'A Letter From Ulster' received its Northern Ireland premiere on 12th January 1943. The chosen venue was the Imperial Picture House in Cornmarket, Belfast. An audience including leading political figures, military officers, and keen locals gathered for the spectacle. The film told the story of the settling in of American troops in Ulster. Its director was the Belfast-born Brian Desmond Hurst.
Among those in attendance was the Prime Minister of Northern Ireland Mr. John Miller Andrews. Sir Basil Brooke (Minister of Commerce) and Mr. William Grant M.P. (Minister for Labour) were among other leading political figures lending their support.
Sir Charles Wickham (Inspector General of the Royal Ulster Constabulary) was also in attendance. A couple of his officers feature briefly in a border-hopping scene during the film.
Representatives of the American military at the Imperial Picture House included Colonel I.S. Dierking and Colonel M.J. O’Brien.
L-R: Sir Basil Brooke (Minister of Commerce), Colonel I.S. Dierking (General Officer Commanding, United States Army Northern Ireland Force), Mr. George Lodge (Manager, Imperial Picture House, Belfast), Mr. John Miller Andrews (Prime Minister of Northern Ireland), Sir Charles Wickham (Inspector General, Royal Ulster Constabulary), Mr. Frank Keogh (Branch Manager, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, Belfast), Colonel M.J. O’Brien, Mr. William Grant M.P. (Minister for Labour)
This film will ease the minds of the mothers of America by showing the conditions in which their boys serving over here live and the wonderful hospitality they have received.
‘A Letter From Ulster’ may be the first true documentary filmed and produced in Northern Ireland. It received wonderful critical acclaim following the premiere in Belfast. Northern Ireland’s Prime Minister was among the first to note its potential.
I have no doubt that this film will meet with enthusiastic appreciation both in the United Kingdom and the United States. Depicting as it does the unity of the two great democracies, it will help still furhter to strenghten the ties of friendship between them and to ensure that continued co-operation which is so essential for the winning of the war and for the solution of the world problems- which will have to be faced with vigour when the fighting is over.
The premiere of ‘A Letter From Ulster’ in Belfast was arranged by Mr. Frank Keogh (Branch Manager of Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer) and Mr. George Lodge (Manager of the Imperial Picture House).
Allan Esler Smith, curator of the Brian Desmond Hurst Estate has made 'A Letter From Ulster' available online for all to view. Other than a little digital remastering, this beautiful documentary remains unchanged from the premiere of January 1943.