Siege of Derry
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|Siege of Derry (Londonderry)|
|Part of the Williamite War in Ireland|
Cannon on the Walls of Derry
|Jacobite forces||Williamite forces|
|Commanders and leaders|
James II & VII
Conrad de Rosen
|Casualties and losses|
|?||~8000 dead (mostly by disease)|
The Siege of Derry (Irish: Léigear Dhoire) lasted from 18 April to 28 July 1689, during the Williamite War in Ireland. The city, a Williamite stronghold, was besieged by a Jacobite army until it was relieved by Royal Navy ships. The siege is commemorated yearly in August by the Apprentice Boys of Derry.
In the "Glorious Revolution" of 1688, James II (King of England, Ireland and Scotland), a Roman Catholic convert, was ousted from power by his Protestant daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange. Most of the Irish population were Catholic, and James had given them some real concessions during his reign. He had made an Irish Catholic the Lord Deputy of Ireland (Richard Talbot), and re-admitted Catholics into the Irish Parliament, public office, and the army. Irish Catholics also hoped that James would re-grant them their lands, which had been seized after the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland (1649–53). James thus looked to Ireland to muster support in re-gaining his kingdoms.
Richard Talbot, who was acting as James's viceroy in Ireland, was eager to ensure that all strongholds in the country were held by garrisons loyal to James. He focused on the northern province of Ulster, which had been the most heavily planted by British Protestant colonists.
By November 1688, Enniskillen and Derry were the two garrisons in Ulster that were not wholly loyal to James. The elderly Alexander MacDonnell, 3rd Earl of Antrim, was ordered to replace them with a more trustworthy force. He agreed, but wasted several weeks searching for men who were at least six feet tall. A force of about 1,200 Scottish Catholic "Redshanks" then set out for Derry. On 7 December, with the army a short distance away, thirteen apprentice boys seized the city keys and locked the gates.
On 10 December, King James fled London. He was caught, but fled a second time on 23 December and made his way to France. James's first cousin, King Louis XIV of France, said he would help James regain power. In London on 13 February 1689, William and Mary were crowned.
The Derry City Governor, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Lundy, turned away reinforcements led by Colonel Cunningham, which had arrived in the River Foyle, telling them that the city was to be surrendered. He wrote on 15 April that "without an immediate supply of money and provisions this place must fall very soon into the enemy's hands". Lundy called a meeting with several of his most loyal supporters to discuss surrender. News of the meeting spread, angering many of the citizens. That night, Lundy (in disguise) and many others left the city and took ship to Scotland. The city's defence was overseen by Major Henry Baker, Colonel Adam Murray, and Major George Walker (also an Anglican priest). Their slogan was "No Surrender".
As the Jacobite army neared, all the buildings outside the city walls were set alight by the defenders to prevent them being used as cover by the besiegers.
The Jacobite army reached Derry on 18 April. King James and his retinue rode to within 300 yards of Bishop's Gate and demanded the surrender of the city. He was rebuffed with shouts of "No surrender!", and some of the city's defenders fired at him. According to a later account, one of the king's aides-de-camp was killed by a shot from the city's largest cannon which was called "Roaring Meg". James would ask thrice more, but was refused each time. This marked the beginning of the siege. Cannon and mortar fire were exchanged, and disease took hold within the city. James returned to Dublin and left his forces under the command of Richard Hamilton.
Royal Navy warships under Admiral Rooke arrived in Lough Foyle on 11 June, but refused to smash through the defensive boom (floating barrier) across the River Foyle at Culmore. On 28 July, under the orders of Major General Percy Kirke, three armed merchant ships, Mountjoy, Phoenix and Jerusalem (a cutter) sailed toward the boom, protected by the frigate HMS Dartmouth under Captain John Leake. Mountjoy rammed but did not break the boom. Instead, she was broken by sailors in a long boat from the frigate HMS Swallow, letting the fleet sail upriver and relieve the city.
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The siege is commemorated yearly by the Protestant Apprentice Boys of Derry who stage the week-long Maiden City Festival culminating in a parade around the walls of the city by local members, followed by a parade of the city by the full Association. Although violence has attended these parades in the past[examples needed], those in recent years[when?] have been largely peaceful.
The song Derry's Walls was written to commemorate the siege.
- Stafford, Bob (28 January 2009). "h2g2 - The 1689 Siege Of Derry". http://news.bbc.co.uk/. BBC. Retrieved 9 February 2014.
- Londonderry Sentinal
- The Gentleman's Magazine, Volume 96 - Siege of Londonderry in 1688, John Nichols and Son, London 1826 (p. 606)