The Clergy at the Siege of Derry

From Derry and Enniskillen in the Year 1689 by Thomas Witherow

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CHAPTER VIII...continued

In 1694 Dr. King himself, at a time when the entire population of Ireland of all religious professions amounted only to one million, estimated the Presbyterians in the Diocese of Derry alone to be 30,000; the number of Episcopalians being, by his own confession, considerably smaller. The record of his visitation of the Diocese in 1693, is still preserved in manuscript, and in regard to many of the most populous parishes around the city, he has entered in his notes that the number of the "conformable" people was few indeed. From the district around Derry, as well as from the Counties of Down, Antrim, and Tyrone, came the great bulk of the men who manned the walls, and, therefore, it was only natural that the defenders should be a pretty fair representation of the general Protestant population. Among the superior officers of the garrison, the Episcopalians and the Presbyterians were nearly equal; among the inferior officers, the latter were in the majority; but among the ordinary soldiers they were more than ten to one.[6] During the progress of the siege, this was very well known in England, and the language of a contemporary pamphlet seems to imply, that the knowledge of this fact made some people there indifferent as to whether the city was relieved or not. A gentleman of great sense, as intelligent in Irish affairs as any, upon the report of so many dying in Derry of famine, spoke plainly among some of his gown, what others, perhaps for State reasons, would have minced, viz.: "'Twas no matter how many of them died; for they were but a pack of Scots Presbyterians"[7] No true Englishman, we are sure, would feel any sympathy with the red-hot hate of this clerical partizan, but his words show that he knew something of the religious profession of the majority of the defenders of Derry.

The Protestant ministers in the city were not divided in the same proportions as the people. Among them the Episcopalians were as eighteen to eight. The following were the names of the Episcopalians who were in the city during the siege:

George Walker, of Donaghmore, Dungannon
Michael Clenakan,[8] Derry.Diocese of Derry
Seth Whittel, Bellaghy. (d)Diocese of Derry
James Watmough, of Errigal, Garvagh. (d)Diocese of Derry
Richard Crowther, Curate of Cumber. (d)Diocese of Derry
Thomas Sempel, Curate of Donaghmore.[9]Diocese of Derry
Robert Morgan, Curate of Cappagh.Diocese of Derry
John Rowan, of Balteagh. (d)
Thomas [10] Jenny, Prebend of Mullaghbrack.Diocese of Armagh
John Campbell, of Seago.Diocese of Armagh
Moses Davies, of Stewartstown.Diocese of Armagh
Andrew Robinson, of Stewartstown.[11]Diocese of Armagh
Bartholomew Black, Curate of Aghalow.Diocese of Armagh
———-Ellingworth, near Newry. (d)Diocese of Armagh
John Knox, of Glaslough.Diocese of Clogher
——- Johnson, of ———Diocese of Clogher
———Christy, of MonaghanDiocese of Clogher
William Cunningham, of Killeshandra, in Diocese of Kilmore.[12]

Those marked thus (d) died during the siege.

The following Presbyterian ministers were in Derry during the siege:—

Thomas Boyd, of Aghadoey.[13]
William Crooks, of Ballykelly.
John Rowat, of Lifford.
John Mackenzie, of Derryloran.
John Hamilton, of Donagheady. (d)
Robert Wilson, of Strabane.[14] (d)
David Brown, of Urney.[15] (d)
William Gilchrist, of Kilrea.[16] (d)

Those marked thus (d) died during the siege.

The Episcopal list is taken from Walker, and the Presbyterian list from Mackenzie.

Throughout the whole siege, the two sections of the Protestant garrison, in presence of a common danger, merged their religious differences, and united as one man, for the protection of their lives and the support of King William. Each of the garrison regiments had an Episcopalian or Presbyterian minister attached to it as chaplain. The cathedral was used as a place of worship by both parties in common; the Episcopalians occupied it in the forenoon, and the Presbyterians in the afternoon of every Sabbath. "In the Cathedral in the forenoon," says Mr. Boyse, "when the Conformists preached, there was but comparatively a thin auditory; in the afternoon, it was very full, and there were four or five meetings of Dissenters in the town besides."[17] Each party waited on its own worship and upon its own ministers; but throughout the whole siege there was not the slightest symptom of jealousy or religious disunion, and in face of a calamity that threatened to overwhelm them all, each rivalled the other in acts of courage for the common good. The Londerias, a rude poem, written a few years after the siege, by one Joseph Aickin, an unknown writer, who, with little claim to be a true poet, was evidently an actor in the scenes which he describes, preserves a variety of interesting facts not mentioned by any of the chroniclers, and, among other things, mentions the harmony which then existed between the two religious denominations in the following terms:—

"The Church and Kirk do thither jointly go
In opposition to the common foe:
Although in time of peace they disagree,
Yet they sympathize in adversity.


The Church and Kirk did jointly preach and pray,
In St. Columba's Church most lovingly;
Where Dr. Walker, to their great content,
Preached stoutly 'gainst a Popish Government.
Master Mackenzie preached on the same theme,
And taught the army to fear God's great name.
The Reverend Rowat [18] did confirm us still,
Preaching submission to God's holy will.
He likewise prophesied our relief,
When it surpassed all human belief.
The same was taught by the learned Mr. Crooks,[19]
And Master Hamilton [20] showed it from his books.
Then Mills, a ruling elder,[21] spoke the same
Of our relief, six weeks before it came:
From sunrising to sunsetting they taught,
Whilst we against the enemy bravely fought."[22]

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[6] Boyse, in his Vindication of Osborne, p. 24, says they "were near five to one." Mackenzie, who lived in the city at the siege, says that the Episcopal party "could not, according to the exactest computation we could make, claim above one in fifteen of the common soldiers."—Preface to Narrative. The latter is the higher authority on this point, but wishing not to overstate the case, I set down the number of the Presbyterians at the siege, compared with the Episcopalians, as ten to one.

[7] Apology for the Failures of Walker, p. 18.

[8] Mackenzie calls him "MacClenachan."

[9] This is Donaghmore, in County Donegal.

[10] Mackenzie calls him "Christophilus."

[11] Mackenzie assigns him to Derryloran.

[12] Mackenzie omits this name, making the number of Episcopal ministers to be seventeen.

[13] Mr. Boyd had charge of the congregation of Aghadoey between 1660 and 1699, and, for a part of the time, of Macosquin also. He was ejected at the Restoration.

[14] Mr. Wilson was the first minister of Strabane (1659-1689).

[15] Mr. Brown was ordained minister of Urney on 12th of April, 1677.

[16] Mr. Gilchrist was the first minister of Kilrea and Boveedy. The date of his ordination is unknown.

[17] Vindication of Osborne, p. 25. See also Hamill's Memorial, p. 12.

[18] Mr. Rowat was minister of Lifford, and after the siege supplied for some time Strabane and Donagheady. He died on January 4th, 1694.—Minutes of Laggan, p. 328.

[19] Mr. Crooks was minister of Ballykelly (1665—1699). He had a son, Rev. Henry Crooks, who became minister of Moneymore.

[20] Mr. Hamilton was the first minister of Donagheady (1658—1689).

[21] William John Foster, Esq., J.P., Derry, is one of the descendants of this worthy elder.

[22] Londerias, book ii. 8, and iii. 5.

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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