Speaker for 14th January 2020

President Dr. John McGlade greets Andrew Kane, with Club member (and Dad) Graham Kane (L) and Speakers Committee Chair Des Moore (R)

Coleraine Probus takes a look at voting through the years

The President, John McGlade, welcomed members to the meeting and intro Speaker, Andrew Kane the topic of his presentation being “Elections in Coleraine”. Andrew is the son of Club Member Graham Kane.

The members were treated to a historical extravaganza starting with the first Irish Parliament in 1264 at Castledermot, Co. Kildare in the reign of Henry III. This was the beginning of a long and complex development of a parliamentary tradition and Andrew was the accomplished guide. In 1297 Wogan’s Parliament was established and various constituencies were formed down through the years until in 1613 when Coleraine received its first Royal Charter and County Coleraine became County Londonderry. In that year the electorate consisted of thirteen people mainly Planters.

The first Mayor of Coleraine was Tristram Beresford and this family dominated the political scene for 50 years. In 1689 many of the citizens of Coleraine fled to Derry to avoid the invading army of James II. In 1703 the Jacksons take over control from the Beresford's' until 1751 when both families agree to work together. The Act of Union in 1801 saw one MP returned to Westminster from Coleraine, the Irish Parliament having been abolished in 1800.

A Right for Public Votes introduced in 1830 proved to be a challenge to the Beresford’s interests. This was the end of cronyism when the wealthy could purchase influence and position. In the 1832 Reform Act householders were entitled to vote although freemen had to live in 'the Liberties of Coleraine', a limit of about seven miles from the Town Hall.

And for those who of us that sometimes think our current politicians, MPs and MLAs are sometimes a little 'crafty' (how about three years pay and no work at Stormont? - WebEd), Andrew gave a fine example. A Mayor of Londonderry (in the interests of that City and the Town of Coleraine, for they were then one constituency) chose himself to be a candidate in a certain Parliamentary election. The said Mayor also happened to be the 'Returning Officer' presiding over the vote counting. Much to everyone's surprise, he formally announced himself as the winner of the poll, and went on to the Parliament in London, representing all the North West, but seldom returning home!

Andrew's talk was as entertaining as it was eye opening. Club members were astounded at the depth of research and meticulous detail that he put into the talk, clearly a huge amount of work and so well presented. Members were disappointed that it had to come to an end - but perhaps Andrew can be persuaded to do it all again for the Coleraine Historical Society sometime soon?

Many thanks to Graham for providing most of this summary