Thames and Avon Branch of the Murray Club    

  Apprentice Boys of Derry  

The City Of Londonderry

The original English town which was erected by Sir Henry Docwra was burned and destroyed by Sir Cahir O'Doherty, the chieftain of Inishowen, in 1608. This rebellion of Sir Cahir O'Doherty was eventually put down, and this event following on from the flight from Ireland, in 1607, of Tyrone and Tyrconnel, the powerful Ulster Chieftains, led to the historic connection between the City of London and Londonderry. The way was then clear for the government of James I to implement the plantation of the chieftains confiscated lands. It was considered that an effective plantation would civilise Ulster and would ' establish the true religion of Christ among men....... (which had been ) almost lost in superstition'. 

It was natural that James should look to the financial centres of London for support in such an undertaking. The official prospectus drawn up for submission to the City in 1609 was entitled ' Motives and Reasons to Induce the City of London to Undertake the Plantation of the North of Ireland'. The prospectus suggested that the most suitable areas for the City of London to plant were the ruined City of Derry and the town of Coleraine.  The fertile land was underdeveloped by the native Irish through the use of primitive cultivation methods as well as through the impact of the tribal warring among the chieftains. The natural resources of the region, it was said, could be the basis for a flourishing trade with England, Scotland, Spain and Newfoundland.

It was apparent to the City of London from the outset that the plantation would be a complex, costly and dangerous operation. But from the point of view of the Crown it was essential that the danger of invasion through the Swilly or the Foyle should be guarded, and the settlement of Derry achieved by Elizabeth should be restored. It is ironic that in 1689 the foreign invasion led by James II , which the defenders of Londonderry so resolutely halted, came not through the Swilly or the Foyle but from the south coast of Ireland.

It was after much deliberation that the Court of Common Council of the City of London decreed that a company to direct the affairs of the new plantation in Ulster should be constituted. This company became known as the Irish Society.

The Irish Society was, in fact, an elected body which represented the twelve major Livery Companies which agreed to provide the capital expenditure necessary to establish the plantation. In return the Livery Companies would receive the rents from the lands and rights leased to the planters. By 1613 the City, through the Livery Companies had dispersed in the region of 30,000..

In the year 1613 the county of Londonderry was surveyed and divided into twelve portions - one for each of the main Livery Companies and their association of smaller livery Companies. Provision was also made for land to be granted to the Irish. The City of Londonderry and the Town of Coleraine and their liberties were undivided and remained under direct control of the Irish Society. With this done the preliminary stage of establishing the plantation was completed.

The next stages were to implement the building of Londonderry and settling the county with colonists. In 1610 Londonderry consisted of some old ruins, the remains of two forts and some wooden huts. By 1622 some 240 stone houses had been built as well as the town hall and a free school. In addition the city was fortified with walls. The crowning work of the Irish Society at that time was the building of the Cathedral which was completed in 1633.A tablet was placed above the porch which proclaimed :

If stones could speak. Then London's praise should sound. Who built this church and city from the ground

The Livery Companies also gave cannons for the defence of Londonderry, the most famous of which was Roaring Meg. In the County of Londonderry the Livery Companies built many villages e.g. Ballykelly was built by the Fishmongers Company and Draperstown was built by the Drapers Company. In 1617 a school was built, by Mathias Springham - a London Merchant - within the City Walls as a gift to the City. This was the forerunner to the present day Foyle and Londonderry College. 

Today the influence of the Irish Society is greatly diminished, however a rich heritage remains.