Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900/Walker, George (1618-1690)

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729040Dictionary of National Biography, 1885-1900, Volume 59 — Walker, George (1618-1690)1899Richard Bagwell

WALKER, GEORGE (1618–1690), governor of Londonderry, was the son of George Walker, a native of Yorkshire, who became chancellor of Armagh, by his wife, Ursula Stanhope. George Walker the younger was a native of Tyrone, according to Harris, but others say he was born at Stratford-on-Avon (Ware, Irish Writers, ed. Harris; Wood, Life, ed. Clark, iii. 327). He was educated at Glasgow University, but his name does not occur in the ‘Munimenta Universitatis,’ and little is known of him until his appointment in 1669 to the parishes of Lissan and Desertlyn in co. Londonderry and Armagh diocese. He was already married to Isabella Maxwell of Finnebrogue. In 1674 he was presented to Donaghmore parish, near Dungannon, and went to live and do duty in that town, but without resigning Lissan. Donaghmore church and parsonage were in ruins after the civil war, but the former was restored in 1681, and in 1683 Walker built a substantial thatched house for himself. In the following year he built a corn-mill in the village of Donaghmore. Walker appears to have visited England in 1686.

At the close of 1688 Londonderry stood on its defence, and Walker was advised by some man of rank, not named, to raise a regiment at Dungannon, and this he considered ‘not only excusable but necessary.’ The famous John Leslie [q. v.], bishop of Clogher, in the same county, had had no scruple on account of his cloth. Early in 1688–9 Walker rode to Londonderry to see the acting governor, Robert Lundy [q. v.], who sent drill-instructors and two troops of horse to Dungannon, but ordered its evacuation on 14 March. Walker went in command of five companies to Strabane, whence he moved to Omagh by Lundy's orders. A fortnight later he was sent to Saint Johnstown, on the left bank of the Foyle. Coleraine being abandoned, the Jacobites were masters of the open country, and on 13 April Walker went to Londonderry, but could not persuade Lundy that he was in danger. On the 15th the passage of the Finn was forced at Cladyford, Lundy fled to Londonderry, and the gates were shut in Walker's face. The next day, he says, ‘we got in with much difficulty, and some violence upon the sentry’ (True Account). Walker certainly believed Lundy to be a traitor; but this was hard to prove, and he had King William's commission. His escape on 19 April was therefore connived at, Walker and Baker becoming joint-governors. The commissariat was Walker's special department, but he had the rank of colonel and a regiment of nine hundred men under him. ‘There were,’ he says, ‘eighteen clergymen in the town of the communion of the church who, in their turns, when they were not in action, had prayers and sermons every day; the seven nonconforming ministers were equally careful of their people, and kept them very obedient and quiet’ (ib.) John Mackenzie (1648?–1696) [q. v.] acted as chaplain to the presbyterians of Walker's own regiment. It was arranged that the church people should use the cathedral in the morning, and the nonconformists in the afternoon.

In the sally of 21 April Walker relieved Murray, whom he saw surrounded by the ‘enemy, and with great courage laying about him’ (ib.) A few days later he had himself a narrow escape, being treacherously fired on while going to meet a flag of truce. Baker, falling ill in June, made John Michelborne [q. v.] his deputy, and when he died the latter remained joint-governor with Walker to the end of the siege. His conduct met with some criticism. Mackenzie charges him with too great subservience to Kirke. It was known that the Jacobites were making great efforts to buy him, and some saluted him in the streets by the titles he was supposed to wish for (True Account, 2 July). It was reported that he had secreted provisions, but his house was searched at his own suggestion and the calumny disproved. Mackenzie accuses him of having preached a disheartening sermon just before the end of the siege, but his extant sermons and speeches are most inspiriting. The town was relieved by water on 28 July. Walker resigned his office into the hands of Kirke, who allowed him to name a new colonel for his regiment. He named Captain White, who had done good service during the siege. Michelborne was made sole governor by Kirke.

The rescued garrison adopted a loyal address, which was entrusted to Walker, and he sailed from Lough Foyle on 9 Aug. (Ash, Diary). This mission to England is some proof of the estimation in which he was held. He landed in Scotland, and received the freedom of Glasgow and Edinburgh on 13 and 14 Aug. (Witherow, p. 303). On his way south he halted at Chester, where Scravenmore received him with open arms (cf. Dwyer, p. 133 n.) He was in London a few days later, some admirers going as far as Barnet to welcome him. On 20 Aug., before his arrival, the Irish Society appointed a deputation to wait on him with thanks for his services, and later he was entertained at dinner (Concise View of the Irish Society). On 6 Sept. he attended the society to represent that most of the houses in Londonderry were down, and to ask for help; 1,200l. was voted by the city companies for immediate relief of the houseless people (ib.) Walker presented the Londonderry address to the king in person at Hampton Court, and William gave him an order for 5,000l., remarking that this was no payment, and that he considered his claims undiminished (Macaulay, chap. xv.). The money was paid next day ({{sc|Luttrell}, Diary, 25 Aug.). ‘It seemed,’ said a contemporary writer, ‘as if London intended him a public Roman triumph, and the whole kingdom to be actors and spectators of the cavalcade’ (Dawson, p. 270). Portraits of him were scattered broadcast. ‘The king,’ wrote Tillotson on 19 Sept., ‘besides his first bounty to Mr. Walker, whose modesty is equal to his merit, hath made him bishop of Londonderry (sic), one of the best bishoprics in Ireland … it is incredible how everybody is pleased’ (Lady Russell, Letters, ed. 1801). Ezekiel Hopkins [q. v.] was still bishop of Derry, but it was intended to translate him, and Walker was named as his successor (Wood, Life, iii. 209). There were doubts about his willingness to accept a mitre (ib.) Hopkins died three weeks before Walker, who was thus actually bishop-designate only for that time. On 18 Nov. a petition from Walker was presented to the House of Commons, setting forth the case of two thousand persons made widows and orphans by the siege. He asked nothing for himself. Next day he was called in and received the thanks of the house. Speaker Powle informed him that an address had been voted to the king for 10,000l. to relieve the sufferers, and desired Walker to give the thanks of the house to those who had fought with him, ‘when those to whose care it was committed did most shamefully if not perfidiously desert the place’ (‘Commons' Journal’ in Dwyer, p. 113 n.) On 8 Oct. Walker was made D.D. at Cambridge, ‘juxta tenorem regii præcepti,’ but it is uncertain whether he was present (Wood, Life, iii. 312; Dwyer, p. 113 n.) He visited Oxford on his way to Ireland, and the chancellor of the university, the second Duke of Ormonde, wrote to recommend him for the doctorate. On 26 Feb. 1689–90 Vice-chancellor William Jane presented him to convocation as a divine of the church of Ireland, governor and preserver of Derry city, champion of liberty, ‘utraque Pallade magnum ut a militia ad togam redeat’ (ib. p. 326). The diploma says that by saving Derry he saved Ireland (Dawson, p. 272).

Walker was at Belfast on 13 March 1689–1690 (contemporary account in Benn, Hist. of Belfast, p. 178), when Schomberg and the Duke of Würtemberg were there. William landed at Carrickfergus on 14 June, and was met by Walker outside the north gate of Belfast (ib. p. 181; Dean Davies, Diary, 31 May and 15 June). Walker was again presented to the king by Schomberg and Ormonde (ib.) He followed him to the Boyne, and fell at the passage of the river on 1 July. ‘What took him there?’ is said to have been the king's comment; but Story, the historian, who was himself present as a regimental chaplain, had heard that Walker was shot while going to look after the wounded Schomberg. If this was the case, William's sarcasm was unjust, and it is doubtful whether he ever uttered it. Walker was buried where he fell. Some years later his widow had the remains disinterred, as she believed, and buried on the south side of Castle Caulfield church with a suitable inscription, but it is not certain that the bones so transferred were really Walker's (Witherow; Dawson, p. 273).

Walker had several sons, four of whom were in King William's service (Vindication; Pedigree in Dwyer, p. 135 n.)

While in London Walker was asked to write an account of the siege of Londonderry, which he did in the form of a diary. It appeared as ‘A true Account of the Siege of Londonderry’ (London, 1689, 4to). Second and third editions were speedily called for in the same year; and also in the same year a German translation was published at Hamburg, and a Dutch version at Antwerp (Brit. Mus. Cat.) Mackenzie saw Walker's ‘True Account’ in December, and his ‘Narrative’ in answer to it was not long delayed (London, 1690, 4to). His object was to minimise Walker's share in the defence, and he even goes so far as to make the absurd statement that Walker was not governor of Londonderry. A more serious accusation is that he claimed too much credit for himself, and gave too little to others, especially to the presbyterian ministers, whom he does not name. Walker in his ‘Vindication’ (dated London, 1689, 4to, though Mackenzie's ‘Narrative’ is dated 1690) is able to answer most of the charges brought against him. Perhaps he was not careful enough to give credit to others, and especially to the heroic Adam Murray [q. v.]; but his book, which makes no pretence to completeness, was written in a hurry to meet a pressing demand, and the general tone of it is not egotistical. The whole facts of the siege can be arrived at only by a careful comparison of several narratives, but of these Walker's is by far the most vivid. The ‘True Account’ and ‘Vindication’ should be read together.

In Burnet's manuscript there is much praise of Walker (printed by Dwyer, p. 130 n.), and Macaulay, Swift, and others wondered why it failed to appear in his printed history.

While in London Walker sat to Kneller by the king's desire, and the engraved portrait has been reproduced by Canon Dwyer, who mentions various relics (p. 135 n.) Another print is given in the ‘Journal of the Ulster Archæological Society,’ vol. ii. It was also engraved by Peter Vanderbank in 1689, by Loggan, R. White, Schenck, and others (Bromley, p. 184). In 1828 a pillar was raised at Derry in memory of the long-buried governor, and his statue was placed on the top. ‘In one hand,’ says Macaulay, ‘he grasps a Bible. The other, pointing down the river, seems to direct the eyes of his famished audience to the English topmasts in the distant bay.’

[Authorities as for Murray, Adam; Michelborne, John; and Mackenzie, John. Siege of Londonderry in 1689, by the Rev. P. Dwyer, London, 1893, contains a reprint of Walker's ‘True Account’ and ‘Vindication,’ with sermons, speeches, letters, and valuable notes. There is a memoir by the Rev. A. Dawson in the Ulster Journal of Archæology, vol. ii. Everything that can be raked up against Walker is set forth in Witherow's Derry and Inniskillen, 3rd ed. Belfast, 1885.]

R. B-l.