Saturday, September 04, 2010

"The Ulster Scot" - Home Rule era postcard

While hoking through some old books yesterday I found a clipping from the Belfast Telegraph, from 19th January 1998 to be precise, of an article entitled "Light Shed on Ulster and the Thistle Connection" which was published to promote the book Varieties of Scottishness: Exploring the Ulster Scottish Connection (published by the Institute of Irish Studies, Queen's University Belfast, 1997). The article was illustrated by an old postcard bearing the title "The Ulster Scot" in bold lettering - it has an illustration of a highland warrior with kilt, sporran, shield and sword, and the following verse:

This land oor heritage by richt
Priest ridden saints may grudge us
Three hunner years we hae been here
An deil th' fit they'll budge us

Not very PC, but I think a significant insight into popular feeling around 1912 and the "Home Rule is Rome Rule" fears of the time. I also vaguely remember seeing another postcard from the same era, I think recording the Larne gunrunning of 1914, which also bore an Ulster-Scots verse or poem. Maybe some readers know it and can send it to me to post here?

7 comments:

Eamon Kendall said...

This depiction of the "Ulster Scot" has more in common with a Jacobite Highlander Gael, the very sort of person that wold have been anathema to the actual ancestors of the majority of the Ulster protestants to whom the poster is aimed; namely, lowland Anglo-Saxon Scots speaking presbyterians. The poster is an ironic display of what an inadequate knowledge the contemporary unionist had of their own heritage; the result of this being the inchoate mish mash on display.

Mark Thompson said...

Thanks for your comment - yes it is widely understood and critiqued as a contrived image of its time. It's unclear as to how widespread its usage was. Of more impact were writings such as WF Marshall's poem 'The Blue Banner'.

Eamon Kendall said...

I would be interested to know if you were aware of any contemporaneous material which emphasized the English aspect of the Ulster Protestant inheritance? I imagine that if such material existed, that it would have had greater currency for the unionist communities in Fermanagh and Armagh.

Eamon Kendall said...

In General, might I ask if you think that the English element has been underemphasized at the expense of the Scots? Personally, I believe that it has, to the detriment of people's understanding of their origins. P.S. I once read an article by Newton Emerson to this effect that you might find of interest if you hadn't already encountered it.

Mark Thompson said...

Hello Eamon. Yes, I would agree that the English cultural dimension has not been duly acknowledged, even the pre-'Plantation' English such as the many Anglo-Norman families who established the 'Earldom of Ulster' from the 12th century onwards, and perhaps also those who arrived in the Elizabethan era as well.

In the Home Rule / Covenant era the role of significant Anglican figures is interesting, in that they were content to participate in the overtly Scottish Presbyterian symbolism which had been deployed. The man who came up with the concept, BWD Montgomery, was the son of the rector of Magheralin was as much of English extraction as Scottish, educated in England and served with an English regiment. Some high-ranking Church of Ireland clergy played a prominent role.

Ulster is best understood as a blend of cultural influences, and indeed was generally recognised in the visual of interwoven Shamrock, Rose and Thistle very commonly from the early 1800s right up into the early 1970s - at which point the 'two tribes' political narrative came to dominate, and which I believe has distorted our understanding of our heritages

Eamon Kendall said...

Thank you for your reply, I found it interesting and thought-provoking. In case you didn't know, the article to which I referred to earlier is entitled: "Ulster blood, English heart-I am what I am."

Mark Thompson said...

Thank you Eamon, it has been good to converse with you