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Policeman shot as riots mar Orange celebrations in Derry
Photo: Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division Washington, D.C., USA

Policeman shot as riots mar Orange celebrations in Derry

Disturbances come within week of ending of Edward Carson’s Ulster tour

Published: 13 August 1913

The traditional Orange Order celebrations to commemorate the anniversary of the relief of Derry ended yesterday in an outbreak of rioting in the historic city.

In the most serious incident of the day, a member of the Royal Irish Constabulary, since named as Constable John Barry from Kildare, was shot when attempting to apprehend one of the rioters on Foyle Street. According to the Derry Correspondent of The Freeman’s Journal, the Constable was spared sudden death when the bullet, on striking him, glanced off the notebook that was in his pocket. Nevertheless, the young Constable’s condition remains extremely precarious, the bullet having lodged in the muscles of his back after coursing the round from the breastbone at the point of entrance.

Elsewhere, the Mayor of Derry was struck by a stone when attempting to assist an English visitor who was being attacked by a party of rioters. There was also extensive damage to property and the offices of the nationalist Derry Journal and the parochial house at St Eugene’s Cathedral were among the buildings to have their windows smashed. These incidents were in keeping with the conduct of an event that, reports suggest, was more violent than festive.

Nationalist protesters in Derry hanging an effigy of Sir Edward Carson from a lamp post in the streets of the city.
(Image: Illustrated London News, 23 August 1913)

The Relief of Derry celebrations are held every August and commemorate the events of the same month in 1689 when a 105 day siege of the city by Jacobites was finally ended. This year’s celebrations attracted a large attendance and Orange supporters flocked to Derry on trains from Belfast, Lurgan, Portadown, Coleraine and other major Orange centres across Ulster. Following a religious service in the Cathedral, the Orangmen marched through the main thoroughfares of the city, fronted by banners and bands playing well-known Orange tunes such as ‘Boyne Water’, ‘Protestant Boys’ and ‘Dolly’s Brae’. The deterioration of the event into violence came as no surprise to the city Police who were supported by some three hundred extra constables – among them the unfortunate Constable Barry – who were brought to Derry as reinforcements from various parts of the country. 

Derry has not been the only scene of political disturbance in recent days, however. In Belfast, an excursion party bound for Portrush and comprising transport workers and their wives and children, as well as young female textile operatives, was attacked as they made their way to the Northern Counties railway terminus, a route which took them through them the York Street area of the city.  Police assistance was required to secure their safe passage onto the trains, but a mob gathered at the entrances to the railway station later in the day to await the return of the Portrush day-trippers. There were rowdy scenes as political ballads were sung, revolvers fired and stones thrown.

No arrests were made, but several excursionists required hospital treatment for injuries sustained in the disorder. Among them were six year-old Elizabeth Brown, of 5 Bradford Square, who was treated for a severe lacerated wound to the head; Mary Ann Hanna (56) was also treated for a lacerated wound to the head.

Click image to enlarge

Letter from Sir Edward Carson to a Mr Barton, 12 August 1913, remarking on ‘moving so rapidly from place to place that it has been impossible to deal with my correspondence.’ Carson, who had spent the summer travelling to anti-Home Rule events on either side of the Irish Sea, says that he will not be able to attend a meeting at Ferns Castle  ‘owing to my many engagements in Ireland and England.’

(Image: National Library of Ireland Mss. 9469)

The County Inspector for Donegal rejects allegations of misconduct on the part of members of the Donaghmore Unionist Club in Castlefin, Donegal in early August 1913 after complaints are made to the chief secretary, Augustine Birrell.

(Image: National Archives of Ireland CSO/RP 1913, 14441)

The Derry and Belfast disturbances come within a week of the ending of Sir Edward Carson’s tour of Ulster. The tour, which began on July 12th, ended on August 6th with a large open-air demonstration in Omagh, where Mr Carson reviewed 3,000 members of the Ulster Volunteers. The militant mood was encouraged by Mr Carson, who told the assembled Volunteers that the ‘time for words has gone by, and, daily, the time for action comes nearer. And as the time for action nearer our spirits rise, and our determination grows greater, and we do not merely say we will not have Home Rule – we will not have it.’


Century Ireland

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