Thursday, July 10, 2008

The Real McCoy

I was invited to speak in Portavogie Community Association on Tuesday night on an Ulster-Scots subject of my choosing. So, true to form, I opted for Hamilton & Montgomery.

I've delivered versions of that talk in nearly 30 places across Ulster (NI and RoI), but this was only the second time in the Ards Peninsula, which was the epicentre of the Hamilton & Montgomery settlement of 1606.

(For the US readers of this blog, the Scots arrived in large numbers in Ulster starting in May 1606 - the English began to arrive at Jamestown exactly one year later in May 1607, and the two projects were deeply connected - visit for more background info)

There were nearly 50 people out, and I spoke for about 45 minutes. I knew a good few of them, mostly familiar faces from our rural Ulster-Scots community. My friend and neighbour John Adair was there (Stephen - you can tell him he's now been mentioned on my blog!), David McKee from Kirkistown Pipe Band, Wullie Palmer the local mechanic, Emma Graham, Bert McMaster, the Birches from Bishopmills, Hilary Donnan - all good down-to-earth local folk. Probably all descended from Scottish settlers, maybe even the original people that came with Hamilton & Montgomery. They told me they enjoyed the talk, especially when I showed them the 1625 Thomas Raven map of Hamilton's settlement at Portavogie, along with the rabbits on the Warren (it's still called that even today).

What was refreshing was that in the middle of all the bureaucracy, the Irish News and BBC Radio Ulster "Talkback" hype and nonsense and attacks on Ulster-Scots, the ongoing need to justify the existence and validity of Ulster-Scots to the chattering classes - these folk in Portavogie need no convincing. And when I explained that in other places some audiences need to be convinced of Ulster-Scots, they thought that was ludicrous!

These people ARE Ulster-Scots, as are similar communities across Co Down, Co Antrim and other places too. I'm glad to see the folks in Portavogie improving their 12th calendar this year with simple but good quality events, a historical photographic exhibition in the Orange Hall. I hope it grows into something regular - not bigger, just regular. Because big usually becomes trivial and gimmicky; small is authentic. The community is where the real Ulster-Scots exists.

Pray for sunshine on the 12th and Portavogie will be buzzing! The picture below, from the Portavogie 12th of 1935, shows that the locals have never lacked creativity or imagination!

Portavogie Band 1935 Jubilee or1937 Coronation R.jpg


John Killian said...

Thanks for the link. Wish I could hear your speech. Thanks also for your work in keeping alive the awareness of our wonderful Ulster-Scot heritage.
No Surrender!

Stephen Jamison said...

Mark was relly annoyed that I did,nt get down on Tuesday Night. Heard it was a great evening and perhaps I will hear you again sometime.My only memory of being 12years of age is standing in Portavogie on the Twelfth day 1972 getting soaked to the skin! SURELY NOT AGAIN!
Stephen J.