“28TH OF JULY, 1689! A day to be remembered with thanksgiving by the besieged in Derry as long as they live; for on this day we were delivered from famine and slavery.”Captain Thomas Ash
On 20th July 1689 O.S. Major General Kirke encamped on Inch began preparations to relieve Londonderry.
Three merchantmen: the ‘Mountjoy’ of Londonderry commanded by Captain Micah Browning, the ‘Phoenix’ of Coleraine commanded by Captain Andrew Douglas and the ‘Jerusalem’ were loaded with victuals.
Gen Kirke accompanied them aboard TMS ‘Swallow’. TMS ‘Dartmouth’ commanded by Captain John Leake RN also joined the convoy. In addition to the usual ship’s company each vessel had a detachment of 40 musketeers.
Cpt Leake was an experienced officer having joined the Royal Navy in 1673 and saw action in the third Anglo-Dutch War. He would go on to become one of our great Admirals and was present at the capture of Gibraltar.
Both the Masters of the ‘Mountjoy’ and ‘Phoenix’ volunteered for the dangerous mission.
Cpt Douglas was a licensed privateer by the Scottish authorities and Cpt Browning was a Derryman whose wife and stepdaughter were both inside Londonderry throughout the siege.
He naturally had a more personal interest in saving the city. The officers and crews of both vessels were no doubt familiar with the channel and navigational hazards of the Foyle.
The convoy arrived at Culmore on 28th July (O.S.).
Although both TMS ‘Swallow’ and ‘Dartmouth’ were frigates, ‘Swallow’ was a larger fourth-rate (whereas ‘Dartmouth’ was a smaller fifth-rate) and fearing the river too shallow she dropped her long boat.
‘Dartmouth’ was to bombard Culmore Fort, thus covering ‘Phoenix’ and ‘Mountjoy’ (‘Jerusalem’ being a smaller vessel and was ordered to wait).
Captain Ash witnessed the operation from the walls and gives a detailed description in his diary:
“About five o’clock in the evening, the wind being fair and the tide serving for the purpose, four ships hoisted sail and came swiftly to Culmore without harm, although they were shot at from the Castle.
The first which came by the Castle was a man of war called the Dartmouth frigate, Capt Leake commander. When she came above it, she drew in her sails and cast anchor.
But the Mountjoy and Phoenix came up to the chain or boom, which was made across the lake near Brookhall.
The Mountjoy first attempted the Boom, struck upon it, and run aground, which the enemy observing, gave a loud huzza, thinking she was their own; but the tide coming in fast, she got off, the cannons playing at her briskly from shore.
While she was aground, Captain Browning who commanded her, and who had that honour conferred upon him by Major – General Kirk, to be the man who should bring relief to Derry, stood upon the deck with his sword drawn, encouraging his men with great cheerfulness; but a fatal bullet from the enemy struck him in the head, and he died on the spot.”Captain Thomas Ash
During this time the boat crew from the ‘Swallow’ under heavy fire cut the Boom chain. These men each received a gold guinea for their courage.
Happily, their names are inscribed on the Memorial Hall’s Relief of Londonderry window (pictured). They are Boatswain’s Mate John Shelley, Robert Kells, Jeremy Vincent, James Jamieson, Jonathan Young, Alexander Hunter, Henry Breman, William Welcome, Johnathan Field and Miles Tonge.
“The way being cleared by the Mountjoy, the Phoenix came up to her.
They both sailed very slowly by the tide, the wind abating much after they passed Culmore.
The shore on both sides was lined with the enemy, who shot continually at them. Those were the cannons which had thrown the fourteen and nineteen pound weight balls into the city. They had been removed near Brookhall to prevent the ships from coming up; but God of his mercy prevented their design.
They both arrived at the Shipquay at ten at night. The Phoenix arrived first; her Captain is a Mr. Douglas.
O! to hear the loud acclamations of the garrison soldiers round the walls when the ships came to the quay, which were often reiterated.
The Lord who has preserved this city from the enemy, I hope, will always keep it to the Protestants.
“There were four killed on shipboard besides Captain Browning.
Immediately after their arrival, two great guns were fired off the steeple, to let the fleet know the two ships bad arrived safe.
The fourth vessel called the Jerusalem came near the man of war, but no farther that night.
A number of empty casks were carried to the Shipquay and filled there to make a kind of defence from the enemy’s shot on both sides the water, while our men were unloading the vessels.
The Phoenix brought from Scotland 600 boles of meal (a boll was a Scots measurement for 6 bushel which is about 48 gallons), and the Mountjoy, which carries 135 tons, has brought from England her cargo of beef, peas, flour, biscuit, &c., all of the best kind.”Captain Thomas Ash
Browning is buried in St Columb’s Cathedral. Although the Jacobites continued to bombard the city for another few days the siege was effectively over. The arrival of victuals was none too soon for the entry in Ash’s diary the day before reads:
“God knows, we never stood in so much need of a supply; for now there is not one week’s provisions in the garrison…This day the cows and horses, sixteen of the first, and twelve of the last, were slaughtered; the blood of the cows was sold at fourpence per quart, and that of the horses at twopence. Two of our men were killed at Butcher’s – gate from the orchard…There is not a dog to be seen, they are all killed and eaten.”Captain Thomas Ash
Seeing that they could no longer starve out Derry and not having enough troops to storm the town, the Jacobite commander Rosen, decided to raise the siege. On 1 August the besieged discovered that the enemy was gone.
Had Londonderry not been relieved when it was then history might have been quite different……………..
Source: ABOD Parent Club