CAHSS Faculty Articles

Ian, McBride, The Siege of Derry in Ulster Protestant Mythology Four Courts Press, 1997



Publication Title

Irish Literary Supplement



Publication Date



The Siege of Derry (1688-89), as is well known, remains the central political myth in Northern Irish Loyalist culture. The book under review traces the rituals and traditions associated with the defense of the city by the thirteen Apprentice Boys as they have developed over the past three hundred years. As McBride, a lecturer in history at the University of Durham, points out, the Relief of Derry was quickly assimilated to a providential reading of history centering on the conflict between reformed religion and Rome (13). He explores the relationship between the sectarian construction of 1689 and the Whig interpretation, which placed the Siege in the wider context of constitutional struggles against the Stuart monarchy. Between the 1690 sand 1730s the Siege became a central issue in the power struggle between Presbyterians and Anglicans in the north of Ireland. After 1750 the sectarian dimension was downplayed, with the result that Catholics, as well as Dissenters, were able to join in the annual festivities. The double threat of insurrection and French invasion in the 1790s forced a retreat into seventeenth-century attitudes, confirmed by O'Connell’s emancipation activities in the 1820s. As the Catholic population began to expand during the nineteenth century, sectarian confrontations increased, though a Whig interpretation resurfaced among the leaders of Ulster Liberalism. The final section of the book deals with the use of the Siege within Unionist rhetoric from the Home Rule crisis of 1886-1922 to the modem era of the “Troubles.”





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