The Nutfield towns of Derry, Windham, and Londonderry were settled in 1719 by a pioneer band of sixteen families from the Ulster Plantation of Northern Ireland. They came here in pursuit of the religious, political and cultural freedom that was denied them in the Old World. The famous siege of Derry in 1689 did much to forge this love of liberty and fierce resistance to any perceived threat to their Scottish way of life.
By way of background, the modern city of Derry, Northern Ireland, was founded in 546 A.D. by Saint Columba. His monastery was on a small, oak-covered, hilly island by the river Foyle. The original name of the village Doire, the Gaelic word for oak trees. In 1613 investors from London, England, built a mile-long wall around central hill in Derry and renamed the town Londonderry. During the seventeenth century, many thousands of Scottish Presbyterians left Scotland for Northern Ireland. Much of the land they settled upon was formally the property of the native-born Irish.
During the twentieth century, sectarian struggles between Catholics and Protestants rocked the city. For decades the British army occupied much of the town and protest marches and gun fire were a daily occurrence. It has only been in the last couple of decades that a state of relative calm has enveloped the city. Today the Catholic majority prefers that the city be called by its original name- Derry. In contrast, the Protestant minority always refers to the city as Londonderry. Sometimes the town called “Slash City” because of the politically correct designation of Derry/Londonderry.
In 1685, James II, a Catholic, ascended to the throne of England. He soon replaced all the Protestant officers in the army with loyal Catholics. Many England feared the Catholicism would be made the state religion and that he Protestants would become disenfranchised. In 1688 a coup forced James to flee to France. Protestant monarchs King William and Queen Mary replaced him on the throne.
In March 1689, James landed in Ireland with a French army and a call front he Irish to rise up in rebellion. Soon an estimated fifty thousand peasants heeded his call. This army, called the Jacobites, seized the cities of Ireland in the name of King James II. In time, the only Irish city still controlled by the British was Derry. Within its walls were thousands of Scottish refugees who had fled their villages and farms to escape massacre by the French-Irish army. Derry’s military commander sided with the Jacobites and ordered the city gates open to admit the French. The surrender was rejected by a group of thirteen apprentice boys from Derry. These freedom-loving teenagers rushed to the Derry city wall and slammed the gate shut to keep out the enemy. Their message was “no surrender”
On April 18, 1689, King James II arrived outside the wall of Derry and Demanded that the city surrender to its rightful King. The city refused his command and the siege of Derry began. The Jacobite strategy was to blockade the city and allow no food or supplies into the town. In time, starvation and the effects of daily artillery bombardments would surely force and the seven thousand inhabitants to surrender.
A few miles downstream from Derry, the Jacobites constructed a floating log boom across the river Foyle. This barrier was constructed to prevent any resupplying to the city by the British navy. The French also set up artillery batteries on the nearby shores to protect the boom.