Saturday, January 31, 2015

Why Belfast?

We know that Annie (Cowie) Riddell and at least some of her children lived in Belfast, Northern Ireland, or visited her while she lived at 10 Parkend Street:
  • Isabella Cowie Riddell married John Davidson Forman there in 1920
  • Annie Riddell returned from Canada and lived there with her mother for 10 months in 1920-1921
  • John Riddell was living and working there when he immigrated to Canada in 1923
  • Annie (Cowie) Riddell was living there when she immigrated to Canada in 1924
However, there is no evidence that Annie's husband, Oswald Dykes Riddell, ever joined her in Belfast or that they two lived together again as a married couple. And we don't know why anyone in the family decided to go to Belfast at that time.

Entrance to Belfast Harbor circa in the early 1900s; image courtesy of
Old UK Photos

The Government of Ireland Act of 1920 partitioned the country into two separate jurisdictions. The Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 allowed Northern Ireland to opt out of the newly established Irish Free State, which it did in 1922. The changes were not bloodless. A total of 557 people were killed between 1920 and 1922 in sectarian violence. Between 1919 and 1921 the Irish Republican Army and British security forces fought the War of Irish Independence followed by the Irish Civil War from 1922 to 1923.

The history of legal actions, war, and revolution is a convoluted and torturous one. Why would anyone choose to live in Belfast at the time of such unrest?

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