Derry was days from surrender in ‘The Siege’

Carlo G�bler who explores the remarkable story of the Siege of Derry in a new documentary from BBC Northern Ireland which airs on Monday evening.
Carlo G�bler who explores the remarkable story of the Siege of Derry in a new documentary from BBC Northern Ireland which airs on Monday evening.

In what has been described by the BBC as a “landmark documentary” Derry and the story of the 1689 siege will feature on BBC One Northern Ireland this Monday evening (April 15 10.35pm).

Viewers will learn of the pivotal role played by an unknown young boy, a pig’s bladder, how Lundy’s image as a traitor to the cause is undeserved and the exact circumstances under which the troops in the city came to fire on the monarch of the day - thereby commencing this remarkable tale of one of the most interesting and debated aspects of our history. The programme also reveals just how close those within the walls were to surrendering.

The Siege, a DoubleBand production was written by Carlo Gébler. The documentary maker tells the remarkable story of the dramatic and bloody events of 1689, events which still echo through history. Mr Gébler examines personal accounts from inside the city walls to describe the origins of the siege and the details of what happened inside the walls while it was underway.

Michael Hewitt of DoubleBand Films and the director of the documentary, said of the film: “Above all else Carlo is an excellent storyteller. In taking us through the events of the siege, he reveals a truly remarkable narrative, full of intrigue, heroism and fascinating characters. In bringing that story to the screen, we hope this documentary will give people a fresh insight into a remarkable event in our history.”

Speaking of the young boy who played such a pivotal role in the lifting of the hardships, Mr Gébler told the ‘Journal: “There are references to him in several diaries written inside the walls, Governors Walker and MacKenzie both mention him.”

The boy walked through lines of Jacobite soldiers in order to carry missives from the relief force to the belligerents inside Derry’s walls.

“What I realised when I read all the records carefully was that the little boy and the information surrounding him tended to be ignored as it didn’t fit with the perceived version of the siege.

“Those inside the walls portrayed the events as 105 days of resistance, those on the outside believed they could have taken the city but for poor leadership.

“In fact the situation was much more finally balanced and the besieged were on the verge of surrender. City leaders had arranged to discuss terms so the Jacobite sentries were stood down.

“This was as a complete coincidence. Luck proved so important, the little boy brought new information and the town was able to withstand a few more days, allowing The Mountjoy to break the boom and the Siege.”

The most fascinating aspect of his research, said Carlo was in comparing “the received history to the actual history”.

“Comparing what happened to what was thought to have happened,” he said. “What was thought to have happened was more important than what actually happened.”

Looking back at the project Mr Gébler said: “There is something about the siege that is particularly suitable for literary endeavours. A battle includes thousands of troops hurling at one another over a few hours. That can be difficult to establish a clear chronological order. Sequentially at least a siege goes hand in glove with chronology. We can follow the balance of power much more easily”.

The documentary airs on BBC One on Monday at 10.35pm.