Carson in Ballymena

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, Features, Issue 6 (Nov/Dec 2012), Revolutionary Period 1912-23, Volume 20

Lapel badge created for Sir Edward Carson’s visit to Ballymena in July 1913. (John Pattison)

Lapel badge created for Sir Edward Carson’s visit to Ballymena in July 1913. (John Pattison)

Ballymena was also the site of some of the most lavish displays of unionist street-theatre during the Home Rule crisis. The most striking example occurred on the occasion of a visit in July 1913 by Sir Edward Carson. Sir Arthur O’Neill MP had been a soldier in the Life Guards cavalry regiment, whose job it was to offer a ceremonious accompaniment to royalty during major imperial events and state visits. O’Neill oversaw the training of a company of the ‘Ballymena Horse’ within the UVF. When Carson arrived in the town during one of his political tours of Ulster, the carriage in which he was conveyed from the railway station was flanked by uniformed horsemen, carrying lances. This famous unionist figurehead made his way along flag-draped streets to the Fair Hill in the manner of a head of state. When he arrived there, he addressed an adoring throng and witnessed the march-past of over a thousand men.

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