Commissioners from Enniskillen visit Major-General Kirke

From Derry and Enniskillen in the Year 1689 by Thomas Witherow

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CHAPTER VI...continued

VISIT TO KIRKE.—12th to 21st July.

Meanwhile the Commissioners from Enniskillen had reached Major-General Kirke, where he lay in Lough Foyle, and had given him full details of the state of their town. He supplied them with arms, six hundred firelocks for dragoons, a thousand muskets for footmen, twenty additional barrels of powder, and eight small cannon; and he gave them commissions for two regiments of horse and three of foot. He could spare no private men, but sent them seven or eight of his best officers, under charge of Colonel Wolseley,—a younger son of Sir Robert Wolseley in Staffordshire, and a man who, according to Macaulay,[42] had already shown his zeal for Protestantism in the North of England by having the Mayor of Scarborough tossed in a blanket for making a speech in favour of King James,—and authorized him to act as Commander-in-Chief. It is only fair to add, on behalf of a man in regard to whom we have very little good to say, that the Enniskillen Commissioners testified on behalf of Kirke, that "no man could have shown more zeal than he did for their Majesties' service, and the preservation of the Protestants."

Nevertheless, we cannot help asking, if he was so very zealous, why was it, that, at a time when every moment was important, he detained the Enniskillen deputation for nine days without giving them the supplies which he gave them at the last?

While the Commissioners were in attendance upon Kirke, he had sailed from Lough Foyle round the peninsula of Ennishowen, and had reached the island of Inch, in Lough Swilly. On Sabbath, the 21st, they finally parted. Kirke returned to Lough Foyle in the Swallow frigate, accompanied by the Mountjoy of Derry and another vessel, probably the Phoenix, laden with provisions. But the wind proved unfavourable for the vessel bound to Ballyshannon, and the officers going to Enniskillen were driven back by contrary winds, and obliged to stay at Inch for two days longer. On Wednesday, the 24th, they set sail again, and reached Ballyshannon on Friday, to the great delight of several troops of Enniskillen men, who were there with great impatience awaiting their arrival. Next day, the officers went on to Belleek, and on Sabbath, the 28th, they went from Belleek by water to Enniskillen, making all possible haste; for the tidings had reached them that Lieutenant-General Macarthy, whom King James had made, in place of Mountjoy, Grand Master of the Irish artillery, and had recently honoured with the title of Lord Mountcashel, had advanced as far as Belturbet on his way to besiege Enniskillen.[43] As the English officers stepped from the boat which brought them up Lough Erne, the whole garrison of Enniskillen turned out as a guard and met them at the landing-place; men, women, and children crowded around them, so that they could with difficulty move along the street, and welcomed them with loud acclamations; and all gave expression to their satisfaction that England had remembered them at last. Had they only known that, on the very day they were rejoicing over the arrival of the English officers, the Mountjoy was attacking the boom, and that, as the sun of that day was setting, Derry was relieved and their friends victorious, it would have redoubled their joy.[44]

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[42] History, vol. ii., ch. xii., p. 358.

[43] Avaux had a higher opinion of Macarthy than of any of the Irish officers, and was most anxious to have him appointed to command the Irish regiments, which James was sending out of Ireland to replace the troops that Louis was sending to him from France,—Letter to Louvois, 6th Dec./26th Nov., 1689.

[44] Hamilton, pp. 31-33; MacCarmick, p. 59.

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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