It is the News Letter’s 280th birthday today

Front pages of the Belfast News Letter over the last 280 years. From top left: October 1738, the earliest surviving edition of the paper; December 1854 at the height of the Crimean War; September 1912 at the time of the Ulster covenant; September 1939 at the start of World War Two;  November 1963 at the assasination of John F Kennedy; April 1998 at the time of the Belfast Agreement; autumn 2012 after the paper turned 275
Front pages of the Belfast News Letter over the last 280 years. From top left: October 1738, the earliest surviving edition of the paper; December 1854 at the height of the Crimean War; September 1912 at the time of the Ulster covenant; September 1939 at the start of World War Two; November 1963 at the assasination of John F Kennedy; April 1998 at the time of the Belfast Agreement; autumn 2012 after the paper turned 275

The News Letter, which is the oldest English language daily newspaper in the world, turned 280 today.

The paper was probably first published in Belfast on September 6 1737 (the precise date is uncertain).

Alistair Bushe, the current editor of the News Letter, and the latest in a long line of people to have held the post stretching back to the late 1700s when the post first existed. 
In the earliest years there was no editor, just the publisher. Picture By: Arthur Allison Pacemaker

Alistair Bushe, the current editor of the News Letter, and the latest in a long line of people to have held the post stretching back to the late 1700s when the post first existed. In the earliest years there was no editor, just the publisher. Picture By: Arthur Allison Pacemaker

If so, as our research suggests, that first date of publication under the calendar that was used in the early 1700s is equivalent to September 17 in the modern calendar – today.

Alistair Bushe, the editor of the News Letter, said: “We are delighted to reach this landmark, which no other English language daily paper in the world has ever before reached.

“We intend to go on and on, as a daily print edition accompanied by our ever growing digital version.”

Listed below are landmark events the News Letter has reported on over the centuries:

• 1742 Premiere of Handel’s Messiah in Dublin

• 1746 Battle of Culloden, Jacobite rebellion

• 1776 American Declaration of Independence

• 1783 1st manned balloon flight

• 1783 American victory

• 1789 French Revolution

• 1793 Execution of Louis XVI

• 1795 Orange Order founded

• 1798 United Irishmen rebellion, including the execution near News Letter office of its founder Francis Joy’s grandson Henry Joy McCracken

• 1805 Battle of Trafalgar

• 1807 Abolition of slave trade

• 1815 Napoleon loses Waterloo

• 1819 1st transatlantic steamship

• 1825 1st railway, Stockton Darlington

• 1830s 1st photographs

• 1838 Queen Victoria coronation

• 1839 1st Ulster railway: Belfast to Lisburn

• 1840s Irish famine

• 1853-6 Crimean War

• 1858 1st transatlantic telegram

• 1862-5 American civil war

• 1869 Suez canal opens

• 1876 First telephone call

• 1885 First car

• 1903 First flight

• 1912 Titanic sinks

• 1912 Ulster covenant

• 1914 First world war begins

• 1916 Easter Rising; Battle of the Somme

• 1918 Armistice

• 1919 Spanish flu epidemic

• 1921 Northern Ireland created

• 1922 BBC founded

• 1926 General strike

• 1929 Wall Street crash

• 1930 1st cure by penicillin

• 1939 Hitler invades Poland

• 1945 End of World War II

• 1952 Elizabeth II is queen

• 1953 Everest conquered

• 1963 JF Kennedy shot dead

• 1964 Vietnam war begins

• 1968 George Best scores to help ManUtd win European Cup

• 1969 Troubles begin

• 1969 First man on the moon

• 1972 Worst year of Troubles

• 1978 IRA bombs La Mon

• 1981 Hunger strikes

• 1985 Anglo Irish agreement

• 1989 World wide web invented

• 1989 Fall of Berlin Wall

• 1994 IRA ceasefire

• 1994 Loyalist massacre at Loughinisland

• 1997 Death of Princess Diana

• 1998 Belfast Agreement

• 2001 Sep 11 terror attacks on Twin Towers in New York

• 2014 Rory McIlroy wins the Open, his third golf major

• 2016 UK votes to quit EU

• See Morning View, page 44

The story, above, lists major global events that the News Letter reported on over the decades.

In some instances we can only surmise that it did so, because the actual papers from the period are lost.

For example, we can assume that the News Letter reported on Handel’s Messiah when it was premiered in Dublin in 1742, given that the paper in the 1730s was reporting on Handel’s performances in London. But all papers from 1742 are lost so we cannot be sure.

About 900 of the first 1,000 News Letters are lost, from the title’s launch in 1737 to the early 1750s.

A batch of intact News Letters survive from late 1738 to summer of 1739. They give a fascinating glimpse into Ulster life at that time.

It would be thrilling to find some of the many lost News Letters. Perhaps some of them are buried under piles of junk in attics or elsewhere in unknown locations.

For example, when Dobbin Inn in Carrickfergus knocked down a wall during a renovation it discovered a fireplace with an intact News Letter from the 1760s.

On the 275th anniversary of the News Letter, in 2012, we appealed for people to get in touch if they had old News Letters. Many people did, with papers from the 1800s or early 1900s. A handful of people had papers from the late 1700s, but no-one with papers prior to the 1780s.

That means we have made no progress in finding the missing News Letters from the 1750s or before.

Please tell us if you have News Letters from the 1700s. Email ben.lowry@newsletter.co.uk or telephone 028 9089 7713.