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Quotes from a turbulent time in our history.

Frederick Crawford 1904

At this time the issue of Home Rule had faded into the background but, by the close of 1906 Frederick Crawford was becoming increasingly concerned;

At a rally in the Ulster Hall, Fred Crawford who had been keen on obtaining arms to challenge Home Rule from the mid 1890s, stated;

“I predict that Home Rule will never be killed until we show any British Government which brings it forward that we will resist to the death, even with arms if necessary”.

“Home Rule is not dead and is only in a state of suspended animation…..you people of Ulster must not be lulled into a false sense of security.”

Herbert Asquith – Liberal Prime Minister 10th December 1909

By 1910 the menace of Home Rule was back on the Ulster agenda;

“the Irish problem could only be solved by a policy which, whilst explicitly safeguarding the supreme authority of the Imperial Parliament, would set up self-government in Ireland in regard to Irish affairs.”

Edward Carson 1911

The Ulster Unionist Council was formed in 1905.  From 1910 the leadership of the Ulster Unionist Council had been persuading the Dubliner Edward Carson to become their leader.  In 1911 he wrote to James Craig that in return for his leadership he wanted;

“to satisfy himself that the people really mean to resist.  I am not for a game of bluff and, unless men are prepared to make great sacrifices which they clearly understand, the talk of resistance is useless.” 

Newsletter 1911

In response to Carson a massive demonstration was organised for James Craig’s home, Craigavon in east Belfast on the 23rd September 1911.  Between 50 – 100,000 turned up and the Newsletter captured the event;

“It was in very truth a man’s meeting – a great assembly of the manhood of Ulster, gathered together for a solemn purpose, and the spirit of earnestness manifested was in keeping with the seriousness of the occasion.”

Edward Carson 1911

In response to the gathering at Craigavon House Carson offered;

“to enter into a compact” with Ulstermen to “defeat the most nefarious conspiracy that has ever been hatched against free people…………We must be prepared, the morning Home Rule passes, ourselves to become responsible for the government of the Protestant Province of Ulster”.

Edward Carson 1912

At the Balmoral Review held on Easter Tuesday in April 1912, attended by 100,000 people from across Ulster and 70 British MP’s and Bonar Law leader of the Conservative Party, Carson stated;

 “Never under any circumstances will we have Home Rule”.

Later on the 14th April in a letter to Lady Londonderry Carson wrote;

“The whole proceedings at Balmoral seem like a dream; it was the most thrilling experience I have had or will have”.

Bonar Law 1912
 
The leader of the Conservative Party at a large Unionist rally held in Blenheim Palace, England attended by some 40,000 people foretold;

“I can imagine no length of resistance to which Ulster can go in which I should not be prepared to support them”.

Andrew Bonar Law - Conservative Party Leader - later to become Prime Minister.

August 1912

On reading the draft of the Covenant in August 1912 Carson wrote to Craig on 21st August saying “I would not alter a word in the declaration which I consider excellent”.

Edward Carson

January 1913

 The regulations of the Ulster Volunteer Force stated that it was “to raise and enrol a Force of men at once for the self – preservation and mutual protection of all Loyalists, and generally to keep the peace.”

Ulster Unionist Council

 Frederick Crawford September 1913

“We had all promised those faithful men of all ranks in life who had drilled and worked so hard to be ready for the crises that, when the time for action would come, we would supply them with weapons wherewith to defend their rights and themselves.”

Following the rally by 12,000 Ulster Volunteers at Balmoral.

 Frederick Crawford February 1914

“You and I have so far seen eye to eye in the matter we are interested in at present. I have given your scheme a great deal of thought and, the more I turn it over, the less I like it. You have to consider our own men and how exasperated they will be if they do not get what they want. Even should my scheme fail, it will show them that their leaders were fully alive to the situation and that they did all in their power to fulfil their promises.......I do not think there is more than one chance in ten.....of it being a failure, and if it were carried through what a moral effect it would produce not only with our own men but in England and Scotland.” 

Crawford writing to James Craig - addressing Craig’s fears and reservations.

Edward Carson March 1914

“Crawford, I’ll see you through this business even should I go to prison for it. You are the bravest man I ever met.”

Frederick Crawford just before he left for Hamburg for the last time.

April 1914

“The strain of this responsibility was almost more than I could bear, but I trusted in God…and I realised that in the past he had never really let Ulster down, though she had come through some very dark days during the last 200 years.”

Frederick Crawford – during the gunrunning

“One of the most wonderful sights that I have ever seen was the lines of lights along the different roads leading to Larne Harbour when the various motor convoys began to arrive.”

Wilfred Spender UVF Motor Car Corps

“I cared nothing for the consequences now that I had accomplished my task.  If I were imprisoned, I would have taken it as an honour.  If I were shot at my post by the police or military it would have been a glorious death – the same as being killed in battle.  I knew that Ulster would see to my wife and family, and that was enough for me.”

Frederick Crawford – after the gunrunning

April 1915

"Your feat of last year was not merely one of which we shall always be proud, but one that changed, at a crucial time, the whole situation.  It not only gave us arms.  It gave us arms.  It gave us the prestige of actual victory.  I believe it impressed….more than all…the oratory and writing and demonstrating over Home Rule since that trouble began.”

Unknown Correspondent writing to Crawford

!st July 1916

The 36th Division was commanded by Major-General Oliver Nugent from 1915 to 1918. The 36th was one of the few divisions to make significant gains on the first day on the Somme. It attacked between the Ancre and Thiepval against a position known as the Schwaben Redoubt. 

“The leading battalions (of the 36th (Ulster) Division) had been ordered out from the wood just before 7.30am and laid down near the German trenches ... At zero hour the British barrage lifted. Bugles blew the "Advance". Up sprang the Ulstermen and, without forming up in the waves adopted by other divisions, they rushed the German front line ..... By a combination of sensible tactics and Ulster dash, the prize that eluded so many, the capture of a long section of the German front line, had been accomplished.”

Military Historian - Martin Middlebrook

During the Battle of the Somme the Ulster Division was the only division of X Corps to have achieved its objectives on the opening day of the battle. This came at a heavy price, with the division suffering in two days of fighting 5,500 officers and men killed, wounded or missing.

“ Their attack was one of the finest displays of human courage in the world. ”


Philip Gibbs, War Correspondent 

Captain Wilfred Spender of the Ulster Division's HQ staff after the Battle of the Somme was quoted in the press as saying,

"I am not an Ulsterman but yesterday, the 1st. July, as I followed their amazing attack, I felt that I would rather be an Ulsterman than anything else in the world."

The final sentences of Captain Wilfred Spender's account furthered his viewpoint:

“ The Ulster Division has lost more than half the men who attacked and, in doing so, has sacrificed itself for the Empire which has treated them none too well. The much derided Ulster Volunteer Force has won a name which equals any in history. Their devotion, which no doubt has helped the advance elsewhere, deserved the gratitude of the British Empire. It is due to the memory of these brave fellows that their beloved Province shall be fairly treated. 

 
1919

After the Great War had ended, King George V paid tribute to the 36th Ulster Division saying “Throughout the long years of struggle the men of Ulster have proved how nobly they fight and die”. 

King George V


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