Interception of German gunrunning ship during the Easter Rising – 23 April 1916

sms libau

SMS Libau

SS Aud was a temporary name given to SMS Libau as part of her attempt to carry arms to Ireland.  The vessel was built in Hull, England in 1907 and named SS Castro but had been captured by the Imperial German Navy in the Kiel Canal in August 1914 and renamed SMS Libau.  She had a similar appearance to a Norwegian vessel, SS Aud, so was repainted as such to disguise herself.  She sailed from Germany on 09 April 1916 with a crew of 23 volunteers dressed as ‘Norwegians’ carrying an estimated 10 machine guns, 20,000 Mosin-Nagant rifles (captured from the Russians), around 1,000,000 rounds of ammunition and a quantity of explosives.  Her disguise enabled her to avoid contact with the Royal Navy as she traveled up the coast of Norway, passing close to the Arctic Circle then down the West Coast of Ireland.

hms bluebell

HMS Bluebell

Radio intelligence had alerted the British that a landing of arms was soon to be attempted, placing the Royal Navy based at Queenstown Co Cork on high alert.  SS Aud arrived off Fenit Harbour in Tralee Bay on 20 April 1916 where she was due to meet Roger Casement, a British Diplomat of Irish origins who had obtained German support for the rebellion.  Casement had arrived on board U-19, landing to the North at Banna Strand and was soon captured.  He was later executed for treason.

Having failed to make contact with Casement or his men, SS Aud made for Germany but was intercepted by HMS Bluebell on 23 April 1916.  She was ordered to proceed to Queenstown however the crew scuttled the ship at the entrance to the harbour.  Having changed into their Kriegsmarine Uniforms to avoid being treated as spies, they were interned for the remainder of the war.

Artefacts from SS Aud are on display at Cork Public Museum.  The ship’s two anchors were recovered in 2012 and were due to go on display in Fenit and Cork in time for the centenary.

JUTLAND SQUARE New Wall Art Installation Commemorates Lost Jutland Sailors From These Shores

A new wall art installation in North Belfast will commemorate sailors from all over Ireland who lost their lives at the Battle of Jutland, the centenary of which falls on 31st May 2016.

The Jutland Square project, funded by the NIHE Community Cohesion Unit, takes as its canvas a former graffiti black spot on Tennent Street and re-images it into a seven panel art installation created by the Shared History Workshop, using research by Karen O’Rawe.

Included in the project, which has been commissioned by the Spectrum Centre-based City Of Belfast ABF (Army Benevolent Fund) group, will be an exhibition on HMS Caroline, the sole surviving warship from the Battle of Jutland, and a series of community films and lectures about the Battle by Sea Cadet officer Lt Cdr Leslie King.

Exploring the theme of Youth at War, the project will also involve young people from the Greater Shankill area.

Northern Ireland’s First Minister, DUP MLA Arlene Foster – who oversaw the restoration of HMS Caroline as DETI minister – will launch the Jutland Square project at the Spectrum Centre, 331 Shankill Road, Belfast at 2pm on Friday 15th April 2016.

Commenting on the project, Pete Bleakley from the Shared History Workshop said, “Having run the Friends Of HMS Caroline campaign back in 2012 it gives me considerable satisfaction to be able to bring the story of the ship and the Battle Of Jutland to a wider audience through this exciting NIHE-funded project. Excellent research from History Hub Ulster means that for the first time we have a memorial to all the men from these shores who lost their lives in World War One’s biggest sea battle.”

Karen O’Rawe from History Hub Ulster commented, “The Jutland Square Project is a timely reminder of the sacrifice of so many men from these shores who fought at sea. The maritime war and the impact of it on our island tends to be overlooked, but as an island nation, keeping the seas safe and the supplies flowing to feed the people of Britain and Ireland was vital.  Belfast will mark the centenary of the Battle of Jutland with a Commemoration to the Irish Sailor which will officially recognise the contribution of all those in maritime roles on the island of Ireland during the First World War period.”

1932 – Belfast’s forgotten year?

 

1932 – Belfast’s forgotten year?

As part of a major new Shared History project including a play by Gary Mitchell & Martin Lynch: 1932: The People Of Gallagher St, Green Shoot Productions is holding a series of PUBLIC TALKS at the Linen Hall Library in April, May and June. Involving three panels of leading researchers, commentators, and artists and chaired by Dawn Purvis, the TALKS highlight the events of 1932 that brought Northern Ireland to the brink of revolution and create opportunities for an exploration of the themes and responses and relevance for today.

Belfast 1932 Talks

 

First sinking of a U-boat by a Q-ship around the Irish Coast on 22 March 1916

First sinking of a U-boat by a Q-ship around the Irish Coast on 22 March 1916

100 years ago today on 22 March 1916 the commander of the German U-boat U-68 (pictured below) spotted a Merchant Navy vessel off the coast of SW Ireland near Dunmore Head and decided to attack.  He fired a torpedo which missed its target but, seeing the panic on board the merchantman, decided to surface in order to sink her with his gun.  Little did he realise he was attacking the 3200 tonne Q-Ship HMS Farnborough.

CaptureQ-Ship’s were merchantmen armed with concealed weaponry.  They were intended to lure submarines to the surface before exposing the weaponry, typically a deck gun, and opening fire upon the submarine.  The name ‘Q-ship’ is derived from the name of their WW1 base i.e. Queenstown, Co Cork.  One such Q-ship, HMS Result (built in Carrickfergus), is on display at the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum.

The term ‘Panic Stations’ originates with Q-ships.  Once a Q-ship was attacked, the order ‘Hands to Panic Stations’ would be given.  This would result in the crew acting panicked, possibly launching lifeboats to give the impression of abandoning ship, in order to draw attention away from the remaining crew who would be preparing to fire the weaponry.

On board HMS Farnborough, Lieutenant Commander Gordon Campbell ordered ‘Panic Stations’ upon seeing the torpedo.  The panic party got away in a lifeboat and the remaining crew readied the deck gun.  U-68 surfaced and closed in on Farnborough from astern which duly raised its White Ensign and opened fire hitting U-68 which quickly dived.  Farnborough manoeuvred into position and dropped a depth charge which lifted the bow of U-68 to the surface.  This allowed Farnborough to open fire gaining further hits on the submarine’s conning tower which soon disappeared beneath the surface.  Farnborough dropped two further depth charges which sealed the fate of the already sinking U-68 with the loss of all hands.

As a result of his actions, Lieutenant Commander Campbell was promoted to Commander and awarded a DSO.  HMS Farnborough was later torpedoed by U-83, beached and subsequently scrapped (see picture below).

Capture 2GRATEFUL, hired drifter, 25 March 1916, North Channel – 107grt, built 1907, Inverness-reg INS322, hired 2/15 as net drifter, 1-3pdr, Admiralty No.2399, 9 crew, Skipper W Ralph (He – Skipper John Reaich RNR), sailing in WNW force 8 gale and snow storm. Driven ashore 100yds from Lloyd’s Signal Station, Torr Head, Co Antrim (wi – in 55.11.50N, 06.03.45W); Coastguard called Portrush RNLI, but coxswain “reluctant to leave the harbour in such heavy seas”, later launched with another coxswain and volunteers from Portstewart as well as Portrush, reached the scene at 0900, but all crew already rescued by breeches buoy three hours before. Salvaged, served in WW2 (H/C/D/He/dk/wi)

BEGONIA, fleet sweeping sloop, 29 March 1916, Atlantic off S Ireland – Azalea-class, 1,200t, on patrol. Torpedoed by U.44 (Paul Wagenführ), towed into Queenstown; 2 ratings lost. Reconstructed at Haulbowline to resemble small coaster 1916-17, commissioned 8/17 as Q-ship Q.10 (Cn/D/qs/un)

ZYLPHA, Q-ship/special service ship, 12 April 1916, Atlantic off SW Ireland – ex-collier, 2,917grt, built 1894, in service from 9/15 as Q.6, 3-12pdr, Lt-Cdr John Macleod. Submerged U-boat attempted torpedo attack, but failed. Zylpha proceeded to Bantry Bay to alter her appearance (Cn/D/qs/sk)

BLUEBELL, fleet sweeping sloop, 23 April 1916, Irish waters – during the Irish Easter Rebellion, Bluebell intercepted German auxiliary Libau, disguised as Norwegian tramp SS Aud carrying arms in support of the Irish rebellion. Aud scuttled off Queenstown

GERMAN RAID ON LOWESTOFT AND YARMOUTH, 25 April 1916, North Sea – The German High Seas Fleet was expected to make a demonstration in the North Sea, possibly in support of the Irish Easter Rising which broke out on the 24th. Grand Fleet was ordered out, together with Harwich Force which included 5th LCS Conquest (broad pendant, Cdre Tyrwhitt), Cleopatra and Penelope, leader Lightfoot with 7 destroyers, followed by leader Nimrod with 8 more, then by two divisions of L-class destroyers operating with Dover Patrol. Sailing on the night of 24th/25th, Harwich Force ran up the East coast while destroyer Melampus with six Yarmouth-based submarines positioned them first between Southwold and the Hook of Holland, then in a more northerly position. The German 1st SG, less Seydlitz which struck a mine that morning, was sailing to bombard Lowestoft and Yarmouth. Harwich Force sighted the Germans about 0350 and tried to induce them to chase south, but instead Lowestoft was badly shelled around 0410. The 1st SG then headed north for Yarmouth, Harwich Force followed and probably helped save Yarmouth from a full half hour battlecruiser bombardment. Tyrwhitt opened fire on the German light cruisers at 0430, the battlecruisers stopped bombarding to support their cruisers, and were sighted at 0445, following which Tyrwhitt turned south and came under heavy, accurate fire. Cruiser Conquest, now at the rear of 5th LCS line was severely punished and destroyer Laertes damaged. The Germans now headed back home, their retirement covered by Flanders-based U-boats including UB.18 and UB.29 off Lowestoft/Yarmouth. Adm Beatty’s battlecruisers, Harwich Force and the submarines continued to search and seek action, then as Harwich Force returned home after recall, Penelope was torpedoed just before 1000 and patrolling submarine E.22 sunk around 1145:

BRADFORD, hired trawler, 28 October 1916, Atlantic off S Ireland – 163grt, built 1896, Grimsby-reg GY132, Consolidated Steam Fishing & Ice, hired 1915 (D – 11/14) as patrol vessel, 1-6pdr, Admiralty No.829, 12 crew, Skipper William Bruce RNR, believed Queenstown-based, took part in rescuing Lusitania survivors in 1915, on patrol. (dk – casualties dated lost 26th) – last seen at 1640 on the 26th, disappeared and believed foundered in gale off Old Head of Kinsale, Co Cork, presumed on the 28th (wi – in 51.30N, 08.30W); Skipper and 11 ratings lost, no survivors (H/Lr/C/D/He/ap/dk/wi; ADM.137/455)

FILEY, Admiralty trawler, 2 October 1916, Atlantic off N Ireland – 226grt, built 1914, Hull-reg H8, Hull Steam Fishing, purchased 1915, in service from 3/15, 1-12pdr, Admiralty No.1363, Skipper Daniel Stather RNR, serving as patrol vessel. Driven ashore in high winds and seas in Camusmore Bay, Tory Is, off Co Donegal, wrecked and abandoned; no lives lost. Salved 1917 (D/He – salved in 1917 and re-acquired July 1918), believed assigned new Admiralty No.3826, sold 1920 (H/Lr/C/D/He/dk/hw; ADM.137/282)

DAFFODIL, fleet sweeping sloop, 15 December 1916, believed southern Ireland – serving with 1st Sloop flotilla, Queenstown. Damaged in collision, one man DOI next day (dk/pl)

Mark McCrea

Unique event creating a Sea of Lights to remember those from North Belfast who died in the First World War.

On Saturday 19th March, participants of North Belfast Remembers set sail glass bottles with LED lights and details of individual men and women from North Belfast who served in the First World War.

Sea of Lights in front of HMS Caroline EditedAdults and children across North Belfast took part in workshops to tell the stories of First World War servicemen from their areas.  The adults have researched a serviceman and written a letter to a local child about his life.  Each child received a letter and designed their glass bottle to represent his story.

This memorial event was the culmination of the project when the participants released their letters in painted glass bottles into the water at the Titanic Pump House near HMS Caroline.

Members of the public were invited to bring their ancestor’s story and write a message for a bottle which was provided on site and was thrown into Alexandra Dock.

The sea of lights was a poignant reminder of those who died in the First World War.Bottles waiting to go

Adult groups taking part were: The Hubb Community Resource Centre on the Shore Road, Survivors of Trauma Centre from Cliftonville, Alexandra Presbyterian Church on the York Road, Dalariada Community Organisation, ACT North Belfast and Brantwood History Group from Skegoneill Avenue.

Children’s groups taking part were the Hammer Youth Centre and Clonard Youth, the Church of God Boys Brigade on the Shankill, The Hubb Community Resource Centre on the Shore Road and Ardoyne Youth Club.

 

This project has been funded by Belfast City Council and Community Relations Council.

Public Call: North Belfast Remembers – Add your story to our Sea of Lights

Public Call: North Belfast Remembers – Add your story to our Sea of Lights:

Bring your ancestor’s story, write your message in a bottle, and add to a sea of lights to remember those who died in the First World War.

On Saturday 19th March at 7pm, participants of North Belfast Remembers will set sail glass bottles with LED lights and details of individual men and women from North Belfast who served in the First World War.

All members of the community are invited to attend. Bring your ancestor’s story and write your own message to place into bottles which will be provided on site and can be thrown into the channel.

If you would like to write a letter for a bottle, please arrive at the Titanic Pump House at 6.30pm. The event will begin at 7pm.  Members of the public will need to pay for car parking.

Adults and children across North Belfast have been taking part in workshops to tell the stories of First World War servicemen from their areas.  At workshops in North Belfast, the adults have researched a serviceman and written a letter to a local child about his life.  Each child has received a letter and designed their glass bottle to represent his story. This memorial event is the culmination of the project when the participants release their letters in painted glass bottles into the water at the Titanic Pump House near HMS Caroline.

The sea of lights will serve as a poignant reminder of those lost during the First World War.

north belfast remembers Poster

 

 

CWGC calls on communities in NI to reconnect with cemeteries of the First World War

The Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC), supported by the World War One Centenary Committee in Northern Ireland, have announced details of Living Memory – a project to highlight and engage communities in Northern Ireland with the 2,700 war graves of the two world wars to be found there in 400 cemeteries and burial grounds.

The Living Memory Project is designed to raise awareness of the 300,000 war graves and commemorations in the UK.

Living Memory Launch

In 2016, the CWGC, in partnership with Big Ideas Company, are asking the public to re-connect with the war dead buried in their own communities. CWGC wants the public to visit these sites, take a personal interest in those buried there, organise a commemoration of their own and ultimately, champion these places –  tell their friends or other local community groups that these war graves must not be forgotten.

Funding and a creative resource pack will be available from March 2016 for community groups in Northern Ireland wishing to participate in this initiative.

The Rt Hon Jeffrey Donaldson MP is supporting the project and said: “As chairman of the Northern Ireland World War One Centenary Committee, I am delighted to be co-hosting this event at the Linen Hall Library to highlight the fact  we have a significant number of war graves here in Northern Ireland, including many associated with those who died during the First World War.  The CWGC has undertaken excellent work to preserve and maintain these graves and I believe it’s important to increase awareness of the graves and to encourage local people to visit during the current centenary period.  The fact is that you don’t have to travel to France or Belgium to visit a WW1 war grave.  There may be one in your local cemetery.”

Mr Colin Kerr, CWGC Director of External Relations, explained: “Living Memory is about discovering, exploring and remembering those war graves to be found in cemeteries, churchyards and burial grounds here at home.

Living Memory Launch 2“When people hear about the First World War, they think of the large, set-piece battles on the Western Front, and the cemeteries and memorials there that the CWGC maintains. But there are war graves and memorials literally on your doorstep – many lie in forgotten corners of graveyards. The CWGCs Living Memory initiative aids their rediscovery and remembrance.

“Living Memory presents a unique opportunity for communities to work together to gain a fuller understanding of the war’s impact and the ongoing importance of remembrance.”

Big Ideas Chief Executive, Virginia Crompton, said:  “When you stand at the graveside of someone who lost their life in war some of the politics of the past fall away.  The headstone brings you back to the individual, and their family.  It’s a powerful reminder of the impact of war.  The Living Memory project is an opportunity for us all to make a very simple and human gesture in remembering those who died in the two world wars and are buried near us.  We are proud to be working with the CWGC to invite communities to take part.”

Mr Ken Best was one of those who took part in a pilot of the Living Memory Project in November 2015. He said: “The opportunity to participate in the CWGC Living Memory Pilot was enthusiastically embraced by The Grammarians, the Association of Old Boys of Bangor Grammar School. The School has a long tradition of remembering the former pupils who served and died in both world wars. The Guided Walk to Bangor Cemetery in November 2015, to pay our respects at some of the war graves  opened up a new dimension to  remembering those who paid the ultimate sacrifice as well as bringing the knowledge about these graves in the town to the wider community.”

To support the initiative, the CWGC is bringing a number of its unique archive documents to Northern Ireland for the very first time. The documents include details of how the CWGC commemorated a female typist, Sarah Hale, who died in the sinking of the SS Lusitania in 1915 and correspondence between CWGC Founder Fabian Ware and Belfast City Hall over the care of war graves.

 

Appointment of Project Management Services for Somme 100

Befast Somme 100 long logo poppy

Request for Project Management Services for Somme 100

Following the recent decision by Belfast City Council to fund History Hub Ulster’s proposal for Somme 100 events across Belfast, History Hub Ulster is requesting tender proposals from individuals or companies to manage the day to day running of the project.

Please note that we will accept proposals from individuals, partnerships and companies.  Download full tender request here.

Somme 100 will produce a programme of commemorative events for the 100th anniversary of the Somme, and its place within 1916 events during the First World War.

Project Management will be required from April – December 2016.

Fee works out at £24,000 – £28,000 Pro rata. Closes 16th March 2016.

The project’s guiding principles are:

Reflect the importance of global connections as well as local relevance

Contemporary methods of production

Community based and shared space events

Collaboration

Partnership across the city

Inclusion, access and diversity

The programme will work towards outcomes of Equality, Good Relations and Mutual Understanding. 

History Hub Ulster with the input of an advisory panel will remain responsible for the creation of the programme content with the Project Manager co-ordinating and delivering the programme outputs and providing end of programme evaluation.

The successful company/ indvidual (s) will work closely with the History Hub Ulster team and therefore must have proven experience in collaborative working. 

The successful applicant will ideally be able to commence work immediately. History Hub Ulster reserve the right to extend this contract depending on funding and in consultation with the appointee.

Download full Tender request here.

Call to Action: Share your stories of people who were at the Battle of Jutland

National Museum of the Royal Navy launches an innovative digital project to map stories of the people at the Battle of Jutland

The National Museum of the Royal Navy today launched an interactive map to create a record of the individuals involved in the Battle of Jutland. Following responses from descendants of Admirals Beatty and Jellicoe amongst others, the Museum is calling on the public to share, discover and remember stories of those connected with the battle. The platform has been made live in anticipation of the blockbuster exhibition ’36 Hours: Jutland 1916, The Battle that Won the War’ opening 12 May 2016 at the Portsmouth Historic Dockyard. The site is at http://jutland.org.uk/

The interactive map will provide an innovative way of charting the impact of the Battle of Jutland. It will convey the ‘human’ story of the battle, highlighting its scale and significance to the First World War, by demonstrating the involvement of people from all over the British Isles and further afield. The project launched with over 6,000 entries from across Britain, already showing the national impact of The Battle of Jutland. To provide a comprehensive record the Museum is calling on members of the public to share more information.

Nick Jellicoe, grandson of Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, commander of the British Grand Fleet, said: “This is one of those moments where engaging with the interactive map and what the museum is image007providing is a real opportunity to fill in some parts of a jigsaw, a family jigsaw you’ve never been able to solve. It’s nice to think about stories from your father, grand-father or great-grandfather, and be able to pass them on. Always one of my biggest regrets is that I never talked to my father more in detail about his father. I never did, and I hope other people don’t make the same mistake.”

Nicholas Beatty, Grandson of Vice Admiral Sir David Beatty said of the project, “I am delighted to add my grandfather’s story to the Jutland Interactive Map, and am sure that the legacy of his and his brave fellow seamen will continue to live on and be better understood by current and future generations. I thoroughly recommend that all descendants whose relatives fought at Jutland do the same to ensure that those who fought to maintain our naval supremacy and retain the lines of supply to the United Kingdom, all giving so much, are never forgotten.”

The Battle of Jutland was the defining naval battle of the First World War, fought over 36 hours from May 31st to June 1st 1916. It is often considered a German victory due to the number of British lives lost; the British lost 6,094 seamen and the Germans 2,551 during the battle. However these figures do not represent the impact upon the British and German fleets. At the end of the battle the British maintained numerical supremacy; only two dreadnoughts were damaged, leaving twenty-three dreadnoughts and four battlecruisers still able to fight, whilst the Germans had only ten dreadnoughts.

The interactive map provides a platform for living history, and the data collected will offer a richer and more accurate history of the Royal Navy. All data is mapped and linked geographically providing a clear picture

Nick Jellicoe uploading his grandfather's details onto the Jutland interactive map

Nick Jellicoe uploading his grandfather’s details onto the Jutland interactive map

of those involved, where they served and where they came from. Memories of sailors can be shared within the messages section and icons with categories including sailors, memorials, places and schools provide key information through an immersive browsing experience. The map offers layers of information, integrating a historical overlay provided by the Scottish Archive, to show the country as it was in 1916.

Public response via a social media campaign has already been strong and contributed to the 6,000 entries already documented. Entries have also been assembled in collaboration with Trevor Penfold at the Imperial War Museum, and further research has been compiled by a team of 12 volunteers at the National Museum of the Royal Navy and Portsmouth Grammar School, and Karen O’Rawe of History Hub Ulster. Portsdown U3A has kindly granted access to their research project, in conjunction with a team from Portsmouth University and funded by the Heritage Lottery Fund. The NMRN will also partner with The Royal Hospital School, Marine Archaeologist Anthony Firth and Nick Jellicoe, the grandson of Admiral Sir John Jellicoe, 1st Earl of Jellicoe.

If one of your ancestors was Irish, involved in the War at Sea and you would like to be considered to attend the Commemoration of The Irish Sailor event on 31st May at HMS Caroline, don’t forget to fill in the form at http://historyhubulster.co.uk/irishsailor/

 

Guest Post: An Introduction to the Political Life of one Sir Edward Carson

An Introduction to the Political Life of one Sir Edward Carson

Advocate of the Ulster Unionists

By David Murphy BA(Hons), BSC(Hons), MA

My introduction to the subject – Edward Carson – Lord Duncairn:

Aged seven I once visited the Belfast City Hall. Here as a child I saw the bust of a man they called Carson. This sparked a life-long interest in the life and times of one Sir Edward Carson. Recently at a commemoration event marking the signing of the Ulster Covenant, I saw a great statue of Edward Carson at Stormont. Crowds gathered around and in the atmosphere it was as if there was an expectation that the statue would somehow come alive and address the people upon that day.

My point is that Carson was and remains a significant historical figure for Ulster to remember. This educational pamphlet has been written to provide the reader with an introduction to the life and work of Edward Carson. While it does not aspire to be a comprehensive auto-biography it does aspire to be a competent historical pamphlet. The intent is to bring the figure of Carson as captured in bronze and marble alive.

There is today in 2015, I reflect a need for the curious in our community to ask the question;

“Who was Edward Carson and why should we remember him today?”

This short pamphlet is a step in answering this question and I hope that my reader will take the next step and read more books about one Edward Carson. These are in the bibliography.

This pamphlet is a general narrative that I feel reflects the key stages in the personal and work life of Edward Carson. There is an extensive amount of material surrounding my subject. Various books and primary sources are available for my reader to access in local Belfast libraries and the Public Records Office for Northern Ireland. There is also the Ulster Museum that has excellent displays surrounding the issue of Home Rule in Ireland and Ulster resistance to this policy.

To gain a feel for this period of our contentious history I would further recommend to my reader to visit the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum and Mount Stewart the home of Lady Londonderry. The Somme Centre further is I feel an excellent museum to visit to understand the events of the Ulster Crisis (1912-14), the Great War of (1914-18) and the conflict in Ireland in the course of (1918-21).
For those that want to travel further I would recommend a visit to Dublin to walk through Trinity College and to visit the Collin’s Barracks Museum. His original house in Dublin should also be noted.

There is also his grave in St. Anne’s Cathedral Belfast and the Linen Hall Library facing the Belfast City Hall. All are worth a visit to understand the era in which he lived.

Finally a most interesting source for my subject can be accessed through You-tube, under ‘Pathe News’. Through this medium it is possible to see Carson speak with dramatic gesture and how he engages with his audience. There are also flags, badges and pictures of this man in shops in Sandyrow and Shankill, from which some of his most ardent volunteers originated.

Further for the reader there may be a direct link to the period covered by Carson’s life in the form of old family photographs from the Third Home Rule period and First World War. The ancestors of my reader may have actually heard Carson speak or marched before his eyes at a parade of Ulster Volunteers. The memory of one Edward Carson is therefore around us if you only go and find it.

British Irish history is a contentious subject and I in this work do not contest a political point or present some psychological analysis of my subject. Nor do I aspire to write a complex work of history, word processed in complex language that is aimed at the scholarly academic reader.

I write as a simple good old fashioned story teller or narrative historian with the community audience in mind. I have therefore made an effort to use clear English language to inform and entertain my reader with a hope that families will visit the places noted above to learn together.

I have also endeavoured to keep my piece short and I apologise if material is left out. I can only direct the reader to more works on British and Irish history on the bookshelves.

My intent then is to simply tell a story of a man who was a political leader at a dramatic time in our history. My focus in this piece is on his work and political life not his family life. He was married twice however and like most people family life was up and down. By his first wife Annette Kirwan he had two sons and two daughters. By his second wife, Ruby Frewen he had one son.

Carson was a man who shaped the course of British and Irish political relations. There were indeed other men and women who did likewise from their respective camps of Irish Nationalism or Ulster Unionism, yet my focus is the story of Carson. He is clearly to this writer a man who is worthwhile learning something about if we are to appreciate who we are in Northern Ireland today.

As a child then standing before his statue outside Stormont I wanted to know who this man with outstretched hand was. This then is the end result of this encounter all those years ago, my work for the reader on one Edward Carson, nicknamed Rawbones.

The life and work of Carson was I reflect moulded by key political events in his time. To place my subject in history, I have included in my text key dates to aid the reader. I have done this intentionally to encourage students of history to recollect facts and dates in their studies. This aids a student of history to then ponder upon the cause, course and consequences of historical events within a clear framework. It also provides a structure to this general auto-biography of one Edward Carson.

I will now turn my story that opens in the British Ireland of the Victorian nineteenth century.

The early life of Edward Carson – School Boy and Student :

On February 9th 1854 Edward Carson was born in Dublin, to be precise at No. 4 Harcourt Street, close to St Stephens Green. His father was called Edward Henry Carson and he worked as an Architect. His mother was called Isabella Lambert from the West of Ireland. In his primary years Edward played in his father’s office that was situated at the back of the house. Despite drawing well upon his father’s paper plans for new buildings, Henry Carson aspired that Edward should become a barrister.

So began the story of Carson’s school years with its many with its many ups and downs, for Edward was not a model student. In these years however he did display determination and stood up for his fellow schools boys when attacked by bullies, as we shall see this habit stayed with him as an adult.

Edwards’s primary education was undertaken at a small day school close to his home. Here the young schoolboy became fascinated by the speeches of greats such as Burke a philosopher, Sheridan a poet and the English politician Pitt the younger. In those days the primary education system was free paying and a pupil used their memory to learn facts and express themselves. From this early age it is possible to see that young Edward had a skill in speech making or to correctly name it, oratory.

When aged twelve, Edward and his two brothers progressed to a private boarding school called Arlington House in Portarlington. Circumstance of birth had found Edward Carson born into a financially secure and Anglo-Irish home, within which education was valued.

From an early age Edward had to work through his homework’s to become the barrister that his father wanted for his son. At Arlington House Edward was not a brilliant student but rather a plodder. His intellectual interests became focused upon the oratory of Greece and Rome then called classics.

Due to a weak heart he did not play school games yet he did stand out in the school debating society. Further he stood up against bullies who attacked the younger boys. Nicknamed, ‘Rawbones’ Edwards Carson’s school years at Arlington House were formative as he studied, fought, laughed and dreamed as any school boy does.

The Headmaster the Reverend F.H. Wall however must have seen something in Carson as they spent two summer holidays together in Wales and Switzerland. These school days ended in 1871 when Edward sat the entrance examination to study at Trinity College, Dublin. He passed and went on to study classics. This subject not studied in our school system today covers the history and literature of the Greeks and Romans. For readers I reflect while the subject may be challenging the history of the Greek Spartans, Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar and Roman forts sparked my early interest in history. Critics of this subject are therefore in my view limited in their imagination but that is my view as an ex-student of Roman history. It is noteworthy however that many leading political minds such as Gladstone, Asquith and Carson all studied classics in their undergraduate years. In my opinion it gave them a good educational grounding in the power of language and literary scholarship. I will now return to my story to examine Carson’s student years.

At Trinity Edward was not a brilliant scholar in the way his contemporary Oscar Wilde was. Rather I reflect he had fortitude and the determination to stick out his classics study degree which he ultimately achieved after five years of study. University education was longer in those days.

His student days were not however simply taken up the scrutiny of Latin and Greek texts. Carson the student played hurling. He further as many Arts Students have done engaged in political protest action. In 1876 Carson through squibs during the state entry into Dublin of the new Lord Lieutenant, the Duke of Marlborough. Perched upon railings inside Trinity he hurled squibs into the crowd below. For this student protest act he was nearly expelled or in the phrase of the day, rusticated, from University. He was in part saved from expulsion due to the advocacy of his classics tutor Dr. Arthur Palmer who believed in Edward Carson’s potential.

Edward graduated with a pass degree in Classics and the progressed to study law as a post-graduate student. Dusty legal books were however not his only focus for in this period of his early life he joined a debating society known as, ‘The Historical Society.’ It was here that Edward Carson would cultivate his power of oratory. In 1876 he was awarded the silver medal for composition from the society.

The minute books of the Historical Society further illustrate Carson’s range of debating subjects. He denounced the memory of Cromwell, argued for the French Revolution and supported the rights of women. Carson as a student strikes me as a free thinker with liberal even radical views as some ardent students have today.

As an admirer of Pitts Irish Policy Carson declared himself to be a Unionist and British Irish. Edward Carson, classics graduate, orator in the ‘Historical Society’ and law student now turned his attention to making a living. Our story now moves on to the stage set of the Irish Legal Bar. To review his early days it is evident that Carson had as a school boy a sense of justice, a determination to endure in his classical studies, and a born gift for oratory.

His university days were important and Carson later in life reflected upon them with great affection. They were a time of personal growth and an opportunity to meet a variety of people who would subsequently become figures in the British Irish establishment.

The Irish Legal world of British Nineteenth century Ireland had its own particular ceremony, character and circuits. Carson now progressed through a course of legal studies in order to equip him to be a competent Barrister. As he had not inherited money or was not of a landed Aristocratic background, the law was to prove to be his source of income.

Edward Carson Works in the Legal World of Victorian British Ireland:

In some ways however it carried on from the atmosphere familiar to Carson at Trinity. He studied at Trinity Law School for a year and then progressed for a period of on the job training at, ‘The Kings Inns,’ in Dublin, situated on Henriette Street.

Alongside this educational and induction process it was a condition then for Irish Bar students, such as Carson to join one of the English Inns of Court. This old tradition directed Carson to travel to England and ‘eat dinners.’ This old tradition brought Carson into contact with barristers, judges and established figures in England.

At that time in the 1870s as Ireland was ruled by Britain the decisions of the English judiciary were binding on Irish courts. Carson ate his dinners at the Middle Temple in London. Four times a year Carson travelled to this place and discovered much about Victorian Britain.

Edward Carson graduated as a lawyer in 1877 and was now considered eligible for call to the Irish Legal Bar. Carson now was part of a professional legal world and found himself in its head office in the Four Courts, situated on the north bank of the Liffey River. This was a unique work environment with the library in the Four Courts as the focus for all activity.

There was no office for Carson only a seat and bench in the actual library. At the entrance an attendant called the, ‘crier.’ When a client appeared to see a barrister, in the library, he shouted out the name of the Legal advocate. When Carson worked in this atmosphere an ex-soldier by the name of Bramley was the ‘crier.’

Carson would have been familiar with the military like parade ground tones that filled the library. Within this near chaotic atmosphere Carson learned the ability to concentrate upon his cases. He apprenticed himself to an experienced barrister called George Price. From this period Carson laid the foundations for his subsequent successful legal career.

He learned the skill of preparing formal legal arguments and the structure of the, ‘statement’ of claim’ and the, ‘defence.’ At this stage in his life Carson had to earn his living and taught law for a brief period. In these early days he found work or briefs hard to get as he was new to the legal game.

His first case involved a building contract within which context the Father of Edward Carson had been the architect. Carson appeared as the barrister for the defendant against whom the builder had lodged a legal suit. He placed his Father under cross-examination and so Father and son met in court.

Carson won the case and the genesis of his skill in cross-examination was sown that would characterise his legal style in generations to come. Work aside, at this point in Carson’s life as he struggled in his legal job, he fell in love. It was in the summer of 1879 that Edward Carson met Annette Kirkwan who lived at Kingstown with her father who had been a County Inspector in the Royal Irish Constabulary.

Carson married this woman with £50 in his bank account, aged twenty five. On December 19th, 1879 he married Annette in Monkstown Parish Church, near Kingstown. His old schoolmaster the Rev. Frank Wall performed the ceremony. At First Carson senior was against the marriage but with time he came to accept the new situation of his son. In 1881 Edward Carson senior died and young Carson had the further responsibility for his mother’s welfare. Edward and Annette were to be married for over thirty years.

Carson’s life and work now became connected to the conflict in Ireland through the Land War. British Ireland of the nineteenth century was mainly agricultural in colour and consequently conflict emerged between tenants and landlords. This was a significant issue given the legacy of grievance associated with the Irish Famine of the 1840s.

It was an English Liberal Prime Minister called Gladstone, another ex-student of classics and orator, who would shape the destiny of Edward Carson when he introduced his first Irish Land Act. The subsequent acts of Gladstone and the Liberal Party would lead Carson to enter the political arena at Westminster later in life. In 1881, a further Land Act was passed and the result was that there was legal work for Carson to perform.

On the Leinster Circuit Carson first represented Irish tenants. He did this with such success that Irish Nationalists approached him to see if he would consider standing as a ‘No Rent,’ candidate under the green flag of the Land League. Carson did not accept their offer as he explained clearly that he was a firm believer in the political Union with Great Britain and Ireland. Carson also represented Landlords in these cases and through such experiences he could sense how politics, nationalism, protest and the court room formed a passionate dynamic within his country.

It was a civil case however that placed Carson on the map as a successful barrister. This case concerned a certain Miss Anthony who lived in Tallow, County Waterford. Miss Anthony had been removed off a train because she had no ticket. She employed Carson as her barrister and an action was taken against the railway company. Carson won her case and the appeal put in by the railway company.

The reputation of this barrister was further enhanced in the public eye when he defended two suspects in a Dublin murder case. He also won this case by exposing the unreliable nature of the prosecution’s evidence that was based on an informant.

Edward Carson’s career as an Irish Barrister was advancing. In 1886 Annette and Edward bought a large house in Merion Square and with their three children set up home. A life as an Irish Barrister with a happy family life appeared to be the destiny for the Carson’s.

The storms of Irish History, that raged in the late nineteenth century however were to blow Edward Carson in another course. His course would ultimately lead to Ulster and constitutional crisis. First Carson progressed to work for the legal department based in Dublin Castle at a time of conflict in Ireland.

Gladstone by 1885 considered that self-government or Home Rule was the solution to the problem of Irish discontent. William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1895), was a Liberal leader, a classics graduate of Oxford and advocate for Home Rule in Ireland. The numbers game at Westminster dictated his policy. Gladstone returned as Prime Minister for a third time with a majority of eighty six. The Irish Nationalists also held eighty six seats and so in the numbers game in Westminster, Gladstone needed their support.

In 1886, upon the 8th April, Gladstone therefor introduced to Westminster the Home Rule Bill for Ireland. In June 1886 this significant bill was defeated by (343 votes to 313). An election was subsequently called and Gladstone’s Liberal Party was defeated with the Conservative Salisbury assuming residence in Ten Downing Street.

The impact of this upon British politics was the following. Liberal Unionists in Ireland turned to the Conservative Party for support. It was at this point that Carson met the person who would exert significant influence upon his political career. Lady Londonderry was the wife of the new Lord Lieutenant dispatched to Ireland by Salisbury.

The policy of the Conservative Party to Ireland as advocated by Balfour was to enforce the rule of British Law. The Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1887 was thus introduced. It was against this background the man called Edward Carson, aged thirty-three was appointed counsel to the Attorney-General for Ireland.

Carson was to Irish Nationalists now, ‘Coercion Carson,’ a symbol to them of oppression. The new Attorney-General dispatched Carson to Mitchelstown in County Cork where the first prosecution under the new Crimes Act was to be tested. It proved to be a test of nerve between Carson the Unionist barrister and the Irish National League.

The court case was to be held upon the 9th September, 1887, in Mitchelstown. When Carson entered this town all the shops were closed and an atmosphere of tension on the streets met him. Mitchelstown was full of angry and armed protestors. There was a heavy mix of Irish Nationalists, English Liberal MPs, farmers, women and children shouting in angry protest. Carson pushed on regardless, for in his mind the law had to be upheld. In like manner to a Frontier American Wild West town, Mitchelstown was full of menace to the lawman.

The defendants were not standing in the Court House awaiting sentence. The political defendants were addressing a crowd of supporters, near the court house. The New Counsel to the Attorney-General applied to the bench for warrants for their arrest and the court was adjourned.

The anxious Royal Irish Constabulary directed Carson to leave the Court by the side door. Carson refused and left the court through the front door. Standing upon the steps of Mitchelstown Court House, Carson was confronted by an angry crowd that echoed with taunts directed at him. Facing the crowd Carson calmly descended down the steps and the crowd parted allowing him through unmolested.

It was then from the car man or his taxi man that Carson soon learned of the riots and deaths that had occurred that day in Mitchelstown while he had been in the courthouse. The police had pushed through the crowd to position their reporter close to the platform.

This was a world before modern recording technology. To gather evidence for court a recorder would consequently stand, listening and writing down the words of political orators. Resentful of this the crowd turned on the Police and a mighty riot started. In self-defence the Police fired their weapons at the crowd. Three civilians were killed. This incident became entitled as the, ‘Mitchelstown Massacre.’

This incident tested Carson’s nerve and he came through. This incident of riot and rifle shots further points to the future for Carson was to live through turbulent times ahead.

It was soon after that he met the man that would prove to be a great influence on his political career, one Arthur Balfour. At this time in his life he travelled Ireland with a revolver in his pocket and Irish Nationalists hated him and they called him, ‘Coercion Carson,’ testament to his advocacy of the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1887.

Edward Carson Enters the World of British Parliamentary Politics:

Edward Carson was sworn into the office of Solicitor General for Ireland, on 1st July 1892. He was further proposed as a candidate for election to Westminster representing Trinity. He stood as a Liberal Unionist and his opposition was from the Conservative candidate, Colonel Lowry. Carson received 1,609 votes, Lowry 897. So it was that the student of classics, member of the Historical Society came to represent his old University. The very same institution that as presented before, had nearly kicked him out. From this point the man who wanted to stay a barrister became a politician. The coming decades would test him as the Home Rule question for Ireland would surface again at Westminster.
Circumstances dictated that Carson now move his legal work to England. He went to work with Charles Darling Q.C. at number three Dr. Johnson’s Buildings in the Temple area of London.

In the course of our story we have examined how law moulded the thinking of Carson as a British and Irish subject. In the years to come it is therefore remarkable for the reader to reflect that by 1914, Edward Carson would progress in his political life to be seen by some as a criminal and rebellious British and Irish subject. I will now return to my narrative to show why this came about.

On the 2nd February 1893, Carson made his maiden speech at Westminster. It was successful yet his wife and family were living in Dublin and life, as now, was expensive in London. He had to work as a barrister and work also as a Member of Parliament at Westminster. His powers of oration would be important as Gladstone, in his fourth period as Prime Minister introduced his Second Home Rule Bill, in February 1893. In Ulster opposition to this Home Rule Bill was gathering pace.

A great and passionate convention was held in Belfast by the Ulster Unionists. The Ulster British Unionists were organising themselves to resist this particular Home Rule policy. It would come to pass that Carson, in like manner to a sailor navigating a frigate through a storm in heavy seas would chart a solid course, through the political storms that raged between Britain and Ireland. It would be a voyage that he would undertake for the rest of his life as we will now examine in our narrative.

Carson sat upon the opposition benches and faced the Liberal Government and their Irish Nationalist allies. Across from him sat his political adversaries in like manner to opposing legal briefs in a court room. Unlike a court however this time it was concerning the constitutional destiny of Britain and Ireland. My point to the reader being that the stakes could not have been higher.

Representing the party of the Government, the Liberal Party sat Asquith who will figure as key adversary to Carson in the course of our story. Hebert Henry Asquith (1862-1923), was a Liberal political party strategist, educated in classics at Oxford, a barrister with a passion for the reform of the House of Lords and Home Rule. There was also Redmond the leader of the Irish Nationalists a constitutional and passionate advocate of Irish Home Rule. John Redmond (1856-1918), was an Irish barrister and advocate for Irish independence with a love of poetry.

In passionate and abrupt verbal exchanges over the Liberal’s Irish policy, Carson used his legal style and rhetoric to essentially cross-examine his political opponents. It was if he had placed them in a dock of a court as defendants in a legal case. In that summer of 1893, the passions and emotions of the political rivals spilled into actual physical fighting. The so called respectable members of the British parliament used their clenched fists instead of their sharp speech to make their point. The story unfolds thus.

The Second Home Rule Bill had come to the end of the committee stage. A shouting match subsequently developed between Carson and some of the Liberal members. A member of parliament from the Liberals, a J.W. Logan then crossed the floor and sat down beside Carson. A member sitting behind Carson bit Logan. The Irish Nationalist members then joined in and an angry physical fight occurred in the House of Commons. The chamber descended into anarchy with shouting and flying fists. The Speaker of the House of Commons called for order above the din and presently the contestants in the boxing match calmed down yet the curtain was raised upon the evident passions that Home Rule in Ireland stirred.

The Second Home Rule Bill passed through its’ third reading of the legislative process but was subsequently thrown out by the House of Lords on 8th September 1893. Then the House of Lords had a veto over governmental bill raised in the House of Commons. The majority of Peers in the House of Lords were of a Troy mindset and supported the Act of Union between Britain and Ireland. The question of Home Rule for Ireland was to haunt the palace of Westminster as a spectre. The policy of Home Rule for Ireland would have implications over the coming decades for the whole future of Britain and Ireland. Carson was to play a leading role in this story as we will read on to see.

His mentor in British politics and high society was one Lady Londonderry who often watched the debates in Parliament surrounding the Irish question high up in the press gallery. In those days of the late nineteenth century there were no female Members of Parliament and women had a long way to go to reach emancipation. She did however exert a subtle influence behind the scenes in British high society. Lady Londonderry acted as a lobbyist and was a key behind the scenes figure in galvanizing support for the Unionist case against the implementation of Irish Home Rule over the heads of the British Ulster populace. She called Carson, ‘her solicitor’. Her home was Mount Stewart in the Ards peninsula and I would recommend a visit to this house and gardens to understand more about this unique women.

Edward Carson in the case of one Oscar Wilde:

At this point in Carson’s work life a legal case emerged for him to get his teeth into. As was noted before Carson also had to work as Barrister to bring in money while at the same time he performed the role as a Member of the British Parliament. It was a case to defend the Marquess of Queensbury against a charge of libel. The Marquess of Queensbury was the author of the famous rules surrounding the sport of boxing. The atmosphere of the court room would become similar to a boxing ring as the advocates and defendants sparred in words and innuendo.

Fate had brought Carson face to face with a contemporary of his far off Trinity days. This was one Oscar Wilde the playwright and brilliant mind whose wit was famous and cutting. This trial still echoes through history to our day and Wilde still exerts a significant influence in English literature.
Due to space I will summarise this famous legal case for the reader’s information.

As noted Oscar Wilde was a famous writer know for his humour and decadent way of life. The son of Lord Queensbury, Alfred Douglas had come to love Wilde and a relationship developed between the men. Wilde sent love letters to the young man. When the letters came into Queensbury’s hands he became angry. In those days homosexual relationships were illegal. To make his point to Wilde that he was most unhappy about the illicit love affair, he left a card at Wilde’s private club. It read,

“To Oscar Wilde, posing as a sodomite”

In response Wilde consulted his solicitor and Queensbury was arrested on the charge of criminal libel. In like manner to a celebrity case today this legal case proved to be as sensational as you could get. Great public interest was shown in the case.

The case opened on 3rd April 1895 with Carson representing Queensbury and Clarke representing Wilde. Reflecting upon Trinity student days, Wilde considered Carson to still be the academic slow coach. This however was to underestimate the man who had acquired legal skills in cross-examination through practice. It was Carson’s skill in mastering the details of legal evidence, cross-examination of witnesses and determination to stress his point unflinchingly that ultimately brought Oscar Wilde down. Despite the cutting and arrogant replies of Wilde to Carson the legal advocate breached the defences of Wilde’s satire. For example, Carson read to the court a letter written by Wilde to young Alfred Douglas. I quote for the information of the reader.

“Your slim gilt soul walks between passion and poetry.”

Carson asked Wilde, “Is that a beautiful phrase?”

Wilde in the form of a poet replied,

“Not as you read it, Mr. Carson!”
You read it very badly!”

In this manner Carson and Wilde, past students, barrister and playwright, both men of letters thus engaged in bitter exchanges. A battle of minds and wits ensued between the two men. Words held a meaning this case and were open to interpretation.

The evidence that Carson used were the letters composed by Wilde to the young Queensbury. To some they appeared as poetry while to others they reflected a deep love that Wilde had cultivated to seduce this young man for the ultimate gratification of Wilde. So the trail progressed until Carson out witted Wilde in a process of concentrated cross-examination of circumstantial evidence.

Oscar Wilde was deserted by his muse of wit when confronted by the actual nature of his relationship with a boy called Grainger. He was a man servant of Alfred Douglas and the implication was that Wilde had sexually seduced him. Faced with stories relating his alleged sexual activities with young men, Wilde panicked. Oscar Wilde then instructed his barrister, Sir Edward Clarke, to withdraw the prosecution for libel initially lodged by Wilde against Queensbury. On the same day Oscar Wilde, brilliant man of letters was arrested for indecent activities and ultimately exile from Britain would be the fate of Oscar Wilde.
While in prison Wilde composed a famous poem called, “ The Ballad of Reading Gaol.”

Edward Carson the barrister had won an important legal victory however he was not all together happy about his success. Carson reflected that he did not like the part that he had played in the down fall of Oscar Wilde. He even approached the English Solicitor General for clemency for his old student contemporary. Today in 2015 society has evolved new attitudes to gay relationships yet not that Carson actually tried to help Wilde at the end after all the spite shown in the court room.

I will now resume the story of the political life of my subject.

New challenges in the political game arise:

The Conservative Party won the General Election, held in 1895. At this stage Carson became the Right Honourable Edward Carson MP, QC and served as a member of the Irish Privy Council. Carson was not however made a member of the new Conservative Government. To some in the English establishment he was considered to be an outsider, a brilliant barrister but not a Tory aristocratic blue blood. Carson remained on the back benches and focused upon building up his legal practice and working as an ordinary but vocal member of parliament.

By 1899 as the Boer War began in South Africa where his future colleague James Craig fought, Carson was making a good living through his legal practice. He was now rich enough to purchase a fine mansion in Rutland Gate London. He further bought a country house in the village of Rottingdean. It was here that he met the writer Rudyard Kipling, the author of the Jungle Book and Kim who would be a great support of Ulster resistance to Home Rule in 1912-14.
To all intent and purposes Edward Carson had finally secured wealth and social position within the high society of Britain even if he was not considered a blue blood aristocrat by some. Annette his wife however was not happy in this new life of English high society with its particular rules of conduct and social etiquette. It is I reflect important for the reader to note that Carson despite his wealth, his position was a man like any other. He had family problems like anyone else. He had come a long way in his life from his earlier days in 1879 when he had first married Annette in the those far off days in Dublin.

The world however was changing and the Victorian age of British Imperial rule going uncontested was ending. In the course of the period covered by, 1899 -1919, the old Empires of Russia, Germany, Austria-Hungary and others would fall as the storm of war blew them away.
In 1899 the last year of the nineteenth century such visions of destruction were simply considered mad and the old Empires simply got on with business as usual regardless of changes in technology and demand from their peoples for the right to national self-determination. The private world of Edward Carson as many others found would be affected by this rhythm of international events as we will read about later on the narrative. My point being to the reader that even in 1899, as British troops fought the Boers in South Africa, the winds of war were slowly gathering force. Ireland would not be sheltered and in the course of the period 1899-1919 great political change came to the land as we will read about in the course of the narrative. The challenge for Carson was to think like a new twentieth century politician with a comprehensive knowledge of international affairs and an eye for the public opinion of a new literate electorate.

Ireland was a part of the British Empire and in 1899 no one in the British establishment really thought that Ireland one day would split away to form its own nation state. For Edward Carson a British Irish Unionist the future for Ireland appeared to be in the maintenance of the Union between Ireland and Britain. This status quo however was not accepted by Irish cultural and political nationalists who were slowly creating a power base in the South of Ireland. The Irish question was therefore far from dead, in that year of 1899, as a new century dawned. Indeed some Irish Nationalists were fighting on the side of the Boers against the British in South Africa, given their hatred of the old Victorian Empire. I will now resume by narrative.

Edward Carson was made Solicitor – General of England in 1900. He was thus the only barrister who was both the Solicitor-General of England and Ireland. Carson was further Knighted and became Sir Edward Carson. It appeared to commentators that Sir Edward Carson MP,QC, At the age of fifty years could now simply look forward to a comfortable old age his best years of work behind him. This was not to be for as noted above the winds of change were blowing through the parliaments and palaces of Europe. Ireland was to be so affected by the wind that would become a storm.

The Ulster Crisis takes shape – Carson’s challenge with the Navy:

On the 4th December 1905, a new British government was formed lead by the Liberal party. The new Prime Minister was one, Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman (1836-1908), from Glasgow, a businessman with a passion for free trade, state reform and an advocate of Home Rule for Ireland. With a large electoral mandate this new Liberal government felt that they could resurrect the body of Gladstone’s Irish Home Rule policy and so a new chapter opened in the Irish question. In response within Ulster arrangements were put in place by the British Unionists, to organise resistance to the Liberal policy of Home Rule. Before Edward Carson entered the lion’s den of this affair a new legal challenge came up for him to focus his energies upon, in 1909. In like manner to the Oscar Wilde case this legal dispute would make the headlines. It figures Edward Carson as an advocate for the underdog against the establishment which was the political role that he would assume later in the course of the Ulster Crisis in 1912-14.

This new legal case concerned a naval cadet called Archer-Shee. The case made against him by the Royal Navy was that he had stolen a five-shilling postal order from another young naval cadet and then cashed it in a neighbourhood post office. The British Naval authorities asked Archer-Shee’s father to remove his son from the naval academy over the head of the matter. Young Archer-Shee however stated repeatedly to the naval authorities that he was innocent. Archer-Shee senior then secured the legal services of Edward Carson to fight his corner with the conservative naval establishment that resented any criticism of their policy pertaining to the matter.

Just as he practised in the Wilde case, so Carson scrutinised through cross-examination the evidence presented surrounding his young client’s alleged offence. First there was the evidence of the signature on the said postal order. An expert on hand writing had identified the signature to be that of young Archer-Shee. The second piece of evidence related to the positive identification of young Archer-Shee, by the Postmistress, in the exact office counter where it was alleged that the stolen postal order had been cashed. Carson’s analytical and legal mind went to work in challenging the credibility of the evidence presented by the naval legal team against young Archer-Shee. He used a Petition of Right to take this case to court as the naval cadet, young Archer-Shee, was too young to taken before a court martial. The court argued that the Crown had an absolute right to dismiss anyone who had the entered the naval service of the Crown. Carson however contested this point and stated to the presiding Judge directly and clearly that,

“This is the grossest oppression without remedy that I have known since I have been at the bar!”

Edward Carson stormed out of the court with wig and robes in angry disarray. He was committed to prove that the naval cadet, young Archer-Shee, was innocent of the charge made against him. This is I feel characteristic of Edward Carson who did fight for principles regardless when his back was up. It would be a valuable characteristic when he committed himself to the leadership of Unionist resistance to the Home Rule policy of the Liberal Government. I will now resume the story.

The legal case opened on 18th July, 1910 and the nation was interested in the story of this naval cadet. In those days daily news papers were popular in Britain and press journalists therefore filled the public balcony of the court room to report. His sharpened skills of cross-examination successfully destroyed the credibility of the key witness statement as presented by the post-mistress. In the court, packed with journalists, Carson proved that the Postmistress could have mistaken the physical identity of the young naval cadet on the day that the postal order was cashed. The British Admiralty contested defeat in the matter and so young Archer-Shee was proved innocent of the charge of theft. In this case Carson had illustrated to the public that he was a man of principle who would take on the British establishment if a point of injustice required remedy. For some in the British establishment, especially the Liberal party Edward Carson was becoming a problem.

It was in February 1910 that Sir Edward Carson was invited to become the leader of the Ulster Unionist campaign against Home Rule in Ireland. At fifty seven years old this was a great mental and physical challenge however he rose to the task in like manner to his energetic court appearances. This course of political action would mean for him the sacrifice of high legal office in Britain and the animosity of Irish Nationalists who considered him a traitor. His past life however had in various regards prepared him for this unique role. As explored previously in my narrative, Edward Carson was a student of classical oratory evident from his school days and his passionate participation in the Trinity Historical Society. His skills in the art of preparing briefs, carrying out penetrating cross-examination of witnesses had been proved in court to the cost of Oscar Wilde and the Royal Navy. He further had many years service as a Member of Parliament and knew this old institutions ways of doing business. Just as he had fought the Second Home Rule Bill of 1893, so Carson rose to the challenge again and began his fight against the Third Home Rule Bill. Britain and Ireland would never be the same again as a consequence.

The Ulster Crisis Gains Momentum and Carson comes to lead:

In 1910 there were two general elections held in Britain. The first was held from the 15th January to the 10th February 1910 and was called by the Liberal Government in response to a constitutional crisis. In those days British general elections were carried out over weeks due to the long process involved in organising, collecting and counting the votes.

This crisis in the political world at Westminster was caused by the rejection of the People’s Budget policy as presented by the Liberal Party. The House of Lords simply rejected it and kicked it back to the House of Commons. A general election was thus called and a hung parliament emerged. The Conservative Party led by Arthur James Balfour (1848-1930) an ex-prime minister (1902-1905), and Carson’s Liberal Unionists party received the largest number of votes. The Liberals however led by Herbert Asquith secured, slightly the greater number of seats. Asquith subsequently formed a government with the Irish Parliamentary Party led by John Redmond. The Liberals secured 274 seats, the Conservatives and Unionists 272, the Irish Parliamentary Party 71 and Labour 40.

The constitutional crisis between the warring parties in the Westminster Parliament was not resolved and consequently a second general election was held in December 1910 from the 3rd to 19th December. This particular British general election was the last to be held before the outbreak of the Great War in 1914. The Liberals secured 272 seats, the Conservatives and Carson’s Liberal Unionists 271, the Irish Parliamentary Party 74 and Labour 42. Asquith then re-formed his Liberal Government with the support of the Irish Parliamentary Party. It appeared that Home Rule for Ireland was on the cards. In response the Ulster Unionists stepped up their preparations to resist the introduction of Home Rule. Ireland was divided most dramatically between Ulster Unionists drawn mostly but not specifically from the Protestant faith and Irish Nationalists who in majority adhered to the Roman Catholic tradition.

The political issue was thus reinforced by religious differences and the legacy of history in Ireland. The ghosts of the siege of Londonderry, battle of the Boyne, Sarsfield and the United Irish Men’s rising of 1798, moulded mindsets with a righteousness of purpose. This was a lethal cocktail mixed as it was with the ingredients of politics, passion, historical feelings of injustice and treachery. Carson would need all his skills to navigate his way through this period.

Carson came to Ulster to address his new constituents at Craigavon house near Belfast where a great rally was organised on the 23rd September 1911. Faced by the policy of Home Rule as envisaged by the Liberal Government supported by the Irish Parliamentary Party, the Ulster Unionists were simply not having it. At the great rally Carson rose to the occasion and stated clearly where he stood surrounding matters. I quote for my reader.

“ I know the responsibility you are putting on me today. In your presence I cheerfully accept it, grave as it is, and I now enter into a compact with you, and every one of you, and with the help of God you and I joined together will yet defeat the most nefarious conspiracy that has ever been hatched against a free people.
We must be prepared the morning Home Rule passes, ourselves to become responsible for the government of the Protestant Province of Ulster.”

(Refer to; A.T.Q. Stewart (1981) Edward Carson, p73)

His words above I feel speak avidly for themselves. Carson was going to fight!

A crisis now emerged in the course of British and Irish affairs that had the potency to actually descend into a form of civil war, given the passions stirred in the protagonists.

The Third Home Rule Bill was first introduced at Westminster in April 1912 by the Liberal Government headed by Asquith. The dice was cast and as Caesar had crossed the river Rubicon so Carson crossed into the realm of active resistance to the policy that he and the Unionists hated.

On September 28th 1912, 237,368 man and 234,046 women signed the Ulster Covenant. Many signed in the Belfast City Hall and the desk is still there in the building to see today. A force of volunteers was raised and drilled by ex-army officers such as Captain James Craig MP and so the Ulster Volunteer Force came about. Carson would subsequently have a form of army to reinforce his words with a line of ardent men with bayonets, if necessary. A retired British army general one Sir George Richardson commanded this volunteer force and thus a mark of professionalism was provided to forging its character and capacity to fight. To gain a feel for this period I would advise my reader to visit the Ulster Museum to see the exhibitions surrounding this period of our history.

On the screen in the exhibition room of the museum I watched Edward Carson on old cinema footage. This brought the whole period alive to me and I remembered back to an elderly relative telling me that she had heard the man speak. I noted his sweeping hand movements, the crowds that gathered around him and the evident link that he forged with the Ulster people who supported his stance. I then reflected that along with the mobilisation of the Ulster Volunteer Force there was a simultaneous media campaign. The image of Carson was thus portrayed in badges, cards, posters, news sheets and banners. My point being that his image became familiar to the Ulster Unionists in their homes. This was before the advent of Radio and so communication was very basic in Britain and Ireland at the time of 1912. All however appeared to know who Edward Carson was and what he stood for. This was due to the organisational work behind the scenes of James Craig who would progress to become the first Prime Minister of Northern Ireland. I reflect at this point that Edward Carson had evolved a profile in the minds of Northern Protestant Unionists that he was their advocate general. For a southern Irish Unionist this was I feel quite a feat.

Affairs entered a new level of gravity when in 1913 a Provisional Government for Ulster was created with all the necessary apparatus to administer rule in the wake of an imposed Home Rule policy. This was to be underpinned by the arming of the Ulster Volunteer Force through stealth. Surrounding this episode I direct my reader to my work called, Steamships and Subterfuge which can be accessed in the Grove Library and the Central Library in the Heritage collection.

Carson fully understood that the Ulster Volunteer Force had to be armed to be taken seriously by his enemies. So it came to pass that Edward Carson supported one Fred Crawford to undertake a most dangerous and sophisticated gun smuggling operation of great magnitude. Crawford called on Carson to clearly see the resolve of the man surrounding the matter. Crawford speaks to Carson,

“Now, Sir Edward, you know what I am about to undertake and the risks those who back me up must run. Are you willing to back me to the finish in this undertaking?”

Carson then responded to the architect of the gun smuggling operation. Carson stood up and shook his fist in a deliberate gesture to make his point,

“Crawford, I’ll see you through this business if I should have to go to prison for it.”

In April 1914, 24,600 rifles and three million rounds of ammunition were delivered to Ulster.

(Refer to; A.T.Q. Stewart, Edward Carson, p84. His other book called the Ulster Crisis is I feel an excellent book covering this subject of the Third Home Rule Bill and Ulster resistance to it).

Edward Carson then became a form of rebel. He was against the Liberal Government yet loyal to his King George V and the unwritten British constitution.

In response to the above preparations undertaken by the Ulster Unionists the Liberal Government prepared plans prepared plans for the occupation of Ulster. The army was thus to enter unwillingly this political snake pit.

On the 6th April 1913, Annette Carson died and a gap was left in Carson’s life. They had been married for thirty four years and she had been a great support for her husband. Despite such a personal bereavement at such a difficult time in British and Irish affairs, he resumed his duties.

The Irish Home Rule Bill went through its third reading in March 1913. The House of Lords could not stop the passing of this Bill and so it would become law with implications for Ulster and beyond. At a meeting of Ulster Unionists Carson stated that,

“I am glad to be here tonight. Heaven knows my one affection left me is my love of Ireland…
Remember you have no quarrel with individual Irishmen even though opposed to us. Or quarrel is with the Government. If they wish to test the legality of anything we are doing, or have done, do not let them take humble men. I am responsible for everything. They know where to find me, for I never ask any man to do what I am not myself ready to do.”

(Refer to; Montgomery Hyde, Carson, p329)

With a motor-corps, nursing section, volunteer force, rifles, ammunition and great support from the Unionist community it appeared that Edward Carson was almost emulating the path of Oliver Cromwell. The prospect of a civil war in Ireland shocked many in England and beyond. The Prime Minister Asquith put proposed plans to the Unionists and Irish Nationalists for a compromise. The scheme essentially proposed measures to facilitate a scheme within which each of the respective Ulster counties could stay out of the Home Rule settlement for six years. Carson studied these proposals closely and stated clearly to Asquith, ‘Out!’
Asquith in response then turned to Churchill then First Lord of the Admiralty in private deliberations to draw up plans to occupy Ulster and intern the Unionist leaders for sedition. The crisis deepened.

On the 19th March, 1914, Carson stood to his feet in the House of Commons in Westminster. The Daily Telegraph of the time records these dramatic events. I quote for my reader.

“History was made in the House of Commons yesterday, for two hours the tension was extreme. The sitting began in the calm of deep anxiety. It passed to storm. It moved on to tempest and it was in tempest that Sir Edward Carson rose and left the chamber. The rest was nought. When he went the die was cast and the day was done.”

(Refer to; The Daily Telegraph, Friday, March 20th, 1914:p11-12. This can be sourced through the Daily Telegraph’s website in their unique historical archive).

The article sited above then quotes the words of Carson to the Liberal Government of Asquith and Churchill that he eye balled directly across the floor of the chamber.

“If it is the last word, then I tell him to read the First Lord’s speech, in which he said I and others were guilty of a treasonable conspiracy, and let them come and try conclusions with us!

The Government have been up to this time, on this question a Government of cowards.”

(Refer to; The Daily Telegraph, Friday, March 20th, 1914, p11-12)

The dramatic situation was captured in a headline from the Daily Telegraph paper of 20th March 1914, it stated, in bold print,

“The Shadow of Civil War – A Military Occupation”

Edward Carson – Revolutionary yet Loyal subject of His Majesty:

Sir Edward Carson left Westminster on the 19th March and immediately headed for Ulster. One can only conjecture what was in his thoughts as the ship took him across the Irish Sea to Belfast. He was however intent on standing firm against the Liberal Government regardless.

The scene then shifts to the house of James Craig at Craigavon near Belfast. This had been turned into an armed camp with protective sand bags, barbed wire, machine gun emplacements and armed Ulster Volunteers on duty. This was the place that the British marines, Royal Irish Constabulary or army would have to storm to capture Carson, Craig and the other Ulster Unionist leaders. A first- hand account of this unique state of affairs at Craigavon House is provided by the wife of on Captain Spender. Her eye for detail paints a vivid picture. I quote for my reader.

“There was a tent by each gate, with a number of men on guard, in plain clothes except for puttees, bandoliers, and military greatcoats, in a field by the house was a large tent with a small hospital tent beside it. On the lawn there were batteries of press cameras waiting pounce on Sir Edward…”

(Refer to; A.T.Q.Stewart, Edward Carson, p89: This extract is taken from Lady Spender’s Diary, dated 20th March entry, 1914, Public Record Office code of D1633. It is important to note that many women were involved in the Ulster Unionist campaign against Home Rule).

Then a dispatch rider upon a motorcycle delivered a message to the bastion. On the 20th March, 1914, at the British Army camp in the Curragh, central Ireland, in County Kildare a mutiny of sorts had occurred out of the blue. The British Army officers under the command of Brigadier Hubert Gough stated that they would rather resign than move on Ulster. Asquith and his Liberal Government could not now rely on their own army to enforce their will on the Ulster Unionists.

One last peace overture was however made by Asquith to Carson and the Irish Nationalists and a conference was held at Buckingham Palace. King George V organised the peace conference. With a genuine desire to hammer out a deal he did not want to be the constitutional British Monarch that would witness civil strife in the land. Above party politics he felt that peace between the Liberal Government, Irish Nationalists and Ulster Unionists was a priority for his subjects peace of mind.
Between 21st and 24th July 1914, the negotiations progressed. A new challenge to peace however erupted in the Balklans with the assassination of an Austrian Arch-Duke. The response by Austria to Serbia surrounding this matter lead to a chain of diplomatic and military decisions that led to war in Europe and world- wide. The affairs of Ulster were put on the back burner as the focus of Asquith and the Liberal Government was to respond to an international crisis.

The European powers such as Germany and Russia however had taken a deadly gamble upon war as an instrument of policy. The bayonets of the Ulster Volunteers would after all not be pointed at British marines storming the bastion of Craigavon House. Rather the volunteers would find themselves in France fighting the grey uniformed ranks of German soldiers. The old world of certainties was left behind in that summer of 1914 and Ulster, indeed the entire world would never be the same again. For Carson the Ulster Question was suspended. In his personal life however he married again one Ruby Frewen on the 17th September 1914. She was 29 years old and he sixty.

Edward Carson – His Role in the Great War of 1914-1918:

Given that I aspire to compose a short pamphlet, space restricts my narrative of the later years of Carson’s life. For the reader I present in the following pages a general sketch of this late period in my subject’s life. For more details I direct my reader to the book by Montgomery on Carson, the later chapters provide comprehensive material upon the final years of Edward Carson. Family pressures played an important part for him then.

In response to the war a coalition government emerged in Britain. Sir Edward Carson castigated as rebel by Asquith now found himself working closely with the very Liberals that he was previously ready to fight, to defend Ulster. So it was that the country girded it loins to face a national emergency that would lead to years of long protracted war. Carson became Attorney General in this collation government and he contributed to the eventual victory that came following great sacrifices in 1918. Carson was member of the special committee surrounding the Gallipoli campaign in Turkey. This was a military strategy developed by Churchill. The same first Sea Lord that had planned to arrest him in 1914. Carson was of the mind that the expeditionary force struggling upon the Turkish beaches should be evacuated.

In 1915 he resigned from the war government unhappy with the conduct of military operations. Health further challenged Edward Carson and in 1916 he was medially diagnosed with a,

‘tired heart.’

Events in Ireland however were electric as a consequence of the Easter Rising of 24th April 1916.
That summer further the men of the Ulster 36th Division suffered great casualties at the battle of the Somme in July. Ulster was in mourning and Carson depressed at the slaughter upon the western front.

The Irish Question then emerged again and Carson had to respond despite poor health to new threats to the constitutional position of Ulster. Lloyd George proposed that the six counties of Ulster should be excluded from the Government of Ireland Act,

“..and not to be included unless at some future time the Imperial Parliament passes an Act for that purpose.”

(Refer to; A.T.Q. Stewart, Edward Carson p103).

For Carson this meant essentially betraying three Ulster Counties and this troubled him greatly. Political reality however led him to advise the Ulster Unionist Council to accept the proposed partition plan. Due to internal disaffection with how the war was going for Britain, Asquith was forced to resign as Prime Minister. Lloyd George took over and Edward Carson found himself as the First Lord of the Admiralty, on the 10th December 1916. Looking back to the Archer-Shee case it was ironic that Carson now became the boss of the Royal Navy that he had defeated in a landmark legal case years before. This however was ancient history and he made every effort to improve his department. In this post Carson fought his own battle of the Atlantic against the menace of German submarines. He encouraged the development of anti-submarine weaponry to be utilised by the Royal Navy in this campaign. He was further a great advocate of the convoy system between America / Canada and Britain across the Atlantic Ocean. These lessons were resurrected in the Second World War of (1939-45).
Old fashioned admirals, lack of resources and poor health frustrated Carson’s role in this office and he resigned in 1917. His skills were however retained by the coalition government of Lloyd George and Edward Carson was appointed Minister without Portfolio until the duration of the war.

The final chapters in the life of Edward Carson:

By 1918 Ireland however was not at peace. In like manner to other regions of Europe the legacy of the Great War had ushered in a new age within which the principle of national self-determination for peoples was paramount. The old map of Europe was in the dust bin Ireland was in the mix of these tremendous political changes. To avert civil war in 1918 the policy of partition was thus proposed to solve the Irish question. The animosity between Ulster Unionists and Irish Nationalists was still passionate. With the cost of the Great War, especially at the Somme, Ulster Unionists as they were in the year 1914, were even now more against a policy of home rule for Ireland. Now we enter the final years of the active life of Sir Edward Carson. He stood as a candidate for Parliament in the Duncairn Ward of North Belfast. Unlike his previous seat of Trinity, Duncairn included working-class areas of poverty such as York Street and Tiger’s Bay.

These were the people that had listened to his speeches in the great rallies of the 1912-14 campaign. They were also the parents of the fallen of the Somme and the ex-soldiers who had survived the war. They were totally against Home Rule but faced with reality accepted resentfully the policy of partition. They however trusted Carson’s judgement and it appeared that the whole of Ireland could not be maintained within the British Union long term. The South of Ireland was then in tumult with the Irish Republican Army fighting British Crown forces. Here the Irish Republican forces under Collins were pushing to secure an independent and ultimately united Ireland within the political philosophy of Irish Republicanism. This was anathema to Ulster Unionists who in turn played their respective card of the right to national self-determination of Ulster Unionists in the six counties. So a stalemate occurred.
In the 1918 election Carson secured 11,639 votes and was thus elected again to the Westminster Parliament. He was still considered as a leader by the Ulster Unionists.

True to form the Liberal Party under Lloyd George again attempted to introduce a new policy for Home Rule in Ireland. The fourth Government of Ireland Bill was then introduced in February 1920 by the government headed by Lloyd George. This act divided Ireland into two units with two parliaments and a Council of Ireland. The newly established Dail Eireann simply ignored this British act and Sinn Fein now assumed dominance with the Irish Parliamentary Party a spent force.

Saddened by what he felt was the betrayal of his southern Unionists and having by circumstances to pragmatically accept partition and devolution, Carson turned down the job of Prime Minister of the new Northern Ireland. This fell to one James Craig and I refer my reader to my work on this man, lodged in Heritage collection of the Belfast Central Library.
Sir Edward Carson then stood down from the leadership of the Ulster Unionist Council, on the 4th February 1912 at nearly sixty-seven years old.

Carson however left with good advice to the new Ulster Unionist Leadership. I quote for my reader,

“From the outset let us see that the Catholic minority have nothing to fear from Protestant majority.
Let us take care to win all that is best among those while maintaining intact our religion. Let us give the same rights to the religion of our neighbours.”

(Refer to; Hyde Montgomery, Carson, p449)

On the 24th May 1921, Edward Carson became Baron Carson of Duncairn in the County of Antrim. With poor health at the age of seventy-five years, he retired from work and politics, settling in England. Here he spent his remaining years ever vigilant for the fate of Northern Ireland.

The End: A Man Sees his Own Statue:

In 1933, Carson visited Belfast to see his own statue dedicated at the new Stormont buildings. Placed at the front of the building it is the same statue that I gazed up at a child. On that emotional day for him he was deeply moved by the inscription carved upon the base of the statue. It reads,

“By the Loyalists of Ulster as an expression of their love and admiration for its subject.”

Edward Carson died on the 22nd of October 1935. A naval ship brought his body to Belfast where a state funeral was given for him. The story is told that upon that day the Unionists of Ulster gathered of all backgrounds to say farewell to this man. A southern Irish Unionist that had acted as their advocate general.

Today his final resting place can be found in St. Anne’s Cathedral, Belfast.

So ends my story of the life of one Edward Carson.

I leave it up to my reader how they sum up this man.

Select Bibliography for this work on Sir Edward Carson:

Crawford, F. (1947) Guns For Ulster, published in Belfast.

Hegarty, N. (2011) Story of Ireland, published by BBC Books.

Kee R. (1980) Ireland. A History, published in London.

Montgomery, H. (1953) Carson, published in London.

Stewart, A.T.Q. (1981) Edward Carson, published in Dublin.

(1967) The Ulster Crisis, published in London.

Jackson, A (2004) Home Rule – An Irish History 1800-200, published in Dublin

• As noted I advise my reader to visit their local library, the Central Library Belfast, Ulster Museum, Public Records Office of Northern Ireland and the Linen Hall Library.