The Apprentice Boys
The Apprentice Boys
It is a beautiful morning here in Port Ellen, Islay, after a few days of high winds and rain and half the yachts in the marina have already left, chasing the south running tide through the North Channel into the Irish Sea. The rest of us are waiting for the tide to turn and take us north, in our case to Craighouse on Jura, but first the story of fourteen very brave lads.
After the Giant’s Causeway and our return bus and train trip back to Derry for the night, we walked back over the Peace Bridge to find our B&B in Abbey Street not far from the town centre. There are plaques on the house walls where martyrs of The Troubles fell and the urban area is very much a part of the town centre, its throbbing heart. We went to sleep and awoke the next morning to the soothing sound of homing pigeons and the lady of the house provided a tasty breakfast to set us up for the day.
We followed the curator into the Siege Museum, a new building built next to the 1814 Apprentice Boys Memorial Hall. From the early 18th century clubs have formed to celebrate various historical events and people and the memorial hall provides the base for the Associated clubs of the Apprentice Boys of Derry which is committed to building peace in Northern Ireland.
Henry Campsie, William Crookshanks, Robert and Daniel Sherrard, Alexander Irwin, James Steward, Robert Morison, Alexander Cunningham, Samuel Hunt, James Spike, John Conningham, William Cairns, Samuel Harvy and their young lookout, locked the city gates against the forces of the deposed King James II who wanted to re-take Ireland, and so the 105-day siege started. James didn’t stay long before he returned to France where he had been in exile at the invitation of Louis XIV.
tree trunks and sunken boats was spread across the River Foyle
to prevent food
supplies getting to the walled city and you can imagine the
disease and starvation that befell the overcrowded inhabitants
time. On August 1st 1689, under the authority of King
William III, a
fleet arrived to end the siege and the armed merchant ship
‘Mountjoy’ forced her chunky hull through the blockade carrying
supplies to the city. The beauty of the model reflects the
gratitude that sense
and humanity finally prevailed.
Our bus back to Buncrana wasn’t due to leave until after one so we went up the hill to Saint Columb’s Cathedral built in 1633, so it would have born witness to the siege, and I almost stumbled over the 210-pound mortar shell that contained the terms of surrender fired into the besieged city by James II’s troops on 10th July 1689, and ignored by the people, before relief finally came three weeks later. There is also a glass case containing the four padlocks and keys to the city gates, turned one by one by the young hands of the brave apprentice lads while their leaders mulled over what to do about the ex-king of England waiting outside.
Shortly after our walk downhill through Derry we found ourselves waiting too, outside the Guildhall, in the rain awaiting our bus, but I have already mentioned our ‘Flight’ back to Zoonie in a previous blog.
However, I haven’t mentioned our look around the magnificent Guildhall, with its ornately carved wooden panels, polished parquet floors, high ceilings, stone door arches and the biggest organ I have seen in a long while. Well, the story in there was about the second Bloody Sunday Inquiry which turned upside down the first inquiry that had whitewashed the action of the paratroopers on 30 January 1972 when they opened fire on unarmed protesters in Bogside, killing 13 and injuring 18 more within ten minutes of madness. The second inquiry took 12 years to complete and was the most expensive inquiry in history, costing £195 million. But it brought peace of mind and closure to the families of the fallen.
With all that history buzzing around in my brain we headed back to Zoonie and made our way back down Lough Swilly in the rain to Ballymastocker Bay ready to set off to Port Ellen on Islay the next day. The weather forecast was perfect and we couldn’t wait!
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