Lord Clancarty

From Derry and Enniskillen in the Year 1689 by Thomas Witherow

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CHAPTER IV....continued

LORD Clancarty.—Friday, 28th June.

Throughout the whole month of June the bombardment was very hot, for Monsieur Pointis had now got his fusees in good order; but, except the boat-fight, there had been no close hand-to-hand conflict since the great battle at the Windmill Hill on the 4th. The monotony of the cannonade was, however, a little disturbed on the 28th, when Lord Clancarty—the young nobleman whose marriage with Lady Elizabeth Spencer, and whose romantic adventure arising from that marriage, form the subject of one of Lord Macaulay's most interesting episodes [33]—arrived with his regiment, to reinforce the Jacobites.[34] There was a prophecy current among the Irish peasantry, that a Clancarty should one day knock at the gates of Derry, and this son of the old kings of Munster determined that no time should be lost until he would attempt to fulfil the prediction. At ten o'clock on the night of his arrival, the young boy, warmed it was said with liquor as well as valour, crossed the bog at the head of his men, and attacked the outworks at Butcher's Gate. Very few men were in the trenches at the time, and these few were soon beaten out and compelled to take refuge within the gate. So near did the party approach, that some of them stood close to the archway to avoid the shot from the wall, and one of them on horseback called out to bring fire in order to burn the gate. At this moment some fifty or sixty of the garrison, headed by Captain Noble, issued from Butcher's Gate and Bishop's Gate, and attacked the assailants with vigour; while at the same time shot of every description rained upon them from the wall. The result was that Donough Macarthy fared no better than his predecessors; he and his men had soon to abandon the works and to retreat to their own lines. He had this merit at least, that none of the enemy ever came so near the walls throughout the whole siege. Indeed, it may be allowed that he fulfilled the prediction to the very letter; Clancarty knocked at the gate, but he did not get in.

In this conflict three of the assailants were taken prisoners, thirty were killed, and the number wounded must have been in proportion. Captain Ash records that he never remembers to have heard so many shots fired in so short a time. The remarkable thing is, that during the whole fight the garrison had but one man killed and one wounded. One would infer that the skill of these Munstermen in the use of their weapons was not in proportion to their courage and daring. For ten days after, as if in rage and vexation, the enemy kept up a severe cannonade against Butcher's Gate. One of the balls, fourteen pounds in weight, passed quite through the gate, and killed a man on the street. To prevent the damage caused in this way, large pieces of timber and sods were thrown up into a rampart outside, to deaden the force of the shot and to afford protection to the gate.[35]

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[33] History, ch. xxvi.

[34] Avaux describes him as the nephew of Macarthy (Lord Mountcashel), "a young madcap and a little dissolute."—To Louis, Oct. 21/11, 1689.

[35] Mack., June 28th; Ash, June 28th, July 8th and 9th.

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.