North Belfast 1950-1970

map results graph
Map and diagram by Conal Kelly

Established in 1920, this constituency consists of the northern quarter of the city of Belfast. Between 1950 and 1970 the constituency was represented by two different MPs, both of whom were Unionist. The longer serving of these was Stratton Mills, who was first elected in 1959 and continued to represent the constituency until his retirement in 1974. All seven elections held during this period were contested.

See also election results for North Belfast 1973-1982, 1983-1992 and 1993-2007.

Results Table

Prot U U Oth U NILP SF/Rep
1970w 18.9% 48.4% 0.7% 31.9%
34.9% 5.5%
35.2% 4.1%
28.2% 8.5%

Westminster Election, 18 June 1970

William Stratton Mills (U) 28,668 (48.4%)
John (Jack) Sharkey (NILP) 18,894 (31.9%)
Rev. William John Beattie (Prot U) 11,173 (18.9%)
John Dunlop McKeague (Ind U) 441 (0.7%)

Unionist majority: 9,774; electorate: 75,740; votes cast: 78.1%

In this, his final Westminster contest, Stratton Mills faced three opponents. Principal among these was Jack Sharkey of the NILP, who was hoping to build on the party's good performance of 1966. Also contesting the election was William Beattie, deputy leader of Ian Paisley's Protestant Unionist Party. Rounding out the ticket was leading loyalist and member of the Shankill Defense Association, John McKeague. Despite the presence of three unionists on the ballot, Mills' vote held and he was returned to Westminster with an increased majority of just under 10,000. This suggests either that Beattie and to a much lesser extent McKeague were able to pull out voters who had previously not bothered, and/or that the votes Mills lost to their challenge from the right were balanced from more moderate voters who had previously abstained, or in a few cases voted NILP.

During this time Mills was a member of the Unionist 'Truth Squad' that traveled to the United States and Canada to counter statements made by Bernadette Devlin. He later became somewhat of a dissident by not supporting Stormont control of security. He eventually resigned from the party when Vanguard members were not expelled. He continued to sit at Westminster, first as an Independent Unionist and then as an Alliance member from 1973 until the general election in February 1974.

Beattie had been elected to the Northern Ireland House of Commons in the South Antrim by-election of April 1970. He was also elected to the Assembly in 1973, the Constitutional Convention in 1975 and the Assembly in 1982.

Westminster Election, 31 March 1966

William Stratton Mills (U) 26,891 (57.4%)
David Anthony Overend (NILP) 19,927 (42.6%)

Unionist majority: 6,964; electorate: 71,434; votes cast: 65.5%

The incumbent Mills again defended his seat in the general election of 1966. His sole competition yet again came from the NILP, fielding a new candidate, David Overend. Overend polled very well, capturing just under 43% of the vote and giving the NILP their second best result of the election. His majority slashed to just under 7,000 votes, Mills had done enough to be returned to Westminster for a third term.

David Overend had also stood unsuccessfully for the Northern Ireland House of Commons in 1965 and again in 1969 for the Belfast constituency of Shankill. He later contested the 1981 Belfast City Council elections as a member of the Progressive Unionist Party (PUP).

Westminster Election, 15 October 1964

William Stratton Mills (U) 29,976 (59.6%)
John William McDowell (NILP) 17,564 (34.9%)
Francis McGlade (R) 2,743 (5.5%)

Unionist majority: 12,412; electorate: 72,400; votes cast: 69.5%

The 1964 general election in North Belfast was essentially a repeat performance of the 1959 election. All three candidates were the same, the only difference being Frank McGlade was now standing as a Republican (Sinn Fein now being a proscribed organisation). The result was also essentially the same, with Mills once again comfortably topping the poll.

McDowell had also stood unsuccessfully for the Northern Ireland House of Commons in 1962 and again in 1965 for the Belfast constituency of Duncairn.

Westminster Election, 8 October 1959

William Stratton Mills (U) 32,173 (60.7%)
John William McDowell (NILP) 18,640 (35.2%)
Francis McGlade (SF) 2,156 (4.1%)

Unionist majority: 13,533; electorate: 74,494; votes cast: 71.1%

The incumbent Harford Montgomery Hyde was not selected to contest the 1959 general election. The reason for his deselection has been attributed to neglect of the constituency, although Hyde's support for progressive causes including, notably, the decriminalisation of homosexuality cannot have helped (Hyde himself indicated, perhaps tongue-in-cheek, that his deselection was the result of his casting doubt on the sexual orientation of King William III). In his place the Unionists nominated Belfast solicitor, (William) Stratton Mills. Also contesting the election were the NILP's John McDowell and Sinn Fein's Frank McGlade. Never really in any doubt, Mills topped the poll but the Unionist majority was reduced to just over 13,500. The NILP vote improved over their 1955 result, while the Sinn Fein vote dropped by more than half (due largely to the IRA's divisive Operation Harvest campaign).

Westminster Election, 26 May 1955

Harford Montgomery Hyde (U) 33,745 (63.3%)
William Robinson Boyd (NILP) 15,065 (28.2%)
Francis McGlade (SF) 4,534 (8.5%)

Unionist majority: 18,680; electorate: 76,990; votes cast: 69.3%

Seeking a third consecutive (and final) term, the incumbent Hyde once again defended his seat in the 1955 general election. His primary opposition as usual came from the NILP, who were fielding new candidate Billy Boyd. In addition Sinn Fein was contesting the seat for the first time since 1924 with their candidate Frank McGlade. The presence of a third candidate resulted in a split of the non-Unionist vote and Hyde was returned with an increased majority of over 18,000.

Boyd had stood unsuccessfully in the Belfast Woodvale constituency for the Northern Ireland House of Commons in 1953 and 1955, before finally being elected in 1958. He lost his seat in 1965 and was unable to regain it in the 1969 election. He also stood unsuccessfully in West Belfast for the 1973 Assembly and in North Belfast for both the 1975 Constitutional Convention and the 1982 Assembly election (as an Independent). He also contested West Belfast in the Westminster elections of 1964 and February 1974.

Westminster Election, 25 October 1951

Harford Montgomery Hyde (U) 34,995 (60.7%)
James Morrow (NILP) 22,685 (39.3%)

Unionist majority: 12,310; electorate: 76,243; votes cast: 75.7%

In the 1951 general election, the incumbent Hyde defended the seat he had won just 18 months earlier. As in 1950, his only opposition came from the NILP, who were fielding a new candidate, James Morrow. The NILP managed to improve on their 1950 tally and achieve their best result of the election but could not unseat Hyde who was returned for a second term.

Morrow had also stood unsuccessfully for the Northern Ireland House of Commons in 1945 and 1949 for the Belfast constituency of Duncairn.

Westminster Election, 23 February 1950

Harford Montgomery Hyde (U) 36,412 (64.4%)
William John Leeburn (NILP) 20,146 (35.6%)

Unionist majority: 16,266; electorate: 75,563; votes cast: 74.8%

The incumbent William Frederick Neill, who had represented North Belfast since 1945, did not contest the 1950 election. His replacement on the Unionist ticket was barrister and author, Harford Montgomery Hyde. His sole opponent was William Leeburn, representing the NILP. Leeburn had contested North Belfast in 1945 and had secured almost 45% of the vote. North Belfast represented one of the NILP's best chances at taking a seat and expectations were running high. In the end the NILP vote slipped below their 1945 levels to 35.6% and Hyde was elected with a majority of over 16,000.

Leeburn had also stood unsuccessfully for the Northern Ireland House of Commons in 1949 for the Belfast constituency of Willowfield.

See also:

Results from 1950 to 1970 for each seat: East Belfast | North Belfast | South Belfast | West Belfast | North Antrim | South Antrim | Armagh | North Down | South Down | Fermanagh and South Tyrone | Londonderry | Mid Ulster

Other sites based at ARK: ORB (Online Research Bank) | CAIN (Conflict Archive on the INternet) | Northern Ireland Life and Times Survey

Your comments, please! Send an email to me at

Conal Kelly, 1 June 2007.

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Disclaimer:© Nicholas Whyte 1998-2004 Last Updated on Wednesday, 12-Jan-2005 12:12