A City Besieged and Governor Lundy

Many of the fleeing Protestants from Ulster, made their way to the fortified towns of Enniskillen and Londonderry. By December 1688, with thousands of Protestant refugees arriving, the population of Londonderry had swollen to eight times its usual number.

The city's protection had been the responsibility of a garrison of mostly Protestants, under the command of Lord Mountjoy, but Tyrconnell, perceiving this as an error, recalled Mountjoy and his men to Dublin. Arrangements were made to re-garrison the city under the command of the Earl of Antrim, who was gathering together a troop of 1,200 Irish and Scottish Highlanders, all of whom were Catholics. Antrim had some difficulty filling all his required positions and for a while after Mountjoy departed, the city was undefended. On 16th December 1688, as Antrim's troops neared Londonderry, they stopped  in Limavady where the population were greatly alarmed by the troop's unruly, ill-disciplined behaviour. Colonel George Phillips, fearful of what was to come, immediately wrote a letter which was taken by a horseman to Derry and handed to Alderman Samuel Norman. This coincided with the arrival of Alderman Alexander Tomkins who had a copy of the Comber Letter. When the two letters were made public, the citizens were terrified, fearful that they were about to be massacred by the Jacobite forces.

The Governor, Colonel Lundy, thought the position was hopeless and the task of defending the city, near impossible, especially when news arrived that James would be in charge of the Jacobite army. 


                                         The City of Londonderry at the time of the siege

However the people of Londonderry had declared for William and recognised he and Mary as their rightful Monarchs. When this news reached William, he was determined to give the city much needed help and dispatched Lt. Col. John Cunningham and Col. Solomon Richards to proceed to Londonderry with two regiments of soldiers. They reached the Foyle estuary on 14th April 1689 and anchored in the bay. Lundy met with Cunningham and Richards but persuaded them that the task was so impossible, that their very presence would only worsen the matter - he advised them to go back to England with their men. Lundy had ensured that only those who shared his views were present at the meeting with Cunningham and Richards. When news spread of Lundy's decision, there was outrage in the city - many army officers declared they no longer considered themselves to be bound to obey the order of the Governor. There was such a sense of betrayal that an officer was shot and another was wounded as they attempted to flee the city. It was found that some had fled through the city gates and immediately the passwords were changed and the guard doubled.

The next day at a special council meeting, angry citizens abused Lundy for his treachery in sending away the troops William had sent to defend them. During this meeting, a sentry called out that the enemy was now in sight approaching the city and Lundy again showed his colours by ordering that they should not be fired upon. Major Henry Baker and Captain Adam Murray countermanded it and called the people to arms - supported by Rev. George Walker, the Rector of Donaghmore in Co. Tyrone, who had taken refuge with his parishioners in the city.

All able bodied men answered the call and the guns were manned. When James' Redshanks under Alexander MacDonnell, were only 60 yards from the gates of the city, nine young apprentices, led by young Henry Campsie, drew their swords, grabbed the key to Ferryquay Gate, raised the drawbridge and slammed shut the heavy gates in the face of the advancing soldiers - they were immediately joined by four other lads, who together, secured all the city's gates.


                                          The Closing of the Gates by the Apprentices

James having heard news of Lundy's rejection of William's troops, expected the city's surrender - he approached Bishop's Gate but was greeted with loud cries of 'No Surrender' and gunfire in which one of his staff officers fell dead. The King beat a hasty retreat until his army was out of gunshot range.

Lundy had hidden himself in an inner room of his house and from there with the help of Murray and Walker, he escaped over the city walls, disguised as a porter. Without the Governor's leadership or proper legal authority, the people were determined to resist attack and siege at any cost. At a meeting of fifteen of the city's principal officers, Major Baker was chosen to act as Governor with Rev George Walker to act as his assistant and Joint-Governor. Baker would be the military commander, whilst Walker would keep the peace within the city, look after the stores and encourage the people to act wisely in this dangerous situation.

Eight regiments were constituted and each man was given orders to report for duty signalled by the beat of a drum. In just 24 hours the defence of Londonderry with the personnel and materials available to them, was complete. Anyone who wanted to leave the city was allowed to go and these included the old, young and sick. Of those 20,000 who remained within the walls, 7,020 men were able to fight and they were commanded by 341 officers. Daily services were held in the cathedral and prayers were said almost constantly for the city's safe deliverance - however the Bishop, Ezekiel Hopkins preached non-resistance, for which he was denounced and forced out of the city, from where he fled to England.





                                                  Surrender Or You'll Die

On 19th April, a Jacobite trumpeter approached the Southern Gate to ask if Governor Lundy's promise of an easy surrender would be kept. He returned bearing the message that the city would be defended to the last man and that the people had nothing but contempt for their former Governor.

The next day, a high ranking Jacobite officer, Claude Hamilton was sent to offer terms, which effectively was an ultimatum. It would not be carried out if the citizens submitted to James. Adam Murray who received the message, would be commissioned a colonel in the Jacobite army and receive a gift of £1,000, if he persuaded the people to submit.

Murray's reply was:
"The men of Londonderry have done nothing that requires a pardon and own no sovereign but King William and Queen Mary. It will not be safe for your Lordship to stay longer or to return on the same errand. Let me have the honour of seeing your through the lines." 

When the encounter was reported to James, he returned to Dublin and left the siege in the hands of General Maumont and Richard Hamilton.


                                                         The Siege of Derry

The siege began on 20th April with a battering of the city, but the besieging army had a shortage of artillery which would be needed for a full-scale assault on the city walls. However, guns and mortars placed in Captain Stronge's orchard on the other side of the Foyle were able to fire on the city with deadly effect. The mortars were particularly terrifying, since their high trajectories sent bombs crashing through the roofs of houses. The defenders were equipped with about twenty artillery pieces which had been supplied by the London companies, including one called "Roaring Meg" which was a gift from the Fishmongers of London. Conditions within the overcrowded city became desperate as shortage of food and disease began to take their toll. Conditions for the Jacobites were scarcely much better, with inadequate shelter in very wet conditions.

However the hardships, strengthened the resolve of the Protestants and on 21st April, Murray led an attack against the besiegers, outside the city walls. During this attack General Maumont was killed, struck by a musket ball fired by Murray. There were several more attacks on the Jacobite troops and several high ranking officers were taken prisoner. Two French banners were hung in the Cathedral's chancel as trophies.

                                   The Boom that Crossed Foyle's Shores

Due to the obvious determination of the Protestant garrison, the Jacobites decided to change tactics - if they could not defeat the people, they would blockade the city and starve them into submission. A boom was erected across the Foyle between Charles Fort and Grange Fort. It was intended to stop ships bringing aid to the besieged city. There were two booms: the first was made of such heavy materials that is was broken up by the current. The second was made of fir beams, chained and cabled together and light enough to float on the surface.


                  A Dutch map from the period showing the city walls, the boom and key landmarks

The basic Jacobite strategy was to blockade the city until the defenders were forced to surrender. However, there were a number of encounters between the opposing forces during the siege. The first occurred on 31 April when Murray led his cavalry to attack the Jacobites near Pennyburn Mill. He was forced to retreat, but as he did so he led the Jacobite cavalry into an ambush prepared by the infantry.

On 6 May, Murray successfully led a attack on Windmill Hill, which had been captured by the Jacobites on the previous day. About a month later a more serious battle was fought at Windmill Hill, where the defenders suffered heavy losses and were driven back to the walls of the city.

News of the city's plight reached William and he sent an expedition under the command of Lt. General Percy Kirke. Although Kirke's troops sailed from Liverpool on 22nd May, because of poor weather in the Irish Sea, it was 13th June before they reached the Foyle estuary.

On 8 June, the warship Greyhound made an attempt to approach the city, but ran aground and came under fire from Culmore fort.

On 28 June, the most dangerous attack of the siege was made when two pieces of artillery were brought to fire at Butcher's Gate, and a mine was dug to a cellar underneath one of the bastions. The attack was only repulsed after a fierce struggle by the defenders.

                                           Hunger, Death and Disease

In Londonderry the people were defending themselves with stubborn courage against a numerically stronger and more experienced military force. At the same time, food was in very short supply. By 8th June, horse and dogmeat were about the only meat which could be bought and tallow - a substitute food - was being doled out sparingly. Even vermin meat was changing hands at extravagant prices, in a desperate attempt to fill empty stomachs. Still the sick and starving people hung on, encouraged by Rev. Walker who assured them the Almighty would grant them deliverance.


                                                       Governor George Walker

Outside the cathedral a crimson flag was hoisted on a flagpole - a defiant genture to the enemy. Its distinctive colour, symbolic of blood and sacrifice, aptly depicted the spirit of Protestant resistance, the spirit of No Surrender!

The arrival of Kirke's ships had given the besieged citizens hope and Kirke managed to get a messanger past Jacobite lines to tell the people of his arrival with arms, ammunition, troops and provisions for the starving citizens. The initial joy was short lived,as Kirke thought it was unwise to immediately attack the enemy and he stayed inactive at the entrance of Lough Foyle for several weeks.

By now, famine and pestilence was rife in the city. On one day alone, fifteen officers died and in late June, Governor Baker died - he was suceeded by Colonel John Michelburne. 

When news of Kirke's arrival reached James in Dublin, he immediately sent the French General Conrad de Rosen to command the siege at Londonderry. He was a hardened soldier well aware of the many underhand tactics which could be used in war. He immediately ordered that a shell be fired into the city with a letter attached, threatening that he would round up all Protestants who had stayed at their homes, between Charlemont and the sea, bring them to the city walls and starve them to death at the foot of the walls, in view of their friends and relatives within the walls. It was no idle threat, for on 12th July hundreds of old infirm men, women and young chldren were brought to the foot of the city walls.


                                                                Londonderry from the River Foyle

Their appearance although initially distressing the city's inhabitants, strengthened their resolve further and in an act of retaliation a set of gallows was erected in view of the Jacobite encampments. It was their intention to publically hang many of the Jacobite prisoners taken during the skirmishes into enemy territory. Many of these prisoners were officers, who were close personal friends of Hamilton and Rosen and although Rosen would not initially relent, two days later he allowed the Protestants at the foot of the city walls to return home - it was too late for some of them who had died through hunger and exhaustion. Once Rosen had implemented his decision, the garrison within the city dismantled the gallows.

Meanwhile within the walls, death and disease were everywhere. On 13th July, Rev Walker received a message sewn up in a cloth button. It was from Kirke and promised speedy relief, but had been written two weeks before and still no aid came.

                           The Breaking of the Boom and the End of the Siege

Kirke's inactivity angered William and through his Commander-in-Chief in Ireland, The Duke of Schomberg, orders were sent to Kirke to relieve Londonderry at once. Ironically he had stood a better chance to do this when he had arrived, six weeks previously.

One of the ships, The Mountjoy, bearing a large quantity of provisions, was captained by a Londonderry man Micaiah Browning. He volunteered to take his ship through to give aid to the citizens and he was joined by Andrew Douglas, from Coleraine, the Master of the Phoenix, which carried a large cargo of Scottish meal. The Dartmouth, a large frigate of 36 guns, under the Command of John Leake, was ordered to accompany them and provide protection.

                                                                 The Relief of Derry - by William Sadler

On the evening of 28th July the ships made their perilous way up the Foyle amid much gunshot coming from Jacobite positions on the shore. The Dartmouth shielded the other two vessels, allowing them to go straight for the boom. Assisted by many sailors in small boats armed with axes, the Mountjoy  sheared straight through the boom - the boom was broken and the route to the city was clear!

It was 10 pm when the ships arrived at the quayside in Londonderry. The citizens turned out to greet them and after the erection of a screen to hide the ships landing place from the enemy gun batteries, the ships were unloaded.

The Jacobite guns bombarded the city for three more days, but on 1st August, smoking ruins marked the camping place of the besiegers. They had retreated up the left bank of the Foyle towards Strabane.


                                                 The Mountjoy and Phoenix breaking the boom

The most memorable siege in British history had ended after 105 days of fear, agony, famine and death. The city's garrison had been reduced from 7,000 to 3,000 men - Governor Walker estimated that the Jacobites had lost 8,000 men.



Lord Macauley, in his History of England writes,
"A people which takes no pride in the noble achievements of remote ancestors will never achieve anything worthy to be remembered with pride by remote descendants."




                                    The walls today with some of the original guns

And so today the memory of the Siege of Derry lives on. The names of those thirteen apprentice boys who slammed shut the gates have been immortalised forever, along with the names of those who played a major role in the siege: William Cairnes, Henry Campsie, John Coningham, William Crookshanks, Alexander Cunningham, Samuel Harvy, Samuel Hunt, Alexander Irwin, Robert Morison, Daniel Sherrard, Robert Sherrard, James Spike, James Steward, Governor Walker, Henry Baker, Adam Murray and John Mitchelburne.


                                               The Memorial to Micaiah Browning 

Micaiah Browning did not live to enter Derry. He was killed by a sniper's bullet as The Mountjoy advanced up the Foyle after breaking the boom. Today Browning is remembered by a stone tablet set in the city walls near the spot where his body was brought ashore and by the Browning Memorial Window in the city's Guildhall.

Governor - Rev George Walker, kept a diary of events  and subsequently issued A True Account of the Siege of Londonderry (1689). He was sent to London to report to King and Parliament and fought at the Boyne with the Williamite forces. He died at the Boyne, from a shot through the body, when going to the assistance of General Schomberg. He is buried alongside his wife, in the Parish graveyard at Castlecaufield. The 90 ft. "Walker Monument", on which he holds a bible and pointing out across the Foyle, was erected in 1828. It was destroyed by the IRA in 1973.


Walker Memorial around 1900 - today only the plinth survives

Major Baker - Governor of Derry from April 19th 1689 until his death on June 30th 1689. He succeeded Lundy as Governor of Derry. He was a brave solder, but died of a fever and gave his Governorship to Colonel Mitchelburne. He is buried in St. Columbs Cathedral. Londonderry.

Colonel John Mitchelburne - Governor of Derry from June 30th 1689, until the end of the siege. When Major Baker died, Mitchelburne took over his duties. He gave expression to the defiance of the Derry defenders by flying a bloody and crimson flag from the Cathedral tower. The Derry "Crimson" flag is carried today at all Apprentice Boys Celebrations. The Apprentice Boys Association and its celebrations owe much to Colonel Mitchelburne, who organised siege commemorations until his death. He is buried beside his comrade Adam Murray, in Glendermott Old Churchyard and the Apprentice Boys demonstrate the high honour that they attribute to these two gallant defenders, by making an annual visitation to their graves.

Adam Murray - He was heroically involved in all of the garrison’s battles outside of the Walls - especially the Battle of Pennyburn. He led by example, was a stauch defender of the Reformed Faith and all sections in Derry during the Siege had his confidence.

Colonel Lundy - Governor of Derry, December 1688 to April 20th. 1689, His extraordinary behaviour during the early part of the Siege nearly lost Derry and its citizens.  He fled the city and was captured in Scotland, then sent to London and held in the Tower of London. William considered sending him back to Derry to face trial, but ultimately, this did not happen. "Lundy the Traitor" is remembered every year when an 18-foot effigy of him is burned in public.

Each year, the Associated Clubs of the Apprentice Boys of Derry, celebrate the closing of the gates in December and the lifting of the siege in August. Their 'Clubs' bear the names of the leading figures in the siege. There is an excellent Siege Tour, which is worth completing - sights not to be missed include, the Memorial Hall, St Columb Cathedral, City Walls and Guildhall.


                                                                         Click above logo for 
                                                       Apprentice Boys and Siege Trail website

"The Orange Minstrel", William Blacker wrote a poem about the siege which has gained a special place in Orange folklore:

Behold the crimson banner float 
O'er yonder turrets hoary
They tell of days of matchless note 
And Derry's deathless glory
When her brave sons undaunted stood
Embattled to defend her
Indignant stemmed oppression's flood
And sang out 'No Surrender'

Old Derry's walls were firm and strong
Well fenced in every quarter
Each frowning bastion grim along
With culverin and mortar
But Derry had a surer guard
Than all that art could lend her
Her 'prentice hearts the gates who barred
And sang out 'No Surrender'

Long may the crimson barrier wave
A meteor streaming airy
Portentous of the free and brave
Who man the walls of Derry
And Derry's sons alike defy
Pope,traitor or pretender
And peal to heaven their 'prentice cry
Their patriot, 'No Surrender'