1887 North Antrim by-election

The 1887 North Antrim by-election was a parliamentary by-election held for the United Kingdom House of Commons constituency of North Antrim on 11 February 1887. The sitting member, Edward Macnaghten of the Conservatives, had been elevated to the House of Lords as a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary.

In the ensuing by-election three candidates were nominated: Charles Lewis of the Conservative Party (UK) was elected, with 3,858 votes; S C McElroy, a Gladstone Liberal, received 2,526; and W. A. Traill (Independent Unionist) received 424.[1]

North Antrim by-election, 1887[2]
Party Candidate Votes % ±%
Irish Conservative Charles Lewis 3,858 56.7 -13.2
Liberal Samuel Craig McElroy 2,526 37.1 +7.0
Ind. Unionist William Atcheson Traill 424 6.2 New
Majority 1,332 19.6 -20.1
Turnout 6,808 71.6 +0.8
Registered electors 9,505
Irish Conservative hold Swing -10.1

McElroy was a leading tenants' rights campaigner.[3] A Presbyterian minister from Portrush, who wrote to Lord Hartington, leader of the Liberal Unionists, seeking advice on whom to vote for, was urged to support the Conservative:

"it is probable that my opinions agree more closely with those of Mr McElroy than those of Mr Lewis. But the question of the Union, especially in an Irish constituency, I took to be of supreme importance, and it would be a severe blow to the Unionist cause if on account of any minor issue whatever the opinion of such a constituency as North Antrim upon Mr Gladstone's Irish policy should appear to be doubtful."[4]

The Nationalists in the constituency, who supported McElroy, had hoped for his election through a split of the Unionist vote between Lewis and Traill, but as The Times observed, the voters "have not been tempted from the path of loyalty by the lure held out to them by the enemies of their landlords".[1] Lewis sat for the constituency until the 1892 general election, but did not seek re-election.



  1. ^ a b The Times, 14 February 1887.
  2. ^ The Constitutional Year Book, 1904, published by Conservative Central Office, page 187 (211 in web page)
  3. ^ D. George Boyce, "In the Front Rank of the Nation: Gladstone and the Unionists of Ireland, 1868-1893" in Gladstone Centenary Essays, ed. David Bebbington and Roger Swift (Liverpool University Press, 2000) page 195.
  4. ^ The Times, 10 February 1887