Siege of Derry:
A City of Refuge
By Cecil Kilpatrick, B.Sc.
Every community of people derives inspiration by looking to the rock from which
it was hewn and taking pride in the deeds of its forefathers. The French remember the capture of the Bastille and the Americans their Declaration of Independence. The Hebrews still remember their deliverance from slavery in Egypt after perhaps 3,300 years.
The Ulster Community is fortunate in having preserved so many tangible reminders of its
past and especially the walls of Derry, its Cathedral and the many relics of its three sieges, but especially that of 1689.
Londonderry is now the finest remaining example of a walled city in Ireland and
can only be compared in this respect with York or Chester in England. Writing in 1855, Lord Macauley, the Whig historian, stated:
"Five generations have passed away and still the wall of Londonderry is to the Protestants of Ulster what the Trophy of Marathon was to the Athenians".
There is however the danger that the great siege being so well remembered may be taken for granted without giving it the consideration it deserves and it may become fashionable to attempt to debunk it and even to make it out to be a myth. What did happen and why?
Chapter One: It's place in our History
The end of the Old Order.
Hugh, known as the Great O'Neill had been fighting a nine years war against the advancing forces of Queen Elizabeth, especially in what is still border country, from his base at Dungannon. His back and the area north of the Sperrins was guarded by his allies, the O'Cahans of the Roe, the O'Doherties of Inishowen and the O'Donnells of Donegal.
In 1600, a new English commander, Sir Charles Blount, created Lord Mountjoy, (not to be confused with a later peer of that name who was a Stewart), replaced the disgraced Earl of Essex.
Mountjoy, a careful strategist, decided to hit O'Neill from behind by attacking his allies the O' Cahans and the O'Doherties by opening up a second front to be supplied by sea. Derry, still not Londonderry, was chosen as the pivot. A force under Sir Henry Docwra was landed with 4000 Foot and 200 Horse at Culmore on 16th May 1600 AD and six days later marched to Derry without resistance and commenced to fortify it. From this base, impregnable without artillery, he sallied forth to harry the clans especially when the harvest was ripe and the crops could be burnt and fat
cattle driven off or slaughtered. It was not long before the clans were suing for peace and the pincers were drawn even closer. O'Neill surrendered to Queen Elizabeth at Mellifont, Co Louth on
30th March 1603, not knowing that she had died on 23rd March. He was granted his life, liberty and a pardon for all his offenses.
The Beginning of the New Order
Elizabeth, the last of the children of Henry VIII had never married and so had no immediate heirs. Henry VIII however had a sister, Margaret, who had married the King of Scotland and the next in line to Elizabeth was now their great-grandson and son of Mary Queen of Scots - James VI of Scotland and now James I of England. This union of the Crowns was to have immense significance for Ulster. In 1607 the heads of the great Ulster Gaelic clans, the O'Neill, the O'Donnell and the Maguire, feeling insecure and surrounded by enemies decided to leave Ireland for ever, sailing from Lough Swilly on 14th September 1607 bound for Rome with 30 or 40 of their families on board. This departure, known as the Flight of the Earls, gave the pretext to declare their lands forfeit to the Crown and led to the concept of The Plantation of Ulster. Plantations of people in distant lands was not a new idea and at the time was being carried out in North America and in Munster. Counties Antrim and Down, being planted by private enterprise, were not included in the official scheme and Co Monaghan was originally reserved for native Irish ownership, but the other six Counties of Ulster were all involved.
Chapter Two: The City and County of Londonderry.
The importance of Derry having been proved, the King decided to create a new County by taking a barony from Co Tyrone, smaller areas from Counties Antrim and Donegal, adding them to the County of Coleraine and granting them to the city of London, thereby creating Londonderry. They were charged with the task of planting the whole County with British settlers but particularly to build and fortify the town of Coleraine and the City of Londonderry.
The Walls of Londonderry.
Reconnaissance of the site and planning of the new city began immediately, but work on the ground lagged behind. In 1614 earthworks and quarrying had begun and by 1618 the walls were completed but not the gates. Thomas Raven surveyed the work and drew a map of the "City and Island of Londonderry" in 1625, with proposals for further improvements. This shows the whole compass of the wall to be just under a mile. There are four gates and nine bastions, originally called bulwarks. The walls were 24 feet high, faced with 6 feet of masonry backed by an earth rampart 12 feet thick.
A report to the King by Sir Thomas Phillips at the same time drew attention to several shortcomings. A Church should have been built before anything else. The city needed another 300 houses and more British people to guard it. It required magazines and stores for food and ammunition. The walls needed guard and sentinel houses for soldiers. The bulwarks still had no cannon or platforms.
In 1625 the civilian population has been estimated to be about 120 families.
In 1628 work was begun on the building of a worthy cathedral within the walls. Until this time the people has used either the ruins of the old monastery outside the wall on Windmill Hill, or the small St Augustine's Church near the Royal Bastion. Building was completed in 1633 and in 1635 it was consecrated for use both as a Cathedral and as a Parish Church for Templemore. In the porch a stone was built into the wall with the inscription dated 1633:-"If stones could speak.
Then London's praise should sound Who built this Church and city from the ground"
Londonderry 1641 - 1649 With the outbreak of civil war in Great Britain between the King and arliament, the native Irish took the opportunity to rise in arms against the British settlers. An appeal to the City of London from Londonderry did not go unanswered. Already 20 pieces of artillery had been provided sometime after the completion of the walls. Rev Winter relates in his account, published in 1643, that a further fifteen pieces of Ordnance were sent by the 'Worshipful and worthy companies' (the City Guilds). By the Mercers, two demicuilverins, the Grocers as many, the Drapers two minions, the Fishmongers one demicuilverin, the Goldsmiths one saker, the Skinners a full culverin the Merchant tailors two demiculverins, the Salters one saker, the Ironmongers one demiculverin, the Vintners one saker and the Clothworkers the like and with every piece an oaken carriage, thirty shot, ladle, sponge, and every other utensil thereunto belonging. The Fishmongers demiculverin later was nicknamed 'Roaring Meg' because of its loud report and may still be seen on the Double Bastion. In addition to guns, the Drapers Company sent 100 quarters of wheat, the Fishmongers 50, the Haberdashers 50, the Coopers 12 with 40 quarters of pease. The defense of the entire circuit of the walls was divided into six "quarters" each the responsibility of a Company with a Captain in command. Collectively the Captains formed a Council, known as the League of Captains. The names of the Captains and their 'quarter' has come down to us preserved in a letter sent by a spy called O'Kane to his Cousin in Doe Castle. All through the times of peril and massacre elsewhere, the watch and guard acted as a refuge for those who sought its protection.
By 1649 a Scottish garrison held the City for parliament, under the command of Sir Charles Coote. They were besieged for 20 weeks by Royalist Forces under Lord Montgomery and Sir Robert Stewart. The garrison consisted of 800 Foot and 180 Horse. There were numerous sorties and skirmishes but no assault on the walls was made. With the end of the war the besiegers withdrew.
The Events leading to the Siege.
James II 1685 - 1688 King James, an open Roman Catholic was determined to undermine the Reformation Settlement throughout his Kingdoms, but began cautiously. After the failure of the Duke of Monmouth in the West Country and under the influence of French and Jesuit advice, he speeded up his policy. He had appointed Richard Talbot, Duke of Tyrconnell to be his Deputy in Ireland and instructed him to raise an army of 50,000 men, officered by Roman Catholics, drawn mainly from the gentry, who had lost their land in the Cromwellian confiscation's. In England, 7 Bishops who had opposed James' policy, were put on trial and on their acquittal, amid popular acclaim, James became alarmed and, to overawe the population, brought over some 3,000 troops from Ireland. They were camped on Hounslow Heath and among their Officers was Patrick Sarsfield. To fill the place of these troops near Dublin, Lord Mountjoy's Regiment was recalled from Londonderry and Culmore, where they had been stationed for several years.Lord Antrim had been busily engaged in raising a Regiment, under Tyrconnell's instructions, from among the glensmen in Antrim and the islanders of the Western Isles, but his plans were well behind schedule, with the result that Londonderry was temporarily left without a garrison. On the night of the acquittal of the 7 Bishops, an invitation, signed by 7 prominent men, had been sent to William, Prince of Orange, and on 5th November 1688 he landed at Torbay and began his slow march to London.
The Shutting of the Gates.
One month later, on 6th December, (OS) the Redshanks, as Lord Antrim's clansmen were known, reached Limavady on their way to Londonderry. On the same day, a copy of the Comber letter had been received by Colonel George Phillips, the former Governor of the City, until his replacement by Tyrconnell. The letter was anonymous, but it warned of a general rising of Roman Catholics and massacre of Protestants, to take place on 9th December. Colonel Phillips sent word immediately to warn the City, saying that Lord Antrim's Regiment was only supposed to be 400 strong, but he had counted 1200 besides the camp followers, who accompanied clansmen when they expected spoil. At the same time, another copy of the Comber letter arrived from Garvagh, sent by George Canning (ancestor of Lord Garvagh). On 7th December the Redshanks reached the Waterside about 10.00 am and as there was no bridge, sent over a Lieutenant and an Ensign by boat, to make arrangements for quarters and fodder. The City was in an uproar, the Council undecided and as the warrants brought by the two Officers were unsigned, the Sheriffs played for time. Meantime, tiring of the delay, the rest of the advance party of Lord Antrim's Regiment began the crossing by ferry and forming up on the shore. They had only 300 yards to march to the Ferryquay Gate and the time was Noon.
With no time to spare, the youth of the City, with less to lose than their elders sprang to life and made that fateful decision. Drawing their swords they seized the keys, drew up the drawbridge, closed and locked the gates. They then ran and secured the other three gates. As the Redshanks still waited outside in some confusion, one James Morrison shouted for a great gun to be brought and that was enough. The names of the brave thirteen Apprentice Boys were recorded by Rev John Mackenzie in his narrative of the Siege and are part of our heritage. The first named is Henry Campsie. As the Redshanks, in bad humor, made their way back through Limavady, they burnt it to the ground, leaving only one house standing. Preparation for Resistance Colonel George Phillips now resumed his position as Governor and soon had organized and armed eight companies of citizen soldiers. Counselor David Caimes, a local ship owner, sailed to England to procure supplies of arms, ammunition and military aid. Meantime, Tyrconnell asked Lord Mountjoy to return with his Regiment and restore his authority. He was a well respected Protestant gentleman and, due to his influence, was allowed to garrison the City with two companies of Protestants under Colonel Lundy and Capt. Stewart. Colonel Phillips felt that he could now hand over the position of Governor to Colonel Lundy, a Scottish Episcopalian, not realizing, that like most of that persuasion, he was a Jacobite. Preparations, however, continued and a fund was raised to finance the purchase of supplies from Scotland. A merchant, James Hamilton, was entrusted with the venture and brought back, among other stores, 42 barrels of gunpowder. Hearing that Lord Antrim was also shipping supplies from Dublin and that his baroque was storm-bound on the Coast of Co Down, a raid was organized and 30 barrels of powder seized. Contact was also maintained with Coleraine, Hillsborough, and Enniskillen for information and mutual support.
The Spring Offensive, Hamilton drives North.
Irish Roman Catholic Lieutenant General Richard Hamilton, having given his pledged word, had been allowed to cross from England on parole, in the hope that Tyrconnell could be persuaded to abandon his support for James. However on arrival, breaking his oath, he joined Tyrconnell and took command of his army. James II sailed from France in late February and landed at Kinsale on 12th March. Two days later Hamilton with 7,000 men and 5 guns drove north to bring the Protestants to heel. Lack of leadership and confusion reigned in Co Down and on the first clash at Dromore, the Protestant forces were scattered with considerable loss. Major Henry Baker, later to achieve fame at Londonderry, had his baptism of fire and withdrew. Tyrconnell already held Belfast and Carrickfergus Castles and Charlemont Fort and now captured Hillsborough Fort. He could thus press on without fear of a flank attack. In Lord Macauley's words, "Then the flight became wild and tumultuous. The fugitives broke down the bridges and burnt the ferryboats. Whole towns, the seats of the Protestant population, were left in ruins without one inhabitant. The people of Omagh destroyed their own dwellings so utterly, that no roof was left to shelter the enemy from the rain and wind. The people of Cavan migrated in one body to Enniskillen. The day was wet and stormy. The road was deep in mire. It was a piteous sight to see, mingled with the armed men, the women and children weeping, famished and toiling through the mud up to their knees. All Lisburn fled to Antrim and as the foes drew nearer, all Lisburn and Antrim together came pouring into Londonderry. Thirty thousand Protestants, of both sexes and every age, were crowded behind the bulwarks of the City of Refuge. There, at length, on the verge of the ocean, hunted to the last asylum, and baited into a mood which men may be destroyed, but will not easily be subjugated, the imperial race turned desperately to bay". Rev George Walker, Rector of Donaghmore, had raised a Regiment to hold Dungannon, but was ordered by Colonel Lundy to retire to Omagh, and then to St Johnstown. From there he advanced to take up a defensive position at the Long Causeway, half way to Lifford, where the road to Derry crossed a marsh. However, due to Lundy's failure to give any leadership or support, all the passes of Lifford, Cady and the Long Causeway, were abandoned and all retreated in disorder to Londonderry. On 25th March, Richard Hamilton reached Coleraine and received his first repulse. The town was defended by an earth rampart and had been successfully held in 1641. Not wishing to be held up by Coleraine, Hamilton turned west crossing the Bann at Portglenone. Fearful of being cut off, and while they still had time, the garrison and many of the townsfolk withdrew to Londonderry.
David Caimes had arrived in London in January and obtained an interview with King William who immediately promised help. Instructions were issued, two Regiments were got ready and on 21st March Capt. James Hamilton was dispatched with supplies on board the Deliverance, escorted by the frigate Jersey. David Caimes, on his return, handed over a letter to Colonel Lundy, telling him that relief forces were being assembled and would follow. True to his word, on 15th April, eleven ships arrived in the Foyle with the 9th and 17th Regiments and all necessary arms and supplies. Colonel's Cunningham and Richards had instructions to first obtain an Oath of Allegiance to King William and Queen Mary before landing their men. Consequently, the regiments were left on board, while they went ashore. Lundy presented a gloomy picture, saying that supplies would only last for a week or 10 days. The enemy, 25,000 strong was within 4 or 5 miles of the walls. He proposed quitting the town and suggested that the ships with their two regiments, should return to England. Colonel Richards said that to lose Derry was to lose the Kingdom, but was persuaded that they would be sacrificing themselves in a hopeless cause.
With great regret they returned to their ships and sailed away.
King James had every reason to be pleased at how his plans were progressing. If Londonderry could be taken without loss of time, he could cross to Scotland before King William was well established and there he could raise the clans under Bonny Dundee. Preliminary negotiations had taken place between the Jacobite Earl of Abercorn and Colonel Lundy and it had been agreed that the main force should stay at a distance, while James and his staff came up to Bishop's Gate. He was assured that favorable terms would be accepted by the City Council. However, James had several French Generals with him, including Rosen and he had no time for gentle persuasion. As a result, when James advanced with the Royal Standard and his heralds, he was followed by most of his army. It was 10 am on April 18th. Suspecting treachery, not without cause, the men on the wall, to keep the enemy at a distance, in spite of orders from Lundy, opened fire with their cannon, killing several officers close to King James, causing panic and a rapid retreat.
Colonel Adam Murray had raised a troop of horse and after being in the thick of the fight at Cladyford on the Finn River and betrayed by Lundy, he withdrew to Culmore, where there were plentiful supplies of fodder for his horses. From there he saw the relief ships arrive and sail away again and suspected the worst. The time had come to confront the traitor in the City, but on that very day, King James and all his men had arrived at Bishops Gate. Undeterred, he fought his way to Pennyburn mill where he received a message from Lundy, ordering him back to Culmore. The messenger, however, had his own account of what was happening and the effect was electrifying. Murray, placing himself at the head of his men, charged for the City. The guard had orders not to admit him, but the gates were thrown open to receive them in triumph. Calling on all who were for resistance to tie a white cloth on their arms, he soon, with half the population behind him, confronted Lundy and demanded his resignation. Lundy was placed under house arrest and that night was allowed to escape, disguised as a common soldier, to Culmore, where he succeeded in boarding a ship bound for Scotland. The Governorship was first offered to Colonel Murray, but wishing to be free to lead his Cavalry, he declined. Instead, two joint Governors were appointed:- Rev George Walker in charge of civil affairs and Colonel Henry Baker in charge of military affairs. There is no record of any disagreement between them, though there must have been much overlapping of functions.
The Siege begins in earnest.
On the night of 5th/6th May Ramsey's Brigade made a surprise attack with Lord Galmoy's Horse in support. In the darkness the city guns on the wall were ineffective and much confusion reigned. The position did not become clear till daybreak, when it was discovered that 3,000 men - some six regiments, including a regiment of French Troops - were in position, well dug in, right from the marsh at the Bogside on their left to the bank of the river. Governor Baker realized at once the extreme gravity of the situation and the necessity of retaking the hill regardless of cost. Urgently, to assist the men already. engaged on the hill, he called up a platoon of 10 men from each of the 117 Companies, which made up the garrison. These with hundreds of free lance volunteers were soon on the spot, and joined in the counter attack on the newly dug trenches. After furious hand to hand fighting the hill was retaken and the enemy fled, leaving 200 dead, including Brigadier General Ramsey. Another 500 of the enemy were wounded and of these 300 died, due to lack of medical attention. Five pairs of colours were left behind and captured, including a standard of French colours. These were presented after the siege, by Colonel John Michelburn to the Cathedral, where they can be seen in the sanctuary though the fabric has been renewed several times. Many prisoners were captured including several officers and were kept in custody, and given the same fare as the besieged. Letters captured on prisoners showed that the enemy had already lost 3,000 men from all causes.
2nd Battle of Windmill Hill.
From Dublin King James sent instructions for an all out assault, involving the full strength of numbers. Such an attack would be impossible for badly trained troops in the cover of darkness and would have to be a morning daylight attack. Early on 4th June, some 12 Battalions of foot and 15 squadrons of horse were drawn up behind the rising ground beyond the Bogside, and out of musket shot, at least 10,000 men in all.
This was to be the greatest battle of, the siege. The assault was in two prongs. One force advanced along the river on the low ground to the east, the other came in from the west, crossing the bog, and up the slope. The horse were in three divisions. Colonel Butler, second son of Lord Mountgarrett had bound his cavalrymen by an oath that they would mount the defenders lines by the river and they were to lead the attack. At this point the defenders were organized in three ranks, so that one rank would always be ready to fire. The women and boys were fully involved carrying ammunition and match. They also carried water and helped the wounded. Colonel Butler, true to his oath, was the first to leap over the defenders heads, followed by his whole troop. It proved to be an act of folly for all were soon accounted for, except three, who succeeded in making their escape back to their own lines. Men were protected by armor but not horses. The main force, led by Grenadiers and Foot Guards moving in from the west, had now advanced as far as the Double Bastion at the corner of the wall, where they drove in the outposts. Colonel Baker had his reserves ready to hand and as they were needed they were thrown in to relieve exhausted men and restore the position. The guns on the wall were able to do great execution at short range, firing case shot for maximum effect. Even small boys were found manning the defenses and throwing stones. Governor Baker's ability and coolness under fire proved decisive in winning this memorable day. The enemy lost 400 men killed and 120 wounded, besides many taken prisoner. Four sets of colors and many arms were captured.
Bombardment and Blockade.
The failure to take Windmill Hill ended the hope of battering down the City wall by gunfire. The Jacobites had sufficient guns, but the range was too great to be effective. They were well supplied with mortars which, from a distance could throw a bomb or shell high in the air, coming down on the roofs of buildings, and going down into cellars before exploding. The main batteries were beyond the river in the Waterside in Stronge's Orchard, and in a wood on the same side of the river opposite Windmill Hill. A third main battery was set up on the high ground beyond the Bogside to the west. The heaviest shell scaled 272 lbs. after it had been emptied of 17 lbs. of powder. The lightest shell weighed 34 lbs. without its powder.
While the city walls could not be breached by these high trajectory weapons, they did immense damage to houses all over the city. Supplies of powder had to be dispersed to reduce the risk and were stored among he houses in cellars. One shot on the night of 4th June fell on the Market House and finished down in the cellar within two yards of 47 barrels of gunpowder, but fortunately it was a cannonball of solid shot and not a shell. On June 7th, great excitement was caused in the city, by the sight of ships in Lough Foyle. One, the Greyhound, came up to Culmore Fort and engaged in an exchange of fire. The Fort had eleven guns ranging from 3 pounders to 24 pounders and holed the Greyhound in several places, below the waterline, causing her to take a lot of water. She had to break off the engagement and head to Scotland for repairs. General Hamilton immediately sent his wounded French Engineer, Pointis, now recovered, to erect a boom across the river. Pointis obtained much timber from buildings, joining them with iron clamps and stringing them on a 6" rope like a rod in curtain rings. The whole thing floated with the tide, and was fastened to a rock to the west and to a frame held down by a great pile of stones, to the east. In addition at each end several boats were filled with stones and sunk at high tide. Wooden posts were driven into the ground at low water. Forts to cover the boom were built on both banks and guns brought to fire at close range on any ship endeavoring to reach the City.
On the llth June, the main fleet arrived commanded by Capt. Leake in the Dartmouth, the whole expedition and the two regiments being in command of General Kirk. He was an unfortunate choice of Commander. He was the brutal commander of the troops of James II who had savagely put down the Monmouth rising and slaughtered the West Country men at Sedgemoor. He had joined King William to be on the winning side, but had little sympathy with the Protestant cause or the plight of the citizens of Londonderry. Having found the boom in position he decided to take no risks until the city was in its last extremity.
Assault on Butcher's Gate.
The classical method of making a breach in a city wall or castle in the absence of close range heavy siege guns was by sapping and mining. A sap was an open trench, advanced towards the wall with a protective covering overhead, usually approaching at an angle and tacking, like a ship sailing into the wind. On reaching the range of grenades the, sap went underground, becoming a mine. Once under the wall an explosive charge could be laid and a breach blown in the defenses.
Two of the city gates were protected by the River Foyle and Bishop's Gate by Windmill Hill, but an attack might be successful against the wall by Butchers Gate. The rising ground made normal sapping difficult, but it was worth a try. General Rosen had now returned, dispatched by James, who was becoming very impatient. The trenches and earthworks on the Bogside were advanced and a steady bombardment maintained which prevented water being drawn at night from St Columb's Wells. Several sallies from the wall were made to counter these operations and trenches were built outside the wall to defend Butchers Gate. Before the assault, General Rosen ordered a diversionary bombardment to be made to give the impression that yet another attack was to be made on Windmill Hill. On the night of June 28th about 10 PM the young Earl of Clancarty (Macarthy) led the assault, driving in the defenders of the outworks and capturing their trenches. The sappers and miners were ready with their prepared explosive charges, and soon had mined into a cellar under the wall, and commenced laying the mine. The defenders up above could do nothing being under heavy fire and in darkness. Colonel Baker lay seriously ill but the alarm was raised and a force assembled under Capt. Noble and Capt. Dunbar. They issued from Bishop's Gate and turned right, creeping under the Double, and Royal Bastions in the dark, holding their fire till they got to close quarters when every shot would tell. Reaching Butchers Gate in Walker's words "they thundered upon them", while fire was opened from Gunners Bastion with case shot. All those above ground including Clancarty found things so hot, that they were driven back, abandoning the sappers below ground to their fate.
On 30th June, worn out by hardship and disease brought on by hunger and overwork, Colonel Henry Baker died and was later laid to rest in the Cathedral. He had served jointly with Rev George Walker, since Lundy had been deposed. Colonel Baker had been a professional soldier and had been in overall command of military operations. It was essential that the new joint Governor be a competent and experienced army officer and Colonel John Michelburn, another professional soldier, was elected. He it was who raised the "Bloody Flag" of defiance, first on the Royal Bastion, and afterwards on the tower of the Cathedral. The Cathedral records show that in time of peace in 1718 AD he hoisted the crimson Flag on the Cathedral for the first time to commemorate the Relief of Derry. During the siege he lost, through fan tine, and pestilence, his wife and all his children. He later married again but had no more children.
Conrad de Rosen's Last Throw.
On the day that Colonel Baker died, Rosen issued a proclamation that if the city did not surrender, he would drive all the Protestants in the surrounding area, men and women, young and old, under the wall, to be left to starve or be admitted to exhaust the meager supplies remaining. Next day he carried out his threat and large numbers were herded to the wall in spite of the fact that many of them carried papers of protection signed by Richard Hamilton in the name of King James. At the same time, Rosen wrote to James enclosing a copy of his proclamation and stating that he had determined to exterminate all Protestants throughout the country. Each day more unfortunates were dragooned to Derry, till it was estimated they numbered 7,000 drawn from as far as 30 miles away. Michelburn's answer was to erect a gallows on the Royal Bastion, and threaten to hang all the prisoners. A message was sent to Rosen, asking him to send a Priest to prepare them for death, but none came. The prisoners wrote an appeal to Hamilton, deploring Rosen's action and seeking his intervention, but his reply showed no pity.
James, however, took a different view, as he had to think of the effect in England, where he hoped to be king again. He called Rosen a Barbarous Muscovite (he was a Lithuanian), and countermanded his action. Seeing that the besieged had not yielded and were encouraged by those outside, without waiting for James' reply, he changed his mind on July 4th and allowed the hostages to leave. Some young men managed to get over the wall and were replaced by an equal number of elderly and infirm from inside.
Chapter Five: Raised hopes lead to the relief of the City.
Kirk's Diversion Saves Enniskillen. Kirk's fleet had been in touch with Enniskillen by sea, and Lough Erne, supplying powder and ball, as well as experienced Infantry Officers, particularly Lt Colonel Wolseley and Major Tiffin. Capt. Hobson, returning from Enniskillen proposed that the pressure on Londonderry should be eased by making a diversionary landing on Inch Island in Lough Swilly. This would secure supplies of grain, for the fleet, and deny it to the Jacobites. In addition, the soldiers who had been cooped up on board for a month, could be given fresh
air and exercise. It should be made to appear that the force was preparing to march on Londonderry. In fact Enniskillen was under attack from three directions. MacCarthy was advancing on the town from Cavan. Patrick Sarsfield from Sligo, and the Duke of Berwick, with forces from Londonderry, had reached Trillick and his advance guard was as close as Cornagrade, just outside the town. At this point Berwick (James' illegitimate son) received a message that Kirk's forces were marching to relieve Londonderry and was recalled to the city immediately. Enniskillen was more than able to deal with the other two threats.
In the Cathedral Porch, visitors will see a bomb raised on a pedestal. The inscription reads "This unwelcome visitor was fired into Derry on July 10th 1689. It did not burst and on examination was found to contain a letter offering favorable terms to the besieged if they would surrender etc". The Walker family have a tradition that when the dead shell with the message fell near the Cathedral, and the letter was read, Governor Walker said 'we will go into the Cathedral and hear what message God has for us about this'. So they entered the Cathedral and he opened the Bible (now in the Chapter House) and read the first passage, his eyes fell upon, which was Psalm 37, "Fret not thyself because of evil doers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity. For they shall soon be cut down, like the grass and wither as the green herb. Trust in the Lord and do good, so shall thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed". From which he exhorted the garrison to hold out.
From that day a mark has always been kept at this passage.
In the words of Lord Macaulay "By the time July was far advanced, and the state of the city was hour by hour becoming more frightful. The number of the inhabitants had been thinned more by famine and disease than by the fire of the enemy, yet that fire was sharper than ever. One of the gates was beaten in, one of the bastions was laid in ruins, but the breaches made by day were repaired by night, with indefatigable activity. Every attack was still repelled. But the fighting men of the garrison were so much exhausted, that they could scarcely keep their legs. Several of them, in the act of striking at the enemy, fell down from mere weakness. A very small quantity of grain remained, and was doled out by mouthfuls. The stock of salted hides was considerable, and by gnawing them, the garrison appeased the rage of hunger. Dogs, fattened on the blood of the slain, who lay unburied, round the town, were luxuries which few could afford to purchase. The price of a whelp's paw was five shillings and sixpence. Nine horses were still barely alive. They were so lean that little meat was likely to be found upon them. It was, however, determined to slaughter them for food. The people perished so fast, that it was impossible for the survivors to perform the rites of sepulture. There was scarcely a cellar in which some corpse was not decaying. Such was the extremity of distress, that the rats who came to feast in those hideous dens were eagerly hunted, and greedily devoured. A small fish, caught in the river was not to be purchased with money. The only price for which such a treasure could be obtained was some handfuls of oatmeal. On 13th July, however, a piece of paper sewed up in a cloth button came to Walkers hands. It was a letter from Kirk, and contained assurances of speedy relief. Just at this time Kirk received from England a dispatch, which contained positive orders that Londonderry should be relieved". It is likely that Kirk was daily expecting that the landing of the Duke of Schomberg and a large force in Co Down would compel the besiegers to withdraw, and make his task easier or unnecessary. Inside the city, one final week's resistance was made possible by a merchant James Cunningham who, on 20th July discovered a method of making a pancake by mixing a quantity of starch he had discovered in store, with tallow, and making it last for 6 or 7 days. However, with even that exhausted, on 28th July, Colonel Michelburn gave the signal to the fleet to come now or never. The guns on the Cathedral tower were fired eight times and the crimson flag struck. The fleet answered with six great guns, which was taken to mean that when the tide was filling they would come.
It is difficult to better Macauley's account: "It was 28th July. The sun had just set; the evening sermon in the Cathedral was over; and the heartbroken congregation had separated; when the sentinels on the tower saw the sails of three vessels coming up the Foyle. Soon there was a stir in the Irish camp. The Besiegers were on the alert for miles along both shores. The ships were in extreme peril: for the river was low, and the only navigable channel ran very near the left bank, where the headquarters of the enemy had been fixed, and where the batteries were more numerous. Leake performed his duty with a skill and spirit worthy of his noble profession, exposing his frigate to cover the merchant men, and used his guns with great effect. At length the little squadron came to the place of peril. Then the Mountjoy took the lead and went right at the boom. The huge barricade cracked and gave way, but the shock was such that the Mountjoy rebounded and stuck in the mud. A yell of triumph rose from the bank, the Irish rushed to their boats and were preparing to board, but the Dartmouth poured on them a well directed broadside, which threw them into disorder. Just then the Phoenix dashed at the breach which the Mountjoy had made and was in a moment within the fence, meantime, the tide was rising fast. The Mountjoy began to move, and soon passed safe through the broken stakes, and floating spars. But her brave Captain was no more. A shot from one of the battery had struck him, and he died by the more enviable of all deaths, in sight of the City, which was his birthplace, which was his home, and which had just been saved by his courage and self devotion from the most frightful form of destruction". His name was of course Michael Browning. The Captain of the Phoenix was Andrew Douglas of Coleraine.
Lord Macauley does not mention the vital part played by the longboat of TMS Swallow. The Swallow herself stayed out in the Lough as her draught was too deep for the river. The long boat was ommanded by Boatswain's mate, Shelly, and had a crew of nine ratings. As soon as the Mountjoy had rebounded from the boom, the longboat under oars rowed to the boom and with axes cut and hacked through the 6" cable that held it together. The Browning Club of Apprentice Boys has erected a memorial window in the Apprentice Boys Memorial Hall, which shows them in action and records their names. The window also shows TMS Dartmouth anchored under Culmore Fort and engaging it with gunfire, while the two armed merchant men got safely past. To return to the language of Macaulay "It was ten o'clock before the ships arrived at the quay. The whole population was there to welcome them. A screen made of casks filled with earth was hastily thrown up to protect the landing place from the batteries on the other side of the river, and then the work of unloading began. First we rolled on shore barrels containing 6,000 bushels of meal. Then came great cheeses, casks of beef, flitches of bacon, kegs of butter, sacks of pease and biscuits, and ankers of brandy. Not may hours before, half a pound of tallow and three quarters of a pound of salted hide, had been weighed out with niggardly care to every fighting man. The ration which each now received was 3 lbs. of flour, 2 lbs. of beef, and a pint of pease. It is easy to imagine with what tears grace was said over the supper of that evening. There was little sleep on either side of the wall. The bonfires shone brightly along the whole circuit of the ramparts. The Irish guns continued to roar all night and all night the bells of the rescued city made answer to the Irish guns with a peal of joyful defiance. Through the three following days the batteries of the enemy continued to play.
But on the third night, flames were seen arising from the camp, and when lst August dawned, a line of smoking ruins marked the site lately occupied by the huts of the besiegers, and the citizens saw far off the long column of pikes and standards retreating up the left bank of the Foyle towards Strabane. So ended this great siege, the most memorable in the annals of the British Isles. It had lasted 105 days. The garrison had been reduced from about 7,000 effective men to about 3,000". The total number who died during the 105 days inside the walls has been estimated at 8,000.
On 31st July (OS) the day before the besiegers marched away from Londonderry the men of Enniskillen routed MacCarthy and his army at Newtownbutler, Co Fermanagh. On the day following, 2nd August (OS) the Duke of Schomberg landed at Groomsport near Bangor Co Down. Ulster was no longer on its own. About 100 years ago, Mrs C F Alexander, wife of the Bishop of Derry, and the famous hymn writer wrote a beautiful poem entitled "The Siege of Derry", finishing with the following verse:
"And of these heroic times, if the tale be told in rhymes,
When the statesmen of the future learns no lesson from the past;
When the rude hands are upsetting, and cold hearts are forgetting.,
And faction sways the senate, and faith is overcast:
Then these Derry men shall tell - who would serve his country well
Must be strong in his conviction, and valiant in his deed, must
be patient in enduring, and determined in securing the liberty
to serve his God, the freedom of his creed'.
"The History of England from the Accession of James II" by Lord Macaulay
"Jacobite Ireland" by J G Simms
"The Siege of Londonderry 1689" (including A True Account of the Siege of
Londonderry and A Vindication of the True Account by Rev George Walker) Edited
"Derry and Enniskillen" by Thomas Witherow
"Ulster Journal of Archeology No 8" (First Series)
"Biographical Notice of George Walker" by Rev A Dawson
"The Naval Side of King William's War" by E B Powley
"The Walls of Derry" by C D Milligan
"History of the Siege of Londonderry" by C D Milligan
"The Walker Club Centenary" by C D Milligan
"The Murray Club Centenary" by C D Milligan
"Browning Club Centenary" by W J Wallace
"History of St Michael's Church, Castle Cauldfield" (Parish of
"St Columb's Cathedral Historical Guide". Anonymous
"Brave Boys of Derry" by W S Martin