Rev. George Walker Minister of Cookstown

From Derry and Enniskillen in the Year 1689 by Thomas Witherow

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CHAPTER VIII...concluded

But a far more scathing exposure of the statements of the True Account was still to come. As yet no one had replied who had been in Derry at the siege, and who was fully acquainted with all that had occurred there. It was not till December 1689, three months after it was published, that Walker's pamphlet came into the hands of the Rev. John Mackenzie, Minister of Derryloran—a parish of County Tyrone, in which Cookstown is situated. He had survived the siege, and while in Derry had acted as chaplain to Walker's regiment. He was well acquainted with the matter, and no sooner did he see how Walker had allowed his party spirit to bias him in the suppression and perversion of facts, than he determined to put before the world a full statement of the case. He went to London, and with the assistance of John Dunton, a rather flighty bookseller there, whose Life and Errors was afterwards given to the world, his Narrative appeared in the spring of 1690. It is by far the fullest and most accurate of the original histories of the siege. Very many things of the most interesting nature would have perished, had it not been for this production.

Had it not been for it, we should have never known the names of the original apprentices, nor the conduct of Murray on the memorable day that the government of Lundy was overset, nor the circumstances which led to the appointment of the Council of Fourteen, nor the true position of Walker in the city, nor many other particulars not of much importance in themselves, but of great interest to all who wish to know what really occurred. He is calm and sober in his representation, and his statements have every mark of probability and truthfulness. Nor is the Narrative the production of a private individual merely. The part of it relating to the siege was read over, before it was printed, to Colonel Crofton, Colonel Murray, Colonel Blair, and Captain Sanderson, and their assent to its contents was obtained; so that virtually it is the account that these gentlemen give of a memorable transaction in which they themselves bore such a conspicuous part.

To the damaging representations of this narrative Walker did not venture to reply; but some friend of his attempted to meet its statements in an anonymous pamphlet entitled, "Mr. John Mackenzie's Narrative a False Libel." This production dealt much in certificates, got up for the purpose of contradicting some of Mackenzie's statements in regard to Walker's position as Governor, and which were signed by some of the Derry officers, who had lost nearly everything in the siege, who were pressing Government for payment of what was due them, and who imagined that any offence given to Dr. Walker would be injurious to their claims. The authorship of this anonymous pamphlet was attributed to Bishop Vesey, the biographer of Bramhall, who was understood to act throughout this whole affair as the friend and adviser of Walker. This last effort was completely demolished by Mackenzie, who published immediately afterwards "Dr. Walker's Invisible Champion Foiled," in which he replied in the most satisfactory manner to the criticisms of his masked antagonist.

This closed the controversy at the time. But in 1792, more than a hundred years after the siege, another original narrative made its appearance at Derry. It had been written by Captain Ash, a gallant Episcopalian officer who served throughout the siege.[51] It had been kept in manuscript by his family, and was published at the end of a century by his granddaughter. This Diary confirms the statements of Mackenzie thus far, that it testifies to the valour of Murray and Noble, is silent as to the military acts of Walker, never styles the latter, as he styles himself, "the Governor," but represents him as Joint-Governor, first with Baker and afterwards with Mitchelburn.

A beautiful edition of Mackenzie's Narrative and of the Invisible Champion Foiled, enriched by valuable notes, and dedicated to my valued friend, the Rev. John Knox Leslie, of Cookstown, one of Mackenzie's successors, was published by Dr. Killen, of Belfast, in 1861. In the same year, an edition of Walker's True Account, of the Londerias, and of Ash's Diary in an abbreviated form, with other valuable papers annexed, was published by Mr. John Hempton, of Derry. To both these publications the present history has been much indebted, both for hints and material.

From a careful perusal of the original documents now specified, any intelligent and candid reader may arrive at the whole truth. But Walker had the first word. His Account met the demand which public curiosity made at the time in regard to the siege, and after curiosity was sated and the excitement had passed away, people did not return to the subject, and the first impression remained. With the public Walker was still counted, as he represented himself, the Governor of Derry. A man who never fired a gun, nor struck a blow, nor led a sortie from the time the siege began till it was over, passed with the world for a great soldier. The director of the commissariat was taken for a hero. The world at large formed of the man the estimate which he formed of himself. He was feted in London, caressed in society, received the thanks of Parliament, obtained the gift of £5000, had his son pensioned on the country; and after ages, as if anxious not to be outdone in mistaken and unjust partiality, built to his memory a monumental pillar, which overlooks the city where Baker and Mitchelburn held the supreme military command, where Noble fought and Murray bled, and Walker had the oversight of the stores.

King William, with his usual good sense, reached in the end a pretty accurate estimate of the man, and gave expression to it in a form which will live in history. Walker, intoxicated with the honour that he had won so easily, and not satisfied, after his military experience, to sink down again, even at his great age, into the humble pursuits of a country clergyman, in an evil hour followed his master to the Boyne. On the 20th of June, 1690,[52] ten days before the battle, Dr. Hopkins had died, so that, in view of the royal promise, the "Governor" was now virtually Bishop of Derry. On the morning of the battle a stray shot from a Jacobite gun brought the career of the new bishop to a close, and took revenge for the disappointment and discomfiture of the siege. "Dr. Walker," says Story, "was shot a little beyond the river, and stripped immediately; for the Scots-Irish that followed our camp were got through already and took off most of the plunder."[53] The accident that befell him was in due course reported to the King. "What brought him there?" said the saturnine monarch. That was William's rough abrupt way of saying that, however justified a clergyman might be in fighting in self-defence, his voluntary appearance on a field of battle was a little out of place. And thus, unregretted by his master, passed away this military ecclesiastic, who was not soldier enough to sink the bigotry of the cleric, nor saint enough to crucify the vanity of being counted a soldier.

When the bishop was stripped on the battle-field by the Scots-Irish—a just visitation, one would think, on a man who had dealt such scanty justice to their kindred—strange to tell, his history is not done. Twelve or thirteen years after his death, his widow, animated by feelings for which she is worthy of all respect, desired to have his remains interred at Castlecaulfield. When her wishes became known, a man was found who professed to know his grave,—a task rather hard, depending, first, on the identification of a naked body in a crowd upon a field of slain, and then on remembering, at the end of a dozen years, the spot where that particular body was interred. However, the man went and brought home what he said were Walker's bones, and he was paid twenty pounds for his trouble. The lady interred the relics within the church at Castlecaulfield, and erected over them a monument with a Latin inscription. In 1838, at the end of 135 years after the erection of it, this monument was opened, and in a small box were found a skull, with two arms and two thigh-bones. On having the thigh-bones examined, it was found, however, that they both belonged to the one leg, and therefore could not have belonged to the same man. But the gentleman who had the privilege of inspecting the relics, nothing daunted by the discovery that one of the bones at least could not have been Walker's, concluded—on what evidence we are not informed—that the other and the skull were certainly his: they had casts taken of the skull, and in course of time had it phrenologically examined. Eventually the bones were interred with every token of respect. Any who can believe on this evidence that the bones of Walker lie at Castlecaulfield, is easily satisfied, and is free to his opinion; but for my part, I prefer to believe that his ashes were never the victims of this morbid curiosity, and that in some quiet corner in the green valley of the Boyne the poor old man still sleeps undisturbed in the grave of a soldier.[54]

Andrew Hamilton, Rector of Kilskerry, also went to London to present to the King the address of the Enniskilleners, and he also wrote a History of the Actions of the brave men whose case he was commissioned to represent to the Government. But he was a man of a very different stamp from Walker: he did not exalt himself, nor attempt unworthily to depreciate better men; he sought no triumph for his party, even in a place and amid circumstances where the Episcopalians must have greatly outnumbered the Presbyterians;[55] he told a simple story; he did not so much as name the religious bodies into which the Protestants were divided, and in so doing, gave offence to no man. He did not indeed obtain for himself the earthly rewards that a different behaviour might have secured; probably he was not looking for them. The King gave him a civil reception, but that was all; and dying soon afterwards, he went down to his last rest with the reputation of an humble and a good man, who did his duty to his country and his faith, and with no taint of partizanship attaching to his name. He is deservedly held in honour alike by Presbyterians and Episcopalians, and will be so long after posterity has learned to value "the Governor of Derry" at his true worth.

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[51] Captain Ash was great-great-grand-uncle of H. Tyler, Esq., of Limavady.

[52] Hopkins' funeral sermon was preached on the 24th of June, 1690. Macaulay, History, vol. iii., p. 183.

[53] Impartial History, p. 82.

[54] Ulster Journal of Archaeology, vol. ii., pp. 275—8.

[55] Even at Enniskillen, though the higher officers were all Episcopalians, the Presbyterians were respectably represented. There were eight Presbyterian captains, seven lieutenants, and several ensigns, and a member of Mr. Kelso's congregation had a company-consisting of one hundred and forty men. See M'Bride's Animadversions, p. 84.

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.