Betrayal at Derry

From Derry and Enniskillen in the Year 1689 by Thomas Witherow

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CHAPTER III....continued

James could not have reached Derry before the morning of the 18th, although on the preceding day Whitloe, an Episcopal minister at Raphoe, was sent in his name into the town to ascertain whether Colonel Lundy, in order to save blood, was disposed to surrender on honourable terms. He bore with him the following letter:—


"Whereas we have given leave to such as are assembled in our city of Derry to send such of their number as they shall think fit, not exceeding twenty, to whom we are pleased to give our royal pass and safe conduct to come to our quarters and to return again in safety, providing that they come in twelve hours from the date of these presents, in company with my Lord Abercorn, who is hereby ordered to conduct them to us with all civility and safety, and in the same manner to reconduct them in safety again. We do, therefore, expressly command all our general officers, and all others our officers and soldiers and subjects whatsoever, to take notice of this our royal pass and safe conduct, as they shall answer the contrary at their utmost peril. We will explain this our royal will and pleasure in a most extensive and honourable manner for the same persons, we being resolved on our part to observe the same most punctually. Given at our quarters at St. Johnstown, 14th [58] day of April, 1689, at four o'clock afternoon, in the fifth year of our reign.

"By His Majesty's command,


On Wednesday, the 17th, another Council of such officers as still remained in the city was called by Lundy, before which Whitloe appeared, and the message from King James was submitted. It was ominous, that throughout the deliberations of the Council Whitloe was allowed to be present, and sat beside Lundy. In his presence the Governor said that the town could not hold out. Others were by no means sure that the King was in the camp, and feared that some deception was being practised upon them. Eventually it was agreed that Archdeacon Hamilton, who knew the person of James, accompanied by two other gentlemen, should go out to the camp, see the King, and ascertain the terms that he was disposed to grant. They went out; but all the terms they could get were, that if they chose to surrender the town, their horses, and their arms, they would be allowed to live in peace. When the gentlemen returned from the camp to the city, they were, to their surprise, refused admission at the gate.

The proceedings of these two Councils had been all the time kept a close secret from the citizens and their country brethren. When they saw their own and the English officers going down to the ships, they naturally supposed it was to bring up the regiments. They were most urgent that the English troops should land, that they and the garrison should unite, and that under the command of Colonel Cunningham an attack should be made on the Jacobites before they had time to convey their heavy guns over the Finn. Lundy for a time managed to throw dust in their eyes, as he had already done to the English strangers. He told some that the Council had agreed that the soldiers should disembark, and sent round the sheriffs under pretence of finding for them quarters in the city. But meantime the city was being visibly drained of all its leading men. Every boat in the harbour was engaged in carrying gentlemen down to the fleet, and it was remarked that few of them returned. At last the ships themselves dropped down the river into the Lough, without showing any signs of coming back Even then, to quiet suspicion, Lundy hawked about a letter, said to be from Colonel Cunningham, assigning some reason for the ships going down the Lough, and promising that they would soon return.[60]

Light broke upon the populace at last. They found themselves sold and betrayed. The truth oozed out that the English soldiers had departed in the ships, that their own officers had deserted them, that at that moment terms were being arranged for the surrender of the city, and that they and their families were to be left to the mercy of Tyrconnell soldiery. Their excitement, rage, and desperation at that moment, when the naked truth stood out so clearly, no language can describe. So intensely did they feel at the deception practised on them, that in their passion they shot one officer and wounded another, as they were getting into the last boat remaining in the harbour and about to desert the city. In their fury, they shut the gates against the deputies whom the Governor had dispatched to St. Johnstown to treat for a surrender. Some in the town, suspecting Lundy, sent to ask Colonel Cunningham to accept the Governorship, but he refused, saying that it was his duty to obey Lundy as his superior officer. The ships, after lingering in the Lough to pick up such officers and gentlemen as chose to desert, fell down to Greencastle on the 18th, and on the morning of the 19th set sail for England. This service to the refugees was not entirely disinterested. When they reached Liverpool, Captain Cornwall, commander of the Swallow, demanded four pounds a-piece from each of his passengers, and when the money in some cases was not forthcoming, he relieved them of sword, watch, and clothes, till an equivalent for the amount demanded was supposed to be obtained—conduct which the humblest officer in the service would now be ashamed to have laid to his charge, and which is the very opposite of that which we have learned to associate with the name of a British sailor.

Not hearing the result of the terms of surrender which Archdeacon Hamilton had carried back on Wednesday, the Jacobite army advanced on Thursday the 18th from St. Johnstown to the Upper Strand, at the south end of the ridge on which the city is built, to ascertain what answer the garrison was about to return.[61] Strict orders were given by Lundy that, as negotiations were in progress, no shot should be fired at them from the walls. It was at this point that the truth, hitherto only suspected, had become known in the town, that the English soldiers were not to land, that their own leaders had deserted them, that the ships were gone, and that the town was betrayed. Popular indignation, roused yesterday, was now at white heat. At this inopportune moment, King James, who had just arrived from Charlemont, advanced with some of his officers from the main body, in hope that when he would show himself the city would open its gates. The men on the walls, not knowing exactly how matters stood, but chafed and angry with the treatment they had received, and indignant with Lundy as with one who had betrayed them, turned their guns against the enemy, whom they saw advancing, and, so well-directed was their aim, that some of the officers at the King's side began to drop, and others turned and fled. Lundy sent Colonel Whitney to command them not to fire, but the soldiers threatened to throw him over the walls. The Governor and his officers were deeply offended by this act of insubordination; and the King, not knowing how matters stood, must have been very much astonished at hostilities breaking out before the negotiations opened with the Governor and Council had reached a conclusion.

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[58] This date is certainly a mistake. King James's army had not reached St. Johnstown so early as the 14th, and the letter was not received till the 17th.

[59] Ash's Diary, p. 13, May 27th. The signature "Meitorf" in Ash, and copied by Simpson, Annals, p. 109, is evidently a mistake for "Melfort," who at the time acted as King James's principal adviser, and Secretary of War.

[60] Walker's letter in A True Account, p. 35.

[61] That the enemy counted on the treachery of Lundy is evident from what is stated by the author of the Life of the Duke of Berwick, who says that the King "expected to make himself master of Londonderry by means of Colonel Lundy, the Governor of that place, who, lying under several obligations to the Duke of Berwick, promised to deliver it to him." (p. 36).

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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