It was first publish in November 1894 named the Ulster Saturday Night and later the Ireland’s Saturday Night as circulation spread to Dundalk and Dublin. It ceased publication on July 26,2008 - four years after it had gone tabloid - suffering the economic fate of newspapers in to-day’s changing social and economic patterns.
The founding fathers got the format right – a comprehensive immediate coverage including the most minors sports events . It did much more than that--monetary- sponsorship and support were forthcoming for various sporting projects over the years.
This was a newspaper for the people. Indeed, few if any publications experienced the deep-seated dedication or loyalty of readers as did the ISN, It was a tradition passed down the years from generation to generation with a ritual of copies posted every Monday to relatives and Ulster exiles all over the world.
The features service, family orientated - I emphasise family orientated - and much based on the humorous ways, of local life. as a hit. For instance, Mrs McNeese column was the forerunner of James Young’s McCooey programme on BBC.
The staff of the Telegraph had a special affection, a contagious passion, It was THEIR paper and many young men and women who later became acclaimed journalists, cartoonists, authors, poets and playwrights – among them a Nobel prize winner-cut their teeth on ISN.
Van delivery drivers were heroic during the 35 years of the our civil unrest, They had their vehicles hi-jack burned- Saturday seemed the night favoured by terrorists. Yet they returned to Royal Avenue procured another vehicle , re-loaded and ensured newsagents got their newspapers.
At one stage we had more than 200 people working on this with correspondents in all parts of the UK., Name a sport event and you found it in ISN. In effect it was a Sunday newspaper on a Saturday night available on the streets at 6pm with a distribution throughout the Province and a 110,000 circulation at its peak. On occasions too the front page was devoted to major news stories the Princess Victoria Shipping Disaster, he Hillsborough and Ibrox football disasters and the huge peace rally with that historic picture of the front of the City Hall and Donegall Place a mass of a hundred thousand faces.
In many ways this exhibition is a valediction for a vanished world. Part of the way of Ulster life has gone with the ISN’s demise. The memory, however, of one of Europe’s finest and most professional sports newspapers will never die.
Nor will the feats of those Ulster men and women portrayed on these boards and recorded over its 114 years existence.
I congratulate Libraries NI on this exhibition ands I hope this will be yet another step in the efforts of Dame Mary Peters, Ronnie Spence and others to establish a permanent Ulster Museum Of Sport. Otherwise much of the memorabilia of amazing world-class achievement from sportsmen and women of this Province could be lost. That must not be allowed to happen.