William R. Young's Fighters of Derry has for decades been one of the most overlooked works on the Siege of Derry and as a local genealogical resource. First published in 1932, the book was the product of ten years’ research which the author undertook when suffering from ill-health in the latter part of his life. He died in the following year. His reason for writing it is given in the Preface:
“The history of the great Defence [of Derry] and the honour of the Defenders are safe in such hands [Lord Macaulay and Dr. Witherow]: but it has occurred to me that the present-day generation of Ulstermen, of all political creeds, whether Protestant or Roman Catholic, would be interested in a work giving short sketches of the men who played prominent parts in this great epic and subsequent campaign down to the fall of Limerick, with particulars of their family, antecedents, and present representative. There is scarcely an Ulsterman whose ancestry, direct or through a female line, has not some hereditary touch with participants in those memorable events.”
The book is essentially divided into two parts: the first contains 1660 biographical entries relating to the defenders of Derry and the second has 352 on the Jacobite side, although some merely record the name and regiment or the name alone. Young was a proud Ulsterman and Unionist, but was nevertheless quick to acknowledgement the gallantry of the Irish who fought on the side of King James:
“Though foiled at Derry and beaten at the Boyne (where a gallant Irishman is said to have exclaimed “Change Kings and we’ll fight you again!”), they fought desperately on at Athlone and Aughrim to the walls of Limerick, where they again and again proved the worth of an Irish soldier. There can to-day be nothing but sympathy and admiration for the thousands of Irishmen who, after Limerick, rather than accept extinction in their own land, elected to become exiles and serve in the armies of Spain and France, where the Irish Brigades in many a hard-fought battle proved themselves second to none, while their officers, in many cases, served with such distinction as to found families once ranking among the grandees of Spain, or high in the nobility of other continental countries.”
Apart from individual accounts of eminent protagonists in the siege, such as David Cairnes, Rev. George Walker, the Duke of Schomberg, Patrick Sarsfield, etc., and the not so eminent too, there is also background given to many of the most influential families involved in the conflict.
This new edition provides a short biographical sketch of the author and has been enhanced with illustrations. The index has also been revised and substantially extended.
See also The Actions of the Enniskillen-men (ISBN: 978-1910375068) by Andrew Hamilton which gives an account of the attempted relief of Derry in 1689.