Break of Belleek

From Derry and Enniskillen in the Year 1689 by Thomas Witherow

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CHAPTER VI...continued

BREAK OF BELLEEK.—Wednesday, 8th May.

Lloyd and his men were only two days at home, when a message came from Captain Folliot, who commanded the Protestant garrison at Ballyshannon —a town twenty miles down from Enniskillen, near where the Erne falls into the sea—to say that he was besieged by the Connaught Jacobites, and to ask for help. Despatches were immediately sent to all the outposts round about, to send in at once as many men as they could spare; and on the 6th, Lloyd, at the head of a considerable party of horse and foot, started for the relief of Ballyshannon. When warned of his approach, most of the enemy drew off from the siege, and advanced to meet him at Belleek, three miles from Ballyshannon, where they drew up in a very favourable position, in a narrow pass flanked by the Lough on the one side and a great bog on the other. On this pass the Jacobites erected a barricade, and in front of the barricade there was a bridge, which they broke down, to make it the more difficult for the Enniskilleners to come near them. Behind the barricade they drew up their forces, and as Lloyd and his men drew near they raised a wild huzza, inviting the Enniskilleners to come on and fight them.

Lloyd had provided his men with bundles of faggots to throw into the morass, in order to make it passable; but, before the time had come to make use of this expedient, a man was found who offered to lead them by a path to the right, of which they had not been previously aware, and by which they could pass the morass without being under the necessity to alight from their horses. There was no treachery; the man kept his word. When the enemy saw that they were about to be flanked, they made a movement to prevent it. In order to intercept them, the Enniskilleners redoubled their speed. The enemy then, both horse and foot, broke their ranks, and fled, without firing a shot; and what in the morning promised to be a battle was turned during the day into a disastrous flight, ended only by the advance of evening. Not less than one hundred and ninety of the horse were slain in the pursuit, but most of the foot escaping through a bog, made good their retreat to Sligo. The Enniskilleners pushed forward, and took sixty of their men prisoners on the Fish Island at Ballyshannon. The siege was thus raised, but the plunder of the enemy's camp scarcely repaid them for their trouble, consisting only as it did of several horses, two light cannon, and a small quantity of ammunition and arms. The victory, however, cost little. The Enniskilleners had but one man wounded in the encounter, and he subsequently recovered.[28]

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[28] MacCarmick, pp. 40-41; Hamilton, p. 19.

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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