When the Siege of Derry began on 18 April 1689 James II had a boom built across the River Foyle to stop food and other necessities being brought into the City.
Please see my Walk Old Derry’s Walls tip for additional detail on the Siege of Derry.
105 days after the Siege began, on 28 July this boom across the Foyle was breached by a flotilla lead by the Mountjoy, an armed merchant ship under the command of Captain Michael Browning, a native of Derry and very familiar with navigation on the Foyle and the port area. Browning was killed by a musket fired from the shore but the Relief of Derry had occurred and much needed food supplies were delivered.
City defender and diarist Captain Thomas Ash, recorded that July 28 ‘was a day to be remembered with thanksgiving by the besieged of Derry as long as they live, for on this day we were delivered from famine and slavery’.
Such had been the state of affairs in the city that a cat cost 4 shillings and 6d, a rat cost 1 shilling and a mouse 6d. A “Quarter of dog fattened from eating bodies of the slain Irish” would have set you back 5 shillings and 6d and, one for my English readers, horse meat was selling at 1shilling and 6d per pound – so Tesco’s wasn’t the first to offer this delicacy!
The Siege was over but the war was still to be won. This occurred less than a year later when James was defeated at the Battle of the Boyne, a river to to the north of Dublin.
On 20 January 1926 this tablet was unveiled in memory of Browning. The tablet is located in Guildhall Square on the Walls between Shipquay and Magazine Gates close the where Browning’s body was brought ashore. In the 1600s the River Foyle actually came up close to Shipquay Gate.
Pictured above is a somewhat later addition, a loyalist mural celebrating the Mountjoy’s Relief of Derry. The mural can be seen in the Fountain Estate.
Browning was buried in St Columb’s Cathedral.
The Relief of Derry is commemorated annually on the second Saturday in August by the Apprentice Boys Association. The commemoration begins with the firing of a cannon at midnight on Friday – 1 shot and then 3 shots, symbolising the 13 Apprentice Boys who shut the gates in 1688. Then Apprentice Boys walk around and touch the four gates – a symbolic Shutting of the Gates. On the Saturday morning, after the gates have been touched (“shut”), Siege flags are erected on Walker’s Plinth and the Apprentice Boys, accompanied by their bands, complete a circuit of the City Walls. After this a wreath is laid at the Diamond’s World War I memorial before the annual Relief of Derry Service of Thanksgiving is held in St Columb’s Cathedral. The remainder of the day is consumed with re-enactments of the events of 1689 and parades. This is a major event and typically up to 10,000 Apprentice Boys plus bands will take part.
In more recent years, particularly during the Troubles, these parades have not been without controversy. Today less so.
Address: Guildhall Square
Directions: On the Walls between Shipquay and Magazine Gates
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 – Raytheon and Derry – or to start the loop at the beginning go to my introductory entry – The City on the Foyle.