Saturday, October 20, 2007

The Broad Road

Was out last nicht wi' Loughries Historical Society in Newtown, doin a wee talk about King Robert the Bruce. He's probably Scotland's most famous king, who came to the Scottish throne thanks to the achievements of William Wallace (I'm sure you've seen Braveheart!). Bruce's mother owned huge estates in Co Antrim, his wife was the daugher of the Earl of Ulster, and his wee brother Edward became High King of Ireland. Bruce himself hid on Rathlin Island for about 6 months in 1306/1307. Another great Ulster-Scots icon.

Well, Mark Anderson was doin a great quiz showing oul photographs of streets in Newtownards, and the audience had to guess the name of the street. I got ZERO points! I had to explain that, being a country boy, I was at a great disadvantage in a street quiz. Ballyhalbert only has two streets, one along the shore and one that goes inland - even a blind man has a 50/50 chance when doing a Ballyhalbert street quiz!

One of the streets - Francis Street - used to be called "The Broad Road". When the question came up, nobody had a clue, but Jack answered "I don't know where it is, but it leadeth to destruction!" I had a great laugh at this - a quick scriptural quip always tickles me - it was of course a reference to Matthew 7 v 13 "...Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat.."

It is sung about in an old old hillbilly song called "The Downward Road" - the chorus is "oh, the downward road is crowded with the unbelieving souls". Here's a quotation I found online about someone being convicted through the words of that old song:

"...Brother and Sister Ray seemed honest and so earnest in song, prayer, and preaching, I couldn't help admiring them for it. They sang, I remember now after twenty-two years, "Oh, the downward road is crowded with unbelieving souls." My hair would rise when they sang it, for I knew it was the truth and that I was on the road. And then they would pray and tell the Lord that the people were lost and how they wanted to see them saved, and would ask the Lord to convict them of sin.

I could see they were interested in me and I began to feel uneasy. The preaching was of such a nature that any one could understand it, and it brought up my past life and revealed the future so clearly that I decided to seek the Lord at the altar of prayer. The evening I made the decision..."

Here's a scan of an old evangelical tract from the 1970s (from my da's collection) depicting the Broad Road and the Pit of Destruction. I love this old evangelical "folk art" - if you have any similar examples please scan or photograph it and email it to me. I'll upload a few more soon.