‘Preparing for war in Ireland, where the situation grows daily more serious’

As the European crisis continued to unfold, a Scottish newspaper voiced concern about the threat of imminent war – not with Germany, however

Edward Carson inspects a parade of armed Ulster Volunteers in 1914. As the crisis in Europe that would lead to the first World War unfolded, the Dundee Courier was focused on threat of conflict in Ireland. Photograph:  Getty Images

Edward Carson inspects a parade of armed Ulster Volunteers in 1914. As the crisis in Europe that would lead to the first World War unfolded, the Dundee Courier was focused on threat of conflict in Ireland. Photograph: Getty Images

Mon, Jul 14, 2014, 01:00

The 12th of July has come and gone, and brought a reminder that all over the North the spirit of war hovers ominously. Its methods are for the present silent, unaggressive, but determined. Throughout the day men of varied occupations and of diverse temperaments go about their duties with an air of proud consciousness – straight-backed, stiff-lipped, resolute. Little groups of traders, bartering over the price of pork diverge into solemn councils, discussing the only obvious and all-pervading subject, war.

At sundown men on bicycles speed noiselessly through the lanes, and trek by silent boreens to the common meeting-places. Little halls and rooms, in all the retirement of rural seclusiveness, become alive with animation and interest. Lights gleam and dance like will-of-the-wisps in the bogs, while the July mists rise from the mirelands, wraith-like and awe-inspiring. Over the halls the Orange flags fly defiantly.

Through the half-dark comes the sound of horses’ hoofs. Bands of determined riders from stalwart mounts give out their salutation with subdued cordiality. Others pass without a word of observation. The benighted traveller catches a sudden glimpse of a slung rife and his mind reverts instantly to the days that preceded the Boer War.

For Ireland is getting ready for a conflict the issue of which none can foresee.

Lights at the rectory

In the little mountain hollows during the summer night there is the call of military orders, and the responsive gallop and plunge of well-drilled but un-uniformed mounted infantry. Here and there a rectory is alight. The worthy incumbent is not burning the midnight oil over some dry piece of ethical morality or conning over the plans of a new spire. No, see, he has donned his smartest jacket and has replaced his gaiters with military leggings.

With him is the official who has today cashed your draft – the bank teller. Here, also, the country lawyer has left the mysteries of land ownership to seek more stirring things. All are officering the new volunteer movement, and through the night the bark and snap of a grizzled veteran reminds us that military aid of a very real kind has been invoked. Meantime men and horses move restlessly to and fro in the meadow where the rectory children play.

A difficult problem

And this is how the North anticipates the coming strife. Is it all purposeless? Is it menace, or grim humour? Assuredly neither. The work of conscription goes on. Equality of strength is not claimable by those civil warriors. As Portadown, Banbridge and other time-honoured centres of “Orange” stir, the numbers for loyalty are overpowering, whilst at Newry, Dundalk, Castleblayney and Keady, and other quarters the potential interests of the Nationalists are well-protected. At Newry, which has been so often the hot-bed of political rancour the volunteering represents something like two-to-one in favour of the latter. The numbers are: 1,800 for Nationalists, 600 for Loyalists. At other places the position is reversed, so that those who speculate upon consequences have here delightful food for cogitation. Never in the history of Irish political uprising and agitation has there been a position so problematical, or so complex. Never were opinions so diverse.

The Dundee Courier

July 14th, 1914