No part of Great Britain displayed a more constant and whole-hearted sympathy with the attitude of Ulster than the city of Liverpool. There was much in common between Belfast and the great commercial port on the Mersey. Both were the home of a robust Protestantism, which perhaps was reinforced by the presence in both of a quarter where Irish Nationalists predominated. Just as West Belfast gave a seat in Parliament to the most forceful of the younger Nationalist generation, Mr. Devlin, the Scotland Division of Liverpool had for a generation been represented by Mr. T.P. O’Connor, one of the veteran leaders of the Parnellite period. In each case the whole of the rest of the city was uncompromisingly Conservative, and among the members for Liverpool at the time was Mr. F.E. Smith, unquestionably the most brilliant of the rising generation of Conservatives, who had already conspicuously identified himself with the Ulster Movement, and was a close friend as well as a political adherent of Carson. Among local leaders of opinion in Liverpool Alderman Salvidge exercised a wide and powerful influence on the Unionist side.
It was in accordance with the fitness of things, therefore, that Liverpool should have wished to associate itself in no doubtful manner with the men who had just subscribed to the Covenant on the other side of the Channel. Having left Belfast amid the wonderful scenes described in the last chapter, Carson, Londonderry, F.E. Smith, Beresford, and the rest of the distinguished visitors awoke next morning—if the rollers of the Irish Sea permitted sleep—in the oily waters of the Mersey, to find at the landing-stage a crowd that in dimensions and demeanour seemed to be a duplicate of the one they had left outside the dock gates at Belfast. Except that the point round which everything had centred in Belfast, the signing of the Covenant, was of course missing in Liverpool, the Unionists of Liverpool were not to be outdone by the Ulstermen themselves in their demonstration of loyalty to the Union.
The packet that carried the group of leaders across the Channel happened to be, appropriately enough, the R.M.S. Patriotic. As she steamed slowly up the river towards Prince’s Landing-stage in the chilly atmosphere of early morning it was at once evident that more than the members of the deputation who had arranged to present addresses to Carson were out to welcome him to Liverpool, and when the workers who thronged the river bank started singing “O God, our help in ages past,” the sound was strangely familiar in ears fresh from Ulster.
An address from the Unionist working men of Liverpool and district, presented by Alderman Salvidge, thanked Carson for his “magnificent efforts to preserve the integrity of the Empire,” and assured him that they, “Unionist workers of the port which is connected with Belfast in so many ways, stand by Ulster in this great struggle.” Scenes of intense enthusiasm in the streets culminated in a monster demonstration in Shiel Park, at which it was estimated that close on 200,000 people were present. In all the speeches delivered and the resolutions adopted during this memorable Liverpool visit the same note was sounded, of full approval of the Covenanters and of determination to support them whatever might befall.