Siege of Derry

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

Cannon on the Walls of Derry
Date18 April – 28 July 1689
LocationDerry, 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), was the first major event in the Williamite War in Ireland. While the gates of the old walled city were initially closed in December 1688, the siege didn't begin in earnest until April the following year. The siege lasted nearly three and a half months, ending on 30 July 1689 when relief ships bringing an English army sailed down Lough Foyle. The siege is commemorated yearly in August by the Apprentice Boys of Derry.


The "Glorious Revolution" of 1688 was a relatively bloodless revolution in which James II (King of England, Ireland and Scotland), a Roman Catholic convert, was ousted from power by Parliament, who then offered the English throne to his Protestant daughter Mary and her husband William of Orange. In Scotland, the privy council asked William to assume responsibility for the government in January 1689, and he and Mary were formally offered the Scottish throne in March. The situation was different in Ireland where most of the population were Catholics, and James had given them some real concessions during his reign. James had appointed an Irish Catholic, (Richard Talbot), to the position of Lord Deputy of Ireland, he re-admitted Catholics into the Irish Parliament and public office, and he replaced Protestant officers with Roman Catholic officers in the army. Irish Catholics were hoping that James would re-grant them lands, which had been seized from them 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 and these became the focal point of the first stage in the Williamite war in Ireland. The elderly Alexander MacDonnell, 3rd Earl of Antrim, a Jacobite, was ordered to replace these two garrisons with forces loyal to King James. 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

In April 1689 reinforcements from England arrived under the command of Colonel Cunningham, who was a native of the city. He was under instructions to take his orders from the Derry City Governor, Lieutenant Colonel Robert Lundy. Lundy advised Colonel Cunningham to leave as arrangements had been made for the city to be surrendered.[1] 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".[2]

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".[3] 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.

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 across the River Foyle at Culmore.

The Breaking of the Boom and the Relief of the City

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, and the ships moved in, unloading many tons of food to relieve the siege.[4]

The city had endured 105 days of siege during which some 8000 Protestants of a population of 30,000 were said to have died.


The 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


  1. Stafford, Bob (28 January 2009). "h2g2 - The 1689 Siege Of Derry". Retrieved 9 February 2014.
  2. "Baker Club jewel". Londonderry Sentinel. 13 January 2011. Retrieved 2 August 2014.
  3. The Gentleman's Magazine, Volume 96 - Siege of Londonderry in 1688, John Nichols and Son, London 1826 (p. 606)
  4. Graham, Rev John A History of the Siege of Londonderry Maclear & Co, Toronto 1869. P.124

External links

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