Thursday, October 16, 2014

Ulster for your Holidays, 1925

This, as far as I can ascertain, is the first-ever poster advertising Ulster as a tourist destination. I have been collecting this type of stuff for about 20 years and have now got an almost complete set of the annual books which the Ulster Tourist Development Association (UTDA) published. That's a bit geeky and sad, but having worked in advertising and design for that same amount of time, it's interesting to me to consider how images were crafted, and how that developed over the decades. I'll not reveal too much though as this will be on tv sometime soon - my thanks to the individual who shall remain nameless who asked me to get involved, and for the fresh insights that person brought to me as well.

It definitely looks like the UTDA blew the marketing budget on the beautiful colour poster campaign (to attract attention) and then scrimped on the follow-up book - two spot colours on the cover and 136 black and white text pages.

Each county gets a chapter, and then there are sections on Angling, Golf, Bowls, Tennis, Winter Pastimes (football, rugby, hockey, coursing, billiards, boxing, lacrosse and hunting). Motoring and Motor Cycling, Swimming and Aquatics, Yachting and Cricket. Photographs are limited, but maybe reprographic quality back then was an issue.

The editorial slant taken in the book is not what one might expect from the post-Partition era - although it's a bit of a stretch when the Foreword by UTDA Organizing Secretary Ernest Patton compares Ulster with 'Switzerland and Italy, the lure of the Riviera and the beauty of Chamonix' and that Ulster is 'the world's premier pleasure and health resort'. I can see no mention of our current obsession, the Titanic. Funny that.

You could analyse these images forever, and how they were intended to counter the news reports of street violence which were being carried around the world. A newspaper report from 1925 entitled 'Pleasure Province' said 'it is unfortunately too true that for many years now Ireland has been practically a forbidden land to the holiday maker, so uncertain have been the conditions of life and travel therein'.

(The UTDA was founded in 1924 is said to have been masterminded by a Belfast solicitor called Robert Bailie. Almost immediately the LMS Railway bought new trains to service the additional demand it expected for GB visitors wanting to visit NI.)

30813086 1 l

1925 Ulster brochure

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

James McGranahan in Glasgow, 1880s - "noo the hale hoose is like a kirk!"

'.... A touching narrative is related by a worker at the Evangelistic Services held in Glasgow by Major Whittle and Mr. James McGranahan, reminiscent of those stirring days in the early eighties. The hymn which wrought so great an impression, as recorded in the following incident, was written by Ellen M. H. Gates. Here is the first verse :

"Oh, the clanging bells of Time!
Night and day they never cease ;
We are wearied with their chime,
For they do not bring us peace ;
And we hush our breath to hear,
And we strain our eyes to see,
If thy shores are drawing near :
Eternity! Eternity!"

The narrator observed in Bethany Hall, one Lord's Day evening, an old fellow-workman of his. Knowing that he had been a very irreligious man, he determined to call at the workshop to have a word with his old mate. A day to two later when he called upon John, he soon found that something was working in his mind altogether different from the old things.

"Look here," said John, "I didna think there was muckle truth in religion, but I'm a wee bit staggered aboot it jist noo!"

"I was glad to see you in the Hall," said his friend; "but tell me what has staggered you."

"Weel, ye see, I've a sister, ye ken, an' a wee while ago she was hearing aboot the meetin's in Bethany Hall. So somehow she an' her companion jist like herself, but gey fond o' singin' gaed to the meetin'. Aweel, when she cam' hame, she jist put past her things, an' sat doon by the fire, nae speakin' a word. Syne, the wife noticed her een were fu' o' tears. ' What's the maitter, Aggie ? ' Nae answer. 'Gang tae bed, there's a guid lass ; ye'll hae to be up sune the morn'.

The tears cam' faster.

'Oh, Mary, I canna, I canna gang to bed. I've been hearin' a hymn the nicht I'll niver forget.  Oh, I seem to hear the sound o' bells from somewhere, callin' "Eternity ! Eternity ! " Oh, I'm gaun into ETERNITY ; an' oh, how dark it is jist noo! Gang to my bed ! Na ; I'll gang to my knees.'

An' so she did.

"The wife tauld me this," continued John, " an I gaed ben awhile, but I only glowered at her. Weel, the next night she gaed again, an' she sune came hame wi' her companion, an' they baith seemed sae glad, sae happy the gither, an' talked aboot "I am the Door ; by Me if any man enter in he shall be saved." They declared they had entered in.

Anyhow, they were happy. Next nicht the wife gaed tae, an' noo the hale hoose is like a kirk ! I've been gaun, an' I want tae ken mair aboot these things ; so I an' Wullie here, are comin' on Sabbath nicht, an' Aggie an' some mair o' her companions ; an' mither an' me would like tae hear that song Aggie heard." ...'

- from The Romance of Sacred Song, David J Beattie (Carlisle, 1931). Mr Beattie was an avid researcher of hymn writers, and published a series of books about hymns. His family still live in the Carlisle area and have contacted me a few times over the years.

James McGranahan (1840 - 1907) was born in Adamsville, Pennsylvania, but his grandfather grew up near Belfast man and later emigrated to America. McGranahan was a close friend of Ira D Sankey and like Sankey was a world-famous song leader at large evangelistic rallies, as well as a noted hymnwriter and hymn tune composer. In the early 1900s there was a Presbyterian minister in Ulster who shared his name.

Thursday, October 09, 2014

Oor Wullie and the National Library of Scotland - new schools website (for weans tae lairn Scots)

Oor Wullie Blog

I remember having this idea nearly 10 years ago (March 2006 to be precise) but the people tasked with trying to get it off the ground didn't get beyond a first meeting. Like many Ulster-Scots folk, I grew up with Oor Wullie and the Broons annuals every Christmas (turn about). Some of the words I didn't completely understand as they are in 'Scottish-Scots' but I was able to follow the majority of it. 

This new website is a collaboration to bring Scots language into the classroom. Braw.

Tuesday, October 07, 2014

The Importance of establishing family traditions

 Click here for a very interesting piece on


Saturday, October 04, 2014

The United Scotsmen - The Trials of James Patterson and David Black, 1798

For all the talk there is on this side of the water about the United Irishmen and their brief Rebellion of 1798 (often romanticised, and even propagandised, but not well understood) there is little or no talk about the United Scotsmen.

On 20 September 1798 the court in Perth heard the trials of two United Scotsmen - James Patterson and David Black, both from Dunfermline. The account of their trial can be read here.

' the course of the years 1796 and 1979, a number of seditious and evil disposed persons did, in different parts of Scotland, and particularly in the county of Fife, form themselves into a secret and illegal association, denominated "The Society of United Scotsmen"... the election of a National Committee of a Secret Committee consisting of seven members...'

Patterson and Black were accused of taking the secret oath of the United Scotsmen at some point in 1797 and of then administering the oath to others from August to October of the same year. In November and December they organised meetings in the houses of various people - John Nicol, Isobel Moutry, James Wilson, James Ritchie, James Henderson and Andrew Rutherford, and up until June of 1798 they distributed pamphlets such as 'The Rights of Man' by Thomas Paine and their own 'Resolution and Constitution of the Society of United Scotsmen'. They tried to persuade a soldier, Henry Keys of the West Lowland Fencibles, to join their cause. 

In denying the charges, Black said he had been directed to a house meeting being conducted by a man from Ireland, who refused to identify himself, but who had sympathisers in Glasgow. He claimed that 'some persons from Ireland were the original founders of the Society of United Scotsmen' - and that their secret means of communication with one another was to put a pin in the left sleeve of their coats, upside-down. There was also a handshake which involved 'clasping the hands together, by intersecting the fingers'.

Patterson was found guilty and sentenced to be 'transported beyond seas', and to be executed if he ever came back to any part of Great Britain.


The same document gives an account of the trial in Edinburgh of another United Scotsman, George Mealmaker of Dundee.


I have posted some articles about the United Scotsmen here over the years. Elaine McFarland's 1994 book 'Ireland and Scotland in the Age of Revolution' is an eye-opener and a refreshing change from 'Hibernocentric' accounts of the period, giving exhaustive details of the interconnections across the water. And William Steele Dickson's Narrative is essential reading, his first-hand account of his involvement when minister of Glastry and Portaferry, and his own role in forging the links with Scotland. You'll also find a contemporary organisation called the United Englishmen.

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Multicultural Ulster, 1948

"... The north-east corner of Ireland has produced men in the front rank out of all proportions to her numbers" ; and a plausible explanation, says Dr. Murray, is the cross-fertilisation of cultures. Many strains find conflux in Belfast character - Irish, Scottish, French, Huguenot and German. All have fused, evolving a distinct type ; independent, sturdy, pushful and, above all, determined..."

– from Ulster for Your Holiday (1948)

Monday, September 29, 2014

Midland & Scottish Air Ferries advert, 1934 (Ulster - the central link)

This was the first airline in Scotland, founded in 1933. In 1934 it was advertising Ulster as a 'Mecca of Tourists and Holidaymakers... a land of lilting mountains, bewitching lowlands and rugged coastal scenery'. Seemingly Ulster was chosen as a 'hub' for the company's services between Scotland and England. It used Aldergrove as its Belfast airport. The fares in 1933 from Belfast to Glasgow were £2 single, and £3 10s return. 

The Scottish Screen Archive website has a clip from a silent movie from 1933 of a Midland & Scottish flight to Belfast from Renfrew. It'd be interesting to see the whole film. Click here

Midland  Scottish 1934 640

Northern & Scottish Airways advert, 1937

Fly with Northern and Scottish Airways Ltd. Direct from Newtownards to Glasgow in 60 minutes, Campbeltown in 30 minutes, with connections on to the Western Isles. Baggage allowance was 33lbs (15 kilos) per passenger, price was 40/- single or 60/- return. Flights on Sundays except to the Western Isles. The company was founded in 1934 by George Nicholson - there is a Northern & Scottish Airways collection in Glasgow Museum. The company became Scottish Airways later in 1937.


Northern  Scottish 1937 640