Take a Dander with David in ‘Derrie'
After more than 30 years focused on figures and balance sheets, David Douglas decided his number was up as an accountant and he made the bold decision to embark on a new career.
Having always held a keen interest in history and a deep connection with his home city of Derry~Londonderry, David worked with Tourism NI as part of the Embrace a Giant Spirit experience development programme and launched Derrie Danders Walking and Audio Tours in 2018.
“I am an accountant by profession and had never really considered a career in tourism, but I always had a certain level of regret about not pursuing a career that was more people facing and rooted in my love for history,” he says.
Exploring the stories behind Derry's 17th century walls is all in a day's work for David
“When I was choosing my degree it was either history or accountancy and, at the time, I couldn’t think of a career that involved history other than teaching — being a walking tour guide wasn’t something I had ever thought about, although it is ironic that I now do teach tour guiding part-time at the North West Regional College.
“It is all about discovering your passion and for me, tour guiding really is a passion and it’s a privilege to share my knowledge of the city with visitors and locals alike.
“It really doesn’t feel like work and I would really encourage anyone who has a passion for something to take the chance, put your best foot forward and don’t look back – you won’t regret it.
“My work as an accountant saw me travel extensively and when I was travelling, I took the opportunity to go on walking tours. Without even realising it I was gradually picking up skills and coming to appreciate what set a good walking tour apart from others.
“It was probably when I began to realise I was able to critically assess tours that the seed was sown and I began to think about doing my own.
“I did a level two course in tour guiding at the North West Regional College and people said I was a natural. At this point I was thinking it was something I could do in my retirement.”However, the opportunity to launch Derrie Danders Walking and Audio Tours came sooner than expected for David who found himself starting the business just six months later.
Walking and talking in Derry's historical city centre
He said: “It was a bit of good fortune, as part of the course we had to do an assessed tour for people that we invited along. One of the people that I invited ran a men’s club through a church and about six months later he asked if I would take the men of the church on a walking tour.
“At this point I didn’t really have a walking tour but I didn’t want to let him down so I sat down, had a think about it and was able to come up with something that everyone enjoyed. From that moment on, I had a tour business – the hardest part was actually finding a name for it.
“Names are very important in this part of the world so I wanted to find something neutral that would focus on history without being too political.
“From my research I discovered that initially, at the time of the plantation, this place was spelt Derrie, so Derrie Danders came to mind and felt like the perfect fit – it even shares my initials.”
Derrie Danders aims to provide informative and entertaining ‘politically neutral but historically accurate’ walking tours of Derry~Londonderry. A range of set tours are available, but David also offers bespoke, customised private tours that seek to give people exactly what they want.
With many of his tours normally limited to a maximum of 15 people for quality reasons, David enjoys interacting with every individual who joins him for a dander.
“I really enjoy doing the small private tours. I see it like guests being out for a walk with a friend from the city – me,” he says.
“I love doing the research but the interaction with people really is the special part. When even local people tell you they learned something new about their home city it really does make your day.
“There is just something about opening peoples’ eyes to new facts that may help them appreciate this city that wee bit more that gives me a real buzz.
“I was born and raised in this city,” says David. “I’ve lived here all my life, except for a few years when I went to university and trained as an accountant in Belfast. My family are here, this city is a big part of me. I love sharing all the interesting things I have found out about its history with those who join me on my tours.
“My newest set tour is the Real Derry Girls History Walking Tour. The TV show was obviously a very big thing for this place but this tour focuses on the real Derry Girls, our local women who have achieved great things in politics, music and literature and of course, our factory girls and our modern community workers.
Picture this: You can enjoy a rewarding and fulfilling career too with help from Tourism NI
“I also linked up with an international company to produce a range of self-guided audio tours of the city.”
Having taken the brave first step to start his business as a part-time venture in 2018, and after getting through the pandemic years, David was able to go full time in 2022.
“My family have been a great support and helped me with social media and digital issues and my son has now trained as a tour guide and helps me with larger groups when he is on holiday from university,” says David.
“I’d honestly say that between six months and a year after launching these walking tours I knew this is what I wanted to do full-time and thankfully I am earning a reasonable income from it now,” he says.
“I was fortunate in that I had fewer financial pressures at this stage and while it took time to get here it is something that I really want to do.”