There’s a wonderfully evocative piece about the much loved Ulster Hall by Fionnnuala O’Connor in today’s Irish Times (subs req.). I have my own fond memories – as I’m sure do many other Sluggers – many of which, happily, are not fit for publication!
Here’s a flavour…
“Boxing matches, wrestling, Prof Crocker and his Performing Equine School, the Dalai Lama, the Clancy Brothers: all human life has poured through the hall’s (hitherto) dark doorway. The dying Parnell, crushed by the O’Shea scandal, addressed a rally in Ulster Hall when the Catholic bishops refused him St Mary’s Hall – stooped and frail, said the editor of the Northern Whig, speaking hoarsely to a diminished band of supporters.
Yet the most vivid and lasting association until recent years was undoubtedly with unionism in various forms.
At the eve-of-Covenant rally in 1912, Edward Carson was presented with the yellow silk banner said to have been carried at the Boyne. “May this flag ever float over a people that can boast of civil and religious liberty!” Carson declaimed to great applause. “Suspiciously fresh looking flag,” sniffed the Irish News. James Craig, first prime minister of Northern Ireland, told a rally in the Ulster Hall nine days after the state came into existence that he “would never bow the knee to treachery or allow a whisper of ‘Republic’ to enter my thoughts”.
In the 1960s a young orator called Ian Paisley held packed Ulster Hall rallies that evoked the solemnity of the Covenant and the passions that surrounded partition. Students both Catholic and Protestant went along for amusement, but found, as one still remembers, that laughing out loud meant “you were frog-marched out in seconds – you wouldn’t have dreamed of heckling”.”Irish Times (subs needed)