Described in one review as a 'Belfast Tardis', Historical Belfast is Belfast's one and only history podcast on the airwaves. Hosted by historian Jason Burke, it provides an accessible and entertaining insight into the fascinating history of Northern Ireland's capital city, once proclaimed as 'the Athens of the North'. For more Historical Belfast content, including walking tours and the Historical Belfast blog, visit: www.historicalbelfast.com
The King's Speech: Opening the N.I. Parliament, 22 June 1921
Last month I was extremely privileged to join with a panel of 6 esteemed historians in a meeting with HRH The Prince of Wales in Belfast City Hall. The location was significant because almost exactly 100 years previous, King George V (Charles’ great grandfather) visited Belfast to open Northern Ireland’s first parliament in the same building. Charles was acutely aware of his great grandfather’s contribution and invited historians to comment on the impact made by King George’s speech in the context of island-wide violence and tumultuous Irish politics.
The event will be commemorated by Belfast City Council on Tuesday 22nd June when a re-creation of the speech will be made for a live stream. There will also be an unveiling of two chairs, used on that day by King George V and Queen Mary which have since undergone some specialist conservation work. A talk on the matter will also be provided by the brilliant Dr Eamon Phoenix, and finally a performance of a specially commissioned play by Terra Nova productions which will explore the speech in more dramatic detail.
Had I been aware of all this before I started researching the episode I probably wouldn’t have written it, but nevertheless I’m here now and so are you – so here it is, Episode 16: The King’s Speech.
19th Century Rioting In Sandy Row
In the context of the recent scenes of violence in Belfast (including in Sandy Row) I thought it might be worth looking back at some of the more notorious riots in the city’s history.
Some of the worst rioting that Belfast has ever witnessed occurred in the second half of the 1800s. Indeed, the most violent districts of Belfast in this period were the Pound area (populated by Catholics) and the Sandy Row area (populated by Protestants). And therefore, when I saw the footage recently of trouble in the Sandy Row area in connection with loyalist protests my interest was peaked and my mind was cast back to the somewhat darker episodes of the 19th century.
This is the second episode in a new mini-series dedicated to the history of the Sandy Row area in South Belfast. The series is brought to you in collaboration with Belfast South Community Resources and also with the support of the South Belfast Urban Village Initiative.
The Blitz In Blythe Street
The first in a new mini-series dedicated to the history of the Sandy Row area in South Belfast. This mini-series is brought to you in collaboration with Belfast South Community Resources and also with the support of the South Belfast Urban Village Initiative. There will be 10 episodes in total covering various themes from Sandy Row orangeism, to the formation of Linfield Football Club, the infamous riots with The Pound in the 19th century, and a few more besides. The first release, however, remains in keeping with the current 80th anniversary of the Belfast Blitz covered of course more generally in the previous episode of the podcast. Blythe Street off Sandy Row took a direct hit from a high explosive mine during the Easter Raid of 1941. The destruction was terrible and the tales of loss are heart wrenching. This is the story of The Blitz in Blythe Street…
Thanks to Scott Edgar from www.WartimeNI.com
Reference for Hazel Collins testimony: https://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopleswar/stories/42/a4508642.shtml
The Belfast Blitz - 80 Years On
This month’s episode of the Historical Belfast Podcast is brought to you in conjunction with the Northern Ireland War Memorial museum on Talbot Street who have kindly given me access to their oral history archive. I am also extremely grateful for the...
Glentoran FC and the Vienna Cup, with Sam Robinson
One Saturday Before the Great War, thirteen players from Glentoran Football Club, industrial workers to a man, each of them living in the cramped housing of Ballymacarrett, became the unlikely heroes of a tale which is scarcely believable.
Those not familiar with the story are to be forgiven for thinking that Sam Robinson, a writer and Glentoran fanatic, has let his imagination run wild during these gruelling months of lock-down, however the reality is quite the opposite. Sam has spent many months trawling through online archives including those of foreign countries, tracking down individuals, and writing an historical account of the underdogs from East Belfast on the European stage. The comedy element of the pub crawls and players going AWOL helps us relate to the players as people that we recognise – they weren’t the professional footballers of today, but normal people like you I – and excited to see the world.
The winning of the cup in Vienna was the high water mark of the story – in many ways, the events surrounding it almost made the cup irrelevant, such were high stakes. The glory of Vienna was followed by a dark twist – heading into the mouth of the First World War the Glentoran party were forced to “run like hell” to escape being caught up in the opening exchanges of the conflict.
When the war eventually did begin, some of the Glentoran players served in the British Army. Indeed, some of the players who they had faced on the tour served also, but on the opposing side – Hertha Berlin, for example lost 36 men in total during the Great War.
And as if that wasn’t enough, when the Second World War began in 1939, some of the characters in this story became victims of the Holocaust, while one man was executed for an attempt on the life of Adolf Hitler. You literally couldn’t make it up…
The Second World War touched Glentoran too of course, the club was virtually destroyed during the Belfast Blitz, including the Oval grounds, the kits, the records, and the trophies all lost except one which sat on the chairman’s mantle piece – the Vienna Cup.
Welcome to Episode 12 of the Historical Belfast Podcast, this episode being dedicated to Sam Robinson’s new book on the Glentoran side that toured Europe in 1914 and brought home a cup won in Vienna. Copies of the book can be obtained by contacting Sam via the ‘One Saturday Before The War’ Facebook page – also, if you’ve any further information to add to the story, particularly on the players, Sam would be delighted to hear from you.
If you’re new to this podcast, please check out the previous 11 episodes on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you get your podcast content, and most importantly, share the episodes on your social media, it really helps people to find it.
After reading the book myself, Sam joined me on Zoom for a chat and I began by asking him how his relationship began with Glentoran Football Club...
(Bless 'em All piano version by Calikokat Piano: (4) Bless ‘Em All – Piano - YouTube)
Churchill In Belfast, 1912
When we think of Sir Winston Churchill we might think of cigars, Gallipoli, the Second World War, fighting on the beaches, and accolades such as 'Man of the Century' and the United Kingdom's greatest ever leader. More recently, Churchill's name came to the fore during the Black Lives Matters protests, accused of being a racist, while his statue in London was afforded protection due to concerns that it may be defaced.
What we don't tend to consider when evoking Sir Winston Churchill is a long and complex relationship with Ireland, a relationship that has been described by one historian as being duplicitous.
This episode will not be exploring Churchill's relationship with Ireland, instead it will focus on his infamous and lesser known visit to Belfast in 1912, right at the beginning of the third Home Rule crisis.
Please remember to share the episode on your social media and, if you can, review it on whatever platform you are listening.