Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Brave Boys of Derry or No Surrender!

Londonderry in Northern Ireland has a colorful past. One such illustration of its history is found in Brave Boys of Derry or No Surrender! by W.S. Martin.

It's 1689, and the battles between the Protestants and Catholics are on the upswing. Deposed King James II of England attempts a conquest through Ireland to uproot the Protestant ways of the island's people. All is going well... until he reaches the walls of Londonderry. As the town's leaders discuss what terms they should come to with James, thirteen young apprentices grab the city's keys and rush to the gates, locking them and yelling, "No surrender! No surrender!"

Their action embolden the townspeople, and the citizens insist on not surrendering to the former king. They close ranks. Those who support James either escape or are imprisoned--or simply keep their mouths shut. And the whole town depends on God to get them through. Daily prayers are led by town leader Rev. George Walker.

But the siege bleeds into weeks, then months. The townspeople begin dying from starvation and disease, and are unable to bury their dead since they can't leave the city for burial in the countryside. Many cellars are filled with the deceased, but the town is convinced that with God's help, they will make it through.

King William the Third sends help in the form of thirty ships filled to the brim with food and armaments. But when they arrive, the bay at Lough Foyle has been foiled by a boom placed in the way of getting to Londonderry. The ships retreat, staying in sight of Londonderry, but out of reach to the townspeople.

Several weeks go by, the citizens of Londonderry becoming more desperate as rations dwindle. Finally, a message makes it way to the ships: The people on shore need help. The captains of the ships are galvanized--they will get the much-needed supplies through the blockade and to those who require it. A plan is forged, and two ships lead the way, fighting off James' troops until they make it to the town.

Resupplied, and with food in their bellies, those of Londonderry ramp up the fighting of James' troops. Three days go by, ramparts blaring and bells ringing. When dawn arises on the 1st of August, the citizens see a line of smoking ruins--the remnants of the huts occupied by the besiegers.

What I Like: Once I got into it, the book was captivating. I read it in one sitting. Having grown up at a time when the battles between Protestants and Catholics of Ireland was in the news nightly, this shed a lot of light on what is probably near the beginning of a centuries-old battle.

What I Dislike: This book was originally released around 1900--the information provided in the book didn't give an exact year. So, the stylistic choices are not ones we'd see in today's publishing industry. Rather than the short paragraphs and interaction between major players of the story, the reader is subjected to lengthy paragraphs that sometimes run several pages, with only a couple of people that remain constant throughout the entire book.

And although the thirteen apprentices are credited with the initial cry to not surrender, none of the thirteen are named, nor are they ever mentioned after their all-too brief scene near the beginning of the book. I find it a little funny to title a book after thirteen people who are such minor players in a much larger story.

Overall Rating: Very good.

Age Appeal: 8 and up

Publisher Info: Nordskog Publishing Inc., 2010; ISBN: 978-0-9827074-0-1; Hardback, 69 PGS., $14.95

Buy it at Amazon.com for $14.95.

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