Osborne's Letter to Rawdon

From Derry and Enniskillen in the Year 1689 by Thomas Witherow

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CHAPTER III....continued

The nature of the proposals that Mr. Osborne carried from Tyrconnel will best be understood from the letter which he wrote that evening at Hillsborough, addressed to Sir Arthur Rawdon: [13]

"HILLSBOROUGH, March 9th, 1688/9.

" SIR,—On the 6th instant I was introduced by my Lord Granard into my Lord-Deputy's presence in the Castle of Dublin, and have his pass to come and go to, through, and back from Ulster; and though I have not His Excellency's direct commission, yet I assure your honour I am at least permitted by the Lord-Deputy to acquaint the chief and others of those of the Ulster Association with his discourse to me, which was to the effect following, to wit: "That His Excellency,

"1. Does not delight in the blood and devastation of the said province, but, however, highly resents their taking and continuing in arms, and the affronts done by them to His Majesty's Government thereby, and by some indignities done to the late proclamation of clemency issued and dated the            day of

"2. Notwithstanding whereof he is willing to receive the said province into protection, provided they immediately deliver up to his army for His Majesty's use their arms and serviceable horses, and provided they deliver up to His Excellency these three persons, to wit,                                                                      if they remain in this kingdom, and can be had.

"3. And for further manifestation of his design to prevent blood, is willing to grant safe conduct even to the said three persons, or any other of their party to and from His Excellency, or to and from Lieutenant-General Hamilton, commander of a part of his army hereafter mentioned, if they intend any peaceable and reasonable treaty; but withal, will not upon the said or any other account stop the march of the said part of his army, no not for one hour; and if it shall appear in such treaty, that they took up arms merely for self-preservation, then he will pardon even the said three persons also, but is hopeless that any such thing can be made appear, seeing many of them have already received and accepted of commissions from the Prince of Orange, and display his colours in the field, as His Excellency is credibly informed.

"4. If these terms be not immediately agreed unto, he will with a part of his army fight them, which part he intends shall be at Newry on Monday, the 11th instant, which will from thence march to Belfast and from thence to Coleraine and Londonderry, as His Excellency intends. And that the country Irish (not of the army), men, women, and boys, now all armed with half-pikes and baggonets, in the counties of Cavan, Monaghan, Tyrone, Londonderry, etc., will upon the approach of the said part of the army, and resistance thereunto made, immediately enter upon a massacre of the British in the said counties; which force and violence of the rabble His Excellency says he cannot restrain.

"These are the heads of what I can offer to you, to the best of my memory, from His Excellency's own mouth, but I intend to stay here this night, where, if you think fit, I shall fully discourse with you of all the above particulars, whereof I hope you will give immediate notice to all chiefly concerned in your neighbourhood. This in haste is all from, "Sir, "Your most humble Servant,


In addition to this letter, which contained merely the substance of the conversation (the only communication that he ever had with Tyrconnel before or afterwards), Mr. Osborne laid before the Protestant nobility and gentry, assembled on the 9th and 10th of March, a paper of private information and advice, of which the substance is as follows:—

"1. That for the Irish army, though their horses were good, yet their riders were but contemptible fellows, many of them having been lately cowherds, etc.[15]

"2. That their provisions of ammunition were not plentiful.

"3. That, should those of the North comply with the offers made to them, they had no reason to expect any true performance; the Lord Tyrconnel having broken all such capitulations as he had lately made in the like case with the Protestants in the South and West of Ireland, and thereby reduced them to poverty and slavery.

"4. That the eyes of all Protestants were upon them. A great interest depended on their carriage; and it were better to die honourably than live miserably under Popery and slavery; that their self-defence might be of great consequence to Britain as well as Ireland, either to their advantage or disadvantage, as their part should be well or ill acted.

"5. It was advised that they should instantly gather all the forces they could from all parts, and choose out of their best armed and trained men to engage the enemy, and have the rest ready to fall on their wings and outskirts.

"6. It was advised also, that the conduct of their military affairs should be committed to their best known and experienced officers.

"7. That they should debate with them from pass to pass, and so weary out their men, horses, and provisions, in expectation of relief from England."[16]

On the 12th of March Mr. Osborne had another interview with the Council, and having been asked to deliver his own private judgment, he advised them "as they valued their lives and interests, not to put confidence in the Lord Tyrconnel, or any of his promises, but if they possibly could, to defend themselves to the utmost." [17] On receipt of this intelligence and advice, the Council sent to Tyrconnel the following answer to the message:—

"We declare the utter abhorrence of the effusion of blood, and that we will use all proper means to avoid it, but cannot consent to lay down our arms, which we were forced to take up for our own defence, nor to part with our goods by any other than legal means; and that we are ready to appoint persons to treat on such heads as are consistent with the safety of our religion, lives, and liberties."

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[13] Sir Arthur Rawdon, an Episcopalian gentleman, and ancestor of the Earl of Moira, was, says Leslie, "then known by the name Cock of the North, because of his boldness and great forwardness in carrying on the Association."—Answer to King, p. 87.

[14] Walker, p. 47. A copy of this letter, with some slight variation, addressed to Lord Massareene, is in Leslie's Answer to King, Appendix, p. 15.

[15] "Those of their present army, both officers and soldiers, are mostly the very scum of the country, cow-boys and such trash, as tremble at the firing of a musket, much more will at many."—Ireland's Lament., p. 31.

"La pluspart de ces regimens, sont levez par des gentilshommes, qui n'ont jamais esté à l'armée, que se sont des tailleurs, des bouchers, des cordonniers, qui ont forme les compagnies qui les entretiennent a leurs despens, et en les capitaines."—Avaux to Louvois, April 16/6th 1689.

[16] Boyse's Vindication of Osborne, p. 16.

[17] Certificate of Lord Massareene and others in Vindication, p. 21.

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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