Derry Walls builder’s relatives inspect his famous work

Dan Hull, Ashley Wright and Elaine Browning view Derry Walls. Photo: Mark Lusby.
Dan Hull, Ashley Wright and Elaine Browning view Derry Walls. Photo: Mark Lusby.

American descendants of Peter Benson, the 17th century London master bricklayer who oversaw the building of Derry Walls, were in the city this week to inspect their famous ancestor’s work.

Dan Hull, Salt Lake City, Utah; Ashley Wright, Chicago, Illinois and Elaine Browning, of Ogden, Utah, were in Derry as guests of the Family History Centre, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, and the Friends of the Derry Walls.

During their stay, they enjoyed a tour of the famous national monument fashioned by their ancestor, Peter Benson.

The Hulls of Utah are descended from a Mary Benson who, in the 1830s, married Thomas Hull, of Benbradagh, near Dungiven.

Farmers and weavers, Thomas and Mary migrated to Ayrshire in Scotland during the period of the Irish Famine and found work in the mining industry there.

It was in Scotland that they converted to Mormonism and, in 1855, crossed the Atlantic to New York.

It took the Hulls five years to progressively migrate across America to Utah, much of the journey undertaken in ox-drawn wagons and handcarts.

Dan Hull, a retired Bishop in the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, is particularly proud of his ancestor’s role in the construction of the Derry Walls.

He said: “It is wonderful to see a structure, which was built to separate, being used today as a resource to bring people together.”

Dan and his wife, Martha, are staying on in the Dungiven area in order to research the places associated with Peter Benson.

With Dan and Martha’s help, a joint project is being fashioned between the Racecourse Road church’s Family History Centre and the Friends of the Derry Walls to connect with the descendants of the principal families associated with the story of the building of the Derry Walls: Benson, Vaughan, Doddington and O’Kane.

Keith Wright, of the Family History Cente, and Mark Lusby, of Friends of the Derry Walls, are spearheading this project locally.

There are plans to invite the principal familie to visit Derry in 2019, the quadricentennial of the official certification in 1619 that Peter Benson’s Walls were complete.