Michelborne, John (DNB00)

From Wikisource
Jump to navigation Jump to search

MICHELBORNE, MITCHELBURN, or MICHELBURNE, JOHN (1647–1721), governor of Londonderry, son of Abraham Michelborne by his first wife, Penelope, daughter of John Wheeler of Droitwich (see Berry, Sussex Genealogies, p. 50), was baptised on 8 Jan. 1647–8 at Horsted Keynes in Sussex. He was of an ancient family long settled there and at Stanmer, and Sir Richard Michelborne of Bradhurst was his grandfather. After serving under Percy Kirke [q. v.] at Tangier between 1680 and 1683, he had a major's commission from the Prince of Orange dated 5 Feb. 1689, and in the same month took part in the attempt on Carrickfergus. He commanded Skeffington's regiment of foot at Cladyford and during the siege of Londonderry. When Governor Baker fell ill on 17 June 1689 he deputed Mitchelburn to act for him, and at his death ten days later named him governor. The two officers had been on bad terms and had even crossed swords, and the author of the ‘Londerias’ says Mitchelburn was under arrest when his predecessor died; but Walker, Mackenzie, and Ash do not mention this. He was a pall-bearer at Baker's funeral. Though not confirmed by any vote of the officers, Mitchelburn acted as military governor during the rest of the siege; but Walker always signs his name first. About the middle of July Melfort, on behalf of King James, offered Mitchelburn 10,000l. if he would procure a surrender, but the governor answered that William was his sovereign, who could reward him without the help of brass money (Letters in Siege of Derry, act iv.) He lost his wife and all his children—seven in number—during the siege. After the relief of Londonderry Kirke commissioned Mitchelburn as sole governor, and made him colonel of both Skeffington's and Crofton's regiments, which he fused into one. Mitchelburn commanded this corps at the Boyne, and mustered 664 rank and file after the battle (Story). He served at the long siege of Sligo, of which he took possession 19 Sept. 1691, and of which he was made governor (Harris).

In 1690 the Irish Society voted 100l. to Mitchelburn, but he had spent his own money during the siege of Londonderry, and was a heavy loser. He petitioned the English treasury, alleging that 9,570l. 16s. 8d. were due to him and his regiment (Cal. of Treasury Papers, 21 April 1691). Various delays and difficulties were interposed, but it appears that some portion of what was due was at length paid to him (Harris, book viii.) He remained permanently at Londonderry, and became alderman. In 1699 he issued a printed statement of his losses, which gave great offence at Londonderry, and he was expelled from his office of alderman (Corporation Minutes in Hempton, p. 406). He succeeded in the litigation which followed, and was restored by mandamus. A result of the statute 2 Anne, cap. 6, which imposed the sacramental test, was to exclude Mitchelburn's presbyterian opponents from the corporation, and in August 1703 his bill of costs was paid. He made at least two journeys to London on account of his claims, and in 1709 suffered imprisonment for debt in the Fleet.

Mitchelburn originated some well-known Londonderry observances. With Bishop King's leave he placed in the cathedral the French flags which had been taken on 7 May 1689, and in 1713 Bishop Hartstonge allowed him to record the fact in an inscription on the east window (ib. p. 410). On 1 Aug. 1718 the red flag, which still adorns the steeple, was hoisted for the first time, as Bishop William Nicolson [q. v.] has recorded (ib. p. 411), amid great rejoicings and feastings and with illuminations and salvoes of artillery. On the same day in 1720 Mitchelburn dined with the bishop, and there were more bonfires. By his will, dated 12 July 1721, he bequeathed 50l. 'for maintaining the flag on the steeple of Derry.' He died in his own house at the waterside, within sight of the walls which he had defended, on 1 Oct. 1721, and was buried near Adam Murray [q. v.] in Glendermot churchyard, co. Derry. His second wife is believed to have been the daughter of another defender, Captain Michael Cunningham of Prehen, Londonderry. By her Mitchelburn had no issue. A portrait of Mitchelburn in armour, by an unknown artist, is mentioned by Bromley. Mitchelburn's sword is preserved at Caw House, Londonderry, and his saddle, which was also used by Walker, is in possession of the Dublin society of 'Apprentice Boys of Derry,' who use it in their installation ceremonies.

[Lower's Worthies of Sussex; George Walker's True Account of the Siege of Londonderry; John Mackenzie's Narrative of the Siege; Captain Thomas Ash's Narrative of the Siege; Joseph Aickin's Londerias, 1699; George Story's Impartial History; Walter Harris's Life of William III; John Hempton's Siege and History of Londonderry; the Rev. John Graham's Ireland Preserved, containing the 'Siege of Derry,' a contemporary drama, which has been attributed to Mitchelburn; Witherow's Derry and Enniskillen, 3rd edit. 1885; manuscript minutes of Dublin 'Apprentice Boys;' Berry's Sussex Genealogies, p. 50; see arts. Lundy, Robert, and Mackenzie, John, 1648-1696.]

R. B-l.