The Eve of the Covenant

Ronald McNeill
Chapter IX

There was one Liberal statesman, formerly the favourite lieutenant of Gladstone and the closest political ally of Asquith, who was under no illusion as to the character of the men with whom Asquith was now provoking a conflict. Speaking in Edinburgh on the 1st of November, 1911, that is, shortly after the Craigavon meeting, Lord Rosebery told his Scottish audience that "he loved Highlanders and he loved Lowlanders, but when he came to the branch of their race which had been grafted on to the Ulster stem he took off his hat with reverence and awe. They were without exception the toughest, the most dominant, the most irresistible race that existed in the universe."[28]

The kinship of this tough people with the Lowlanders of Scotland, in character as in blood, was never more signally demonstrated than when they decided, in one of the most intense crises of their history, to emulate the example of their Scottish forefathers in binding themselves together by a solemn League and Covenant to resist what they deemed to be a tyrannical encroachment on their liberties and rights.

The most impressive moment at the Balmoral meeting at Easter 1912 was when the vast assemblage, with uncovered heads, raised their hands and repeated after Sir Edward Carson words abjuring Home Rule. The incident suggested to some of the local Unionist leaders that the spirit of enthusiastic solidarity and determination thus manifested should not be allowed to evaporate, and the people so animated to disperse to the four corners of Ulster without any bond of mutual obligation. The idea of an oath of fidelity to the cause and to each other was mooted, and appeared to be favoured by many. The leader was consulted. He gave deep, anxious, and prolonged consideration to the proposal, calculating all the consequences which, in various possible eventualities, might follow its adoption. He was not only profoundly conscious of the moral responsibility which he personally, and his colleagues, would be undertaking by the contemplated measure; he realised the numerous practical difficulties there might be in honouring the bond, and he would have nothing to do with a device which, under the guise of a solemn covenant, would be nothing more than a verbal manifesto. If the people were to be invited to sign anything of the sort, it must be a reality, and he, as leader, must first see his way to make it a reality, whatever might happen.

For, although Carson never shrank from responsibility, he never assumed it with levity, or without full consideration of all that it might involve. Many a time, especially before he had fully tested for himself the temper of the Ulster people, he expressed to his intimates his wonder whether the bulk of his followers sufficiently appreciated the seriousness of the course they had set out upon. Sometimes in private he seemed to be hypersensitive as to whether in any particular he was misleading those who trusted him; he was scrupulously anxious that they should not be carried away by unreflecting enthusiasm, or by personal devotion to himself. About the only criticism of his leadership that was ever made directly to himself by one of the rank and file in Ulster was that it erred on the side of patience and caution; and this criticism elicited the sharpest reproof he was ever heard to administer to any of his followers.[29] His expressions of regard, almost amounting to affection, for the men and women who thronged round him for a touch of his hand wherever he appeared in the streets might have been ignorantly set down as the arts of a demagogue had they ever been spoken in public, but were capable of no such misconstruction when reserved, as they invariably were, for the ears of his closest associates. The truth is that no popular leader was ever less of a demagogue than Sir Edward Carson. He had no "arts" at all—unless indeed complete simplicity is the highest of all "arts" in one whom great masses of men implicitly trust. He never sought to gain or augment the confidence of his followers by concealing facts, minimising difficulties, or overcolouring expectations.

It is not surprising, then, that the decision to invite the Ulster people to bind themselves together by some form of written bond or oath was one which Carson did not come to hastily. While the matter was still only being talked about by a few intimate friends, and had not been in any way formally proposed, Captain James Craig happened to be occupying himself one day at the Constitutional Club in London with pencil and paper, making experimental drafts that might do for the proposed purpose, when he was joined by Mr. B. W. D. Montgomery, Secretary of the Ulster Club in Belfast, who asked what he was doing. "Trying to draft an oath for our people at home," replied Craig, "and it's no easy matter to get at what will suit." "You couldn't do better," said Montgomery, "than take the old Scotch Covenant. It is a fine old document, full of grand phrases, and thoroughly characteristic of the Ulster tone of mind at this day." Thereupon the two men went to the library, where, with the help of the club librarian, they found a History of Scotland containing the full text of the celebrated bond of the Covenanters (first drawn up, by a curious coincidence of names, by John Craig, in 1581), a verbatim copy of which was made from the book.

The first idea was to adapt this famous manifesto of militant Protestantism by making only such abbreviations and alterations as would render it suitable for the purpose in view. But when it was ultimately decided to go forward with the proposal, and the task of preparing the document was entrusted to the Special Commission,[30] it was at once realised that, however strongly the fine old Jacobean language and the historical associations of the Solemn League and Covenant might appeal to the imagination of a few, it was far too involved and long-winded, no matter how drastically revised, to serve as an actual working agreement between men of to-day, or as a rallying-point for a modern democratic community. What was needed was something quite short and easily intelligible, setting forth in as few words as possible a purpose which the least learned could grasp at a glance, and which all who so desired could sign with full comprehension of what they were doing.

Mr. Thomas Sinclair, one of the Special Commission, was himself a draughtsman of exceptional skill, and in a matter of this kind his advice was always invaluable, and it was under his hand that the Ulster Covenant, after frequent amendment, took what was, with one important exception, its final shape. The last revision cut down the draft by more than one-half; but the portion discarded from the Covenant itself, in the interest of brevity, was retained as a Resolution of the Ulster Unionist Council which accompanied the Covenant and served as a sort of declaratory preamble to it.[31] The exception referred to was an amendment made to meet an objection raised by prominent representatives of the Presbyterian Church. The Special Commission, realising that the proposed Covenant ought not to be promulgated without the consent and approval of the Protestant Churches, submitted the agreed draft to the authorities of the Church of Ireland and of the Presbyterian, Methodist, and Congregational Churches. The Moderator, and other leaders of the Presbyterians, including Mr. (afterwards Sir Alexander) McDowell, a man endowed with much of the wisdom of the serpent, while supporting without demur the policy of the Covenant, took exception to its terms in a single particular. They pointed out that the obligation to be accepted by the signatories would be, as the text then stood, of unlimited duration. They objected to undertaking such a responsibility without the possibility of modifying it to meet the changes which time and circumstance might bring about; and they insisted that, before they could advise their congregations to contract so solemn an engagement, the text of the Covenant must be amended by the introduction of words limiting its validity to the crisis which then confronted them.

This was accordingly done. Words were introduced which declared the pledge to be binding "throughout this our time of threatened calamity," and its purpose to be the defeat of "the present conspiracy." The language was as precise, and was as carefully chosen, as the language of a legal deed; but in an unhappy crisis which arose in 1916, in circumstances which no one in the world could have foreseen in 1912, there were some in Ulster who were not only tempted to strain the interpretation which the Covenant as a whole could legitimately bear, but who failed to appreciate the significance of the amendments that had been made in its text at the instance of the Presbyterian Church.[32]

When these amendments had been incorporated in the Covenant by the Special Commission, a meeting of the Standing Committee was convened at Craigavon on the 19th of September to adopt it for recommendation to the Council. The Committee, standing in a group outside the door leading from the arcade at Craigavon to the tennis-lawn, listened while Sir Edward Carson read the Covenant aloud from a stone step which now bears an inscription recording the event. Those present showed by their demeanour that they realised the historic character of the transaction in which they were taking part, and the weight of responsibility they were about to assume. But no voice expressed dissent or hesitation. The Covenant was adopted unanimously and without amendment. Its terms were as follows:

"Ulster's Solemn League and Covenant

"Being convinced in our consciences that Home Rule would be disastrous to the material well-being of Ulster as well as of the whole of Ireland, subversive of our civil and religious freedom, destructive of our citizenship, and perilous to the unity of the Empire, we, whose names are underwritten, men of Ulster, loyal subjects of His Gracious Majesty King George V, humbly relying on the God whom our fathers in days of stress and trial confidently trusted, do hereby pledge ourselves in solemn Covenant throughout this our time of threatened calamity to stand by one another in defending for ourselves and our children our cherished position of equal citizenship in the United Kingdom, and in using all means which may be found necessary to defeat the present conspiracy to set up a Home Rule Parliament in Ireland. And in the event of such a Parliament being forced upon us we further solemnly and mutually pledge ourselves to refuse to recognise its authority. In sure confidence that God will defend the right we hereto subscribe our names. And further, we individually declare that we have not already signed this Covenant. God save the King."

On Monday, the 23rd of September, the Ulster Unionist Council, the body representing the whole loyalist community on an elective and thoroughly democratic basis, held its annual meeting in the Ulster Hall, the chief business being the ratification of the Covenant prior to its being presented for general signature throughout the province on Ulster Day. Upwards of five hundred delegates attended the meeting, and unanimously approved the terms of the document recommended for their acceptance by their Standing Committee. They then adopted, on the motion of Lord Londonderry, the Resolution which, as already mentioned, had originally formed part of the draft of the Covenant itself. This Resolution, as well as the Covenant, was the subject of extensive comment in the English and Scottish Press. Some opponents of Ulster directed against it the flippant ridicule which appeared to be their only weapon against a movement the gravity of which was admitted by Ministers of the Crown; but, on the whole, the British Press acknowledged the important enunciation of political principle which it contained. It placed on record that:

"Inasmuch as we, the duly elected delegates and members of the Ulster Unionist Council, representing all parts of Ulster, are firmly persuaded that by no law can the right to govern those whom we represent be bartered away without their consent; that although the present Government, the services and sacrifices of our race having been forgotten, may drive us forth from a Constitution which we have ever loyally upheld, they may not deliver us bound into the hands of our enemies; and that it is incompetent for any authority, party, or people to appoint as our rulers a Government dominated by men disloyal to the Empire and to whom our faith and traditions are hateful; and inasmuch as we reverently believe that, as in times past it was given our fathers to save themselves from a like calamity, so now it may be ordered that our deliverance shall be by our own hands, to which end it is needful that we be knit together as one man, each strengthening the other, and none holding back or counting the cost—therefore we, Loyalists of Ulster, ratify and confirm the steps so far taken by the Special Commission this day submitted and explained to us, and we reappoint the Commission to carry on its work on our behalf as in the past.

"We enter into the Solemn Covenant appended hereto, and, knowing the greatness of the issues depending on our faithfulness, we promise each to the others that, to the uttermost of the strength and means given us, and not regarding any selfish or private interest, our substance or our lives, we will make good the said Covenant; and we now bind ourselves in the steadfast determination that, whatever may befall, no such domination shall be thrust upon us, and in the hope that by the blessing of God our Union with Great Britain, upon which are fixed our affections and trust, may yet be maintained, and that for ourselves and for our children, for this Province and for the whole of Ireland, peace, prosperity, and civil and religious liberty may be secured under the Parliament of the United Kingdom and of the King whose faithful subjects we are and will continue all our days."

It had been known for some weeks that it was the intention of the Ulster Loyalists to dedicate the 28th of September as "Ulster Day," by holding special religious services, after which they were to "pledge themselves to a solemn Covenant," the terms of which were not yet published or, indeed, finally settled. This announcement, which appeared in the Press on the 17th of August, was hailed in England as an effective reply to the recent "turgid homily" of Mr. Churchill, but there was really no connection between them in the intentions of Ulstermen, who had been too much occupied with their own affairs to pay much attention to the attack upon them in the Dundee letters. The Ulster Day celebration was to be preceded by a series of demonstrations in many of the chief centres of Ulster, at which the purpose of the Covenant was to be explained to the people by the leader and his colleagues, and a number of English Peers and Members of Parliament arranged to show their sympathy with the policy embodied in the Covenant by taking part in the meetings.

It would not be true to say that the enthusiasm displayed at this great series of meetings in September eclipsed all that had gone before, for it would not be possible for human beings greatly to exceed in that emotion what had been seen at Craigavon and Balmoral; but they exhibited an equally grave sense of responsibility, and they proved that the same exaltation of mind, the same determined spirit, that had been displayed by Loyalists collected in the populous capital of their province, equally animated the country towns and rural districts.

The campaign opened at Enniskillen on the 18th of September, where the leader was escorted by two squadrons of mounted and well-equipped yeomen from the station to Portora Gate, at which point 40,000 members of Unionist Clubs drawn from the surrounding agricultural districts marched past him in military order. During the following nine days demonstrations were held at Lisburn, Derry, Coleraine, Ballymena, Dromore, Portadown, Crumlin, Newtownards, and Ballyroney, culminating with a meeting in the Ulster Hall—loyalist headquarters—on the eve of the signing of the Covenant on Ulster Day. At six of these meetings, including, of course, the last, Sir Edward Carson was the principal speaker, while all the Ulster Unionist Members of Parliament took part in their several constituencies. Lord Londonderry was naturally prominent among the speakers, and presided as usual, when the Duke of Abercorn was prevented by illness from being present, in the Ulster Hall. Mr. F. E. Smith, who had fresh and vigorous eloquence the meetings at Balmoral and Blenheim, as well as the Orange Lodges whom he had addressed on the 12th of July, crossed the Channel to lend a helping hand, and spoke at five meetings on the tour. Others who took part—in addition to local men like Mr. Thomas Sinclair and Mr. John Young, whose high character always made their appearance on political platforms of value to the cause they supported—were Lord Charles Beresford, Lord Salisbury, Mr. James Campbell, Lord Hugh Cecil, Lord Willoughby de Broke, and Mr. Harold Smith; while the Marquis of Hamilton and Lord Castlereagh, by the part which they took in the programme, showed their desire to carry on the traditions which identified the two leading Ulster families with loyalist principles.

A single resolution, identical in the simplicity of its terms, was carried without a dissenting voice at every one of these meetings: "We hereby reaffirm the resolve of the great Ulster Convention of 1892: 'We will not have Home Rule.'" These words became so familiar that the laconic phrase "We won't have it," was on everybody's lips as the Alpha and Omega of Ulster's attitude, and was sometimes heard with unexpected abruptness in no very precise context. A ticket-collector, when clipping the tickets of the party who were starting from Belfast in a saloon for Enniskillen, made no remark and no sign of recognition till he reached Carson, when he said almost in a whisper and without a glimmer of a smile, as he took a clip out of the leader's ticket: "Tell the station-master at Clones, Sir Edward, that we won't have it." He doubtless knew that the political views of that misguided official were of the wrong colour. A conversation overheard in the crowd at Enniskillen before the speaking began was a curious example of the habit so characteristic of Ulster—and indeed of other parts of Ireland also—of thinking of

"Old, unhappy, far-off things, and battles long ago"

as if they had occurred last week, and were a factor to be taken into account in the conduct of to-day. The demonstration was in the open air, and the sunshine was gleaming on the grass of a hill close at hand. "It 'ud be a quare thing," said a peasant to his neighbour in the crowd, "if the rebels would come out and hould a meetin' agin us on yon hill." "What matter if they would," was the reply, "wouldn't we let on that we won't have it? an' if that wouldn't do them, isn't there hundreds o' King James's men at the bottom o' the lough, an' there's plenty o' room yet." It was not spoken in jest, but in grim conviction that the issue of 1689 was the issue of 1912, and that another Newtown Butler might have to be fought.

This series of meetings in preparation for the Covenant brought Carson much more closely in touch with the Loyalists in outlying districts than he had been hitherto, and when it was over their wild devotion to him personally equalled what it was in Belfast itself. The appeal made to the hearts of men as quick as any living to detect and resent humbug or boastfulness, by the simplicity, uncompromising directness, and courage of his character was irresistible. He never spoke better than during this tour of the Province. The Special Correspondent of The Times, who sent to his paper vivid descriptive articles on each meeting, said in his account of the meeting at Coleraine that "Sir Edward Carson was vigorous, fresh, and picturesque. His command over the feelings of his Ulster audiences is unquestionable, and never a phrase passes his lips which does not tell." And when the proceedings of the meeting were over, the same observer "was at the station to witness the 'send-off' of the leaders, and for ten minutes before the train for Belfast came in the tumult of the cheers, the thanks, and the farewells never faltered for an instant."[33] Two days later another English commentator declared that "The Ulster campaign has been conducted up to the present with a combination of wisdom, ability, and restraint which has delighted all the Unionists of the province, and exasperated their Radical and Nationalist enemies. From its opening at Enniskillen not a speech has been delivered unworthy of a great movement in defence of civil and religious liberty."[34]

It was characteristic of Sir Edward Carson that neither at these meetings nor at any time did he use his unmatched power of persuasion to induce his followers to come forward and sign the Covenant. On the contrary, he rather warned them only to do so after mature reflection and with full comprehension of the responsibility which signature would entail. He told the Unionist Council a few days before the memorable 28th of September: "How often have I thought over this Covenant—how many hours have I spent, before it was published that we would have one, in counting the cost that may result! How many times have I thought of what it may mean to all that we care about up here! Does any man believe that I lightly took this matter in hand without considering with my colleagues all that it may mean either in the distant or the not too distant future? No, it is the gravest matter in all the grave matters in the various offices I have held that I have ever had to consider." And he went on to advise the delegates, "responsible men from every district in Ulster, that it is your duty, when you go back to your various districts, to warn your people who trust you that, in entering into this solemn obligation, they are entering into a matter which, whatever may happen in the future, is the most serious matter that has ever confronted them in the course of their lives."[35]

A political campaign such as that of September 1912 could not be a success, however spontaneous the enthusiasm of the people, however effective the oratory, unless the arrangements were based on good organisation. It was by general consent a triumph of organisation, the credit for which was very largely due to Mr. Richard Dawson Bates, the Secretary of the Ulster Unionist Council. Sir Edward Carson himself very wisely paid little attention to detail; happily there was no need for him to do so, for he had beside him in Captain James Craig and Mr. Bates two men with real genius for organisation, and indefatigable in relieving "the chief" of all unnecessary work and worry. Mr. Bates had all the threads of a complex network of organisation in his hands; he kept in close touch with leading Unionists in every district; he always knew what was going on in out-of-the-way corners, and where to turn for the right man for any particular piece of work. Anyone whose duty it has been to manage even a single political demonstration on a large scale knows what numerous details have to be carefully foreseen and provided for. In Ulster a succession of both outdoor and indoor demonstrations, seldom if ever equalled in this country in magnitude and complexity of arrangement, besides an amazing quantity of other miscellaneous work inseparable from the conduct of a political movement in which crisis followed crisis with bewildering rapidity, were managed year after year from Mr. Bates's office in the Old Town Hall with a quiet, unostentatious efficiency which only those could appreciate who saw the machine at work and knew the master mechanic behind it. Of this efficiency the September demonstrations in 1912 were a conspicuous illustration.

Nor did the Loyalist women of Ulster lag an inch behind the men either in organisation or in zeal for the Unionist cause, and their keenness at every town visited in this September tour was exuberantly displayed. Women had not yet been enfranchised, of course, and the Ulster women had shown but little interest in the suffragette agitation which was raging at this time in England; but they had organised themselves in defence of the Union very effectively on parallel lines to the men, and if the latter had needed any stimulus to their enthusiasm they would certainly have got it from their mothers, sisters, and wives. The Marchioness of Londonderry threw herself whole-heartedly into the movement. Having always ably seconded her husband's many political and social activities, she made no exception in regard to his devotion to Ulster. Lord Londonderry, she was fond of saying, was an Ulster-man born and bred, and she was an Ulsterwoman "by adoption and grace." Her energy was inexhaustible, and her enthusiasm contagious; she used her influence and her wonderful social gifts unsparingly in the Unionist cause.

A meeting of the Ulster Women's Unionist Council, of which the Dowager Marchioness of Dufferin and Ava, widow of the great diplomat, was president, was held on the 17th of September, the day before the demonstration at Enniskillen, when a resolution proposed by Lady Londonderry declaring the determination of Ulster women to stand by their men in the policy to be embodied in the Covenant, was carried with immense enthusiasm and without dissent. No women were so vehement in their support of the Loyalist cause as the factory workers, who were very numerous in Belfast. Indeed, their zeal, and their manner of displaying it, seemed sometimes to illustrate a well-known line of Kipling's, considered by some to be anything but complimentary to the female sex. Anyhow, there was no divergence of opinion or sympathy between the two sexes in Ulster on the question of Union or Home Rule; and the women who everywhere attended the meetings in large numbers were no idle sightseers—though they were certainly hero-worshippers of the Ulster leader—but a genuine political force to be taken into account.

It was during the September campaign that the "wooden guns" and "dummy rifles" appeared, which excited so much derision in the English Radical Press, whose editors little dreamed that the day was not far distant when Mr. Asquith's Government would be glad enough to borrow those same dummy rifles for training the new levies of Kitchener's Army to fight the Germans. So far as the Ulstermen were concerned the ridicule of their quasi-military display and equipment never had any sting in it. They were conscious of the strength given to their cause by the discipline and military organisation of the volunteers, even if the weapons with which they drilled should never be replaced by the real thing; and many of them had an instinctive belief that their leaders would see to it that they were effectively armed all in good time. And so with grim earnestness they recruited the various battalions of volunteers, gave up their evenings to drilling, provided cyclist corps, signalling corps, ambulances and nurses; they were proud to receive their leader with guards of honour at the station, and bodyguards while he drove through their town or district to the meetings where he spoke. Few of them probably ever so much as heard of the gibes of The Irish News, The Daily News, or The Westminster Gazette at the "royal progresses" of "King Carson"; but they would have been in no way upset by them if they had, for they were far too much in earnest themselves to pay heed to the cheap sneers of others. At each one of the September meetings there was a military setting to the business of the day. At Enniskillen Carson was conducted by a cavalry escort to the ground where he was to address the people; at Coleraine, Portadown, and other places volunteers lined the route and marched in column to and from the meeting. They were, it is true, but "half-baked" levies, with more zeal than knowledge of military duties. But competent critics—and there were many such amongst the visitors—praised their bearing and physique and the creditable measure of discipline they had already acquired. And it must be remembered that in September 1912 the Ulster Volunteer Force was still in its infancy. In the following two years its improvement in efficiency was very marked; and within three years of the time when its battalions paraded before Sir Edward Carson, with dummy rifles, and marched before him to his meetings in Lisburn, Newtownards, Enniskillen, and Belfast on the eve of the Covenant, those same men had gloriously fought against the flower of the Prussian Army, and many of them had fallen in the battle of the Somme.

The final meeting in the Ulster Hall on Friday the 27th of September was an impressive climax to the tour. Many English journalists and other visitors were present, and some of them admitted that, in spite of all they had heard of what an Ulster Hall meeting was like, they were astonished by the soul-stirring fervour they witnessed, and especially by the wonderful spectacle presented at the overflow meeting in the street outside, which was packed as far as the eye could reach in either direction with upturned faces, eager to catch the words addressed to them from a platform erected for the speakers outside an upper window of the building.[36]

Messages of sympathy and approval at this supreme moment were read from Mr. Bonar Law and Lord Lansdowne, Mr. Long, Mr. Balfour, and Mr. Austen Chamberlain. Then, after brief speeches by four local Belfast men, one of whom was a representative of Labour, and while the audience were waiting eagerly for the speech of their leader, there occurred what The Times next day described as "two entirely delightful, and, as far as the crowd was concerned, two entirely unexpected episodes." The first was the presentation to Sir Edward Carson of a faded yellow silk banner by Colonel Wallace, Grand Master of the Belfast Orangemen, who explained that it was the identical banner that had been carried before King William III at the battle of the Boyne, and was now lent by its owner, a lineal descendant of the original standard-bearer, to be carried before Carson to the signing of the Covenant; the second was the presentation to the leader of a silver key, symbolic of Ulster as "the key of the situation," and a silver pen wherewith to sign the Covenant on the morrow, by Captain James Craig. "The two incidents," continued the Correspondent of The Times, "were followed by the audience with breathless excitement, and made a remarkably effective prelude to Sir Edward Carson's speech. Premeditated, no doubt, that incident of the banner—yet entirely graceful, entirely fitting to the spirit of the occasion—a plan carried through with the sense of ceremony which Ulstermen seem to have always at their command in moments of emotion."

And if ever there was a "moment of emotion" for the Loyalists of Ulster—those descendants of the Plantation men who had been deliberately sent to Ireland with a commission from the first sovereign of a united Britain to uphold British interests, British honour, and the Reformed Faith across the narrow sea—Loyalists who were conscious that throughout the generations they had honestly striven to be faithful to their mission—if ever in their long and stormy history they experienced a "moment of emotion," it was assuredly on this evening before the signing of their Covenant.

The speeches delivered by their leader and others were merely a vent for that emotion. There was nothing that could be said about their cause that they did not know already; but all felt that the heart of the matter was touched—the whole situation, so far as they were concerned, summed up in a single sentence of Carson's speech: "We will take deliberately a step forward, not in defiance but in defence; and the Covenant which we will most willingly sign to-morrow will be a great step forward, in no spirit of aggression, in no spirit of ascendancy, but with a full knowledge that, if necessary, you and I—you trusting me, and I trusting you—will follow out everything that this Covenant means to the very end, whatever the consequences." Every man and woman who heard these words was filled with an exalted sense of the solemnity of the occasion. The mental atmosphere was not that of a political meeting, but of a religious service—and, in fact, the proceedings had been opened by prayer, as had become the invariable custom on such occasions in Ulster. It was felt to be a time of individual preparation for the Sacramentum of the following day, which Protestant Ulster had set apart as a day of self-dedication to a cause for which they were willing to make any sacrifice.

Read "Ulster's Stand for Union" at your leisure

Ulster's Stand for Union

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Ronald McNeill provides a truly fascinating account of the Home Rule Crisis of 1912 from a Unionist perspective. The book covers, inter alia, the formation of the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), the drafting and signing of the Solemn League and Covenant, gun-running to Larne and Donaghadee, Ulster in the Great War, and the establishment of the Ulster Parliament in 1921.

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