Rev. George Walker's Assumption

From Derry and Enniskillen in the Year 1689 by Thomas Witherow

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CHAPTER VIII...continued

It has been already mentioned that when, after the abdication of Lundy, Baker was chosen by the officers to be Governor, he nominated, with their sanction, Walker to be his assistant, and that while Baker had charge of the military arrangements, Walker, in pursuance of this arrangement, as joint-Governor, had charge of the provision stores. Afterwards, when Baker took sick, Mitchelburn, at Baker's own suggestion, was appointed in his room; so that, notwithstanding the change of man, the old arrangement of joint-Governors stood the same as before. The fact of the joint-governorship and of the division of labour is admitted by Walker himself, so far as it was possible for such a man to admit anything the tendency of which would be to diminish his own personal importance:—

"At this time Governor Baker is very dangerously ill, and Colonel Mitchelburn is chosen and appointed to assist Governor Walker, that when one c6in-manded in sallies the other might take care of the town, and if one should fall the town might not be left without a governor, and to the hazard of new elections."[39]

These words are obviously intended to conceal as much as they disclose; but it takes no great penetration to see that at no time, on his own admission, was he himself sole Governor, but that the authority was divided, first with Baker, and afterwards with Mitchelburn. If there was any reasonable doubt of the position of Mitchelburn in regard to Walker, it would be set at rest by the following extract from the report of a Committee of the House of Commons under date June 7th, 1698:—

"He [Mitchelburn] marched into the town of Londonderry in April, before the late siege, where he continued till the death ef Colonel Baker, about the middle of June, when Colonel Mitchelburn was chosen by the whole garrison Governor and Commander-in-Chief with Dr. Walker, the said Colonel Mitchelburn performing all the duty during all the difficulties of the siege, having all the charge of the military part."[40]

From the admission of himself, as well as from this extract, it is evident that Dr. Walker was only one of the two governors, and that the military arrangements were entrusted wholly to Mitchelburn, not to him. Can it be believed that, in these circumstances, from the day of Baker's death he speaks through his whole pamphlet of himself as "the Governor," as if Mitchelburn was not to be named beside him, and as if there was no Governor in the city but one? Even by accident he never bestows the name on Mitchelburn —he always retains the name for himself. He is always "the Governor"—the other is simply Colonel Mitchelburn. Thus, for instance, under the 24th of June, we read: "For fear any one should contrive surrendering the town, or move it to the garrison, the Governor [that is, himself] made an order that no such thing should be mentioned on pain of death."

Again, under same date, we read: "By the contrivance of our Governor and Colonel Mitchelburn . . . we countermine the enemy before the Butcher's Gate: the Governor contrives a blind to preserve our work," etc.

Again, under date August 1st, he says: "On Sunday, the Major-General [Kirke] came into town, and was received by the Governor and the whole garrison with the greatest joy and acclamations."

And yet again: "Upon this, we call a Council at Derry; the Governor is prevailed on to go to the King, and to carry an address from the garrison."

Such was his justice to his colleague. While admitting what he cannot deny, that, first with Baker and afterwards with Mitchelburn, he shared a divided authority, he constantly puts himself forward as the Governor, and creates the impression upon the reader that, as compared with himself, everybody else occupied a very subordinate position indeed.

After the same fashion, also, in every public document which he and others were to sign in common, he had a nasty trick of inserting his own name at the head of the list, regardless of the very limited space left by others who had signed before him. Look also at the following specimens of the manner in which the vain old man speaks of himself:—

"Aug. 1st. The Governor orders C. White, etc., to wait on the Major-General at Inch, to give him an account of the raising of the siege, and to carry him our thanks. ... On Sunday the Major-General came into the town, and was received by the Governor and the whole garrison with the greatest joy and acclamations. The Governor presents him with the keys, but he would not receive them. The next day, the Governor, with several of his officers, dined with the Major-General at Inch. . . . Upon this, we call a Council at Derry; the Governor is prevailed on to go to the King, and to carry an address from the garrison."

It was after this fashion that Walker blew his own horn. He designedly shuffles Mitchelburn aside, and pushes himself forward in this unworthy fashion. He knew well that thousands and tens of thousands, as well the living as the unborn, would never know anything of the siege of Derry, except from his "Account." He takes care to be the hero of his own history. A man who knows the siege from his pamphlet only, would think that Baker, Murray, and Mitchelburn were nobodies, and that the writer himself was the only man then in Derry of weight and consideration. No great man would ever have descended to such little arts: it is only the vain, the fussy, and the selfish, who thus parade their own trumpery doings, and are studiedly unjust to better men. The true soldier sets forth the merits of others —he seldom makes mention of his own. But Walker knew well what he was about, and the world took him at the value which he set upon himself. He got £5000 in hand, received the thanks of Parliament, and the promise of a bishopric, and had his son pensioned by the nation; but Mitchelburn never got any reward from Parliament for his services. When he asked from the Irish Society the governorship of Culmore Fort he was refused, and when he visited London he was cast into prison for debt.

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NOTES

[39] Walker, June 18th.

[40] Hempton, p. 474. See also the inscription put on Mitchelburn's tombstone after his death in 1721. Gillespie, p. 83.

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.