New TV documentary on Derry’s Walls

Fearghal Mag Uiginn pictured on Derry's historic walls.
Fearghal Mag Uiginn pictured on Derry's historic walls.

‘Ballaí Dhoire’ is a new Irish language documentary from BBC Northern Ireland in which presenter Fearghal Mac Uiginn looks at the story behind the construction of Derry’s historic walls.

In the programme - to be broadcast tomorrow night (Monday) on BBC Two NI at 7pm - Fearghal explores Derry’s monastic origins prior to the construction of the walls just under 400 years ago and follows the transition from Derry to Londonderry in 1613.

The programme begins by looking at Derry’s one thousand year old monastic tradition and its historic association with St Colmcille

(Columba), one of Ireland’s three national saints.

While it is not certain if Colmcille actually founded Derry in the 6th century, as is often claimed, what cannot be denied is that Derry was a monastic site of huge importance.

The programme uses computer generated imagery (CGI) to recreate what the hill of Derry might have looked like at that time.

Derry was viewed as an important strategic location because of its proximity to Lough Foyle and to the Gaelic kingdoms of Tír Chonaill and Tír Eoghain. Again, the programme uses CGI and reconstruction to show aspects of Derry’s history and architecture from this period.

Derry’s walls were completed in 1618 and were designed to protect the planter population, newly arrived from Scotland and England. The city came under attack in 1649, and again in 1689 when it withstood the famous siege of Derry, an incident that changed the course of history in Ireland and beyond.

The walls themselves are largely unchanged since the 17th century, apart from the introduction of new gates to facilitate the commercial development of parts of the city. While the walls did retain a military function right up to 2007, today they are seen as the jewel in the cultural crown of the city and are increasingly viewed as a shared cultural resource.

Contributors in this documentary include Dr. Brian Lacey, archaeologist and director of the Irish Discovery Programme; Fr. Ciarán Ó Doibhlinn, historian and archivist with the Diocese of Derry (who passed away shortly after the programme was completed); Dr. Annaleigh Margey, an authority on early Irish cartography, currently working in the National Library of Ireland; Dr. Pádraig Lenahin (NUIG), a military historian with a particular interest in late 16th and early 17th century Ireland; Dr. Billy Kelly (UU), a Derry native and historian based at the Magee campus of the University of Ulster; Dr. Éamonn Ó Ciardha (UU), historian and editor of ‘The Flight of the Earls’; Professor James Stevens Curl (official historian of The Honourable, The Irish Society), Edward Montgomery, local secretary of the Irish Society; Dr. Micheál Ó Siochriú (TCD); and Jim Brownlee, the current Governor of the Apprentice Boys of Derry.

“Ballaí Dhoire” is a Dearcán Media Production for BBC Northern Ireland, with support from Northern Ireland Screen’s Irish Language

Broadcast Fund.