Governor George Walker in Edinburgh

From Derry and Enniskillen in the Year 1689 by Thomas Witherow

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CHAPTER VIII...continued

Though the Presbyterians saw three Episcopalians in succession raised to the chief command in the city, they assumed that it was because they were best adapted for the post; they certainly never murmured, but tried to do their duty, no matter who commanded, and preferred the common good to all party considerations. Governor Baker, and after him Governor Mitchelburn, had the confidence of every section of the garrison, and the wish of the former that the civil part of his duties should be entrusted to Mr. Walker was enough to secure their cordial acquiesence in the appointment of an Episcopal clergyman as his Assistant.

This being the state of matters, the least that could have been expected was, that, as religious differences never showed during the siege, any writer giving an account of it should have ignored the fact that two distinct and separate Protestant bodies took part in the defence, or should have been studiously careful not to wound the religious sensitiveness of either. Presbyterians perhaps had no claim to the generosity of Mr. Walker, though some men in his circumstances would have been generous to persons of a different religious persuasion who had been his companions in arms, but they had a claim to be treated with justice. Mr. Walker did not take either course. He went to London to tell the kingdom that two different Protestant bodies took part in the siege, and to claim nearly all the credit for the smaller body, of which he himself was a member. It showed the essential littleness of the man, that, instead of standing before His Majesty and the country as the representative of both parties alike, he used his position for the advantage of his own party, and ungenerously attempted to depreciate the share which the other had taken in the matter.

Walker sailed from Derry on the 9th of August, 1689, going to London by way of Scotland. By the 13th, he had reached Glasgow, for the freedom of the city was presented to him on that day.[23] The next day he reached Edinburgh. The Presbyterian Ministers from Ireland, who had found a refuge there from the war and bloodshed at home, waited upon him to make inquiry after friends and to present congratulations. One of these was that Mr. Osborne whom, in a week or two after, Mr. Walker, when he reached London, branded as a spy, and who had then no suspicion of the notoriety that the Governor had in store for him. It is almost certain that Osborne was one of the two brothers who, under date 15th of August, 1689, wrote thus to a brother minister in Dublin:—"This account we have confirmed by Mr. Walker, etc., on whom we waited yesterday, at the Abbey, in D[uke] Hamilton's Lodgings, etc., to inquire concerning the condition of our brethren there. The account he gave us of our brethren is indeed afflicting; there being three, besides Mr. Gilkrist, removed (by death), viz., Mr. William Crook, Mr. Robert Wilson, and (as we took it) Mr. John Rowat. The rest of them, viz., Mr. Tho. Boyd, Mr. John Hamilton, Mr. John Mackenzie, and another, whose name he could not remember, were in health, etc. This general is all we judged needful for the present, but you may have a more full account from Mr. Walker, who hath taken his journey this day for London."[24]

Before he left Edinburgh, the Town Council, wishing to do him all the honour in their power, presented him with the freedom of the city on parchment, part of which was written in letters of gold.[25] Had they suspected the partizan turn which he was to give the whole affair when he reached London, it is not probable that the Scottish people would have been so lavish in their tokens of appreciation.

When he reached Barnet, in the neighbourhood of the great Metropolis, he was met by Sir Robert Cotton, who carried him into the city in his coach.[26] The greatest interest had been excited in London by the siege, and particularly by the fact that a small town, garrisoned by non-professional soldiers, had resisted for more than three months, and had finally discomfited, the full strength of James's army, and by a little aid from England had made it nearly impossible that he could ever regain his crown. There, Walker was the hero of the hour. The people ran to obtain a sight of him. "No less liberal were they," says a pamphleteer of the time, "in their applauses and commendations; extolling his fame in verses and panegyricks; publishing his effigies in printed cuts; tossing his name between printers and hawkers, and making it the subject of news-letters and gazettes; while every man, according to his fancy, proportioned a reward to his unrequitable merits. It seemed as if London intended him a public Roman triumph, and the whole kingdom to be actors or spectators of the cavalcade. At last he arrived: the King received him graciously, and conferred on him a mark of his favour and esteem; the Lords of the Council and several of the nobility caressed him with abundance of kindness and respect; the prime citizens treated him with all the demonstrations of joy and gratitude; and the vulgar even stifled him with gazing, crowding, and acclamations."[27] Everywhere it was taken for granted that Walker was the very soul of the defence, and that Derry must have fallen if Walker had not been there. Baker, Murray, Noble, Mitchelburn, were scarcely taken into account; the military men who had planned and fought so valiantly were ignored and forgotten; the honours of the hour descended lavishly upon that one of the governors who during the siege had charge of the provision stores, and who had been appointed by Kirke to carry to London the news of the relief.

Mr. Walker had an audience of His Majesty; he was feasted by the Irish Society; had his picture painted by Sir Godfrey Kneller, in accordance with orders from the King; received the degree of D.D. from Cambridge [28] and Oxford; received the thanks of the House of Commons, and a gift of £5000; and was promised the Bishopric of Derry on the first vacancy. Few who know the services that he rendered at the siege would deny that all he did for Derry was thus very amply and generously rewarded.

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[23] This statement has been questioned by a writer in the Ulster Journal of Archaeology, vol. ii., p. 269, note e; but without reason, as the following certificate shows, taken from Mackenzie's Narrative a False Libel, p. 12:—

"Apud decimo tertio die Mensis Augusti, Millesimo Sexentesimo octogesimo nono.

"The which day in presence of the Honourable the Magistrates of the City of Glasgow, William Nappier, Dean of Gilde thereof, and the said Dean of Gilde his Councel, Collonel George Walker, Governor of the City of Londonderry, within the Kingdom of Ireland, is admitted Burgess and Gild-Brother of the foresaid City of Glasgow, and the hail Liberties, Privileges, and Immunities belonging to, and Burgess and Gild-Brother thereof, are granted to him in most ample form, who has given his oath of fidelity, as use is.

"Extracted furth of the Gild-Books of the said city, be me George Andersone, Town Clerk thereof; witnissing hereunto my sign and subscription manual,——G. ANDERSONE."

[24] Boyse's Vindication of Osborne, p. 25. This extract is valuable as showing that Mr. Walker knew the names of the Presbyterian ministers in Derry during the siege; but the information as to the deaths was not accurate. Mr. Hamilton was dead, but Messrs. Crooks and Rowat were living.

[25] False Libel, p. 12. At the same page may be found a record of the fact in the following terms:—

"Edinburgh, the fourteen day of August, one thousand sex hundred eighty nine years. "The which day in presence of the Right Honourable Sir John Hall of Dunglas Knight and Baronet, Lord Provost of the City of Edinburgh, Charles Chartery, James Maclurge, Andrew Bruce and John Robertsone, Bailiffs, Thomas Crawford Dean of Gilde and Gilde Council, Collonel George Walker Governor of Derry compeer, and is made Burgess, and Gild Brother of this city in the most ample form. "Extractit furth of the new Lockit, Gild Book of the City of Edinburgh be me Aeneas Maclod, Conjunct Clerk thereof. Witnessing hereunto my sign Manual, like as the common seal of the said pity is hereunto appended.——-AE. MACLOD.

"For Colonel George Walker, Governor of Derry,
"Burgess and Gild Brother of Edinburgh."

[26] Reflections upon the Apology, p. 9.

[27] I am indebted for this extract to the Ulster Journal of Archaeology, vol. ii., p. 270, which quotes it from p. 2 of Observations upon Mr. Walker's Account of the Siege of Londonderry: London, 1689—a rare and valuable pamphlet, which I have not had the good fortune to see.

[28] This is questioned by a writer already referred to, in Ulster Journal of Archaeology, vol. ii., p. 272, but without sufficient grounds; the fact of the Cambridge Degree is mentioned by a contemporary writer, evidently a friend of Walker, in Mackenzie's Narrative a False Libel, p. 12. Besides, he is called "Doctor Walker" so early as September 10th, 1689.—Report of Committee of the Lords in Hamill's Memorial, p. 16.

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.