Friday, December 19, 2014

Of Ulster: shamrock, rose and thistle

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Glam Psalm - 'Lay Down' by The Strawbs

Back in 6th form (that's the early 1990s) some one of my friends introduced me to 'Lay Down' by The Strawbs, recorded in 1972. It has been in my head all week for some reason, a great tune but I was never able to work out the words. Google has supplied these, which it seems are based on Psalm 23.

By still waters I lay down with the lambs
In pastures green I made peace with my soul
And I cared not for the night
While my guiding star shone bright
By still waters I lay down
I lay down.

Lay down, I lay me down
Lay down, I lay me down
Lay down, I lay me down
For my soul.

At the roadside I took toll of my times
In dirty streets I found peace for my soul
May the merciful be right
Are you ready for the night
At the roadside I lay down
I lay down.

Lay down, I lay me down
Lay down, I lay me down
Lay down, I lay me down
For my soul.

In deep sorrow I took flight with the sun
From mountains high I gained strength for my soul
I proved stronger than the test
When my spirit came to rest
In deep sorrow I lay down
I lay down.

Lay down, I lay me down
Lay down, I lay me down
Lay down, I lay me down
For my soul.

The first single (that's a 45rpm vinyl record) I ever bought was Boney M's Brown Girl in the Ring with Rivers of Babylon on the B-side – bought at a stall in Newtownards Market one Saturday morning when I was about 9. Rivers of Babylon is based on verses 1 - 4 Psalm 137, the great Psalm of exile. Most people forget about the rest of that Psalm.

Steve Earle's acoustic version is great, but it uses the Rastafarian term 'King Alpha' rather than the Biblical term 'LORD'.


From a Kickstarter project last year.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Many Hands: Rebuilding Appalachia

<iframe src="//;portrait=0&amp;color=ffffff" width="640" height="360" frameborder="0" webkitallowfullscreen mozallowfullscreen allowfullscreen></iframe> <p><a href="">Many Hands: Rebuilding Appalachia</a> from <a href="">Citygate Films</a> on <a href="">Vimeo</a>.</p>

Friday, December 12, 2014

The New Jack the Giant Killer, by Mrs Dorothea Lamont of Belfast

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Mrs Lamont kept a 'juvenile school' at Donegall Street at the corner of Commercial Court. She was described by one of her pupils. Thomas McTear. as 'a remarkably fine lady, and a great favourite with children. She wrote amusing books for the young, such as Jack the Giant-killer, etc., and was very entertaining'. Her edition was advertised in the 1842 edition of The Edinburgh Review, and in the 1839 edition of the London Catalogue of Books

Who was Mrs Lamont?  It is likely that she was Dorothea Lamont, the wife of noted United Irishman and Belfast intellectual Aeneas Lamont. Aeneas Lamont had been the typesetter of The Northern Star, and corresponded with George Washington. Aeneas died in 1803 and his widow corresponded with Samuel Thomson, the 'Father of Ulster-Scots Poetry'. A Mrs Lamont of Belfast was a subscriber to Ulster-Scots poet Andrew M'Kenzie's 1810 collection of poems, and in 1818 a volume entitled Poems and Tales in Verse by Mrs Aeneas Lamont was published in London (link here). 

With a bit of research and untangling there could be a brilliant story here - linked to one of the most famous children's books ever written.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

'Thousands have been hacked to pieces'

A report from the Washington Times, 23 November 1894. I cam acros this while looking for something else. Given recent and ongoing atrocities commited by ISIS against Christian communities in the Middle East it is shocking to read of exactly the same things happening 120 years ago.

Armenia Washington Times 23 11 1894

Sunday, December 07, 2014

Lt. Col. John Henry Patterson (1867–1947) - now rests in Israel

Colonel Patterson first Tsavo Lion 631 jpg 800x600 q85 cropPic above from SmithsonianMag.comJohn Henry Patterson

John Henry Patterson was born in Forgney, Ballymahon, County Meath (now Longford), and is sometimes credited with giving the name 'Operation Lion' to the Ulster Gunrunning of 1914. In November Patterson's ashes, and those of his wife, were moved from Los Angeles and were buried by the Israeli government in an official state ceremony near Tel Aviv. Here is Patterson's entry on the Longford At War website.

Described in this article in The Independent as 'The Godfather of the Israeli Army' he had seen service in east Africa, and wrote a book of his adventure there entitled Man Eaters of Tsavo which was published in 1907. In 1996 a movie of the book, entitled The Ghost and the Darkness, starred Val Kilmer as Patterson. Here is a clip, ropey accent and all:

As Quincey Dougan writes here, Patterson (by now a celebrity soldier and author) was head of the West Belfast Ulster Volunteer Force from 1913 onwards - arousing suspicion in the House of Commons that there had been attempts to supply guns to the Ulster Volunteers for at least a year before the eventual Gunrunning night of 24/25 April 1914.

It was 1917 when he took control of a five-battalion Jewish volunteer force called the Jewish Legion within the British Army. As he said himself:

It was a complete change from the command of an Irish Battalion, but the Irishman and the Jew have much in common – temperament, generosity, love of children, devotion to parents, readiness to help those down on their luck, and , be it noted, great personal bravery. These qualities will probably not appear out of place to my readers so far as the Irishman is concerned, but I imagine many will be surprised to hear that they also apply to the Jew.


CHILDHOOD AND PATERNAL ANCESTRY Little is known of Patterson's childhood. It has been suggested that he was born to a maid who worked in the family home. It is said that his father, Henry Patterson, was an Irish Protestant clergyman (presumably Church of Ireland) who had 'intrigued him with Old Testament tales'.

MARRIAGE AND WIFE'S ANCESTRY In 1895 John Henry Patterson married a Belfast woman called Frances Helena Gray, whom he met in India. Her father was William Gray of 6 Mount Charles, Belfast – he was an architect, a member of the Royal Irish Academy and President of the Belfast Field Naturalists' Club. The Grays were Church of Ireland, and Frances had a degree in law - a portrait and biography can be found here. It was also reported in a newspaper of the time that '... the only other woman in Great Britain entitled to add "LL D." to her name is also a native of Belfast. Mrs. Lily Thompson who has applied for a place on the police force of Washington city, is a dress reformer and an athlete'. Late 1800s Belfast as a hotbed of female emancipation is an interesting thought.

In the 2008 biographyThe Seven Lives of Colonel Patterson it says this – '... He had the gift of the gab, a lively sense of humour, a friendly and optimistic nature, and an air of command, reinforced perhaps by the Bible he sometimes carried in one hand and no doubt by the gun he held in the other'. Sadly there is no mention of his time in Ulster in this book.

Patterson was buried in Los Angeles in 1947, and his wife just 6 weeks later -  but he had wanted to be laid to rest with his soldiers in Israel. On 10th November, his birthday, he had his wish fulfilled in a ceremony which was overseen by Benjamin Netanyahu, whose late brother had been named after Patterson.

The surnames Patterson and Gray indicate Scottish ancestry for both John Henry and his wife Frances. This celebrity Ulster Volunteer Force leader, and his Belfast wife, now repose in the land of the original Covenants. Perhaps this is a story which deserves further research.

• Here is a BBC news story about Patterson's legacy


Friday, December 05, 2014

A man can't even go hoking round his ancestors' historic graveyard in peace...

It seems that George Francis Savage-Armstrong's wife, Marie Elizabeth (née Wrixon), accompanied him to ruined Ardkeen Church in the 1880s when he was almost literally digging up his ancestry – and brought her sketchbook with her. When he died he was buried on the other side of the wall with the three arched window openings.

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Wednesday, December 03, 2014

The Ballynahinch Lady who introduced Burns to Ulster?

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Men get all of the glory, at least in most histories until fairly recent times. I recently came into posession of a 1787 Edinburgh edition of Burns, the second edition in the world (Belfast was the third edition, later that same year – however, it was a 'bootleg' edition – the London edition formally claimed the title of being the third edition on its own title page). In an early form of 'crowdsourcing', people would place advance orders with the printer, and their names would appear in the eventual book as a subscribers list. In this Edinburgh edition there is just one name which is identifiably from Ireland - the Countess of Moira. Her address is given as 'Montalta, Ireland' - which is of course Montalto House in Ballynahinch.

Elizabeth rawdon hastings large 1Elizabeth Rawdon (1731–1808) had been born in England, had multiple titles, but came to Ulster in 1752 when she married John Rawdon, the 1st Earl of Moira, becoming his third wife. She was a literary patron and antiquarian. She ordered 6 copies of Burns' second edition.

11 years later in 1798, the Battle of Ballynahinch took place at Windmill Hill which (from memory) is within the grounds of or certainly very close to Montalto estate. Presumably the Countess watched from the safety of the big house, possibly reading one of her 1787 Burns volumes, probably struggling with unfamiliar vocabulary, while the muskets cracked, pikes clashed and blood flowed a few fields away. Earlier this year the estate hosted a Country Fair which included a re-enactment of the battle.

Others more knowledgable than I will know whether this is the first confirmed link between Burns and Ulster. The subscribers list shows just how much the 'Ploughman Poet' was admired, and supported, by the gentry. In the 1600s, George Rawdon was one of the most notorious opponents and persecutors of the Ulster-Scots Presbyterians.

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19 The last image is of the Country Fair & battle re-enactment publicity, and is from this website.