The Siege of Derry (Irish: Léigear Dhoire) took place in Ireland 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.Contents [show]
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. The vast majority of the Irish population were Catholic, and James had given them some real concessions during his reign. He has appointed an Irish Catholic (Richard Talbot) as Lord Deputy of Ireland, 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' viceroy in Ireland, was anxious to ensure that all strongpoints 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 it with a more reliable force. He agreed, but wasted several weeks searching for men who were at least six feet tall. A force of around 1,200 Scottish Catholic "Redshanks" then set out for the city. 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 escaped a second time on 23 December and made his way to France. James' first cousin, King Louis XIV of France, gave him support to retain his crown. 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 City Governor, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Lundy, 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, enraging 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".
Michael Browning Memorial Plaque
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 arrived at Derry on 18 April. King James rode to Bishop's Gate and asked the city to surrender. He was rebuffed, and some of the city's defenders fired at him. James would ask thrice more, but was refused each time. This marked the beginning of the seige. Cannon and mortar fire was 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 boom (floating barrier) across the River Foyle at Culmore. On 28 July, under the orders of Major General Percy Kirke, three armed merchant ships called the Mountjoy, Phoenix and Jerusalem sailed toward the boom, protected by the frigate HMS Dartmouth under Captain John Leake. The Mountjoy rammed but did not break the boom. Instead, it was broken by sailors in the HMS Swallow, allowing the fleet to sail upriver and relieve the city.
The city had endured 105 days of siege during which some 8000 people of a population of 30,000 were said to have died.
The siege is commemorated annually by the 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, those in recent years have been largely peaceful.