On this date four centuries ago, 31st July 1615, the trial of 17 native Irishmen, accused of being involved in the Great Northern Plot, was brought to a conclusion in the half-built Plantation city of Londonderry. Six of them were found guilty and were executed; some historians claim they were hanged, drawn and quartered, their heads afterwards being set up on the rudimentary city gates.
This event had significant implications for the relationships between the native Irish and the English and Scottish settlers in County Derry; it also spurned on the Irish Society to start building the Derry Walls in earnest; orphans from Christ’s Hospital in London were sent to Derry to be apprentices for that purpose.
Mark Lusby, Project Coordinator for the Friends of the Derry Walls remarked, “The landscape of the City we live in today and the richness of our cultural identity was shaped by these tumultuous events four centuries ago. During each year of the 5-year quadricentennial, 2013-18, of the building of the Derry Walls, the Friends organise events unpacking that history and exploring the legacy. In 2013 it was the marking out of the ground on which the Walls were to be built; in 2014 it was the appointment of Peter Benson, a master tiler and bricklayer from London, as the contractor to build the Walls. 2015 gives us an opportunity to give voice, in the story of the construction of the Walls, to the native Irish who were trying to find space alongside the English and Scots settlers. In this way Walls400 is kept in the public eye, building up each year to a major Derry Walls heritage year in 2018.”
The Friends of the Derry Walls, a local voluntary sector organisation with the objective of promoting the heritage value of the city’s greatest visitor attraction, will be organising, later this year, a lecture on the Great Northern Plot of 1615. Details will be published in the local press.
The photograph is a gruesome depiction in Derry’s Tower Museum of the severed head of Rory O’Cahan, resting on the half-built Derry Walls. Rory O’Cahan was the son of Sir Donnell Ballagh O’Cahan, clan leader of the O’Kanes, who himself in 1615, was imprisoned in the Tower of London.