(Click the image to enlarge).
While Ulster-Scots continues to be the easy target of choice for the Northern Ireland media and chattering classes, ordinary folk take very little notice. Because for them, the connection with Scotland is deep and real, with generations of unspoken understanding of their Ulster-Scots heritage. The here-today-gone-tomorrow stoked "controversies" just pass by like a mizzle in the forenoon. A wheen o' weeks ago, I spent an evening with a family who live near Ballyfrenis (I'm going to keep them anonymous just for their own privacy), who shared with me an Aladdin's cave of old photographs and paper records going back into the mid-19th century. They are readers of this blog, which led to the invitation to go round and see them, and have given me permission to copy and post here some of the items. So shown left is a 1916 baptism certificate from Ballyfrenis United Free Church of Scotland, dated 20 November 1916. This is the church that my mother grew up in, and countless generations of her family before. I have blogged about the church previously.
The only way that authentic, rooted, Ulster-Scots work will happen is at the firesides and kitchen tables within the Ulster-Scots community itself. Our folk are a canny, wary lot, but once trust and a bond has been formed, I have always found most people to be very willing to share their own knowledge, stories and collections. Just a few days ago, a man who I'd met for the first time just the previous week sent me an envelope packed with stuff he'd gathered up over the years. On Saturday evening, I bumped into an older man who I've got to know over the past few years who updated me about his relatives in Lanarkshire and how they are waking up to their Covenanter history. Another man passed on a few wee Ulster-Scots expressions from the area of Co Down that he lived in for a while.
This richness only exists among the ordinary folk - the kind of people who FL Owsley called "The Plain Folk" - and who, if treated with the respect they deserve, are the salt of the earth. The sort of people that the controversy-manufacturers look down their noses at.