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John Hume
John Hume
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John Hume Interview (page: 2 / 8)

Nobel Prize for Peace

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  John Hume

Mr. Trimble, could you talk a little bit about your early political life? First of all, how did you experience the troubles yourself?

David Trimble: Well, Bangor was a town in the north area of Northern Ireland which has not, in fact, been directly affected by the troubles to any great extent. There have been effects, but not greatly. What we call "the Troubles" in Northern Ireland have been actually quite localized in their impact, in the sense that there are particular localities that have suffered very badly, North Belfast, for example, which has had a very bad impact in terms of the number of fatalities that have occurred. Although in terms of number of fatalities per population, the worst affected areas have been in West Tyrone, particularly around the small village of Castlederg. So you've got particular localities like that which have been badly affected. The disturbance to the political situation generally, yes, that has been a problem.

One thing that particularly influenced me was that a lot of the initial difficulties arose around the City of Londonderry and a number of claims -- political claims -- were made about the City of Londonderry and particularly the local council. Now it just so happened that a relative of mine had been, in the late '50s, mayor in Londonderry. When I heard people talk about --late '50s, early '60s -- I heard people talk about what the local authority was alleged to have done in Londonderry, and I said, "Well, now, that can't have been Jack, because I knew Jack to be a person of irreproachable character." And I said, "What I'm hearing can't be right." That, if you like, ties up with my attitude to the history of John. "What I'm hearing can't be right." When I looked more closely at the circumstance, I thought it wasn't entirely right, in fact, with regard to him personally, not right at all; but with regard to the situation, not a fair account, and that engaged me, at that sense. In terms of the violence of the Troubles, no, I can't say that that affected me directly, although like everybody in Northern Ireland, I have had friends who have been murdered. I have close friends who have been murdered, although those came at a later stage. That's in the mid 1970s, after the Troubles had been underway for some time before that happened, I had that experience.

Mr. Hume, how did your family survive? How did they support themselves?

John Hume Interview Photo
John Hume: My father was unemployed and I was the eldest of seven children. We were very poor. And when you ask how did we support ourselves, the only funding that we had was unemployment payments. In this city, at that time, of course, most men were unemployed.

The women worked, because the city was the center of the shirt industry. But my mother used to work at home at night. She didn't work during the day because she was rearing seven children, but at nighttime, she would do some outside work for the shirt factories. We grew up, but we were poor. When I was at school, one of the things I did, I delivered newspapers at night to earn some money around the district. But that was a very common situation in the Derry of those days, and most Catholics grew up in that way.

In my opinion, what changed the situation eventually -- and, of course, it took a lot of time to change it, things like that don't change in a week or a fortnight -- was the new educational system. That, for the first time, our population, particularly -- because up to then, if you were from a poor background, you couldn't go to higher education, because your parents couldn't afford it. I got a scholarship to go to secondary school, and then at the end of my secondary school period, I got a scholarship to go to university.

Mr. Trimble, what did your dad do?

David Trimble: My father was a civil servant, fairly sort of middle ranking, low to middle ranking. He worked almost entirely in what was then called Administrative Labour, dealing with employment and unemployment issues. I remember, when I was very young, being taken to Belfast to what was commonly called "the Brew." It was the Labor Exchange in Corporation Street, the main one in Belfast, where father worked.

Then latterly he worked on the programs to encourage investment in Northern Ireland. I remember one project that he worked in, in a fairly minor way, but was very pleased to be associated with. It was the very large development just outside Londonderry, which resulted in a major U.S. firm coming. In order to get that firm to come, the Northern Ireland Government had to build a power station, and also a power station at Coolkeeragh, and then also provide its own docking arrangements.

A major jetty was built and all the rest, and that was just simply to get a very large U.S. textile firm to come. People were so keen to get investment. In those days, there was quite significant unemployment in Northern Ireland, and that had been the general pattern in Northern Ireland for many, many years.

What kind of school did you go to, Mr. Trimble?

David Trimble: I went to the local schools, the local state primary school, and then to the local grammar school. A secondary school, which technically was an independent school, it was not part of the state educational system. I went to it simply because it was the nearest school.

What kind of student were you?

David Trimble: Variable. The only thing I shall talk about is my sporting achievements at school. My primary sporting achievement at school was that I dodged games for two complete years and was well through the third year before they discovered that I had completely avoided all games. That, I think, is one of the achievements I had at school that I look back on with particular pride.

How did you manage that?

David Trimble: The school's playing pitches were physically remote from the school. They weren't actually on the same site as the school. So by virtue of not turning up on the first day, en route from the school to the playing pitches, there was the library, and I sort of dropped off in the library and spent my time. I mean the Carnegie Library in Bangor, which served the town as a whole. I would spend my time in the library. I didn't get on the sports master's roll, so he didn't notice my absence.

In the U.S. we call that ditching class.

David Trimble: Well there you are.

What person or persons most inspired you growing up?

David Trimble: There were a number of influences, but I fight shy of answering questions of that nature, because I don't know that I can give you a balanced answer to it. Every child growing up will look to their parents, my mother and my father. My grandmother lived with us. I picked up quite a bit of family lore and history from her, which was interesting. Those are, obviously, big influences. I think every individual is influenced primarily by the home, and then you look to the wider community that you're growing up within, church, local community, school. These are the influences that everybody has. Some individuals might stand out because of one thing or another, but whether one's perception as a child of what was important or not is accurate, I don't know.

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This page last revised on Sep 27, 2010 14:45 EST
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