Chapter 17: Rise and Progress of the Protestant Religion in Ireland; with an Account of the Barbarous Massacre of 1641 (9/9)

In the reign of King James II they were again interrupted, for in a parliament held at Dublin in the year 1689, great numbers of the Protestant nobility, clergy, and gentry of Ireland, were attained of high treason. The government of the kingdom was, at that time, invested in the earl of Tyrconnel, a bigoted papist, and an inveterate enemy to the Protestants. By his orders they were again persecuted in various parts of the kingdom. The revenues of the city of Dublin were seized, and most of the churches converted into prisons. And had it not been for the resolution and uncommon bravery of the garrisons in the city of Londonderry, and the town of Inniskillin, there had not one place remained for refuge to the distressed Protestants in the whole kingdom; but all must have been given up to King James, and to the furious popish party that governed him.

The remarkable siege of Londonderry was opened on the eighteenth of April, 1689, by twenty thousand papists, the flower of the Irish army. The city was not properly circumstanced to sustain a siege, the defenders consisting of a body of raw undisciplined Protestants, who had fled thither for shelter, and half a regiment of Lord Mountjoy’s disciplined soldiers, with the principal part of the inhabitants, making it all only seven thousand three hundred and sixty-one fighting men.

The besieged hoped, at first, that their stores of corn and other necessaries, would be sufficient; but by the continuance of the siege their wants increased; and these became at last so heavy that for a considerable time before the siege was raised a pint of coarse barley, a small quantity of greens, a few spoonfuls of starch, with a very moderate proportion of horse flesh, were reckoned a week’s provision for a soldier. And they were, at length, reduced to such extremities that they ate dogs, cats, and mice.

Their miseries increasing with the siege, many, through mere hunger and want, pined and languished away, or fell dead in the streets. And it is remarkable, that when their long-expected succors arrived from England, they were upon the point of being reduced to this alternative, either to preserve their existence by eating each other, or attempting to fight their way through the Irish, which must have infallibly produced their destruction.

These succors were most happily brought by the ship Mountjoy of Derry, and the Phoenix of Colerain, at which time they had only nine lean horses left with a pint of meal to each man. By hunger, and the fatigues of war, their seven thousand three hundred and sixty-one fighting men were reduced to four thousand three hundred, one fourth part of whom were rendered unserviceable.

As the calamities of the besieged were great, so likewise were the terrors and sufferings of their Protestant friends and relations; all of whom (even women and children) were forcibly driven from the country thirty miles round, and inhumanly reduced to the sad necessity of continuing some days and nights without food or covering, before the walls of the town; and were thus exposed to the continual fire both of the Irish army from without and the shot of their friends from within.

But the succors from England happily arriving put an end to their affliction; and the siege was raised on the thirty-first of July, having been continued upwards of three months.

The day before the siege of Londonderry was raised the Inniskillers engaged a body of six thousand Irish Roman Catholics, at Newton, Butler, or Crown-Castle, of whom near five thousand were slain. This, with the defeat at Londonderry, dispirited the papists, and they gave up all farther attempts to persecute the Protestants.

The year following, viz. 1690, the Irish took up arms in favor of the abdicated prince, King James II but they were totally defeated by his successor King William the Third. That monarch, before he left the country, reduced them to a state of subjection, in which they have ever since continued.

But notwithstanding all this, the Protestant interest at present stands upon a much stronger basis than it did a century ago. The Irish, who formerly led an unsettled and roving life, in the woods, bogs, and mountains, and lived on the depredation of their neighbors, they who, in the morning seized the prey, and at night divided the spoil, have, for many years past, become quiet and civilized. They taste the sweets of English society, and the advantages of civil government. They trade in our cities, and are employed in our factories. They are received also into English families; and treated with great humanity by the Protestants.

Foxe’s Book of the Martyrs, Chapter 17

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