Imeacht na nIarlaí/The Flight of the Earls and Plandáil Uladh/The Plantation of Ulster: The History and Culture of Derry/Londonderry

Submitting Institution

University of Ulster

Unit of Assessment


Summary Impact Type


Research Subject Area(s)

Language, Communication and Culture: Literary Studies
History and Archaeology: Historical Studies

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Summary of the impact

Multiple, reinforcing impacts where Kelly and Ó Ciardha's research has been repeatedly utilised to develop the cultural presentation of Derry legacies in museums and events. Public policy impact exist in the authors' roles as historical advisors to Donegal County Council's €1m commemoration of the Flight of the Earls (1607-2007) and Derry City Council's winning of UK City of Culture (2013), which utilised the Ulster Plantation as an historical base. Their research changed professional practice among museum officials and teachers, and enhanced popular historical knowledge through outreach and media. It impacted creative practice via programme content and the economy via tourism.

Underpinning research

Kelly and Ó Ciardha are established experts on early modern Irish history and literature, including the Columban legacy, Irish and Hiberno-Latin sources, Irish Book history, royalism, loyalism, identity-formation, emigration, immigration and diaspora. Their research encompasses the translation, editing and re-interpretation of legal, historical and literary sources in English, Irish and Latin and results in a range of peer-reviewed outputs, including monographs, collections, essays, and entries to national biographies. The case study draws upon the two authors' research in numerous and persistent ways.

Ó Ciardha's study (with Ohlmeyer), The Irish Statute Staple, 1596-1687 (Dublin, 1998) was the first alphanumeric database published in early modern Irish History, and remains a key source for English re-conquest and plantation in Ireland and a project that has set the scene for later subsequent digitization projects on the 1641 Depositions and the Down Survey.

Ó Ciardha also brings bilingual research in early modern Irish socio-economic and cultural history to the case study. He has engaged, in both English and Irish, with the impact of conquest, re-conquest and plantation on a predominantly Irish-speaking Irish populace. His core relevant work—Ireland and the Jacobite Cause, 1685-1766 (Dublin, 2002) and over eighty DIB entries on Irish Jacobites—strongly shaped case-study themes. In particular his work influenced non- academic users around émigrés, outlaws, Catholic clergymen, Irish-language poets and poetry, and sets them into a hitherto unexplored `British' and European context. His work highlights the pivotal role of the Irish Jacobite diaspora in Irish, British and European political, military and cultural life—a key theme of the impact described.

Kelly's critical edition of Sir Henry Docwra's `narration of the events in north-west Ulster' brings to the case study expertise on one of the crucial campaigns of the Nine Years' War (1594-1603), the penultimate struggle for political and military hegemony between the English Crown and Hugh O'Neill's Irish Confederacy. The impact is based upon a popular re-imagining, by the authors, of Elizabeth's triumph, O'Neill's flight and James I's confiscation of 3.8 million acres of Ulster: factors presaging the utter transformation of the politico-cultural landscape of Ireland's most Gaelic, Catholic province.

Kelly's opening section of his Atlantic Gateway sets the scene for the emergence of the Protestant citadel of Londonderry as the political, military fulcrum of Protestant Ulster. His various writings on James Butler, 1st duke of Ormond, the embassy of Papal Nuncio, Giovanni Baptista Rinuccini, and his edited collection on Stuart interventions in Ulster, the Scottish and Ulster Plantations and the Siege of Derry speak to the political, socio-economic and cultural legacy of plantation over the course of the seventeenth century.

The accrued expertise meant that the Flight of the Earls and Plantation of Ulster could be understood within the context of: (1) Gaelic Ireland; (2) the machinery of the Plantation; (3) state formation in the Second British Empire; and (4) the Irish diaspora in Europe. It was precisely historical understanding that enabled commemoration of the shared heritage of these key events in Irish history.

References to the research

1. Kelly, W.P. (ed.), Docwra's Derry (Belfast: Ulster Historical Foundation, 2003). Research collection submitted to RAE2008.

2. Kelly, W.P., Robert Gavin and Dolores O'Reilly, Atlantic Gateway: The Port and City of Londonderry since 1700 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2009), 382pp, major research monograph on the city at the heart of the impact.


3. Kelly, W.P., `James Butler, twelfth Earl of Ormond, the Irish Government and the Bishops' Wars' in J.R. Young (ed.), Celtic Dimensions of the British Civil Wars (Edinburgh: John Donald, 1997), pp. 185-204. Peer reviewed contribution to edited collection.

4. Ó Ciardha, É., Ireland and the Jacobite Cause (Dublin, 2002), 468pp. Key History submission, RAE2008, reviewed in over thirty journals and recognised as a seminal study.

5. Ó Ciardha, É, J. Ohlmeyer (ed.), The Dublin Statute Staple 1596-1687 (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 1999), 380pp. Original edition of a unique dataset in a volume influenced subsequent similar approaches to other sources.

6. Ó Ciardha, É., 'Buachaillí an tsléibhe agus bodaigh gan chéille. Tóraíochas agus Rapairíochas i gcúige Uladh agus i ndeisceart Chonnachta sa tseachtú haois déag', (Mountain boys and senseless churls, toryism and rappareeism in Ulster and north Connaught in the seventeenth century), Studia Hibernica, xxix (1995-7), pp.31-59. Peer-reviewed journal article.

Details of the impact

The impact of the research is significant and its reach is not limited to one particular type of user or audience:

Impact on Public Policy: As invited committee members and consultants to Derry City Council and Donegal County Council, their research fed directly into Donegal County Council's `Flight of the Earls' commemoration and Derry City Council's successful bid for UK City of Culture on the theme of Plantation. The MP for Foyle constituency acknowledged: `Ó Ciardha [and] Kelly... have proved adept and effective at exploring and explaining the content of historic events without exploding the contention of given divisions [...] The confidence that this narrative could be told and sold informed the bid to be UK City of Culture.' (Letter of 8 May 2013). The bid's historical dimension, which these authors shaped, was key to success. Phil Remond, Head of the Judging Panel, noted the importance of historical work which the authors had completed for the bidding team: `When people read Derry's's about acknowledging the past, not shying away from the past, and using that point that the past informs our present and helps shape our future. If that is not the role of culture then I don't know what is.'

Kelly and Ó Ciardha organised international conferences that helped influential bodies lend support to the Londonderry bid. A major consequence of 2009 conferences funded by the AHRC, the British Academy, and IRCHSS at which Kelly and Ó Ciardha's academic expertise spoke to London's role in north-west Irish history, was the City of London Corporation's decision to support the UK City of Culture bid.

Impact on Professional Practice: Kelly and Ó Ciardha produced commissioned, popular summaries of their research in several formats for education purposes. Special issues of the popular magazine History Ireland focused on the Flight of the Earls (2007) and Plantation (2009). Secondly, they collaborated with local government to produce popular booklet summaries of their research for schools, libraries, etc. (Ó Ciardha, A guide to the plantation of Ulster & Kelly Legacy of the Plantation, both 2009). These materials helped Derry City Council's Heritage and Museum Service enhance professional practice, e.g. cross-border schools-based learning programme and new on-line and touring exhibitions to aid community understanding (letter from Head of Council Heritage and Museum Services). The Curator of Donegal County Museum records how the booklets made this complex history easier to teach. Initial print-runs of 1000 have proved inadquate. The Curator says they are `currently being used as a teaching resource for the Irish History course at Farmingdale State College, New York'.

Economic Impact - Tourism: Kelly and Ó Ciardha's leading and public role in the commemoration of key historical events was particularly appreciated by the City Remembrancer as providing `opportunities for initiatives linking the economic interest of the City of London with Northern Ireland. The enhanced understanding of, and interest in, the history of the Province which Ó Ciardha and his colleagues are generating through their work can only help to ensure a positive reception for such proposals in the City of London' (letter, March 2012). Moreover, the Head of Derry City Council's Heritage and Museum Services, noted that Kelly and Ó Ciardha `basically provided the intellectual, historical ballast for all of the historical programmes and many of the other events that have already happened and will happen in the lead up to and including 2013...the events have had an important economic impact, leading to greater visitor numbers and visitor spend in the city'.

Outreach Publications and Historical Documentaries: Impact here includes: Ó Ciardha's The Flight of the Earls (Guildhall Press, 2011) highlighted by the popular magazine BBC History as one of the books of the year. This major achievement was duly noted in the press (`Sumptuous Derry book is BBC Choice for 2011', Derry Journal, 17/12/2011). The book itself is evidence of the combination of academic historical knowledge and public policy interest, containing testimonials from the Mayor of County Donegal and the Director of Community, Culture and Enterprise, Donegal County Council. Second, articles were written for the national press that presented research in summary form (É. Ó Ciardha, `Remembering the significance of Plantation 400 years on', Belfast Telegraph, 27 June 2009). Finally, their historical research was used directly in the scripting of a number of TV historical documentaries, including Imeacht na nIarlaí: The Flight of the Earls (TG4's award-winning 2007 production) and Plandáil/The Plantation of Ulster (BBC Northern Ireland, 2011).

Sources to corroborate the impact

Impact on public policy; Economic Impact - Tourism

Letter from City of London, City Remembrancer, 5 March 2012 (ID 1)

Letter from Foyle MP, 8 May 2013 (ID 5)

Comment of the City of Culture judging panel chair: ireland-foyle-west-20849679.

Impact on professional practice

Letter from the Head of Derry City Council Museum and Heritage Service (ID 2);

Letter from the Education Officer, Derry City Council Heritage and Museum Service, 9/11/2011;

Letter from the Curator of Donegal County Museum, March 2012.

Outreach/Historical Documentaries

Book: The Flight of the Earls (Guildhall Press, 2011)

Letter from Imagine Media Productions Series Producer Plandáil/The Plantation of Ulster, 18 October 2012 (ID 4)

Letter from the Producer/Director Imeacht na nIarlaí: The Flight of the Earls, 10 November 2012 (ID 3).