Enniskillen Horse

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, Features, General, Issue 2 (March/April 2013), Volume 21

A March 1914 notice from its commander, William Copeland Trimble, soliciting funds for the Enniskillen Horse to purchase waterproof capes. (PRONI)

A March 1914 notice from its commander, William Copeland Trimble, soliciting funds for the Enniskillen Horse to purchase waterproof capes. (PRONI)

What can now be identified as the first formed UVF regiment owed its inspiration to neither the Orange Order nor the Unionist Clubs. The Enniskillen Horse came into existence as a result of Sir Edward Carson’s visit to the town to launch the Ulster Covenant campaign on Wednesday 18 September 1912. The Enniskillen Horse was initially 200-strong and had been formed by William Copeland Trimble, the editor of the local newspaper, The Impartial Reporter. Trimble, writing in a circular letter on 3 September 1912, encouraged his fellow unionists to establish a mounted escort for Carson, stating:

 

‘Other places may have their meetings. Enniskillen must have one great distinctive feature of its own . . . This escort will be the greatest feature of the day. As the Enniskillen meeting will be the first to be addressed by Sir Edward Carson in this campaign, unusual importance attaches to it, and newspapers will be represented from all parts of the globe. It is, therefore, all the more incumbent on us that our mounted escort be no childish affair with clumsy men and unmanageable horses, but a fine turn out of smart soldierly-looking men, well-groomed horses, and all showing the effects of organisation and discipline.’

The formation of the Enniskillen Horse served to highlight a dilemma within Ulster unionism that persisted throughout 1913 and 1914, which was whether paramilitary units were being formed merely as propaganda devices or whether they were actually being made ready to undertake military action in the event of Home Rule being introduced. The Irish nationalist press was far from impressed by the Enniskillen Horse, the Donegal Independent disparaging them as ‘The Inniskilling Cart Horse Dragoons’.
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