It is generally held that Henry Campsie, the son of the last Protestant mayor of Derry, was the first man to shed his blood in defence of Londonderry. He is credited with being the inspiration behind the shutting of the gates on December 7, 1688, and was severely wounded “by one Linegar, a reputed Papist”, while leading his associates to secure the city magazine and armoury.
When William of Orange landed at Brixham in England, in November 1688, James II fled to France. However, Richard Talbot, Earl of Tyrconnel, James’s Irish viceroy, demonstrating greater resolution than his Royal master, was determined to strengthen his grip in Ireland by occupying those places likely to declare for William of Orange and the Protestant cause.
With respect to Londonderry, Tyrconnel ordered the withdrawal of the Earl of Mountjoy’s predominantly Protestant regiment which formed the city’s garrison and its replacement with a Roman Catholic regiment. On December 7, 1688 thirteen Apprentice boys closed the gates of Londonderry against Lord Antrim’s regiment (of Redshanks). There were fears throughout Ulster that Protestants were about to be massacred in a repetition of the 1641 rebellion. These fears were prompted by widespread circulation of the so-called Comber Letter which warned Protestants that the Gaelic Irish would rise on December 9 and start a general massacre. Tyrconnel’s proclamation, issued on December 8, promising protection to loyal subjects and denouncing reports of impending massacres, offered only scant reassurance, not least because Tyrconnel was almost universally known as “Lying Dick Talbot”.
The Earl of Clarendon, the Lord Lieutenant whose authority Tyrconnel had systematically undermined, was unflattering about James’s viceroy, describing him as “wonderfully false he is in almost everything he does”.
Thus, it is not surprising that little credence was attached to Tyrconnel’s promise of protection.
The shutting of the gates did not mark the beginning of the siege proper but the actions of the thirteen Apprentice boys made the great siege possible. What was uppermost in the minds of the Apprentice boys remains unclear: did they act out of fear of massacre or was it a declaration of allegiance to William? It may not have been the latter but it was an overt act of rebellion against royal authority. Ezekiel Hopkins, the Church of Ireland bishop of Derry, subscribing to the traditional Anglican doctrine of non-resistance to Lord’s anointed, solemnly lectured the city’s population that resistance to James II and the closing of the gates were sinful acts of disobedience, but this was not much heeded.
The Campsie Club is the youngest of the eight Parent Clubs of the Apprentice Boys of Derry, having been reformed and presented with a New Charter on the 23 January 1950. A Club with this name had been in existence almost a century earlier but ceased to operate in 1869.
A local man from Ling, about nine miles from Londonderry, Murray is famous for his dramatic entry into Londonderry when Lundy was preparing the beleaguered citizens for surrender. The cry of ”No Surrender”, long regarded as the war cry of our community, is often attributed to Murray. He refused the Governorship of Londonderry after Lundy’s flight, but did accept command of the forces in the field. He was involved in all of the garrison’s battles outside of the Walls, especially the two Battles of Pennyburn.
In December 1688 or the early part of 1689 Murray raised a troop of thirty horseman from among his neighbours. In the days immediately before the beginning of siege Murray and his neighbours formed part of the force dispatched by Lundy to Clady on the banks of the River Finn, to repel the Jacobite advance on Londonderry. Murray’s men acquitted themselves well at Cladyford and held out against very strong odds until forced to withdraw through lack of ammunition.
Murray returned to Londonderry at about the same time as James II was approaching the city on April 18 and was ordered in a dispatch from by Lundy to take his cavalry to Cloughglass.
On learning from the messenger that surrender terms were being negotiated, Murray defied his orders and headed for the city at breakneck speed. After a brief skirmish with Jacobite dragoons he entered the city via the Shipquay gate and gate crashed the meeting of the council of war, accusing Lundy and others of treachery. He then addressed the soldiers and the populace, urging defiance. By his action Murray caused those seeking terms to leave the city and also played a major role in provoking Lundy’s decision to quit. Murray was offered the governorship but declined saying that he preferred to be a soldier in the field.
The governorship was offered jointly to Henry Baker and the Revd George Walker. These events mark the real beginning of the siege. If Lundy had have stayed there would not have been a siege. Yet ironically without Lundy’s endeavours in the early months of 1689 the city would not have been able to withstand a siege.
Murray was appointed Colonel of Horse and the commander of the Williamite cavalry during the siege.
On April 21 hostilities began. Jacobite artillery pounded the city, causing damage to a number of buildings, including the Town House in the Diamond. At noon Adam Murray led a force of 300 cavalry and a significant detachment of infantry in a daring raid on the Jacobite camp at Pennyburn.
The Marquis de Maumont, a French general and the commander-in-chief of the Jacobite forces at Londonderry, was killed in this engagement. Legend has him killed in a hand-to-hand fight with Murray, comparable to the struggle between Achilles and Hector in Homer’s Illiad.
Murray is buried along side John Mitchelburne at Old Glendermott, where an annual memorial service is held in September.
Major Henry Baker was Governor of Derry from April 19, 1689 until his death on June 30, 1689, succeeding Lundy. He was a brave solder but died of a fever, designating Colonel Mitchelburne as his successor. He is buried in St Columb’s Cathedral, Londonderry.
Of English descent, Baker’s family had acquired estates in Co Louth at the beginning of the 17th century. During the reign of Charles II Baker had been a lieutenant in the Irish army. As a Protestant, he was one of the victims of Tyrconnell’s purge of Protestant officers in the early days of the reign of James II. Deprived of his position in the army he returned to his family estates.
After the Glorious Revolution he and his family went to England where he swore allegiance to William III and was promoted to the rank of Major and returned to Ireland. On February 21, 1689, commanding four ill-equipped companies of foot, Baker mounted an unsuccessful raid on the Jacobite stronghold of Carrickfergus.
On March 14 Baker was one of those who sought to halt the Jacobite advance into Ulster at Dromore, Co Down. Richard Hamilton, the Jacobite commander, had little difficulty in routing Mountalexander’s forces. The Protestants seriously mismanaged matters: the pick of the cavalry did not arrive in time and the foot, in danger of being surrounded by Hamilton’s cavalry, fled. This engagement is usually referred to as “the break of Dromore”.
Baker arrived in Londonderry in the midst of the leadership crisis caused by Lundy’s conduct and Adam Murray’s mobilisation of popular hostility to Lundy. Baker unexpectedly found himself elected joint governor with Rev George Walker, a position which he held throughout the worst fighting.
During the siege Baker’s relationship with Mitchelburne became so strained that they came to blows on May 15. The ostensible cause of their quarrel was the tobacco ration. Baker wounded Mitchelburne in the leg, had him arrested and had him confined to his quarters.
In early June Baker fell ill. By June 21 he was confined to bed in the Bishop’s Palace. Despite their quarrel, Baker appointed Mitchelburne his deputy. However Baker stayed up directing his men throughout the night of June 28 when Lord Clancarty mounted a daring and vigorous attack on Butcher’s Gate. Weak from his exertions Baker died two days later.
Mitchelburne described Baker as “our noble brave Governor” and said that his fidelity, courage and bravery should never be forgotten. Mitchelburne, Walker and four others acted as his pallbearers.
The original Baker Club was formed in memory of Major Henry Baker. On March 2, 1927 twelve members of the Apprentice Boys of Derry met in the Memorial Hall and revived the Baker Club which had ceased to exist.
Rev Dr George Walker, the Rector of Donaghmore, Co Tyrone, was Governor of Londonderry from April 19, 1689 to the end of the siege. His True Account of the Siege of Londonderry and his Vindication of the Account of the Siege are important accounts of the Great Siege. The Walker Club of the Apprentice Boys of Derry was formed in 1844 in Londonderry to perpetuate the memory of this great clergyman and soldier.
Rev Walker’s parents had settled in Ireland but had fled in the aftermath of the 1641 rebellion. Walker was probably born around 1645 and brought up in Yorkshire. The Walkers returned to Ireland some time after the Restoration in 1660. Walker was educated at Trinity College, Dublin, and became a Church of Ireland clergyman.
In 1674 he became Rector of Donaghmore in Co Tyrone and the Diocese of Armagh. The parish was in poor shape after the traumatic events of the mid-17th century. In 1683 Walker built a rectory. The following year he was responsible for the construction of a mill in the village.
At the beginning of 1689 he rallied the Protestant population of his locality and raised a body of men for the defence of Dungannon. On March 14 Walker received orders from Robert Lundy, the acting governor of Londonderry, instructing him to abandon Dungannon. On March 17 Walker marched with his men to Strabane, and subsequently was ordered by Lundy to move to St Johnston, in east Donegal and five miles from Londonderry. On April 13 Walker rode hastily to Londonderry to advise Lundy of the approach of the Jacobites but was unable to convince Lundy of the danger. Walker returned to his men at Lifford, where on the April 14 he participated in a skirmish with the enemy. He then followed the retreat of the army to Londonderry. The city was in great confusion when Walker arrived. He found the gates shut against him and his regiment, and was forced to pass the night outside, and only entered the next day “with much difficulty and some violence upon the sentry”. On gaining access to the city he urged Lundy to take the field and refused to disband his own soldiers. On the April 17 Lundy determined to give up the town to James, and called a council from which Walker and others were especially excluded. There is no need to rehearse the events of the April 18 and on April 19 Walker and Baker were chosen joint-governors.
It was Walker and Mitchelburne who welcomed Major General Kirke into the city and inaugurated the joyous celebrations which accompanied the relief of the city.
After the siege Walker was appointed to convey a Royal address to William III, signed by 145 officers, clergymen and other gentlemen of Londonderry. Walker was brought to Hampton Court to be presented to William III who drank his health and gave him £5,000.
In November Walker petitioned the House of Commons on behalf of Londonderry’s 2,000 widows and orphans. He was invited to appear before the bar of the House of the Commons. The Speaker informed him that £10,000 had been voted for their relief. The Speaker also informed that note had been taken of “the extraordinary service you have done to their Majesties and to England and Ireland”.
Walker was also present at the battle on July 1, 1690, and was shot at the passage of the Boyne while he was going to the aid of the wounded Schomberg, and died almost immediately.
In 1826 Walker was immortalised in a statue placed on top of a column of Portland stone, 81 feet high with a Bible in his right hand and his left supposedly pointing to the broken boom and approach of the relief ships, which was placed on Royal Bastion. The Walker Memorial Pillar was traditionally the scene for the annual burning of Lundy on the 18 December until it was destroyed by a terrorist bomb in 1973.
John Mitchelburne Colonel John Mitchelburne was Governor of Londonderry from June 30, 1689 until the end of the siege. When Major Baker died, Mitchelburne succeeded him as Governor.
Mitchelburne gave expression to the defiance of the Londonderry’s defenders by planting a crimson banner on one of the city’s bastions in full sight of the enemy. Mitchelburne’s “bloody flag” occupies a place of honour in unionist folklore and tradition.
John Mitchelburne was born on January 2, 1648, and probably joined the army in the late 1660s, initially serving in the ranks. In 1678 he purchased a lieutenant’s commission. He served in Lord Mountjoy’s regiment under Colonel Lundy and was stationed at Londonderry, Kinsale and Dublin.
In February 1689 he received a commission from William III and was involved in several military engagements in Ulster. By April 1689 he was in Londonderry where Major Baker gave him command of Colonel Clotworthy Skeffington’s regiment in which he had served since February.
In May he quarreled with Baker but acted as a pall bearer at Baker’s funeral. He served as military governor until the end of the siege when Major General Kirk made him sole governor. He was also given a second regiment by Kirk which he amalgamated with his existing regiment. This regiment served at the Boyne and the first siege of Limerick.
In 1691 Mitchelburne commanded the Williamite force sieging Sligo but was removed for quarrelling with Hugh Balderg O’Donnell, whose assistance was of dubious value. Sligo surrendered to the Earl of Granard in September 1691. Mitchelburne was made temporary governor of the city.
Mitchelburne was in Londonderry in the 1690s and was elected an Alderman for life. During this period he produced three publications: An Account of the Transactions in the North of Ireland, anno Domini 1691, The Case of the Colonel John Mitchelburne, Late Governor of Derry and The case of the governor, officers and soldiers actually concerned in the defence of Londonderry in the Kingdom of Ireland. The latter two publications formed part of Mitchelburne’s campaign to secure arrears in pay for his regiment. Unlike George Walker, Mitchelburne inexplicably received no reward for his role in the siege. The third pamphlet resulted in his temporary dismissal as an Alderman.
Despite a 25-year campaign the officers and men of the garrison were never paid. It was calculated that they were owed £195,091 in wages and another £138,349 for the purchase of arms and property damaged by the enemy.
Mitchelburne spent the remainder of his life in Londonderry. In 1709 on one of his visits to London he was imprisoned for debt in the Fleet, which prompted the production of The Danger and Folly of Being Public-Spirited.
The Apprentice Boys Association and its celebrations owe much to Mitchelburne who organised siege commemorations until his death. In 1692 Mitchelburne organised the first commemoration service and on that occasion placed captured French flags in the Cathedral. In 1713 he placed a memorial inscription at the east window of the cathedral. The following year he founded the first Apprentice Boys club.
Mitchelburne died on October 1, 1721. In accordance with his own wishes, Mitchelburne was buried along side his comrade Adam Murray in Glendermott Old Churchyard. He left £50 in his will for the purpose of maintaining a crimson flag on the steeple.
Mitchelburne was the first individual Defender of Londonderry after whom a Club was named to commemorate the defence and relief of Londonderry. A representative body of citizens met at his tomb to pay tribute to his memory.