Account of Rev. John MacKenzie

The account of Reverend John MacKenzie. [1]

MacKenzie Update

The details of John MacKenzie’s early life prior to the siege of Derry is uncertain.  He was born around 1646 or 1647, possibly at the family farm at Lowcross, near Cookstown, Co. Tyrone.  Little  is known about his upbringing or early years but details of his education are more certain.  MacKenzie obtained an MA from Edinburgh University in 1669.  He soon gained a licence to preach in the Down presbytery and was ordained as minister of Derryloran congregation in Cookstown, Co. Tyrone, in 1673.  Like many other Protestants he took refuge inside the walls of Londonderry in 1688 and was one of eight Presbyterian ministers who preached throughout the siege.  He was asked by George Walker to be chaplain to his regiment which was largely Presbyterian.  Joseph Aickin, author of the 1699 poem Londerias, held MacKenzie in high regard, attributing his ministry as having played a key role in achieving Godly unity amongst the inhabitants of the city.

The Church and Kirk did jointly preach & pray,
In St. Columba’s Church most lovingly:
Where Doctor Walker, to their great content,
Preach’d stoutly ‘gainst a Popish government.
Master Mackenzie preach’d on the same theme,
And taught the army to fear God’s great name.

The Rev’rend Ruit did confirm us still,
Preaching submission to God’s holy will.
He likewise prophesied our relief,
When it surpassed all humane belief.
The same was taught by the learn’d Mr Crooks,
And Master Hamilton shew’d it from his books.
Then Mills, a Ruling Elder, spoke the same,
Of our relief, six weeks before it came!

From sun-rising to sun-setting they taught,
Whilst we against the En’my bravely fought.
Thus Heaven assists those actions which proceed
From unity, in greatest time of need.

However in the aftermath of the siege this apparent unity soon dissolved.  MacKenzie was particularly enraged by George Walker’s published ‘A True Account of the Siege of Londonderry’ which essentially ignored the role played by Presbyterians during the siege.  A Presbyterian synod held in Belfast on 5 November 1689  decided to send a deputation to London to provide an alternative version of events than that offered by Walker. Without waiting for the synod’s sanction, MacKenzie set out for England.  There he collected documents and canvassed support from officers who had served during the siege which backed his version of events that he subsequently published under the title ‘Narrative of the siege of Londonderry, or the late memorable transactions of that city faithfully represented to rectify the mistakes and supply the omissions of Mr Walker’s account’.  MacKenzie complained that Walker’s account contained ‘several mistakes’, and that ‘many passages entirely omitted that were of great importance to set those Affairs in their true and native light’.  On the other hand MacKenzie thought that his account could be considered a fair and just narrative as he was ‘so far from being conscious to my selfe of being bypass’d by any affection to a Party’.  He was outraged at Walker’s attempts to attribute the success of the defenders to be a victory for the Anglican Church.  He wrote, ‘How disingenuous, as well as foolish, have been the attempts of some been, to engross the honour of those Actions to a Party.  Especially when this was done with so gross partiality, so to monopolize it to that party’.  He noted that Presbyterian defenders outnumbered Episcopalians by fifteen-to-one and deserved praise and thanks for their efforts, arguing that ‘Tis not very easie to find a parallel Instance in History where so great Issues depended on the Defence or Surrender of some small a place’.  MacKenzie believed that if Derry had surrendered, Ireland would have been lost and James would have gone on to invade Scotland and maybe even reclaim his throne.  Therefore he emphasised the role of Presbyterian clergy and gentry in resisting the Jacobite advances on the city.  MacKenzie also painted a local Presbyterian, Colonel Adam Murray from Ling, near Claudy as the heroic figurehead of resistance in the city.  Indeed MacKenzie accounted Walker’s role to be little other than a glorified storekeeper who had traitorously treated with the Jacobites and embezzled supplies in the stores for his own benefit.  MacKenzie’s stinging attack led an anonymous writer, thought to be John Vesey, archbishop of Tuam, to publish a defence of Walker in 1690 entitled ‘Mr John Mackenzyes narrative of the siege of London-Derry a false libel: in defence of Dr George Walker’.  In a subsequent publication entitled ‘Dr Walker’s invisible champion foyl’d, or, An appendix to the late narrative of the siege of Derry (1690)’, MacKenzie lamented that Walker’s reputation had,

sunk so low, that his friend who undertakes his defence, dare not publish his name.  For since he dare not, and yet makes so bold with other mens reputations, he looks much more like a libeller than one who owning what he writes renders himself accountable to the Publicke for the truth of it.

MacKenzie continued his assault on Walker’s egotistical and self-aggrandising account, reiterating that Walker was Governor only of the city’s stores, a trust he betrayed by embezzling goods for his own benefit.   In terms of his military service MacKenzie stated that Walker ‘understood his post in the stores too well to expose his person in the sallyes’, and that ‘for as to the enemy, he was a man of peace all the time and was guilty of shedding no other blood to stain his coat with, but that of the grape’.

After the siege Mackenzie continued in vain to protect the Presbyterian interest in Ulster, visiting London in 1694 to seek assurances directly from the King that the episcopal hierarchy would be stopped from their continued prosecution of Presbyterians in the diocesan courts.  He died two years later in 1696 and was buried in Derryloran churchyard.  It is not known if he was married.


Narrative of the siege of Londonderry, or the late memorable transactions of that city faithfully represented to rectify the mistakes and supply the omissions of Mr Walker’s account.

For all the difference in their accounts and interpretations on ultimate glory, Walker and MacKenzie largely agreed in their interpretation of Lieutenant Colonel Robert Lundy.  MacKenzie attributed the main reasons of the ‘ill success’ of the defenders of the garrison in the early weeks of the war to be ascribed to ‘their too great confidence in Collonel Lundy’s Promises and Conduct, and their early expectations of Relief from England’.  He stated that his recollection of Lundy’s conduct was,

no more than what was necessary to vindicate the Forces at Clady from the imputation of Cowardice, with which he endeavour’d to palliate his own Conduct, to give the true Reason why the chief Officers left the place, and to justifie the Multitude in casting off his Authority when they saw him resolv’d on giving up the Town to King James.

Like other accounts, MacKenzie began his narrative with the political background to the entry of Mountjoy’s regiments into the city.  He emphasised the role played by Presbyterians in opposing the arbitrary, popish rule of the earl of Tyrconnell.  He noted that when a copy of the Comber letter arrived in Londonderry, Alderman Tomkins consulted with Mr Gordon, a non-conformist minister, who advised him to speedily shut the gates.  Gordon also wrote to neighbouring parishes, urging them to place themselves in a defensive posture to assist the city should it come under attack.  MacKenzie noted in contrast that Ezekiel Hopkins, Anglican Bishop of Derry, sought to dissuade the inhabitants from any disobedience against Tyrconnell in preventing the earl of Antrim’s Redshanks from entering the city.  Instead it fell to thirteen apprentices, some of whom were Presbyterian and refused to blindly follow episcopal authority, to shut the gates in the face of Irish Catholic military aggression.

MacKenzie’s Narrative of the siege of Londonderry was loathed to give Lundy any credit in the defence of the city.  MacKenzie stated that Mountjoy rather than Lundy advised the hastily raised regiments inside the walls to mend the carriages of the guns, fix the old arms in the city stores and repair the walls.  Likewise McKenzie gave Lundy no credit for raising voluntary contributions for improving the city’s defences during a meeting of the Common Council on 24th December 1688.  Instead he praised Viscount Massereene, Aldermen Samuel Norman, Alexander Lecky and Matthew Cocken, Sherriff Horace Kennedy, Francis Neville, Frederick Cunningham, James Lennox and the city burgess, John Mogridge.  MacKenzie stated that it was this Committee which had responsibility for the defence and safety of the city rather than Lundy.  They corresponded with local gentry to raise additional levies that helped buttress the city’s defences.  He also praised the Committee for sending the merchant James Hamilton to Scotland to purchases arms, ammunition and powder, and for sending a ship to Strangford to recover barrels of powder from a ship that had run aground.  MacKenzie’s Narrative further highlighted that Presbyterian ministers in Ulster were the first to send their congratulations in an address dated 8th December 1688 to William after his landing in England.

Even at an early stage of his time in the Londonderry garrison, there proved to be dissatisfaction in relation to Lundy’s management of the city’s defence.  MacKenzie noted that Lundy ‘had against the mind of the Committee for the City, chose Mr Norman, Lieutenant Collonel, and one Hill Major to his regiment’.  Even worse Lundy ‘soon after discharged the City Companies from keeping their Guards and refused ‘em ammunition’.  MacKenzie noted that many of the soldiers of the city companies complained vociferously, causing Lundy to somewhat relent.  He instead permitted one officer from the city companies to the guard, thereby bringing them under the command of his own officers.  MacKenzie noted that ‘these things disgusted the City, but they thought it not a fit time to Contend about ‘em’.

MacKenzie’s Narrative also lamented the lack of support Lundy provided for other Protestant held garrisons in Ulster which only weakened their cause against the Jacobite forces.  He noted that when the earl of Mount Alexander wrote to him in early February 1689 asking for assistance, Lundy declined to send his entire army but promised an expeditionary force, field guns and ammunition.  MacKenzie noted that Lundy ‘failed their expectations in this, as he did in every thing else afterwards, that concerned their common safety’.  He also noted how in Lundy’s haste to give the order to abandon Dungannon in March 1689, the retreating Protestant regiments were forced to leave behind a considerable amount of provisions which only provided succour to the Irish.  MacKenzie lambasted him for ordering Lord Kingston to abandon Sligo on 18th or 19th of  March 1689 just as work had been completed on a stone fort and other fortifications, paid for by the soldiers and officers of the garrison.  Like Dungannon, Sligo had a great deal of provisions in their stores, and when Kingston led his men from the town on 21st of  March towards Ballyshannon he was forced to destroy all the provisions he could not carry.  Some arms, cannons and field guns he had sent to Londonderry by boat ended up being lost after the ship ran aground and sank.  Borrowing liberally from the diary of Sir Arthur Rawdon, MacKenzie also recounted that when Lundy visited Coleraine in early March 1689, the ‘commonalty at Colerain suspected Collonel Lundy’ and drew up the bridge to prevent his return to Londonderry after he argued he did not have any supplies or ammunition to spare them and recommended they abandon the garrison.

Suspicions about Lundy’s loyalty were hardly assuaged when he refused to publicly take an oath of allegiance to William and Mary.  MacKenzie again quoted Sir Arthur Rawdon’s diary which noted that when Captain James Hamilton arrived aboard The Jersey on 21st of March, Lundy may well have taken the oath privately aboard The Deliverance, but no officer from inside the garrison witnessed him do so.  When asked by the Committee for the safety of Londonderry to do so in their presence he ‘absolutely refused it on pretence of having taken ‘em on board the day before’.

Lundy’s negativity severely weakened the garrison’s ability to withstand any potential attack.  When refugees and retreating soldiers arrived at Londonderry after defeats at Coleraine and Portglenone, Lundy is said to have offered them passes to go overseas and spoke,

so discouragingly to many of them, concerning the indefensibleness of the place that they strongly suspected he had a design to give it up: and they could see little hope of preventing it, in such a confusion if he proved Treacherous, and therefore were unwilling to stay, only to be betrayed into the Enemies hands.

When he heard from David Cairnes that supplies and reinforcements from England were forthcoming, Lundy earnestly sought to prevent any more officers from leaving the garrison.  Nonetheless many of the common soldiers murmured their discontent.  They desired to march out of the city and meet the Jacobites in battle and longed for someone to lead them aggressively into the field.

The soldiers got their wish on 13th of April when Lundy ordered that a proclamation be executed by the beat of the drum, calling on all adult males who could bear arms to rendezvous between the Long Causeway and Lifford by 10 a.m on the 15th of April.  However MacKenzie noted that Lundy’s carelessness ultimately lead to their defeat.  Prior to leaving Londonderry David Cairnes warned him that he needed to do more to fortify the bridges across the river Finn, a suggestion which Lundy contemptuously ignored, arguing that he had already given out his orders and he saw no reason to change them.  Many other officers interceded with the Governor, pleading with him to act more expeditiously to surprise Hamilton’s Jacobite force.  Lundy ignored these suggestions.

The defeat at Clady ford was a disaster for the Protestant defenders.  When he saw the Irish forces break through his line and enter the river, Lundy panicked and barked orders to those around him to retreat, with the Governor himself leading the sorry flight.  In his haste he forgot to issue the order to other sections of his force who continued to fight bravely on, despite running out of ammunition.  MacKenzie noted that had Lundy showed any leadership and had any stomach for resistance he would have known that the Irish who crossed the river would have been vulnerable to a counter-attack given that their powder was wet, making their firearms essentially useless.  MacKenzie’s Narrative concluded on the Clady debacle that,

So inexcusable was the Conduct of the General, both in abandoning so many Passes, and those so easily defensible by a few men, if they had been either supplied with Ammunition, or constantly reliev’d, and in never so much as attempting to draw the Forces into a Body, when there were in the Field above 10000 men, who (whatever he pretended to the contrary) wanted more care and resolution in their Leader than Courage in themselves.

On his return to Londonderry, Lundy commanded the gates be shut behind him.  His rationale was that an influx of soldiers and refugees after the defeat at Clady ford would put unwarranted pressure upon their meager provisions.  At this point he claimed to only have enough for a force of 3,000 men for three months at a rate of four pounds of fish, three pounds of flesh and eight quarts of meal per week for each man. This was a very different figure than the one he presented to the Council of War on 16th of April.

Attended by Colonels Cunningham and Richards, Lieutenant Colonel Hussey, Major Tiffin and Captain Cornwall from the English reinforcements who had arrived on the 15th of April and now anchored in the Foyle, Lundy claimed he had but enough for 3,000 men for ten days.  MacKenzie noted that local commanders, Colonels Hamilton, Crofton and Chichester alongside Lieutenant Colonel Posenby tried to gain access to the Council of War but were refused.  Assuming that as Governor,  Lundy would be in full possession of the facts and the conditions inside the garrison, the Council, except for Colonel Richards, agreed that the city was indefensible, that they should sue for peace and that the reinforcements should transport themselves back to England.  Richards argued vehemently that to quit the town would be to quit the kingdom and that the safety of William’s kingdoms rested on this one small pocket of resistance.  His plea fell on deaf ears.  Lundy went about his business, attempting to fool the inhabitants and soldiers that the English reinforcements were not transporting themselves away from the garrison, leaving them to their fate.  In order to fool the city he had the sheriffs start seeking quarters for the phantom reinforcements.  MacKenzie stated that ‘all this was meer sham to amuse the town’ and was a means of allowing the Colonels to leave with greater ease.  When some officers, such as Colonel Francis Hamilton and Captain Hugh MacGill uncovered this ruse, they believed Lundy had betrayed the city and they quit the kingdom, transporting themselves to Britain.

Rumours spread around the city that Lundy intended to sue for peace with the Jacobites and leave them to their fate.  When John Mogridge, the city burgess, could no longer abide his silence on what had been agreed at the Council of War, Lundy lost all credit and authority in the city.

Enter Captain Adam Murray.  Prior to the escalation of the conflict in Ireland he lived in nearby Ling, a few miles from Londonderry.  He had enlisted in Colonel Stewart’s regiments and served in the fiasco at Clady ford with distinction, battling against the Jacobites until his ammunition had run out.  Being locked out of the city after Lundy’s retreat, Murray formed his own malcontented unit which sought to be a thorn in Richard Hamilton’s side and resolved to ‘sell their lives dear, rather than fall into the hands of an Enemy from whom they expected no Mercy’.  With Lundy’s authority eroded every passing hour, Murray left Culmore Fort on 18th of April bound for Pennyburn Mill with a considerable number of horse and foot, well within sight of the city’s walls.  The appearance of Murray inspired the men on Derry’s walls as they watched a Jacobite party approach.  The defenders refused to honour Lundy’s ‘secret treaties’ and when James II himself appeared before the walls of the garrison, they fired on the monarch.  MacKenzie accounted Lundy and his Council to be ‘only Sollicitors to make the best Terms they cou’d for themselves’.  He also argued that Lundy petulantly referred to the inhabitants of the city as a rabble because he lacked the leadership qualities to earn their respect and they cast off his authority which they believed would lead them down a road to subjection to a popish monarch.  They survived without the leadership of anyone of considerable military experience to lead them, so it fell to individuals like Adam Murray to inspire their resistance.  Murray galvanized the defenders against ‘Treacherous friends within’ and a ‘powerfull Enemy without the Gates’.

Lundy sent a messenger, a relation of Murray’s, to parlay with the young Captain and to persuade him to withdraw out of sight of the walls. Puzzled at the instruction, the messenger provided an explanation.  He informed Captain Murray that Lundy and the Council were about to surrender the city and that sight of Murray may undermine the negotiations.  Murray marched straight to the city, arriving at Ship Quay Gate where Rev George Walker sought to persuade him to be taken over the walls by a rope, a suggestion ‘which he refused with disdain’.  However his presence in the city, after being let in by James Morrison, captain of the guards, ‘struck a Cold Damp on the Governor and his Council, but Inspir’d the men on the walls with Vigour and Resolution’.  The giddy multitude followed him through the streets as he made his way to meet Lundy face-to-face, promising them that they would protect their lives and the Protestant interest and put an end to the Governor’s schemes.  He asked all those who agreed with him to put a white cloth around their left arm which a large number did almost immediately as a sign of solidarity.

When they met; Murray declared Lundy to be ‘either a Fool or Knave’, noting his ‘gross neglect’ at Clady, Lifford and the Long Causeway.  In contrast he praised the conduct of the defenders, noting his revulsion towards Lundy for branding them cowards.  After being bidden by the Governor to sign surrender papers, Murray replied that he would do no such thing unless it was signed by a full Council of Officers, which of course was impossible as so many had been driven from the city in despair due to Lundy’s lack of leadership.  Murray stated that he would stay in the city and prevent Lundy from carrying out his course, ‘to which he was the more encouraged by the entire interest he had in the affections of the common soldiers, whom he knew to be generally as averse to a Surrender, and as resolve for defending the City as himself’.  Nonetheless the Council pressed ahead, with Lundy even inviting the Presbyterian clergy to attend them in order to garner their support for a negotiated peace and to attempt to control Murray and his supporters.  The ministers refused to appear, much to the jubilation of the multitude.  Murray then went with a small party to Captain Wigston who commanded the guard, taking the keys to the gates and appointing his own watch, renewing their all too public threat towards the Governor and the Council if they dared to continue to seek a negotiated surrender to James II.

In a rather anti-climatic recollection, MacKenzie noted that ‘after that time Collonel Lundy kept his Chamber till he stole away, and few of his Council durst for a while appear in the streets, for fear of the armed multitude’.  MacKenzie lauded Murray as a true Protestant hero and that his leadership and influence were the only thing that prevented surrender to the deposed Stuart monarch.  As for Murray’s supporters MacKenzie derided Lundy for referring to them as nothing more than a rabble, countering that ‘they were generally men as Eminent for their great Probity, as for their Courage, acted with a hearty zeal to the Protestant Religion, and animated with the hopes of seeing it ere long flourish in that Kingdom, under the happy Government of King William and Queen Mary’.  MacKenzie’s account of Lundy’s escape in which he alleged Lundy bribed a sentry before going to Richard Hamilton’s camp at Brookhall, is a suitably ignominious end for a traitorous Governor he firmly believed sought to surrender Londonderry and their brave inhabitants to a popish and arbitrary king.

[1] John MacKenzie, Narrative of the siege of Londonderry, or the late memorable transactions of that city faithfully represented to rectify the mistakes and supply the omissions of Mr Walker’s account (London, 1690).