Provisional Government for Ulster formed in Belfast
A view of the scene today, 27th September 1913, at the Agricultural Show Grounds in Balmoral, where Sir Edward Carson reviewed a massive parade of Ulster Volunteers Photo: Illustrated London News [London, England], 4 October 1913

Provisional Government for Ulster formed in Belfast

New flag unfurled at Balmoral review of Ulster Volunteers

Published: 27 September 1913

Sir Edward Carson today conducted a review of the Belfast Divisions of the Ulster Volunteer Force at the Balmoral Showgrounds, which lie on the outskirts of Belfast. The Belfast Telegraph has reported that 12,000 men, drilled and efficient, took part in the event.
Less impressed, however, is The Freeman’s Journal, which reports that many thousands more, the ‘undrilled and inefficient’, stayed away to attend football matches, in particular meeting of local teams Glentoran and Linfield, which proved a major counter attraction in the city. The appearance of the Ulster Volunteers was, in the Freeman’s assessment, less than impressive: their ranks were mainly drawn from Belfast workmen with the middle classes conspicuously absent; they were poorly equipped and only 4 rifles were spotted and these were carried at the head of each regiment. In short, the Ulster Volunteers as paraded today ‘have no uniforms, arms, cavalry, artillery, engineers or commissariat.’

Sir Edward Carson's current tour of Ulster has taken him to Newry, Kilkeel, Banbridge, Dromore, Belfast and Balmoral. He will return to Belfast to mark Ulster Day on 28 September. To view the full document, click on the image or the link below.
(Image: National Archives UK, CO 904/27)

Perhaps the most striking aspect of the Balmoral spectacle was the unfurling of a new flag, emblazoned with a red hand and stars of each county of the new state of Ulster. Although Sir Edward Carson made no reference to the flag in his speech, it follows the decision of earlier this week to establish of a Provisional Government for Ulster.
That decision, taken at a meeting of unionists in the Ulster Hall in Belfast, is planned to take effect as soon as the Home Rule Bill is passed by the House of Commons.

The 500 men present in the Ulster Hall passed a motion effectively giving control of such a government to the Ulster Unionist Council, led by Sir Edward Carson.

Sir Edward had entered the hall in dramatic fashion, having been escorted across Belfast by a bodyguard of motorcyclists. A huge Union Jack – said to be the largest in the world – formed the backdrop to the platform on which he spoke.

His speech opened amidst extraordinary cheering and shouting. He said that he now bore a responsibility that he felt had never fallen to any other man: ‘Any man might well shrink from such responsibility, and indeed at my age, and with my not very firm health, I might well shrink from it, were it not that I have resolved to devote myself to your and my cause of freedom, of justice and of loyalty.’

He continued: ‘Our duty is to guide and direct in to the proper channels the methods of resisting this Home Rule Bill, if the government persist in forcing it upon us, and that is exactly what we are trying to do by setting up a Provisional Government.

Insisting that there was no possible compromise, Sir Edward concluded his speech: ‘We may be – perhaps we will – be coerced in the long run into submission. I say we may because, of course, they have got the army and the navy.

‘If England allows the army and the navy to be used, we may be coerced into submission, but if we are, we will be governed as a conquered community and nothing else.’

RELATED CONTENT

RTÉ

Century Ireland

The Century Ireland project is an online historical newspaper that tells the story of the events of Irish life a century ago.