Celebrating 150 years of the
Belfast Telegraph

Behold the front page... for a century-and-a-half the Tele has been a window into our world of hope and despair

The first edition

The Belfast Evening Telegraph was rushed out on September 1, 1870 after the owners, the Baird brothers from Randalstown, discovered a rival paper was about to go into print

The first Belfast Evening Telegraph on September 1, 1870

The first Belfast Evening Telegraph on September 1, 1870

The first Belfast Evening Telegraph on September 1, 1870

ITS tens of thousands of front pages over 150 tumultuous years have often been windows onto a world of global conflicts, natural disasters and man-inflicted misery, but unlike other regional newspapers in the UK the headlines have also demonstrated how the Belfast Telegraph has also had to rise to the challenge of reporting on a long and bloody war on its own doorstep.

For over 30 years from the late-1960s, holding the front page became an almost daily necessity in the paper’s Royal Avenue offices as one atrocity pushed another outrage further down the news agenda.

A bomb explodes in a stationery shop in Royal Avenue, Belfast

But in the midst of the bleak despair, the Telegraph’s front pages mirrored hope, too, reflecting on morale-boosting achievements as diverse as man landing on the moon and the sporting successes of local heroes like Mary Peters, George Best, Barry McGuigan and Rory McIlroy, whose victories sent their fans over the moon. 

Good news like royal weddings, or bad news like the deaths of political heavyweights like Ian Paisley and John Hume as well as footballing legend George Best, you could be sure to read all about it in Northern Ireland’s biggest paper, whose street vendors’ shouts of “Sixth Tele” became just as much part of the soundtrack of Belfast as the shipyard’s horn, or the roar of crowds at Windsor Park, or Ravenhill. 

Nine-year-old Emmanuel McGee sells the Telegraph on Royal Avenue

But a century-and-a-half ago, not all the big stories actually used to make it onto the front page, because in keeping with other newspapers, the Telegraph reserved their most prominent spaces for paid advertisements.

Young newsboys crowd round a cart to receive their copies of the Belfast Telegraph to sell to the public.

Which is why the front page of the very first edition of the Belfast Evening Telegraph, as it was called, extolled the virtues of Grattan’s Medical Hall, McNeill’s ironmongers and Sir John Arnott’s bottling store. The paper was rushed out on September 1, 1870 after the owners, the Baird brothers from Randalstown, who had postponed the original publication date from January, discovered a rival paper was about to go into print. 

The first Belfast Evening Telegraph on September 1, 1870

An announcement on the front page talked of improving “the progressive intellect of the masses” and vowed: “We have resolved that the people of Belfast will have facilities for obtaining prompt information on the events of the day.” 

The four-page paper, which cost a halfpenny, committed itself to covering everything from parliamentary matters, the courts, ‘important town meetings’ to sporting events. At one point, the Telegraph had nine editions and it eventually moved from its first home in Arthur Street to a new purpose-built headquarters in Royal Avenue, constructed at a cost of £7,800 — over a million pounds in today’s money. 


Images capture the timeless spirit of the Belfast Telegraph down through the years

A bomb explodes in a stationary shop in Royal Avenue, Belfast

A bomb explodes in a stationery shop in Royal Avenue, Belfast

A bomb explodes in a stationery shop in Royal Avenue, Belfast

Nine-year-old Emmanuel McGee sells the Telegraph on Royal Avenue

Nine-year-old Emmanuel McGee sells the Telegraph on Royal Avenue

Young newsboys crowd round a cart to receive their copies of the Belfast Telegraph to sell to the public.

Young newsboys crowd round a cart to receive their copies of the Belfast Telegraph to sell to the public.

The first Belfast Evening Telegraph on September 1, 1870

The first Belfast Evening Telegraph on September 1, 1870

The Belfast Telegraph offices on Royal Avenue boarded up during the Blitz in 1941

The Belfast Telegraph offices on Royal Avenue boarded up during the Blitz in 1941

'Titanic Lost'

Fateful day one of history’s greatest scoops was landed by the paper

April 15, 1912

THEY were turbulent times with the very governance of Ireland in the melting pot, with the establishment of the Ulster Volunteer Force to resist Home Rule and with the sinking of the Harland and Wolff-built Titanic liner in April 1912 — the Telegraph was the first paper in Europe to break the news — casting even more gloom over the tense and fearful north.

Front page of the Belfast Telegraph on April 16, 1912, reporting the loss of the Titanic

But even worse was to come. In August 1914, the Telegraph headline screamed: “Britain declares war on Germany.” Ironically, an advertisement on the same page offered readers the chance to emigrate for as little as £9 to Australia, where work and good wages were “guaranteed”.

Belfast Telegraph in August 1914 reveals that Britain has declared war on Germany

But the Telegraph was soon reporting that thousands of Ulstermen had their eyes set on a different destination, with them enlisting to fight in distant fields. “The Empire Stands Ready” said one headline.

Two years later, the Telegraph was carrying upbeat stories from France and was among the first to report on the Allies’ push on the Western Front under the headline: “British Attack Begins.”

Dispatches talked of early successes, minimal casualties, the mass capture of German troops and “thrilling”stories of bravery, but the optimism was later turned on its head with confirmation that thousands of Ulstermen had been slaughtered at the Battle of the Somme in an area of France near Thiepval christened the Valley of Death.

The huge number of death notices in the Telegraph was a chilling testament to the sacrifices of soldiers from virtually every town and city in the north and casualties were also heavy in the south, where the Easter Rising of 1916 vied for the headlines on both sides of the border. 

Crowds line the streets as soldiers returning from the Great War march past City Hall in Belfast

The First World War ended in 1918, the same year that the Belfast Telegraph dropped the word “Evening” from its title. As Ireland returned to a semblance of normality after the Armistice, the island’s more abnormal internal divisions resurfaced, with the IRA re-engaging in violence in the north as well as the south in the 1920s, when the death toll in two years in Belfast alone stood at over 450. The Telegraph opined that everyday life had broken down and blamed the “Sinn Feiners”.

In 1921, the paper expressed expectation of a “new dawn”, with the establishment of Northern Ireland and packed its pages on June 7 with reports and photographs of the new parliament’s first sitting at Belfast’s City Hall under the leadership of the new Prime Minister Sir James Craig. But the province’s woes were far from over.

Belfast Telegraph reports on the first sitting of the new parliament of Northern Ireland in June 1921

Front page of the Belfast Telegraph on April 16, 1912, reporting the loss of the Titanic

Front page of the Belfast Telegraph on April 16, 1912, reporting the loss of the Titanic

Front page of the Belfast Telegraph on April 16, 1912, reporting the loss of the Titanic

Belfast Telegraph in August 1914 reveals that Britain has declared war on Germany

Belfast Telegraph in August 1914 reveals that Britain has declared war on Germany

Belfast Telegraph in August 1914 reveals that Britain has declared war on Germany

Crowds line the streets as soldiers returning from the Great War march past City Hall in Belfast

Crowds line the streets as soldiers returning from the Great War march past City Hall in Belfast

Crowds line the streets as soldiers returning from the Great War march past City Hall in Belfast

Belfast Telegraph reports on the first sitting of the new parliament of Northern Ireland in June 1921

Belfast Telegraph reports on the first sitting of the new parliament of Northern Ireland in June 1921

Belfast Telegraph reports on the first sitting of the new parliament of Northern Ireland in June 1921

World War 2

Tele’s Spitfires take to skies as Blitz brings war uncomfortably close to office

1939-1945

IN 1939, as more sectarian violence raged in Ireland against a backdrop of the world-wide Great Depression, Britain and Germany, were back at war, with the Telegraph headlining what it called Adolf Hitler’s “Victory or Death Speech.” Initially, the war didn’t have a massive impact on Northern Ireland, but the Telegraph still launched a fundraising campaign which would eventually finance the purchase of 17 Spitfires after the paper came up with rallying cries like “Look out, Adolf” and “A Spitfire A Day Keeps the Nazis Away” — a slogan that didn’t hold water.

‘Belfast’, one of the fighters from the Belfast Telegraph Spitfire Fund

For Belfast was soon bearing the brunt of attacks by German aircrafts in April and May 1941 when the Luftwaffe wiped out large parts of the city and killed around 1,000 people. A Blitz headline had read: “Ulster At Close Quarters With War” and within a week the paper found out it was too close for comfort as two 500-pound bombs caused widespread damage to the Royal Avenue building, but amazingly production wasn’t halted.

Smoke billows from Belfast’s High Street after it was struck during the Blitz in early May 1941

The war completely dominated the pages of the Telegraph, which also printed a paper, the Stars and Stripes, for American forces who arrived in Northern Ireland and, as the Allies’ fortunes started to improve, the Telegraph front page boasted in June 1944 “Allies land in N. France; Europe’s Greatest Day Successfully Begun.” Within a year, another Telegraph headline proclaimed: “War Ends Midnight: Churchill”, which was the Prime Minister’s cue for joyous celebrations to begin in Belfast and beyond on Victory in Europe (VE) Day, May 8, 1945.

Belfast Telegraph’s front page on May 8, 1945

Tucked away in a corner of the main page was an advertisement entitled “The Hour of Victory” for Milk of Magnesia, an antacid for stomach complaints. For days, the medicine was probably in big demand as Belfast partied.

The victory celebrations, May 10, 1945

The Telegraph published pictures of huge gatherings in the centre of the city and of street parties and bonfires in residential areas.

In September 1945, the Telegraph marked Victory in Japan (VJ) Day with a headline: “200,000 Japs lay down their arms.”

Belfast Telegraph reports on the surrender of Japanese forces

But the editorial team also found space for a report from the Japanese city of Hiroshima, which had been destroyed by an atomic bomb just before the end of the war. “Only Vultures Live There” was the sobering headline.

Belfast Telegraph reports on a chilling visit to Hiroshima

‘Belfast’, one of the fighters from the Belfast Telegraph Spitfire Fund

‘Belfast’, one of the fighters from the Belfast Telegraph Spitfire Fund

‘Belfast’, one of the fighters from the Belfast Telegraph Spitfire Fund

Smoke billows from Belfast’s High Street after it was struck during the Blitz in early May 1941

Smoke billows from Belfast’s High Street after it was struck during the Blitz in early May 1941

Smoke billows from Belfast’s High Street after it was struck during the Blitz in early May 1941

Belfast Telegraph’s front page on May 8, 1945

Belfast Telegraph’s front page on May 8, 1945

Belfast Telegraph’s front page on May 8, 1945

The victory celebrations, May 10, 1945

The victory celebrations, May 10, 1945

The victory celebrations, May 10, 1945

Belfast Telegraph reports on a chilling visit to Hiroshima

Belfast Telegraph reports on a chilling visit to Hiroshima

Belfast Telegraph reports on a chilling visit to Hiroshima

Belfast Telegraph reports on the surrender of Japanese forces

Belfast Telegraph reports on the surrender of Japanese forces

Belfast Telegraph reports on the surrender of Japanese forces

The 1950s & 1960s

Early days of young queen’s reign spent in NI... but clouds gather over province

IN the early 50s, the world was striving to catch its breath after the war and the news was largely low-key, but the death of King George VI in 1952 and the accession of his daughter, Queen Elizabeth II, saw the Belfast Telegraph moving back into top gear.

June 2, 1953 saw the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II

And the paper had a major local disaster to cover after the Larne-Stranraer ferry sank in the North Channel during a fierce storm on January 31, 1953 with the loss of 133 lives. Telegraph reporter John Cole, who later became a political correspondent for the BBC in London, was assigned the task of collating all the reports reaching the paper into a lead story, the forerunner of a special edition the following day.

The mood was, however, lifted in Northern Ireland in June 1953 by the Queen’s Coronation, which had the Telegraph’s headline writers in raptures over “a colourful pageantry so rich in history that no other land on Earth could show to the world.”

The Queen’s first public duty since her enthronement was to present Coronation medals to 2,600 Commonwealth and Colonial troops who paraded to Buckingham Palace

Not everyone in Northern Ireland was putting the flags out, however. The Telegraph reported how, in Cookstown, the local council had to convene in the early hours of the morning to discuss threats that “something serious” would happen if royal decorations weren’t removed from a street in the town.

In the mid-50s, an IRA campaign along the border gave a hint of more trouble ahead in the next tortuous decades.

But in the early-60s, some of the most pressing concerns for the Telegraph were foreign stories like the Cuban crisis and Yuri Gagarin becoming the first man in space, but a shooting in America shook the world. 

A Belfast Telegraph front page reports on the assassination of JFK in 1963

The headline “Kennedy Dead” was front page news on a special edition of the Telegraph produced within a short time of the assassination of the Irish-American President John F Kennedy in November 1963 as he travelled through Dallas, Texas in a car driven by a US Special Agent William Greer who was originally from Stewartstown, Co Tyrone.

Shocked Belfast citizens gravitated towards the Telegraph offices waiting for more news about JFK. A subsequent Telegraph headline said “Pro-Castro Man Accused”, identifying him as Lee Harvey Oswald described by an acquaintance as a “nice young man”. The killer was later shot dead himself.

Former-US Marine Lee Harvey Oswald was identified as JFK’s killer. He would later be shot dead himself

Back home, throughout the latter stages of the 60s, the Telegraph was reporting on home news that would soon become national and international news. A series of demonstrations by civil rights marchers demanding equality for Catholics here were held, but after one protest in Derry on Saturday, October 5, 1968 the world started to pay attention. Civil rights marchers attempting to walk through the city were brutally stopped by baton-wielding police in front of the TV cameras. The Telegraph devoted four pages to the attacks, which it said were serious for the city and for “the province as a whole”. The editorial couldn’t have been more correct. There was to be no going back to the way things were in Northern Ireland and as the clamour for civil rights intensified, so too did the opposition from loyalists led by firebrand Protestant minister the Rev Ian Paisley.

Demonstrations, counter-demonstrations and violence spread and within months the RUC were stretched to the limit. In July 1969, the Telegraph front page headline read: “Specials Drafted For Trouble Spots”, signalling the deployment of hundreds of members of the RUC’s B Specials across the province.

Headline from July 1969 signalled the deployment of hundreds of members of the RUC’s B Specials across the province. Advert from hire firm to left of the masthead said ‘Don’t worry’

The paper’s Viewpoint editorial warned that the province was “back to the brink”, but a quirky ad from a Belfast hire firm on the same page tried to look on the bright side. “Don’t Worry”, it said. 

A brief respite came from an unlikely source — the Moon — as American astronaut Neil Armstrong walked on its surface in July 1969. The Telegraph banner headline “The Last Big Gamble” was urging caution about the astronauts’ return to Earth and the paper tracked down families in Northern Ireland called Moon to find out what they made of all the extra-terrestrial excitement.

Belfast Telegraph reports on the Moon landing in July 1969


Tranquility of baling hay in shadow of the Mournes a world away from Moon lift-off in the 1960s

June 2, 1953 saw the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II

June 2, 1953 saw the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II

June 2, 1953 saw the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II

The Queen’s first public duty since her enthronement was to present Coronation medals to 2,600 Commonwealth and Colonial troops who paraded to Buckingham Palace

The Queen’s first public duty since her enthronement was to present Coronation medals to 2,600 Commonwealth and Colonial troops who paraded to Buckingham Palace

The Queen’s first public duty since her enthronement was to present Coronation medals to 2,600 Commonwealth and Colonial troops who paraded to Buckingham Palace

A Belfast Telegraph front page reports on the assassination of JFK in 1963

A Belfast Telegraph front page reports on the assassination of JFK in 1963

A Belfast Telegraph front page reports on the assassination of JFK in 1963

Former-US Marine Lee Harvey Oswald was identified as JFK’s killer. He would later be shot dead himself

Former-US Marine Lee Harvey Oswald was identified as JFK’s killer. He would later be shot dead himself

Former-US Marine Lee Harvey Oswald was identified as JFK’s killer. He would later be shot dead himself

Headline from July 1969 signalled the deployment of hundreds of members of the RUC’s B Specials across the province. Advert from hire firm to left of the masthead said ‘Don’t worry’

Headline from July 1969 signalled the deployment of hundreds of members of the RUC’s B Specials across the province. Advert from hire firm to left of the masthead said ‘Don’t worry’

Headline from July 1969 signalled the deployment of hundreds of members of the RUC’s B Specials across the province. Advert from hire firm to left of the masthead said ‘Don’t worry’

Belfast Telegraph reports on the Moon landing in July 1969

Belfast Telegraph reports on the Moon landing in July 1969

Belfast Telegraph reports on the Moon landing in July 1969

Beneath the snow-capped peaks of the Mourne mountains, family and friends of James McEvoy see the old year out as they make hay bales on the Hilltown Road in Newcastle, Co Down, in 1968

Beneath the snow-capped peaks of the Mourne mountains, family and friends of James McEvoy see the old year out as they make hay bales on the Hilltown Road in Newcastle, Co Down, in 1968

Beneath the snow-capped peaks of the Mourne mountains, family and friends of James McEvoy see the old year out as they make hay bales on the Hilltown Road in Newcastle, Co Down, in 1968

Queen Elizabeth II visited Northern Ireland for three days in July 1953

Queen Elizabeth II visited Northern Ireland for three days in July 1953

Queen Elizabeth II visited Northern Ireland for three days in July 1953

A bustling Royal Avenue in Belfast in 1962

A bustling Royal Avenue in Belfast in 1962

A bustling Royal Avenue in Belfast in 1962

Northern Ireland legend George Best in action against world champions England at Windsor in October 1966

Northern Ireland legend George Best in action against world champions England at Windsor in October 1966

Northern Ireland legend George Best in action against world champions England at Windsor in October 1966

The busy sorting department at the old Post Office headquarters on Royal Avenue, Belfast, in June 1965

The busy sorting department at the old Post Office headquarters on Royal Avenue, Belfast, in June 1965

The busy sorting department at the old Post Office headquarters on Royal Avenue, Belfast, in June 1965

Belfast Ropeworks made this 19-inch circumference rope for the re-rigging of HMS Victory at Portsmouth in 1963. Young staff member Jim Thompson takes a closer look

Belfast Ropeworks made this 19-inch circumference rope for the re-rigging of HMS Victory at Portsmouth in 1963. Young staff member Jim Thompson takes a closer look

Belfast Ropeworks made this 19-inch circumference rope for the re-rigging of HMS Victory at Portsmouth in 1963. Young staff member Jim Thompson takes a closer look

Beneath the snow-capped peaks of the Mourne mountains, family and friends of James McEvoy see the old year out as they make hay bales on the Hilltown Road in Newcastle, Co Down, in 1968

Beneath the snow-capped peaks of the Mourne mountains, family and friends of James McEvoy see the old year out as they make hay bales on the Hilltown Road in Newcastle, Co Down, in 1968

Beneath the snow-capped peaks of the Mourne mountains, family and friends of James McEvoy see the old year out as they make hay bales on the Hilltown Road in Newcastle, Co Down, in 1968

Queen Elizabeth II visited Northern Ireland for three days in July 1953

Queen Elizabeth II visited Northern Ireland for three days in July 1953

Queen Elizabeth II visited Northern Ireland for three days in July 1953

A bustling Royal Avenue in Belfast in 1962

A bustling Royal Avenue in Belfast in 1962

A bustling Royal Avenue in Belfast in 1962

Northern Ireland legend George Best in action against world champions England at Windsor in October 1966

Northern Ireland legend George Best in action against world champions England at Windsor in October 1966

Northern Ireland legend George Best in action against world champions England at Windsor in October 1966

The busy sorting department at the old Post Office headquarters on Royal Avenue, Belfast, in June 1965

The busy sorting department at the old Post Office headquarters on Royal Avenue, Belfast, in June 1965

The busy sorting department at the old Post Office headquarters on Royal Avenue, Belfast, in June 1965

Belfast Ropeworks made this 19-inch circumference rope for the re-rigging of HMS Victory at Portsmouth in 1963. Young staff member Jim Thompson takes a closer look

Belfast Ropeworks made this 19-inch circumference rope for the re-rigging of HMS Victory at Portsmouth in 1963. Young staff member Jim Thompson takes a closer look

Belfast Ropeworks made this 19-inch circumference rope for the re-rigging of HMS Victory at Portsmouth in 1963. Young staff member Jim Thompson takes a closer look

The 1970s

‘Let’s get back to sanity’, the Tele editorial pleaded. It was a forlorn hope. Widespread shootings, riots and bombs soon had a name… the Troubles

NORTHERN Ireland was quickly brought back down to earth as the Battle of the Bogside erupted in Derry in August 1969 when rioters and police clashed for days after an Apprentice Boys parade.

Days later, the Telegraph’s front page made grim reading. The main headline declared “Troops Move Into Belfast” and reporter Martin Lindsay (later to occupy the Editor’s chair at the Telegraph) spoke to the father of a nine-year-old boy, Patrick Rooney, who was shot dead by an RUC bullet.

Troops move into Belfast is the Belfast Telegraph front page on August 15, 1969

An editorial pleaded: “Let’s get back to sanity.” It was a forlorn hope. Before long the violence had a name of its own ... the Troubles.

The riots, bombings and shootings became so widespread that the Telegraph’s newsdesk deployed reporters to a small office to monitor police radio broadcasts so that they could have a handle on what was happening. In the early-70s, reporter John Conway, who went to become a top news executive with the BBC in England, spent his mornings compiling the “overnight” — the official catalogue of terrorist incidents which the RUC Press office recounted to him. It was virtually a full-time job for Conway, who could often fill a page all on his own, though other journalists were dispatched by news editor Norman Jenkinson to follow up the tragedies.

The headlines almost wrote themselves as terrorists on both sides unleashed their heartless cruelty, resulting in almost 500 deaths in 1972, the worst year of the Troubles, which had earlier seen the introduction of internment and curfews as well as “no-go” areas set up by republicans and loyalists.

Edward Daly, waving his bloodstained handkerchief, as one of the 13 dead victims on Bloody Sunday is carried behind.

The Telegraph had at the start of 1972 headlined the killings in Derry of 13 people by the Parachute Regiment during a civil rights march: “Derry’s Black Sunday”, which later become internationally known as Bloody Sunday and which is still the focus of headlines today after costly inquiries, apologies from Britain and the charging of a soldier with murder.

How the Belfast Telegraph reported the dark day in 1972

January 31, 1972: Protests over Bloody Sunday killings

In the aftermath of the Derry killings, the violence spiralled to even more appalling levels with constant bomb explosions like the ones in Belfast’s Donegall Street and the Abercorn restaurant claiming multiple casualties. But six months after Bloody Sunday came Bloody Friday, as the IRA killed nine people in a cataclysmic chain of 22 bombings in Belfast on July 21. The Telegraph’s reporters risked their own lives as they scurried back and forth through the carnage. The paper’s first front page headline read: “Bomb A Minute Blitz In Belfast: Many Injured.” The story was to change swiftly and repeatedly as the day descended into mind-numbing chaos and panic.


Golden girl Mary gives city something to cheer about

A homecoming parade in Belfast for Olympic gold medallist Mary Peters in September 1972

In September 1972, however, Belfast had at last something to cheer about as the Telegraph organised a homecoming parade for athlete Mary Peters after she won a gold medal at the Munich Olympics. “My Golden Day” was the headline on a full-page feature.

How the Belfast Telegraph reported Mary Peters’ Olympic win

But it was only an interlude and the terrorists were soon back in business as were the political machinations to stop the violence and against the odds the framework of a power-sharing Executive at Stormont was agreed at Sunningdale in England in December 1973. But it wasn’t to last.


Daily security checks in Belfast city centre a grim reality, but life carried on for its citizens

Troops move into Belfast is the Belfast Telegraph front page on August 15, 1969

Troops move into Belfast is the Belfast Telegraph front page on August 15, 1969

Troops move into Belfast is the Belfast Telegraph front page on August 15, 1969

Edward Daly, waving his bloodstained handkerchief, as one of the 13 dead victims on Bloody Sunday is carried behind.

Edward Daly, waving his bloodstained handkerchief, as one of the 13 dead victims on Bloody Sunday is carried behind.

Edward Daly, waving his bloodstained handkerchief, as one of the 13 dead victims on Bloody Sunday is carried behind.

How the Belfast Telegraph reported the dark day in 1972

How the Belfast Telegraph reported the dark day in 1972

How the Belfast Telegraph reported the dark day in 1972

January 31, 1972: Protests over Bloody Sunday killings

January 31, 1972: Protests over Bloody Sunday killings

January 31, 1972: Protests over Bloody Sunday killings

A homecoming parade in Belfast for Olympic gold medallist Mary Peters in September 1972

A homecoming parade in Belfast for Olympic gold medallist Mary Peters in September 1972

A homecoming parade in Belfast for Olympic gold medallist Mary Peters in September 1972

How the Belfast Telegraph reported Mary Peters’ Olympic win

How the Belfast Telegraph reported Mary Peters’ Olympic win

How the Belfast Telegraph reported Mary Peters’ Olympic win

A man stops to be checked by a soldier at the security gates on Lower North Street in Belfast city centre in March 1974

A man stops to be checked by a soldier at the security gates on Lower North Street in Belfast city centre in March 1974

A man stops to be checked by a soldier at the security gates on Lower North Street in Belfast city centre in March 1974

British and Irish Lions captain Willie-John McBride leads the victorious team during the 1974 test series against South Africa

British and Irish Lions captain Willie-John McBride leads the victorious team during the 1974 test series against South Africa

British and Irish Lions captain Willie-John McBride leads the victorious team during the 1974 test series against South Africa

Martin Donnelly busy at work carrying a sack of onions at Balmoral Market in 1975

Martin Donnelly busy at work carrying a sack of onions at Balmoral Market in 1975

Martin Donnelly busy at work carrying a sack of onions at Balmoral Market in 1975

Werner Heubeck, Ulsterbus and Citybus chief, at scene of an IRA explosion at the Belfast terminal in April 1972

Werner Heubeck, Ulsterbus and Citybus chief, at scene of an IRA explosion at the Belfast terminal in April 1972

Werner Heubeck, Ulsterbus and Citybus chief, at scene of an IRA explosion at the Belfast terminal in April 1972

Shipyard workers bid farewell as Harland and Wolff closes down its river yards in March 1971

Shipyard workers bid farewell as Harland and Wolff closes down its river yards in March 1971

Shipyard workers bid farewell as Harland and Wolff closes down its river yards in March 1971

UK punk band The Clash in Belfast city centre in 1977

UK punk band The Clash in Belfast city centre in 1977

UK punk band The Clash in Belfast city centre in 1977

An injured man is led away following the Abercorn Bar bombing in March 1972

An injured man is led away following the Abercorn Bar bombing in March 1972

An injured man is led away following the Abercorn Bar bombing in March 1972

A man stops to be checked by a soldier at the security gates on Lower North Street in Belfast city centre in March 1974

A man stops to be checked by a soldier at the security gates on Lower North Street in Belfast city centre in March 1974

A man stops to be checked by a soldier at the security gates on Lower North Street in Belfast city centre in March 1974

British and Irish Lions captain Willie-John McBride leads the victorious team during the 1974 test series against South Africa

British and Irish Lions captain Willie-John McBride leads the victorious team during the 1974 test series against South Africa

British and Irish Lions captain Willie-John McBride leads the victorious team during the 1974 test series against South Africa

Martin Donnelly busy at work carrying a sack of onions at Balmoral Market in 1975

Martin Donnelly busy at work carrying a sack of onions at Balmoral Market in 1975

Martin Donnelly busy at work carrying a sack of onions at Balmoral Market in 1975

Werner Heubeck, Ulsterbus and Citybus chief, at scene of an IRA explosion at the Belfast terminal in April 1972

Werner Heubeck, Ulsterbus and Citybus chief, at scene of an IRA explosion at the Belfast terminal in April 1972

Werner Heubeck, Ulsterbus and Citybus chief, at scene of an IRA explosion at the Belfast terminal in April 1972

Shipyard workers bid farewell as Harland and Wolff closes down its river yards in March 1971

Shipyard workers bid farewell as Harland and Wolff closes down its river yards in March 1971

Shipyard workers bid farewell as Harland and Wolff closes down its river yards in March 1971

UK punk band The Clash in Belfast city centre in 1977

UK punk band The Clash in Belfast city centre in 1977

UK punk band The Clash in Belfast city centre in 1977

An injured man is led away following the Abercorn Bar bombing in March 1972

An injured man is led away following the Abercorn Bar bombing in March 1972

An injured man is led away following the Abercorn Bar bombing in March 1972

The 1980s and 1990s

Bloodied but unbowed, it’s business as usual in the Tele office despite IRA blast

AN Ulster Workers’ Strike was called in 1974, but in reality it was a loyalist paramilitary shutdown.

The Belfast Telegraph front page on the Ulster Workers’ Strike in 1974

“It’s Stop Work — By Order” was the front page headline on the Telegraph and the loyalists’ action eventually brought Northern Ireland to its knees and brought down the Executive. Bizarrely, the Telegraph, whose front page announced “The Executive Collapses” in May 1974, found itself part of the story as pictures of celebrating loyalist women holding a copy of the paper in their hands were flashed round the world.

Terrorists on both sides filled the political vacuum with even more of their bloody assaults on democracy and human beings. The Telegraph headlines reflected the upsurge in sectarian slayings by gangs like the Shankill Butchers and the massacres of the Miami showband, of dog-lovers at La Mon and shoppers and workers in Dublin and Monaghan were soon bywords of horror.

The Telegraph itself was a target. In February 1973, the front page headline talked of “The Great Escape” after a bomb in a petrol tanker outside the building was defused. Three years later, in September 1976, the IRA returned with a bomb that killed one Telegraph employee, Joseph Patton, and injured 14 other people as well as causing extensive damage to the building.

The bustling Belfast Telegraph newsroom following the bomb that exploded in the building in September 1976

The unbowed Telegraph staff managed to cobble together an emergency four-page edition of the paper and a headline on an editorial written by hand by editor Roy Lilley simply read: “Our Answer”. It sold for a penny and the “Penny Marvel” was born. The unrelenting pace of barbarity was sending the Troubles’ death toll ever upwards and the IRA conspired to murder Lord Mountbatten in Co Sligo and 18 soldiers at Warrenpoint on the same day in 1979.

The front page on July 29, 1981

The deaths of Bobby Sands and nine other republican hunger strikers in the Maze pushed Northern Ireland closer to the edge, but amid the disturbances and thousands of job losses in an economic crisis, the Telegraph headlined the royal wedding of Charles and Diana in July 1981, “Joy Is Shared With The World”.

In the summer of 1982, the Telegraph again went to town with another triumph amid the terror as Northern Ireland’s footballers beat Spain in the World Cup finals on their own patch. The front page headline — “What A Boy” — reflected on the celebrations in west Belfast by the family of goal-scoring hero Gerry Armstrong. 

The front page on June 26, 1982

Thousands welcomed the team back home to Belfast, but three years later hundreds of thousands were on the same streets to protest over the signing of the Anglo-Irish Agreement, which gave Dublin an advisory role in Northern Ireland.

Ireland’s Saturday Night reports on a day of defiance in Belfast city centre on November 23, 1985

The front page of the Telegraph’s sports paper, Ireland's Saturday Night, on November 23, 1985 was given over to a report headlined “A Massive No” and “Loyalists’ Day of Defiance” alongside a photograph of a packed city centre.

Loyalists burnt an effigy of Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher, who had survived an IRA attempt to kill a year earlier with the Brighton bomb. In November 1987, a Telegraph editorial decried the Provisionals’ Enniskillen Poppy Day bombing which claimed the lives of eleven people as “Beyond Human Sensibility”.

The front pages were soon reporting on a litany of blood-letting, including loyalist Michael Stone’s random murders of mourners at Milltown cemetery at the funerals of IRA members shot dead by the SAS in Gibraltar. Just days later, TV crews filmed the abduction of two British soldiers who’d driven into the funeral of Stone’s victims. Both corporals were later brutally murdered. It seemed there was no end in sight and the 1990s witnessed more mayhem with the killings of seven Protestant construction workers at Teebane in Co Tyrone and the loyalist shootings of five men in an Ormeau Road bookies. Then came even more slaughter in the Shankill Road bombing, the Greysteel “trick-or-treat” slayings and the Loughinisland massacre.

But behind the scenes all the talk was of peace and on August 31, 1994 the Telegraph front page declared: “It’s Over” as the IRA called a ceasefire and loyalists quickly followed suit, prompting the newspaper to run a massive headline: “Peace At Last”.

US President Bill Clinton in Northern Ireland after the Good Friday Agreement

US President Bill Clinton and his wife Hillary came to Belfast in a bid to cement the peace and he played a big part in the sealing of the Good Friday Agreement that was to bring arch-rivals the DUP and Sinn Fein into government.

John Hume and David Trimble are awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in October 1998

Thirteen weeks after the euphoria, however, dissident republicans massacred 29 people including a woman pregnant with twins in the Omagh bombing. The Telegraph published photographs of 15 of the victims with the headline: “A Day We Will Never Forget”.

It was a simple, but powerful, front page.

The front page on August 17, 1998 in the wake of the Omagh bomb


The story behind our cover photograph

Never was the can-do spirit of the Telegraph more in evidence than on the day in September 1976 when its Royal Avenue HQ was torn apart by a terrorist bomb. A van packed with explosives blew up after being driven into the loading bay, causing extensive damage throughout the building and injuring 14 people, one of whom died four days later.

Despite the devastation, Editor Roy Lilley immediately led the staff in the production of an edition that became known as the Penny Marvel. In an atmosphere reminiscent of the Blitz spirit, that day’s Telegraph defiantly emerged from the rubble, and inside was an editorial entitled ‘Our Answer’.

Newsboy Joe Officer rushes from the ruined Telegraph building with bundles of the Penny Marvel under his arm

A staff photographer snapped a picture of newsboy Joe Officer rushing from the ruined Telegraph building with bundles of the Penny Marvel under his arm, bringing the news to the people of Belfast and beyond — no matter what the obstacles.


'Those were chaotic years' - Belfast Telegraph reporters on the 150th anniversary of the paper

The Belfast Telegraph front page on the Ulster Workers’ Strike in 1974

The Belfast Telegraph front page on the Ulster Workers’ Strike in 1974

The Belfast Telegraph front page on the Ulster Workers’ Strike in 1974