The shoddy treatment of old Derry’s Siege city defenders after the raising of the blockade and the Relief of Derry

The Corporation was forced to press William of Orange’s new government for funds to buy food and fuel for the struggling poor in the immediate aftermath of the Siege.

Friday, 27th August 2021, 11:07 am
A Siege re-enactment during an Apprentice Boys Relief of Derry commemoration in 2010. The Corporation minutes from the months immediately after the raising of the blockade show the defenders of Derry were very poorly treated in its aftermath.
A Siege re-enactment during an Apprentice Boys Relief of Derry commemoration in 2010. The Corporation minutes from the months immediately after the raising of the blockade show the defenders of Derry were very poorly treated in its aftermath.

Ironically, the civic fathers soon learned to greater appreciate Robert Lundy’s pre-Siege grumblings over the necessity for an immediate supply of money and provisions lest the city fall into enemy hands.

Shortages of wheat, cheese, peas, fire, candles, coal and money for the repair of houses and buildings damaged by the recent bombing were all features of life in Derry in the months after the Siege.

Matters were not helped by the behaviour of troops quartered in the city, a burden bitterly complained of by both the inhabitants and the Council. It was a time of continued hardship despite the city’s recent survival.

At the same meeting at which Siege defender of Derry Colonel John Mitchelburne was voted a Burgess and Alderman on September 19, 1689, it was decided to petition the Duke of Schomberg for “some subsistence for the poor inhabitants of this city that remained here all of the Siege and are now alive in it.”

On September 26 Derry’s civic leaders expanded by asking the Town Clerk John Mogridge to manage the petition for the poor; “another for reparation of damages suffered since December last”; and “another for franchises and privileges.”

And on October 3 Lieutenant William Crookshanks was appointed city Chamberlain following the death of John McKinny. The Common Council noted Lieutenant Crookshank’s obvious abilities and experience upon his appointment. The role involved responsibility for the management of the city accounts.

Judging from the minutes of the Corporation foremost on his and the rest of the council’s mind was the procurement of reparations for losses incurred during the Siege.

In November the town’s citizens were offered some relief from their misery under the new Mayoralty of Gervais Squire Esq. when Schomberg ordered the delivery of 1,000 bushells of wheat and 1,000 bushells of peas for the “use of the poor inhabitants of the said city as have survived the late Siege.”

Early in 1690 Deputy Mayor James Hobson acting on behalf of the absent Gervais Squire Esq. received a further order from the King to the keepers of the stores of the city to deliver 250 bar of wheat and four “tuns” of cheese for the “use of the Mayor, Commonality and Citizens.”

Such was the shortage of provisions, however, that there was no cheese left in the city stores. The City minutes on January 6, 1690, tell us: “It being found that there was no cheese in the said stores, as also that it was requisite to consult the Duke of Schomberg in reference to the said order.

“It is therefore ordered that the Chamberlain, does wait upon his Grace at Lisburn, for procuring of the said quantity of Wheat and Cheese. And that he may use his best endeavours to get the aforementioned 250 bar of wheat.”

The Corporation requested permission to buy £500 worth of coal without having to pay duty and fees on it - this was later granted - and equally it was agreed to appoint a committee “to agree with the Workmen for the setting up the Clock.”

A few weeks later Crookshanks returned with an order from Schomberg for the storekeepers of this city for delivery of 250 bar of wheat; for the storekeepers of Belfast for “four Tuns of Cheese;” and for £500 coals with no duty. There was also an order for between £20 and £30 for the repair of the “Roewater bridge” including crossings at Newton (Limavady) and Artikelly.

Across Lough Foyle the Governor of the Fort of Culmore was ordered not to “stop vessels, ships or boats coming in or going out of the same, nor to take any fees or perquisites from the owners unless he have an express warrant from his majesty for so doing.”

During this time the army was clearly suffering liquidity problems as well owing to the expense of the Williamite Wars. The impact of this on a macro scale would eventually lead to the establishment of the Bank of England in 1694 and to a more scrupulous examination of the public finances at Parliamentary level.

But for Derry and Lieutenant Crookshanks it meant they had to find money to support the troops as cash was not forthcoming from headquarters. In March 1690 the Governor asked the Mayor for subsistence for his men until money was sent from headquarters and in order “to prevent any outrages or abuses to the inhabitants by reason of the soldiers’ present want of their pay.” Crookshanks advanced £50 and took a bond for repayment.

The quartering of troops on the citizens became a source of bitter complaint in September 1690 when the Common Council noted “very many sad complaints of the poor inhabitants of this place who have ever since the latter end of May last past quartered four companies of Colonel Deering’s Regiment and paid them after the rate of 3 pence Diem for each and for each Drum and Corporal 4 1/2 of Diem and 5:3 weekly to each Sergeant, thereby the poor people of the Toune are exhausted of any money they had, engaging in debt many of them and by these soldiers distraining on them, divested of what little goods or household stuff they had.”

But the Council was broke and unable to advance any credit. It decided to wait on Major Ramsey to “acquaint him with the poverty of the inhabitants and their utter disability to subsist his soldiers any longer as aforesaid. As also of their unability to lend money themselves or borrow and to lend the garrison.”

The Corporation urged Major Ramsey to consider some other course to subsist his soldiers to prevent disaster.

“And they are further to acquaint him that it is merely to prevent the utter ruin of the poor Citizens that hath induced us to send to him on this occasion,” the minutes state.

The financial situation was so dire in November 1690 that concern was even expressed that the jail was “taken up with prisoners of war, leaving no room for ordinary criminals.”

In December the Corporation organised a collection from each Alderman and Burgess to pay the legal fees required for the petition.

John Mogridge apparently had some success in his pursuit of reparations because in September 1691 we learn that the revenues of the dispossessed Jacobite Earl of Antrim’s Glenarm estate were to be diverted to the Corporation.

Derry was granted a “Queen’s warrant for fifteen hundred pounds, out of the rent of Glenarm and the Liberties of Coleraine, for building of the Markethouse, and repairing of the Church, Freeschoole and Walls.

“As also the Lords of the Treasury order to the Commissioners of the Revenue in Ireland, for granting us a Custodium of the Barrony of Glenarme, for another year commencing from - next, at and under the same yearly rent we are to pay this year.”

The Council, at this point, decided to pull down the markethouse and guardhouse and build them again and also to reimburse those who had contributed the legal fees for the petition.

These grants were clearly not enough, however, as in December 1691 the Irish Society was thanked for £200 advanced already but reminded that £500 more had been promised by it two years previous.

Equally, the Corporation had to argue “that we never had any lands from the Crowne for supportation of the Magistracy of the City. That what little profit or revenue we had is clearly sunk by debts contracted in defence of our charter, in the last reign.”

The Council decided to send another delegation to “petition for somewhat to support the Government of the City, and withal that endeavours may be used to procure their Majesties letters patents for coining of ten thousand pounds in copper half pence, their majesties effigies on the one side, and the City armes on the other.”

King William and Queen Mary’s royal grant of the revenues of Glenarm amounted to £1,500 in 1691 but given that the Mayor of Derry in 1690 was paid a salary of £125 a year - the sum can be seen as a relatively paltry contribution to a city just recovering from a gruelling Siege.

In effect the treatment of the defenders of the unbowed garrison in the aftermath of the Siege was shoddy.

As Derek Millar BA, marking the 300th anniversary of the Siege in 1989 in ‘Still Under Siege’ wrote: “Every effort was made to obtain from Parliament recognition of claims for compensation.

“On November 18, 1689, the Reverend George Walker, who had been feted as a hero in Scotland and England, petitioned the House of Commons on behalf of 2,000 widows and orphans.

“The House recommended £10,000 be given, but it was never paid. The Paymaster of the Forces reported 1st March 1691, that the eight Derry regiments were due £75,000 in back pay.

“Of this sum it does not appear that more than £10,000 was ever paid. An Act of Parliament passed in 1699 restricted the sale of Irish made goods in the rest of the kingdom, stifling trade.”