"Under the streamers in the long and wet and narrow cobbled streets, in the early afternoon they are forming columns. They are marching in ragged line – that great nuisance of today – the Protestants of Ulster. Where are they marching along the muddy road, solemnly and ponderously, and fixedly . . . ? You may laugh, you overeducated, you supercilious, you townbred froth of things. The signpost says ‘to the asylum’ – their muddy hobnailed boots go splashing into a wet and peaty meadow bordered with rich, green, swaying trees, cut by a savage wind, needled with driving rain, grey cloud looming over. Cheerfully, quickly, methodically, they roll the banners, for they are expensive banners . . . bought with the weekly threepences and sixpences of working men. Four men . . . noticeable for their gaunt and bitter aspect, maimed and bemedalled, roll out a banner, bordered in black crêpe, Thiepval 1916 it reads. So comfortably remote, remoter even than the ‘relief of Derry’ [in 1689] they are celebrating. Silently, humorously, doggedly, they mass around a dripping platform, a remarkable feudal, patriarchal, tribal, historical anachronism in these days of moderation, toleration – whine, don’t fight – enlightenment."
Frank McGuinness’s play Observe the Sons of Ulster Marching towards the Somme