Ulster Covenant 'Blood Signature' In Doubt

Tests carried out on behalf of the BBC show that an Ulster Covenant signature believed to have been signed in blood may not actually be genuine.

It is widely believed throughout Northern Ireland that many of the signatures which appear on the Covenant signed by just under half a million people in 1912 were carried out using the signees’ blood.

But a forensic science test carried out by Dr Alastair Ruffell of Queen's University on behalf of the BBC’s Knowledge and Learning team has shown that, in the case of Major Fred Crawford, this probably isn’t the case.

"I'm 90% sure this isn't blood, but there is that margin of error," he said.

Major Fred Crawford, famous for the orchestrating the 1914 unionist gun-running ploy, wrote on his own copy of the Covenant oath: "I signed at 3:45 in City Hall in my own blood".

Dr Ruffell’s test used Luminol, which reacts with the iron present in haemoglobin and produces a blue-white glow.

He told the BBC the results carried the possibility of a margin of error because "this material has been uncontrolled for 100 years."

But according to Dr Ruffell, the test is capable of detecting tiny traces even in old samples.

"Some years ago we did a test in the Colorado desert where they put some blood on some rocks and we went back ten years later and we were able to find the blood using the Luminol test”, he said.

"The iron in the blood degrades very slowly."

Unionist MLA Robin Swann remains unconvinced by the results.

"I'm confident enough that the 10% is enough for me to say that Fred Crawford signed the Ulster Covenant in his blood", he said.


Related Northern Ireland News Stories
Click here for the latest headlines.

18 April 2019
Belfast On Track To Double £1bn Investment Target
Belfast is on track to double its £1 billion investment target, according to Belfast City Council. A cash injection of around £2 billion for regeneration and commercial property development is either complete, on site or in planning. It comes three years after the initial target was set.
16 April 2019
UUP's Jim Nicholson To Stand Down From European Parliament
The Ulster Unionist Party's Jim Nicholson has announced that he will not be putting his name forward as the party's candidate in the upcoming European elections. It comes after a development in the Brexit negotiations confirmed the UK would participate in the elections on 23 May.
08 April 2019
Other News In Brief
Cyclist Dies After Collapsing On Co Down Road A cyclist has died after being found collapsed on his way home from a cycle in County Down. Cookstown man Philip Corr was found on the Ballynahinch Road in Dromara on the afternoon of Saturday 06 April. He was pronounced dead at the scene. The death is not being treated as suspicious.
11 July 2018
Former Ulster Unionist Peer Lord Laird Dies Aged 74
Former Ulster Unionist Peer Lord Laird has died at the age of 74. Having became Stormont's youngest MP in 1970 when he won a by-election caused by the death of his father, Lord Laird resigned from the UUP five years ago after being accused of breaking parliamentary rules.
27 June 2018
Mid Ulster Council Urged To Reconsider Traveller Eviction
Mid Ulster Council has been urged to abandon its plans to evict a Traveller community from a car park site at Ballyronan without suitable arrangements. Making the call, Sinn Féin MLA for the area Ian Milne, said: "I am calling on Mid Ulster Council to abandon their plans to evict Traveller families currently settled on a car park in Ballyronan.