Wednesday, May 26, 2010

The kirks and braes o' Killyleagh (and the media and museums of course)

(NB: If you're reading this on Facebook, you can read this post in full on my blog)

Whilst Northern Ireland's suburban media élite have once again spent their day ridiculing Ulster-Scots, I was in Killinchy and Killyleagh, visiting some local, historically-important, churches. I'll not mention the people by name (just in case the thought police go and hunt them down) but I had a marvellous afternoon talking with local folk, born and bred on the other side of Strangford Lough, about local history and fast-disappearing vocabulary. One of them gave me her personal collection of old yellowed newspaper cuttings of Ulster vocabulary, dating back to the late 1800s - a real treasure trove of information.

They also told me of old Ulster-Scots street names in Killyleagh which have been replaced by bland alternatives within their lifetimes - Braeside which led to Breakey's Brae, Barracks Brae (which was changed to Shrigley Road), Sabbath Brae (changed to Castle Lane) - and up near Raffrey, Bratchey's Brae (probably Bradshaw's Brae, just like in Newtownards - but still spelled as "Bratchey's" on a nearby house), which joins the Temple Burn Road.

Not that any of these things would interest the opponents of Ulster-Scots. The dominant attitude of the establishment in NI towards Ulster-Scots has always been hostility of one kind or another. That antagonism can be traced back in various forms for centuries. In more recent decades that has included the trivialisation of tradition, the wiping out of old place names and the exclusion of our story from the classroom, or - dare I say it - most museums. I've blogged about that before.

The smug, constructed world that today's media and cultural élite lives in is one where they can talk down their noses about 'reinforcing elderly rural protestant stereotypes', and get away with it. Their airbrushed world bears little resemblance to the lives and interests of ordinary Ulster folk. As I've said manys a time, the closest many of these "experts" get to rural life is the car park at Marks and Spencer.

(See the recent post on GF Savage-Armstrong's clashes with the literary élite of a century ago - click here)


Billy said...

Curious here - ye put this in quotations marks - where does it come from?

'reinforcing elderly rural protestant stereotypes'

Charlie Reynolds said...

It is lovely to know that the old street names are still remembered by some people still living in Co down.
The Ulster Scots critics want to get real and be made aware that we have our story to tell as well as 'oor ain native tongue'. We are a sizeable proportion of the Northern Ireland population are have a right to be heard.

Mark Thompson said...

Charlie - you're 100% right (as usual!). Billy - it was sent to me some weeks ago by someone who extracted it from an official document which was critical of Ulster-Scots. If you email me I will see if I can have the original source tracked down.

Philip Robinson said...

Good post Mark. I'm not sure about Nelson's scatter-gun approach but - the weakest link and all that. But I back him on the trinity of causes. In fact, when it comes to the museum there are way more than 3 areas of hate crimes it could be found guilty of. Check out my response on Creation on my 'Soul Searching' blog.