Derry in 1871

Derry in the late nineteenth century was a fast expanding urban-centre (with a population of some 30,000 in 1871). Streets were orderly and there was an effective sewage system as a result of a city Improvement Act in 1848. The city also had a jail (with 170 cells), a workhouse, two dispensaries and a lunatic asylum, in effect, the beginnings of an embryonic regional welfare system.
Derry was a hub of the regional transport system. Several railway companies competed for the passenger trade – Irish North-West Railway; Belfast and Northern counties railway and the Londonderry & Lough Swilly railway company. One could send a parcel to any part of the world through Globe Parcel express a service provide by Edward Gillespie on Foyle Street. One could catch a steamer to Glasgow every day of the week except Sunday and there was a twice weekly service to Liverpool and also to America. The old wooden bridge (that had been assembled in America and brought to Derry in 1790) had been destroyed…

Local newpapers an invaluable tool

Local newspapers can provide a wealth of information on local and family history.

The Northern Constitution was a Coleraine newspaper that had weekly sections covering many local towns and villages including Limavady. No newspaper was printed in Limavady so the Constitution bought into the Limavady market by providing regional coverage through a dedicated column called Roeside Echoes.

The local Limavady news appears to have been compiled by a local correspondent (not named) who often provided a fascinating insight into local news and characters. There is excellent coverage in Roeside Echoes, for example, of Limavady men who fought during the First World War, 1914-1918. Coverage was given to soldiers who were killed or injured and also of men who had travelled home for respite.

In the Roeside Echoes column in the Northern Constitution dated 28 September 1918 was an interesting article on the discovery of a headstone in Balteagh Parish Church graveyard dating back to the seventeenth cen…

The Siege of Derry 1688-1689

The Siege of Derry/Londonderry

The walls of Derry were completed by 1619, eight metres high and nine metres wide and 1.5 km in circumference. By the time of the siege the population inside the walls was estimated as 2500. Four gates allowed access to traffic going in and out of the city. The river Foyle came up close to the walls on the waterside an effective barrier from attack.

he Siege of Derry was the first major event of the Williamite Wars in Ireland. The Gates of Derry were initially closed in December 1688 by 13 apprentice boys who seized the keys and locked the gates upon the approach of the Earl of Antrim's forces. The real action did not begin until April 1869 when the Jacobite forces arrived in substantial numbers. It is estimated that during the siege the population inside the walls swelled to over 30,000 people. Over 7000 of these were troops and the rest civilians who had fled to the safety of the walled city.

The Jacobite force was estimated at some 15,000 and were…

1813 census of Ireland


The first reliable statutory census of the population of Ireland was taken in 1821. An earlier census authorised by statute had been taken between 1813 and 1815. The results, however, were defective and neither printed nor presented to parliament. The census was a substantial failure.

The census was to be statistical in nature only, although in a few baronies heads of households names were recorded (the returns for the six completed baronies of Dublin county, and the half-barony of Upper Lecale, Co. Down).

A bill for a census of Ireland became law on 18 July 1812 and the enumeration was to start on 1 May 1813 and continue without delay until completion. The data to be collected for each enumeration district were the number of inhabited houses, families, houses under construction, uninhabited houses, families engaged in agriculture, in trade, manufacture, handicrafts, and other occupations, persons of each sex exclusive of soldiers, militia, and naval personne…

Wolf-hunters and the last wolf in Ulster

The last wolf in Ulster
Wolves were numerous in Ireland in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. So numerous indeed that they posed a threat to the livelihood of farmers.
A letter from Gabriel Whistler, agent of the Salters’ company 11 April 1699 speaking of the devastation brought about by the 1641 rebellion in the region stated 'your lands and most of the others continued in this condition without inhabitants (but wolves and wild beasts) until the year 1656’ (D4108/1/12A)
At various times generous bounties were given for the destruction of wolves, particularly during the Cromwellian period. In 1652 the Commissioners of the Revenue of Cromwell's Irish Government set substantial bounties on wolves, £6 for a female, £5 for a male, £2 for a sub-adult and 10 shillings for a cub.
In 1677 a proclamation by Gabriel Whistler at the manor court on the Salters’ estate, ‘ordered that the summe of one shilling bee raysed and payed by the tenants of every towne land within the said Manor t…

The Spanish Flu in Limavady

 The Spanish Flu in Limavady - a case study

Analysis of deaths registered in the Limavady District that record influenza as a primary or secondary cause of death 1918-1919.

In total from the period 26 June through to 14 October 1919 there were 42 deaths with influenza recorded as a primary or secondary cause of death in the Limavady District (I did not include the data for pneumonia only deaths although most likely there was a correlation). Only occasionally did deaths occur in small clusters but more typically deaths would be spaced out over weeks.

Of the 42 deaths that record influenza on the death certificate 17 were female and 25 male. Only five were less than four years old. The age range was from 10 weeks through to 81 years old.

Ages of deceased:
6 less that 10 years old
6 between 11 and 20
9 between 21 and 30
4 between 31 and 40
5 between 41 and 50
2 between 51 and 60
3 between 61 and 70
6 between 71 and 80
1 between 81 and 90

The majority were unmarried (30 out of 42). Most re…

Spanish Flu outbreak 1918

SPANISH FLU 1918-1919 - the greatest pandemic in History:
Estimated death total worldwide = 20 to 40 million

The last major global pandemic occurred 100 years ago in the summer of 1918. Spanish flu was first reported in the early summer of1918 by newspapers in Spain, unaffected by wartime censorship. By then, the US, French, British and German armies were already troubled by it.
In Ireland 20,057 people were reported as having died of influenza in 1918 and 1919 (the average annual rate for the preceding years of the war had stood at 1,179). In addition, an increase in deaths caused by related illnesses, most notably pneumonia (from which over 3,300 died above what would usually have been expected), can be attributed to the epidemic.Sir William Thompson, the registrar-general, admitted that the official influenza mortality rate was a conservative estimate, and there are reasonable grounds to assume that additional influenza deaths in Ireland were uncertified, attributed to other illnesse…