Page last updated at 18:30 GMT, Friday, 23 October 2009 19:30 UK

King Billy's army brought to book

Cllr William Humphrey and Dr Jonathan Mattison
Councillor William Humphrey and Dr Jonathan Mattison examine the 1690 account book

A historic manuscript containing details of every soldier who fought with King William of Orange in the Battle of the Boyne has been discovered during renovation work at Belfast City Hall.

The 320-year-old "account book" had been lying in storage at the building for almost a century without the authorities realising the significance it could hold for military historians and the Orange Order.

The parchment document was written by the Paymaster General Thomas Coningsby and includes a detailed record of each man in the 35,000-strong army which accompanied King William III to Ireland to do battle with his uncle and father-in-law, the deposed James II.

It was found when a range of artefacts were moved from the city hall to allow an £11m refurbishment to take place.

Belfast City Council has now presented the manuscript to the Orange Order.

Councillor William Humphrey, who is the chairman of the council's culture, development and arts committee, said officials knew that the book had been given to the old Belfast Corporation "way back in the mists of time".

But he explained that the council "did not really appreciate just how much information there was in it, until we gave it a more detailed examination".

'Fascinating read'

Dr Jonathan Mattison, who is a researcher with the Orange Order, described the discovery as "absolutely fantastic" and said they were indebted to the council for unearthing an "exciting piece of history".

"It shows the payments made to all the various regiments, units, individuals and suppliers during the year of 1690 when William III came over to prosecute the war with more zeal in Ireland, leading up to the Battle of the Boyne," he explained.

"Officers of high rank and even down to lowly rank are recorded in the pages of the manuscript itself and it's a fascinating book, a fascinating read," he explained.

"I think it will give us a greater insight into not only the political history of the time but also the social and economic circumstances and history that go along with any period of war or conflict, because obviously with 35,000 men under your command, people have to get paid.

"It gives the mechanics and economics of warfare as well as just the politics and events themselves," he said.

The book will eventually go on display at the Orange Order's headquarters in east Belfast.

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