Gateway to the Classics: Our Island Story by H. E. Marshall
Our Island Story by  H. E. Marshall

William III. and Mary II.—The Story of Brave Londonderry

A LTHOUGH most of the people received William and Mary joyfully, some, chiefly in Ireland and Scotland, still looked upon James as the rightful King.

In Ireland especially there were many Roman Catholics, who would not acknowledge a Protestant King. The King of France hated William, so he helped James with money and ships, which enabled him to set out for Ireland to win his kingdom again.

James landed at a town called Kinsale and the Irish people welcomed him with great joy. But he felt disheartened almost at once for there had already been much fighting, and the country through which he had to pass was desolate and deserted, and at times he and his men could find hardly enough food to keep them from starving. Most of the Protestants had fled from the land or had shut themselves up in the two towns of Enniskillen and Londonderry. The soldiers of James besieged both these towns, but it was round Londonderry that the greatest fight took place.

Londonderry is on a river called the Foyle, and the enemy not only surrounded the town on the land side, but they built a bar across the river so that no ships could come to the town with food or help.

The walls were weak and the cannon few, and the Irish thought that the town could not hold out for long. The Governor, too, was a cowardly man, and did his best to dishearten the people, until it was suspected that he was a traitor. Indeed, he would have given in, but a brave old clergyman, called Walker, marched into his pulpit one morning with a sword in one hand and a Bible in the other, and preached such a rousing sermon that the people took heart and never lost it again through all the long weeks of hunger and suffering which they had to endure.

It was a dreadful time. The people had hardly anything to eat, but they held bravely on, hoping against hope that help would come to them from England. But day after day passed and no help came. Rats, mice, dogs, and horses, all were eaten, only tallow and skins remained. Still they held on. The soldiers were so weak at last from want of food that they could hardly stand, far less fight. They resolved to hold out for two days longer. Then the end must come.

But just as the sun was setting on the 28th of July, the day before they were going to give in, the eager watchers on the walls saw the gleam of sails far down the river. Help! Help at last! How their hearts beat, how they shouted with all the little strength they had, as nearer and nearer sailed the ships.

There were three of them. On they came with all sail set. But how could they pass the dreadful bar which lay right across the river? On they came. One ship called the Mountjoy  took the lead and, sailing with all its force, it crashed against the boom, as the bar was called.

With a tremendous noise the boom shivered and cracked, but the Mountjoy  was not strong enough to break it through. The shock was so fierce that the ship was thrown backward and stuck in the mud, for the river was shallow.

A groan rose from the people on the walls, and their hearts grew sick with disappointment and fear, while the Irish soldiers on the bank cheered with triumph. But as the Mountjoy  was thrown back, the second ship followed and dashed at the spot which the Mountjoy  had hit. The boom, which was already cracked, gave way and, amid the noise of joyful cheers and of tearing, splintering wood, she sailed gaily over. Londonderry was saved.

That same night, eager hands unloaded the ships and, for the first time for three months, the people had enough to eat. A day or two later the army of James burned the tents and cabins in which they had lived while besieging the town, and went away.

But the struggle was not over. It lasted until the following year, when William himself came to Ireland. Then there was a great battle between the soldiers of James and the soldiers of William. It was called the Battle of the Boyne, because it was fought near a river of that name. James was beaten, and fled again to France, and William, with the crown upon his head, entered Dublin, the acknowledged King of Ireland.

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