Irish History


1. Information on County Derry

2.  Information on Ulster Province

3. Information on the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland

4. Irish Diaspora

 5. Irish Famine 1879

Section 1. Information on County Derry

Derry or Londonderry (Irish: Doire or Doire Cholm Chille), often called the Maiden City, is a city in Northern Ireland. The old walled city of Londonderry lies on the west bank of the River Foyle, and the present city now covers both banks and is connected by two bridges.  The district extends to rural areas to the southeast of the city. The population of the city proper was 83,652 in the 2001 Census. The Derry Urban Area (including Culmore, New Buildings and Strathfoyle) had a population of 90,736 people and is the second-largest city in Northern Ireland, the fourth on the island of Ireland. Derry is near the border with the Republic of Ireland, and serves much of western Ulster, includingDonegal, as well as the west of County Londonderry. The district is run by Derry City Council and has an airport, City of Derry Airport, and a seaport, Londonderry Port.                                                                                                           NameThe city's official name is Londonderry according to the city's Royal Charter and, as stated in a recent High Court decision in January 2007, remains so. It usually appears as such on maps.  The city is known by many as Derry, which is an anglicisation of the Irish doire. Doire means ‘Oak-grove’ and comes from the settlement's original name Daire Calgaich, translating as ‘oakwood of Calgach’. 

Calgacus or Calgacos, meaning "swordsman", was an ancient warrior of the Britons Caledonian; there is no reason to believe there is any connection. The name was changed from Derry in 1613 during the Plantation of Ulster to reflect the establishment of the city by the London guilds. However, most Irish people, at home and abroad, still prefer "Derry", so the proper name of the city remains a matter of dispute.

Derry is used by nationalists in Northern Ireland; unionists preferring the city's official name, Londonderry. As for the city's inhabitants, the nationalist majority call it Derry. (In the Republic of Ireland, the city and county are almost always referred to as Derry.) In official use the city is always known as Londonderry, although some local organizations name themselves after Derry - for example, City of Derry Airport. The council changed the name of the local government district covering the city to Derry on May 7, 1984, consequently renaming itself Derry City Council. This did not change the name of the city, although the city is coterminous with the district, and in law the city council are also the "Corporation of Londonderry" or, more formally, the "Mayor, Aldermen and Citizens of the City of Londonderry".  The city is also nicknamed the Maiden City by virtue of the fact that its walls were never penetrated during the siege of Derry in the late 17th century.


Derry is one of the longest continuously inhabited places in Ireland. The earliest historical references date to the 6th century when a monastery was founded there by St. Columba, but for thousands of years before that people had been living in the vicinity. Before leaving Ireland to spread Christianity elsewhere in the British Isles, Columba founded a monastery in the then Doire Calgaich, on the east side of the Foyle. According to oral and documented history the site was granted to Columba by a local King. The monastery then remained in the hands of the federation of Columban churches who regarded Colm Cille as their spiritual mentor. In the year 546 the area was rebaptised Doire Cholm Cille, Colmcille’s Oak Grove in remembrance. At this stage, in the 6th century, Derry was known primarily as a monastic settlement.

Planters organized by London livery companies arrived in the 1600s as part of the plantation of Ulster, and built the walled city of Londonderry across the Foyle from the earlier town. The city has long been a focal point for important events in Irish history, including the 1688-1689 sieges of Derry and Bloody Sunday on 30 January 1972.

Londonderry was the first ever planned city in Ireland: it was begun in 1613, with the walls being completed 5 years later in 1618. The central diamond within a walled city with four gates was thought to be a good design for defense. The grid pattern chosen was subsequently much copied in the colonies of British North America.  The modern city preserves the 17th-century layout of four main streets radiating from the Diamond to four gateways - Bishop's Gate, Ferryquay Gate, Shipquay Gate and Butcher's Gate. Historic buildings within the walls include the 1633 Gothic cathedral of St Columb.

Information on some towns in Derry:

Maghera: (approx. pop 3,500) is a small town at the foot of the 'Glenshane pass'. It is about 35 miles south of Derry city and 6 miles NW of Magherafelt. It is in the parish of Maghera and in the barony of Loughinsholin. St. Lurach, a 6th century saint is said to be buried in the graveyard of the medieval parish church of which some ruins still survive. Charles Thompson (1730-1824) who was born 4 miles outside Maghera was a Secretary to the United States Congress.  Names that originate from this area are: Mulholland, O'Hegarty and McCracken.Magherafelt: (approx. pop 7,000) is a market town approx 10 miles north of Cookstown Co. Tyrone. It is in the parish of Magherafelt and in the barony of Loughinsholin. The town was founded by the Salters' Company of London during the time of the Ulster plantation. There are still some ruins of an old church surviving since 1664.

Moneymore: (approx pop 1,200) a village that is 5 miles north of Cookstown. It was founded by the Drapers' family, who also founded Draperstown approx 12 miles further north. The Drapers were the first to introduce pipe water to a town in Ulster in the year of 1615. Most of the original settlements were destroyed, like many other towns in Ulster during the Irish 1641 rebellion.

Coleraine: (approx. pop 21,000) a market town situated on the Bann estuary. The town is in the parish and barony of Coleraine. The name Coleraine was the original name to the County of Derry. Its ancient origins can be traced bay to a monastery dedicated to St. Patrick. The Normans invaded the area in the 12th century. The lands were taken from the O'Cahans in 1613 and granted to the London Companies, during the time of the Londonderry Plantation. The town successfully defended itself from Irish attacks in the 1641 Rebellion.

Garvagh: a village that is in the parish of Errigal and the barony of Coleraine. Another plantation town and was founded in 1615 by George Canning of the Ironmongers Guild of London.

Desertmartin: a village in the parish of Desertmartin and in the barony of Loughinsholin. Irish name and meaning are Diseart Mhartain or Martin's Retreat. The village is probably dedicated to St. Martin de Tours.

Castledawson: a village in the parish of Magherafelt and in the barony of Loughinsholin. It is named after Joshua Dawson who was chief secretary of Ireland in 1710. The Dawson's owned land here from 1622. The town stands on the river Moyola.

Bellaghy: a small village in the parish of Ballyscullion and in the barony Loughinsholin. It is said to be named after the O'Haughey before the plantation period. The village was itself was founded by Vinters of London.                                                                   

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