Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Irishness, identity and "Three Wee Ulster Lassies"

I see that today's News Letter front page story reports that "Northern Irish", as an option between "Irish" and "British", is rapidly gaining popularity. I'm not so sure about it yet - I first heard it about 10 years ago, around the time of the Belfast Agreement, and I'm still getting used to it. I suppose at least it's an improvement on singular monolithic "Irishness", which as I've blogged before, doesn't really exist anyway.

Even the President of the Republic of Ireland recognises that - but Republican Sinn Fein don't. Below is a clip from YouTube of a 1946 promotional film, which clearly outlines that Northern Ireland is an blend of English, Scottish and Irish.

I have a lovely wee book from 1883 entitled "Three Wee Ulster Lassies - news from our Irish cousins". It's an allegory to help explain the complex Ulster situation to people in Great Britain. Its three characters are Bessie Stronge (the Ulster-Saxon), Jennie Scott (the Ulster-Scot) and Nelly Nolan (the Ulster-Kelt).

Jennie Scott is said to have been "reared on oatmeal and the Shorter Catechism... such were Jennie and her friends. You can see a touch of the grim humour in their face, sarcasm in their lips and eyes, and independence on their brows. They have been taught to aim high, and if you looked at the little girl's face, you might learn that her family mean business and would stand no nonsense".

Later on, Jennie is interviewed:

Q: And what makes you like Scotland?

Jennie: What makes makes me like Scotlan'! Why shouldn't I like Scotlan'! Isn't Scotlan' the lan' o' Knox and Cameron - the land o' psalms and sangs - the country o' the Covenanters wha stood up for their rights, and were afeard o' naebody! That's why I like Scotlan'!

Jennie closes by saying:

I like Irelan' weel enough; but there are so many folk - some running after gentry, some after priests - that my faither says he would rather hae Scotlan', whar "a man's a man for a' that!".

Buy a copy for yourself here on Abebooks.com


John Killian said...

Thank you for clarity on this issue. Here in the Southern US, folks will often say that their heritage is Irish, but don't realize that they are Scot-Irish or even Anglo-Irish.



They say, Mark, that nolstagia ain't what it used to be :0)

I loved thon part in the first film where yer man was fishin' wi'his bowler hat on. No baseball caps lang syne.

Fair fa' ye!