The way to the meeting took the Minister from the Unionist to the Nationalist district and afforded him a practical demonstration of the gulf between the “two nations” which he and his colleagues were bent upon treating as one. The moment he crossed the boundary, the booing and groaning of one area was succeeded by enthusiastic cheers in the other; grotesque effigies of Redmond and of himself in one street were replaced by equally unflattering effigies of Londonderry and Carson in the next; in Royal Avenue both men and women looked like tearing him in pieces, in Falls Road they thronged so close to shake his hand that “Mr. Hamar Greenwood found it necessary” (so the Times Correspondent reported) “to stand on the footboard outside the car and relieve the pressure.”
It was expected that Mr. Churchill would return to his hotel after the meeting, and there had been no shrinkage in the crowd in the interval, nor any change in its sentiments. The police decided that it would be wiser for him to depart by another route. He was therefore taken by back streets to the Midland terminus, and without waiting for the ordinary train by which he had arranged to travel, was as hastily as possible despatched to Larne by a special train before it was generally known that Royal Avenue and York Street were to see him no more. Mr. Churchill tells us in his brilliant biography of his father that when Lord Randolph arrived at Larne in 1886 “he was welcomed like a King.” His own arrival at the same port was anything but regal, and his departure more resembled that of the “thief in the night,” of whom Lord Randolph had bidden Ulster beware.
So this memorable pilgrimage ended. Of the speech itself which Mr. Churchill delivered to some thousands of Nationalists, many of whom were brought by special train from Dublin, it is unnecessary here to say more than that Sir Edward Carson described it a few days later as a “speech full of eloquent platitudes,” and that it certainly did little to satisfy the demand for information about the Home Rule Bill which was to be produced in the coming session of Parliament.