Tale of a Blue Plaque and Two Statues: Presbyterianism and Sectarianism in Belfast

An historical Blue Plaque is to be erected on the Shankill Road in honour of   henry montgomery

Presbyterian minister  Henry Montgomery ( 1847-1943),  of the Albert Street congregation. Albert Street

the pound, old belfast

bordered the area known as The Pound, where Catholics from Divis Street and the Falls had regularly clashed with the protestants of Sandy Row and the Shankill since the 1830s. Montgomery’s church was located on one of nineteenth-century Belfast’s bitterest sectarian fault lines. The 1886 anti-Home Rule riots were the worst in the 1800s.

. shankhill road mission

In 1896 Montgomery established the Shankill Road Mission as a type of social centre.Original plans included a large semi-circular assembly hall, classrooms, medical facilities, a soup kitchen, retail units and a residential training department. Of course Montgomery wanted to promote individual conversions to his church. Today the Mission has a Café and Coffee Shop which is open to the general public and two shops selling second-hand clothing and bric-a-brac.

Rev Montgomery was very different to two of his contemporaries, fellow Presbyterian ministers who had statues erected in their honour .

Henry Cooke (1788-1868) rallied the protestant sentiment of Ulster to his call opposing Catholic emancipation, warning against undue concessions.


He led and framed a Protestant party in Ulster politics. At Hillsborough (30 Oct. 1834), in the presence of 40,000 people, he published the banns of a marriage between the established and presbyterian churches of Ireland. The alliance was to be politico-religious, not ecclesiastical,  union for conserving the interests of Protestantism against the political combination of the Roman Catholic, ‘the Socinian, and the infidel.’

On 5 March 1868 Cooke, the black man, attended the inaugural meeting of ancrime is loyaalty

Ulster Protestant Defence Association

 black man banner

Orangemen are said to carry his likeness on their banners. After all, the message on the banners is an effective advertising campaign which highlights who and what Orangemen are


The Black man, Cooke’s statue in Belfast was erected in September 1875. It  is still a symbol of sectarian Protestantism.

Query: isn’t it time for it to go?

 roaring hugh

 “Roaring”Hugh Hanna (1824-1892 ), anti-Catholic militant with all the egotism of the mob agitator.

Our rights arose out of conflict he thundered “and by conflict they shall be maintained”


Military chaplain to regiments like the Black Watch, his greatest claim to fame lay in fanning the flames of sectarian division and civil disorder in Belfast. burning belfast houses

His public sermon in Corporation Square with the encouragement of Henry Cooke in September 1857 ended in widespread anti-Catholic riots. burning house

In 1872 he stirred Protestant mobs in opposition to a nationalist demonstration and serious disturbances followed.He ardently opposed Irish Home Rule dont let go

He was famous for his anti-Papal lectures and sermons. 

st enoch's

St Enoch’s church was built for him at Carlisle Circus  in the early 1870s.

 Hanna created a lethal mix of religion and loyalism.

On their annual outing to the seaside his Sunday School pupils paraded to and from the railway station accompanied by as many Orange bands as could be mustered.


Each year the parade was followed by several days rioting in and around Carrick Hill. It was through these activities that Carlisle Circus became one of the main starting points for Orange parades in the city.

The Catholic people of St Patrick’s parish have been putting up with this type of behaviour since the 1870s – for 140 years   


Judges still won’t condemn loyalist bands.

what part no

17 members of a loyalist flute band were cleared  of defying a Parades Commission ban on them marching past St Patrick’s Church But a judge dismissed the case against all of the defendants, who included three youths, because it could not be proved they knew about the determination.


Here’s Carlisle Circus as it was with  with Hanna’s statue

And here it is after Gerry O’Neill,  an IRA man from Unity flats, blew it up

hanna statue down

 3/3/1970 British Army engineers take away the fallen statue of ‘Roaring Hugh Hanna’ after an early morning IRA bomb blast at Carlisle Circus. 

1985: St Enoch’s burned down in a fire that was said to be “malicious”

Hanna’s church and statue lasted about 100 years. They may be gone but his sectarian legacy is apparently immortal.

hatred is immortal

PS Ian Paisley, Hanna’s latest heir,  wrote that “Dr Hanna was in the great evangelical succession of Ulster Protestant protagonists.” –

We have already seen how Ian Paisley propagated obnoxious anti-Catholic sectarianism for another 50 years

northern darkness

http://www.newsletter.co.uk/life/churches/blue-plaque-for-shankill-preacher-1-5923703 http://www.belfastpovhist.com/2013/05/24/shankill-road-town-mission-religion-and-philanthropy-in-belfast-part-ii/ http://www.oxforddnb.com/templates/article.jsp?articleid=52707&back= http://www.shankilltourism.com/page/default.asp?cmsid=5_135_147&cms=churches_Presbyterian_Shankill+Rd+Mission http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Cooke,_Henry_(1788-1868)_(DNB00) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hugh_Hanna http://belfastmediagroup.com/roaring-hugh-hanna-the%E2%80%88preacher-of-hate/ http://maystreetchurch.com/?page_id=5 http://www.geograph.ie/photo/3687938 http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Henry_Cooke_(minister).jpg https://marucha.wordpress.com/poglady-maruchy-na-swiat-i-zycie/ http://www.belfastgalleries.com/article.aspx?art_id=544&cmd=print http://archiseek.com/2013/1870-st-enochs-presbyterian-church-carlisle-circus-belfast-co-antrim/#.UxuLKD95NA0 http://www.belfastforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=42440.900 http://www.belfastforum.co.uk/index.php?topic=42031.0 http://wearerealgold.com/0712/ http://www.harmonycentral.com/brb2.htmlnorth+belfast+during+the+troubles&source=bl&ots=BD-Bo44oEi&sig=NGjNAiAtV7dYXcECv-3gGgTdWus&hl=it&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwivrJnx1azTAhUIZlAKHYNeBms4ChDoAQg1MAI#v=onepage&q=deaths%20in%20north%20belfast%20duringhttps://seachranaidhe1.wordpress.com/tag/thomas-beresford/


4 thoughts on “Tale of a Blue Plaque and Two Statues: Presbyterianism and Sectarianism in Belfast

  1. Pingback: HRH the Prince of Wales Makes a Donation | the mirror@wordpress.com

  2. My father, Reverend Colin Corkey, was minister of Albert Street Presbyterian Church during the years 1952-1965. During his time there, the Paisleyite voice was growing stronger in Northern Ireland. Despite this, and despite the geographical position of our church just of the Falls Road, our congregation flourished, much of it drawn from the Shankill area. Percy Street and Conway Street Missions were affiliated. Both were the scenes of Sunday-schools, choir practices, mid-week services, Girls’ and Boys’ Brigades, the Men’s Bowling Club (which Dad started) WMA meetings (run by my mother), concerts and congregational socials at various times of the year, and possibly other events which I have forgotten. In short, a vibrant congregation at a challenging time. My father preached tolerance and reconciliation. More than once his voice would ring out with such words as “Our Roman Catholic fellow-countrymen worship the same God as we do.” More than once, in the early 1960s, he and the priest of St Peter’s were out together in the night, attempting to effect a calming presence when troubles started around the Divis flats. Albert Street congregation was scattered when the church was destroyed – many joined West Kirk. I feel that my Dad’s ministry deserves a mention in your annals.


  3. welcome Frances – I am more than pleased to hear about what your dad did, as a Presbyterian minister, in a very difficult setting, in those long ago times.

    This post was, as you realized, an historical post, comparing and contrasting people who truly preached the Christian message with those who exploited it for bigoted and political reasons to set in train hatred and bitterness lasting a century long – and more.

    If you are happy with what you’ve written in your comment, we’ll let it stand as it is.

    If you feel that your Dad’s ministry deserves a more in-depth mention, just send me a post, telling me about him and it, bearing in mind the need for sources, witnesses,references etc. preferably on-line so our readers can check them out for themselves.
    All our posts are referenced as you’ve no doubt noticed.

    I’ll put your post up – no problem. if you have family pics or pics of the time, send them along too.I’m more than happy to display them.

    Otherwise I’ll source sorta generic pics to illustrate what you write.

    It’s up to you to decide if you want to add something more than your coment, and if so, what you want to write and then to provide the proof to back it up

    Hoping to hear from you again soon and

    Wishing you and your family

    All the very best



  4. Thanks Ben. Are you based in Northern Ireland? – your name would suggest it. Did you go to BRA?

    I haven’t much time to attend to this and very little by way of evidence or contacts, but I can send photos of Albert Street Church interior, and of mum and dad in front of it its exterior just before it was demolished – a sad occasion. For evidence you should refer to Union College, Queen’s University, where church records are kept, including Dad’s reports home to the Presbyterian Herald from China, where he served as a missionary in the 1930s. But I suppose that’s outside your brief. Best wishes, Frances.


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