Thursday 27 September 2012

Was the Ulster Covenant signed in blood?

Tomorrow sees the one hundredth anniversary of the signing of the Ulster Covenant, signed around the world by half a million folk on September 28th 1912 against the prospect of a Dublin based Home Rule parliament for all of Ireland. BBC Northern Ireland has an interesting piece at about one piece of Covenant lore, namely that prominent Unionist Major Fred Crawford signed the document in his blood.

A forensic test determined to recognise the iron content of blood has now returned a 90% confidence that the signature was not in fact made in blood - though some Unionists are still holding onto the 10% uncertainty factor!

Whatever the politics of it all, the Covenant is still an important genealogical resource, particularly if your ancestor signed it outside of Ireland, for in many cases the address column was actually filled with the place of origin in Ireland - my own great grandfather Robert Currie, for example, signed the document in Glasgow, and gave Knockloughrim in County Londonderry as his place of origin. The census from the previous year, and in previous decades, simply listed him as from "Ireland".

To view the original signatures of the Ulster Covenant, now held at PRONI, and digitised and made available online, visit

And if you are wondering, nine men who signed it in China were not part of a Chinese Orange lodge, but members of a Royal Naval vessel! :)


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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