Siege of Derry

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Coordinates: 54°59′38″N 7°19′34″W / 54.994°N 7.326°W / 54.994; -7.326

Siege of Derry
Part of the Williamite War in Ireland
Derry - Londonderry - - 51588.jpg
Cannon on the Walls of Derry
Date 18 April – 28 July 1689
Location Derry, Northern Ireland
Result City relieved by Royal Navy ships
Jacobite forces Williamite forces
Commanders and leaders
Richard Hamilton
James II & VII
Conrad de Rosen
Henry Baker
Adam Murray
George Walker
? ?
Casualties and losses
? ~8,000 dead (mostly by disease)

The Siege of Derry (Irish: Léigear Dhoire) involved a pre-emptive lockdown of the gates of Derry in December 1688[1] and a violent defensive action lasting 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 had replaced Protestant officers with Roman Catholic officers in 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 just as his father, Charles I had done in the Civil War of the 1640s.

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 Highland "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 Walls of Derry in 2009

On 12 March, James landed in Kinsale (on Ireland's south coast) with 6000 French soldiers. He took Dublin and marched north with an army of Irish and French Catholics.

The siege[edit]

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.[2] 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".[3]

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".[4] 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.

The Mountjoy rams through the boom

Royal Navy warships under Admiral Rooke arrived in Lough Foyle on 11 June, but initially declined to ram through the heavily defended defensive boom (floating barrier) across the River Foyle at Culmore. On 28 July, two armed merchant ships, Mountjoy and Phoenix, sailed toward the boom, protected by the frigate HMS Dartmouth under Captain John Leake. Mountjoy rammed and breached the boom at Culmore fort, and the ships moved in, unloading many tons of food to relieve the siege.[5]

The city had endured 105 days of siege during which some 8000[6][citation needed] protestants of a population of 30,000 were said to have died.


Michael Browning Memorial Plaque

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, e.g., see Battle of the Bogside, those in recent years have been largely peaceful.

The song Derry's Walls was written to commemorate the siege.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Macaulay, T. B. James the Second's Descent on Ireland and the Siege of Londonderry in 1869. Gebhardt & Wilisch, Leipzig 1902
  2. ^ Stafford, Bob (28 January 2009). "h2g2 - The 1689 Siege Of Derry". BBC. Retrieved 9 February 2014.  External link in |website= (help)
  3. ^ "Baker Club jewel". Londonderry Sentinel. 13 January 2011. Retrieved 2 August 2014. 
  4. ^ The Gentleman's Magazine, Volume 96 - Siege of Londonderry in 1688, John Nichols and Son, London 1826 (p. 606)
  5. ^ Graham, Rev John A History of the Siege of Londonderry Maclear & Co, Toronto 1869. P.124
  6. ^

External links[edit]