The Williamite War in Ulster

The accession of James II, a Catholic, to the throne in 1685 created considerable unrest among Ulster’s Protestants. In 1688 William of Orange arrived in England and was declared king in what was known as the ‘Glorious Revolution’. James II fled to France and the following year landed in Ireland with a large French army. Protestant resistance in Ulster had already been mobilised. On 21 March 1689 the famous 105 day siege of Derry began.

As many as 30,000 settlers as well as a garrison of 7,000 men were packed into the city; it was reckoned that 15,000 of them died of fever or starvation or were killed in battle. The siege was lifted in late July and soon afterwards a large Williamite force under the command of the Duke of Schomberg landed near Bangor, County Down, and by the autumn of 1689 James’ forces had been all but removed from Ulster. As the war moved south, with decisive battle fought at the Boyne on 1 July 1690 and Aughrim on 12 July 1691, the province began to recover from the consequences of the conflict.

The aftermath of the Williamite war saw a fresh influx of thousands of Scots in the north of Ireland, encouraged by harvest crises in their native land. About 1700 it was noted that due to a fresh wave of migration from Scotland, ‘the dissenters measure mightily in the north’. In some places there were Presbyterian ministers and congregations where previously there had been none.

Monea Castle reduced

An anonymous Jacobite tract of c.1711 noted that after 1690 ‘Scottish men came over into the north with their families and effects and settled there, so that they are now at this present the greater proportion of the inhabitants’. Though this was an exaggeration of the overall numerical position of the Scots, it was probably the case by this time that they outnumbered English settlers by 2:1.