Comprehensive History

1641 A.D.

Irish resentment smouldering for 30 years it last blazed forth in the rising in 1641. English forces, however, held fast in Derry, which was at one time loyalist, at another for the parliament but always it was anti-Catholic. According to the resolutions of “the League of the Captains of Londonderry for the keeping thereof, and country adjoining”, the citizens agreed to expel “all such Irish out of the city, as we shall conceive to be necessary for the keeping of the city”, and forbade the natives driven out to reside within two miles of Derry. This ordinance may have applied to Glendermott and caused further uprooting of the population. These citizens maintained a guard on the Waterside, and while there does not appear to have been any large-scale military operation, there was some rebel activity in the district.

Following the Flight of the Earls, Plantation was initially slow to progress as foreigners would settle more readily In Derry City, than the outlying areas such as Glendermott Parish. By 1630 Sir Thomas Phillips complains of nine Mass-houses having been erected on Companies lands, and it is possible here the Church had already begun to move underground. The rising of 1641 led to “all Irish” being expelled from Derry and represented another stage in decline.

The poll-tax returns of 1659 showed the native adult population at 267, a little less than it had been 34 years before, while the protestant numbers have increased considerably to 334 adults. The Catholic community was disintegrating under the steady pressure of an increasing protestant population, and under the tremendous influence that Derry must have exercised on the neighbourhood. The 50 years that have passed since the beginning of the century have made a fundamental change in the district, and what hitherto was a completely Catholic area, in its people, its traditions, its atmosphere has become definitely Protestant, and the ancient faith is fighting for its very life.


1660 A.D.

After 1660 Catholicism in Derry was moving very fast towards a crisis. Derry itself had been without a bishop for more than 100 years and almost the whole mass of the people was without the Sacrament of Confirmation

and deprived of those advantages which the presence of a bishop would confer on it. The disorganisation that must inevitably occur in a diocese deprived so long of a bishop showed itself in the chaos that was creeping into the parochial system at this time. A report from Brussels in 1677 implied that the parish as a unit had disappeared.

The report from Brussels, was by Papal Nuncio to the Sacred Congregation, and stated: “I have been informed that there are no fixed boundaries for the parishes, nor a fixed revenue for the parish priests of the diocese of Derry; it is customary to assign to the care of each priest a sufficient number of Catholic families, who by their offerings and alms contribute to his support”. There were standard offerings fixed by custom in the diocese then. A regular contribution of two shilling a year was made by every family, with one shilling on the occasion of a Baptism, one and six pence on marriage; this was a generous effort by people who were crushed by poverty, but it was still a miserable sustenance. As the Vicar General said: “Where there are most Catholic families, there the parish-priest is the richest; I should rather say, less poor and miserable.”

The fear that Derry could not support a bishop in any way consonant with the Episcopal dignity seems to have influenced Rome in its reluctance to appoint one, and yet this very want of a bishop for one hundred and fifty years might have been decisive. Certainly, no other single factor could have had such pernicious results. In a hierarchical society so sensitive and complex as the Church, the lack of a bishop affects every aspect of its life; organization and discipline deteriorate, Confirmation and Orders cannot be administered, and perhaps, most important of all,- for there is something sacramental about Episcopal rule- the spirit goes out of a diocese. Glendermott parish was typical; it survived, but for long years it did not appear to have any chance of doing so.



With the defeat of King James during the Siege of Derry vanished the last hope for the Irish, and, indeed, the prospect even of toleration. The planters had been frightened once again and realised that after 80 years of

effective occupation had not induced the dispossessed to accept the situation.

Whenever opportunity afforded, the Papists took up arms. Government, therefore, decided on drastic policy-to render the Irish helpless, by depriving him of religion, education, property, and legal status. To wipe out all the natives would have been an impossible task; by a cunningly devised legal system they would be allowed to exist, but in such a state of intellectual, moral, and economic beggary, that they could not offer any threat to the state. History records many instances of persecution, but few, if any, like this where a tiny minority attempted systematically to destroy a nation. Such was the pattern that developed during the first half of the 18th century, and so cleverly was the Penal code framed, so vigorously was it enforced, that one wonders today how the faith survived.