Page content

Ulster Experts Feature In Irish Language Documentary Exploring History Of Derry's Walls

22 November 2012

Two University of Ulster academics are part of a new Irish language TV documentary that looks at the story behind the construction of Derry’s walls - a unique, sometimes controversial cultural treasure that has shaped history both within and beyond the walled city itself.

‘Balla­ Dhoire’, presented by Fearghal Mac Uiginn, will be broadcast on Monday, November 26 on BBC Two NI at 7pm,and will exploreDerry~Londonderry’s monastic origins prior to the construction of the walls just under 400 years ago and follows the transition from Derry to Londonderry in 1613.

Contributors include the University of Ulster’s,DrBilly Kelly, Lecturer in History and Dr Ãamonn Ciardha, Senior Lecturer inHistoryandco-editor of ‘The Flight of the Earls’ (2010) and the ‘Plantation of Ulster’ (2012).

Dr Kelly, a Derry native and historian based in the Magee campus said: “As a Derry man myself, I grew up in the shadow of the walls, they were our playground as children, and the sense of wanting to know more about them inspired me to study the history of Ireland and Britain in the 17th century.

“The walls are still of enormous importance in the city today, they are a focal point for so many events, not least the successful bid for UK City of Culture which was based on the 400th anniversary of the Plantation of Ulster.

“My colleague, DrÓ Ciardha and I delivered a series of conferences, books and articles to revisit those events as part of this process. Of course, the city walls are, with St Columb’s Cathedral, the most tangible evidence of the importance of the heritage of the Plantation for all of us.”

The television programme begins by looking at Derry~Londonderry’s 1,000-year-old monastic tradition and its historic association with St Colmcille (Columba), one of Ireland’s three patron saints.

While it is not certain if Colmcille actually founded Derry in the 6th century, as is often claimed, what cannot be denied is that Derry emerged asa monastic site of huge importance and a key house of the Columban confederation.

The second part of the programme looks at Derry~Londonderry’s transition from a monastic site to a disputed colonial citadel during the 16th and 17th centuries. Derry~Londonderry emerged as a crucial strategic location because of its proximity to Lough Foyle and to the Gaelic kingdoms of Tír Chonaill and Tír Eoghain.

The programme uses CGI and reconstruction to show aspects of Derry’s history and architecture from this period.

Derry’s walls, completed in 1618 were designed to protect the newly-arrived English and Scottish planters. The city came under attack in 1649, and again in 1689 when it withstood the famous siege of Derry, an incident that changed the course of history in Ireland and beyond.

Dr Kelly added:“It is ironic to recall today, that what was once built to exclude, now draws the people ofDerry~Londonderry together in a celebration of their history, culture and heritage.”

Ballaí Dhoire, will be broadcast on Monday, November 26 on BBC Two NI at 7pm.

Media enquiries:

Audrey Watson

Media & Corporate Relations

University of Ulster

T:028 90366386


Notes for editors:

Ballaí Dhoire is a Dearcán Media Production for BBC Northern Ireland, with support from Northern Ireland Screen’s Irish Language Broadcast Fund.

Other contributors to the documentary include: Dr. Brian Lacey, archaeologist and director of the Irish Discovery Programme; Fr. Ciarán Ó Doibhlinn, historian and archivist with the Diocese of Derry (who passed away shortly after the programme was completed); Dr. Annaleigh Margey, an authority on early Irish cartography, currently working in the National Library of Ireland; Dr. Pádraig Lenahin (NUIG), a military historian with a particular interest in late 16th and early 17th century Ireland; Professor James Stevens Curl (official historian of The Honourable, The Irish Society), Edward Montgomery, local secretary of the Irish Society; Dr. Micheál Ó Siochriú (TCD); and Jim Brownlee, the current Governor of the Apprentice Boys of Derry.