The Enniskilleners Show Fight

From Derry and Enniskillen in the Year 1689 by Thomas Witherow

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CHAPTER VI...continued

THEY SHOW FIGHT.—Sunday, 16th December.

Much time was not given them to prepare. On Wednesday the 12th, an express arrived from Daniel Eccles, Esq., of Clones, announcing that Captain Nugent and his officers had reached that town, on their way to Enniskillen.[2] The receipt of this intelligence increased the perplexity and alarm that prevailed. Captain Corry, a gentleman of some influence who resided in the neighbourhood, and indeed most of the inhabitants, were in favour of admitting the soldiers; others were in favour of keeping them out so long as it was possible. MacCarmick rode out to consult Gustavus Hamilton, Esq., a gentleman who resided at five miles distance on the west of the town, and when returning was met by an express from the Provost, or Chief Magistrate, carrying a letter, which shows the irresolution that still prevailed among the leading men of the place.[3]

The whole subject was now debated over again. Mr. Hamilton gave his influence to the side of those who thought that the town should be defended. His policy eventually carried. The drawbridge was completed in spite of Captain Corry; all the Roman Catholics residing in the place were sent away, and the Protestants of the surrounding country were invited to come in and to assist in the defence. In this work the Rev. Robert Kelso, Minister of Enniskillen, was very zealous; he "laboured," says MacCarmick, "both publicly and privately in animating his hearers to take up arms and stand upon their own defence, showing example himself by wearing arms and marching in the head of them when together."

Mr. Kelso was ordained the first minister of Raloo, near Larne, on the 7th of May, 1673. The congregation there was weak and unable to maintain a minister, so much so that in the following year he was obliged to remove from the place. He settled afterwards in Wicklow, where he continued till 1685.[4] Soon afterwards he removed to Enniskillen, where he entered enthusiastically into the designs of his fellow-townsmen to protect themselves against Tyrconnel, and acted as a member of the council of officers who planned the defence. The following letter of his, addressed to Counsellor Cairns at Derry, shows the state of feeling in Enniskillen at

the time:—

"ENNISKILLEN, December 15th, 1688.

"SIR,—After an alarm of an intended massacre, there are two foot companies sent to be quartered in this small place, and though we be deserted by our magistrates, yet we intend to repulse them. You are therefore entreated in this common cause to look on our condition, and if we come to be made a leading card, sit not still and see us sink. The bearer can more fully inform you of our condition. The Lord direct and preserve you and us, who intend hurt to none, but sinless self-preservation. "This from yours, etc.,


The gentlemen, Allen Cathcart and Wm. MacCarmick, who were sent to Derry to seek a supply of arms and ammunition, carried not only the preceding letter from Kelso, but also the following, from the inhabitants of Enniskillen, written evidently with the view of establishing an understanding between the two towns:—

"GENTLEMEN,—The frequent intelligence we have from all parts of this kingdom of a general massacre of the Protestants, and two companies of foot of Sir Thomas Newcom's regiment, viz., Captain Nugent's and Captain Shurloe's, being upon their march to garrison here, and now within ten miles, hath put us upon a resolution of refusing them entrance; our desire being only to preserve our own lives, and the lives of our neighbours, this place being the most considerable pass between Connaught and Ulster: and hearing of your resolutions, we thought it convenient to impart this to you, as likewise to beg your assistance both in your advice and relief, especially in helping us with some powder, and in carrying on a correspondence with us hereafter, as we shall with God's assistance do with you; which is all at present from, Gentlemen, [your]

"Faithful friends and fellow Christians,
"From Enniskillen, December 15th, 1688.

"We are not now in a condition to spare men for a guard, therefore must entreat your assistance in that.

"Allen Cathcart.
Will. Browning.
Tho. Shore.
William Smith.
Arch. Hamilton.
Malc. Cathcart.
Jas. Ewart.
Robert Clarke."

On the day after this letter was written, Sabbath the 16th, the news came that the two foot companies sent by Tyrconnel had reached Lisbellaw, only four miles from the town. Most of the townsmen were engaged in public worship at the time, but they soon retired, took up their arms, and put themselves in array. Notwithstanding all the help sent them by the country, their whole strength did not exceed two hundred foot, and one hundred and fifty horse, ill-armed, and with no military training or experience. They left town with the intention of persuading, if possible, the soldiers to return, but prepared, if necessary, to resist their entrance. Rumour magnified alike their numbers and determination. No sooner did the soldiers come in view of the Enniskilleners, than, without waiting for their approach, they turned and fled to Maguiresbridge, whither they were followed by their officers, who, at the time when the encounter was imminent, were dining quietly at Captain Corry's, not dreaming of an armed resistance to Government orders. Next day they fell back to Cavan, where they awaited the commands of Tyrconnel.

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[2] Appendix, No. 11.

[3] Appendix, No. 12.

[4] Christian Unitarian, vol iv., pp. 15 and 56.

[5] Mackenzie, Nar., p. 5.

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.