The symbols of loyalty, sacrifice, industry, union and betrayal

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ULSTER Unionism is rich in icons and symbols, ancient and modern. The unofficial Ulster flag, now as common in the province as the Union flag, combines the cross of St George with the ancient Gaelic emblem of the province, the Red Hand. Older, and now rare, is the gable-end painting of William III of Orange, 'King Billy', astride his white horse, crossing the Boyne at the moment of victory over the Catholic James II. It was from William that the Orange Order, with its marches, sashes and bowler hats, took its name. The Siege of Londonderry in 1688- 89, when Protestants endured months of hardship to defy James, is also a vital moment for Unionists, and the city walls survive with the cannon 'Roaring Meg'. The crucible of modern Unionism, however, was the Home Rule crisis of 1912-1914, when Edward Carson mobilised Ulster Protestants against the prospect of government from Dublin. Carson caught Protestant confidence at its zenith, for Belfast was then a powerhouse, home of a big linen industry and a huge shipyard whose most famous product was the Titanic. The deaths of thousands of Ulstermen on the Somme in 1916 are recalled in memorials all over the province, such as that at Enniskillen, bearing the words 'Our Glorious Dead'. Though the memory is fading, the blood shed in Flanders was long cited as proof of Ulster's commitment to Britain, and contrasted with Dublin's neutrality in the Second World War. Stormont, seat of the Unionist parliament and now empty, is for many today the symbol of British betrayal.

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