As you know, back in 2005 I began researching the story of the Hamilton & Montgomery Settlement of 1606. During 2006 these researches became the year's theme project when I was at the Agency (through newspaper articles, events and an embryonic heritage trail). Then came the illustrated Powerpoint talks, which I've now given over 20 times all over the country - most recently back in September to Ards Historical Society.
Yesterday it moved to a whole new level, getting away from the page, screen and lecture to forming the basis of a coach tour of the Ards, organised through Loughries Historical Society. I'll not say much more but will let my good friend Mark Anderson's account tell the story of how our "Forenoon" went.
As with Philip's explorations of Dalway's Bawn, you really need to be in the landscapes to fully grasp the meaning of stories and our history. To stand in the buildings our ancestors built, to hear the words they wrote, to hear stories of their lives and deaths, and in between the "big stories" to share wee nuggets about the places and townlands along the way. What I really enjoyed was that folk in the bus were happy to chip in extra strands into my narrative as we travelled, and who also pointed out other wee things at our stop-off points. The triangle from Newtown(ards) to Greba (Greyabbey) to the Dee is jam-packed with Ulster-Scots history.
No lavish funding is "inventing" this; this is just what happens when local folk who care about our own heritage, supported respectfully by staff at our Council and NIEA, work together. There are probably 3 or 4 other similar tours that could be done within our own locality - initially for local folk, but which then could be tweaked a bit to appeal to history-interested visitors as well.