Sat 21st June 2014 History Ireland Hedge School

Theme BannerA panel of eminent historians took part in the History Ireland Hedge School in Derry’s Verbal Arts Centre. The event was organised by the national bi-monthly magazine, History Ireland, working in concert with the Irish Association and Derry’s City Walls Heritage Project. Appropriately for the end of Community Relations Week, the theme for the event in Derry was  “ Protestant republicans & Catholic royalists: legacies of the Glorious Revolution”.The event was  moderated by Tommy Graham,  Editor of History Ireland and a presenter of 106-108 FM Newstalk’s ‘Talking History’.  The panel  consisted of Dr Breandán MacSuibhne, Assistant Professor of History, Centenary College, NJ; Dr Sylvie Kleinman, Centre for War Studies, Trinity College Dublin; Dr John Gibney, online editor for the ‘Decade of Centenaries’ website; and Professor Ian McBride, Professor of Irish and British History, King’s College, London. 

 The Hedge School title harks back to the unofficial hedge schools of 18th and 19th century Ireland, where travelling teachers taught people in the open, before the official national school system was set up in the 1830s. Tommy Graham, History Ireland Editor, explained, “The Hedge School format aims to bring history alive for today’s audiences by providing lively, unfettered debate on topics of interest to national and local communities. Given that the  Siege of Derry was a key  part of the ‘Glorious Revolution’, which overturned many fundamental political and religious assumptions within these islands, Derry was the obvious  place to host this Hedge School.” With financial support from the Heritage Lottery Fund, Community Relations Council and Department of Foreign Affairs, the History Ireland Hedge School was  free to attend and just over 50 people attended. Mark Lusby, Heritage Officer, City Walls Heritage Project added: “ The City Walls Heritage Project aims to promote at the present-day heritage value of the City Walls at the same time as unpacking their contested history. So we were pleased to work with History Ireland to bring to Derry this Hedge School focusing as it does on  the impact and legacy of the Glorious Revolution, both locally and nationally.

 

SOME EXTRACTS FROM THE HEDGE SCHOOL:

The topic for the Derry Hedge School was  “Protestant republicans & Catholic royalists: legacies of the Glorious Revolution”. On 7 December 1688 a group of apprentices barred the gates of Londonderry against the Earl of Antrim’s Catholic army. This act of resistance marked the beginning of the Siege of Derry and was the first major engagement of the Glorious Revolution.
The Hedge School particularly focused on the emergence of the United Irishmen and the Orange Order in the century after the Glorious Revolution. Ian McBride, Professor of Irish and British History, King’s College, London suggested that for most of the 18th Century, the Glorious Revolution was commemorated not by a summer marching season but rather by an autumn season of listening to sermons: “While there are some references in newspapers to commemorations of the Boyne as a victory over the Irish, these were completely subordinate to the idea of the Glorious Revolution as a constitutional and religious event. In the 1790s a change occurs which draws out just one character of the Glorious Revolution, the Protestant Succession. The emergence of the Orange Order at that time can be seen in may ways as a reaction to the reform of the Penal Laws, especially concerns about the right of Catholics to bear arms.”
Dr Breandán MacSuibhne, Assistant Professor of History, Centenary College, New Jersey pointed to the close relationship  between Derry, the Maiden City, and Philadelphia, the City of Brotherly Love: “In the late 18th C some of the largest merchant houses in Philadelphia were run by people from Derry and north west Ulster. There seems to been a blow-back of tolerance across the Atlantic to Derry.” As an example Dr MacSuibhne reminded us that while Catholics had been expelled from the Walled City as late as the 1750s, by the 1790s Ian McShane a prominent Catholic United Irishman has set up shop in the Diamond: “ Catholics were becoming part of the public sphere, gradually moving out of the shadows.” Dr MacSuibhne suggested that this liberal political culture persisted into the early 19th C: “ In the latter part of the 18th C the United Irishmen in Derry were predominantly Presbyterian and the retreat of Presbyterians from republicanism in the early 19th C is a subject of immense interest. Yet without drifting into romanticism, it is important to say that Derry was not Portadown; there was not the belligerent Orangeism in north west Ulster as for example in mid Ulster.The north west had a very different political culture, historically liberal, and remained liberal through the 19th C.”
Tommy Graham, editor of History Ireland closed the proceedings by  looking at the way the Northern Ireland peace process categorises people as being from one of two traditions: “ While such a model has its place in dealing with current divisions, the problems occurs when you take that model and try to project it back into history and come up with a view that people were hard-wired to be one thing or the other; rather than seeing nationalism/republicanism or unionism/loyalism as rational choices. We need to interrogate history in a constructive way rather than breaking up history as ammunition to throw at the other side.”
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