The bogeyman of Lundy plays an extremely damaging role today within Unionism…

At this time of the year, most people are busy getting ready for Christmas and enjoying the festivities, however within Protestant and Unionist circles (of which I’m from) the historical character of Lundy is remembered by many. Unfortunately remembering the historical Lundy and flushing out perceived modern-day Lundies has become an unhealthy and destructive daily obsession within political Unionism and grassroots Protestantism and  I wanted to briefly discuss the shadow of Lundy that hangs over my community even today.

On Saturday a few friends and  I went to the Lundy’s Day/Shutting of the Gates commemoration in Londonderry. This event remembers the shutting of the gates to the walled city by 13 apprentices, the 13 took the initiative when they spotted the opposing Jacobite army approaching the walled city whose inhabitants were mainly Protestants, at the time the leaders of the city were dithering on what to do.

This event resulted in the famous siege of Derry, which lasted 105 days and is now remembered via “Derry Day” in August commemorating the relief of Derry when the siege ended. The Apprentice Boys of Derry (ABOD) commemorate both events which are steeped in history. Lundy’s Day in December was supposed to have been closer to Christmas day, however positive dialogue between the ABOD and local residents resulted in the event being moved to the first Saturday in December to less impede on Christmas shoppers.

The main part of the day is a parade to St. Columns Cathedral by the ABOD where an act of thanksgiving takes place followed by the parade concluding to Bishop’s street for the burning of the Lundy effigy. On Saturday as the Lundy effigy was set on fire there was a huge cheer that reverberated around Bishop’s street, the cheer is like the sound of relief as if the burning of this effigy is the symbolic cleansing of treachery and betrayal that is perceived to have engulfed the Protestant and Unionist tradition. As the heavy effigy could be heard creaking from its gallows I said out loud “what would Lundy looking down think of this?” to which someone from within the crowd shouted back at me, “you mean looking up”. Lundy is a significant figure within Protestant and Unionist folklore on this island, much more so than Ian Paisley, Edward Carson and even William of Orange.

The legend of Lundy is astronomical considering that not much is known about him, however, he has become a corrupt influence on the Protestant and Unionist psyche that that has held it back, created fear and paranoia, rejected new thinking and played a part in the overall decline that Unionism is currently enduring within Northern Ireland.

Robert Lundy was a Scottish military officer with an extensive record before being deployed to Londonderry as the Governor of the city. Initially Lundy was instrumental in reinforcing the defences of the city, however it seems when the opposition’s strength became known he did everything in his power to scupper the defences On April of 1689 he dissuaded reinforcements from landing, citing that defence of the city was hopeless, Lundy is also alleged to have sent a message to the Jacobite headquarters with a promise to surrender at the first summons. When this became known the inhabitants accused Lundy of treachery and he was forced to leave the city at night under the guise of a regular soldier with the aid of Walker and Murray (who both have been honoured by the ABOD with clubs named after them). Interestingly after an investigation in London, Lundy was acquitted of all charges of treason.

I am prepared to give Lundy the benefit of the doubt, he perhaps feared the annihilation of the city’s inhabitants against superior forces and felt a surrender was the only way to save lives. In addition to this, there is evidence that in refusing the additional troops Lundy did so for practical reason as the inhabitants were already struggling with the food reserves and additional bodies would have strained food supplies further, but the key part is his acquittal of treason in London which rarely gets mentioned. I feel that Lundy underestimated the resolve of the Ulster/Irish Protestant defenders and their determination to hold out regardless, even if it meant losing their lives. In fact, this resolve is almost echoed in today’s climate whereby some in Great Britain underestimate the strong desire of Northern Ireland’s Unionist population to remain a part of the UK. However, regardless of whether Lundy was a traitor or a realist matters little and the legend of Lundy looms so large that the folklore relating to his treachery means that even in 2019 he plays a pivotal role with Protestantism and by extension Unionism. Unionism almost needs to believe that Lundy was a traitor because the legend has grown so large that any evidence to the contrary will be dismissed as the bogeyman of Lundy must survive at all costs.

The bogeyman of Lundy plays an extremely damaging role today within Unionism as it prevents new ideas from developing, cooperating with one’s opponents can be frowned upon and offering a different type of Unionism is simply treacherous. Calling out wrongdoing within Unionism and asking for a better alternative will certainly lead to being branded a Lundy as my Twitter inbox will attest to. Down through the decades, the call of Lundy has been heard loudly from people like Ian Paisley denouncing Terrance O’Neill for reaching out to Catholics and David Trimble for signing up to the Belfast Agreement. In fact almost every recent UK Prime Minister have been denounced as a Lundy by some faction of Unionism including Wilson (Scroungers), Thatcher (Anglo Irish Agreement), Major (Secret talks with the IRA), Blair (Belfast Agreement), Cameron (Bloody Sunday apology), May (Backstop) and Johnson (Withdrawal act). Ironically Ian Paisley himself was denounced as a Lundy when he opted to go into government with Sinn Fein and Peter Robinson was also branded a Lundy for continuing on from Paisley.

The absurdity of Lundy is never-ending with Mike Nesbitt (encouraging SDLP transfers) and now Steve Aiken (an ex serviceman) being accused of being Lundies with the latter even having his election posters defaced with a picture of Lundy. Steve Aiken’s “crime” is unknown but may have something to do with his initial refusal to do pacts with the DUP. Doug Beattie an individual who has a strong British military background is regularly denounced on social media as a Lundy for challenging Unionist thinking and bad behaviour. In August 2019 when the ABOD simply acknowledged some may have been offended with the “Soldier F” insignia during the “Derry Day” parade they too were denounced as Lundies and countless Protestant church ministers have been denounced as Lundies, sometimes for nothing more than shaking hands with a Catholic Priest.

Outsiders look on bemusedly as my community tears itself apart by the renunciation of others who have the same objective but different tactics as Lundies. Unionism is losing so many good supporters and representatives as they are being bullied by those who use this derogatory term and we all have an obligation to protect those who come forward with new ideas. Thus far I haven’t been very impressed with how Steve Aiken has led the UUP, however it’s a difficult role and he deserves to be able to lead his party how he chooses free from being attacked for thinking differently. Remember Walker and Murray who are so revered within Protestant and Unionist folklore spared the real Lundy and gave him a safe passage rather than embarking on the usual protocol which would have been a trip to the gallows, modern-day Unionism needs such a generosity of spirit.

But why is Lundy so powerful? It’s simply because the name preys on the worst type of fear my community has, the betrayer within, someone who posed as a friend but turned out has dark ulterior motives. Lundy conjures up this incredible image that is difficult to deflect, it’s a stigma that means someone is untrustworthy, deceitful, self-serving and destructive. Those who use the term “Lundy” know that despite the character being from the 1690s he still has the power to hurt and damage those of the receiving end in 2019 and probably beyond. Unionism fears the Lundy type character much more than the IRA type character as Lundy has the power destroy from within. However those who use the term “Lundy” are preying on Unionist’s fears, it’s often the fear of the unknown that causes the worst type of reaction and when a Unionist comes along with a new idea or vision they are highly likely to be subjected to the term “Lundy”.

Using the term “Lundy” has long since become a corrosive word within Unionism, it has stifled debate, stifled new thinking and is too often used to hide the failed strategy of the present. Ironically it was Nationalists who pointed out that Boris Johnson would likely betray Unionism many months ago, however, these warnings were ignored as DUP MP’s were beguiled and then betrayed by him. As demographics change and Unionism continues to decline my community needs leaders who can come forward with a positive vision for the future, this will involve positively and genuinely reaching out to those from both the Nationalist and Other communities and working with them for the betterment of all. We must confine Lundy to the commemorations on the first Saturday in December and move on from the paranoia of always looking out for the next Lundy, we must also start to call out those who use this destructive term, are they offering a positive alternative or are they asking us to follow the broken policies of the past and present? The tactics of the past and present are failing all of us, and if we continue to renounce those who come forward with a different vision then we are the real Lundies of the 21st century as the current tactics are corroding Northern Ireland’s place within the United Kingdom.

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