The woman who tried to blow up the Cathedral

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A NEW show, which will be staged at the Island Arts Centre on Friday, May 3, will pay tribute to a Lisburn woman who fought to help secure voting rights for women during the Suffragette movement.

This is the story of the little known six month militant campaign by Ulster suffragists in 1914, amidst the home rule battle and Ulster Unionism’s determination to stick with the union.

Using a mix of new writing, original source and related material ‘Shrieking Sisters’ brings to life the fascinating characters and events around the Ulster Suffrage Movement between 1912–1914 and the struggle for votes for women.

Written by Maggie Cronin and Carol Moore and performed by Maggie Cronin, Carol Moore and Laura Hughes, this rehearsed reading of Shrieking Sisters is being performed in the Island Arts Centre on Friday May 3.

“Before researching the Ulster suffragettes I was unaware of a suffrage movement in the north, let alone a militant campaign,” said Maggie. “

“It’s a fascinating story of bravery, persistence, perseverance and stubborn determination of women who were prepared to serve prison sentences and go on prolonged thirst and hunger strikes to achieve the vote and they need to be written back into the history books. Mrs Lilian Metge and the three other accused women proved their metal at the two court hearings in Lisburn, disrupting proceedings by shouting and attempting to leave the court with Lilian announcing “For five years I have used every constitutional means to enable women to obtain the vote and you would not listen! It is you men that have made us militant.”

Although it began as something of a middle class movement, suffragettes attempted to share their message at big open air meetings in places like Ormeau Park, Carlisle Circus and Methodist College, the Grand Opera House and the Ulster Hall.

They also stood outside factory gates, trying to enlist the support of the mill workers and attempting to bring together unionist and nationalist women.

Notable figures in the Ulster movement were Margaret McCoubrey, a Scot married to an Irish trade unionist from the Ormeau Road, Dr Elizabeth Bell who attended suffragists on hunger strike, Margaret Robinson and Lilian Metge from Lisburn, a moderate, turned militant, who was jailed for her part in an attack on Lisburn Cathedral. Lilian Metge was descended from a prosperous Quaker family.

Her father, Richard Cambridge Grubb came from, Co. Tipperary and married Harriet Richardson, daughter of Jonathon Richardson who was MP for Lisburn in the 1850s.

Lilian married R.H. Metge from Co. Meath, but on his death in 1900, Lilian found herself widowed before the age of 30. Despite her establishment links with a grandfather an MP and a husband a lawyer she became an activist in the movement founding the Lisburn Suffrage Society.

She lived in Seymour Street, a short distance from Lisburn Cathedral and along with three other women attempted to blow up Lisburn Cathedral in the early hours of August 1, 1914.

To hear more of this fascinating story, don’t miss the ‘Shrieking Sisters’ at the Island Arts Centre on May 3. Tickets are on sale now from the Box Office on 9250 9254.