Kevin Glackin cleans out the bird's leftovers every few weeks
It feels like walking onto the film set for The Name of the
A narrow spiral stone staircase with hundreds
of steps, padlocked trap doors, and finally a couple of ancient
cast-iron ladders leading towards the heavens.
There is nothing much below to stop you from
falling 20 yards towards the gigantic bells.
This is what it takes to climb into the spire
of St Eugene's Cathedral in Derry - a heartstopping journey,
even though it only takes you halfway up the 300-foot structure.
It is a little easier, of course, for the large
bird of prey that's chosen this special vantage point as its
In the past
few months, sacristan Kevin Glackin has found dozens of
often complete with their rings, on the balustrade that surrounds
It is arguably the finest perch in the city,
with unparalleled views, shelter from the wind, and under-claw
heating from the powerful lights that illuminate the spire at
When I scaled those dizzying heights along with
pigeon fancier Jim Ramsey on Monday, we discovered a crow's
skeleton on the ledge and the remains of quite a few pigeons
in the gutter below.
perch enjoys panoramic views across Derry
The pigeon fraternity isn't impressed.
Jim Ramsey's colleagues in the Foyle Racing
Pigeon Society say more and more birds have gone missing in
the past few months.
They suspect a peregrine falcon is the culprit,
because it's one of the few raptors strong enough to carry its
prey up to the spire.
Other peregrines have wintered and fed in St
Eugene's in the past, although they don't tend to nest in the
Jim Wells, an assembly member and chair of the
Northern Ireland Raptors study group, thinks another species
might be responsible.
"I've had reports that a falconer's bird,
an American bird, has escaped in Londonderry and we're frantically
trying to trace it and bring it back to its original owner,
so the peregrine may not be entirely guilty on this occasion,"
Meanwhile, the sightings continue across the
A large bird of prey was spotted at St Columb's
Cathedral, suggesting that this is a bird without religious
Kevin Glackin wants to catch a glimpse of the
"It'd be nice to see it or have a photograph
of it," he said.
But he doesn't mind the climb up the spire every
couple of weeks to clean out the bird's leftovers.
"Not at all. You get a spectacular view
from up here."
Click here for more stories from the BBC's
new Foyle and West service
The spire isn't normally open to visitors, so
Kevin has no concerns that anyone might interfere with the raptor.
The peregrine falcon is a protected species
and, as Jim Wells points out, anyone who harms or disturbs it
faces a fine of up to £3,000.
So for now,
it seems, the people - and pigeons - of Derry will have to put
up with the presence of a large bird of prey in their midst.
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
- - - - - - - - -