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  • Writer's pictureWillie Drennan

Remembering The Ulster Covenant of 1912

The wording of the Ulster Covenant for "Men". There was a separate one for "Women", who signed in slightly larger numbers.

The signing of the Ulster Covenant in 1912 has much relevance for all the people of the British Isles, and indeed for all peoples in today's world gone mad.

On the 28th of September the signing of the Ulster Covenant is commemorated in the nine counties of Ulster each year by the descendants of those who signed it. This was at the time, just before the First World War, when the Irish Home Rule Bills were about to be passed. By signing the Covenant en masse the people demonstrated their determination to never surrender their civil and religious freedoms as British citizens.

There was form to their passionate stance throughout history – highlighted in particular by the late 18th Century United Irishmen, the Siege of Derry and the 17th Century Covenanters. The Ulster Covenant of 1912 was also known as Ulster's Solemn League and Covenant, making clear connection to the Solemn League and Covenant signed in Scotland in 1643.

As in these previous events the peculiarity is that the people of Ulster fiercely challenged the hierarchy of the British Establishment while fiercely demanding their equal rights as British citizens. Their rights as equal British citizens were clearly affirmed in the Act of Union of 1801. All the rights and freedoms within the British Constitution, as previously confirmed in the Bill of Rights of 1689, were automatically transferred to the people of Ireland at this time. This was the situation in Ireland in 1912, and still was the case in Northern Ireland until the EU's Northern Ireland Protocol recently ripped up the Act of Union.

Back in 1912 this mass movement right across Ulster was driven by the people themselves. There were two newspapers who did print stories of this mass resistance of the people. The Belfast Newsletter and the Northern Whig did have actual real journalists back then. However this does not explain the scale of this movement in an age long before TV and social media. What does explain the mindset of the Ulster people, at the time, is the prior historic events where their forebears distrusted and fiercely challenged the authorities. It was in their blood and in their consciousness – while at the same time demanding democratic rights and freedoms for all the people: not just themselves.

This passionate mindset was taken to North America by Ulster-Scots/Scotch-Irish in the 17th Century. Many Ulster people were instrumental in initiating the American Revolution and the American Declaration of Independence. This American declaration was clearly inspired by the Bill of Rights and the earlier Magna Carta. The Ulster people in 1912 were just rising to the calls of freedom as their forebears had done in days of yore.

It has to be said at this point that on the opposite side to the Ulster Covenanters were Catholic Irish Nationalists who were also demanding their freedoms and democratic rights. They were on opposing sides but both were demanding the same freedoms and rights. This is worth remembering in 2023 as the whole island of Ireland has clearly lost all freedoms and independence gained by its forebears. Conspiracy theorists can be forgiven for suggesting that we, the people, have been played, divided and conquered - and continue to be.

I like to commemorate the Signing of the Ulster Covenant each September 28th. Probably my whole family circle who were adults at that time signed it. My grandfather explained to me, when I was a teenager, why this had been so important. I understood and believed the importance of what he communicated to me. I still believe him. If my grandfather was alive today, however, I think he would be disturbed by the mindset o some people today. People here in Ulster will quite rightly remember and celebrate the passion of their forbears and their refusal to surrender to tyrants - tyrants within or beyond, as in two world wars. But many do appear to not fully understand the significance of such historic events. Our forebears seemed to instinctively understand when tyrannical rulers were abusing their liberties but that instinct appears to be waning in this modern age. We are at a dangerous time, similar to other dangerous times throughout history, only now it is even more serious than before as it is on a grander global scale.

The two world wars in the 20th Century were obviously the forerunners of what we are experiencing today. Across Europe from 1933 to 1945 an astonishing number of people chose to capitulate, comply and support the Nazi Regime. From 1914 to 1918 (two years after the signing of the Ulster Covenant and around the time big global banks took control of Western economies) the world went mad. The scale of human suffering was mind-boggling. I researched World War One in advance of producing a CD album called Somme. At the end of my extensive research in 2006 I still couldn't fully understand how and why it happened – how and why humanity could do this to itself. I think I do understand now. And I think it explains a lot about how and why our world is in the state it is in today. It does seem that major tragic events of the 20th Century were just a test-run for Agenda 21.

There are millions of people like me who do understand the how and why. What still baffles me is how and why there can be so many people who still who do not understand – even among direct descendants of those who signed the Ulster Covenant. What I do understand is that it has something to do with the power of global corporations, governments and media - and something to do with a serious lack of honest and courageous political, journalistic and religious leadership.

I'll leave you with the words of WF Marshall's poem, The Blue Banner, as published in the Northern Whig on the morning of 28th September 1912. It certainly captured the mood and mindset of the time.

The Blue Banner Firm leagued we face the future, tho’ the road be dark and steep

The road that leads to honour is the lonely road we keep And though all the world forsake us, this is the course we hold The course our fathers followed in the Cov’nant days of old.

We fain would look for comfort to the land from whence we came Where still abide our kith and kin and clansmen of our name Where lives were deemed of small account by valiant men and true For Christ, His Crown, His Cov’nant and the war torn folds of blue.

Long years have been and faded since the old blue banner waved See! How it flashes once again ere dangers must be braved The Cov’nant oath we now will swear that Britain may be told We stand for faith and freedom and the memories of old.

For all they died for gladly in the homeland o’er the sea For blood-won rights that still are ours as Ulsterborn and free For the land we came to dwell in and the martyr’s faith we hold God grant we be as leal to these as were the men of old.

Willie Drennan

September 28th, 2023.

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