Rewards and Losses from the Defence of Derry

From Derry and Enniskillen in the Year 1689 by Thomas Witherow

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CHAPTER IX...continued

It is not to be supposed, however, that, while a just debt was withheld from the Derry and Enniskillen soldiers, individual officers and gentlemen, who had it in their power to make interest at Court, were not amply rewarded. Gustavus Hamilton, the Governor of Enniskillen, was created Lord Viscount Boyne. Wolseley, the hero of Newtonbutler, at the close of the war became Master of the Ordnance in Ireland and a Privy-Councillor—a reward that he had gallantly [5] earned. The son of Governor Baker obtained the title to a forfeited estate in the County Louth, and his widow had a pension from the Crown of 300 a year up till 1694, when the estate came into possession of the family.[6] Browning's widow had a diamond necklace put round her neck by King William—an honour which, had it been ten times greater, her gallant husband well deserved. Captain Roche, who, it will be remembered, carried, at the risk of his life, a message from Kirke into Derry, obtained the grant of an estate in County Waterford; but it involved him in such expensive litigation, that it proved in the end to be more of a loss than a gain. The reward given to Governor Walker, and the amount of service that he rendered for it, has been already described. It is said that even Colonel Murray's widow got a pension.[7] But none made more out of the Revolution than Captain Corry, of Castle Coole, near Enniskillen. He had discouraged the inhabitants of Enniskillen from making any defence; he had threatened to put in prison those who armed to defend the town; he had publicly declared that he hoped to see all hanged who took up arms for the Prince of Orange; and when the Enniskilleners showed that they were not disposed to submit to his advice or control, he went to England, leaving the town and country to their fate.

So soon as it was certain that the cause of King James was a losing cause, he passed over to the side of King William, and when all was settled he went to Government with a long story of his losses. His actual losses were, that his house had been burned by order of Governor Hamilton, lest it should shelter the Duke of Berwick, who, on Saturday, the 13th of July, had approached very near the town; and that in a time of civil war the Enniskillen garrison, as they had a perfect right to do in the circumstances, helped themselves freely to his cattle when provisioning their town, and to his timber when erecting their fortifications. To this they were entitled, for they fought in defence of the property, which its owner by fleeing to England had abandoned to the calamities of war; and Captain Corry had met no greater losses in this respect than other gentlemen in various parts of the North, who stayed to fight when he had withdrawn to a secure retreat in England. But he knew better than they how to turn losses to account. He went to Government with a long catalogue of his wrongs, and services, and sufferings. He had friends at Court before him. His losses were rewarded with a mortgage for 2000, which was made over to him, and a fine estate in his own neighbourhood. He became the founder of a noble family, and his representative at the present day is the Earl of Belmore—a nobleman whose public character and private virtues are in no way disminished by the fact that King William's generosity to his ancestor was a little out of proportion to the value of his ancestor's services to King William.[8]

Some individuals, such as those now named, were thus handsomely rewarded; and, from the month of January 1690, all the officers and men at Derry and Enniskillen who desired it, formed a part of the regular military establishment of the country. But all pay for the services of 1689 was rigorously withheld from both officers and men, notwithstanding that the justice of their claims nobody ventured to question. The results were very distressing. Multitudes in consequence were reduced to poverty and wretchedness, and from that condition they never emerged. Brave men, who in the day of danger had fought for king and country, no less than for liberty and life, were left to pine in penury, their goods and money wasted, their means of livelihood gone, and themselves, perhaps disabled and childless, left in old age to begin the world afresh. Persons who, three or four months before, brought with them to the city what might be called wealth, returned to what once had been their home to find it only a blackened ruin. Some went out to the world, and picked up the crumbs of charity at the rich man's door; others held out the hat in the streets of the city which they had once defended with their lives. Promises and praise were indeed lavishly distributed; but poor men dying of hunger are not very much the better of promises and praise; rather are they the worse, for thereby is excited a hope doomed in the end to bitter disappointment. What the nation should have done, and ought to have felt happy in doing, was left to the charity of private individuals. Out of the provisions intended for the army, Duke Schomberg had to make several grants to keep alive the famishing inhabitants of Derry. Various adventurous individuals made their way to London, and knocked at the door of their landlords, the Hon. Irish Society; and the Society, with their wonted generosity, not only divided 1200 among the poor of the city, but repeatedly aided individuals who went to solicit their help,[9] and in this way did what they could to make amends for the dishonest economy of Government.

Even the celebrated Mitchelburn, than whom few men had stronger claims for consideration, was reduced to deep distress. He was the grandson of an English baronet. He had served under Kirke as an officer in the English army at Tangier. He had identified himself with the cause of the Prince of Orange from the outset, and had taken part in the siege of Carrickfergus in February 1689. After Hamilton's men forced the line of the Bann, he had retreated to Derry. There he had acted as sole military governor during the last seven weeks of the siege, having been named by Baker as the best qualified for the post. During that time he had contracted debts, which two expensive journeys to London, while seeking what was due him by the Government, had not, we may well believe, diminished.

He lost his wife and all his children in the siege; and no man in the garrison had stronger claims on Government for a handsome remuneration. But from Government he could not obtain the payment of what was due him. In his despair, he applied to the Irish Society to use its influence with His Majesty to have him made Governor of the Fort of Culmore—a sinecure office, to which were attached some acres of land and a small annual salary. The Society, hoping perhaps to shake themselves free of the annual payment, coolly told the gallant officer that there was now no fort at Culmore, and that of course there would be no need of a Governor in future; but, in consideration of his services, they solaced the unfortunate suppliant with a gift of a hundred pounds. Nine months afterwards, Sir Matthew Bridges came to the Irish Society. He had done nothing for the defence of Derry. He had been knighted on the 15th of June, 1688, for being the first to bring to Dublin the news of the birth of the King's son—afterwards known as the Pretender; and during the siege of Derry his house at Brookhall had been the headquarters of the besieging army, and had been demolished by them when the siege was raised. This gentleman, some nine months after Mitchelburn was denied the humble position that necessity obliged him to ask, presented himself before the Irish Society with an appointment from Her Majesty Queen Mary to be Governor of Culmore, and demanded the acres and money connected with his office. The Society discovered in due time that, whether there was a fort or no fort at Culmore, there was at least a salary which they were bound to pay; and of course the 300 acres and 200 a year, which the distinguished Governor of Derry, in his great distress, had not interest enough to obtain, were enjoyed by Sir Matthew Bridges, whose strongest claim upon King William for consideration was, that General Hamilton, while occupying his house at Brookhall, had not looked after the repairs.

But the misfortunes of poor Mitchelburn were not yet ended. In 1709 he again visited London, no doubt to press his honest claims on Government, and while there he was cast into the Fleet prison for debt. It is comforting, however, to know that, from some cause,[10] his worldly prosperity returned towards the close of his life, and that he was able by his will to show to others a portion of that generosity of which he had so little experience himself. But notwithstanding this, we can well believe that he did not escape from all the sorrows in which the siege of Derry involved him, until October 1721, when his remains were laid to rest beside those of his friend and fellow-soldier, Adam Murray, in the old churchyard of Glendermot.[11]

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NOTES

[5] He died unmarried in 1697. Sir Garnet (now Lord) Wolseley, the hero of the Ashantee campaign, is of the same stock as the victor of Newtonbutler.

[6] Harris's William III., p. 208, and App. xxvi. and xxvii.

[7]; Graham's Ireland Preserved, p. 150.

[8] MacCarmick, pp. 6, 7, 8, 22; Harris, App. xxx.; Froude's English in Ireland, vol. i., p. 222; Earl Belmore's Letter to the Times, dated Castle Coole, December 7th, 1872.

[9] Concise View, p. 75.

[10] Harris, book viii., p. 212, says that the sums due him "at length were paid, but in a manner far short of the merit of his brave actions and great services."

[11] Concise View, pp. 75, 76; Hempton, pp. 378-88.


Fighters of Derry: Their Deeds and Descendants, Being a Chronicle of Events in Ireland during the Revolutionary Period, 1688–91

William R. Young's Fighters of Derry has for decades been one of the most overlooked works on the Siege of Derry and as a local genealogical resource. First published in 1932, the book was the product of ten years’ research which the author undertook when suffering from ill-health in the latter part of his life.

Fighters of Derry

The book is essentially divided into two parts: the first contains 1660 biographical entries relating to the defenders of Derry and the second has 352 on the Jacobite side. Apart from individual accounts of eminent protagonists in the siege, such as David Cairnes, Rev. George Walker, the Duke of Schomberg, Patrick Sarsfield, etc., and the not so eminent too, there is also background given to many of the most influential families involved in the conflict.


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