Friday, September 16, 2011

Ards Historical Society: an evening of Ulster-English history, with a wee taste of Ulster-Scots poetry and song

A few weeks ago I mentioned here that I would be giving an illustrated talk for Ards Historical Society, in the old Town Hall, on the story of Sir Thomas Smith's attempt in 1572 to establish an English colony here. On the night it turned out that some of the members are familiar with this blog, so I feel the need to give a short report! I spoke for about 50 minutes, showing a variety of maps, photographs, documents and other artefacts, and tried to tell the story in as interesting a way as I could. Thankfully everyone who spoke to me at the end was very complimentary, and all of the audience went away with at least one copy of the booklet which I had published last year, through Loughries Historical Society (with funding to cover the printing costs from Ards Borough Council, North Down Borough Council and the Ulster-Scots Community Network).

For me, the best parts of the evening were when one lady (who I'll not name here) gave me a copy of an Ulster-Scots poem she had found in her attic, entitled 'Tam's New Boots'. Many of the folk there were also aware of the song 'The Big Stane' and so a number of them have gone away to try to trace its origin for me - there are a few theories and potential sources appearing already. I've been invited to bring my mandolin along to a local music session by one man, who had brought with him his set of jaw harps (also called 'Jew's Harps), an instrument that my granda also played.

I can happily encourage anyone, whether speaker or listener, to get involved with Ards Historical Society. There is more to our area than new Tesco shopping centres. Plenty of people care about heritage, tradition and local cultural identity. We have special stories here which deserve to be better known.

Here's a photo of the happy gathering!