Tuesday, August 30, 2016

College of William and Mary, Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia: "The Valley Ulsterman: A Chapter of Virginia History"

Tucker Hall

On Richmond Road in Williamsburg, a famous college town, is Tucker Hall. On the entrance pillars to Tucker Hall are two statues, of King William III and his wife Queen Mary. These were gifted to the college in the 1920s by Mary Cooke Branch Munford, the first female member of the Boards of Visitors. Back in July I drove up and down this road quite a few times trying to spot the statues, but with no success. The image here is from Google StreetView.

Over 20 years earlier, on 18 February 1896, Armistead C Gordon, a lawyer from Staunton, Virginia, gave an address to the Phi Beta Kappa Society of the college, entitled The Valley Ulsterman: A Chapter of Virginia History. Gordon was also a member of the Boards of Visitors of the college; I have an old pamphlet edition of the talk. The text of the address is available online here.

Armistead Churchill Gordon Portrait Magazine of Poetry 1892

"... invoke from the shadows of the historic and glory-haunted past the Scotch-Irish Ulsterman of the Virginia Valley,--the stalwart and sombre sentinel of liberty upon the outposts of American colonial civilization.

... a distinguished Scotch Irish divine, who came from the North of Ireland after our civil war to minister to a great church in New York City, stated recently that a gathering of Valley people, which he addressed in the county of Rockbridge, reminded him more than any he had ever seen, of his own congregation in the little town of Newry, in County Tyrone, Ulster.

They were men of large courage and of simple faith, these early Ulstermen,--so afraid of God, says the historian of them, that this fear left in their hearts no room for fear of mortal man. Their fixity of purpose, once determined, is aptly if fancifully illustrated in the mythic story which is told of the device of the Ulster Coat of Arms, a device known to all Scotch-Irishmen as "The Bloody Hand of Ulster" ... the Scotch-Irish riflemen of the Valley of Virginia justified in the eyes of history their right to claim as theirs the device of the Bloody Hand ..." --

The College of William and Mary had been founded during their reign in 1693 by Rev James Blair (1656–1743) a Scottish-born minister, originally a Presbyterian but became Episcopalian in 1681 during ‘The Killing Times’. There’s no indication that he had any connection with Ulster. Here's a photo of Charlie holding up a colonial flag outside Williamsburg's Presbyterian meeting house.

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