In the grounds of St Columb’s Cathedral you cannot fail to notice a circular mound with an obelisk monument on top of it. Folklore and many misguided guides will tell you that this is the burial ground of the 13 original apprentice boys or indeed the 6,000 – 10,000 bodies of those who died in the 1689 Siege of Derry.
In reality no-one related to the Siege of Derry is buried in the mound. I will return to this comment.
A number, certainly not hundreds or thousands, of those who died in the Siege were buried within St Columb’s Cathedral. Where the remainder are buried remains a matter of some debate.
In early 1861 significant renovations were carried out inside the cathedral and human bones were uncovered. These bones were “dumped” in the “Strangers Burying Ground” within the churchyard. By May most of the renovations had been completed with the exception of that area where Colonel Henry Baker and Captain Michael Browning were buried. Word spread through the city that the remains of these two Siege heroes were to be discarded with the others. There was outrage at “the disgusting and revolting scenes enacted there” (there being the Cathedral).
The officers of the Apprentice Boys’ Clubs held a meeting and published an advertisement in the local papers which read;
“At a meeting of the General Committee of the Apprentice Boys of Derry held on the 14th May, 1861 it was unanimously resolved:- that we have observed, with extreme regret, the heartless conduct of the parties engaged in carrying out the changes in the Cathedral, ruthlessly exposing the remains of the illustrious dead interred within its walls, before, during and after the eventful siege of 1688-9 ; and we are surprised to find that no proper effort has been made by the Cathedral Dignitaries to have them decently re-interred in their original resting places”.
On this intervention the disposed of bones were collected and placed in six coffins, a large deal box and an oaken case and reburied in a vault in the north aisle of the Cathedral.
The Apprentice Boys gathered the soil which had been removed from the Cathedral and formed it into the mound you see today (situated where the “Strangers Burying Ground” referred to above had been located) and later placed a monument on top of it. This mound is now known as “Siege Heroes Mound”.
I indicated earlier that no-one related to the Siege is buried in the mound. Undoubtedly, there would have been small fragments of human bones not collected for re-burial and these would indeed be buried within the mound.
As part of the annual Shutting of the Gates commemoration, the Apprentice Boys lay a wreath on the Siege Heroes Mound in memory of all those who died during the Siege and not just the few buried within the Cathedral and its grounds.
This entry is one of a group (loop) of entries based on many trips to Londonderry/Derry. I suggest you continue with my next entry – Cathedral Church of St Columb’sCathedral Church of St Columb’s – or to start the loop at the beginning go to my introductory entry – The City on the Foyle.