George Walker’s Diary

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“A True Account”

This is a first edition of the “True Account of the Siege of London-Derry” written by Rev George Walker.

On August the 9th, after the city was relieved, Rev George Walker took off to London; stopping off en-route to a hero’s welcome in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

When he reached London “…the King received him graciously, and conferred on him a mark of his favour and esteem; the Lords of the Council and several of the nobility caressed him with abundance of kindness and respect; the prime citizens treated him with all the demonstrations of joy and gratitude; and the vulgar even stifled him with gazing, crowding, and acclamation”

‘Walker-mania’ had set in and he lost no time in writing his account which was published on 13th September 1689. Such was the interest in his remarkable story of how unprofessional soldiers in a small town in an obscure part of the Kingdom had brought King James’ mighty army to its knees; it sold out within a few weeks. Further editions of his “True Account of the Siege of London-Derry” were printed.

Walker cast himself as the hero of the hour, diminishing everyone else’s role and downplaying the Presbyterian contribution to the defence of the city.

Criticism soon followed. An anonymous writer in “An Apology for the Failures charged on the Rev Mr George Walker’s Printed Account”, accused him of snubbing the Presbyterians, burying them “… with some ingenious scars, in the grave of perpetual oblivion”

Then came the “Vindication of Osborn”, overturning Walker’s accusation that the Rev Alexander Osborn, a Presbyterian, was “…a spy upon the whole North”

In his defence, Walker  published “A Vindication of the True Account”, claiming, among other things that he couldn’t remember the names of the Presbyterian ministers, whose only contribution, he seemed to imply, was keeping their people “…very obedient and quiet”

Three months after the True Account was published Rev John Mackenzie got his hands on it. Mackenzie, a Presbyterian minister who survived the siege, had been invited by Walker to be chaplain to his regiment. Mackenzie went to London (with less fan-fare) and, by the spring of 1690 published his version of events titled:  “Narrative of the Siege of London-Derry” with the rider “…to rectify the mistakes and supply the omissions of Mr Walker’s account”.

The controversy raged on for a while; an anonymous writer came to Walker’s defence with “Mr John Mackenzie’s Narrative; a False Libel” to which Mackenzie replied with “Dr Walker’s Invisible Champion Foyl’d” but it eventually died down.

Walker was killed at the Battle of the Boyne in the summer of 1690; Mackenzie died six years later.

I t wasn’t until a hundred years later that another Diary emerged; that of Captain Thomas Ash.

Ash kept a diary in the strictest sense-a fighting soldier’s day to day account of the events of the Siege as they unfolded. Now it became possible to cross reference Mackenzie’s and Walker’s accounts against Ash’s and decide who was closest to the truth.

St Columb’s Cathedral.