Apprentice Boys: Display brings historic siege to life

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From the original petition signed by the survivors of the siege of Londonderry in 1689 to the head of an original statue in the city blown up by the IRA in 1973, history is something you can see and touch in the museum at Memorial Hall.

As you first walk into the museum you are greeted with a model of Londonderry at the time of the siege, illustrating perfectly the city surrounded by its walls and flanked by sea and bogs.

The representation was made by local school children and also includes the boom which held back King James’ ships.

Apprentice Boys General Secretary Billy Moore is a treasure trove himself of information about this history.

“Did you know the boom was originally made from oak trees, but they were very heavy so then they started to use fir trees which are much lighter,” he explained helping to bring the scene to life.

“The city was built for 3,000 but during the siege it was home to 30,000 in 1689 as Protestants from across Ulster sought refuge in Londonderry as well as Enniskillen where another siege took place. If one of those had fallen, the other would have too.”

The Jacobites were defeated at the Battle of Newtownbutler which is commemorated each year by the Royal Black Preceptory.

Back in Londonderry, a mocked up menu sits up high advertising the grim selection of food being sold in the city during the siege - look away now pet lovers.

A quarter of a dog was top of the board selling for 5/6, followed by a dogs head for 2/6. A whole cat would have set you back 4/6 and the animals perhaps best associated with the siege, rats were selling for 1. At the lower end of the scale a mouse was advertised at 6d, while horse flesh sold for 1/8 per pound and a quart of horse blood would set you back 1.

Along the wall from this hangs the original petition signed by a number of notable residents of Londonderry who signed the siege to Parliament requesting compensation for property destroyed in the city during the siege.

A giant effigy of Lundy takes pride of place while opposite the original head from the statue of the Rev George Walker, a former Governor of Londonderry in 1689, which once stood on a 90 foot column on plinth beside the city walls overlooking the Bogside which was blown up by the IRA in 1973. A version of the full statue made up of original parts is also in the ownership of the Apprentice Boys, it is set to be displayed in the new interpretive centre when it opens.

Among the many impressive swords on display includes one that belonged to Colonel Adam Murray, a Londonderry man who led the Williamite forces.

It was presented to the museum by Colonel Murray’s family.

As well as celebrating the distant past, the museum also celebrates the more recent past with reproductions of several of the murals from the old Fountain Estate in the city. These murals were destroyed when the old terrace houses were demolished.

The murals include the wounding of General Adam Murray and also the death of Captain Michael Browning, another native of Londonderry, was the master of the Mountjoy, “the dancey ship” which tradition claims “broke the boom” and saved the city.

While a separate side chamber in the museum has been set aside as a room of reflection. It includes a book with the names of the 42 members of the Apprentice Boys who were killed during the Troubles.

Mr Moore said he has taken tours of community groups and schools from Republican and Catholic areas as well as Protestants around the museum.

“I never expect people to always agree, but hopefully they go away from the experience with a better understanding of who we are and what we do.

“If you have a better understand you have more tolerance”.

*The museum is free to tour and is open to the public during the summer months, and also available for group bookings all year round.