Thursday, June 25, 2015

The Siege of Londonderry and the Apprentice Boys, Ireland

After staying a night at the City Hotel in Londonderry we set out to walk around the city. I believe it’s a city made for hiking about.  Lots to see and easy distances.  We lucked out starting with the Siege Museum.  There we met the most pleasant and informative young man, a member of the Apprentice Boys,  who answered a zillion questions from us.  There was a short video of the Siege set up in the Museum as well which we watched. . The Museum was in temporary quarters as the new location was under construction.
Derry had begun as a monastery of St. Columba in the 6th century. It was ravaged by Vikings in 12th and 13th century.  Norman colonists under the Earl of Ulster, Richard de Burgh acquired Derry from the bishop and colonized it.  By 1600 the British had a garrison there. Then the settlement was wiped out by an Irish chief shortly after the flight of the earls.
Just after this, the story goes that King James I made the decision to introduce the ‘Plantations of Ulster” as a civilizing influence on Ireland.  He was having problems with some Scottish and English and wanted to make Ireland protestant.  By colonizing Ulster (plantations) he hoped to prevent further rebellion.  The colonists had to be English speaking and Protestant, the English mostly Anglican, the Scottish mostly Presbyterian.  The local Irish were mostly gaelic speaking catholics at the time.
The flight of the earls had occurred in 1607, with Rory O Donnell l and Hugh O Neil and followers leaving for  mainland Europe. This followed their defeat at the Battle of Kinsale in 1601 and of the Nine Year War in Ulster in 1603.  Their leaving ended the old Gaelic order.  Henry VIII had been declared  King of Ireland in 1530 and then it took 60 years before James I had nominal control by 1603.  The flight of the earls consolidated this in 1607.
The city of Londonderry was grated a Royal Charter by James I and built as a walled city.  The St. Columb Cathedral was built in 1633, the first Protestant cathedral erected anywhere in the world following the Reformation (Reformation refers to the Protestant Schism from the Catholic Church started by Martin Luther’s Ninety Five theses in 1517).
The confusion for me regarding the Siege of Londonderry  was with James I and James II. James I had founded the plantations and Londonderry.  Elizabeth I died ending the Tudor dynasty which King Henry VIII was part of.  King James I was the beginning of the Stuart dynasty.
King James II is a whole other kettle of fish. This is what our young Apprentice boy sorted out for us.  King James II was the grandson of King James I.  James despite having converted to Catholicism, became King of England and attempted treat Catholics and Protestants the same much to the dismay of the English.
The “Glorious Revolution” of 1688 was between James II and Protestant William of Orange married to James' Protestant daughter, Mary.  James II was later defeated at the Battle of Boyne, July 1, 1690.   Protestant Cromwell had invaded and conquered Ireland between 1649 and 1653. seizing Irish Catholic land.  The Irish Catholics were loyal to James in hope of regaining their land. James' Viceroy in Ireland Richard Talbot wanted the Irish strongholds to be loyal to James.  All were except Enniskillen and Londonderry.
The Protestants retreated to Londonderry en mass during this time.    Lord Antrim was about to replace the garrisons of Enniskillen and Londonderry with men more trustworthy to James.  To this end 1200 Scottish Catholic “Redshanks” were marched to Derry.  They were just a short distance away.
It was 1688 and James was still king.  On December 7, 1688, Thirteen Apprentice Boys of Londonderry seized the city keys and locked the gates.  December 10,  King James fled London to France.  February, 1689, William and Mary were crowned. In March James landed in Kinsale (on Ireland’s south coast) with 6000 French troops. He took Dublin then marched north with an army of French and Irish Catholics.
The Londonderry City Governor, Lt Colonel Robert Lundy, had turned away Colonel Cunningham’s reinforcements saying that Londonderry  would surrender. However when a meeting was called to discuss surrender the citizens grew angry.  Lundy in disguise with others took a ship and fled to Scotland.  To this day Lundy’s name is synonymous with cowardice. He is burned in effigy each year in Londonderry.
The city’s defence was taken over by Major Baker, Colonel Murray and Major Walker whose slogan was “No Surrender”.  To this day, No Surrender has been the Protestant slogan in Ireland.
King James and his Jacobite (Catholic) forces rode up to within three hundred yards of Bishops Gate, Londonderry and demanded surrender of the city.  The Williamite (Protestant) forces in Londonderry called back “No Surrender”  and fired at him.  Cannon and mortar fire were used in the day.  The biggest cannon on the Londonderry wall was called Big Meg.   The River Foyle  was blockaded with a heavily defended boom  preventing ships coming to the city.
The Siege lasted 105 days.  Starvation, disease and war caused the death of thousands.
 In the Apprentice Boys museum there was a listing of the cost of dog, cat and rat meat from the actual siege.
On July 28, the heavily armed Mountjoy merchant ship protected by the Royal Navy Dartmouth frigate under John Leake rammed and breached the boom .  The ships merchant ships Phoenix and Mountjoy then unloaded tons of food, relieving the siege.
James II would go on to be defeated by King William III (Prince of Orange) at the Battle of Boyne July 1, 1690. King William, King of England, Ireland and Scotland is affectionately known in Scotland and Northern Ireland as “King Billy”.   The “Orange Order”  have had a parade to celebrate the winning of this Battle of Boyne by King William every July 12 . (The date July 12 is chosen because of  the change in calendar in the 18th century).
The Apprentice Boys of Derry Club was formed in August 1st, 1714. It is a commemorative club that requires members to be first male, and second Protestant.  Our young Apprentice Boy explained that they were not as political as the Orange men.  Some Orange Men actually called Apprentice Boys Lundy for being conciliatory.   The Apprentice Boys hold an annual march August 12 to commemorate the lifting of the siege. During the Troubles the Apprentice Boys march through the Bogside area resulted in them being stoned and returning stones thrown till a riot broke out that spread to Belfast. Several citizens died.  In recent years there has been no violence . The Maiden City Festival was created in 1998 to place the Apprentice Boys of Derry Commemorations in the wider context of Protestant culture and reduce alienation within the Derry Council Area.
(The information for the above has come from Wikipedia and other History On line sources, plus plaques at the sites, and the reference material from the Siege museum, the excellent video and the patient answering of questions by one of the Apprentice Boys.  He further explained that there were branches in Scotland, Canada, England and Ireland but that to become an Apprentice Boy you had to come in person to Derry to be sworn in. There are 3 branches in Canada that he knows of. )
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