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Patrick Lavery
Excuse me I am here



Lifelong football fan Patrick Lavery was born in Dundonald Hospital in 1966. He was cared for by the Good Shepherd nuns in Belfast, and later at Termonbacca in Derry, before, aged three-and-a-half, he was adopted by his parents, Mary and Joseph.   

Patrick had a happy upbringing in Creggan and got on well with his younger sisters Joanne and Marie. However, because of his chest condition (he has asthma and a weak heart), he wasn’t able for the rough and tumble of street games. “I was excluded, but what can you do if you can’t take part? I would play pool though.”

Patrick’s learning disability became apparent at primary school. He briefly attended two mainstream schools in Creggan, before finally going to Belmont, which he loved.

“The primary school said I was disruptive to the class, keeping everyone back. I had problems understanding stuff in school. I didn’t worry about it though - and still don’t. Now I accept what’s going on.  

“Belmont was a big step to me. I didn’t know what was happening or why. They told me I would be best in Belmont and my parents agreed. I was very happy in Belmont. I must say I never had any problems there. I did the same work as the normal weans do and did it well and had lots of friends. The teachers were very good to me; no one was bad to me.

“I would like to have studied more maths. I was good at maths. I never did any accounts.  I didn’t do much computers; they only started to come in when I left school in 1982.”

Patrick is particularly appreciative of the help he got from Belmont teacher Elizabeth Duddy, who along with his parents was one of the biggest influences on his young life.

Outside school, however, Patrick did suffer from bullying.

“I had problems with name-calling from strangers. I couldn’t cope with it. I always went running to my father. He would go out and tell them, ‘Don’t be calling him names.’ I was upset with it. It went on till my teens. I never fought back I’m not a fighting person.

“My father loved me and my sisters were good too. I don’t get called names anymore.”


Aged 16, Patrick began attending the Maybrook adult training centre on the Racecourse Road. He had a talent for woodwork and made bird tables, which were then sold by the centre. He had voluntary work placements at Doherty’s Bakery and Diamond’s Factory, before landing a job at the City Factory, where he worked in maintenance for 15 years.

“I liked it there. It was good craic in there and the girls were good to me. The fellas were the usual; they give people stick. But you learn to take it. It wasn’t stick about being disabled just stick about the football and stuff when Derry got beat.

“The managers were good too but I only got £15 a week travel allowance and nothing else, which wasn’t even enough for the taxi every day. I look after my own money. I have no problems with it. I would have liked to get a wage working in the factory.”

Ideally, Patrick would have loved to go into catering, and since leaving school he has completed cookery and hospitality courses. And he thoroughly enjoyed the recent spell he spent working in the Irish Cafe on Great James Street. “It was good and I got a full salary. I worked there for a year. I speak broken Irish, though. I’m not fluent.”


Patrick has a very busy social life, which includes his membership of Destined, nights out at the Don Bar, frequent trips abroad and, of course, his love of football. He is a member the Northside Derry City Supporters Club, and has travelled to matches all around the country. “I have to places like Cork, Waterford and Limerick. It’s good craic. There’s a lot of singing. They are good chanters - I like the old songs.”


In 1994, Patrick flew out to New York for the World Cup and was seated behind the Italian net in the Giants Stadium, when Ray Houghton scored the goal that won the game for Ireland.

“Nobody knew it was a goal. Everyone was sitting, then everyone on the far side of the stadium got up because they saw the ball go into the net. Then eventually it travelled round that Ireland had scored.”
Patrick had travelled to the States with his father and his four uncles. They had had saved £5 a week for the four years running up to the finals.

“Some of us stayed with my uncle over there, he’s dead now, and some stayed with an Irish friend of his. We stayed in Jackson Heights, where the Columbians all are. On July 4, my daddy said he was going out to watch the fireworks. We heard the bangs - but it was real bullets they were shooting in the air. I said, ‘Get in!’”



Despite his health problems, Patrick participates in many of Destined’s activities and has several good friends in the group.

“When I go out on the [Sunday] rambling, I have to pace myself. But I still get there. My bad chest slows me down because everybody walks fast. I have asthma and sometimes it’s worse than others. Other than that my disability doesn’t slow me down.

“Sometimes I take a drink up in the Don Bar, maybe two times a week, with people that don’t have disabilities. And I would go out with Brian Quigg [Destined member] on Saturdays, though he doesn’t drink. I would drink about eight pints a week - four on Wednesday night and four on a Saturday.

“The first time I got out to the Don Bar with my father, they never heard of anyone with a learning disability going for a drink. It was always able bodied people around bars. I started drinking in it and they took to me well. I used to be in the syndicate. I would let them do the betting. I would give them a pound a week and they would place the bet.”

Patrick is happy to be single, and has never wanted a girlfriend, describing himself as too set in his ways. He loves living with his parents and is very grateful for their continued openness with him.

“People are beginning to realise that people with learning disabilities have to have their say about what goes on in their lives. It’s not like the way it used to be, when they were institutionalised and were put away and not allowed to communicate. Groups like Destined have made a big difference

“My parents were very open and told me what was going on. Sometimes other people would talk above me, not to me. But I would interrupt and say, ‘Excuse me, I am here.’”