Local history and community groups in County Derry are providing a focus for people throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and helping with their mental health.
The groups’ online presence through Facebook groups and pages has given many of those who are isolating a much-needed focus during a stressful time.
Stephen McCracken, who runs the Limavady Past and Present Facebook group along with Matthew Harron, says people are using their time to reminisce.
“During the lockdown this has provided an absolutely vital service to the greater Limavady Area,” he said.
“People laugh, reminisce and learn from the daily posts. This has helped so many people with their mental health, of which is often a part of all of us unseen or covered up.
“We as admins are playing our small role in the current situation and are delighted that so many are using it. It has now over 11, 000 members of which many are participants.”
Stephen’s colleague Matthew Harron took over the page after the previous owner took his own life and the duo have been encouraged by comments of how it has helped others.
“I love reading about Limavady of old,” commented one user.
“There were so many characters that made up an interesting town & so much knowledge in this group that every day I learn something new about a town I haven't lived in for 33 years.”
Another page helping its local community is the ‘Life on Slieve Gallion Braes, its people and its history’, which is based in Derry’s Slieve Gallion area.
Page member Johnny McCallion said the page had been a ‘massive help’ for him during lockdown.
He said: “It has made it possible for me to keep in contact with family and indeed friends over the mountain and further afield, because I can't travel from Derry to visit them at the moment.
“The banter, the craic and the obvious support from all the members has added a new dimension of caring and supportive care to the group.”
Fellow user Brenda Murray added: “This page has created a great and informative history on past and present events, community, and individuals.
“It shows so many different aspects of the beautiful area we live in. It has reached out to so many in this difficult time from people living in the area to people with ancestral connections.
“It has helped me and many others through lockdown just by reading the updates and seeing the beautiful pictures.”
The appetite for local history and news has been further strengthened as the Covid-19 restrictions have given people more time to learn about their surroundings.
Roisin Cuskeran, admin of the Slieve Gallion page, says the communication it provides at this time is ‘vital’.
“I think the page brings people together, gives them a forum for communication that’s vital especially in the current situation,” she said.
“It gives them that sense of community and the security in knowing they are not going through this alone.
“It’s helping to distract people from the topic of Covid also therefore helping their mental health and bringing together people from all over the world.
“They all have a common connection- links to the Slieve Gallion Area - and because of this the members are helping each other cope with the reality of what is going on around us.”
Jonathan Hudson, admin of the 'Magherafelt' Facebook group, says he is 'amazed' at the interest in local history.
"I'm always amazed at peoples reactions to local history, just shows how little we were told in school," he said.
"Since lockdown, the numbers shot up over another 1000 which was to be expected I suppose. However, people really embraced anything we did.
"I decided to do a musical tribute to the NHS, key workers and carers. It went brilliantly, dozens of local musicians and singers all sent in phone footage of two songs, including both local semi-finalists in this years The Voice, Brooke Scullion and Jonny Brooks.
"The video has just hit 110,000 views across social media so that tells its own story about how popular the page is.
""People are genuinely interested in how the town became what it is today. I tend to post the good and the bad, it's all history and the one thing we can all learn from is our history."
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