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The Man Who Built Culmore Fort

Culmore Fort, County Londonderry from the Hardiman Atlas.
An almost exact copy of IE TCD MS 864 [Nicholas Pynnar/Pynner? Survey, 1619].

(The facsimile of the letter is not shown here)

The Man Who Built Culmore Fort

We print in facsimile on page 6 an interesting letter, dated 7th November 1623, by Sir Henry DOCWRA, a Governor of Derry in stirring times, in the early part of the seventeenth century. The letter, which is hard to decipher, deals obviously with a money transaction relating to some officer under his command.

The writer, Sir Henry, on 16th April 1600 “with a British force of 4,000 foot and 200 horse, entered the harbour of Lough Foyle (of which he was afterwards appointed Governor) and in six days afterwards took Derry without opposition.”

In his Narrative Sir Henry gives details of the operations. “On the 16th in the morning (he writes) wee got loose and about 10 of the clocke (100 men lying on shoare and giving us a volie of shott and soe retiring) wee landed att Culmore and with the first of our horse and foote that wee could unshipp made up towards a troupe of horse and foote that wee sawe standing before us on the topp of a hill, but by ignorance of the wayes our horses were presentlie boggt and soe of that day wee made none other use, but onlie to land our men.

The next day the place seaming to my judgement, fitt to build, wee begonne about the butt end of the broken castle, to caste up a forte, such as might be capable to lodge 200 men in. Six dayes wee spent in labour about it, in which meane space, making upp into the countrie with some troupes (only with intent to discouver) wee came to Ellogh, a castle of O’DOGHARTYEA, wch he had newlie abandoned and begunne to pulle down, but seeing it yett tennable and of good use to be held, I put Captaine Ellis FLOUDD into it and his companie of 150 men.

On 22nd May wee put the army in order to march and leaving Captaine Lancellott ATFORD at Culmore with 600 men to make up the workes wee went to the Derry, 4 myles off, upon the river side a place in manner of an iland, comprehending within it 40 acres of ground, wherein were the ruines of a old abbey, of a bishop’s house, of two churches, and at one of the ends of it an old castle, the river called Loughfoyle encompassing it all on one side, and a bogge most commonlie wett, and not easilie passable, except in two or three places, dividing it from the maine land.”

In 1803, when Sir Henry DOCWRA was Governor of Derry, the garrison was reduced to 100 horse and 150 foot. In 1604 he was made Provost for life of Derry, and received a pension.

Transcribed by Teena from the Londonderry Sentinel 15 Dec. 1927