A fascinating new history detailing the emigration of the local Ulster-Scots population from the North West throughout the 18th century is the latest book to be penned by historian and journalist Billy Kennedy.
Supported by Culture Company 2013 and the Ulster-Scots Agency, the book has been written to mark Derry’s City of Culture year and focuses on one of the most compelling chapters in the city’s history when it was a main port of embarkation for the emigration of Ulster-Scots Presbyterians to America.
‘They Sailed from Londonderry’ follows the epic journey made by thousands of Presbyterians from the North West who left the city’s quays to seek a better life across the Atlantic.
This diaspora was prominently involved in the establishment of the United States as the bedrock of global democracy and independence. The list of US luminaries who emanated from this part of Ireland is impressive, including Presidents James Knox Polk and Ulysses Simpson Grant and American hero of the wild frontier Davy Crockett, to name but a few.
Many ordinary Scots-Irish families lived a harsh life carving out civilisation on the American frontier, having left these shores with little or nothing to their name.
A statue in their honour stands at the former city docks area beside Sainsbury’s shopping centre, representing three generations of the same family about to leave the city. The benches beside the figures are inscribed with the names of six of the ships involved in the city’s emigrant trade over the course of three centuries.
Billy Kennedy said: “Londonderry was a main port in the 18th century for the emigration to America by tens of thousands of Presbyterians from Londonderry city and county, Co. Donegal, North Tyrone and North Antrim.
“These people helped create towns and cities on the American frontier; were instrumental in the signing of the American Declaration of Independence in July 1776 and in the Revolutionary War that followed and their distinct characteristics in relation to liberty, democracy religion and cultural awareness forged over several centuries what is known as the American psyche.”
‘They Sailed from Londonderry’ is available in local bookshops priced £12.