My maternal 6th great-grandfather is Colonel Adam Downing. Born in Londonderry in 1666 he served with the army of King William of Orange as a young army officer aged twenty-three and fought at the Siege of Londonderry in 1689.
There is a well-known poem which mentions him named ‘The Shutting of the Gates’.
On angry foes proud frowning
From Dawson’s bridge his fair abode
Came gallant Adam Downing
The following year he fought at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 where King William defeated the Catholic James II, and England’s history changed forever.
SIEGE OF LONDONDERRY
Early in December, the inhabitants of Derry were alarmed to hear that a Catholic regiment under Lord Antrim was about to be placed in their town as a garrison, and that these troops were actually on their march. This alarm was strengthened by a sermon preached to the Roman Catholics of Derry, showing how dangerous it was to spare even one of those whom God had devoted to destruction.
On the 7th of December, when a copy of the letter addressed to Lord Mount-Alexander was received by Alderman Tomkins, the people concluded that Lord Antrim was coming to murder the inhabitants. A fearful scene of excitement ensued, and many determined to fight rather than admit the king’s forces. Dr. Hopkins, the Episcopalian bishop of Derry, pointed out the sin of disobeying James, the “Anointed of the Lord,” but the people could not comprehend that it was “a crime to shut the gates against those whom they believed sent thither to cut their throats.”
Nine out of every ten being Presbyterians, they were the more inclined to reject a policy they condemned, because it was advocated by a man whose office they despised. But when the Rev. James Gordon, Presbyterian minister of Glendermot, strongly advised resistance, they were easily persuaded to adopt the course they desired, when urged by one who held the same religious principles as themselves.
The spirit of the Derry Presbyterians now rose high. Lord Antrim’s soldiers were drawing near. No time was to be lost. Thirteen young men, since known to history as the “Prentice Boys of Derry” drew their swords, ran to the gate, and locked it, when the Irish Catholic Army was sixty yards distant.
Their names were: William Cairns, Henry Campsie, William Crookshanks, Alexander Cunningham, John Cunningham, Samuel Harvey, Samuel Hunt, Alexander Irwin, Robert Morrison, Daniel Sherrard, Robert Sherrard, James Spike, James Steward.
The other gates were secured and the magazine seized. The Irish soldiers remained outside until they heard a man named James Morrison shouting, “Bring about a great gun here,” when they retired in haste and re-crossed the river. Bishop Hopkins now addressed the multitude, telling them that in resisting James, who was their lawful king, they were resisting God Himself.
But this speech had no effect, and he soon left the town to those whom he called “the disloyal Whigs.”
ENACTED (by James II) that the Persons hereafter named,
“Whether dead or alive, or killed in open rebellion, or now in arms against your Majesty, and every one of them shall be deemed, and are hereby declared and adjudged traitors, convicted and attainted of high treason, and shall suffer such pains of death, penalties, and forfeitures respectively, as in cases of high treason are accustomed.”
viz. :–Hugh Montgomery, Earl of Mount Alexander; John Skeffington, Viscount Massareene; William Caulfield, Viscount Charlemont; William Stewart, Viscount Mountjoy; Ezekiel Hopkins, Lord Bishop of Derry; Henry Lord Blaney, of Monaghan; Sir Arthur Royden, of Moyra, Bart.; Sir Francis Hamilton, of Castlehamilton, Bart.; Sir William Franckiln, of Belfast, Bart.; Sir Tristrum Beresford, of Ballykally, Bart.; Sir John Mugill, of Gill-Hall, Knt.; Samuel Morrison, Gent.; all late of the CITY OF DUBLIN. Robert Rochford, Esq., of WESTMEATH. Henry Baker, of Dumagan, Esq; James Brabazon, of Carrstown, Gent.; Christopher Fortescue, of Dromiskin, Esq.; all of the COUNTY OF LOWTH. George Vaughan, of Buncrana, Esq.; John Forward, of Coolemackiltraine, Esq.; Hugh Hamill, of Lifford, Esq; William Groves, of Castles-hannaghan, Esq.; Kilmer Braizier, of Rath, Esq.; Major Gustavus Hamilton, of Rusogile; John Wigton, of Raphoe, Gent.; John Cowen, of St. Johnstown, Gent.; Chas. Calhoone, of Letterkenny, Gent.; James Fisher, of Derry, Gent.; and Captain Jervis Squire, of Donagh-more, all of the COUNTY OF DONEGAL AND LONDONDERRY. David Kearnes, of Askragh, Esq.; Audley Meryn, of Trilick, Gent.; George Walker, of Donoughmore, Clerk; William Stewart of Killemoon, Gent.; all of the COUNTY OF TYRONE. John Knox, of Glasslogh, Clerk, of the COUNTY OF MONAGHAN. Clotworthy Skeffington, of Antrim, Esq.; Col. Robt. Adaire, of Ballymena; Arthur Upton of Templepatrick, Esq.; Lieutenant-Colonel William Shaw, of Gemeway; Captain William Shaw, of Bash; Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Hueston, of Cregg; Captain William Adare of Ballymena; all of the COUNTY OF ANTRIM. Daniel Mac Neale, of Dundrum, Gent., of the COUNTY OF DOWN. Major Joseph Strowde, of Lisburne, in the COUNTY OF ARMAGH. Alex. Stewart, Esq., son of the Lord Mountjoy; Warham Jemett, Collector; Capt. Alexander Lecky, Capt. Samuel Norman, Capt. Matthew Cockins, Capt. Alex. Tomkins, Capt. John Tomkins, Capt. Thomas Mon-crieff, Capt. James Lennox, Capt. Horace Kennedy, Lieut. Wm. Crookshanks, Lieut. Jas. Spicke, Lieut. Danl. Sherrard, Lieut. Edward Brooks, Lieut. Henry Long, Lieut. William Macky, Lieut. Robert Morrison, Lieut. Wm. Newton, Lieut. Henry Campsy, Lieut. Henry Thompson, Col. George Philips, of Newtownlimavady: Lieut.-Col. Edward Carry, of Dungivin; Capt. Stephen Heard, Capt. James Strong, Capt. Thomas Ash, Capt. Samuel Hobson, Captain Abraham Hilhouse, of Ballycastle; Col. George Canning, of Garvagh; Capt. Wm. Church, Capt. Miller, Capt. Adam Downing, of Bellaghy; Captain Samuel Wright, Lieutenant-Colonel Robert Lundy, and David Rosse, of Londonderry, Gent.; all of the COUNTY OF LONDONDERRY. Capt. Chidley Coote, of Voughtershire, ROSCOMMON. Henry Nickleson, of Ballanagargine, Gent.; Adam Ormsby, of Comine, Gent.; Francis Gore, of Sligo, Gent.; Charles Nicleson, of Larrass, Gent.; all of the COUNTY OF SLIGO. Major Owen Vaughan of Carrowmore, MAYO,
The Siege lasted for 105 days but the citizens and the garrison were pent up by the presence of first the Earl of Antrim`s forces from 7 December 1688, and then by King James` forces, to 31 July 1689 a total of 236 days.
King James retreated from Londonderry on the evening of 31 July 1689 having lost between 8-10,000 men.
Troops in the City at 19 April 1689
Living at close of Siege – 4,000
Killed and died of disease – 3,361
Civilian deaths – 7,000
Total killed/died in Londonderry – 10,361
Note by Ed.
If anyone reading this story is a descendant of this branch of the Downing family in Co. Londonderry or Antrim there is a group page on Facebook which you are welcome to join by clicking here.