Tn the aftermath of the world’s great conflicts memories are often stirred by the efforts of great men under whose leadership we enjoy the freedoms of today. This is especially so of those who have local connections or with whom we may have a fraternal bond.
In two world wars, for example, Field Marshals Montgomery, Alexander, Alanbrooke and Dillare just four great leaders with Ulster connections who are rightly held in high esteem throughout the British Isles.
One of the most significant battles in the history of the Westem World was the Siege of Londonderry in 1688/1689.
As a result of its outcome much of what we now know as Constitutional Monarchy and Western Democracy has evolved.
The names of thirteen Apprentice Boys who, despite ambivalence on the part of the professional men of that day, shut the Gates in the face of James II’s army are held sacrosanct in the annals of history.
Several great leaders like Walker, Baker, Mitchelburne and Muray who led during subsequent 105-day Siege are commemorated in ABOD Parent Club names, stained glass and in other ways
Some names associated with the defence of Londonderry are less well known but deserve much higher recognition, however.
One of these is Captain (later Major) Arthur Noble of Derryree Lisnaskea.
He was regarded as one of the most outstanding officers of the garrison.
The Nobles who were of Cornish stock settled in Co. Fermanagh in the sixteenth Century. It is not immediately clear why Captain Noble arrived in Londonderry especially in view of the gallant efforts in support support of the Williamite cause by his neighbours in Enniskillen.
A study of contemporary reports makes frequent mention of his bravery, and some go as far as to place him third in order of importance in the defence of the city.
His courage and tenacity in not only resisting the besiegers but taking the battle to them, was extraordinary. Many examples of this are recorded by writers who were within the walls throughout the siege. They all pay unstinted tribute to his energy, zeal, and courage.
Professor Witherow, in his book “Derry and Enniskillen in the Year 1689”, states,
“No more gallant soldier ever stood on the walls of Derry than Noble of Lisnaskea. He stood side by side with Murray and shared his dangers at every spot where hot work was expected, and life was in peril.”
Rev. John MacKenzie spoke about Captain Noble as one of the Officers who “almost daily led out small parties and did execution on the enemy or brought in some small prey.”
He also records that Captain Noble was one of those who encouraged the garrison to sanction Lundy and his Council after the discovery of their treacherous plans to surrender the City.
Dr Joseph Aickin, in the poem ‘Londonderias made several references to the bravery of Captain Noble. He writes:
By Captain Noble multitudes were slain; From Lisnaskea in Fermanagh he came, But now he's Major Noble of the same.
There are many examples of major actions in which Captain Noble was involved. To mention just three:
The Battle of Creggan Fort – 18th May
In early May, Captain Noble and Captain Coningham led a party of one hundred men and attacked a fort at Creggan (a townland north-west of the then city, not the modern housing estate of same name). They fought a fierce battle with the enemy in which Captain Cunningham and fifteen other men were killed.
The Boat Fight – Tuesday 13th June
When the officers and gentlemen deserted Londonderry at the commencement of the siege, they took with them all the boats in the harbour, except one, to convey themselves to the ships lying down the river. The remaining boat was captured by the enemy which left no means of sending any communication regarding
their distress to Kirk by water.
On 13th June a new boat, commanded by Captain Noble went up the river in an unsuccessful attempt to send a young messenger to Enniskillen with letters. The party was attacked by two enemy boats in the river, and in the ensuing hand-to-hand fight four of the enemy were killed, thirteen taken prisoner and
one of the enemy’s boats with a substantial number of arms captured.
As soon as they had landed their prisoners, Captain Noble took some fresh men aboard, sailed across the river to Strongs Orchard, and launched an attack on the enemy.
When Noble’s men saw that a party of the enemy was manoeuvring to get between them and the river, they were obliged to quickly return to their boats.
Other than firing cannon shot across the river, this was the only assault that the garrison was able to make on the Jacobite troops stationed in the Waterside throughout the siege.
The Battle of Butcher’s Gate – 28th June
On 28th June, the Earl of Clancarty’s Regiment made a determined effort to enter the city at Butcher’s Gate.
Captains Noble Holmes and Dunbar led a party from Bishop’s Gate. They exited from Bishops Gate and turned right, creeping under the Double and Royal Bastions in the dark, holding their fire till they got to Royal quarters when every shot would tell. Reaching Butchers close Gate [to quote Walker] “they thundered upon them'”.
Fire was opened from Gunners Bastion with case shot, All those above ground including Clancarty were driven back, abandoning to their fate the sappers who were tunnelling below ground. Among the 100 besiegers reported dead was a French Engineer Colonel.
It is perhaps one of the greatest regrets that so few people today know about the daring role that Major Arthur Noble played in the defence of Londonderry in 1688/1689.
A study of the contemporary written accounts shows that his tenacity in resisting the besiegers never waned.
Rev. John Graham speaking of the great gallant Murray said:
“… if he (Murray) had a competitor in the number and importance of his services, it was Major Arthur Noble of Lisnaskea… who also went unrewarded in any other way than by an approving conscience and the enjoyment of liberty…”
Following the Relief of Derry, Major Noble went on to fight for King William at the Siege of Limerick.
On his return to Lisnaskea, he became Lieutenant-Colonel in the Fermanagh Militia. He died in his seventy-seventh year on 29th August 1731 and is buried in Aughalurcher Grave Yard, Lisnaskea.
His flat tombstone is extant and readable although the inscription may, in the opinion of some, fall short of conveying Major Noble’s heroism during the Siege:
HERE LYETH THE BODY OF
MAG. ARTHUR NOBLE WHO
DEPARTED THIS LIFE THE
29 DAY OF AUGUST 1731
AGED 77 IT IS REMARKED
HE WAS LOYAL ACTIVE AND
CORRAGIOUS IN THE LATE
LONDONDERRY IN 1689 AND
IN STORMING THE FORT OF
THE MOUTH AT LIMRICK, IN
WHICH RESTORED YE PROTE
STANT CAUSE UNDER THE
GLORIOUS K. W. OF HAPPY
Just like his exploits during the Siege of 1688/1689, the location of his final resting place is unknown to all but a few in the 21st Century. It would seem fitting that the grave should be subject to some form of special preservation like those of his comrades Mitchelburne and Murray.
Many people are of the opinion that history has denied Major Arthur Noble his rightful place amongst the great men who made the Glorious Revolution possible.
Even though almost three and a half centuries have elapsed since Londonderry’s famous siege in which he played such a pivotal part, his memory should and
can be preserved in tangible ways.
Education of our people is the key to this whether it takes place in schools, museums, published literature or group visits to his restored burial place.
Some of Major Arthur Noble’s descendants:
- James Noble – High Sheriff, Fermanagh in 1755
- Rev. Henry Mungo Noble – Rector of Clongill, Co. Meath
- Rev Mark Noble – Appointed Headmaster in 1761 of Enniskillen Free School, now called Portora Royal School (He is credited with moving the school to its present site in Enniskillen)
- Major-General William Henry Noble (1834-1892) – Royal Artillery (He is credited with research which resulted in production of cordite)
- Captain Vere D’Oyly Noble – 27th Inniskillings (Re-joined his old Regiment and served in WW1)
Major Arthur Noble’s family lineage can be traced down to the present day.
Source: John Hall MBE Annual Apprentice Boys of Derry Booklet 2023 (To purchase a copy click on the link)