The Armagh Brigade
Privately published, 2002. £5.00.
AS A SHANKILL
know quite a lot about the history of resistance to ‘Home Rule’ (actually
Dublin rule) in this part of the country. The Fernhill House museum has an
impressive section devoted to the subject. Outside Belfast, though, I had little
idea, at least not until I read The Armagh Brigade by Quincey
The one thing I like about this book is the large number of
photographs – most of which have never been published before.
Mr Dougan opens the book with a chapter on the origins of the
‘Home Rule Crisis’ at the turn of the last century. As early as 1911, Killylea Orangemen were drilling in
anticipation of a military confrontation. In the midst of church services all
over the county, large numbers of Co Armagh turned out on Ulster Day –
September 28th 1912 – to sign the Ulster Covenant. The next step
was the formation of the Ulster Volunteer Force in January 1913. Sir Edward
Carson inspected the Armagh Volunteers on a visit to the city in September of
When the UVF was first formed, the Irish nationalist press
treated it as a joke – ‘Carson’s comic opera army’. That changed after
April 1914 when Major Fred Crawford succeeded in running guns to Ulster. The
report of the Armagh Brigade’s mobilisation to arm its volunteers while
outwitting the Royal Irish Constabulary is highly entertaining. From then on,
the UVF were taken more seriously.
As is well known, the Ulster Crisis never came to a head.
Events in Europe relegated it to a sideshow. By August 1914 the Central Powers
of Germany and Austria were at war with Britain and her allies. The UVF was
taken into the British army. The Armagh Volunteers became the 9th
Battalion of the Royal Irish Fusiliers.
There was, I’m delighted to say, some opposition to this
move. Members of the Alans Hill section of the Hamiltonsbawn Company wrote to
their CO, “… we signed the covenant to defend Ulster against a Dublin
parliment (sic) and any of our commanders who asks us to leave Ulster or
to fight for this notorious government is betraying Ulster.” This view was
quite widespread in rural areas, but most volunteers did join up, only to be
slaughtered in France and Flanders. Only seven of the original cadre of men
survived to lay up the colours in Armagh cathedral.
The author intends to publish a fuller account of the Armagh
Volunteers in the near future. Get this now and pester your bookshop for his
next work. In the meantime check out his website at www.armaghbrigade.co.uk
Copies of this book can be had for £5.00 including postage from Glenwood
Publications, First Floor, 316 Shankill Road, Belfast BT13 3AB. Make cheques or
Postal Orders out to Glenwood Publications.