The Battle of the Boyne-Waterford harbour role

As a child growing up in a small southern Irish village, I have to say the 12th July “celebrations” in the North of Ireland seemed a long way away and very confusing.  12th July marked the defeat of England’s James II by his Dutch son in law William III (King Billy) at the Battle of the Boyne in 1690 and for many years I struggled to make sense of people in the North who were so passionate about the English monarchy celebrating its upheaval.  Of course history is filled with battles, politics, curious characters and intrigue which gets very confusing when layered with hundreds of years of interpretation or misinterpretation.

James II
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The events that surrounded the Battle of the Boyne were more to do with politics in relation to the English throne and Catholic and Protestant tensions that were widespread throughout Europe at the time.  Catholic, James II was created king in 1685 only to be deposed by parliament and replaced with his daughter Mary and her husband William III (both protestant) in 1688.  James II fled to France and from there found willing allies in the Irish, who for religious and political reasons thought their interests would be best served with a Catholic monarch.

King Billy (William III)
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With the support of the French, James II came to Ireland to try build a base from which to regain his throne.  His first real engagement was Derry where the apprentice boys overruled the cities leaders and locked his army out, thus creating a siege that would last for several weeks in 1689 but would end in defeat for James who retreated to Dublin.  (Curiously enough there is another local connection to this, because the man who assisted in the victor, Roche the swimmer, was later given the ferry rights on the River Suir at Waterford. But that as they say, is a different story altogether) His son in law then entered the scene and the opposing armies met in the Boyne valley.

The Battle was a disaster from the start for James and his army of Irish/French and English amongst other nationalities.  Sensing defeat James II (who was watching from a safe distance with a protective entourage) turned south and fled.  His journey took him via Dublin and Wicklow and finally to Waterford.  It was here that James stayed overnight in Ballinakill with the Dobbyn family.

The following morning, in the early hours James II rode on horseback out the Dunmore road and along through Faithlegg down to Passage East.  There a small boat was waiting – probably a local punt- and into this James prepared to step.  As he did so, his hat flew off his head with a gust of wind and was quickly swept away on a strong ebb tide.  An aid rushed forward and with a flourish offered his own cavaliers hat to his king, causing James II to utter the immortal phrase “come, I have lost a crown in Ireland, but gained a hat”

A French ship was waiting at Duncannon and as soon as the defeated monarch was aboard it slipped out on the ebb tide and sailed away, initially to Cork, but next to France where James would later die.  King Billy followed him south a few weeks later and he too left via the estuary, apparently waiting aboard ship off Passage East for a few days for good weather.

King James departs
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Now I wholly admit that this is my own interpretation, or telling of the story, which I was told as a teenager and is probably filled with my own biases.  I realise there are others and two that I have read in the last year that I can at least point the curious reader to include Jim Hegartys short history of Passage – Time and Tide, see page 11.  Also Julian Walton’s On this Day Vol 1 Stories of Waterford’s 11,000 years pp 114-5.

My Facebook and Twitter pages are more contemporary and reflect not just heritage
and history but the daily happenings in our beautiful harbour:
F  T

4 Replies to “The Battle of the Boyne-Waterford harbour role”

  1. I recently came across a piece in the ME from the late 1880s I think
    , in which the author speculated on the route King William took from Carrick on Suit to Waterford. The authors preferred route was through Lower Kilmacow to meet the Dublin Road around Ballykeoghan and then via Parkreid, Gaulsmills, Smartscastle, Rockshire Road to Ferrybank. He reasoned that theydidnt use Granney Ferry bacause if the size of the retinue. It wasn't the purpose of my search so I didn't pursue it but he mustn't have been far behind James.

  2. Thanks for that Red Bank, Julian Walton gives an interesting account of Billys visit in the book I referenced. It was only a few weeks later apparently

  3. Andrew..
    This article slipped by my notice, I wrongly assumed you were spacing out your work.
    I saw an article last week and also remember from the past that King James stopped off in a house North Street, New Ross while wending his way to Duncannon.
    I’d better see if I had missed anything else..

    1. Hi Kev, this is an older article reprinted for the occasion. I often do it as a way of marking events. With over 300 stories so far there’s a lot of anniversaries to mark

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