Plan for the Relief of Derry

From Derry and Enniskillen in the Year 1689 by Thomas Witherow

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CHAPTER IV...continued

HOPES FROM INCH.—Thursday, 18th July.

On Tuesday the 16th, the fleet, as if despairing to force the passage of the river, left Lough Foyle, rounded the peninsula of Ennishowen, and entered Lough Swilly. We now know that their real object was to ascertain whether it would not be possible to land a force at Inch, and thus relieve the city by land. On arriving at Inch, about five miles from Derry, the boy who carried the former message was sent to the garrison with a letter from Kirke, sewed in the button of his breeches, announcing that with the help of God he would attempt the relief of the city soon. The use of sending these messages at such a risk of life it is now difficult to understand, so long as he lay idle in his ships, and did nothing for the starving garrison. The lad on his way back from the city, with an answer sewed in the folds of his clothing, was captured by the enemy, but he swallowed the letter for fear it should be discovered.

Eventually he escaped, and when he reached Inch, Kirke made him an ensign, to mark his appreciation of the boy's sense and gallantry.

All the hopes of the garrison were now turned in the direction of Lough Swilly. On Friday, the 19th, a great shout was heard from that quarter, and on Sabbath the 21st, a large body of the Jacobite troops was seen to move in that direction. The following day it was reported in the city that some officers of the fleet had been sent to reinforce the Enniskilleners, and it was added that in a few days they would return at the head of an army to relieve the city by land. Had Kirke done his part with but half the skill and courage that the Enniskilleners displayed, provisions in the streets of Derry, six weeks before, might have been sold as cheap as they were before the siege; when, we are told on good authority, there might be had a salmon for twopence, a fat goose for threepence, and forty-five eggs for a penny.[58] But whatever was the nature of his movements, the enemy seem to have suspected that some attempt to relieve the city would very soon be made. It was observed that they now removed the great guns which from the opposite hill had so often played on Butcher's Gate, and planted them along the river to cover the passage at the boom.

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[58] Ireland's Lament, p. 4.

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.