Nothing is known of Lundy's parentage or early life; but he had seen service in the foreign wars before 1688, when he was at Dublin with the rank of Lieutenant-Colonel in the regiment of Lord Mountjoy. When the apprentices of Derry closed the gates in the face of the Earl of Antrim, who was approaching the city at the head of an Irish Catholic force in the interests of James II, the Viceroy Tyrconnel dispatched Mountjoy to pacify the Protestants.
Mountjoy and his regiment were well received in the north, and the citizens of Derry permitted him to leave within their walls a small Protestant garrison under the command of Lundy, who assumed the title of governor. Popular feeling in Derry ran so strongly in favour of the Prince of Orange that Lundy quickly declared himself an adherent of King William III, and he obtained from him a commission confirming his appointment as governor.
Whether Lundy was a deliberate traitor to the cause he had embraced with explicit asseveration of fidelity in a signed document, or whether, as the historian Lord Macaulay suggests, he was merely incompetent or cowardly, cannot certainly be known. What is certain is that from the moment Derry was threatened by the troops of King James, Lundy used all his endeavours to paralyse the defence of the city. In April 1689 he was in command of a force of Protestants who encountered some troops under Richard Hamilton at Strabane, when, instead of holding his ground, he told his men that all was lost and ordered them to shift for themselves; he himself was the first to take flight back to Derry. King James, then at Omagh on his way to the north, similarly turned in flight towards Dublin on hearing of the skirmish, but returned next day on receiving the true account of the occurrence.
On 14 April English ships appeared in the Foyle with reinforcements for Lundy under Colonel Cunningham. Lundy dissuaded Cunningham from landing his regiments, representing that a defence of Derry was hopeless; and that he himself intended to withdraw secretly from the city. At the same time he sent to the enemy's headquarters a promise to surrender the city at the first summons. As soon as this became known to the citizens Lundy's life was in danger, and he was vehemently accused of treachery. When the enemy appeared before the walls Lundy gave orders that there should be no firing. But all authority had passed out of his hands.
The people flew to arms under the direction of Major Henry Baker and Captain Adam Murray, who organized the famous defence in conjunction with the Rev. George Walker under the refrain "No Surrender". Lundy, to avoid popular vengeance, hid himself until nightfall, when by the connivance of Walker and Murray he made his escape in disguise. He was apprehended in Scotland and sent to the Tower of London. He was excluded from the Act of Indemnity in 1690, but his subsequent fate is unknown.
Lundy is reviled in popular Ulster unionist culture to this day as a traitor and is burnt in effigy during the celebrations to mark the anniversary of the shutting of the gates of Derry in 1688. A 'Lundy' has also become a byword for traitor for unionists and loyalists. Ian Paisley regularly denounced many people, including Prime Ministers Margaret Thatcher, Captain Terence O'Neill and First Minister David Trimble, as Lundies.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Ronald John McNeill (1911). "Lundy, Robert". In Chisholm, Hugh. Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press This work in turn cites:
- Lord Macaulay, History of England, vol. in. (Albany edition of complete works, London, 1898)
- Rev. George Walker, A True Account of the Siege of Londonderry (London, 1689)
- J. Mackenzie, Narrative of the Siege of Londonderry (London, 1690)
- John Hempton, The Siege and History of Londonderry (Londonderry, 1861)
- Rev. John Graham, A History of the Siege of Derry and Defence of Enniskillen, 1688-9 (Dublin, 1829)