spots.

Claire McElhinney said the people of the city have much to thank John Hume for.

She said: "John Hume helped so many people in the city, he brought so much work and investment to Derry. He was a great advocated for Derry and brought large companies like Seagate here that has given employment to so many.

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Claire McElhinney

Claire McElhinney

Claire McElhinney

"I really don't think the city would not be what it is today without John Hume, we have so much to thank him for - his work in bringing peace, civil rights and jobs.

"It is a sad day for Derry and one of the saddest things is that because of coronavirus he won't get the funeral he deserves but he will never be forgotten."

Brigid McAteer said that while John Hume will be remembered far and wide for his contribution to peace, in his own city he will never be forgotten for establishing the credit union.

"People in Derry take the credit union for granted but what few people know is that John Hume set up the credit union in Derry," she recalled.

"This meant that for the first time, families like my own could get a loan. Banks didn't want to know people like us because my father was unemployed, same as the majority of men in this city 50 years ago, but the credit union would lend money to anybody who was a regular saver.

"I heard an interview John Hume was giving years and years ago and whoever he was talking to asked him what he considered his greatest achievement and John said it was starting the credit union in Derry.

"I just thought that showed the calibre of the man John Hume was, he cared so much about the ordinary working class man in the street.

"Before his illness took a real hold of him, John would walk around these streets and everybody knew he wasn't well but they looked out for him, made sure he was okay."

John Hume helped Derry's people through their most difficult days. In his latter days, its people looked after him.

And now they will never forget him.

Belfast Telegraph