The Harsh Treatment of the Defenders of Derry and Enniskillen

From Derry and Enniskillen in the Year 1689 by Thomas Witherow

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CHAPTER IX...continued

It was this harsh treatment of the defenders of Derry and Enniskillen which wrung from Hamill, after thirty years of vain effort to have justice done, the following bitter words:—

"We have lost all our estates, our blood, and our friends in the service of our country, and have had nothing for it these thirty-three years and upwards, but loyal promises, commissions without pay, recommendations from the Throne to the Parliaments, and Reports and Addresses back to the Throne again, finely displaying the merit of our service and sufferings, and the justness of our claims. When we were fighting, famishing, and dying for our country and the rest of the subjects, there was nothing said to be too good for us, and then we had the honour to be called brave fellows; but whosoever of us has not been able to live upon such fine diet as these fine words compose, have ever since been left to the honour of begging a dinner, and starving when our friends became weary of us. . . .

"Our surprise and discouragements are the greater when we consider that all our brethren, the Protestants of Ireland, who performed nothing at all for the Government, but quickly submitted to King James at that juncture, had not a chicken taken from them by him or his army; and now many of them are so rich and powerful, that abundance of the poor Londonderry and Enniskillen soldiers, and even officers, are glad to eat a morsel of bread under their tables."[12]

To every man who has studied English history in the pages of Lord Macaulay, the cause of this injustice is no secret. No man can suppose for a moment that any blame in this matter attaches to the King.[13] His mind was so much occupied with Continental politics, that it was impossible for him to give particular attention to the details of home administration. Personally, he was disposed to do both what was just and what was generous; but, under the constitutional system which he inaugurated, it is impossible for the Sovereign to do as he pleases—he must be guided by his advisers and by the Legislature. But in the Legislature there was a strong party not very favourable to the King or to the Revolution;[14] who dreamed of a second Restoration;[15] who aimed at the exclusion of Dissenters from toleration and from offices under the Crown; at maintaining the domination of the Bishops; and who did not regard civil despotism, provided themselves were not the victims, as any great evil. These men did not dare openly to withdraw their allegiance and raise again the banner of the Stuarts; but some of them corresponded secretly with St. Germains, and all of them used their influence to make others as dissatisfied with King William's Government as they could. They bore with the King because they could not help it, but they took care to make it difficult for him to do justice to his friends. Some over-generous grants, made by the King to persons who had done little for them, gave the party the opportunity which they sought, and enabled them to carry a measure for taking the forfeited estates from under the control of the Crown, and bringing them under the jurisdiction of Parliament. They thus put it effectually out of his power to reward his friends.

The influence of this political party was much diminished by the accession of the House of Hanover, in 1714; but its operations are distinctly traceable in the reigns of William and Anne, throughout England, Scotland, and Ireland. In England it retained the Test Act excluding Dissenters from all offices of trust and emolument under the Crown. In Scotland it imposed on the ,Presbyterian Church the infamous Patronage Act of 1711, depriving each congregation of the power to choose its own minister. In Ireland it kept the Dissenters from toleration, and when it could no longer withhold toleration, it imposed on them the Sacramental Test, excluding them from all offices in the State except they would take the sacrament in the parish church. It was this Tory party, not the King, who deprived the men of Derry and Enniskillen of the just reward of their service and their sufferings. "The inhabitants of Londonderry," says Calamy, "on the account of their being Dissenters, were not rewarded as they deserved."[16]

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[12] Hamill's Danger and Folly, pp. 13, 14.

[13] Harris, book viii., p. 177. Harris adds:—"The King's design for the admission of all his Protestant subjects to offices and places of trust, not only miscarried, but the attempt much heightened the prejudices of the Churchmen against him, as if he bore no great affection to the Established religion" (p. 178).

[14] In 1690 the main body of the Tories in the House of Commons refused to take the oath abjuring King James.—Burnet, iv., p. 82.

[15] "Three parties were formed about the town. The one was for calling back the king [James] and treating with him for such securities to religion and the laws, as might put them out of the danger for the future of a dispensing or arbitrary power. These were all of the High Church party."—Burnet's History of His Own Times, vol. iii.,p. 1389.

[16] Calamy, Historical Account of his own Life, vol. i., p. 186.

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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