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Thread: Was the Ulster Covenant an empty threat?

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    Default Was the Ulster Covenant an empty threat?

    I was doing a bit of research into family history recently, what with the 1911 census going online, and ended up cross-checking relatives against the list of signatories to Carson's Ulster Covenant of 1912, which the Public Records Office in the North also offer online.
    I very quickly established that a number of my relatives who were definitely kids at the time had signed the Covenant.
    So my query is this: out of the half million or so signatures on the Covenant, how many were duplicates, or signed by children?
    Did Carson really have a half million people behind him? How heavily were the figures massaged upwards?
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    Quote Originally Posted by JCSkinner View Post
    I was doing a bit of research into family history recently, what with the 1911 census going online, and ended up cross-checking relatives against the list of signatories to Carson's Ulster Covenant of 1912, which the Public Records Office in the North also offer online.
    I very quickly established that a number of my relatives who were definitely kids at the time had signed the Covenant.
    So my query is this: out of the half million or so signatures on the Covenant, how many were duplicates, or signed by children?
    Did Carson really have a half million people behind him? How heavily were the figures massaged upwards?
    It's certainly possible that the figures were manipulated to look more formidable than they actually were. But given subsequent events such as the Curragh Mutiny and Larne Gun Running, there's little doubt that unionists were determined to resist Home Rule in large numbers, and that the Crown was determined not to confront them.

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    Out of the relatives I checked who had signed the Covenant, half were women and of the males, half were underage.
    That severely erodes the manpower Carson had to hand, if replicated throughout the Covenant. And of course many signatories were nowhere near Ireland, as signing books were opened in places like Canada and Doncaster and on ships at sea and so on.
    I accept there is a wider realpolitik at play, in terms of the gunrunning and the London response.
    But just in relation to the Covenant, I wonder just how strong support for it was. Plenty of my presbyterian relatives, some of them also in the Orange, didn't bother signing it at all.
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    I would have thought that the size of the UVF would be a better indicator of support rather than the covenant. Clearly they wouldn't have stopped the British army but they were relatively well armed and organised.

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    My g-grandfather and my partner's grandfather were both signatories and both signed the covenant and strangely enough their names are shown one beneath the other. How is that for kismet. It is also interesting my mother never told me that I had a turncoat (protestant) g-grandfather. Interesting also that no other members of his family were anything but Catholic. My grandfather his son was Catholic as was all his other children. A researcher friend of mine told me that often one or two members of a family would become protestant to ensure property or employment. Don't know how true this is but it would explain why one person would jump ship so to speak. He, my g-grandfather did end up with a rather cushy job working for the Anglican bishop of Derry so I suppose his ploy worked.

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    The UVF were also relatively small.
    The thing that has struck me from doing this family research is on the one hand the lack of support among people who would have been staunch unionists, and on the other the fact that some people were trying to inflate the numbers by allowing kids to sign.
    There's no doubt the UVF at the time were a genuine threat, just as the Provos were in the Seventies and Eighties.
    But just like the Provos, I'm beginning to wonder to what extent the position espoused by the UVF in 1912 enjoyed popular support.
    Normally, people point to Carson's Covenant as evidence of that support. But those half million signatures are beginning to look a bit suspect to me now.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tiernanator View Post
    My g-grandfather and my partner's grandfather were both signatories and both signed the covenant and strangely enough their names are shown one beneath the other. How is that for kismet. It is also interesting my mother never told me that I had a turncoat (protestant) g-grandfather. Interesting also that no other members of his family were anything but Catholic. My grandfather his son was Catholic as was all his other children. A researcher friend of mine told me that often one or two members of a family would become protestant to ensure property or employment. Don't know how true this is but it would explain why one person would jump ship so to speak. He, my g-grandfather did end up with a rather cushy job working for the Anglican bishop of Derry so I suppose his ploy worked.
    Doing this family research has helped remind me just how much fence-jumping has occurred down the years.
    There's one line of my family that went from staunch presbyterian to having the home searched for IRA guns in a generation. There's another where a member of the OO required the bona fides of a Catholic priest to gain entry from Canada to America in the Thirties.
    Even as I looked for specific names (fore and surname), I was finding the same names across the religious divide, then as now.
    Whatever one may feel about the national question, or indeed the somewhat fraught issue of 'Ulster-Scots' as a separate people or culture, it seems to me that genetics and historical documents indicate that the people of the North of Ireland are one people and always have been.
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    Politics.ie Member caulfield's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JCSkinner View Post
    The UVF were also relatively small.
    The thing that has struck me from doing this family research is on the one hand the lack of support among people who would have been staunch unionists, and on the other the fact that some people were trying to inflate the numbers by allowing kids to sign.
    There's no doubt the UVF at the time were a genuine threat, just as the Provos were in the Seventies and Eighties.
    But just like the Provos, I'm beginning to wonder to what extent the position espoused by the UVF in 1912 enjoyed popular support.
    Normally, people point to Carson's Covenant as evidence of that support. But those half million signatures are beginning to look a bit suspect to me now.
    Nearly all my own descendants all signed, as far as I can tell. In fact I've found more on the Covenant than on the national census from 1911 so support must have been fairly wide. The only one who didn't was my grandfather. He was the only one who went on to fight in the war so for some people the covenant and "loyalty" to Britain wasn't worth the paper it was written on!

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    Aye, there's a bit of that in my family too.
    My own grandfather didn't sign, though he subsequently ended up quite high in the OO and fought in the trenches.
    His brother did sign the Covenant, then fecked off abroad when war was declared.
    Strangely, I've got one sole Catholic ancestor who appears to have signed the Covenant too. It seems then as now there is a tiny rump of Catholics who prefer British subjugation (ie being British subjects) to self-determination.
    Looking at the carnage wreaked on the Republic's economy by Fianna Fail currently, it becomes difficult to question that wisdom in some circumstances.
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    Quote Originally Posted by JCSkinner View Post
    It seems then as now there is a tiny rump of Catholics who prefer British subjugation (ie being British subjects) to self-determination.
    Looking at the carnage wreaked on the Republic's economy by Fianna Fail currently, it becomes difficult to question that wisdom in some circumstances.
    Have you seen what Gordo has done in the UK? Not as bad as here I grant you but not brilliant either.

    I had two grandfathers who fought in WW1 yet neither could have been considered to be royalist or loyalist. I heard many tales about the Black and Tans from one of my grandmothers as a wain.

    I think in some cases it was a case of "better the devil you know". We humans are creatures of habit and very resistant to change.
    If you continue to elect idiots in elections, don't be surprised when the result is an idiotic government.

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