Walls that have withstood 400 years of dramatic history

News Letter editorial
News Letter editorial

The Walls of Derry are one of the most important historic landmarks in Northern Ireland.

Only a handful of intact, major man-made structures are either older, such as Carrickfergus Castle, or as old, such as Bangor’s Tower House.

The walls in the Maiden City date back to soon after the Plantation, 1619, and now, 400 years later, are a physical remnant of that time.

As we report on pages eight and nine today, the Londonderry walls famously withstood the Great Siege of 1689.

This was a key moment in European history, with the deposed king, James II, himself turning up at the siege, the Catholic great grandson of Mary Queen of Scots, who is the subject of a major film currently on release.

The walls were important at other times too, such as during the 1641 rebellions, and proved their effectiveness.

They had been based on a design developed in Italy in the 1500s, and so were cutting edge of their time. The walls were already 120 years old when the News Letters of 1739, which we are currently serialising, were first published.

Now Londonderry is a radically different city from the one in which unionists were once dominant, and today Protestants are very much in the minority. There is a push to remove London from the name, which is a pity, given the huge global allure of Britain’s capital city, evident in the current alarm in the Northwest that the only air route linking London to City of Derry airport yesterday collapsed.

The ongoing physical charms of Londonderry city centre, not least thanks to the walls, and the attractive old architecture within them, coupled with the city’s striking setting on Lough Foyle, are appealing to tourists, particularly given that it is located at the northwestern end of a stunning rail line.

For visitors stopping off between Belfast and Donegal, it is on a road route that is being radically upgraded.

Work has begun on the Dungiven-Drumahoe stretch, and will soon finish on the Randalstown-Castledawson section.