Ulster Presbyterian heritage could boost tourism

Pictured at the launch of 'An Indepenent People' (L-R) were Ken Nelson, Heritage Experience chairman and chief executive of LEDCOM, broadcaster William Crawley and Presbyterian moderator, the Rt Rev Dr Ian McNie

Pictured at the launch of 'An Indepenent People' (L-R) were Ken Nelson, Heritage Experience chairman and chief executive of LEDCOM, broadcaster William Crawley and Presbyterian moderator, the Rt Rev Dr Ian McNie

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A resilient and pioneering people with an independent streak that helped shape great nations, Ulster Presbyterians have been on an epic journey spanning four centuries and counting.

Their story - one of derring-do, leadership and evangelising - is the stuff of legend.

Historical figures the world over have their roots in the province, and a new project aims to tap into the rich heritage by attracting their descendants, and others with an interest in history, to visit Ulster.

Ulster-Scots, or Scotch-Irish as they came to be known in America, were at the forefront of the US independence movement and played a key role in the nation’s civil and military structures.

Lauched on Friday (January 22) by the cultural tourism company, Heritage Experience Ltd, ‘An Independent People’ is a triple DVD and booklet package accompanied by a unique six-day guided tour tracing the history of Ulster Presbyterianism.

The tour is taking place from September 26 to October 1, 2016 - taking in key areas of significance including Belfast, Ards, North Down, Londonderry and Donegal, as well as the Giant’s Causeway and Glens of Antrim and the Ulster American Folk Park in Omagh.

The new tourist initiative was officially launched in Belfast by Presbyterian moderator the Rt Rev Dr Ian McNie, and William Crawley who presented the BBC series (in March 2013) on which it is based.

Speaking at the launch, Dr McNie said: “This exciting new project will enable visitors to discover iconic sites and find out more about a strong, determined people that provided the New World with presidents, prime ministers, generals and leading industrialists. Presbyterians, along with many others, helped to create great nations with their hard work, resilience and pioneering spirit. But first and foremost they brought with them the good news of Jesus Christ.”

Mr Crawley said: “’An Independent People’ tells the remarkable story of Ulster’s Presbyterians, and their remarkable legacy, and it provides the narrative that could attract thousands back to these shores to explore their cultural roots.”

Heritage Experience director Dr William Roulston said it was a “great story” to be told at home as well as overseas.

“In Ireland, we can see how their independent spirit and fierce belief in freedom and equality for all led many Presbyterians to embrace radical politics and take part in the United Irish rebellion. A hundred years later their entrepreneurial drive helped make Belfast one of the great industrial cities that fuelled the burgeoning British Empire.”

Further information on the DVD and booklet sets is available at www.authenticulster.com.

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