Sunday, 2 June 2019

The Agony of Belfast - film footage from 1920

I've just watched The Agony of Belfast, a short three minute long film, with somewhat depressing footage from 1920, the year before the Partition of Ireland. The British Film Institute has the film online at

I could not find how to embed the film in this post, but the same footage is also on YouTube at

From the BFI description:

This reportage from a Belfast ravaged by Ireland's original 'Troubles' is indelibly raw and impressively economical. In just three minutes it paints a portrait of a city marked by communal tension, child poverty, violence by adults and children (specifically, loyalist attacks on Catholics), a military presence and people forced from their homes.

This item was part of the short-lived Irish Events series which ran from 1917 to 1920, then the only newsreel produced in Ireland - making for fascinating comparison with the extensive coverage of Irish during the same period by London-based British newsreel companies.

Within the film is a street identified as Henry Street. This was where the York Street Flax Spinning Company was founded in the 1820s, and in the 1860s and 1870s my three times great grandfather Thomas Graham, who was an overseer and reeling master of the mill, resided on Henry Street. He was no longer alive when this footage was recorded, but I can well imagine the sectarian tensions in the area that existed long before the 1920s, and during his lifetime. It continued to ravage the city for decades after, and has still sadly not completely gone away.

Whilst in the current Decade of Centenaries there is a lot to celebrate and to reflect upon, there is equally just as much to lament.


Pre-order Tracing Your Irish Family History on the Internet (2nd ed) for just £11.99 at Details of my genealogical research service are available at Further news published daily on The GENES Blog Facebook page, and on Twitter @genesblog.

No comments:

Post a Comment