The Ulster Hall, the UVF and Carson
Listening to my colleague Gareth Gordon's piece on the political history of the Ulster Hall on Good Morning Ulster this morning reminded me that a couple of weeks ago a neighbour had dropped around an old wooden Rowntree's Imperial Chocolate Box with the letters "UVF" written on the top.
For a moment I wondered whether this was something I should be referring to General De Chastelain, but a quick check established we were dealing with the pre World War One UVF.
The box contained old postcards from the signing of the Covenant in 1912, including some showing the Ulster Hall hasn't changed a lot since those days. I shall, technology allowing, reproduce a few of them.
Together with the postcards there were various documents dating back to a psalm sheet from an Ulster Unionist Convention in1892. I formed the impression that unionists in those days ate a lot. Apart from various flyers for rallies there seemed to be a lot of menus for anti-Home Rule dinners.
But the box also included a lot of internal documents from the old UVF, which seemed to be the property of George R. Black, the commanding officer of the 2nd Battalion of the South Belfast Regiment. The documents dealt with Sir Edward Carson, the amalgamation of the UVF into the British Army and other matters. I shall reproduce them in the extended entry.
Extract from "Prayer To Be said Daily By Each Member of the Ulster Volunteer Force - Morning and Evening"
"...Bless all my comrades in the Ulster Volunteer Force and make me loving and gentle, obedient to my leaders, and faithful to my promises and in thine own good time bring peace to Ireland...."
Another document is entitled "Form of Indemnity Guarantee"
"We, the undersigned, hereby mutually agree and undertake each for himself and to the extent of and in protection to the amount set opposite his name that he will indemnify all members of the Ulster Volunteer Force in respect of any personal injury or loss of life which shall be sustained by them in the execution of their duty as such members or in the execution of any order of the Provisional government....
The Marquis of Londonderry K.G. £10,000
Sir Edward Carson K.C. M.P. £10,000"
Given the fate of those members of the old UVF who ended up in the trenches of the Somme I also found a document entitled "Ulster Volunteer Force Special Order: Enlistment For Imperial Forces" rather poignant. The order from G. Hackett Pain, Colonel, Chief Staff Officer, UVF is dated September 2nd 1914.
"A scheme to form one or more Ulster Volunteer divisions to join Lord Kitchner's army has received the approval of the War Office.
Each division will be formed into three brigades, each of four service battalions of about 1000 men each."
The men were to be enlisted for "three years or the duration of the war". They were offered pay of 1 shilling a day, whilst wives of married men were offered a separation allowance of 1 shilling and 1 penny a day, plus 2d "for each legitimate child". Soldiers who had lost their wives could claim 4d for each legitimate child.
The order concludes "the General Officer Commanding UVF wishes to call the attention of all ranks to the urgent appeal which has been made by Lord Kitchner, which he commends to the members of the Ulster Volunteer Force."
Which he commends. As I sat there flicking through the papers in my neighbour's box I couldn't help thinking of the title of Frank McGuinness's play "Observe The Sons of Ulster Marching Towards The Somme".