Friday 28 September 2012

The Ulster Covenant - and the Counter Covenant

The Belfast Telegraph has an interesting story about the Ulster Covenant, with Ivan Little taking a look for the signatures of his grandfathers in the document. The story is not so much about the politics of the event, but his genealogical experience, and includes an interview with genealogy good guy Stephen Scarth of PRONI, discussing how valuable a research resource the document is for family historians.

But the bit that really fascinated me was towards the end of the piece. One of my greatest frustrations when living in Northern Ireland was the seemingly never-ending sheep mentality of both communities, neither of which I ever could relate to, having spent my childhood in Scotland and England until the age of 8. One person in Ulster would shout "no!", to be followed by an echo. I'm actually married to an Irish Catholic from the Republic, and have two sons in Scotland, both being raised kicking with the wrong foot (!) even though I was raised a Presbyterian. In our house I shout out No Surrender and my wife then throws holy water on me to shut me up, as I run screaming into my study with second degree burns (scalds?!).

So I was astonished to read about another covenant signed on the same day as the Ulster Covenant in 1912 - the Counter Covenant. Apparently a Ballymoney based Protestant minister in my home county of Antrim led a movement against Sir Edward Carson's claims of Ulster unionism, and encouraged some 3,000 people to sign an alternative document which stated the following:

“We desire to live upon terms of friendship and equality with our Roman Catholic fellow countrymen and in the event of Home Rule becoming law we are prepared to take our turn with them in in working for the good of our common country.”

I was also wondering when the first instance of a Catholic signing the Covenant would pop up, and you'll find it here too. Fascinating stuff - the article is at

For more on the Covenant see my post at

UPDATE: The Irish Times has reprinted its editorial from September 28th 1912 at


Scottish Research Online - 5 weeks online Pharos course, £45.99, taught by Chris Paton from 26 SEP 2012 - see
New book: It's Perthshire 1866 - there's been a murder... (from June 12th 2012)

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