Derry and Enniskillen in 1689

From Derry and Enniskillen in the Year 1689 by Thomas Witherow

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CHAPTER III....continued

On Tuesday the 12th of March, King James arrived from France, at Kinsale, but contrary to the expectations which the Irish had formed, he was accompanied by only eighteen hundred men; by some accounts, still less.[6] Here and along the whole route to Dublin, none were so forward in their professions of allegiance and attachment to him as the Protestant Episcopal clergy.[7] The Lord-Deputy met him at Cork, and gave him the following account of the state of affairs:—

"That he had sent down Lieutenant-General Hamilton with about 2500 men, being as many as he could spare from Dublin, to make head against the rebels in Ulster, who were masters of all that province except Charlemont and Carrickfergus; that most part of the Protestants in other parts of the kingdom had been up; that in Munster they had possessed themselves of Castle Martyr and Bandon, but were forced to surrender both places, and were totally reduced in those parts by Lieutenant-General Macarthy, and were in a manner totally suppressed in the other two provinces; that the bare reputation of an army had done it, together with the diligence of the Catholic nobility and gentry, who had raised about fifty regiments of foot, and several troops of horse and dragoons; that he had distributed among them about 20,000 arms, but most were so old and unserviceable that not above one thousand of the firearms were found afterwards to be of any use; that the old troops, consisting of one battalion of Guards, together with Macarthy's, Clan-carty's, and Newcomen's regiments, were pretty well armed, as also seven companies of Mountjoy's which were with them, the other six having stayed in Derry, with Colonel Lundy and Gustavus Hamilton, the Lieutenant-Colonel and Major of that regiment; that he had three regiments of horse—Tyrconnell, Russell's, and Galmoy's—and one of dragoons; that the Catholics of the country had no arms, whereas the Protestants had great plenty, and the best horses in the kingdom; that for artillery he had but eight small field-pieces in a condition to march, the rest not mounted, no stores in the magazines, little powder and ball, all the officers gone for England, and no money in cash." [8] He had also to report to His Majesty that "the Protestants of the South were disarmed, and that, although those of the North were everywhere fleeing before the King's troops, they would make a stand at Londonderry, which for Ireland is a town of some strength; and that the struggle there might last for some days."[9]

The impression left on the mind of the King by these details was that "there was a great deal of goodwill in the kingdom, but little means to execute it." He could not doubt, however, that the Lord-Deputy had been zealous in his service, and he showed his sense of it by conferring upon him, then and there, the title, Duke of Tyrconnel. On Sabbath, 24th of March, he entered Dublin in a state procession, amid popular demonstrations of delight, the musicians playing, "The King enjoys his own again." Tyrconnel carried the sword of state before him. He rode on a nag in a plain cinnamon-coloured cloth suit, and black slouching hat, and a George hung over his shoulder with a blue ribbon. When he reached the Castle gate he was met by a train of four Romish bishops bearing the Host, attended by a procession of clergy and friars singing, and headed by the Roman Catholic Primate with a triple crown upon his head; whereupon the King alighted from his horse and went down upon his knees to obtain his blessing. The next day he called a Council, and issued several proclamations. One of these raised the value of current coin—a guinea to twenty-four shillings, and all other coins in proportion; another summoned a Parliament at Dublin, to meet on the 7th of May; and several others required all his subjects to assist him against the Prince of Orange, and to furnish supplies to his army in the field. He then took measures to send forward, in charge of a distinguished French officer, M. de Pusignan, additional men to recruit his forces in the North, who, as he heard, had been repulsed at Coleraine; and on Monday, the 8th of April, contrary to the advice of Avaux the French ambassador, and also of Tyrconnel, he started for Derry.[10]

Meanwhile, Hamilton had invaded Ulster with such rapidity that he completely surprised the gentlemen of the North. Their policy was to remain quiet till they were sure that an army from England had landed. On the 9th of March they held a meeting at Loughbrickland, where Captain Baldwin Leighton, who had arrived that day from England, presented to the Lord Mount-Alexander a letter from the Prince of Orange, approving of the measures which he and others had taken in self-defence, and giving them assurance of speedy relief.[11]

Before this letter was delivered, William had, on the 22nd February, issued another important declaration, of which the following is an extract:—

"And we do hereby further declare, that if, notwithstanding this our declaration, any of our subjects shall continue in arms in opposition to us, we shall think ourselves free and clear of all the blood that shall be spilt, and the destruction and misery which, by reason, may be occasioned; and we shall look upon ourselves to be justified before God and man in our proceeding, by force of arms, against them as rebels and traitors, and such we declare all those to be who shall act as aforesaid against us and our authority, as is here expressed: and that all the lands and estates of all such as shall, after notice of this our declaration, persist in their rebellion or be anywise abettors thereof, and which by law shall be forfeited to us, shall be by us distributed and disposed to those that shall be aiding and assisting in reducing the said kingdom to its due obedience.

"Given at our Court at Whitehall the 22nd day of February, in the first year of our reign."[12]

The letter now came to the Council. The Declaration did not reach Ireland till afterwards. Along with the letter Captain Leighton brought over commissions for the officers now in command of the various regiments which had been raised in Ulster; and so soon as the Council understood the state of affairs in England, William and Mary were proclaimed King and Queen in Armagh, Hillsborough, and the other towns held by the Protestants in the north-east.

On the same day that Captain Leighton arrived from London, the Rev. Alexander Osborne reached the North from the metropolis. Formerly he had been minister of Brigh, in the County Tyrone, but some short time before the Revolution he had removed to the congregation of Newmarket, in the city of Dublin. He was employed by his brethren in Ulster to keep them well informed as to the designs of Tyrconnel, and especially as to his policy in regard to the North; and this disinterested task he seems to have performed with diligence and prudence. Unfortunately, the warning that he gave did not receive sufficient attention till it was too late. After Hamilton with his forces had left Dublin for the North, it occurred to the Lord-Deputy that a more rapid submission to the King's authority could be obtained from Ulster if the leaders there were assured, on the word of one whom they could trust, that Government would grant them a free pardon in case they should lay down their arms, but in case of resistance would visit them with utter destruction. He knew that Osborne was well acquainted with the North of Ireland; he therefore sent for him, and proposed that he should carry down this assurance to the Protestant gentry.

Osborne, without expressing any opinion on the subject, was induced by three considerations to consent to carry down this message: first, he knew the North was far behind in its military preparations; second, since the garrisons on the frontiers of the Protestant and Roman Catholic counties had begun to skirmish, there was no ordinary possibility of sending any communication between Dublin and Ulster; and, farther, he felt that a heavy responsibility would rest on him if he neglected to employ any fair means of warning his coreligionists of the destruction that Hamilton was carrying to their very doors without their seeming to be aware of it. He made no promise whatever to Tyrconnel: he merely undertook to tell the northern gentry what he heard the Lord-Deputy say. It was, in fact, as great a blunder on the part of Tyrconnel to send Osborne to the North, as it was on the part of the Protestant gentry to send O'Haggerty to Dublin; but that, of course, was Tyrconnell affair. Osborne, having received a pass from the Lord-Deputy, left Dublin on the 7th of March, passed Hamilton's army on the way, reached Newry on the 8th, and on the 9th he made his way to the Council, which met at Loughbrickland.

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[6] Story, Continuation, p. 3. A True Account, p. 7, estimates them at 900. Froude says 5000. English in Ireland, bk. i., ch. iii., sec. 5.

[7] Leslie's Answer to King, p. 111.

[8] Memoirs of James II., quoted in Excidium Macariae, note 83, p. 297.

[9] Avaux to Louis, from Cork, March 29/19th, 1689.

[10] Ireland's Lamentation, pp. 26-29.

[11] See Appendix, No. 5.

[12] Hamill's Danger and Folly, p. 23. Hamill afterwards complained that this Declaration was not carried out; that many who fought for King James were left to enjoy their properties, and that many who suffered in the cause of King William got no reward. Certainly William did not deal so harshly with the Irish as some of his adherents wished.

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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