1615 Great Northern Plot
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.
In 1615, Rory O’Cahan, the chieftain’s son was accused of leading the Great Northern Plot, an event which prompted a greater haste by the Londoners in building the Derry Walls. Four hundred years on, rediscover the story of these events: exploring the Walled City’s museums, meeting characters straight from the pages of Derry’s history and winning prizes!
Sunday 30th August 12.30-5.30pm Guildhall Square and in civic and voluntary museums, in and around the Derry Walls. Registration for the Plotter’s Treasure Hunt will open at 12.30 in the Friends of the Derry Walls stall in Guildhall Square. Groups on the Treasure Hunt will gain free access to the participating museums. The stall in Guildhall Square will remain open until 6pm to allow the return of completed forms.
A Royal Audience: Take part in an interactive audience with the architects of the Plantation, King James I and the Lord Deputy Chichester. 1.30pm 2.30pm 3.30pm – Guildhall Main Hall
Trial of the Plotters: Join Sir Thomas Phillips, Recorder Carey and Rory O’Cahan and you could find yourself as one of the accused or on the jury. 1.00pm 2.00pm 3.00pm – Guildhall Square
Conserving the Derry Walls: Demonstration of stone-carving and masonry techniques by specialists form Northern Ireland Environment Agency. 12.30pm – 5.30pm – Guildhall Square
The Plotter’s Treasure Hunt 12.30pm – 5.30pm at participating civic and voluntary museums on and around the Derry Walls. Hero or villain, the fate of the Chieftain’s son looks sealed. The only way of saving him would be to bribe the jurors. Follow the trail of museums in and around the City Walls, talking with costumed characters, looking for clues and answering the questions along the way. Each correct answer is worth one piece of gold. There are 10 pieces of gold to collect in total; get them all to be in with a chance of winning the prizes! Children who have visited the The School for Junior Plotters in the Tower Museum will have been empowered with a secret pass, which when presented to the guides at each location will result in a special clue being revealed. The School is being provided by the Derry Print Workshop and Cara Parks.
Living history performers are provided by Past Pleasures Ltd– Guildhall and Guildhall Square , Footprints – Bluecoats Museum, Blue Eagle Productions – St Augustine’s Churchyard and the Siege Museum and Sean O’ Brogain – St Columba’s Heritage Centre.