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Belfast had harmonious beginnings but its history has been blighted by sectarian strife.

RIOTS: BELFAST 1922. Over 50 Sinn Fein prisoners from County Fermanagh arrived in Belfast under armed guard. One of the lorries with prisoners, baggage and Specials leaving the Great Northern Railway Station for the Belfast Prison. 22/05/22. 1922-162.
RIOTS: BELFAST 1922. On Friday the police and military carried out a search in the Carrick Hill neighbourhood of Belfast. Picture shows the military cordon and knife rest barricade at the North Street end of Upper Library Street, formerly known as Carrick Hill. 03/06/22. 1922-164.
BELFAST: RIOTS 1920. Rioting on York Street. 01/09/20
RIOTS: BELFAST 1922. Cyclist being searched. (No trace in newspaper)..18/02/22. 1922-138.
RIOTS: BELFAST 1922. Police searching pedestrians at the murder scene of Councillor W.J Twaddell, MP. 22/05/22. 1922-149.
RIOTS: BELFAST 1922. Incendries set fire on Talbot Street, picture shows back of messrs. JP Corry. 22/05/22. 1922-159.
RIOTS: BELFAST 1922. Another batch of prisoners ready for their drive in the open 'Black Maria'. 22/05/22. 1922-161.
RIOTS: BELFAST 1922. The crowds which gathered at the Royal Avenue end of North Street Belfast, during Wednesday evening's bombing and sniping. These crowds not only prove a hinderance to the military and police when they are trying to locate the snipers, but offer themselves as a good target to the rebels. 22/05/22. 1922-158.
RIOTS: BELFAST 1922. Searching civilians in Belfast. 13/03/22. 1922-139.
RIOTS: BELFAST 1922. No. 10 Park Street (off Upper Street) Belfast. On Friday the police and military captured a large quantity of arms and amminition in an attic above this house. 03/06/22. 1922-170.
RIOTS: BELFAST 1922. Scenes in Garfield Street, Belfast, immediatley after the murder of Councillor W.J Twaddell, MP. It was beside the lamp-post where Mr Twaddell fell. 22/05/22. 1922-148.
RIOTS: BELFAST 1922. Police searching a house in Library Street, Belfast. 03/06/22. 1922-163.
Belfast City Hall. Donegall Square. Under construction in 1903. The Earl of Glasgow unveiling the statue of Sir Edward J Harland in the grounds of the new City Hall.
Donegall Square North and East. Belfast. 26/7/1948 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Looking along the Ormeau Road to the gasworks from Short & Harlands recreation club. 19/3/1948
Royal Avenue, Belfast, from Castle Place looking towards North Street (from first floor level.) 19/5/1936
Crowds in Donegall Place for Student's Day, from the top of the City Hall. Belfast. 3/5/1935
Antrim Road, Belfast. January 1934
A block of derelict houses in Divis Street, Belfast, ready for demolishing. 28/12/1934
Queens Square, Belfast. 27/10/1933
Victoria Hall, Victoria Street, Belfast. 20/6/1932
Workmen replace the old Donegall Road bridge spanning the Great Northern Railway main line. 17/3/1954
Belfast. Streets. City Centre. Donegall Square. Belfast City Hall. 1932
Belfast : High Street, looking down at the Albert Clock. 1932
Belfast : High Street, looking down at the Albert Clock. 13/1/1932
Royal Avenue, Belfast, from Castle Place looking towards North Street (from first floor level.) 16/3/1948
Donegall Square East, Showing a row of parked cars. Belfast 10/9/1928 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Shipyard workers watching the launch of the "Canberra". 11/3/1960 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Shankill Road at Canmore St.looking citywards, Belfast. 17/11/1943 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Victoria Square, Belfast, from Victoria Street. Davis & Co. automobile engineers, Cantrell & Cochrane factory. 24/8/1939 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Victoria Square, Belfast, with Cantrell & Cochrane delivery lorry. 3/5/1946 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Wilson's Court, Belfast. A narrow alley between High Street and Ann Street. Sign for "Lavery's". Gas bracket lamp. 16/5/1941 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Corner of North Street and Waring Street, Belfast. The Belfast Bank head office (formerly The Northern Bank). 22/9/1942 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Old clothes market, Smithfield, Belfast. 5/1/1937 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Cattle pens at The Great Northern Railway Station, Belfast, from the Albert Bridge. 2/9/1943 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
The Mater Hospital, Crumlin Road, Belfast. 15/9/1942 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
The Royal Victoria Hospital, Belfast, from the Grosvenor Road. 21/9/1925BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Chichester St. looking towards Donegall Square North. Belfast. 3/1/1941 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Chichester St. from Victoria St. junction. Belfast. 3/5/1946 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Donegall Square East, with air raid shelters, from the roof of the Robinson & Cleaver building, Belfast. Top of photo cut of by the censor. 22/9/1943 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Belfast city centre, looking towards the City Hall and the hills beyond. 25/4/1939 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Belfast City Hall, composite photographs showing approaches. 26/6/1948 Belfast Telegraph Collection/NMNI
City Hall, south side, Belfast 3/11/1942 BELFAST TELEGRAPH ARCHIVE/NMNI
Statue of Queen Victoria in the grounds of the City Hall, Belfast. 5/1/1943 Belfast Telegraph Collection/NMNI
Belfast Castle. February 1937 Belfast Telegraph Collection/NMNI
St. Anne's Cathedral, with Miss Praeger working on the figure of Solomon on the Pillar of Wisdom. 18/6/1928 Belfast Telegraph Collection/NMNI
Outside St. Anne's Cathedral Mr. W.D. Hoskins, ARICS. and Mr. T.J. Rushton FRIBA a partner of Sir Charles Nicholson, cathedral architect with the Dean of Belfast, Very Reverend R.C.H.Elliot. 18/9/1947 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Presbyterian Assembly Buildings and Church House, Gt. Victoria St. Belfast 24/9/1942 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Carlisle Memorial Methodist Church, Clifton St. Belfast. 13/5/1949 Belfast Telegraph Collection/NMNI
New' Petty Sessions Court, Victoria St. Belfast. 27/4/1943 Belfast Telegraph Collection/NMNI
Albert Bridge Road looking from Templemore Avenue citywards. 2/9/1943 Belfast Telegraph Collection/NMNI
Building a roundabout at the junction of Ravenhill Road, Albert Bridge Road and Madrid St. 10/9/1948 Belfast Telegraph Collection/NMNI
Anne St. and Arthur Square, Belfast. 11/10/1946 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Donegall Square South and West. Belfast 3/11/1942 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
High Street, Belfast, looking towards the Albert Clock. 24/2/1939 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Lisburn Road, at Malone Avenue, Belfast. 3/5/1946 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Sandy Row, from Donegall Road looking towards Lisburn Road. Belfast. 10/5/1946 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Shaftesbury Square looking towards Gt. Victoria St. and Dublin Road, Belfast. 12/11/1942 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Belmont St. Woodstock Road, Belfast. 3/2/1939 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Bloomfield Road, Belfast, looking towards the Beersbridge Road. 1/12/1947 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
High St. from Castle Place. Belfast 20/2/1939 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
The Palm House in Botanic Gardens, Belfast. 7/5/1946 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Grand Opera House, The Hippodrome (Odeon), and The Ritz (ABC). In the foreground is a motorcycle and sidecar and a jeep. 5/10/1942 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Exterior of King's Hall, Balmoral. 21/4/1949 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
G.N.R. railway terminus at Belfast 16/12/1937 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Looking along the Albert Bridge to The East Bridge Street Power Station. 2/9/1943 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Painting of Andrew Mulholland, founder of York Street Flax Spinning Company 4/4/1945 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Building of the Sydenham by-pass, a workman using a frog hammer. 25/10/1939 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMN
Donegall Square North from the roof of the City Hall. Air raid shelters in City Hall grounds. Belfast 15/9/1942 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Donegall Square North. Belfast 23/1/1946 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Arthur St. looking towards Arthur Sq. and Cornmarket. 27/4/1943 BELFAST TELEGRAPH COLLECTION/NMNI
Belfast, City Hall and surrounding area. Aerial Photograph. 17/8/1929 BELFAST TELEGRAPH ARCHIVE/NMNI
Stormont.Belfast. 24/10/1947 BELFAST TELEGRAPH ARCHIVE/NMNI
Stormont, painted black with pitch to camouflage it.Trolley bus no. 26. Belfast. 26/3/1942 BELFAST TELEGRAPH ARCHIVE/NMNI
Smithfield market, Belfast.Young boy in a shop selling household furniture lamps and bric a brac. 26/11/1941
The stitching room of the Belfast Collar Company
Albion limited Group. Machine Department Albion Ltd Belfast 1919
Yardmen busy themselves bottling gas. 30/6/1934
On a tour of the gasworks our photographer is shown the Interior Gaosmeter. 27/4/1934
Linen Industry:Plain Weaving Shop, Brookfield Factory. 3/3/1939
Linen/ Warping, York Street Factory.
Linen/ winding weft yarn. York St. Factory.
Linen, Damask weaving shot. Brookfield factory. York St factory.
Linen Industry:View of Weaving Room, York Street Factory.
Linen Industry:Wet Spinning, York Street Mill.
Albion limited Group. The visit of H.R.H. the Duke Of Gloucester to Albion Ltd Clothing maufacturers Belfast,29th May 1934
Manhattan Beauty Salon, Corn Market. Female customers having their hair styled. 7/5/1940
On a visit to the Gasworks an employee demonstrates the Coal Gripper (The feed system of a coal getting combine, which works with a face conveyor, comprises: a traction device located on the combine and having a cylinder-shaped sprocket on the side surface of which a circular spherical-shaped recess is provided, slots being made on both inner sides of the spherical recess, said slots having an involute-spherical surface) 20/1/1938
Saw repair shop, McMasters, Church Lane. 19/11/1945
Weaving and winding training school at Ewart's factory. Pupils at work in the classroom. 29/1/1948
The Countess Granville, wife of the Ulster Governor and sister of Queen Elizabeth, the Queen Mother, cutting ribbon to open childrens play centre at Bessbrook. 15/9/1945
Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, visit to Northern Ireland 1945. Arriving in Belfast, being recieved by Lord Londonderry at Assembly Hall for degree ceremony at Queens. 14.9.1945
James Magennis:Ulsterman awarded The Victoria Cross (VC). Belfastman decorated for his heroic actions onboard the X.E.11 Midget Submarine returning from the attack on a japanese cruiser. James Magennis with Lord Mayor Sir Crawford McCullagh at a civic reception in Belfast in 1945.
Field Marshal Bernard Montgomery, visit to Northern Ireland 1945. Arriving in Belfast and being greeted at the City Hall by Sir Crawford McCullagh. 14/9/1945.
BBC's Radio entertainer, Mr Gillie Potter, pictured here in Belfast. 17/2/1948
Hon. Edward Carson, son of late Lord Carson of Duncairn, and his wife arriving for the Unionist Council meeting. 19/2/1948
Lady Carson, widow of Lord Carson of Duncairn, and Lady Brooke, at Stormont House. 17/2/1948
Sir Malcolm Sargent, Conductor of the Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra, with his hosts, the P.M., Lord Brookeborough, and Lady Brooke, at Stormont. 24/6/1947
Sir Arnold McNair, Judge of the Court of International Justice at the Hague, with Lady McNair and Professor J. L. Montrose. 22/10/1947
The stitching room of the Belfast Collar Company
Rabbi Jacob Shachter, Rabbi Belfast, Rabbi Dr I. Herzog, Chief Rabbi elect of the Holy Land, and Mr J Hurwitz at Belfast railway station. 15/3/1937
Craftsmen finish work on the Royal Courts of Justice, Oxford Street, Belfast, under the watchful of Lord Craigavon. 14/4/1933
The opening of the Royal Courts of Justice, Oxford Street, Belfast. 31/5/1933
Stonemasons finish work on the outside of the Royal Courts of Justice, Oxford Street, Belfast. April 1933
Aerial of Belfast Harbour, Thompson Wharf. 12/8/1937
Belfast Custom House, Custom House Square, Belfast. 28/1/1930
Belfast Custom House, Custom House Square, Belfast. 14/4/1928
Belfast Harbour, The Quay's at the turn of the twentieth century.
The construction of the Albert Memorial, dating back yo 1867.
The interior of Belfast City Hall.
The interior of Belfast City Hall. The vault and storeroom at City Hall. 5/1/1934
The collapse of the central arches of the Albert Bridge. 15/9/1886
The Albert Bridge. 15/1/1932
Spectators gather to view the Albert Bridge after the collapse of the central arches in 1886
Belfast City Hall. Donegall Square. As it looked in 1930 BELFAST TELEGRAPH ARCHIVE
Belfast City Hall. Donegall Square. In 1912
Belfast City Hall. Donegall Square. Under construction in 1906
The interior of Belfast City Hall.
The interior of Belfast City Hall. 18/8/1939
The interior of Belfast City Hall.
The interior of Belfast City Hall.
The interior of Belfast City Hall.
Belfast City Hall. Donegall Square. Under construction in 1906. The statue of Queen Victoria already in place. BELFAST TELEGRAPH ARCHIVE
The interior of Belfast City Hall. 1951
City Hall from Wellington Place, Belfast. 5/10/1942 BELFAST TELEGRAPH ARCHIVE/NMNI

Michael Wolsey

Mary Anne Tynan had a fondness for gooseberries and it nearly cost the 16-year-old girl her life. On a fine Saturday morning she popped down to McIlhone’s shop in the Pound to buy a half-penny worth of the fruit and was eating them in the street when she saw a man creeping along some waste ground on the opposite side of the road.

She would later describe him to police: moleskin trousers, blue vest, black cap and a long black coat from which he suddenly pulled a gun and fired at her. The bullet ripped across her cheekbone and tore out her right eye. Screaming in agony, the girl staggered down the Cullingtree Road where she collapsed. The gunman headed back across the wasteland in the direction of Sandy Row.

The shooting, on Saturday August 1, 1857, would reignite disturbances which had split the city of Belfast since July 12 when Thomas Drew, the Limerick-born rector of Christ Church and chaplain to the Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland, preached an inflammatory sermon accusing the Roman Catholic Church of “endangering the lives of Protestants and setting at nought the laws of England’’. In an extraordinary trawl through Irish and international history, he spoke of Protestants falling “prey to despoiling priests’’ and warned that “the cells of the Pope’s prisons were paved with the calcined bones of men and cemented with human gore and human hair’’.

Christ Church was on the dividing line between the Catholic Pound and Protestant Sandy Row. When word of the sermon got out Catholics gathered in the area preparing to defend their homes against an expected attack. Two young Protestant post office workers walked innocently into the crowd. They were attacked and badly beaten.

The next day two Catholic curates were attacked in Sandy Row and on the following day two Methodist ministers were set upon by a mob at Millfield which had just wrecked a spirit-grocer’s shop owned by a Protestant named Watts.

And so it went on, with disturbances, turning into riots and pitched battles; shots fired, stones hurled and clubs wielded. The trouble lasted through September. By then, hundreds of people had been evicted from their homes. More than 1,000 injuries were recorded but, amazingly, no deaths.

Such rioting was all too typical of Belfast towards the end of the 19th century. It is a compliment in the city to say of someone that they “wouldn’t throw stones at you’’. Sadly, its citizens often did. The erection of a monument to Daniel O’Connell, champion of Catholic Emancipation, provoked a particularly violent outpouring. And the statue wasn’t even in Belfast but in Dublin where it still adorns O’Connell Street.

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The statue’s unveiling, in August 1864, was accompanied by huge celebration in Dublin and used as an opportunity to advance the cause of Home Rule, which had surfaced as a political option since the ravages of the Famine. Among the thousands who attended were some 200 O’Connell admirers from Belfast.

As their train pulled back into Belfast they were greeted with a huge burning effigy of O’Connell, a straw man made by Protestants from Sandy Row. The loyalists also made a song about it:

Och sure over Ireland we were in a blaze

About the big stature

we’re going to raise.

We walked up to Dublin and

made such a show

To frighten the government,

Kitty, you know!

And what do you think

they do in Belfast?

Just as, in the train, Sandy Row

we came past,

They burned Dan O’Connell,

I saw him aglow.

But ‘twas only his effigy, Kitty,

you know!

Next day and the day after, large crowds gathered in Sandy Row. Led by a man dressed as a Catholic priest, they made their way in a ‘funeral procession’ to Friar’s Bush, an ancient walled graveyard at Stanmillis where they attempted to bury the remains of the straw liberator. Thwarted, they returned to Sandy Row, held a mock Mass, and threw what was left of the effigy into the Blackstaff river.

The next night the Protestant crowd headed for the Pound where they were met by hundreds of Catholics. A pitched battle was fought with cobblestones, sticks, clubs and iron bars.

A Methodist chapel was wrecked, a home run by the Sisters of Mercy was destroyed. Catholic mill girls were attacked in Sandy Row, a Catholic mob rampaged through shops in Arthur Square. And so on. A sorry tale of sectarian tit for tat that lasted for weeks and left a trail of broken skulls and ruined homes. You may say it was ever thus. But it wasn’t. Protestants raised funds to help build Belfast’s first Catholic church, St Mary’s, which opened in Chapel Lane in 1784. Protestants attended, some in uniform of the Irish Volunteers, and the atmosphere could not have been more cordial.

The defeat of the United Irishmen’s rebellion in 1798 destroyed this alliance and the growth of the Catholic population — from 1,300 in 1784 to 40,000 in 1861 — stoked sectarian fires in a city where the working class competed for scarce jobs and poor wages to support a grim existence in notorious housing conditions.

There were riots and ructions in 1872, 1886, 1893, 1898 and 1920. In 1964, 100 years after the O’Connell riots, it was the sight of a green, white and orange Irish flag that started the trouble. A republican, Liam McMillan, had placed it in the window of his Divis Street office during a general election campaign.

The Tricolour was banned under the Flags and Emblems Act and Rev Ian Paisley warned that loyalists would remove it if the police wouldn’t do so.

The RUC duly obliged, smashing down the office door with a pickaxe. McMillan put another Irish flag in its place and attempts to remove that resulted in rioting that went on for days.

* Sources: Holy War in Belfast by Andrew Boyd; Civil War in Ulster by Joseph Johnston; archives of the Belfast Telegraph, News Letter, Irish News and Northern Whig

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