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East Donegal Ulster Scots Ulster Scots Heritage Trail
If you have ever considered visiting the "Oule sod" to chase up your long lost ancestors, do a bit of research, or simply see the most beautiful county in Ireland, then next year could be one of the best years to choose. Some of you may have seen the BBC programme highlighting the role of the Hamiltons and Montgomerys as the precursors of the later and larger plantation when they arrived in Ulster in 1606. The point was ably made on numerous occasions that, perhaps for the first time in 400 years, the political climate in Ireland is conducive to a mutual appreciation and celebration of this and subsequent events by "both sides of the house", as it is often termed here in Donegal. The same is even truer of 1607.
Next year is the four hundredth anniversary of the Flight of the Earls, when the Earls of Tyrone and Tyrconnel took ship from Rathmullen in Donegal, headed for Spain, thus leaving the way clear for a mass plantation, officially sanctioned by King James 1. Regardless of what you think of the rectitude of these events, that is what happened, and it is really only now being accepted that this plantation has produced a rich combination of overlapping and yet subtly distinct cultures, the cultures of the Lowland Scot planter and the native Gael. These cultures have thrived and interacted over the years to produce a unique blend of music and dance, language and literature, architecture and artefacts and history and heritage here in Donegal.
One of the most gratifying peace dividends of the Stormont Agreement has been the increasing willingness of both traditions to recognise and value their similarities and differences and to treasure and enjoy both. This is reflected in the preparations being made to commemorate the events of 1607. The Flight of the Earls Committee is planning a series of events in early May and mid September. The East Donegal Ulster Scots will participate in the latter and have also organised a programme of events for 2007 including the Francis Makemie Summer School on the last weekend of April and The Donegal Ulster Scots Experience festival on the first weekend in June. Watch out for more details of these events layer this year.
December 2006 saw the launch of this programme, known as the East Donegal Ulster Peace and Reconciliation Project for 2007 at the Mount Errigal Hotel in Letterkenny. Funded by the Donegal County Council Peace 2 task Force, it was launched by Doctor Billy Kelly of the University of Ulster with the chief of the O'Donnells, Mr. Vincent O’Donnell in attendance. In addition, a new website, funded by the Ulster Scots Agency, was launched the same month to boost Ulster Scots tourism in East Donegal. It is well worth a visit if you want to experience some of the culture, language and history of the Ulster Scots in East Donegal. Check it out:
There is also a map and a tourist trail of places to see and things to do. Further details of the events for 2007 will be added as and when the dates are confirmed, along with information on accommodation and travel. So, gather together a wheen o' coppers and plan yersels a wee visit home in 2007. It should be a very rewarding experience.