The Letter to the Society at London, sent from Derry by Mr. Cairns

From Derry and Enniskillen in the Year 1689 by Thomas Witherow

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In our sad calamity, and under the greatest apprehension of our total excision by the Irish in these parts of the kingdom which border upon us, we thought it necessary for us immediately to despatch David Cairns, Esq., a very worthy citizen of this city, and lately a member of this corporation, into England to report our case to you, and to use his endeavours by all just means for our speedy relief. And we have eternal obligations laid on us to bless God, whose mercy and providence rescued us from the designs of wicked men, that conspired our ruin, without any provocation on our parts, whose inclination, as well as interest, it was to live peaceably with all men.

On Friday, the 7th instant, several intimations came to several hands hereabouts, that on the Sunday following a massacre was designed by the Irish in Ulster; and although it caused great thoughts of heart to the most assured amongst us, yet none of the more aged or grave came to any other resolution than to submit to the Divine Providence, whatever the event might be; and just at that juncture, whilst the younger and more inconsiderate were consulting their own safety (and, it seems, had resolved on the means), a part of the Earl of Antrim's regiment newly levied, and all composed of Highlanders and Ulster Papists, came to the riverside, and their officers came over into the city to the sheriffs, for quarters and lodgings for them. We confess our fears on the occasion became more pungent, but we still remained silent except our prayers and devotions. But just as the soldiers were approaching the gates, the youthhood by a strange impulse ran in one body and shut the gates, and put themselves in the best posture of defence they could. We blamed but could not guide or persuade them to any less resolution that night; and so the soldiers retired, and were quartered in the neighbourhood, where although they did not murder or destroy any, yet many threats they uttered, and outrages they committed. The next day we hoped to prevail with those that assumed the power of the city, to open the gates and receive the garrison; but the news and intimations of the general design came so fast, so full from all quarters, that we then blessed God for our present escape, effected by means unforeseen, and against our wills. In the general hurry and consternation of not us only, but all the neighbouring counties, when we have but scarce time to hear the repeated informations of our danger, it is not possible for us to furnish the bearer with all requisite testimonials to evince this sad truth; nor will it consist with our safety to protract his stay till it can be done, the vessel that carries him being just ready for sail. We must refer you to his report, and copies of papers carried over by him, signed by us, for your further satisfaction in particulars; but do most humbly and heartily beseech you, as you are men of bowels and charity, to assist this gentleman how best you can to secure us from the common danger, and that we may peaceably live obeying His Majesty, and the laws, doing injury to no man, nor wishing it to any. Your interest here is now no argument worthy to engage you; the lives of thousands of innocent men, women, and children are at stake. If you can, and will not now afford your help to the utmost, we shall never be able to use a motive to induce you, or to prevail upon you. May the Lord send deliverance to us and preserve you in all peace and tranquillity, is the hearty prayer of Gentlemen,
Your most obedient servants,

LONDONDERRY, December 10th, 1688.

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Derry and Enniskillen in the Year 1689

Thomas Witherow's thoroughly researched and well-annotated work is a classic account of the Siege of Derry, from the shutting of the gates against the Jacobite forces by the thirteen apprentice boys to the relief of the city by Major-General Kirke's fleet in July 1689. The defence of Enniskillen and the counteroffensive actions of the Enniskilleners is also ably documented.

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Fighters of Derry

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 into identifying participants at the siege which the author undertook when suffering from ill-health in the latter part of his life.

The book is essentially divided into two parts: the first contains 1660 biographical entries relating to the defenders of Derry, tracing, where possible, the family lineage; and the second part includes 352 entries 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., there is also background given to many of the most influential families involved in the conflict.

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The Actions of the Enniskillen-men

While the epic siege of Derry is usually accorded its proper place in history, the contemporaneous exploits of the Enniskillen men are often overlooked. This is manifestly unjust because the Enniskilleners demonstrated bravery and heroism in battle at least equal to that of the defenders of Londonderry. Some, of course, rate the actions of the Enniskillen men more highly. As far as Revd Andrew Hamilton, the Rector of Kilskeery and author of A True Relation of the Actions of the Inniskilling Men (1690), was concerned ‘The Derry men saved a city but the Enniskilleners saved a kingdom.’

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