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John Hume was a legend... he represented the best of us

Gareth Cross


In Derry the shadow of John Hume looms large.

As someone who avoided the worst of the Troubles I missed many of Hume's biggest achievements, decades spent fighting for peace in Northern Ireland.

By the time I became aware of him, Hume had taken on an almost mythical figure.

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

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John Hume playing with his children

A man who was willing to truly put it all on the line to deliver a better Ireland for all its people.

Derry is a place in which rightly or wrongly, we feel we often get the raw end of the deal.

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A city that bore the brunt of the discrimination handed down by the old unionist-led Stormont regime and suffered greatly during the Troubles.

But Hume gave us something to shout about, a proud Derryman known the world over for his achievements. People might not know Derry, but they knew Hume.

The legend only grew when I started attending his old alma matter, St Columb's College, where he also taught.

As someone with a keen interest in politics Hume to me represented the best of us, someone willing to put self interest aside to serve the greater good.

He played a key role in establishing Derry's credit union, lifting hundreds of families just like his own out of poverty.

As others turned to guns, Hume turned to words. As others sought to drive us further apart Hume stood in the middle, like a bulwark, desperately trying to hold two sides together.

Hume was never afraid to stand up for what he thought was right, even if it made him unpopular or put himself and his family at risk.

He spoke out against the Bloody Sunday march that ended in tragedy and attracted widespread scorn, some from within his own party, for engaging in the Hume-Adams talks.

I had the pleasure of meeting the man, Ireland's greatest, at a school prize giving in the mid to late 2000s.

He had retired from political life by then and was beginning to show signs of dementia.

Though the man's mind may have diminished his stature had not.

I was lucky enough to have a photo of the two of us taken that evening that I never tire of posting on social media.

It remains among my most treasured possessions, alongside two books signed by him.

In 2017 I attended the Derry premiere of Maurice's Fitzpatrick's film 'John Hume in America'.

Hume himself had been too ill to attend but I was lucky enough to share a few words with his wife Pat, a lady in every sense of the word.

The film detailed the work Hume had done working in the US attempting to get them to take an interest in Northern Ireland.

When I think of Hume the closing shots of the documentary come back to me.

A postscript was added explaining Hume was too ill to take part and featured footage of him walking along the water near his holiday home.

The footage was touching in its simplicity, a great man coming to the end of his life, an old warrior, his battle over.

Rest easy John.


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