From Derry and Enniskillen in the Year 1689 by Thomas Witherow

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Some men have been tempted at times to wish that the great events of 1689 were blotted out of the History of Ireland. Even if it could be done, that would be a rather unmanly way of dealing with facts. Far better is it, as it seems to me, to look them in the face, and to know what actually occurred during that celebrated period of our annals. This is a contribution to that end.

There are in existence four original accounts of the Siege of Derry, and two of Enniskillen, all of them written by men who took an active part in the scenes which they describe. Few now living have enjoyed the opportunity of reading all of these; and yet the least valuable of them preserves something of interest not recorded in any of the others. It has been the design of the present writer to combine in one consecutive story the most important facts contained in all the original documents, as well as to weave into the narrative a variety of other details given in contemporary pamphlets, which have now for years fallen out of sight. For the use of these documents I am indebted to the Rev. Dr. Killen, of Belfast, who, in the kindest and most handsome manner, gave me free access to the valuable collection in the Assembly's College.

It is a well-known offence against literary taste to overload a history with official papers, more especially with official papers already in print. At the same time, it would be matter for regret to omit any of the existing documents, in which the brave men who defended Derry and Enniskillen give expression to their opinions, their feelings, and their circumstances, in their own words. In this case, the author has compromised the matter, by inserting in the text the documents most necessary to the story, and transferring the others to the Appendix; thus taking care that the reader will not require to refer for any of them to other books, which might not be at hand. By this arrangement, authenticity is given to the narrative, and its value to the reader enhanced.

The writer does not conceal that he writes from an entirely Protestant standpoint, but he has endeavoured to look at the matter with the eye of a historian, and to deal out even-handed justice to all. The courage and the gallantry were not all on one side; nor were all the mistakes and errors, and cruelty and crime, on the other. To approve what is right and good and generous, and to condemn what is cruel and mean and wicked, in ourselves as well as in others, is the duty of a historian; and we have tried to do our duty, we trust, in candour and in love. No one is more conscious that it is no time now to revive the bitter feuds and enmities of the past; and should the writer, in expressing his opinion freely in regard to men and things, have unconsciously said a word to excite a feeling of bitterness in any man towards his neighbour, it would be to him an unfailing source of regret. Such a feeling is not in his own heart. He would much rather teach his countrymen, if he could, to look at the past in a calm and kindly spirit, to rise superior to the passions of an evil age, and henceforth to rival each other, not in fields of blood and war, but in the arts of industry and peace. He is the true man and the brave, who fears God, honours the Throne, obeys the law, respects the feelings of his neighbour, and does the most to promote the happiness and good of every inhabitant of his native land.

MAGEE COLLEGE, Oct. 31st, 1873.

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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.