Thanksgiving and Congratualtions on the Relief of Derry

From Derry and Enniskillen in the Year 1689 by Thomas Witherow

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Nothing is more striking, in reading the original narratives, written by those who took part in the defence of Derry and of Enniskillen, than the disposition manifested in them all to recognise the hand of the Almighty in their deliverance, and to regard the men who bore the brunt of the battle as mere instruments which Divine Providence was pleased to employ. This feeling, however, did not make them ungrateful to those to whom their deliverance was more immediately due; and in some instances profuse thanks were given to persons who had not done very much to deserve them.

In Derry, the survivors of the garrison, so early as Monday, the 29th of July [1] (the day after the Mountjoy broke the boom), drew up an address to King William, and subsequently affixed their signatures thereto. In this address they speak of Kirke in far more laudatory terms than that incompetent officer deserved; but we must not read it with too critical an eye, nor blame persons who owed their lives to his intervention, for forgetting that the needless delay of that intervention had been the death of thousands. It is significant, however, that the paper has not the signature of Colonel Murray, nor of any of the Presbyterian clergy in the city.[2]

After the retirement of the Jacobite army, Kirke, who assumed to himself all the credit for saving Derry, marched in his men from Inch, and encamped them on the Windmill Hill. There he showed as much of the spirit that had distinguished him at Tangier and in the South of England, as it was safe for him to do.[3] Had he been King William himself, he could not have assumed more despotic authority than he did over the brave men who had lost everything but life in the service of his master, and whose courageous conduct has ever since been the admiration of the world. His cruelty was equal very nearly to his incompetence. He refused to permit a few hundreds of fresh men to go out and scour the country after the siege, to protect the life and property of the Protestant population from small marauding parties of the enemy bent on robbery and murder; the result of which was that the town of Newtownlimavady was burned under his very nose by a small party of the enemy a week after the siege was raised. He gave the unjust and tyrannical order that every person in the city, except professional soldiers, should immediately return home without taking any of his goods with him; the effect of which was, that any one who had any property, however small, was robbed of it, and went to his home a beggar. By another order of his, great numbers of cattle from the surrounding country were driven into the city, on the pretence that they belonged to the enemy; but when it was discovered that much the greater part of them belonged to the Protestant population, few could recover his own out of the droves, and all which were not identified Kirke sold to the butchers at a cheap rate. Such acts of petty and purposeless tyranny were almost intolerable.

His military arrangements were equally tyrannical and heartless. The civil war, notwithstanding that the siege was over, was still very far from finished, and it was thought desirable that the regiments which had been formed in the city and had behaved so valiantly, should retain their organization, and be taken into the service of Government. Kirke acted towards them in the most despotic fashion. He amalgamated the regiments, disbanded some of the officers, and reduced others to subordinate rank; and one result of these arrangements was, that some officers, who had enlisted the men and armed them at their own cost, now found themselves placed under command of gentlemen who had never expended anything or suffered anything in defence of the city. His aim seemed to be to mortify those who had suffered most in the cause of King William, in every way that his ingenuity could devise. So incensed were some of Murray's troopers with his regulations, that they seized their pistols and carbines with the intention of marching home; whereupon Kirke had the audacity to seize the saddles that they had bought at their own expense; and, at the time when the owner was not yet recovered of his wounds, he had the shameless effrontery to lead away by force Murray's own horse, which its master in some mysterious way had contrived to keep alive throughout the whole siege.

One officer ventured to complain of some of his regulations: he was reminded that there stood a gallows outside Bishop's Gate, which, it seems, was the first civic institution set up by Kirke for the use of the refractory defenders of Derry. Persons going out of any of the gates were disarmed by the guards on duty, as if they had done something to forfeit the confidence of the authorities, and could not be trusted with arms any longer. Out of the public stores sick and wounded soldiers were allowed nothing; the consequence of which inhuman economy was, that they were obliged to go forth and beg over the impoverished country, and many of them perished out of sheer want. Nor were those taken into His Majesty's service paid at such a rate as to infringe very largely on the public purse. Colonels were to have five shillings a day, and private soldiers twopence, and every intermediate officer on the same scale in proportion to his rank. Had the defenders of the city been the vanquished instead of the victors, very probably they would not have been treated much more unkindly.

It was quite in accordance with his arbitrary conduct in other matters, that Kirke took it on himself to name Colonel Mitchelburn as sole Governor and to send to England Mr. Walker, who had not failed to cultivate his favour by every token of deference he could think of, in order to carry to King William and to the Government full particulars of the relief of the city, and also to present the address which had already been agreed on.[4]

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[1] That is, if we can trust the date. The address makes mention of the "burnings" which took place on Wednesday, the 31st, so that I suspect the date "29th July" is an error.

[2] See Appendix, No. 18.

[3] Burnet, History of Hit Own Times, vol. iii., p. 1107.

[4] Londerias, iv. 15.

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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