Reverend Gilmour Libel Trial

In February 1912, prominent Ballymena Catholic lawyer John McCann sued the Reverend Gilmour for libel for maligning his character by casting doubt on his willingness to act fairly for Protestant clients. Gilmour was questioned relentlessly throughout the trial by McCann.

On the night the trial ended, trouble began to brew and a 500 strong crowd burnt an effigy of McCann on the Galgorm Road. They marched on a pub owned by the McCann family and a number of windows were broken. A group of the protesters were arrested and brought to trial for their behaviour.

In a highly charged trial lawyers for the defence argued that most of the protesters had been demonstrating peacefully in support of the Reverend Gilmour and that this was a local tradition. They blamed the police for escalating the events. In the end all the defendants were found not guilty.

The trial and its reporting in the newspapers showed that divisions between Catholics and Protestants were bubbling just below the surface.