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

A collection of George Young’s UVF correspondence has recently emerged, allowing us to trace the story of the mid-Antrim Ulster Volunteers and affording great insight into the way provincial leaders of unionism thought and acted, as they contemplated a devolved Dublin parliament and the loss of liberty and prosperity that they believed would ensue. These diaries and letters were found in a derelict factory once owned by the Young family and are now in the keeping of the Mid-Antrim Museum. As a local historian, I was commissioned by the museum to study these documents and to make my findings a key component of a book telling a wider story about the politics of Ballymena and its hinterland in this deeply conflicted period. In undertaking the task, I added further information culled from mid-Antrim’s newspapers and from a wealth of diaries and biographies of local people. I sourced photographs and artefacts, many of them located in the museum archives. I wished to cast a spotlight on this particular part of Ireland’s most north-easterly county, a locality that became an important hothouse of twentieth-century provincial unionism and where Reverend Ian Paisley’s Democratic Unionist Party would later gain some of its most fervent support. What comes to light is a profoundly self-confident, well-organised project to oppose Home Rule.


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