WALKER, GEORGE (c. 1618-1690), hero of the siege of Londonderry, was the son of George Walker, rector of Kilmore and chancellor of Armagh (d. 1677), and of Ursula, daughter of Sir John Stanhope of Melwood, and is said to have been born in 1618 in Tyrone. He was educated at Glasgow University, and appointed to the livings of Lessan and Desertlyn, in the diocese of Armagh, near Londonderry, in 1669. In 1674 he obtained that of Donaghmore, which he held with Lessan. At the outbreak of the Civil War in Ireland towards the close of 1688, Walker, though in Holy Orders and advanced in years, raised a regiment and endeavoured to concert measures with Robert Lundy, the acting governor of Londonderry, for the defence of Dungannon. But Lundy, after having sent some troops to his support, ordered their withdrawal and the abandonment of the place on the 14th of March 1689. On the 17th of March Walker marched with his men to Strabane, and subsequently was ordered by Lundy to move to Rash and then to St Johnstown, 5 m. from Londonderry. On the approach of the enemy (April I3th) Walker rode hastily to Londonderry to inform Lundy, but was unable to convince him of his danger. He returned to his men at Lifford, where, on the 14th, he took part in a brush with the enemy, afterwards following the retreat of the army to Londonderry. The town was in great confusion, and Walker found the gates shut against him and his regiment. He was forced to pass the night outside, and only entered the next day " with much difficulty and some violence upon the Gentry." Immediately on his arrival he urged Lundy to take the field and refused the demand to disband his own soldiers. On the 17th of April Lundy determined to give up the town to James, and called a council from which Walker and others were especially excluded; but the next day the king and his troops, who had advanced to receive the surrender, were fired upon from the walls contrary to Lundy 's orders, and the arrival of Captain Adam Murray with a troop of horse saved the situation. Lundy was deprived of all power, and was allowed to escape in disguise from the town. On the 19th of April Walker and Baker were chosen joint-governors. Walker commanded fifteen companies, amounting to 900 men, and to him was also entrusted the supervision of the commissariat. He showed great energy, courage and resource throughout the siege, and led several successful sallies. Meanwhile his duties as a clergyman were not neglected. The Nonconformists were allowed the use of the cathedral on Sunday afternoons, but in the morning Walker preached. Those few of his sermons which remain, though simple in their language, are eloquent and inspiring. Meanwhile he had to contend with jealousies and suspicions within the town; but he succeeded in dispelling all misgivings and in reaffirming his credit with the garrison. At the close of the siege, which lasted 150 days, the town was at the last extremity; but at length, on the soth of July, Walker preached the last of the sermons by which he had helped to inspire its defence. An hour afterwards the ships were seen approaching, and the town was relieved.
As regards the general course of the war the importance of the successful resistance at Londonderry can hardly be exaggerated It was the first open act of hostility in Ireland against James and the disaster to his arms not only embarrassed his campaign in Ireland but prevented the expeditions to Scotland and England, and Walker's share in it was abundantly recognized. He sailed for Scotland and England on the pth of August, and was everywhere welcomed with immense public enthusiasm. On the zgth of August he was graciously received at Hampton Court by William and Mary, before whom he had with good sense refused to appear in his military costume, and delivered to them the petition from Londonderry. William presented him with 5000, part of which he appears to have given to the widow of Baker, his fellow-governor, who died during the siege. Shortly afterwards he was nominated bishop of Londonderry, but as Bishop Hopkins, whom it was determined to remove, only died three weeks before Walker, the latter was never consecrated. Walker succeeded in obtaining a grant of 1200 for Londonderry from the city companies, and on the 18th of November his petition to the House of Commons for relief for the widows, orphans, clergy and dissenting ministers was read, and the king was asked to distribute 10,000 among them (House of Commons Journals, vol. x. p. 288). On the following day Walker was called in, received the thanks of the House, and made a short and dignified reply. On the 8th of October he had been granted the degree of D.D. at Cambridge in his absence, and on his return journey to Ireland he received the same diploma at Oxford (Feb. 1690). Walker met William on his arrival in Ireland on the 14th of June 1690 at Belfast, and followed his army. He was present at the battle of the Boyne on the 1st of July, but in what capacity, whether as spectator, as combatant or as minister to tend the wounded, is uncertain. 1 He was shot through the body at the passage of the river, according to one account, while he was going to the aid of the wounded Schomberg (G. Story, A True . . . History of the A fairs in Ireland, p. 82), and died almost immediately. His remains, or what were supposed to be such, were afterwards transferred from the battlefield and buried in his own church at Donaghmore, where a monument and inscription were placed to his memory. A more conspicuous memorial was erected in Londonderry itself.
Walker married Isabella Maxwell of Finnebrogue, and left several sons, four of whom during his lifetime were in the king's service, and from one of whom at least there are descendants at the present day.
While in London Walker had published A True Account of the Siege of Londonderry (1689), dedicated to the king, which went through several editions and was translated for perusal abroad. This pamphlet, and the ovations received by Walker in London, excited fierce jealousies, which had been subdued in the hour of peril, but which were now formulated in the Narrative (1698) of John Mackenzie, a dissenting minister who had been present during the siege. Walker was charged with having taken too much credit to himself, and of having passed over the services and names of the nonconformists. Base insinuations were added and it was declared that Walker had never even held the post of governor. These accusations fall by the weight of their own exaggeration. On the other hand, Walker's Account, though doubtless incomplete, is written with candour and simplicity and is free from any touch of egotistical self-consciousness; and both this tract and his subsequent Vindication (1689) are greatly superior, in their dignity and restraint, to the pamphlets of his opponents. His character was proof against the perils which attend a sudden rise to fame and popularity, and his " modesty " is especially observed by several 1 Luttrell writes in his diary, vol. 2, p. 17 (Feb. 20, 1689-1690), " Mr Walker of Londonderry has taken his leave of the king to go to Ireland on some special command," and again, vol. 2, p. 44 (May 19, 1690), " Letters from Ireland say that Dr Walker, late governor of Londonderry, had a regiment of foot given him," but there appears to be no official record of his having received a commission at this time.
of his contemporaries. There exists also too much positive and independent evidence to permit any doubt whatever as to the greatness of Walker's services. Burnet, in a passage which was not included in his published history perhaps because of the controversy, says: "There was a minister in the place, Dr Walker, who acted a very noble part in the government and defence of the town; he was but a man of ordinary parts, but they were suited to his work, for he did wonders in this siege " (Harleian MSS., 65847, 292 b, printed by H. C. Foxcroft. Supplement to Burnet's Hist, of His, Own Times, 1902, p. 321).
In the Siege of Derry (1893) the Rev. Philip Dwyer has collected the most essential facts and materials relating to Walker and the siege, and has reprinted in his volume Walker's True Account and Vindication, together with Walker's sermons, various other documents and valuable notes.
Note - this article incorporates content from Encyclopaedia Britannica, Eleventh Edition, (1910-1911)