The historic surroundings of St Columb’s Cathedral was the ideal setting last Saturday night for the 2015 Walls400 History. ‘The Great Northern Plot of 1615’ was the subject for the lecture which was delivered by Raymond Gillespie, Professor of History at Maynooth University. The audience was also addressed by his Honour Judge Philip Babington, the current Recorder of Londonderry, whose predecessor in that post, George Carey of Redcastle, played a key role in the events of 1615.
The plot and subsequent trial took place in the newly renamed city and county of Londonderry 400 years ago this year. Beyond the immediate effects on relationships between the Settlers and Native Irish, the story of the Plot was of major political concern in the Irish Parliament in Dublin and Court of James I in London. It is no coincidence that the building of the Derry Walls, a task largely neglected, prior to the Plot, by the London Companies, was begun in earnest in 1615.
Mark Lusby, Project Coordinator for the Friends of the Derry Walls explained the significance of the Plot and of last night’s lecture: “The dramatic story of the plot and trial seems to have continually slipped from public memory over the 400 years since 1615. If such historic events had occurred in Belfast or Dublin, they would now be the subject of books, plays and documentaries. As Professor Gillespie explained last night, the surviving 30 depositions or witness statements from the trial, provide a unique insight into the lives of English and Scottish Settlers and into the lives of the Native Irish in Derry in 1615.”
The audience in the Cathedral were also addressed by the Dean of Derry, Very Rev Dr William Morton, as host for the evening; by Niall McCaughan, chairperson of the Friends of the Derry Walls, who organised the lecture; and by Arleen Elliott, President of the Law Society of Northern Ireland, main sponsor for the lecture.
Students from the Ulster University’s School for Creative Arts also provided a dramatic interpretation of the Plot for the audience.
Plans are now underway to publish a booklet about the Great Northern Plot of 1615 and to add to the monies raised on Saturday evening for the Walled City Archaeology Fund.