Friday, August 31, 2007

Website Stats

The Internet is an amazing thing. I've just had a look at our website stats for the last month. Absolutely incredible!:

• 4660 unique users visited the site during August
• the average this year is 2,502 people per month
• Shall We Gather at the River is the top download (363 times since it was put on the site in mid-June)
• Most people visit the home page, then free mp3s, then buy cds, then dates

I know that the site only gets just over 5,000 visitors per month, so the LCB site must be doing ok!

Brian - part 2

Brian died at 4.00am this morning. Funeral will be on Sunday afternoon.

"For how do you know, but your soul may be drifting
Over the deadline tonight..."

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Have A KitKat

It's the second half of an old advertising slogan, and the first half is of course "Have A Break".

Time for a wee announcement. I've been thinking hard over (at least) the past year that I need to take a break from playing live concerts with the LCBs. There have been many weekends over the past 4 or 5 years when I haven't spent enough time with Hilary and the weans. Travelling the length and breadth of the country is hard work - for my family as much as for me. So I have decided to take all of 2008 off from playing concerts with the LCBs. (I will be playing at all of our remaining bookings this year).

There hasn't been a fallout, there are no problems, it's just time for me to take a breather, to dig up some mair oul songs, to learn to play better and most importantly to put my family first for a change. They have made many sacrifices for me, now it's time for me to return the favour.

Jacob (9), Charlie (4 1/2 - with his first day of school in the morning!) and Maggie Jane (2 1/2) take mair lookin after these days! So my need to spend more time with my "Bairns an Hame" means that - ironically - "Sangs O Bairns an Hame" Vol 2 won't be recorded for the foreseeable future. You'll hiddae fin some ither Christmas present!

I told the Boys about a month ago, and they are planning to carry on in my absence. I'm sure they'll make a great job of it.

Pray for them as they keep the torch burning!

As for me, the next wee while will be a case of "Brighten the Corner Where You Are".

Wednesday, August 29, 2007


My friend Brian is going to die in the next few hours.

I got a call this morning to go to Letterkenny General Hospital to see him. 3 hours drive there and the same back again. When I got there he was hardly conscious, only able to acknowledge visitors with the occasional flicker of the eyelids. He will leave a wife and seven year old son. It's very, very sad.

To the best of my knowledge (ie up until a few weeks ago), Brian rejected any form of personal faith, let alone a saving faith in Christ alone. However his wife Terri told me this afternoon that for the last few days he had been trying to talk to her, through his sedation, about "God" and "Heaven". He was brought up in the red brick streets and mission halls of Woodvale in Belfast. We can just hope and pray - I'm asking you to do so.

He has requested that I say a few words at his funeral. It'll be tough going, especially as I have no sense of certainty about his spiritual condition. I've often felt critical of graveside eulogies, but now it's on my shoulders I feel a bit different.

Brian always wanted to make a film about the mission halls. He wanted to put a single camera on a fixed tripod and film the individual members singing their favourite hymn or chorus. We often talked about the wee choruses we both grew up on. Here's one that seems very apt:

"...Away, far beyond Jordan
We'll meet in that Land
Oh won't it be grand?
Away, far beyond Jordan
We'll meet in that beautiful Land

If you get there before I do
Look out for me, for I'm coming too
Away, far beyond Jordan
We'll meet in that beautiful Land.."

Brian is 45. His wee boy will be 8 in the next few days. No matter how long we live, none of us are here for very long. Here's anither great sang:

"...There is coming a day when no heartaches shall come
No more clouds in the sky, no more tears to dim the eye.
All is peace forevermore on that happy golden shore,
What a day, glorious day that will be..."

(Illustration of the Heavens taken from Rev Clarence Larkin's famous series)

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Hamilton & Montgomery - the Founding Fathers of the Ulster Scots

While I was in Washington, I bought a book called "A History of Ireland" by Peter and Fiona Somerset Fry. I was delighted to see the following (brief) account of my two favourite Scots - James Hamilton and Hugh Montgomery - and their settlement of east Ulster which began in May 1606. (it only cost me $7.98 - that's the sort of book bargain that Colin Maxwell is famous for!)

"...(King) James also gave his support to two Scottish adventurers, Hugh Montgomery and Sir James Hamilton, who were busily engaged in private colonization schemes in south Antrim, north Down and the Ards. The country around Belfast was almost uninhabited when they took over; in the campaigns of 1602 and 1603 Chichester had, by his own admission, killed all the Irish he came across, irrespective of sex or rank. There was no-one left to remove; and when the two Scots acquired the greater part of the O'Neill estates at Clandeboy, in Down, they were able to offer leaseholds of untrammelled wilderness to their Lowland Scottish countrymen, whom they brought over in large numbers. Both Hamilton and Montgomery were capable, energetic and on the spot; brilliant organizers who rebuilt old towns, founded new ones, established markets, built mills and harbours and set up industries. Within a generation, Scottish settlers had transformed Antrim and Down with their prosperous, peaceful and God-fearing settlements..."

I took a bit of stick during 2006 for over-emphasising the importance of Hamilton and Montgomery's achievements. Their story has for generations been completely ignored, and is often left out of mainstream Irish/Scottish/Ulster history books.

So it's a real boost to see them included in "A History of Ireland", and in the sort of glowing terms that even I might not have had the confidence to write!!

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Alexander Peden, Prophet of the Covenant

I'm currently gathering up lots of oul books about the Covenanters - I think we as a people need to rediscover their story.

This evening my friend David Gordon took me to see the monument to Alexander Peden at Glenwherry, County Antrim. Peden was one of the most renowned figures in the Covenanter movement during the 1600s in Scotland. He fled to Ulster for about 5 years during the "Killing Times".

The monument is on the roadside of Douglas Road, at the front of a wee farmstead called "Misty Burn" where Peden is said to have lived. It is impressive in its simplicity, a stone pulpit with a blue plaque on it. David is to email me a wheen o photos o it, which I'll post here yince I get them.

Here's a photo of Peden's cup, and one of his mask. Peden and the Covenanters are yet another Ayrshire/Ulster link, with a solid foundation of faith and the gospel.

When I was a wee nipper my parents took us over to Scotland and we visited the Wigtown Martyrs memorial. Powerful and impressive stuff.

Faith is at the heart of our Ulster-Scots history - shame on us if we should ever forget that.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Shall We Gather At The River

The Grand Orange Lodge of Ireland / Ulster Scots Agency CD was launched this afternoon. Copies are available free frae baith organisations. 14 sangs an yin o' oors forbye - "Shall We Gather At The River" - which has been available as a free download on oor ain website for a while already.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

A Quair Pair

What about this!!

New format

Blogger have asked me to update my template, so you'll see that things look a wee bit different than normal. However I've now mastered adding photos, and will also be adding some links to the "Ither Folk's Blogs" section - suggestions or requests are welcome!

Monday, August 20, 2007

Songs of Victory

Another oul hymn book story.

I bought a copy of "Songs of Victory" years ago in Causeway Books in Bushmills. It's a wee blue/green paperback. Like "Redemption Songs" it was published by Pickering & Inglis and has no date. I'd guess by the style of the typesetting it's probably 1920s/1930s again.

I tend to buy books, set them on the shelf, and then "rediscover" them some time later. Well, just after our second CD "Sangs O Bairns an Hame" came out, I picked up "Songs of Victory" to have a closer look at it. Well...

It had been owned by M Peacock, Moat Road, Ballymena. But the best bit was the inside back cover - there was a list of Sunday School choruses written in faint pencil, in that graceful handwriting that today's generation could never achieve.

In the list of maybe 15 or 20 choruses were 2 that we had just recorded! They are "Jesus Is My Heart's Fond Love" and "Come Awa the Noo My Freens".

The others are:

- He is a Friend of Mine
- Although the Sky be Dark
- Joy Bells Ringing in My Heart
- Joy Bells Ringing in My Soul Today
- I am Going Home To G.L.O.R.Y.
- He's the One I Love At Morning
- Carry Your Bible With You
- God Has Blotted Them Out
- Blotted Out, Blotted Out
- I'm Living On The Mountain
- Wide Wide as the Ocean
- Jesus, Jesus, Jesus, Sweetest Name i Know
- For I'm So Happy, So Very Happy
- Walking With Jesus By His Side I Stay
- I Have A Friend Who Loves Me
- Why Not, Why Not
- J.E.S.U.S. Yes Jesus is My Friend

80-odd years ago there was a wee Sunday School in Ballymena singin their hearts out to choruses which are mostly now long-forgotten. But a wheen o them hae stood the test o time!

So, as usual, we're no daein ocht new ava - it's aa oul. "'Tis old, yet ever new..."

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Redemption Songs

Looking for a wee bit of help. Do any of you know when the hymn book Redemption Songs was first published, or do you know anything about its history?

I have a very oul copy of the music edition that looks to me to have been printed in the 1920s, and is dated March 1929 in the handwriting of a previous owner.

But this one might not be the first edition! The publishers - Pickering and Inglis - seem to have closed down years ago as they don't have a website. Any help much obliged.

Monday, August 06, 2007

2 T-Shirts left! if you want yin, let me know quick!