The service in the Ulster Hall was attended by Sir Edward Carson, the Lord Mayor of Belfast (Mr. McMordie, M.P.), most of the distinguished visitors from England, and by those Ulster members whose constituencies were in or near the city; those representing country seats went thither to attend local services and to sign the Covenant with their own constituents.
One small but significant detail in the day’s proceedings was much noticed as a striking indication of the instinctive realisation by the crowd of the exceptional character of the occasion. Bedford Street, where the Ulster Hall is, was densely packed with spectators, but when the leader arrived, instead of the hurricane of cheers that invariably greeted his appearance in the streets, there was nothing but a general uncovering of heads and respectful silence. It is true that the people abundantly compensated themselves for this moment of self-restraint later on, until in the evening one wondered how human throats could survive so many hours of continuous strain; but the contrast only made the more remarkable that almost startling silence before the religious service began.
The “sense of ceremony” which The Times Correspondent on another occasion had declared to be characteristic of Ulstermen “in moments of emotion,” was certainly displayed conspicuously on Ulster Day. Ceremony at large public functions is naturally cast in a military mould—marching men, bands of music, display of flags, guards of honour, and so forth—and although on this occasion there was, it is true, more than mere decorative significance in the military frame to the picture, it was an admirably designed and effective spectacle. It is but a few hundred yards from the Ulster Hall to the City Hall, where the signing of the Covenant was to take place. When the religious service ended, about noon, Sir Edward Carson and his colleagues proceeded from one hall to the other on foot. The Boyne standard, which had been presented to the leader the previous evening, was borne before him to the City Hall. He was escorted by a guard consisting of a hundred men from the Orange Lodges of Belfast and a like number representing the Unionist clubs of the city. These clubs had also provided a force of 2,500 men, whose duty, admirably performed throughout the day, was to protect the gardens and statuary surrounding the City Hall from injury by the crowd, and to keep a clear way to the Hall for the endless stream of men entering to sign the Covenant.
The City Hall in Belfast is a building of which Ulster is justly proud. It is, indeed, one of the few modern public buildings in the British Islands in which the most exacting critic of architecture finds nothing to condemn. Standing in the central site of the city with ample garden space in front, its noble proportions and beautiful facade and dome fill the view from the broad thoroughfare of Donegal Place. The main entrance hall, leading to a fine marble stairway, is circular in shape, surrounded by a marble colonnade carrying the dome, to which the hall is open through the full height of the building. It was in this central space beneath the dome that a round table covered with the Union Jack was placed for the signing of the Covenant by the Ulster leaders and the most prominent of their supporters.