Below are five pages scanned from Archibald McIlroy's The Humour of Druid's Island (1902), set in Islandmagee in County Antrim. The idea of 'Gospel-halls and tent meetin's' being 'excitin' or new' might come as a shock to some, as today many people (both within and without) would regard these as the pinnacle of tradition. Well not in a rural Presbyterian community in 1902! This is just one example of McIlroy's observational and storytelling genius, and shows the underlying complexity of multi-stranded Ulster Protestantism. And what has become Ulster's iconic 'wee drap o tay in yer haun'' is also scorned as a modern innovation of a 'hurry-scurry age'.
He wrote in the Preface that the vocabulary in his books had been purposely diluted for commercial reasons - '...the dialect as spoken by the inhabitants of the rural districts, especially those of Antrim and Down. The only liberty I have taken with this rich inheritance is to water it down a little, to suit public taste...'. Nevertheless even this publisher-approved Ulster Scots is tremendous stuff.
(What would Mrs Donaldson make of the pace of life in 2012?!)
The Preface adds 'We in Ulster are proud of our unique dialect. We may at times feel a little ashamed to express ourselves in it before the ignorant... we think in it however; and when we are excited it oozes from us like water from the rock. We have a supreme contempt for poor creatures who have nothing to fall back upon but the pure English tongue'.
Tuesday, May 15, 2012
"...A conteenual runnin' tae Sabbath-schools an' Gospel-halls an' tent meetin's; ivery whor an onywhor that there's onything excitin' or new... makin' the sanctuary like a play-hoose..."
Posted by Mark Thompson at Tuesday, May 15, 2012