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Derry historian Rick Holmes is heading to Derry/Londonderry, Northern Ireland, in July to help that city celebrate its 400th birthday. (ADAM SWIFT/Union Leader Correspondent)

Derry historian to help Northern Ireland celebrate


DERRY - It's a special year across the sea this year for Derry and Londonderry's namesake in Northern Ireland, and Derry town historian Rick Holmes will be on hand to take part.

This year, Derry/Londonderry, Northern Ireland, is celebrating its 400th birthday with a yearlong party.

On July 10, Holmes will be speaking at a conference in Northern Ireland in honor of the connection between the Nutfield, N.H., towns of Derry, Londonderry and Windham, and the walled city of Derry/Londonderry.

"I'll be talking on the role of the Scotch-Irish, also known as Ulster Scots, in the history of America," said Holmes. "So many of the leaders of the Revolutionary War were of Scotch-Irish descent, and I believe 17 of our presidents were of Scotch-Irish descent."

James McGregor, the founder and leader of the Nutfield colony, played a role in the siege of Derry/Londonderry in 1689.

"That experience of suffering to avoid being defeated is central to the Scotch-Irish love of liberty," Holmes said.

He said McGregor is also the great-great-great-great-great-great grandfather of Secretary of State John Kerry.

In addition to speaking at the conference on July 10, Holmes will also take part in a reception on July 9 with the Lord Mayor in the Guild Hall in Derry/Londonderry, N.I., to present a proclamation congratulating them on their celebration and to recognize the shared history between it and the New Hampshire towns.

"The Nutfield towns in New Hampshire were settled in 1718 by a pioneer group from Northern Ireland," said Holmes. "In fact, we were the first town in the New World to be founded by Scotch Irish emigrants."

"This is, I think, my fourth trip to Derry/Londonderry," said Holmes. "'Tis a beautiful city with a huge wall all around the city with lots of museums, pubs, friendly people, hotels and good food. If you drive across the Foyle River bridge you are in the Republic of Ireland."

Holmes said McGregor plays a large role in the history of Northern Island.

"Our Rev. James McGregor is recognized over there as a major figure in the diaspora of the Scotch-Irish leaving the Old World and coming to the New World," he said. "Over there, there are plans for building an historical trail called the James McGregor Trail from Derry/Londonderry, Northern Ireland, to his home town of Aghadowey, Northern Ireland."

Anyone who is interested in traveling to Northern Island in July to take part in the reception to celebrate the region's Scotch-Irish roots can contact Holmes at 434-6042 or email him at rholmes33@comcast.net.

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