Adam Murray, true Ulster-Scots home-grown Siege of Derry hero who may, or may not, have coined the phrase ‘No surrender’.
While the names of the 13 Apprentice Boys suggest Ulster-Scots backgrounds, most of the key figures in the 1689 Siege of Derry were of English origin with the conspicuous exception of Adam Murray.
Murray lived at Ling House, on the outskirts of Claudy. Murray is famous for his dramatic entry into Londonderry when Lundy was preparing the beleaguered citizens for surrender. The cry of ‘No surrender’ is often attributed to Murray.
Originally of Scottish descent, the Murray’s had a proud military heritage with one of their forefathers fighting alongside Wallace in the late 13th Century.
There is no direct evidence to suggest that Murray had served in the military, though a number of contemporary historians stated he had. His father had been a cavalry officer and Adam Murray certainly proved to be a very good officer and an inspiring leader.
In December 1688 or the early part of 1689 Murray raised a troop of 30 horseman from among his neighbours. In the days immediately before the siege these men formed part of the force dispatched on 15th April 1689 by Lundy to Clady on the banks of the River Finn, to repel the Jacobite advance on Londonderry.
How precisely this was to be achieved is difficult to imagine if each man was allocated only three rounds of ammunition. Nevertheless, Murray’s men acquitted themselves well at Cladyford. They held out against overwhelming odds until forced to withdraw through lack of ammunition.
Murray returned to Londonderry at about the same time as James II was approaching the city on April 18 and was ordered in a dispatch from by Lundy to take his cavalry to Cloughglass.
On being informed by the messenger that surrender terms were being negotiated, Murray defied his orders and headed for the city at breakneck speed.
Murray led defiance without, and within the Walls
After a brief skirmish with Jacobite dragoons, he entered the city via the Shipquay gate and gate-crashed the meeting of the council of war, accusing Lundy and others of treachery.
He left the meeting and directly addressed the townspeople and soldiers urging them to hold out.
Murray called for all citizens who were for no surrender to put on white armlets. The men of his command continued to wear these for the duration of the Siege.
For this reason, traditionally the Murray Club is the only Club to wear white armbands on Parade, marking the distinction of the part Murray played in the saving of the city from surrender.
Although offered the governorship, he turned the position down and preferred to remain with his soldiers. The governorship was offered jointly to Henry Baker and the Rev George Walker.
These events mark the real beginning of the siege. If Lundy had have stayed there would not have been a siege. Yet ironically without Lundy’s endeavours in the early months of 1689 the city would not have been able to withstand a siege.
Murray was appointed General in the field upon all sallies and also commanded the garrison’s cavalry regiment.
Adam Murray’s record during the Siege was much better than that of many men who had been soldiers and he remains one of the outstanding figures of the conflict.
His ability was quickly recognised by the Jacobites who as early as the 20th April 1689 offered Murray the rank of Colonel and £1000 (around £250,000 today) if he would join them. He refused and issued a challenge to the Jacobites to meet him and his men.
The name of Murray grew so terrible‘Londerias’
That he alone was thought invincible:
Where’er he came, the Irish fled away.
21st April 1689 The Battle of Pennyburn
The next day, 21st April, Murray gave ample evidence of his military skill and bravery. Jacobite artillery pounded the city, causing damage to several buildings, including the Town House in the Diamond. Only one man was killed.
At noon Murray led a force of 300 cavalry and a detachment of infantry out of the city in a daring raid on the Jacobite camp at Pennyburn. Murray divided his cavalry into two squadrons.
They were engaged by the Jacobite cavalry which was led by Maumont, Commander of the Jacobite forces at Derry. In the ensuing fight Maumont was killed, according to a number of sources, by Murray, in hand to hand combat. Both John Mackenzie in his Narrative of the Siege of Londonderry and Mitchelburne in his play credit Murray with killing Maumont but Thomas Ash in his diary and George Walker in both his True Account of the Siege of Londonderry and his Vindication of the Account of the Siege are silent on this point.
“Colonel Murray charged through that brigade, and had that day three personal encounters with their commander, in the last of which he killed him on the spot, whom the enemy themselves confessed to be Lieutenant-General Maumont”.John Mackenzie
Further Jacobite cavalry reinforcements arrived, and Murray ordered a withdrawal. The defenders were pursued by the Jacobites who were ambushed by Murray’s reserve of infantry who, lining the ditches, caused heavy casualties amongst the attacking Jacobites.
The battle of Pennyburn was a well planned and brilliantly executed operation with Murray displaying his ability to command both horse and foot. The Jacobites not only lost their commander but they also lost some of their colours to the defenders.
That Murray was becoming more popular in the city is borne out by Walker’s inclusion in his account of this event during the Siege; with a story of how he himself had gone to assist Murray when the latter was hard-pressed, a version that must be treated with skepticism given Walker’s tendency to talk up both Anglican and his own role in the Siege. Victory was Murray’s and Murray’s alone.
Perhaps Adam Murray was Londonderry’s equivalent to Enniskillen’s Thomas Lloyd, a Roscommon man whose subordinates nicknamed him ‘Little Cromwell’. Both were natural and innovative soldiers.
Like Napoleon’s best and most able marshals, both Murray and Lloyd held attack to be not just the best form of defence but the only form of defence. The first Battle of Pennyburn must have boosted the morale of the besieged garrison and greatly enhanced Murray’s reputation.
25th April 1689 The Second Battle of Pennyburn
A few days later on Thursday 25th April, Murray led another foray on the Jacobite trenches about a mile north of Pennyburn at Elagh.
The initial attack pushed the Jacobites out of their trenches. The Williamites soon had to retreat as enemy cavalry came to the aid of their infantry. Murray rallied his men and the ensuing battle lasted into the evening.
At the end of the battle, known as the second battle of Pennyburn, the Jacobites had suffered the loss of their new commander, Major-General Pusignan. The Engineer Commander, Marquis de Pointis, was also wounded during the engagement. So too was the Duke of Berwick, James II’s illegitimate son by Arabella Churchill and the nephew of the future Duke of Marlborough.
The loss of two commanders in less than a week was a blow to the Jacobites and a boost to the morale of the defenders.
Murray had been clearly identified by the Jacobites as the defender’s outstanding military leader. They had failed to bribe him so another tactic was attempted.
As father, as son
Richard Hamilton, the Jacobite commander was aware that Murray’s father, who was over eighty, lived nearby. Gideon Murray was siezed, brought to his Headquarters and told to persuade his son to bring the rebellion to an end. Gideon was told that he would be hanged if he could not induce his son to surrender the city.
Gideon Murray agreed to speak to his son but warned Hamilton that it would be fruitless as he knew his son would never give in, even to this threat.
The two Murrays met at the walls for Hamilton’s message was relayed. However, the redoubtable Gideon produced a bible on which he urged Adam never to yield to Popish power. His task over, The old man then returned to the Jacobite camp, expecting to be hanged.
To Hamilton’s credit he did not carry out his threat and allowed the Gideon to return to his home and granted him protection for the rest of the conflict.
This episode underscores just how much the besiegers feared Murray and how much weight they attached to his influence with the garrison in maintaining a spirit of resistance.
Soon after this the defenders received a blow with the loss of Culmore Fort. This fort dominated the narrows of the Foyle, through which any relief ships would have to pass.
5th May 1689 Battle of Windmill Hill
Closer to the City on the night 5-6th May, the Jacobites under the command of Brigadier-General Ramsey seized a strategic location, a windmill. There was a strong possibility that the attackers might be able to bring their artillery closer and present greater danger to the walls.
The defenders decided to attack immediately. Baker called up 10 men from every company within the garrison. Murray, Mitchelburne and Walker commanded the detachments. The Williamite force formed upon the site where the 19th century gaol was built outside what is now Bishop’s Gate, and attacked the Jacobite trenches.
In the ensuing heavy fighting the Jacobites were forced out of their positions suffering more than 200 dead, including their commander, Brigadier-General Ramsey.
Many prisoners were captured along with 5 pairs of Colours and a standard of French Colours were also seized. The Colours were presented to the Cathedral after the siege by Colonel Mitchelburne and can still be seen hanging in the vestry.
Following success at Windmill Hill, the defenders strengthened their defences around the windmill. But on the 10th May the new defences were nearly overwhelmed by a surprise attack.
Adam Murray watching from the city walls saw what was about to happen and immediately mounted his horse, galloped through Butcher’s Gate, down Bog Street and on to the defender’s position where he warned them of the danger.
Murray returned unhurt although he had to pass Jacobite infantry who had taken up position in the hedges.
Message to Enniskillen
Murray took the fight to the enemy on the water as well as on land. The defenders knew that Enniskillen was still holding out. It was decided to send messengers to the town, under the cover of a raid on fish houses along the Foyle.
On the night of 18th June, Murray left the City by boat in charge of the raiding party and headed past what is now Newbuildings and headed for Dunalong, approximately eight miles from the city. The boat was spotted and was fired upon as the men rowed down the river.
When they reached Dunalong, the two young messengers were so terrified that they would not leave the boat. Thwarted, they headed back only to meet two Jacobite boats waiting to intercept them.
Murray attacked one of the boats killing several. The rest of the men in the boat, numbering 13, quickly surrendered. Seeing their fate, the other boat made off rather than engaging Murray and his men.
With their prisoners and prize, the party headed back to the city, coming once again under fire from the shore. Murray received some shots in his head-piece which indisposed him for a short time, but they were no more serious than concussion.
Taking the Fight to the Enemy
By July the garrison’s fighting strength was just over 5000 men, but Murray was still determined to take the fight to the enemy.
On 16th July Murray undertook a flank attack on the Jacobite trenches before Butcher’s Gate. This led to a fierce fire-fight, with the Williamites firing until their ammunition was exhausted.
During this action, a cousin of Adam Murray, James Murray was killed. During his unit’s withdraw Murray was seriously injured himself, receiving shot wounds to both thighs.
Murray’s wounds were serious enough to keep him out of further action for the remainder of the Siege. He did not recover fully from his wounds until November.
Throughout the Siege, up to his wounding, Murray commanded all the horses, and was in all the sallies that were frequent and successful. While Murray’s cavalry was able to play a significant role in the defence of the city in the early days of the siege, the horses had to be eventually slaughtered for want of fodder or as food for the besieged.
Murray was the most able, intelligent and resourceful soldier within the walls but he was almost certainly frustrated as the siege went on.
This may account for his serious animosity towards Governor Walker. He accused Walker of selling or embezzling the stores, of abusing officers who were sent to the stores to draw supplies, of attempting to surrender the town and offering to betray it for money.
When Major-General Kirke, commander of the little fleet that had broken the boom and relieved the city at the beginning of August, entered into the town, he proposed to amalgamate the disabled hero’s regiment with another, but nearly all the men refused, and instead went off into the country with their carbines and pistols, in order to wage what today would be called a ‘guerilla campaign’ against the remaining French and Irish forces in the area.
Murray’s loyal adjutant seized the saddles of the company’s horses, including that of Colonel Murray’s own horse, “which he had preserved with great care during all the siege”, – one of the very few animals to have survived the siege – and which was subsequently confiscated by Kirke. It is not difficult to imagine this petty vindictiveness being the product of the ill-feeling between Murray and Walker, Kirke taking Walker’s side.
Honouring a Siege Hero, Remembering Adam Murray
After Col. Murray had eventually recovered from his wounds he continued as an officer with the Williamite army, commanding the Militia of Ulster, holding the honour of commanding the first Regiment of Horse that served William of Orange in Ireland.
In the years after the siege Adam Murray married Isabella Shaw, by whom he had one son and one daughter, who enjoyed a pension from the crown for life in recognition of her father’s deeds.
The exact date of Adam Murray’s death is not known. The historian Young gives it as 1706 and Hempton about 1710, neither quoting any authority for his statement.
His remarkable life was undoubtedly cut short by the wounds he received during the Siege of Derry. He was buried in Glendermott churchyard, near the spot where Governor Mitchelburne, another hero of the siege, was laid to rest some twenty years later.
Murray himself did not seek any reward, financial or otherwise, but King William III presented him with a valuable and ornate watch, an item of great value at the time. His name has been locally perpetuated by the Murray Club, Apprentice Boys of Derry.
Each year, usually in September, the Murray Club and Mitchelburne Club of the ABOD honour these heroes of Ulster, laying wreaths on their graves and holding a short commemorative service in their honour.
See also: Murray and Maumont