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.


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