Arrival at Derry

Samuel Gamble Bayne
New York to Londonderry (2) | Start of Section

We are now in "Derry," as it is called in Ireland, and every man in it is "town proud"; and well he may be, as Derry has a historical record second to but few cities in any country, and its siege is perhaps the most celebrated in history. At this writing it has a population of thirty-three thousand and is otherwise prosperous. Saint Columba started it in 546 A.D. by building his abbey. Then came the deadly Dane invader, swooping down on this and other Foyle settlements and glutting his savage appetite for plunder. Out of the ruins left by the Danes arose in 1164 the "Great Abbey of Abbot O'Brolchain," who was at that time made the first bishop of Derry. The English struggled and fought for centuries to gain a foothold in this part of Ireland, but to no purpose until Sir Henry Docrora landed, about 1600 A.D., on the banks of the Foyle with a force of four thousand men and two hundred horse. He restored Fort Culmore and took Derry, destroyed all the churches, the stones of which he used for building fortifications, and left standing only the tower of the cathedral, which remained until after the siege.

In 1608 Sir Cahir O'Doherty, of Inishowen, who at first had favored the settlement, rebelled, took Culmore fort, and burned Derry. His death, and the "flight of the earls" Tyrone and Tyrconnell to France, left Derry and other vast possessions to English confiscation, over two hundred thousand acres alone falling to the citizens of London. The walls were built in 1609, and still remain in good condition, being used as a promenade; the original guns bristle from loop-holes at intervals, and "Roaring Meg" will always have a place in history for the loud crack she made when fired on the enemy. She sits at the base of Walker's monument now, silent, but still ugly. This monument is erected on a column ninety feet high, starting from a bastion on the wall, and has a statue of Walker on its summit. One of the earliest feats in sight-seeing which the writer ever accomplished was to climb to its top, up a narrow flight of spiral stairs. (There would not be room enough for him in it now.)

James I. granted a new charter of incorporation to Derry in 1613, and changed the name from Derrycolumcille to Londonderry. James II. laid siege to the town in person in 1689, but failed to capture it. It was defended for one hundred and five days by its citizens under George Walker, but two thousand of them lost their lives from wounds and starvation. On the 28th of July, the ships Mountjoy and Phoenix, by gallantly rushing in concert against the iron boom laid across the Foyle, broke it, and relieved the starving people with plenty of provisions; and so the siege was ended.

There are seven gates in the walls of Derry—viz., Bishop's Gate, Shipquay Gate, Butchers' Gate, New Gate, Ferryquay Gate, Castle Gate, and the Northern Gate, a recent addition. Those favorites of fortune who live near New York know that George Washington had some two hundred and fifty "headquarters" and places where he "once stopped," in and about that city, and that he sat in over two thousand armchairs in them—or, at least, that number has been sold with the genial auctioneer's guarantee of their authenticity. It is estimated that it would require a train of twenty freight cars to carry the chairs, desks, haircloth sofas, saddle-bags, guns, and pistols that have been sold as relics from his headquarters at Madame Jumel's alone, Harlem absorbing seventy-five per cent. of this output. But for all that, King James runs George a close second. The writer is only one man, yet he has slept in three Honduras mahogany four-posters in which James preceded him, has eaten with many knives that swept the royal mouth, and to-day owns a bone-handled razor that is said to have scraped the face of royalty; and yet, after all, he is only comparatively happy!

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On an Irish jaunting Car through Donegal and Connemara

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Samuel Gamble Bayne was born in Ramelton, County Donegal, and educated at Queen's University in Belfast. At the age of twenty-five he left for America with a view to making his fortune. He invested in an oil well in Pennsylvania and later founded a bank which subsequently came to be the JP Morgan Chase bank in New York. By the time this book was written he was wealthy enough to be referred to as a billionaire. His account of the tour through the north, west and south of Ireland is a pleasant snapshot of how that part of the country was in the early part of the 20th century. He describes what is to be seen, gives some background history and, through the illustrations especially, provides wonderful glimpses of the area's social history.

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