Thursday, December 29, 2011

"...In speech, in character, in looks, the people become Scotch..."


I have some clients here in Northern Ireland who find that doing business in the Republic of Ireland can be difficult. Maybe because of the economic downturn there's an upsurge in people in the Republic choosing to buy goods and products which are made down there. There's a new Guaranteed Irish logo which many companies there now brand themselves with, to reinforce their provenance. What these clients find is that when some ROI customers take the time to read the small print, and they spot Northern Ireland addresses, they regard the client and their products as not really Irish at all, not 'proper Irish'. I've seen some pretty hostile emails which have been sent by angry customers - simply because the product they have bought says 'Irish' on the front of the packet, but on the back there's a Northern Ireland address.

You'd hope that in this day and age neighbourly relations and co-operation are the direction we're all heading in. And I support 100% the simple idea of buying local, wherever in the world you live. The regional cultural differences here are maybe less nowadays than they once were - we're all, to some extent, Westernised consumers now. But here are some significant quotes from a tourism book by prolific Dublin-born writer Katharine Tynan, published just over 100 years ago, in 1909:

"... that north-east corner of Ireland which no Celt looks upon as Ireland at all. In speech, in character, in looks, the people become Scotch and not Irish. One has crossed the border* and Celtic Ireland is left behind...

...there is nothing Irish about north-east Ulster except the country itself...

...like his Scotch progenitors, he stands by the Bible. There is as much Bible-reading in the fine red-brick mansions of Belfast as there is in Scotland...

...the Belfast man has the Scottish love of education. He has many of the homespun Scottish virtues, and much less than the Scottish love of money...

...Finn, the Irish giant, invited a Scotch giant over to fight him... I believe that the Scottish giant came and stayed. You see his children all over North-East Ulster..."


However she does acknowledge some positive traits - "... I have known exiles of Dublin who went to Belfast in tears... when however, they came to know the man of the North - he takes a good deal of knowing - nothing would induce them to return to Dublin..."

* bear in mind there wasn't a political border in Ireland when this was written, but there must have been an evident cultural border to the writer.

From Peeps at Many Lands: Ireland by Katharine Tynan (London, 1909). Excerpts from Chapter VI, 'The North' (click here to read in full on Archive.org)

2 comments:

Burnsy said...

A very interesting article. It seems to me that the most ardent of people who insist that we are Irish whether we like it or not, in reality don't think we are proper Irish at all!
It's usually the same people who can't understand why the majority of those in Northern Ireland who identity as Irish don't feel the need to live in a United Ireland to validate that Irishness.

Citizen69 said...

A very interesting article. It seems to me that the most ardent of people who insist that we are Irish whether we like it or not, in reality don't think we are proper Irish at all!
It's usually the same people who can't understand why the majority of those in Northern Ireland who identity as Irish don't feel the need to live in a United Ireland to validate that Irishness.