BBC gong for ‘sumptuous’ Derry book

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Garbhan Downey continues his countdown to City of Culture 2013...

A new history by academics from the University of Ulster at Magee, and produced by city publishers Guildhall Press, has just been listed as one of the BBC’s Books of the Year.

Flight of the Earls, edited by David Finnegan, Éamonn Ó Ciardha and Marie-Claire Peters, recounts the story of the pre-Plantation exodus from north west Ireland in the early 1600s.

John Morrill, who reviewed the book for the BBC History magazine, described it as “sumptuous and generous”.

He wrote: “It appeals equally to scholars and non-specialist general readers. Beautifully illustrated, it tells the tragic and transformative story of a fateful decision of two Irish earls in 1607 that paved the way for the Ulster plantation and all that flowed from it.

“It is one of the great tipping points in the story of the interlocking histories of Britain and Ireland.”

Magee’s historians, of course, provided much of the intellectual ballast for Derry’s City of Culture bid in 2009/10. Their research into the Plantation, and into the Siege of Derry, has been invaluable in interpreting and defining our city’s historical significance for national and international audiences.

It’s been a tremendous year for Guildhall Press, who are establishing themselves as a leading force in the Irish publishing industry.

This month alone they are issuing three new publications: Willie Deery’s Dancehalls of Romance; Moments – short stories, poetry and drama from the Creggan Writing Project; and Richie Kelly’s Sporting Greats of the North West.

Kelly’s book, which I’ve been lucky enough to read, is a mine of information, presented with all the passion, precision and authority that have made the writer the Voice of Sport here for a generation. It’ll be a perfect Christmas present for anyone who has either played or watched virtually any sport in Donegal, Derry or Tyrone. And it’s being launched at the Delacroix tomorrow (Saturday, 17th) at 2pm.

And things can only get better for Guildhall Press. They’re also planning to publish a second edition of City of Music: Derry’s Music Heritage, along with a City of Music iPhone app – hopefully in time for our big year.