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Rituals and Riots

Rituals and Riots: Sectarian Violence and Political Culture in Ulster, 1784-1886

Sean Farrell
Copyright Date: 2000
Edition: 1
Pages: 272
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  • Book Info
    Rituals and Riots
    Book Description:

    Sectarian violence is one of the defining characteristics of the modern Ulster experience. Riots between Catholic and Protestant crowds occurred with depressing frequency throughout the nineteenth century, particularly within the constricted spaces of the province's burgeoning industrial capital, Belfast. From the Armagh Troubles in 1784 to the Belfast Riots of 1886, ritual confrontations led to regular outbreaks of sectarian conflict. This, in turn, helped keep Catholic/Protestant antagonism at the heart of political and cultural discussion in the north of Ireland.Rituals and Riotshas at its core a subject frequently ignored -- the rioters themselves. Rather than focusing on political and religious leaders in a top-down model, Sean Farrell demonstrates how lower-class attitudes gave rise to violent clashes and dictated the responses of the elite. Farrell also penetrates the stereotypical images of the Irish Catholic as untrustworthy rebel and the Ulster Protestant as foreign oppressor in his discussion of the style and structure of nineteenth-century sectarian riots. Farrell analyzes the critical relationship between Catholic/ Protestant violence and the formation of modern Ulster's fractured, denominationally based political culture. Grassroots violence fostered and maintained the antagonism between Ulster Unionists and Irish Nationalists, which still divides contemporary politics. By focusing on the links between public ritual, sectarian riots, and politics, Farrell reinterprets nineteenth-century sectarianism, showing how lower-class Protestants and Catholics kept religious division at the center of public debate.

    eISBN: 978-0-8131-4777-2
    Subjects: History, Sociology, Political Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-v)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vi-vi)
  4. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-ix)
  5. [Illustrations]
    (pp. x-xii)
  6. Introduction: The Study of Sectarian Violence and Modern Ulster History
    (pp. 1-9)

    In the early hours of 12 July 1849, Maj. Arthur Wilkinson positioned his troops on some strategic high ground near Dolly’s Brae, a hill located between Rathfriland and Castlewellan in the southern part of County Down. Wilkinson anticipated trouble; local Orangemen had announced their intention to walk in procession through this almost wholly Catholic district. Anyone familiar with communal relations in Ulster knew that such a territorial invasion was likely to result in trouble.

    Dolly’s Brae itself had been a party flash point since the early nineteenth century, when a young Catholic man had been killed there in a sectarian...

  7. 1 Trouble in Armagh, 1784–1798
    (pp. 10-31)

    On 7 July 1796, Edward Cooke, the under secretary in Dublin Castle, wrote a concerned letter to Lord Gosford, the Lord Lieutenant of County Armagh. In this letter Cooke vividly described the recent ouster of Catholic tenants from their homes in north Armagh and the Armagh-Down borderlands. “My Lord Lieutenant learns with the utmost regret that outrages still continue in the county of Armagh and that those persons who style themselves Orange Boys are persecuting the lower orders of the Catholics with great cruelty—burning … their houses and threatening the lives of those who will employ them.”¹ Like many...

  8. 2 The Orange Order and Catholic Resistance, 1795–1820
    (pp. 32-64)

    On the morning of 12 July 1813 several Orange lodges assembled in front of the Linen Hall in Belfast to commemorate the anniversary of the Battle of the Boyne. The size of the gathering was not particularly impressive—if anything, there were fewer Orangemen present than on previous occasions. From the Linen Hall the Orangemen marched out of Belfast with drums beating and colors flying to a field near the town of Lisburn, where they joined their brethren for an afternoon of partisan celebration.

    The Belfast lodges returned from the Lisburn meeting at about seven o’clock in the evening. Determined...

  9. 3 National Politics and Sectarian Violence, 1821–1829
    (pp. 65-101)

    Writing in the mid-1830s, Col. William Blacker remembered 1821 as a particularly disastrous year for Ireland, the first hour of what was “absurdly called conciliation.” Looking back, Blacker pointed to King George IV’s visit to Dublin on 27 August 1821 as the first sign that British government in Ireland was shifting away from its Protestant foundations. In Dublin that day, a vast concourse of prominent Irish men and women greeted the obviously drunk monarch. Particularly noticeable in the crowd were the great Catholic leader Daniel O’Connell, who paid elaborate homage to the visiting king, and the Catholic hierarchy, who greeted...

  10. 4 Ritual and Sectarian Violence
    (pp. 102-124)

    On Friday, 19 November 1830, a substantial party of Orangemen marched from Killyman parish toward Maghery, a small village situated on the southern shores of Lough Neagh.¹ The Killyman Boys were on their way to attend a lodge meeting in nearby Derryinver townland. Upon entering Maghery, the Orange party found itself surrounded by the Catholic villagers, who listened quietly to several tunes played by the Orange band. Apparently appreciative of this impromptu concert, the locals accompanied the party all the way to Bannfoot ferry. When the Orangemen boarded the ferry to cross the river, the villagers returned to Maghery.


  11. 5 Urbanization and Sectarian Rioting in Mid-Victorian Ulster
    (pp. 125-153)

    Writing to an aristocratic colleague in 1858, Thomas Larcom, the ubiquitous under secretary of the late 1850s and 1860s (his Orange opponents derisively termed him “Government Larcom”), described the chronically tense nature of communal relations in mid-Victorian Belfast in the following terms: “The near-equality of the rival creeds in the lower classes will be a cause of turbulence for some time to come, but it will die out at last there as it has done elsewhere:”¹ While many of Larcom’s more cynical colleagues did not share his Whiggish optimism, none could challenge the validity of his analysis of contemporary conditions....

  12. 6 The Campaign to Repeal the Party Processions Act, 1860–1872
    (pp. 154-173)

    On 12 July 1867 a crowd of twenty-five thousand to thirty thousand Orangemen and their supporters assembled near the seaside town of Bangor to protest against the British government’s continued administration of the Party Processions Act.¹ Hard-line loyalists traveled from all over eastern Ulster that day, with many taking part in a massive Orange procession from Newtownards to Bangor. This imposing demonstration was the brainchild of William Johnston of Ballykilbeg, a relatively minor landowner in the Lecale district of south Down. Johnston had been active in Protestant politics since 1848, when he joined Ballydonnell Orange Lodge. Educated at Trinity College,...

  13. Conclusion: Sectarian Violence and the Formation of Modern Ulster Politics
    (pp. 174-185)

    In an important book on late nineteenth-century politics Brian Walker argues that the political, religious, and social divisions that have shaped Ulster’s modern history emerged in their modern form only in the period between 1868 and 1886. Looking closely at this formative period, he focuses on the fortunes of the Liberal Party, which enjoyed a considerable measure of success between 1872 and 1883. While the Home Rule crisis of 1885–1886 destroyed the political independence of Ulster Liberalism, Walker cites its strength as a poignant illustration of the existence of political alternatives to the denominational politics that have characterized the...

  14. Notes
    (pp. 186-221)
  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 222-237)
  16. Index
    (pp. 238-252)