James Craig, 1st Viscount Craigavon

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Viscount Craigavon
James Craig, 1st Viscount Craigavon.jpg
1st Prime Minister of Northern Ireland
In office
7 June 1921 – 24 November 1940
MonarchsGeorge V
Edward VIII
George VI
GovernorThe Duke of Abercorn
Preceded byOffice established
Succeeded byJ. M. Andrews
4th Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party
In office
7 June 1921 – 24 November 1940
Preceded bySir Edward Carson
Succeeded byJ. M. Andrews
Ministerial positions
Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the Admiralty
In office
2 April 1920 – 1 April 1921
Prime MinisterDavid Lloyd George
Preceded byThomas James Macnamara
Succeeded byLeo Amery
Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Pensions
In office
10 January 1919 – 2 April 1920
Prime MinisterDavid Lloyd George
Preceded byArthur Griffith-Boscawen
Succeeded byGeorge Tryon
Treasurer of the Household
In office
14 December 1916 – 22 January 1918
Prime MinisterDavid Lloyd George
Preceded byJames Hope
Succeeded byRobert Sanders
Northern Ireland Parliament
Member of the Northern Ireland Parliament
for North Down
In office
22 May 1929 – 24 November 1940
Preceded byConstituency established
Succeeded byThomas Bailie
Member of the Northern Ireland Parliament
for Down
In office
24 May 1921 – 22 May 1929
Preceded byConstituency established
Succeeded byConstituency abolished
British Parliament
Member of the House of Lords
Lord Temporal
In office
1 January 1927 – 24 November 1940
Hereditary Peerage
Succeeded byThe 2nd Viscount Craigavon
Member of Parliament
for Mid Down
In office
14 December 1918 – 2 July 1921
Preceded byConstituency established
Succeeded byRobert Sharman-Crawford
Member of Parliament
for East Down
In office
8 February 1906 – 14 December 1918
Preceded byJames Wood
Succeeded bySir David Reid
Personal details
Born(1871-01-08)8 January 1871
Belfast, Ireland
Died24 November 1940(1940-11-24) (aged 69)
Glencraig, Northern Ireland
Resting placeStormont Parliament Buildings
Political partyUlster Unionist Party
SpouseCecil Mary Tupper
Military service
Allegiance United Kingdom
Branch/serviceFlag of the British Army.svg British Army
Years of service1899–1901
RankBritish Army OF-2.svg Captain
Unit3rd (Militia) Royal Irish Rifles
Battles/warsSecond Boer War

James Craig, 1st Viscount Craigavon PC PC (NI) DL (8 January 1871 – 24 November 1940), was a leading Irish unionist and a key architect of Northern Ireland as a devolved region within the United Kingdom. During the Home Rule Crisis of 1912–14, he defied the British government in preparing an armed resistance in Ulster to an all-Ireland parliament. He accepted partition as a final settlement, securing the opt out of six Ulster counties from the dominion statehood accorded Ireland under the terms of the 1921 Anglo-Irish Treaty. From then until his death in 1940, he led the Ulster Unionist Party and served Northern Ireland as its first Prime Minister. He publicly characterised his administration as a "Protestant" counterpart to the "Catholic state" nationalists had established in the south. Craig was created a baronet in 1918 and raised to the Peerage in 1927.

Early life[edit]

Craig was born at Sydenham, Belfast, the son of James Craig (1828–1900), a wealthy whiskey distiller who had entered the firm of Dunville & Co as a clerk: by age 40 he was a millionaire and a partner in the firm. James Craig Snr. owned a large house called Craigavon, overlooking Belfast Lough. His mother, Eleanor Gilmore Browne, was the daughter of Robert Browne, a prosperous man who owned property in Belfast and a farm outside Lisburn. Craig was the seventh child and sixth son in the family; there were eight sons and one daughter in all.[1]

He was educated at Merchiston Castle School in Edinburgh, Scotland; his father had taken a conscious decision not to send his sons to any of the more fashionable public schools. After school he began work as a stockbroker, eventually opening his own firm in Belfast.

Military career[edit]

Craig enlisted in the 3rd (Militia) battalion of the Royal Irish Rifles on 17 January 1900 to serve in the Second Boer War. He was seconded to the Imperial Yeomanry, a cavalry force created for service during the war, as a lieutenant in the 13th battalion on 24 February 1900,[2][3] and left Liverpool for South Africa on the SS Cymric in March 1900.[4] After arrival he was soon sent to the front, and was taken prisoner in May 1900, but released by the Boers because of a perforated colon. On his recovery he became deputy assistant director of the Imperial Military Railways, showing the qualities of organisation that were to mark his involvement in both British and Ulster politics. In June 1901 he was sent home suffering from dysentery, and by the time he was fit for service again the war was over. He was promoted to captain in the 3rd Royal Irish Rifles on 20 September 1902,[5] while still seconded to South Africa.

Service in South Africa is said to have made Craig far more politically aware and "had given him a heightened awareness of the Empire and a pride in Ulster's place in it".[6]


Craig caricatured by WHO for Vanity Fair, 1911

Leader of Ulster opposition to Irish Home Rule[edit]

On his return to Ireland, having received a £100,000 legacy from his father's will, he turned to politics. Following his brother Charles who had successfully stood as an Irish Unionist in a by-election in South Antrim the previous month, in March 1903 by-election Craig attempted to secure the unionist seat of North Fermanagh. Unlike his brother, he norrowly failed to defeat his Russellite rival (Edward Mitchell). He had to wait until the 1906 General Election to win his first seat, East Down (the constituency he represented until returned from Mid Down in 1918).[6] Already he was playing a leading organisational role for Irish Unionism in Ulster.

In 1905, he had co-founded the Ulster Unionist Council to coalesce loyalist opposition to Irish Home Rule in northern province. In this task he regarded the coontribution of the parading Orange Order (that commanded 50 of 200 seats on the council) as key. Opening an Orange Hall in after the 1906 election he declared that he was "an Orangeman first and a Member of Parliament afterwards" and called for "the Protestant community to rally around the [Orange] lodges, strengthen and support them".[7]

In 1912, Craig helped orchestrate "Ulster Day”. In a massed demonstration in Belfast, Edward Carson, the Dublin barrister he had nominated for the leadership of the UUC, led in signing the Ulster Covenant. The signatories pledged "to stand by one another in defending for ourselves and our children our position of equal citizenship in the United Kingdom", and to use "all means which may be found necessary to defeat the present conspiracy to set up a Home Rule Parliament in Ireland".[8][9]

In January 1913, unable to prevent passage of the Liberal government's Home Rule Bill at Westminster, the UUC called the exclusion of Ulster from its provisions, a demand backed with a call for up to 100,000 Covenanters to be drilled and armed as Ulster Volunteers. On 23 September, Craig persuaded Carson to accept Chairmanship of a Provisional Government which he had planned and primed to assume the administration of Ulster should the Government move to enforce the authority of a new Dublin parliament.[10]

In April 1914, Craig supported Major Frederick Crawford in arming the Ulster Volunteers (UVF) with rifles and ammunition purchased, and smuggled, from Imperial Germany.[11]

On women's suffrage[edit]

In 1912, Craig broke with other Irish MPs, both unionist and nationalist, in voting for the Conciliation bill that would have extended the parliamentary vote (albeit on a restrictive property basis) for the first time to women. Consistent with the prominent role in mobilising opposition to home rule played by the Ulster Women's Unionist Council (UWUC), and the invitation to women to sign their own declaration in support of the Ulster Covenant,[8] in September 1913 Craig's UUC informed the Women's Council that the draft articles for the Provisional Government included provisions for female suffrage.[12]

When in the spring of 1914, Carson, seeming to overrule Craig, made it clear that a potentially divisive endorsement of votes for women was not a politic option for unionism, Dorothy Evans, organiser in Belfast for Women's Social and Political Union declared an end to "the truce" that the organisation had "held in Ulster".[13] In the months that followed WSPU militants were implicated in a series of outrages against property that, in addition to arson attacks on Unionist-owned buildings and on male recreational and sports facilities,[14] included forced entry into Craig's home.[15]

On 3 April 1913 police raided the flat in Belfast Evans was sharing with local activist Midge Muir, and found explosives. In court, five days later, the pair created uproar when they demanded to know why the gun-runner Craig was not appearing on the same charges.[13]

Wartime government service[edit]

Following the United Kingdom declaration of war upon Germany in August 1914, Craig persuaded Lord Kitchener to remould the UVF into the 36th Ulster Division. He was given the rank of lieutenant-colonel, but unift for front line service he resigned his commission at the end of 1916 and took up a junior post, Treasurer of the Household, in the wartime coalition government of Lloyd George. He spoke in favour of conscripting Irishmen into the army in 1918 as the Government looked to extend the Military Services Act.[6]

After the World War, Craig continued in the service of the coalition government first as Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister for Pensions (1919-1920) and then Parliamentary Secretary to the Admiralty (1920–21). In February 1921, with the war of independence underway in the south, Craig succeeded Edward Carson as leader of the Ulster Unionist Party.

Proponent of a devolved Belfast administration[edit]

Craig persuaded his fellow Unionists and the British Government that if exclusion, and thus partition, was to be the solution to the challenge posed by the Catholic-majority desire for Irish self government, it should apply to only six of the nine Ulster counties. In three, Donegal, Cavan and Monaghan, he argued Sinn Féiners would make government "absolutely impossible for us".[16] He also led Ulster Unionists in accepting that the six counties—Northern Ireland as they were to become—should have their own home-rule parliament in Belfast.

Writing to Prime Minister David Lloyd George, Craig had declared that it was only as a "sacrifice in the interest of peace" that unionists would accept a Northern Ireland parliament they had not asked for.[17] But in debating the Government of Ireland Bill 1920, Craig noted that having "all the paraphernalia of Government" might make it more difficult for future Liberal and/or Labour government to push Northern Ireland against the will of its majority into all-Ireland arrangements[18] Once Unionists had their own parliament, Craig felt able to assure his followers "no power on earth would ever be able to touch them".[19]

To make such assurance against British pressure for Irish unity doubly sure, in November 1921 Craig suggested to Lloyd George that Northern Ireland's status be changed to that of a Crown dominion outside of the United Kingdom. Although in signing the Anglo-Irish Treaty, only weeks later the Pime Minister conceded Southern Ireland precisely this Canada-style form of statehood, to Craig he replied that he was not willing to give "the character of an international boundary" to "a frontier based neither upon natural features nor broad geographical considerations".[20]

Lloyd George was nonetheless persuaded in October 1920 to secure that still unsettled frontier by endorsing Craig's proposal for a new "volunteer constabulary ... raised from the loyal population" and "armed for duty within the six county area only".[21] Into this Ulster Special Constabulary former UVF units were "incorporated en masse".[22]

Prime Minister of Northern Ireland[edit]

Craig (third from left) with his first cabinet, in 1921

In the 1921 Northern Ireland general election, the first ever, Craig was elected to the newly created Northern Ireland House of Commons as one of the members for County Down. On 7 June 1921, Craig was appointed the first Prime Minister of Northern Ireland by the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland.[23] The House of Commons of Northern Ireland assembled for the first time later that day.[24]

In April 1934, in response to George Leeke's question regarding the Protestant nature of the Unionist dominated parliament, Craig famously replied:

The hon. Member must remember that in the South they boasted of a Catholic State. They still boast of Southern Ireland being a Catholic State. All I boast of is that we are a Protestant Parliament and a Protestant State. It would be rather interesting for historians of the future to compare a Catholic State launched in the South with a Protestant State launched in the North and to see which gets on the better and prospers the more. It is most interesting for me at the moment to watch how they are progressing. I am doing my best always to top the bill and to be ahead of the South.[25]

Time cover, 26 May 1924

This speech is often misquoted, intentionally or otherwise, as: "A Protestant Parliament for a Protestant People", and conflated with an incident which occurred respective to the naming of the New City of Craigavon. Knockmena (a corruption of the townland name, Knockmenagh) was the preferred name nationalists hoped would be used, and which might have attracted broad acceptance on both sides. On 6 July 1965, it was announced that the new city would be named Craigavon after Craig. A noted nationalist, Joseph Connellan, interrupted the announcement with the comment, "A Protestant city for a Protestant people".[26]

Later that year, speaking in the House of Commons at Stormont on 21 November 1934 in response to an accusation that all government appointments in Northern Ireland were carried out on a religious basis, he replied: "... it is undoubtedly our duty and our privilege, and always will be, to see that those appointed by us possess the most unimpeachable loyalty to the King and Constitution. That is my whole object in carrying on a Protestant Government for a Protestant people. I repeat it in this House".[27]

He was made a baronet in 1918, and in 1927 was created Viscount Craigavon, of Stormont in the County of Down. He was also the recipient of honorary degrees from The Queen's University of Belfast (1922) and Oxford University (1926).[citation needed]

Lord Craigavon's tomb, Stormont Parliament grounds
Close-up of the tomb carving

Craig had made his career in British as well as Northern Irish politics; but his premiership showed little sign of his earlier close acquaintance with the British political world. He became intensely parochial, and suffered from his loss of intimacy with British politicians in 1938, when the British government concluded agreements with Dublin to end the Anglo-Irish economic war between the two countries. He never tried to persuade Westminster to protect Northern Ireland's industries, especially the linen industry, which was central to its economy. He was anxious not to provoke Westminster, given the precarious state of Northern Ireland's position. In April 1939, and again in May 1940 in the Second World War, he called for conscription to be introduced in Northern Ireland (which the British government, fearing a backlash from nationalists, refused).[28] He also called for Churchill to invade Ireland, alternatively known as Éire, using Scottish and Welsh troops in order to seize the valuable ports and install a Governor-General at Dublin.[29] Lady Londonderry confided to Sir Samuel Hoare, the Home Secretary until the outbreak of the war, that Craigavon had become "ga-ga"[30] but Craigavon was still prime minister when he died peacefully at his home at Glencraig, County Down, at the age of 69. He was buried on the Stormont Estate on 5 December 1940, and was succeeded as the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland by the Minister of Finance, J. M. Andrews.

Craig had a dual Irish-British self-identity, saying in a 1929 parliamentary debate that "We are Irishmen ... always hold that Ulstermen are Irishmen and the best of Irishmen – much the best".[31]

Personal life[edit]

His wife, Cecil Mary Nowell Dering Tupper (Viscountess Craigavon), whom he married on 22 March 1905 after a very brief courtship, was English, the daughter of Sir Daniel Tupper, assistant comptroller of the Lord Chamberlain's department of the king's household, and a fourth cousin of the future Queen Mother, Elizabeth Angela Marguerite Bowes-Lyon. They had twin sons and a daughter. A president of the Ulster Women's Unionist Council, she was created a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1941.[32]

Craigavon was succeeded as second viscount by his elder son, James (1906–1974). His estate was valued at £3,228, 2s., 6d. effects in England: probate, 20 March 1941, CGPLA NIre., £24, 138 9s. 9d.: probate, 3 March 1941, CGPLA NIre.[citation needed]

Craig had a keen interest in Ulster Agriculture and was vice-president of Listooder and District Ploughing Society (the oldest in Ireland) from November 1906 until November 1921 and continued to present the all-Ireland cup class until 1926.[33]


Coat of arms of James Craig, 1st Viscount Craigavon
Coronet of a British Viscount.svg
Craigavon Escutcheon.png
Coat of arms of the Craig family
A demi-lion rampant per fess Gules and Sable holding in the dexter paw a mullet Or.
Gules a fess Ermine between three bridges of as many arches Proper.
Dexter a Constable of the Ulster Special Constabulary his hand resting on a rifle Proper sinister a Private of the Royal Ulster Rifles armed and accoutred also Proper.[34]
Charity Provokes Charity

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Patrick Buckland (1980). James Craig: Lord Craigavon. Gill and Macmillan. p. 3. ISBN 9780717110780.
  2. ^ "No. 27168". The London Gazette. 23 February 1900. p. 1256.
  3. ^ "No. 27171". The London Gazette. 6 March 1900. p. 1528.
  4. ^ "The War – Embarcation of Troops". The Times. No. 36078. London. 1 March 1900. p. 7.
  5. ^ "No. 27475". The London Gazette. 19 September 1902. p. 6024.
  6. ^ a b c UK Parliament (2022). "James Craig (1871-1940)". UK Parliament. Retrieved 13 September 2022.
  7. ^ Daly, T. P. (2005). "James Craig and Orangeism, 1903-10". Irish Historical Studies. 34 (136): (431–448), 431. doi:10.1017/S0021121400006416. ISSN 0021-1214. JSTOR 30008191. S2CID 155598026.
  8. ^ a b Gordon, Lucy (1989). The Ulster Covenant. Belfast: Ulster society.
  9. ^ PRONI. "The Ulster Covenant: Ulster Day". Archived from the original on 29 August 2012. Retrieved 29 September 2012.
  10. ^ Biggs-Davidson (1973). p. 79.
  11. ^ Stewart, A.T.Q. (1967). The Ulster Crisis. London: Faber and Faber. pp. 119, 177.
  12. ^ Ward, Margaret (1982). "'Suffrage First, Above All Else!' An Account of the Irish Suffrage Movement". Feminist Review (10): (21–36), 30. doi:10.2307/1394778. ISSN 0141-7789. JSTOR 1394778.
  13. ^ a b Kelly, Vivien (1996). "Irish Suffragettes at the time of the Home Rule Crisis". 20th Century, Contemporary History. 4:1. Archived from the original on 18 February 2020. Retrieved 8 March 2020 – via History Ireland.
  14. ^ Courtney, Roger (2013). Dissenting Voices: Rediscovering the Irish Progressive Presbyterian Tradition. Ulster Historical Foundation. pp. 273–274, 276–278. ISBN 9781909556065.
  15. ^ Urquhart, Diane (1 June 2002). "'An articulate and definite cry for political freedom': the ulster suffrage movement". Women's History Review. 11 (2): (273–292) 284. doi:10.1080/09612020200200321. ISSN 0961-2025. S2CID 145344160.
  16. ^ Hansard (Vol 127, cc 925-1036 925), House of Commons, 29 March 1920
  17. ^ Sir James Craig in a letter to Lloyd George, quoted in F.S.L Lyons (1971), Ireland since the Famine. Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London. p. 696
  18. ^ Hansard, 29 March 1920, Government of Ireland Bill, p. 980
  19. ^ "Despair in Ireland", The Times, 7 October 1920
  20. ^ Follis, Bryan A. (1995), A State Under Siege: The Establishment of Northern Ireland 1920- 1925, Oxford: Clarendon Press, pp65-66.
  21. ^ Parkinson, Alan F. (2004). Belfast's Unholy War. Dublin: Four Courts Press. p. 84. ISBN 1-85182-792-7.
  22. ^ Hopkinson, Michael. Green against Green, the Irish Civil War. Dublin: Gill & Macmillan. p. 263. ISBN 978-0-7171-1202-9.
  23. ^ "Belfast Gazette" (1). 7 June 1921. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  24. ^ "NI Hansard HC vol.1 cc.1–10". Stormont Papers. 7 June 1921. Archived from the original on 21 August 2017. Retrieved 23 April 2019.
  25. ^ Northern Ireland House of Commons Official Report, Vol 34 col 1095. Sir James Craig, Unionist Party, then Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, 24 April 1934. This speech is often misquoted as: "A Protestant Parliament for a Protestant People", or "A Protestant State for a Protestant People".
  26. ^ Mulholland, Marc. "Why Did Unionists Discriminate?, academia.edu; accessed 4 September 2017.
  27. ^ Northern Ireland Parliamentary Debates; Vol. 17, columns 73 & 74 Archived 4 March 2016 at the Wayback Machine; accessed 4 September 2017.
  28. ^ Fisk, Robert (1983). In time of war: Ireland, Ulster, and the price of neutrality, 1939–45. London: André Deutsch. p. 158. ISBN 978-0-233-97514-6.
  29. ^ "Churchill was asked to invade 'Nazi' Ireland during Second World War". 21 March 2010. Archived from the original on 30 August 2017. Retrieved 8 July 2017.
  30. ^ Jonathan Bardon. "Extracts from an article, "The Belfast Blitz, 1941"". BELFAST BLITZ. Archived from the original on 3 February 2015. Retrieved 19 January 2015.
  31. ^ Walker, Brian (2012). A Political History of Two Islands: From Partition to Peace. Palgrave MacMillan. p. 26.
  32. ^ "Clarence 10". william1.co.uk. Archived from the original on 8 April 2017. Retrieved 2 February 2017.
  33. ^ Callum Bowsie (31 January 2021). "History of the oldest ploughing society in Ireland – Listooder & Dist". No. Farming Life. Newsletter. pp. 47–49.
  34. ^ "Grants and Confirmations of Arms Volume M". National Library of Ireland. p. 202. Retrieved 24 August 2022.


External links[edit]

Parliament of the United Kingdom
Preceded by Member of Parliament for East Down
Succeeded by
New constituency Member of Parliament for Mid Down
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by Treasurer of the Household
Title next held by
Robert Sanders
Preceded by Parliamentary and Financial Secretary to the Admiralty
Succeeded by
New office Prime Minister of Northern Ireland
Succeeded by
Parliament of Northern Ireland
New constituency Member of Parliament for Down
With: J. M. Andrews
Éamon de Valera
Thomas Lavery
Robert McBride
Thomas McMullan
Harry Mulholland
Patrick O'Neill
Constituency abolished
New constituency Member of Parliament for North Down
Succeeded by
Party political offices
Preceded by Leader of the Ulster Unionist Party
Succeeded by
Peerage of the United Kingdom
New creation Viscount Craigavon
Succeeded by
Baronetage of the United Kingdom
New creation Baronet
(of Craigavon)
Succeeded by
Awards and achievements
Preceded by Cover of Time Magazine
26 May 1924
Succeeded by