Visual History 01 – The Protestant Ascendancy


Pre-Troubles (pre-1969) murals in the Protestant/unionist/loyalist (PUL) tradition express the connection between Britain and Northern Ireland.

The greatest number of murals relate to the establishment of English Protestantism over the Catholic inhabitants of Ireland, the Williamite Wars, and two events in particular: the Siege Of Derry and (especially) the Battle Of The Boyne.

The siege began in December 1688. The recently deposed king of England (and Catholic) James II hoped to regain the throne using a mostly-loyal Ireland as a stronghold. His forces under MacDonnell attempted to secure the few remaining cities – including Derry – that were not loyal to him. When the ‘redshank’ army appeared outside Derry, thirteen apprentice boys on their own initiative grabbed the keys and secured the city (the “shutting of the gates”). When James himself appeared at the head of additional forces in April 1689, he was rebuffed with cries of “No surrender” and the siege continued. It lasted until July 1689, the “relief of Derry” coming with the “breaking of the boom” across the river Foyle by the ship Mountjoy.

James was ultimately driven out of Ireland by (Protestant) King William III, also known as “William Of Orange” and informally as “King Billy”. William arrived in Carrickfergus in June 1690 and marched south through Newry and into Drogheda where Jacobite forces were camped on the south side of the river Boyne. (Hence the classic image of the battle is King Billy on a horse reaching the south side of the Boyne.) James fled Ireland after the battle and the last of the Jacobites were defeated at Aughrim on July 12th, 1691 – which is the origin of “The Twelfth”, the annual celebration of the Protestant Ascendancy.

William’s victory was the end of a long transition period, beginning with Henry VIII in the 1530s, from Catholicism to Protestantism in the English crown. Catholicism had recently reared its head once again at English court after the restoration: in 1625, Charles I had married a Catholic (Henrietta Marie of France) and his son, James II, had converted to Catholicism and his second marriage was to a Catholic. (His daughter Mary, from the first marriage, was raised Protestant, and married William III in 1677.) After William & Mary, there would not be another Catholic monarch. This is the first (and typical) sense of the phrase “The Protestant Ascendancy” – the ascendancy of English, Anglican Protestantism in Ireland.

Although the Anglo-Normans had originally invaded Ireland (beginning in 1170) and the “union” is thought of as being between (Northern) Ireland and Britain, there is an even stronger connection between northern Protestants and Scotland, and therefore with Presbyterians rather than Anglicans.

By roughly 1720 Scottish Presbyterians had become the majority community in the province of Ulster, not so much by plantation as by economic migration, including a wave fleeing a famine in the Borders in the late 1690s. For the sake of comparison, consider the political map of Ireland from 1450 with one from 1816. In the first, we see the territories of the English king and the Anglo-Irish lords; in the second, (English) Protestant influence in the south is dwindling (Dublin county is shown to be at most 40% Protestant) while the counties that would become Northern Ireland range from 80% (Antrim) to 50% (Tyrone and Fermanagh) Protestant, much of it Scottish in origin.

(public domain)

(Wallpaper68 on WP – link includes the colour-coded key)

Despite their great numbers in the north, Presbyterians were excluded from the Protestant elite, who were English in origin and belonged to the Anglican church. The founders of the United Irishmen, for example, were all Presbyterians, except for Tone and Russell, who were Anglican. The Orange Order, on the other hand, was founded in 1795 as a working-class organisation whose goal was the physical removal of, and defence against, county Armagh Catholics who had become equal in number to Protestants. With the defeat of the Irishmen and the relaxation of laws against both Presbyterians and Catholics, the “class war” between Protestants faded and the sectarian division between Protestants and Catholics became “ascendant”. This is the second sense of “The Protestant Ascendancy” – the ascendancy of Protestantism (of all denominations) in Ireland.

One hundred years after its creation, the Orange Order, which had by that time developed beyond its strictly working-class roots, became the focal point of resistance to the Irish Land League and the threat of “Home Rule”, that is, of either Irish self-government while remaining in the UK (“constitutional Home Rule”) or of complete separation (“revolutionary Home Rule” or “Fenianism”). The first Home Rule bill was debated in the Commons in 1886 and the second was defeated in the Lords in 1893. The third was passed in 1912, which prompted the Orange Order to organise the “Ulster Covenant” (September, 1912) in which almost half a million people swore to resist the Act. In January 1913, members for the new Ulster Volunteers were recruited from the male signatories. The Act, however, was postponed at the outbreak of the Great War.

Prior to the third bill, it seems, it was assumed that all nine counties would remain in the UK, based on the historical usage of “Ulster” and the other provincial titles in military and other Anglo-Irish structures. (Think, for example, of the 36th (Ulster) Division, the Connaught Rangers, and so on – “Ulster” in such cases referred to the nine counties.)

However, the idea of a six-county Northern Ireland was introduced in the third Home Rule bill (1912-1914) and a debate was held in the Lords as to whether partition would involve four, six, or nine counties; the eventual six-county separation is descended from a scheme of Lloyd George’s in 1916.

The first Punch cartoon below – dated 1913-10-08 – distinguishes between “SW Ulster” and “NE Ulster”, which probably means the 3 counties and the 6, rather than 2 and 4 – Redmond wonders if he should let the straining NE go and hope that it returns by itself; the second – from 1920 – shows “the Welsh wizard” David Lloyd George about to perform the magic trick of cutting away a nine-county Ulster, which will then somehow be reunited with the rest by stuffing the pieces into his “Irish Council” hat and waiting.

Some prints of the time show a UK comprising Britain and Ulster, for example, ‘The New Map’ at the National Museums Of Northern Ireland, and ‘Ulster’s Prayer – Don’t Let Go’ also from NMNI, and ‘Ulster’s Oath’ at Alamy HH4GRP. See also these articles from RTÉ’s ‘Century Ireland’ project: four options discussed | the 6-county partition plan is published | unionists in the three counties and the south react.

The fourth Home Rule bill was enacted in 1920. This stipulated two governments with limited powers in Ireland, one in the six north-eastern counties (Northern Ireland) and one in the other 26 (Southern Ireland), both still within the UK.

The fourth Home Rule bill separated only six counties from Southern Ireland rather than all nine Ulster counties. Although only six of the nine counties were included in Northern Ireland, unionists continued to think of the territory as “Ulster” and many organisations thereafter used the term “Ulster”, including the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the paramilitary groups the Ulster Volunteer Force and the Ulster Defence Association.

(unattributed image)

After the War Of Independence, the Anglo-Irish Treaty of December 1921 gave Ireland dominion status (akin to Canada) but Northern Ireland was given the option to leave (what was now to be called) the Irish Free State, which it immediately did, thus creating a 26-county Irish Free State and a six-county Northern Irish state that was within the UK but which had its own government with control over a variety of domestic policies. We are “carrying on a Protestant Government for a Protestant People,” said first prime minister James Craig in 1934 (NI Parliamentary Debates).


As the appendix at the end of this page makes clear, PUL muraling began in the early 1900s – prior to partition – and seems to have developed in response to the Home Rule threat and as an extension of the arches, banners, and sashes on display during the annual celebration of the 12th. (Parades commemorating the Williamite campaign began to be held annually a century after Aughrim, in 1791, celebrating in particular the clash of kings at the Battle Of The Boyne, which had also taken place in July – July 1st in the Gregorian calendar or July 11th in the Julian calendar, introduced in 1752.) Rolston (1991) notes that mass-produced paints (rather than paints made by painters themselves) became more readily available during this period and could be pilfered from the shipyard and other industrial sites (p.20) and fell into the hands of one of the many able painters from the various painting trades, not just ship- and house-painters, but coach-, sign-, drum-, and banner-painters too.

Despite the skill that is evident in many of the paintings, early PUL murals are not included in surveys of British murals. There is from the beginning something about them that seems to alienate the art establishment. There are various possible reasons for this: one is that the painters are not professional artists, such as were Frank Brangwyn or Barbara Jones (or Belfast’s own John Luke – see his Charter Of Belfast in the city hall); another is that being in working-class areas means these are art for working class people; another is that being in the street rather than a gallery means their life-span is short; another is that being in the street rather than in a church or civic building means that these murals do not have ready norms for interpretation (see e.g. Brian O’Doherty Inside The White Cube who compares the norms for being in a gallery space with “other spaces where conventions are preserved through the repetition of a closed system of values. Some of the sanctity of the church, the formality of the courtroom, the mystique of the experimental laboratory joins with chic design to produce a unique chamber of esthetics.” pp. 14-5).

A final possibility, and perhaps the most important, is that, while on the face of it the murals deal with the same sorts of regal and heroic themes as “fine-art” murals, the early PUL murals adopt these themes not just for exalting and reinforcing the status quo (including personal elevation towards the (state-sanctioned) understanding of the divine, as in ecclesiastical murals) but also for the purposes of protesting the proposed abandonment of Ireland by Britain and of establishing themselves over the minority community in the north of Ireland. In other words, a King William painting in England is different from that same King William painting in the north/Northern Ireland, just because of the differing political contexts. Less clear is whether something like Luke’s Charter Of Belfast (1951), which was painted in Belfast City Hall, would be perceived differently had it been painted instead on a Shankill gable wall.

With the creation of the Northern Irish state, the anxieties of Home Rule were lifted and one of the two purposes mentioned – fear of abandonment – becomes more difficult (though not impossible) to perceive, leaving as the main explanation for muraling the consolidation and perhaps even the “triumphalism” of the Orange state over the 420,000 Catholics who now formed the minority community. Loftus and Rolston disagree on the question of whether the early PUL murals are “oppositional” towards the Catholic community. Loftus (1982) considers the locations of the murals and in a survey of some of the painters themselves they profess no enmity towards Catholics; she wisely notes, however, that this is just what journalists and researchers from the outside might expect to be told. It is also possible that the murals reinforce in the minds of Protestants Protestant superiority over the CNR community (that is, whether or not Catholics see the murals). Rolston for his part writes that “the ritualistic parading of unionist symbols is and was inevitably triumphalist … and part of the annual ritual was the painting and repainting of murals” (1991 p. 18, 20). 

Compare such worries about the sectarian impact of murals with this statement by Clare Willsdon in her Mural Painting In Britain 1840-1940: Image And Meaning: “[The muraling of this period] was felt in its time to be a kind of art extraordinaire, making painters into heroes, viewers into visionaries, and buildings into architecture. Mural painting lent authority, imbued respect, revealed religion, and fostered faith. Thoughts, dreams, and ideals might be given vivid presence in hall or home alike, and artistic genius unleashed. Present could be joined with future, time with place, and man with fellow man. In public buildings, churches, or schools, murals might offer a focus for ritual and remembrance. … Sir Patrick Geddes … demanded “Instead of this endless labour on little panels [that] flap idly upon rich men’s walls, … make [the muralist] work for hall or school, for street or square” … A reviewer wrote that “The mural painter is not only a painter, but a poet, historian, dramatist, philosopher.” (p. 3) If a mural’s glorying in either the state or the state’s religion must be for the sake of uplifting the viewer in accordance with the status quo, it becomes explicable (if not excusable) as to why not a single PUL street mural is included in Willsdon’s survey.

Cooper & Sargent’s 1979 picture book Painting The Town is focused on the civic murals painted by various institutions (borough councils, schools, Job Creation schemes, etc) in England, Wales, and Scotland from 1972 onwards as attempts to “brighten the environment” but it does make mention of early PUL murals in its brief history of muraling: “It is believed that the central European custom of exterior painting inspired the political folklore murals that were painted in Northern Ireland from the reign of William of Orange.” (No source is given for the claim about the influence of European muraling or the claim that the murals began around the time of William III.) Five murals from the north are included among the pictures. There are two of Bobby Jackson’s murals in the Fountain. (Images of both appear below.) These might have been expected to appear at the start of the book but perhaps were moved later because they don’t quite fit the book’s main theme. The Jackson murals are joined by the King Billy in “Donegal [sic] Road, Belfast” (i.e. the King Billy in Rockland Street – see below). Fourth – and fitting squarely into the main theme of the book – is the ‘Brief Encounter’ (more familiarly called the ‘French Letter’) mural on the Mourne Bar in the old Derry city. And finally there is one from “Londonderry’s Bogside”, showing an IRA volunteer standing above an Irish Tricolour with “Easter 1916” in the middle and next to what the authors describe as a “torch signifying [along with the Tricolour] that the spirit of the 1916 uprising is still alive” – this is, in fact, an Easter lily (see Visual History 02).


This page presents examples of PUL graffiti and murals; its Appendix attempts a list of all early PUL murals (up to 1980). (“Unionist” might be a better term for these murals, if “loyalist” is reserved for paramilitary murals. For simplicity, we generally use “PUL” throughout these pages.)

Murals celebrating the Williamite campaign are the most common in early PUL muraling (and continue to be painted during the Troubles, as later pages will illustrate). The most common image is of King William on a horse at the Boyne, particularly based on Benjamin West’s painting The Battle Of The Boyne – Belinda Loftus (1982 pp. 45-105) spends a chapter tracking the spread and significance of this particular image throughout the 18th and 19th centuries).

There were other images expressing identity with, and loyalty to, Britain and the Empire. Loftus (1982 p. 61) gives a list of some of the other subjects of early loyalist murals, as follows: “The ship named “Mountjoy” was shown breaking the boom …; Lord Roberts appeared flanked by two Boer War soldiers; the Ulster Division went over the top at the Battle of the Somme …; the Angel of Mons hovered over the battlefield; the “Titanic” …; King George and Queen Mary …; the visit of the Prince of Wales …; Victory was celebrated in 1945 with rising sun and fly past of aeroplanes”. Neil Jarman (1995 p. 115) adds that images of Unionist leaders Edward Carson and James Craig were seen in murals after partition.

In terms of symbols (rather than scenes or portraits) we see the crown, the Bible (and other Orange symbols), and depictions of the flags of the UK and of Scotland, as well as the symbol of the new Northern Irish state, the Ulster banner. We also see historically Irish symbols such as the harp and the shamrock which had been adopted by the English in Ireland since it first invaded in the late 1100s. As explained above, this long history explains the conflation of the terms “Northern Ireland” and “Ulster”.

Partition-Era Muraling

Perhaps from the 19-zeros, King Billy on a rearing horse, in Henryville Street, east Belfast.
(unattributed X09226; “BBC” in top left corner)

We Won’t Have Home Rule, Edith St c. 1912

(Unattributed X05591)

This Bobby Jackson mural of The Landing Of King William III At Carrickfergus dates back possibly as far as 1916. Lacking the dramatic context and activity of the Battle Of The Boyne painting, this is the only mural of this scene, as far as we know. (Loftus 1982 p. 62 concurs.)

(1975 M00071)

1920: “No surrender. IRA [Irish Republican Army] name your day – the B Men are ready.” The “B Men” were the ‘B Specials’, the Ulster Special Constabulary, a reserve force. The B Specials were established in October 1920, before partition. They existed until 1970 when they were replaced by the UDR.

(WP) (From this year, 1920, there is a single competing CNR piece from Derry – see the appendix to Visual History 02.)

1920? “Derry says No Surre[nder] – Brittannia [sic] Rule[s] …”
1920 Derry Says No Surr – Pathe
(Image from British Pathé X09227)

1920s mural in Belfast, perhaps Henry Street or somewhere in the old Sailortown, showing William leading the charge.

(From the BFI film The Agony Of Belfast X09228)

?1922? Unknown subject
Image shows a mural being painted on a gable, with Indian? city top left, Union Flag top right/background, two (WWI? British Indian?) soldiers to either side of armless bust on pedestal with trident and wreath at its base. Please get in touch if you can identify the subject.

(still from a British Pathé newsreel of Michael Collins electioneering in Co. Cork in 1922 but obviously containing some stray scenes. X05831)

1933 36th (Ulster) Division emblem “In remembrance of the officers, NCOs & men of the 36th Ulster” by John McIlroy (Fortingale St, Belfast)

(Unattributed X11003)

1934 King Billy flanked by Prince Of Wales and Edward Carson. Maria Place

(Unattributed image X09158)

1937 Coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth (probably – see the discussion in the Appendix)

(Image by Bert Hardy in 1955 – X09229 see Getty 3375213 for full size. Rolston presents a 1963 image of the same mural, from the Belfast Central Library, on p. 20 of his 1991. There is a colour image by John Reader in the Sunday Times magazine of 1969-03-23.)

1930s King Billy wearing ?a turban?, in Clarence Place, Londonderry, possibly by Bobby Jackson.
(X09230 Photo by David Bigger. Reproduced in Cooper 2015 p. 15 and Woods 1995.)

“In glorious memory of William Prince Of Orange” by “T Henderson, drum maker and painter”, on the Shankill Rd, 1930s (Rolston 1991 p. 22).

(Linen Hall Library X05908)

1940’s ‘God Bless Our King And Queen’ with a side-wall ‘G.F. Wilgaus, Painter, 46 Broom St’ Woodvale Rd

(X05571 Life Magazine)

1940s Dieu Et Mon Droit, ?Crimea St? at junction with Upper Charleville St

(X05572 Life Magazine)

The most famous King Billy is the “Jackson Mural” in the Fountain, Londonderry, by Bobby Jackson Senior and Junior. King Billy at the Boyne is on the left and the Siege Of Derry on the right. The mural originally dates to the 1920s (Rolston 1991 p. 24 and 1992 p. i) or 1940s (Woods 1995 p. 11).

(1981 X05532 Image by Bill Rolston, used by permission.)

There is a separate Visual History page for the Bobby Jackson mural in the Fountain area of Londonderry, with images dating to the 1970s.

The “Rockland Street” or “Village” King Billy dates back to roughly 1932.
It was touched up annually and repainted on several occasions, as described in this sub-section.

Loftus 1983 has an image from the early 1960s. It shows King Billy crossing the Boyne within an arch; above are crossed Union Flags, to the left and right are shields atop Orange symbols. These elements and framing would be preserved throughout the decades, though sometimes the mural was repaired by simply painting over parts of it.

When the mural was “repainted by the Dowie Brothers in 1968, it was redesigned for the first time in 39 years (BNL 12-7-1968)” (Jarman 1995 p. 117) [Note that this would give 1929 as the date of creation].
Bellisario’s image – Getty 457329488 – is from 1971. The unattributed image just below (possibly related to this 1975 Conrad Atkinson) shows the mural in great disrepair. According to Loftus (1982 p. 60), the damage to the plaster on the right (and perhaps to the bottom of the painting in general?) was due to a 1974 bonfire.

(unattributed M00809)

(See also Alamy JWKGY1 by Martin Nangle from 1976. Sykes “1985” is actually earlier, perhaps 1981 – Alamy A8FKD7)

The mural was repainted over the damaged wall and the bed for the removed street sign. This (below) repaint from ~1983 left out the Orange symbols.

(Unattributed X09231)

The Orange symbols would be added in 1984 and King Billy given more detail (and a Pride Of The Village FB mural to the left) – see Rolston 1991 plates.)

c. 1989 again with Orange symbols missing and simplified Billy and landscape, perhaps because of paintbombing.


In the early 90s, with symbols included and a detailed version of King Billy and horse but with a completely flat Boyne. Perhaps the final version:


Royal portraits and a large crown as decorations for the Twelfth in Malvern Street, 1955.

(Newsletter 1955-07-08 X09161)

Jarman (1995 p. 117) writes that “In 1960 their [the Belfast Newsletter’s] reporter found only one painting in good condition in Belfast, a King Billy mural in Silvergrove Street first painted in 1938 and redone in 1960 (see photo BNL 9-7-1960)”; others in east Belfast, the Ormeau Road and Shankill areas were “so faded that only the poorest outline was visible” (BNL 12-7-1968)”.

It is not clear why PUL muraling saw a decrease in the post-war years. It is easier to speculate about the late-1960s and 1970s, which saw the rise of the CNR civil rights movement, along with the rise of PUL paramilitarism and the political militancy of Protestantism under Ian Paisley (against the Ulster Unionist Party). It certainly seems clear that the skilled artists of the first half of the 20th century largely ceased to paint the grand pieces and amateur artists filled the gap with less ambitious renderings of King Billy.

A King Billy in Albany St (middle Shankill) in 1970, perhaps pre-dating the Troubles.

(X05539 Unattributed image)

Another King Billy, location unknown, from 1971-07, possibly pre-dating the Troubles.

(Unattributed X09232)

Troubles-Era Muraling

In the wake of rioting in Derry in August and October 1968, UUP leader and NI prime minister Terence O’Neill introduced a five-point reform plan which was perceived as too generous by hard-line Protestants and as insufficient by young Catholics, who in response formed the People’s Democracy (PD). After a PD march from Belfast to Derry was attacked at Burntollet without police intervention in January 1969, O’Neill called a snap election, causing a split in the UUP. Ian Paisley ran against O’Neill in Bannside. (Here is Pathé video of Paisley leading an anti-O’Neill protest.) O’Neill won his own seat narrowly but overall he and his supporters controlled only 26 of the 52 seats. After UVF attacks on water and electricity infrastructure in April (Balaclava Street), O’Neill resigned.

This graffiti – “O’Neill must go” – is on the British Portland Cement building outside Magheramorne, possibly dating to 1969 or before.

(2008 perhaps dating to 1960s X00288)

“Up Paisley” and “O’Neill must go” graffiti, 1965? at the shipyard.
(unattributed X09233) (Also of interest in this image is the graffiti underneath: “Vote Barr for Bloomfield” – Andy Barr was a Harland & Wolff shop-steward, the (unsuccessful) Communist Party Of NI candidate in 1953 and 1965 for the NI Parliament, a civil rights supporter, and protester of the Iraq invasion in 2003 (Irish Times | CPIWP).)

“Keep Ulster Protestant” “O’Neill the Lundy” “God bless Paisley” “God save the queen” (and “Keep Britain tidy – send all [unclear]” (Geoffrey St, 1973)

(unattributed X09234)

(A few other examples of graffiti supporting Paisley: Getty 50675200 “God save Paisley” 1966; Getty 647608182 1966; X02530 “God bless Paisley – Fitt never” 1969?; “We are the people” “Paisley” David Lewis 1969; Alamy A7N93B showing “REM 1690” “UVF” “Ulster not for sale” and “Paisley forever” 1970s; Getty 75884216 1972)

The beginning of what are called “The Troubles” is usually given as the summer of 1969, when serious rioting took place in Derry (The Battle Of The Bogside) and Belfast, in response to which the British Army was brought in to help the RUC [Royal Ulster Constabulary] maintain order. (See Visual History 02 for more information about the years following from the CNR perspective, including internment and Bloody Sunday.)

The rioting led to a separation of Catholics and Protestants in parts of west Belfast. This image shows (PUL) graffiti on corrugated iron barrier erected during the rioting of 1969, reading “No surrender”, “Taigs [Catholics] beware”, “REM 1690”, “No pope here”, “One faith, one crown” and behind the barricade Union flags and banners reading “We shall never forsake the blue skies of freedom for the grey mists of an Irish republic” and “For Ulster there can be only one form[…obscured…] that [is] a spiritual unity of freedom.”

(Getty 515284714 X09235) (For more about the early history of the west Belfast “peace” line, see State Art Vs Graffiti On The West Belfast “Peace” Line.)

The early period of the Troubles goes from 1969 to the hunger strikes in 1981. During this time, Williamite murals continue to be painted, though many of them are very crude, and there seems to have been the addition of simpler and smaller murals, mostly consisting of symbols, as well as (political) graffiti. It is possible that the armed violence changed the climate such that large and/or intricate murals became more difficult to envisage and the symbols of unionism became more popular for both practical and psychological reasons. Some murals – but not many – were explicitly connected to PUL paramilitary groups such as the UVF and UDA.

A few of the more ambitious pieces are shown here; the Appendix includes other PUL pieces from the early years of the Troubles. (CNR pieces from the 70s are collected in Visual History 02.) Graffiti of course continues to be widespread. Here is a 1970 image of “No surrender” “God save our queen” and “Shankill rule OK” in Hopewell Street.

(Fribbler on WP X09162)

First, some “traditional” PUL murals:

King Billy in Union Street, Portadown, in the 1970s.
(unattributed X05384; also unattributed M00806)

This ‘King Billy Crossing The Boyne’ mural in Victoria Street, Londonderry. Around the arch are the words “In god our trust” and the shield of Londonderry.

(1978 M00060 | Cooper 2015 p. 105)

King Billy at the Boyne, with the crown and Bible on a Union flag, above. Park Street, Coleraine.

(X05529 1982 dating to the 1970s Image by Bill Rolston used by permission. See also M00739 which includes the crown/bible/union flag)

Orange symbols and King Billy on a horse in Larne
(1988 dating back to at least 1969 M00543 Image by Alan Gallery used by permission)

“Traditional” murals were joined in this period by murals using (only) flags and emblems, such as of the Northern Irish state and the Union Flag. These still express the Britishness of Northern Ireland, but do so in perhaps a more direct fashion than do images of King Billy.

There are not many of these murals from this period and only a few such murals appear in the Peter Moloney collection – please see the Appendix below for references to others. Here are images of two murals facing each other on the east side of Bond’s Place, Londonderry. On the lower side, the Ulster Banner in shield form is surrounded by Union flags; on the upper side, “1688-1690 Ulster”. The six-pointed star at the centre of the Ulster Banner (and often used by itself, as in the second image of the two) represents the six counties of Northern Ireland.

(1982 X05528 Image by Bill Rolston, used by permission. See also in-progress image M00066)

(1982 X05527 Image by Bill Rolston used by permission. See also M00070)

Two murals facing one another on the west side of Bond’s Place, Londonderry:
First, the flags of Canada and Australia are included on the southern side. 
(1982 X05526 Image by Bill Rolston, used by permission)

To the right of these two commonwealth flags are Orange Order and Apprentice Boys flags; these are two of the three main PUL fraternal organisations, along with the Royal Black Institution.

(1982 M00068 Image by LC, used by permission)

The northern wall shows the St Andrew’s Saltire, the Ulster Banner, and (smaller) the Union flag.
(1982 M00069 Image by LC, used by permission)

A wider range of PUL images was painted inside the UVF compounds of Long Kesh during the mid- to late-1970s. The appendix of Hinson 2017 lists 47 murals and contains images of 44 of them. (Eight can be seen in Bill Rolston’s page on prison murals.) As expected, there are paramilitary emblems and commemorations (though no weapons or volunteers in active poses) in a quarter (12/47) of the murals, and a few (3) on the UVF’s pre-history in Carson and the gunrunning. There are also a few (3) showing Northern Ireland and its emblems. But 14 of the 47 are on the British military and military history, especially WWI – anticipating a theme that would find favour much later in PUL muraling (see Visual History 08 which covers 1996-2001. (One of these showed a figure split down the middle, with WWI soldier on the left and modern volunteer on the right; Billy Hutchinson picked out this mural for particular attention in his essay ‘Transcendental Art’. A similar idea would be used in a 1986 mural in Craven St – see M00560.) Most surprisingly for the time, 14 of the 47 are “scenic”, showing beauty spots from around the country (and one of Belfast City Hall).

An ex-prisoner who painted five of the boards explained (in an interview with Extramural Activity) that the first mural was perhaps a mural with all of the 36th Division infantry battalion badges, based on an image that Gusty Spence had. Once the prisoners saw this one, the idea spread to having one for each cell until “every wall was covered”. This would have been 1975, though muraling began in earnest only when the compounds became more permanently allocated to different organisations (from January 1976 onwards). The variety was due to “Gusty making you think a little bit wider … You did not have to flaunt the organisation; you were living it 24/7; there was no need to be reminded of the balaclavas and the guns … so [the muraling] was very much more culture-driven and historical.” Based on Hinson 2017 the muraling ended in 1981.

On to Visual History 02 – The Catholic Insurgency …

This page (and the next) gathers together all of the references to early murals. PUL murals are listed on this page. If you know of, or have images of, additional murals (or graffiti), please e-mail Dates in the list below should generally be understood as ‘floruit’ rather than precise dates of creation.

  • 190x King Billy on a rearing horse (Henryville Street, Belfast) (see above)
  • 1908 “The first documented example [of PUL wall-painting] was a King Billy mural painted by shipyard-worker John McClean in Belfast’s Beersbridge Road in 1908.” (Loftus 1983 p. 11. Loftus 1982 p. 57 gives as the source a 1958 article in Ireland’s Saturday Night that we have not yet been able to access.)
    It’s possible that these first two entries are for the same mural, though Henryville St was just off Ravenhill Road and about 8 blocks from Beersbridge Rd. The next entry mentions a mural on Beersbridge Road and gives a precise location (near Clara St) that suggests it is not the Henryville St mural.
  • 1911 “The usual arch at Albertbridge Road, on Malcolm Street has been replaced by a large painting of King William on the side of a house at the corner of Malcolm Street. The painting has been draped with purple, garlanded with evergreen and surmounted by loyal and patriotic mottoes, Union Jacks, portraits of the King and Queen and Orange leaders, and, above all, the inscription “God Save the King”. A somewhat similar idea has been effectively carried out on the gable of a house on Beersbridge Road near Clara Street.” July 12th, 1911 Belfast Telegraph article quoted in Jarman 1995 p. 112
  • 1912 “We Won’t Have Home Rule” (Edith St, Belfast) King Billy below a trio of portraits with Carson in the centre (see above)
  • 1913 King Billy Crossing The Boyne (Dee St, Belfast) in Rolston 1991 p. 22
  • 1916 The Landing Of King William III At Carrickfergus (Londonderry) (see above)
  • 1920 “No surrender. IRA name your day – the B Men are ready.” (Londonderry) (see above)
  • 1920 “Derry says No Surrender – Brittania rule[s]” (see above)
  • “Sir Edward Carson was also portrayed on at least one wall (NW 13-7-1914)” Jarman 1995 p. 112
  • “At Hornby Street the painting depicted the “Mountjoy breaking the Boom” overlooked by an imperial Britannia” Jarman 1995 p. 114
  • “At Victoria Street [Londonderry] the painting of King Billy was surmounted by an Ulster Red Hand symbol” Jarman 1995 p. 114 (see above for the King Billy alone, also Cooper 2015 p. 105 for King Billy alone)
  • “At Carnan Street it took the form of a memorial to those killed in the war, the Red Hand and Union Jack flags flew over a mourning figure and underneath the memorial was the motto “For King and Country”” Jarman 1995 pp. 114-5
  • 1920s King Billy Crossing The Boyne (possibly Henry St, Belfast) (see above)
  • 1920s King Billy Crossing The Boyne (Rockland St, Belfast) mentioned in Rolston 1991 p. 24 (possibly the same as the later Rockland St Billy – see 1932)
  • 1920s or 1940s King Billy/Siege Of Derry “The Jackson mural” (Fountain, Londonderry) (see above)
  • ?1922? Unknown subject, unknown location (see above)
  • 1923 “On Primitive Street the mural included the figures of a soldier and a sailor and the names of some 50 local men who had been killed. It was ceremoniously unveiled by Harry Burns MP on the eleventh evening (BT 12- 7-1923)” Jarman 1995 p. 115
  • 1926 “On Dundee Street a crowd of “several thousands” attended when a new mural was unveiled by Sir Robert Lynd MP. This mural was painted over four evenings by a local sign writer, George Wilgaus, and depicted the battle of the Somme and a portrait of General Sir Henry Wilson, the Unionist chief of the Imperial general staff (NW 12-7-1926).” Jarman 1995 p. 115
  • 1929 Nurse [Edith] Cavell in Primitive Street, Belfast. Rolston 1991 p. 21
  • 1930s King Billy (wearing a ‘turban’) Clarence Place, Londonderry. (see above, also Woods 1995 p. 10 | Cooper 2015 p. 15)
  • 1930s King Billy Crossing The Boyne (Shankill Rd, Belfast) (see above, also in Rolston 1991 p. 22)
  • 1932 King Billy (Rockland St, Belfast) (see above)
  • 1933 King Billy Crossing The Boyne (Templemore St, Belfast) in Rolston 1991 p. 23
  • 1933 36th (Ulster) Division emblem “In remembrance of the officers, NCOs & men of the 36th Ulster” by John McIlroy (Fortingale St, Belfast) in Rolston 1991 p. 21 (also mentioned in Loftus 1982 p. 59) (see above)
  • 1933 King Billy Crossing The Boyne (Roslyn St, Belfast) in Rolston 1991 p. 22
  • 1934 King Billy Crossing The Boyne (Maria Street/Place, Belfast) (in Rolston 1991 p. 23)
  • 1934 King Billy with Prince Of Wales and Carson (Maria Place, Belfast) (see above)
  • 1935 Battle Of The Somme (Coolfin St, Belfast) in Rolston 1991 p. 21
  • 1935 “Lest We Forget” (Clifford St/Roden St, Belfast) cenotaph + King Billy side-wall (see above)
  • 1935 Silver jubilee mural depicting the coronation of King George V and Queen Mary in 1911, in Loftus 1982 p. 59 (see the end of the next entry, on the King George VI mural)
  • 1937 Coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth in 1937 (or a 1935-1936 mural of the 1911 coronation of King George V and Queen Mary on the occasion of his silver jubilee in 1935; or both: originally of V but later changed to reflect the new George).
    There is some confusion over this mural.
    Who or what event is depicted? Let us first dispense with the Getty description (alongside the image by Bert Hardy in 1955 – Getty 3375213). Getty says that this mural is of the coronation of Elizabeth II and Prince Philip. But the cypher on the chairs and in the drapes above reads “GR” (without any numeral in the middle), whereas Elizabeth’s cypher is E(II)R. Also, the banner above includes “emperor” rather than “empress”. Thus, the mural is not of the Elizabeth II coronation. The Getty commentator, perhaps unfamiliar with the longevity of murals, took the date of the image (1955) to indicate the approximate date of the mural’s creation and subject, and thus supposed that it was of the Elizabeth II coronation in 1953.
    The other “E” monarch of the period, Edward VIII, was crowned in 1936 and his cypher was E(VIII)R. So the mural is not of Edward’s coronation. This leaves George V and George VI as possible subjects. George V ascended in 1910 and was crowned in 1911. George VI ascended in 1936 and was crowned in 1937. Jubilees are dated in relation to the ascension, not the coronation.
    Christopher South in the Sunday Times magazine of 1969-03-23 gives “George VI and his Queen” in his notes accompanying John Reader’s photograph of the mural.
    Rolston, however, presents an image of the same mural as in Hardy’s photo, from the Belfast Central Library, on p. 20 of his 1991 and on the same page he quotes an unpublished piece by Loftus mentioning a mural of the coronation of King George V & Queen Mary. (The passage quoted == Loftus 1982 p. 61.) He ties the mural and the description together by giving them the same location – Little Ship Street. Thus he takes the mural shown above to be of George V’s coronation. But he gives the year of the coronation as 1937 (and the year of “the coronation mural” as 1936) whereas George V was crowned in 1911.
    No photograph has been found of either coronation that matches the scene depicted here. In particular, the chairs seem to be an addition of the artist, when compared to typical photographs of such events.
    Looking at the mural itself, the “GR” cypher weakly suggests George V rather than George VI, as his cypher sometimes lacked the “V” while George VI’s never lacked the “VI”.
    On the other hand, the king in this image clearly lacks facial hair whereas George V wore a beard; despite the quite primitive portraiture the male is close in appearance to George VI; the female figure is shorter than the male, which is true of Elizabeth but not of Mary. Finally, there is in the mural a banner of words above the monarchs. Unfortunately, the left-hand portion of these words is too faint to read in the images from 1955 Hardy/Getty and 1963 Belfast City Library in Rolston 1991. In the Sunday Times image the lettering can be seen more clearly and appears to read “Hail George VI King of Britain & Ireland Emperor of India & the dominions beyond the seas”.
    A proponent for George V as subject might point out that the lettering is obviously a second attempt, with an original lettering visible (in places) underneath. Thus it is possible that that “I” and the underscore in “VI” is a bleeding-through of letter(s) from the original. Here is the spread from the magazine and just below a detail of the lettering. Even without enlargement, a fainter “H” can be seen to the left of the later, darker, “hail” and the original of “India & the dominions beyond the sea” is slightly above the new lettering.

    (Original photograph by John Reader for the Sunday Times; detail from an image of the Reader photo in Belfast Central Library, courtesy of Bill Rolston.)
    A final reference to this mural is Loftus 1982 p. 59 where Loftus describes a mural of “George VI and Queen Elizabeth” painted in “1938 or thereabouts” in “Marne St”. This is probably the mural under discussion: “Marne St” should be “Marine St” which is the street next to the mural, on Little Ship St. There is no “Marne St” in Belfast in directories from 1932 or 1939 (Lennon-Wylie).
    On the balance of the evidence, then, the mural under discussion seems to us to be of George VI’s 1937 coronation (rather than of George V’s and occasioned by the silver jubilee) and painted c. 1937, in Little Ship Street, Belfast.
    It seems that there was also a mural of George V’s coronation. Loftus 1983 p. 14 presents an image from the 1960s (regrettably of poor quality, at least as reproduced in the 1983 magazine) of what she describes as a jubilee mural for George V. As mentioned, 1935 was his silver jubilee. Loftus’s description (1982 p. 61, quoted by Rolston 1991 p. 20) fits both murals, as both murals have the same composition: king and queen in regalia, in front of chairs, with drapes as a frame, etc. But there are a few substantial differences, in particular the width of the drapes-as-border, which rule out their identity. The Loftus description quoted by Rolston is probably of this, George V, mural, painted c. 1935, but Rolston took it to be of the George VI mural.
    It is worth noting the longevity of both murals. The George V mural, which we guess was painted ~1935, survived into the 1960s – at least 25 years; the George VI mural painted ~1937 survived at least until it was photographed ~1969 by Reader – 30 years and more. Both were almost certainly touched up periodically.
    (Please send additional information to .)
  • 1938 King Billy Crossing The Boyne, Silvergrove St, by Harold Gibson
  • 1939 (repainted version of 1936) King Billy Crossing The Boyne, Tierney St (in Rolston 1991 p. 22)
  • 1939 King Billy Crossing The Boyne, Earl Lane (in Rolston 1991 p. 23 “In 1939 in Earl Lane, a mural obviously based on the same source as the Maria Place Painting had added to it a frieze and the names of men killed during the sectarian riots in the area four years previously; “Their only crime was loyalty” noted the mural artist (see Belfast Telegraph, 7 July 1939, p. 20.”)
  • 1940s God Bless Our King And Queen, Woodvale Rd, by George Wilgaus (see above)
  • 1940s Dieu Et Mon Droit, ?Crimea St? at junction with Upper Charleville St (see above)
  • 1955 Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip, Malvern St, Belfast (mentioned in Rolston 1991 p. 28. The Queen Elizabeth possibly shown in Alamy AE6DB9 or Alamy EEANKE)
  • 1960 repainting of 1938 King Billy Crossing The Boyne, Silvergrove St. (Image from 1963 in Rolston 1991 p. 26)
  • 1961 Jubilee mural of the coronation of George V & Mary (Loftus 1983 p. 14)
  • 1964 “an incredibly amateur painting of King Billy at Northumberland Street” Sunday Press 1964-01-26 (quoted in Rolston 1991 p. 26)
  • 1965 repainted King Billy Crossing The Boyne, Earl Ln (Rolston 1991 p. 27 colour image at Alamy AK348G) (King Billy on horse, in a circle under the seven names and “Their only crime was loyalty” – much simplified compared to 1939 version)
  • 1965 King Billy as memorial to victims of 1935, sponsored by Fleet Street Band, unveiled by Ian Paisley (mentioned in Loftus 1982  p. 59)
  • 1965 King Billy Crossing The Boyne, Eighth St, Belfast (Rolston 1991 p. 28 | Howard – Alamy AK32CM)
  • 1967 King Billy Crossing The Boyne, Hudson Pl, Belfast, (Rolston 1991 p. 28)
  • 1968 the Rockland Street King Billy (see c. 1932) is repainted and “remodeled” (Loftus 1983) (see discussion above)
  • 1969 “Faith, Hope, Charity” various Orange symbols, Larne (see above)
  • 1969? “God bless Paisley – Fitt never” Gardiner St, Belfast (X02530)
  • 1970 King Billy, Albany St, Belfast (see above)
  • 1970 King Billy Crossing The Boyne, Rosewood St, Belfast, (Rolston 1991 p. 31; for the repaint see M00635)
  • 1970 ERII (Howard – Alamy AK2N0X)
  • 1970s King Billy, Park Street, Coleraine (see above)
  • 1971 British Pathé film of “Belfast Slogans”
  • 1971 King Billy 1690, Westmoreland St (Le Garsmeur – Alamy EEC6BT and EEC4EG)
  • 1971 Union Flag (Le Garsmeur – Alamy EEAMP4 and EEC4EG)
  • 1971 “Welcome To All Brethren”, Edenderry St, Belfast, (Le Garsmeur – Alamy EEAM68)
  • 1971 “Welcome To All Brethren” with star, Edenderry St, Belfast (Le Garsmeur – Alamy EEC6R6)
  • 1972 “By this we live” with Union Flag, Shankill Rd, Belfast (Alex Bowie – Getty)
  • 1972 “Keep Ulster Protestant” Memel Street, Belfast (Le Garsmeur – Alamy EEC2Y1)
  • 1972 “Ulster REM 1690” (Le Garsmeur – Alamy EEC31C)
  • 1972 “For God and Ulster” (Le Garsmeur – Alamy EEC5PX)
  • 1972 “We shall not forsake the blue skies of Ulster for the grey mists of an Irish republic” Shankill Rd (Alex Bowie – Getty)
  • 1972 “Red Hand UVF UFF” Shankill Rd, Belfast (Alex Bowie – Getty)
  • 1972 “UVF No Surrender 1690” with Union Flag, Taylor St (Alex Bowie – Getty)
  • 1972 “One faith, one crown, no pope in our town” Shankill Rd, Belfast (Alex Bowie – Getty)
  • 1972 “Ulster shall be free (UDA)” (Alex Bowie – Getty“, “(UDA) Ulster will fight” (Alex Bowie – Getty) and “Ulster is Protestant” (Alex Bowie – Getty), Shankill Rd, Belfast
  • 1972 “Fuck the IRA” Shankill Rd, Belfast (Alex Bowie – Getty)
  • 1972 King Billy “No surrender”, Shankill Rd, Belfast (Alex Bowie – Getty)
  • 1972 King Billy with “Remember 1690”, “King William III Of Orange 1690” and “One faith, one crown, no pope in our town”, Midland St, Belfast (Rolls Press – Getty | X05802)
  • 1975 “REM 1690/Ulster not for sale/Paisley Forever” (Homer Sykes – Alamy A7N93B)
  • 1975 King Billy on a white horse without any background (Conrad Atkinson – Tate)
  • 1975 “Ulster” with a Union flag (Conrad Atkinson – Tate)
  • 1975 “Up UVF” with Union flag (Conrad Atkinson – Tate)
  • 1970s? King Billy in Union St, Portadown (see above; Loftus 1982 p. 62)
  • 1976 “Bill Kernaghan bluffed the court” Shore Rd, Belfast
  • 1976 “Sectarianism kills workers” Belfast (Alex Bowie – Getty) This piece is also listed in the appendix to Visual History 02 since no location is given and the sentiment could come from either sect.
  • 1977 ERII 25th (Le Garsmeur – Alamy EEC6N6)
  • 1977 “Remember The Loyalist Prisoners” Howard Street South, Belfast. Originally with the dates of QEII’s 25th anniversary (see C00629) but these dates were later removed (see R1009).
  • 1978 A standing “William III” with “Ulster Forever” (Conrad Atkinson – Tate)
  • 1979 “No pope here – Ulster forever” Rockview St, Belfast (Alan McCullough)
  • 1970s Red Hand Commando in sunglasses, the Fountain, Londonderry (Rolston 1991 p.33)
  • 1970s UVF murals in the compounds of Long Kesh (see discussion above)
  • Loyalist Paramilitary Murals c. 1981 – mentioned/presented in Rolston 1991
    1981 Waterside, Londonderry masked loyalist (p. 41)
    1982 Lecale St, Belfast “VAS” red hand (p. 32)
    1983 Inverna St, Belfast “RSD” red hand (p. 36)
    1983 Donemana toilets UVF (p. 38 or plate 10 in Rolston 1992)
    und Fountain, Londonderry RHC vol in sunglasses and UDA emblem (p. 33)
    und Woodvale, Belfast volunteer bust (p. 41)
    und Woodvale, Belfast UDA/UVF/YCV (p. 41)
  • 1982 Ulster Banner in shield form surrounded by Union flags in Bond’s Place, Londonderry (see above)
  • 1982 “1688-1690 Ulster” Bond’s Place, Londonderry (see above)
  • 1982 Commonwealth flags, Bond’s Place, Londonderry (see above)
  • 1982 St Andrew’s Saltire, Union flag and Ulster Banner, Bond’s Place, Londonderry (see above)

On to Visual History 02 – The Catholic Insurgency

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