Saturday, July 25, 2015

Confederate Hero: Colonel John Spencer Fairly of Eglinton

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'…Headin' down South to the land of the pines
Thumbin' my way into North Caroline…'
- from Wagon Wheel by Old Crow Medicine Show (and covered by countless others including Darius Rucker, above)


In recent weeks (due to the global reach of the media and the internet) the furore over the Confederate battle flag has reached Northern Ireland, where in at least one incident some moron(s) decided to fly it outside the home of a black family in East Belfast in an act of racist intimidation.

The furore has been sparked by the horrific slaughter of nine people at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church  in Charleston, South Carolina, by 21-year-old extremist Dylann Roof – who prior to the murders had posed with a collection of flags, one of which was the Confederate battle flag. Almost immediately a campaign against the use of the flag began, denouncing it as a racist emblem and a symbol of hate. That's the only reason it appeared a few days later in east Belfast. The murders had obvious echoes of the three murders in 1983 by a group operating under the name 'Catholic Reaction Force' (thought to be a cover name for the INLA) at Mountain Lodge Pentecostal Church in Darkley, South Armagh – a church I know and where my brother and I have played a few times. I have seen the bulletholes and have talked with scarred survivors. The forgiveness evident in both congregations is inspirational.

I've been to the Southern States on three occasions (first in 1997 on a 3 week honeymoon road trip) travelling through Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky (a divided state during the Civil War), Georgia and the Carolinas. I bought various souvenir items, including various Confederate flags and imagery from roadside gift shops. I have a cousin in Alabama. Regular readers of this blog live all over the USA including the Southern States. I am no expert on the region, but I have talked with people in those states who treasure their regional heritage, their state's identity, their Confederate history, who feel very detached from Washington DC – and who are not in any way racist.

Prominent people across the US immediately began to call for the removal of the flag from public buildings, from private property, and even from the graves of Confederate war veterans. In one extreme case, the bones of a Confederate General Nathan Forrest were proposed to be exhumed from his grave in Memphis – an act reminiscent of the 'Killing Times' of 17th Century Scotland. 

According to this article in The Economist, the population of the South is growing fast, so it can't be all that bad after all. It has also been long-observed that metropolitan America has made the rural South a scapegoat for generations, distracting from social problems elsewhere across the nation. This article, based on recent social media activity and Google searches, shows that racism is in no way confined to the South, or to former Confederate states. It's nationwide, North and South. 

Here in Northern Ireland we understand the power of symbols and flags, but we (should) also know that the actions of an individual, a tiny minority, or even a terrorist/paramilitary organisation does not represent an entire community, region, country or nation. The mis-use or appropriation of the United Kingdom flag, the Northern Ireland flag or the Irish tricolour flag is a frequent occurrence here.

As in Northern Ireland, it is easy to create the appearance of 'action' by targetting symbols and imagery rather than dealing with the actual issues. A high profile political, media and PR campaign is easier to orchestrate than the hard work of actual change.  A good explanation of the complexities of the whole story are well outlined here in an article entitled 'Scapegoating Symbols will not resolve Racial America'.


Ft Sumter in battle 530 wide

The Confederate and Charleston connection reminded me of an Ulsterman who claimed to have been present when the first shots of the American Civil War were fired, and who was present when the end of the War was agreed between the opposing Generals Lee and Sherman.

Colonel John Spencer Fairly (1832–1898) was born in Eglinton, County Londonderry. His father was Robert Fairly, the three-times Mayor of Derry in 1769, 1770 and 1782. Robert was son of David Fairly, Donnybrewer Lodge, whose father had been Rev David Fairly, the Presbyterian minister of Convoy and Raphoe for a reputed 65 years from 1711 – 1776). Colonel Fairly's mother was Sarah Huey (daughter of William Huey of Flowerfield House, near Muff just north of Londonderry).

Colonel Fairly said that he had been the commander of gun no. 3 in the remarkable floating "Iron Battery" on the attack on Fort Sumter on 13 April 1861, the first engagement of the Civil War (pictured above). However other sources say he enlisted six weeks later in June 1861 to a Captain Screven's company of horse. Promoted to lieutenant in November 1862, Fairly became aid-de-camp to General WHC Whiting, often acting as his scout. When Whiting was killed at Fort Fisher in March 1865, Fairly was reassigned to the staff of General Wade Hampton until the end of the war, eventually becoming lieutenant colonel. Fairly was present when General Hampton and General Robert E Lee met with General Sherman of the Union Army at Durham, North Carolina, when the three Generals signed the 'Memorandum of Agreement' on 18 April 1865 which effectively ended the war. (See here for a description of an inscribed revolver which was given to Fairly by General J. E. Johnston, on behalf of Hampton, that same day). 

Fairly Revolver

Fairly is known to have settled in Charleston after the war. He died at Wilmington, North Carolina, in August 1898, his obituary describing him as a 'gallant Confederate soldier" and "a prominent figure in the commercial life of Charleston, South Carolina", initially in wholesale, then railroads and also the production of cotton seed oil.

Fairly joined the Scotch-Irish Society of the USA in 1892, aged 60, 27 years after the end of the War. The claim of his involvement in the Iron Battery appears in his self-penned biographical notes. If true (and there's little reason to think he made up his story, which would have brought easy scrutiny and widespread ridicule) this places him at both the event which started the War and the event which ended the War. Founded in 1889, the Society's published Proceedings show a determined effort to acknowledge the wartime courage of the people of both North and South. 

His brother, Lt. Col. William H Fairly, was a Confederate army courier and was killed at the Battle of Trevilian Station in Virginia. It was the largest all-cavalry battle of the war, taking place in June 1864.

I wonder how Fairly's Ulster Presbyterian family took the news that he had become Episcopalian! He was a member of St Philip's Episcopal Church in Charleston, a congregation which stood in solidarity with the city's grieving Emanuel AME Church in the aftermath of the Dylann Roof murders.


"People groups" are too simple. Not everyone who is a proud Southerner is a racist. It is far too simplistic, and possibly a grotesque smear, to suggest that everyone in any "people group" thinks and behaves the same way. Every nation's flag can be interpreted as either honourable or dishonourable. Men from every tradition in Ireland fought on both sides of the "War Between the States".

When in Kentucky in 1997 we stayed at Boone Tavern in the college town of Berea. The College was the first racially integrated educational establishment in the South, founded in 1855 by an Irishman and his Scotch-Irish wife. To this day, the motto of the College comes from the New Testament –

"And hath made of one blood all nations of men for to dwell on all the face of the earth" – Acts 17:26.


PS – If any readers know more about Fairly I would be delighted to hear from you. As this 1889 pamphlet shows, he was anti-slavery, but given his other theories therein I doubt very much that he was a paragon of virtue, or that his late 1800s attitudes will be consistent with ours in the present day. Nevertheless he seems like an interesting, but forgotten, figure.

His retail premises in Charleston are shown below.



Saturday, July 11, 2015

Voddie Baucham-"The Rescuer"

Friday, July 10, 2015

Voddie Baucham in Northern Ireland in August

American Reformed Baptist pastor Voddie Baucham is back in NI during August. Details on his website are sketchy just now – Belfast, Strandtown, Bangor, Enniskillen and also Letterkenny in Donegal. His background and personal story are available here,  which includes postgrad study at Oxford. He has been in NI on a number of occasions before. He las lots of videos available online and, in an age when race is a dividing issue, preaches the Gospel for all people and to all people with power and vigour. The Gospel Coalition publish some of his articles here, and SermonAudio hosts a lot of his regular preaching here. He is due to relocate from the USA to Africa later this year

Monday, June 29, 2015

Hedley Murphy's 'Ulster-Scottish' evangelism crusade, Garvagh, 1969


My mother became a Christian / was saved / came to faith (whatever the term is these days) in 1963, aged 17, during a mission being held in Donaghadee Orange & Protestant Hall, through the preaching of well-known evangelist Hedley Murphy. Built in 1912, sadly the hall was burned in 2006, in an arson attack. A friend recently showed me this YouTube footage of Hedley's 'Ulster-Scottish' campaign of 1969. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Battle of Waterloo 200 - and Samuel Gillespie of Kircubbin

The 200th anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo is today (see website here).

A Samuel Gillespie of Inishargy near Kircubbin fought in it. He had been born on 4th March 1796 so was just 2 years old when the 1798 Rebellion took place - and therefore just 17 when he fought at Waterloo. He survived Waterloo and came home, eventually dying on 17 July 1875. He was buried at Kircubbin Presbyterian Church. I have tried a few times to locate his gravestone, but it seems to not be there any more. The inscription once read:

Erected by Sergt S Gillespie in memory of his beloved wife Margaret Gillespie, born 6th Decr 1798, died 12th Decr 1861 Here also lie the remains of the above named Sergt S Gillespie, born 4th March 1796, died 12th July 187[ ].

The Griffiths Valuation for Inishargy lists Samuel Gillespie and also Thomas Gillespie - Samuel had just over an acre of land. James Heaney of Kircubbin leased Samuel's land and house in 1863.

Here is an amazing story of Peter McMullen, a weaver from Downpatrick, who also fought at Waterloo. His pregnant wife Elizabeth was also on the battlefield - she was shot in the leg - and her husband eventually lost both of his arms

The Regimental Museum at Enniskillen Castle has what is regarded as the finest display of Waterloo medals.

"That regiment with castles on their caps is composed of the most obstinate mules I ever saw; they don't know when they are beaten," – Napoleon.

"They saved the centre of my line at Waterloo." – Duke of Wellington

Sunday, June 14, 2015

The Milhollands and the NAACP


In a bizarre story which broke the other day, Rachel Dolezal, the President of a branch of the NAACP (National Association for the Advancement of Colored People - website here) is actually white. That's not really a big deal, as the organisation was founded by white people. The issue is that she has been pretending to be black, and has got away with it for years. Her family has just recently exposed her chirade.

The scandal reminded me of John Elmer Milholland (1860 – 1925). He was the organisation's first Treasurer. His father, John Milholland (1819 – 1895) was an Ulsterman (believed to have been born at Tamlaghtduff / Tamladuff near Bellaghy)  who arrived in America in the 1840s to become a farmer at Lewis in New York State. The 1831 Census has many Mulhollands in the area. John Sr's father was a Protestant and his mother Catholic, with more of the relatives in the area Catholics. John Sr is known to have gone to Scotland for work during harvest season, a common practice well into the 20th century.

After a fire killed his wife and daughter, John Milholland Sr sailed back across the Atlantic with his son and came to Tamlaghtduff for two years. The family have been described as 'Scotch Irish American ... staunch Presbyterian'. (source here).

Returning to the USA, John E became a newspaperman, Editor of the New York Tribune (owned by Whitelaw Reid, and Milholland is said to have assisted Reid's political campaigns) and later set up a pneumatic underground mail tube system in New York, and did the same in Philadelphia - securing lucrative contracts with the US Mail. He married Scotswoman Jean Torry who was then living in New Jersey. Eventually he was so wealthy that he bought a property in London near Kensington Palace.

He was described as "the last of the Lincoln Republicans" and in 1905 published The Negro and the Nation. He campaigned for racial and social reform, founding the Constitution League. He found himself opposing fellow Scotch-irish Presbyterian, President Woodrow Wilson, and lost the US Mail contract in the aftermath.

He maintained an interest in Irish politics, and was pro-Home Rule (see page 31 here) but seemingly prone to a newspaper man's hyperbole, claiming that Edward Carson had a personal audience with the Kaiser in order to arm the Ulster Volunteer Force.

His daughter Inez inherited his political passion, and was a leading Suffragette, but she seems to have spent much of the family's fortune. Inez died young, and when John E died he left only his property "Meadowbank" and "a few worthless bonds". Another daughter, Veda, was an opera singer and had an Irish Setter dog called Derry. 

• Further reading: The Life and Times of Inez Milholland

• Miholland's NAACP colleague Moorfield Storey had opinions on Ireland too. Here is a 1919 article in the Spectator archive which is interesting, as much for the editor's comments at the end.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

217 years ago

... the predominantly Presbyterian "United Irishmen' of the Ards Peninsula attacked the Market House in Newtownards, on the night of 9–10 June, known as 'Pike Sunday'. A similar attack was launched on Portaferry Market House.

A Ballywalter man called William Wallace was in the thick of it. Fellow Ballywalter men William Stuart, James Kain, and brothers Hugh and David Maxwell were killed in the fray, and their gravestones can be seen today at old Whitechurch graveyard - surrounding the old Anglo-Norman church ruins which Sir James Hamilton had restored in the 1620s, and which had been the scene of the public signing of the Solemn League & Covenant in 1644, an event led by Hamilton's nephew and namesake Rev James Hamilton.

As the photos here show, both buildings still stand today and have changed little over the centuries. SR Keightley's 1903 novel The Pikemen, A Romance of the Ards of Down has a chapter entitled "The Prison at Newtownards" - a cell which can still be seen today in the Market House, which is now the Ards Arts Centre. The book has a good smattering of authentic Ulster-Scots speech for some of the characters.

I plan to head south to Enniscorthy in Wexford some time soon to visit the 1798 Rebellion Visitor Centre, in particular to see how the story of the Northern risings in Antrim and Down is told.

Here is an account from the Northern Star on activities in our area here, Ballyhalbert and Portavogie, from just over a year before in April 1797.

Portaferry Market House would make a fine "1798 in Ulster" interpretive centre!

(Harry Allen's 2004 book The Men of the Ards is an outstanding account of the local events of 1798)

"The Ards with its peculiar dialect is rich with anecdotes ... 'by my saul, gin they dinna ca' that a ratrate they may gang tae Hell for ane..." – from Ulster in '98, Episodes and Anecdotes.