THROUGH THE ARCHIVES: Rowdy scenes on the steps of Custom House
From the News Letter, October 20, 1902
Disgraceful scenes ensued on the steps of the Custom House in Belfast when those opposed to the “plain-spoken” remarks made by the Reverend Cook with regards to Sunday services, notably the disturbances occurred on a Sunday.
Mr Arthur Trew had been nominated as the leader of one of the faction, while the other had been dubbed as the Sloanites after their leader Mr Tom Sloan.
Mr Trew’s supporters had gathered at the east side of the building and as he began to address them a Sloanite heckler shouted from the crowd: “You’re a fraud Arthur”.
The News Letter’s representative at the meeting reported that Trew had responded to the heckler by saying: “Away to the linen-lapping”.
But they remarked that Trew could only be heard at intervals given the commotion.
“Most of the expressions used were the reverse of parliamentary, and could not possibly be reported,” wrote the correspondent.
But the words ‘rogue’ and ‘liar’ “were amongst the most complimentary terms which were passed”.
At length and after many difficulties Mr Trew succeeded in gaining a momentary hearing, and made a very pertinent remark: “If those who interrupted call themselves Sloanites, then God help Tom Sloan!”
Proceedings came to an end amidst the shower of “uncomplimentary remarks” and many threats of personal violence, after which the crowds dispersed quietly to their homes.