Drumalis House, Larne: Ulster Gun Running

Today Drumalis House in Larne is managed by the Sisters of the Cross and Passion as a centre for retreat, prayer and cross community dialogue - but in 1914 it was a centre for gun running!

Britain declared war on Germany in August of that year, but just months earlier the threat of armed conflict was much closer to home.

Unionists, under their leader Edward Carson, were vehemently opposed to the prospect of 'Home Rule' - a devolved Irish parliament in Dublin. Carson's 'Ulster Volunteers' prepared to resist Home Rule by force and planned to take up arms against the British government and Irish nationalists.

On the night of 24 April 1914 thousands of German and Austrian rifles and millions of rounds of ammunition were unloaded from a coal boat at the ports of Larne, Donaghadee and Bangor.

Working under cover of darkness, 12 to 14,000 Ulster Volunteers were involved in the subterfuge.

But the civil war in Ireland that could have followed was averted. On the outbreak of hostilities with Germany most unionists, and many nationalists, postponed their differences over Home Rule in order to fight a shared external enemy.

Many of the men mobilised on the night of 24 April would later die on the Western Front. Thousands of members of the Ulster Volunteers fought together as one body, the 36th (Ulster) Division.

Historian √Čamon Phoenix explains how Drumalis House, and its owner Lady Smiley, played a part in bringing guns to Ulster.

Location: Drumalis House, Larne, BT40 1DT
Image of postcard portraying gun running at Drumalis House on 24 April 1914
Image courtesy of Linen Hall Library, Belfast

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