The City Walls Heritage Project has announced that the proceedings of the recent History Ireland Hedge School in Derry are now available to view on-line.
The event at the Verbal Arts Centre was organised with the support of the Walls Project and the Irish Association. The topic for the Derry Hedge School was “Protestant republicans & Catholic royalists: legacies of the Glorious Revolution”.
The Hedge School particularly focused on the emergence of the United Irishmen and the Orange Order in the century after the Glorious Revolution.
Ian McBride, Professor of Irish and British History, King’s College, London, suggested that, for most of the 18th century, the Glorious Revolution was commemorated not by a summer marching season but, rather, by an autumn season of listening to sermons.
“While there are some references in newspapers to commemorations of the Boyne as a victory over the Irish, these were completely subordinate to the idea of the Glorious Revolution as a constitutional and religious event,” he said. “In the 1790s, a change occurs which draws out just one character of the Glorious Revolution: the Protestant Succession. The emergence of the Orange Order at that time can be seen in may ways as a reaction to the reform of the Penal Laws, especially concerns about the right of Catholics to bear arms.”
Dr Breandán MacSuibhne, Assistant Professor of History, Centenary College, New Jersey, pointed to the close relationship between Derry - the Maiden City - and Philadelphia - the City of Brotherly Love.
He said: “In the late 18th century, some of the largest merchant houses in Philadelphia were run by people from Derry and north west Ulster. There seems to been a blow-back of tolerance across the Atlantic to Derry.”
As an example, Dr MacSuibhne said that, while Catholics had been expelled from the Walled City as late as the 1750s, by the 1790s, Ian McShane, a prominent Catholic United Irishman, had set up shop in the city’s Diamond.
He said: “Catholics were becoming part of the public sphere, gradually moving out of the shadows.”
Dr MacSuibhne went on to suggest that this liberal political culture persisted into the early 19th century.
“In the latter part of the 18th century, the United Irishmen in Derry were predominantly Presbyterian and the retreat of Presbyterians from republicanism in the early 19th century is a subject of immense interest,” he said. “Yet, without drifting into romanticism, it is important to say that Derry was not Portadown; there was not the belligerent Orangeism in north west Ulster as, for example, in mid Ulster. The north west had a very different political culture, historically liberal, and remained liberal through the 19th century.”
Tommy Graham, editor of History Ireland, closed the proceedings by looking at the way the Northern Ireland peace process categorises people as being from one of two traditions.
He said: “While such a model has its place in dealing with current divisions, the problems occur when you take that model and try to project it back into history and come up with a view that people were hard-wired to be one thing or the other - rather than seeing nationalism/republicanism or unionism/loyalism as rational choices.
“We need to interrogate history in a constructive way rather than breaking up history as ammunition to throw at the other side.”
The webcast can be viewed on line at www.walls400.com/hedge2014