The ‘Miracle of Coalisland’: class and sectarianism in the Tyrone Coalfield, 1922-26

Socialist History - ISSN 0969-4331
Volume 2023 Number 64

The ‘Miracle of Coalisland’: class and sectarianism in the Tyrone Coalfield, 1922-26
Fearghal Mac Bhloscaidh pages 25-55


This article uses the forgotten prospect of an industrial revolution in mid-Ulster to examine the nature of the Unionist administration and deploys ‘history from below’ to examine and understand the tensions and contra-dictions at the intersection between class and sectarianism. The analysis centres on the ‘Coalisland Miracle’, when Unionist insider, Sir Samuel Kelly, purchased a coal mine and various other local businesses in East Tyrone during the consolidation of James Craig’s Protestant Parliament. Ultimately, Unionist dreams of a new industrial revolution resembled fevered delusions as the new polity endured precarious finances and inter-minable economic decline. The article also analyses how complex issues of class and sectarianism played out on the ground when Ulster’s leading capitalist confronted a majority nationalist workforce in an area whose constitutional future appeared to hang in the balance, demonstrating how workers struggled to secure their meagre slice of the pie, while employ-ers, managers and the state strove to defeat organised labour. An analysis of four labour disputes linked to Kelly’s scheme reveals how sectarian-ism worked in employment practices, a subject much talked about but seldom supported by hard evidence. The article concludes by examining an extraordinary lockout at the Tyrone Colliery itself and a subsequent and unprecedented display of working-class solidarity in 1926, when Protestant and Catholic workers united after the much-heralded Coalisland miracle turned out to be little more than pie in the sky.

SORRY - you are not registered as being permitted online access to the full text of this article

You have the following options:

  1. If you are viewing this via an institution or academic library you can ask that your institution takes out a Subscription to this journal.
  2. If you already have a Personal Subscription please login below

    Forgotten your username / password? Click here to locate

  3. Subscribe to Socialist History via the Socialist History Society website. An annual UK print subscription is £30.00.

To cite this article
Fearghal Mac Bhloscaidh (2023) The ‘Miracle of Coalisland’: class and sectarianism in the Tyrone Coalfield, 1922-26, Socialist History, 2023(64), 25-55

Share this