The Account of George Walker

A true account of the siege of Londonderry, by Reverend George Walker. [1]

The Account of George Walker - The many faces of Rev George Walker

The many faces of Rev George Walker against the backdrop of St Columb’s Cathedral, Londonderry.

 

George Walker was born sometime between 1643 and 1648, probably at Wighill, near Kirk Deighton, Yorkshire.  Both his father and grandfather were clergymen in Ireland.  Little is known about his grandfather, Rev. Gervase Walker, except that he probably came to Ireland from his parish in Ruddington, Nottinghamshire during the reign of James I in the early seventeenth century.  His father, also named George, succeeded Gervase Walker as rector of Badoney, Co. Tyrone in 1630 and Cappagh, Co. Londonderry in 1636.  On the outbreak of the 1641 Rising George Snr fled to Yorkshire.  He married Ursula Stanhope in 1642, producing three sons and two daughters.  In 1660 George Snr returned to Ireland and was restored to his former congregations.  In 1662 he became rector at Donoughmore, Co. Donegal in 1662 and chancellor of the diocese of Armagh two years later in 1664.

His eldest son George probably matriculated from Trinity College Dublin in 1662, before later becoming rector of Lissan and Desertlyn, Co. Londonderry, in 1669.  He had married Isabella Barclay in 1668, who was either the daughter of his predecessor or of the Rev. Robert Barclay, dean of Clogher.  George Walker succeeded his father on his death in 1677 as rector of Donoughmore.

The details contained in this evidential file outline his account of his activities in Ulster during the time of Lundy’s governorship, though it should be recognised that his remembrances of the siege cover until after the eventual relief of the city.  After Lundy’s flight from the garrison, Walker claimed that he was named joint Governor alongside Major Henry Baker.  On Baker’s death on the 30th of June 1689 Walker then shared the position with Colonel John Mitchelburne, the author of Ireland Preserv’d.  Walker remained in his lofty position until several days after the relief of the city on the 31st of July 1689 when Mitchelburne took sole control of military affairs on the 3rd of August 1689.  Walker left Londonderry on the 9th of August 1689, charged with carrying an address to London from the city’s loyal subjects to William & Mary.  He made his trip through Scotland and northern England, collecting honours in Glasgow, Edinburgh, Chester, Oxford and Cambridge along his triumphal route.  The Honourable The Irish Society sent a deputation to meet him on the 20th of August before he reached the capital and it was due to Walker’s intercession that they voted to raise 1,200l to help with the immediate relief of the homeless inside the city walls.  After presenting William & Mary with the Londonderry address, the grateful monarchs granted him a sizeable reward of 5,000l for his efforts in leading the citizens of Londonderry to resist James II.  Walker even had his image painted by the court artist Sir Godfrey Kneller.  William III led popular support for his appointment as Bishop of Derry.  Walker’s cousin John Vesey, Archbishop of Tuam took up the cause with some vigour and applied pressure on Ezekiel Hopkins to resign his post, though the incumbent ultimately refused.

While in London Walker drafted and published his account of the siege entitled A true account of the siege of Londonderry.  His remembrances of conditions inside the city walls and his claims regarding the leadership he provided to the inhabitants only further entrenched him as somewhat of a celebrity figure in England.  Second and third editions were speedily printed to keep up with the public’s insatiable demand for his memoir, with German and Dutch versions also printed in Hamburg and Antwerp.  His account of the starvation and deprivation suffered by inhabitants inside the walls has become a central element of the history and mythology of the siege itself.  In particular his price list of foodstuffs provides a stark indication of the desperate condition facing the defenders.  A quarter of dog ‘fattened by the bodies of the slain Irish’ cost 5s-6d, with just the head costing 2s-6d.  Cats were almost as expensive at 4s-6d.  Even vermin fetched a high price with a rat costing 1s-0d and mice 6d each.  One unnamed overweight gentleman noted the hungry eyes of his fellow inhabitants upon him and he hid for three days least their empty bellies rule their better nature.

However Walker’s account was also a political exercise in not only self-veneration, but the glorification of the Anglican Church.  The publication of A true account of the siege of Londonderry precipitated a major split between Anglicans and Presbyterians in Londonderry and in the province more generally which lasted well into the nineteenth century. If the figure of Robert Lundy later came to symbolise the fear of the traitor within the ranks of Protestantism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, for many Presbyterians Walker came to symbolise the inherent treachery in the Anglican ascendency in the immediate aftermath of the siege and the imposition of the Penal Laws in 1707.  His most contemptible omission in many Presbyterian’s minds was his inability to seemingly remember the names of any Presbyterian ministers who laboured to their spiritual flocks inside the garrison throughout the siege.  In an additional account of the siege entitled A vindication of the true account of the siege of Derry in Ireland by Mr. George Walker, he sought to rectify his temporary loss of memory.  He only managed to further inflame Presbyterian opinion by referring to Rev Gilchrist of Kilrea as Mr W Kil-Christ, a none too subtle attack on the religious scruples of the Presbyterian Church.  He also accused other Presbyterian ministers of being traitors.  This included Alexander Osbourne of Newmarket, Dublin, whom Walker believed to be a spy for the earl of Tyrconnell.  He also stated that David Houston had tried to impose the Solemn League and Covenant upon the garrison during the siege.  Joseph Boyse, a Presbyterian minister originally from Yorkshire but based in Wood Street in Dublin, attacked Walker’s remembrances, publishing A Vindication of the Reverend Mr Alexander Osborn, in reference to the affairs of the north of Ireland in which some mistakes concerning him (in the printed account of the siege of Derry, the observations on it, and Mr. Walker’s vindication of it) are rectified : and a brief relation of those affairs is given so far as Mr. Osborn, and other n.c. ministers in the north, were concern’d in ’em in 1690.  Rev John MacKenzie, chaplain to Walker’s regiment, published his 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 in 1690, challenging many of Walker’s claims and attempted to burst his inflated ego and defend the conduct of Presbyterian churchmen and defenders in the city.  MacKenzie’s account of the siege of Derry and the role played by Robert Lundy is discussed in a separate evidential submission.

After his sojourn in Ireland, Walker returned to Ireland in the early months of 1690 and was among those leading Protestant figures who greeted William at Carrickfergus on his arrival on 14 June 1690.  He also continued his military service in William’s army.  He was killed at the battle of the Boyne where some accounts stated he was shot while tending to the fatally wounded duke of Schomberg.  One would imagine few Presbyterians shed many tears on hearing his corpse was stripped bare on the battlefield by Jacobite camp followers before being buried on in situ.  His widow later paid for his remains to be disinterred and reburied in the church at Castlecaulfield, Co. Tyrone though it later emerged that the skeleton was not entirely Walker’s.  The Latin inscription on his monument reads that ‘His fame shall be more durable than rock’.  The same could not be said for the 81-foot high statue build in his honour on the walls of Londonderry in 1826 which was destroyed by an IRA bomb in 1973 during a bloody time in the Northern Ireland Troubles.

A true account of the siege of Londonderry

In his dedication Walker accounted the Williamite victory to have been achieved not only through the bravery of the city’s defenders, but also through the providence of God.  He argued that,

The Part I Acted in this Service might more properly have been done by other hands; but that Necessity which threw it upon me, will I hope justifie me before God and the World, from the irregularity of interessing my self in such an Affair, for which I was neither by Education or Function qualified; Especially since the necessity which called me to it, was no sooner over, than I resigned more chearfully than ever I undertook the Employment, that I might apply my self to the Plow to which I had put my Hand.

He further argued that he did not possess any bitterness towards any person who attempted to disparage his efforts because any argument against the role he played ‘gives God the greater Honour, in whose Almighty Hand no instrument is weak, in whose Presence no Flesh must glory’.  The successful relief of the city simply showed that God favoured William & Mary as monarchs in their protection of Protestantism against the pretensions of James II.  That Walker, a lowly and humble minister, played such a self-professed central role in events, in his mind simply reinforced this notion.

Walker’s account repeats much of what is known about the escalation of political and military events in Londonderry and how Lieutenant Colonel Robert Lundy came to enter the city after the thirteen apprentices locked the gates of the garrison against the earl of Antrim’s Redshanks.  Fearing the threat posed by the Jacobites and with memories of the atrocities perpetrated by Catholics on local Protestants after the outbreak of the 1641 Rising, Walker formed a regiment under his command to secure the town and garrison at Dungannon, Co. Tyrone.  Walker stated that he even managed to procure a limited amount of gunpowder for their weapons by selling a bag of mustard seed from his personal stores.  After doing so he then travelled to Londonderry to consult with Governor Lundy in order to gain his support for the defence of Dungannon and to settle a correspondence between the two Protestant garrisons.  Walker noted,

The Opinion they had of his [Lundy’s] Experience in War, and Zeal for the Cause they were to Maintain, gave all People great Expectation from his Conduct; he Approves and Encourages the Design, sends two Files of his Disciplin’d Men to Dungannon, and afterwards two Troops of Dragoons.

However, Walker noted that by 14 March 1689, Lundy had changed his mind and sent orders to Colonel Stewart, Governor of Dungannon, that the garrison should disband.  The soldiers which local citizens had raised for their communal defence were ordered to proceed to either Londonderry or Coleraine to help bolster the forces inside the walls of these Protestant refuges.  Walker sensed mutiny in his ranks, stating that,

some considering the Advantagious Situation of the Place, and the great quantity of Provisions already laid in, and the consequence of leaving both, to give strength to their Enemies, shew’d some unwillingness to comply with Commands so different from the Measures they had hitherto pursued; but at last, agreed to March to Colrain or Derry according to Collonel Lundy‘s Orders.

 By 17 March Walker and his men had marched as far as Strabane where he received a further order from Lundy to return to Omagh and the Rash.  Five companies went to each garrison, with Walker and his men assigned to the Rash, while Lieutenant Colonel Mervyn commanded the regiments destined for Omagh.  A fortnight after this Walker received another missive from Lundy to March for St. Johnston, Co. Donegal, a mere five miles from Londonderry.  Three days after receipt of Lundy’s communiqué, Walker learned of the arrival of Captain James Hamilton from England with ammunition, arms, barrels of powder for the garrison at Londonderry as well as a commission from William & Mary which confirmed Lundy as Governor of the city.  Lundy was ordered to ensure fidelity to the monarchs through the public swearing of an oath of allegiance by all civil and military officers in the garrison.  Walker implied that Lundy carried out his duty, writing that ‘the King and Queen are publickly Proclaimed with great Joy and Solemnity’.

While Williamite control over the west of the province was solidified under Lundy’s leadership, news of the defeat of the earl of Mount Alexander and his Protestant Association at the break of Dromore spread across Ulster, striking fear in Protestant society who maintained their loyalty to William & Mary.  Protestant refugees, including many regiments of the defeated Protestant Association under the command of Sir Arthur Rawdon reach Coleraine.  Walker noted how Lundy travelled to the town to ‘give his Advice and Assistance to that place’.  Despite this, Coleraine quickly fell and preparations began in earnest in Londonderry to bolster the city’s defenses against the Jacobite force.  Walker noted how they had ‘had possessed themselves of Colrain, & drove all before them till they came to Clody-Bridge’.  It was here that his suspicions of Lundy’s leadership and stomach for the fight continued to grow.

On 13 April Walker recounted that he received intelligence that the Jacobites were drawing ever closer to Londonderry.  He rode ‘in all hast thither’ to Londonderry from St Johnston to give Lundy an account of this information.  However he found the Scottish Governor to be entirely indifferent to the threat, believing it to be but a false alarm.  Sensing his protestations to be a waste of time, Walker then rode towards Lifford where he joined with Colonel Crofton’s forces and met in battle at Clady Ford.  He noted ‘all Night long the Enemy and We fired at one another; and in the Morning, Mr. Walker took his Post at the long Cawsey’.  He praised the Protestant defenders for their heroic resistance despite quickly running out of ammunition, having only been supplied by Lundy with three charges of powder per man.  Walker believed that Lundy’s neglect for the men under his charge and his cowardice prevented them defeating Richard Hamilton’s Jacobite force.  He continued that the regiment positioned at the Long Causeway stayed until the biter end, ‘in some danger, having staid too long, expecting Orders’ to arrive from Governor Lundy.  When none arrived they ‘got off under the shelter of some Horse, & followed the Army, which was 10000 strong, and make good their Retreat to Derry’.  Walker’s true account alleged that Lundy and several other men of quality abandoned the battlefield first in order to save themselves rather than offering an example of bravery to their men as would have been expected of any senior officer.  When Walker and his regiment eventually arrived back at the city, he found the gates locked against him, forcing them to sleep outside the walls, fearing being massacred in their sleep.  It was only the following morning, ‘with much difficulty and some violence upon the Centry they got in’.  Walker immediately availed himself to Lundy’s military knowledge and experience, impressing the importance of taking the field again rather than inviting a siege of a poorly supplied city.  However Lundy,

not being satisfied with the behaviour of his Army the day before, gave Advice of a different Nature, which did not agree with Mr. Walkers Sentiments, who thought himself obliged to stand by his Men that he had brought from their own homes, and not to Expose them again to the Enemy, by dismissing them.

Walker also sought to defend the honour and reputation of the Protestant regiments of the Protestant Association who had been defeated ignominiously at Dromore and subsequently joined the defenders at Coleraine and Londonderry.  In his own recollections Lundy had referred to them as little better than a rabble- impossible to control, ill disciplined and cowardly.  Walker felt otherwise, a clear implication that Lundy lacked the leadership qualities that should have commanded their respect.  The minister stated that,

There were several remarkable Passages might be here inserted, relating to those that came from Drumore and Colrain; but as I would not reproach any, so I cannot do right to all; and whatever mis-fortune the difficulty of those places brought upon them, the behaviour of such of them as staid in the Garrison of Derry, sets them above Apologys for any miscarriage; for certainly there could not be better Men in the World; and many of those that left us, have been exposed to Censure; but I hope the World will be so just, not to give Characters from things done in such a confusion.

Two days after the arrival of Colonels Cunningham and Richards with reinforcements and supplies for the defenders in Lough Foyle on 15 April 1689, Lundy immediately called a Council of War to decide how best to conduct the defence of the city against King James’ army under the command of Richard Hamilton.  Walker noted that Cunningham and Richards attended this Council, and that it was also filled with ‘other Gentlemen equally unacquainted with the Condition of the Town, or the Inclination and Resolution of the People’.  As evidence presented by Lieutenant Colonel Swan, Colonels Hamilton and Chichester and Major Baker to the House of Commons Committee investigating ‘the Occasion of the Delays in sending Relief over into Ireland, and particularly to Londonderry’ has suggested, Walker and many other local military leaders were excluded from the meeting despite having previously attended such proceedings.  This was a clear suggestion to Walker that Lundy and his comrades sought to save themselves at the expense of the brave defenders inside the city walls.  Walker noted that after the Council meeting concluded, they drafted a document and public proclamation which declared that the principal military figures would withdraw from the city and allow the inhabitants to surrender in return for a general pardon from James II.  While some of the city’s inhabitants were persuaded by what Walker believed to be Lundy’s deliberate untruths in regards a lack of provisions inside the garrison and the inability of the city defences to withstand a siege, others,

did not only refuse but began to conceive some Jealousies of their Governour; and some, tho’ they did but guess at their proceedings, express’d themselves after a ruder manner, threatning to hang both the Governour and his Council.

Nonetheless the Council continued in their course of action and agreed to send Captain White outside the city walls to St Johnston to treat with James for the surrender of Londonderry.  Though the Stuart monarch had not yet arrived in the town, Richard Hamilton agreed not to march his army within four miles of the city.  On 18 April Walker recounted that James himself appeared before Londonderry’s walls, believing that the very sight of his army would ‘fright them into a Compilance’.  Orders were given by Lundy and his confederates not to fire on the Jacobite forces until the King’s terms were known.  However,

our men on the Walls, wondering to see Lieut. Gen. Hamelton (contrary to his Engagement, not to come within four Miles of the Town) approaching our Walls in such order, they imagining they were by some means or other betray’d, thought it reasonable to consider their own safety, and to keep the Enemy at distance, by firing their Guns upon them, which they accordingly did.

The Jacobite army became disordered by the gunfire from the walls, with some soldiers turning on their heels in retreat while others hid under cover.  Lundy and his Council were enraged and took to sending James Hamilton, the archdeacon of Raphoe and one Mr. Neville to apologise to James ‘for having drawn His Majesty into so dangerous and unsuccessful an undertaking, and to signify to him the difficulty of commanding or perswading so tumultuous and untractable a Rabble, to any moderation or complyance’.  They stated that if the Jacobite army withdrew and provided evidence of the royal presence then their comrades inside the walls might see fit to behave in a more dignified and respectful manner.  James thereafter retired with his army to St Johnston.

However in the meantime John Mogridge, the city burgess could no longer hold his tongue regarding the resolution of Lundy’s Council of War.  He made it known to all and sundry that Colonels Cunningham and Richards had resolved to return to England with the reinforcements and supplies which had originally been destined for the defence of the city.  Furthermore, commissioned officers and soldiers were set to abandon the city, leaving the inhabitants to negotiate their fate.  As news of Lundy’s decision spread, it ‘occasion’d great uneasiness and disorder in the Town, which had like to have had very ill effects upon the Governour and some of his Council’.  Walker continued that Lundy and his Council,  ‘finding themselves of little interest in the Town, and that they could not be further serviceable, &c. thought fit to retire, and not to press the matter further’.  Though some soldiers and their officers did indeed desert the city, Lundy ‘could not so easily make his escape, being conceiv’d more obnoxious than any of the rest, but found it convenient to keep his Chamber’.  Walker stated that he and Major Henry Baker attempted to persuade Lundy to stay in the city and retain his governorship, professing their full support for him should he intend not to submit to James.  However Walker noted that ‘he positively refused to concern himself any further’.  Walker explained their desire to keep Lundy in the city as Governor out of a sense of duty to his commission from William & Mary, and respect to his person and the dangers that might befall him.  However, ‘finding him desirous to escape the danger of such a Tumult, they suffered him to disguise himself, and in a sally, for the relief of Culmore, to pass in a Boat with a load of Match on his back, from whence he got to the Shipping’.  The next day the garrison appointed Walker and Baker as joint Governors during the siege.

[1] George Walker, A true account of the siege of Londonderry (London, 1689)