Force or Farce?

Published in 20th-century / Contemporary History, Issue 2 (Summer 2002), Letters, Letters, Volume 10

Sir,—I am a trifle disappointed, but not surprised, with Tim Bowman’sfinal conclusions in his otherwise well-informed and scholarly reviewof the role of the Ulster Volunteers before World War I—‘The UlsterVolunteers 1913-1914: force or farce?’ (HI 10.1, Spring 2002). Inhindsight it is unfortunate that he opted for a title that delivers thedistinct impression of an ability to answer the force/farce question heposes.
Having expertly chronicled the short Volunteer history until 1914,Bowman arrives at decision time and discovers that he has been somewhatoptimistic in his choice of title. I have sympathy with him in hisdilemma because I have often considered that the Volunteers did nothave an opportunity to realise anything like their full potential onthis island. It is, therefore, fairly obvious that it is impossible toregister with any accuracy an answer to a question about theVolunteers’ role—it all remains within the murky realm of speculation.The force/farce business is a fanciful diversion and it is mischieviousof Tim Bowman to suggest otherwise.

—Yours etc.,


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