BBC Filming Rev. MacGregor's Story

Rev. James MacGregor—“the Moses of the Scotch-Irish in America” —led the first of thousands of Scots who migrated from Northern Ireland to North America in the 1700s. Now some of his descendants are retracing Rev. MacGregor’s journey, in the company of a film crew making a documentary for the BBC. 

This Saturday (March 3, 2018) they’ll be in Derry and East Derry, New Hampshire, the heart of the old Nutfield territory that Rev. MacGregor and the sixteen First Settler families made home.

Discovering A Famous Ancestor

Waddell Media, Ireland’s largest factual independent production company, is filming for the BBC Northern Ireland’s Family Footsteps series on living history and genealogy. 

 Rev. MacGregor descendent Alan Laughlin and son Ainsley with BBC presenter Gavin Andrews (center) study their long family tree.

Rev. MacGregor descendent Alan Laughlin and son Ainsley with BBC presenter Gavin Andrews (center) study their long family tree.

They have already filmed retired Northern Ireland teacher Alan Laughlin taking a journey of discovery through his family tree, revealing how and where his Ulster-Scots ancestors lived during the 19th and 20th century, and ultimately revealing an ancestral link to Rev. MacGregor.  

Alan’s son Ainsley is also part of the story. He, his wife Kerry, and their three daughters recently experienced the daily life of their ancestors at the Ulster Folk Park in Cultra, county Down. As described by Waddell production coordinator Sharon Whittaker, “Ainsley swapped software development for manual labour, Kerry the microwave for the open fire, and the girls got a taste of rural education in the 1800s.”

Now as this post is published, Alan and son Ainsley are traveling to New England with well-known BBC Northern Ireland presenter Gavin Andrews and a sizable film crew. 

 A recent depiction of Rev. MacGregor by Derry-area artist Rosalind Giuffrida Hartley.

A recent depiction of Rev. MacGregor by Derry-area artist Rosalind Giuffrida Hartley.

Here the Laughlins will learn more about the legacy of of an ancestor whom prior to last week they didn’t even know they had. They will visit the port where MacGregor and his flock first landed, trace the settlers' path through New England, explore remnants of early settler life, and stop in Derry to see the legacy of the Nutfield settlement MacGregor helped establish and meet other MacGregor descendants.

Derry Locations

The filming will take place this Saturday, March 3rd, for most of the day. Area relative Colin Brooks will join Alan and Ainsley on the adventure. The film crew hopes to record key historic sites, and also to capture the look and feel of MacGregor’s town as it is today. 

MacGregor family coat of arms window in the Derry Public Library (photo courtesy DPL). 

The highlight is a surprise event for Alan and Ainsley: a 12:30 pm family reunion and luncheon reception for MacGregor descendants at the Derry Public Library. (Though not open to the public, the team is seeking additional MacGregor descendants to attend and meet Alan, Ainsley, and Colin. Please email if you’re interested. See also this story at Nutfield Geneology.)

The Derry Museum of History is downstairs in the Adams Memorial Building in downtown Derry, at 29 W. Broadway.

Earlier (about 11:00 am), the crew will arrive in Derry and be welcomed at the Adams Memorial Building by the Derry Heritage Commission. After a tour of the Derry Museum of History and its collection of MacGregor and Nutfield displays, the group will take a filming walk along Broadway to the Derry Public Library. They’ll shoot outside scenes of the library—which was first built thanks to the generosity of a MacGregor descendent—and the adjacent MacGregor Park, then join the reunion inside.

MacGregor memorial plaque at the Derry Public Library.

First Parish Church with its Meetinghouse anchoring the Upper Village, a National Register of Historic Sites location.

After, the crew will drive up the hill to the historic Upper Village in East Derry. About 3:00 pm the First Parish Historic Preservation Committee will give a tour of the 1769 Meetinghouse at First Parish Church, which is currently undergoing a massive historic preservation project. The Friends of the Forest Hill Cemetery will then host the crew’s visit to the First Settlers plots in the adjacent graveyard. (The public is welcome to observe at both sites.)

The First Settlers plot in Forest Hill Cemetery.

The day will then wrap with filming on Beaver Lake, near the site where MacGregor preached the First Sermon on April 12, 1719, marking the founding of Nutfield.

 Depiction of the First Sermon on April 12, 1719, under an oak tree on the shore of Beaver Lake (from Willey's Book of Nutfield).

Depiction of the First Sermon on April 12, 1719, under an oak tree on the shore of Beaver Lake (from Willey's Book of Nutfield).

As our local preparations for the Nutfield 300th Anniversary Celebration ramp up, it’s exciting to see how important the story of Rev. MacGregor and Nutfield are to their descendants in Northern Ireland, and to participate by hosting this BBC filming. We will share news of the production and TV show as it develops.