Visual History 01 – The Protestant Ascendancy


Early loyalist murals express the connection between Britain and Northern Ireland.

Belinda Loftus (1982 p. 61) gives a list of some of the subjects of early loyalist murals: “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 Carson and Craig were seen after partition. Northern Ireland was created in 1921 when Ireland was partitioned into the six county Northern Ireland and the twenty-six county Southern Ireland (which later became the Irish Free State and then Ireland and then the Republic Of Ireland).

While all of the themes listed express identity with and loyalty to Britain and the Empire, the greatest number of murals relate to a founding period of Protestantism in 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 far 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. Commemorative parades began a century later, in 1791 (and the Orange Order was founded in 1795), 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).

This page presents a few early examples of loyalist and especially Williamite murals; its Appendix attempts a list of all early loyalist murals (up to 1980). Williamite murals have been painted all the way to the present day and later examples appear on other pages covering later periods of muraling. (“Unionist” might be a better term for these murals, if “loyalist” is reserved for paramilitary murals. For simplicity, and because there are a few paramilitary drawings before the 1980s, we use “loyalist” throughout.)


Frequent imagery: King William, the crown, the Bible, and also historically Irish symbols such as the harp and the shamrock which had been adopted by the English in Ireland.
Also, the emblems and symbols of the new Northern Irish state and its allegiance to Britain, such as the Union flag and Ulster banner.

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 Boyne painting, this is the only mural of this scene, as far as we know. (Loftus 1982 p. 62 concurs.)

(1975 M00071)

“No surrender. IRA name your day – the B Men are ready.” The “B Men” were the ‘B Specials’, the Ulster Special Constabulary, a reserve force. It was disbanded in 1970 and replaced by the UDR.

(1920 mural from Wikipedia)

1920s mural in Belfast, perhaps Henry Street.

(From the BFI film The Agony Of Belfast)

~1935 image of a military cenotaph, with a King Billy side-wall.

(unattributed image)

1930s King Billy wearing a turban, in Clarence Place, Londonderry.
(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 Road, 1930s.

(Unattributed image, possibly from Linen Hall Library.)

The most famous King Billy mural is the one in the Fountain, Londonderry, by Bobby Jackson. 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).
(There is a separate Visual History page for the Bobby Jackson murals in the Fountain area of Londonderry, with images dating to the 1970s.)

(1991 M01040)

Jarman (1995 p. 117) writes that “In 1960 their [the 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”. When the Rockland Street King Billy mural was repainted by the Dowie Brothers in 1968, it was redesigned for the first time in 39 years (BNL 12-7-1968)”

In 1968 or 1969, the Rockland Street King Billy, which dates to roughly 1932, was repainted. Here is an unattributed image (possibly related to this 1975 Conrad Atkinson) of the mural in disrepair. According to Loftus (1982 p. 60), the damage to the plaster on the right was due to a 1974 bonfire.
(unattributed M00809)

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

This ‘King Billy Crossing The Boyne’ mural in Hawkins Street (now Hawkin 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.

(1987 dating to the 1970s M00739 Image by Alan Gallery used by permission)

Orange symbols and King Billy on a horse in Larne
(1988 dating to 1978 M00543 Image by Alan Gallery used by permission)

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 M00066 M00070 Images by LC, used by permission)

Two murals facing one another on the west side of Bond’s Place, Londonderry. The flags of Canada and Australia are included on the lower wall; the upper wall shows the St Andrew’s Saltire, the Ulster Banner, and (smaller) the Union flag. To the right of the first of these are Orange Order and Apprentice Boys flags; these are two of the three main fraternal organisations, along with the Royal Black Institution.

(1982 M00068 M00069 Images by LC, used by permission)

On to Visual History 02 – The Catholic Insurgency …

This page (and the next) gathers together all of the references to early murals. Loyalist murals are listed on this page. If you know of, or have images of, additional murals (or graffiti), please e-mail

  • 1908
  • 1911 Two murals: “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
  • 1913 King Billy Crossing The Boyne (Dee St) in Rolston 1991 p. 22
  • “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 the painting of King Billy was surmounted by an Ulster Red Hand symbol” Jarman 1995 p. 114 [perhaps added to the King Billy in Hawkins Street, Londonderry – above M00060 and Cooper 2015 p. 105]
  • “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
  • 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)
  • 1920s King Billy Crossing The Boyne (possibly Henry St, Belfast) (see above)
  • 1920s King Billy Crossing The Boyne (Rockland St, Belfast) in Rolston 1991 p. 24
  • 1920s or 1940s King Billy/Siege Of Derry “The Jackson mural” (Fountain, Londonderry) (see above)
  • “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
  • “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 Edith Cavell in Rolston 1991 p. 21
  • 1930s King Billy (wearing a ‘turban’) Clarence Place, Londonderry. 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 36th Division officers and NCOs in Loftus 1982 p. 59
  • 1933 King Billy Crossing The Boyne (Templemore St, Belfast) in Rolston 1991 p. 23
  • 1933 Emblem of 36 (Ulster) Division in Rolston 1991 p. 21
  • 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
  • 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)
  • 1937 King George V & Queen Mary coronation (Little Ship St) Rolston 1991 p. 20 and Loftus 1983 p. 14
  • 1938 Marne St mural mentioned by Loftus 1982 p. 69
  • 1963 dating to 1938 King Billy Crossing The Boyne (Silvergrove St) in Rolston 1991 p. 26, 27
  • 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/Street) in Rolston 1991 p. 23
  • King Billy in Montague St, Portadown, destroyed by 1982, in Loftus 1982 p. 62
  • 1955 Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip (Malvern St, Belfast) mentioned in Rolston 1991 p. 28
  • 1965 retouched King Billy Crossing The Boyne (Earl Lane/St) in Rolston 1991 p. 27 [not sure these are the same mural] colour image at Alamy AK348G
  • 1965 King Billy as memorial to victims of 1935 mentioned in Loftus 1982  p. 59
  • 1965 King Billy Crossing The Boyne (Eighth St, Belfast) in Rolston 1991 p. 28
  • 1967 King Billy Crossing The Boyne (Hudson Pl, Belfast) in Rolston 1991 p. 28
  • 1970 King Billy Crossing The Boyne (Rosewood St, Belfast) in Rolston 1991 p. 31 (for the repaint see M00635
  • 1970 ERII – Alamy AK2N0X
  • 1970s King Billy (Park Street, Coleraine) (see above)
  • 1971 King Billy “No surrender”
  • 1971 King Billy 1690 (Westmoreland St) – Alamy EEC6BT and EEC4EG
  • 1971 Union Flag – Alamy EEAMP4 and EEC4EG
  • 1971 Welcome To All Brethren (Edenderry St, Belfast) – Alamy EEAM68
  • 1971 Welcome To All Brethren star (Edenderry St, Belfast) – Alamy EEC6R6
  • 1972 Keep Ulster Protestant – Alamy EEC2Y1
  • 1972 Ulster REM 1690 – Alamy EEC31C
  • 1972 For God and Ulster – Alamy EEC5PX
  • 1972 UVF No Surrender (Taylor St)
  • 1970s REM 1690/Ulster not for sale/Paisley Forever – Alamy A7N93B
  • 1973 Conrad Atkinson image of a Red hand with “Keep Ulster Protestant” and “Remember 1690”.
  • c. 1975 Conrad Atkinson image of a King Billy
  • c. 1975 Conrad Atkinson “Ulster” with a Union flag
  • c. 1975 Conrad Atkinson “Up UVF” with Union flag
  • fl. 1970s King Billy in Union Street, Portadown (see above)
  • 1976 “Bill Kernaghan bluffed the court” (Shore Rd, Belfast)
  • 1977 ERII 25th – Alamy EEC6N6
  • 1977 “Remember The Loyalist Prisoners” (Howard Street South), originally with the dates of the Queen’s 25th anniversary (see C00629) but these dates were later removed (see R1009).
  • 1978 “Faith, Hope, Charity” various symbols (Larne) (see above)
  • c. 1978 Conrad Atkinson, a standing “William III” with “Ulster Forever”
  • 1979 “No pope here – Ulster forever” (Rockview St, Belfast) – Alan McCullough
  • Red Hand Commando in sunglasses in the 1970s, in the Fountain, Londonderry (Rolston 1991 p.33)
  • late 1970s-early 1980s Ulster Banner in shield form surrounded by Union flags (Bond’s Place, Londonderry) (see above)
  • late 1970s-early 1980s “1688-1690 Ulster” (Bond’s Place, Londonderry) (see above)
  • late 1970s-early 1980s Commonwealth flags (Bond’s Place, Londonderry) (see above)
  • late 1970s-early 1980s 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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