Tuesday, March 05, 2019

James Craig and family, 1921

(photo above from 1921)

Every now and again I dip into the St John Ervine 1949 posthumous biography of James Craig, entitled Craigavon Ulsterman. Ervine frequently uses the term Ulster Scot to describe the Craig family origins. Craig is best known as the first Prime Minister of Northern Ireland, and notorious for his usually decontextualised quote 'Protestant Parliament and a Protestant State'. It came up recently in conversation with a friend, whose perception of Craig has been almost entirely formed by repetition of that infamous 1934 soundbite, but who was unaware of the context, which is on Wikipedia here. Most people don't know that it was said in response to similar remarks from his Southern Ireland counterparts. Others out there will know the sources, I don't have them to hand here.

The biography also includes an interesting extract from 's Seán Ó Faoláin's acclaimed 1939 biography of Éamon De Valera, which appears to confirm that there was discrimination in the South - 'neither north nor south need pretend that the other is alone in this kind of penalisation on account of religion and private opinion'.

Efforts to create what might be called a mono-cultural ethnostate on the island of Ireland, or in one or other jurisdiction on the island of Ireland, should be equally acknowledged, and equally repudiated. It was not restricted to north or south. But our future can be better if we re-examine and critique our pasts, not just reinforce soundbites for ideological advantage. We choose what baggage we carry with us. Inflamed grievances will take us nowhere good.

Ireland is an island of cultural variety, and the province of Ulster arguably contains the most variety of all, if you can think beyond the stereotypes. Vikings, Anglo-Normans, Huguenots, Quakers, Moravians, Jews, Italians, Eastern Europeans - as well as the Irish, English and Scots.

We can also have differing worldviews from our neighbours. Neither is necessarily 'wrong', or 'bad', or 'evil' - but maybe just radically different through experience, understanding, perspective and aspiration. Realising that is important – whether in Northern Ireland specifically, the wider UK in terms of 'remainers' and 'leavers', or in the USA with the issues that led to the election of Donald Trump.

The 2021 centennial of Northern Ireland, handled well, presents an opportunity to improve understanding and relationships - by challenging 'fake news' narratives, by setting aside cherished mythologies, and by trying to improve everyone's cultural future.

As politics across the western world unravels, culture is still where the positive potential is.


Below - a 1929 poster showing the co-operation of the Irish Free State and Northern Ireland on the agricultural and fishing industries. The respective tourism bodies openly proposed a joint marketing campaign in the USA including a billboard in Times Square in New York. Yet to listen to today's 'accepted wisdom' we might assume a history of constant conflict. It's not true - be wary of those whose careers depend upon creating that impression.


Greg said...

Dear Mr Thompson I’m an American whose grandmother was a Craig and lived in the Ballyvester house I found on your blog. I happened to google the name Craig and landed on this March 5 2019 post. I scrolled down and there was the house she lived in for sale you posted in a 2012 blog. In March 2017 we visited the home that was being refurbished. My nana’s grandfather was John Craig who lived in the house in 1911 before immigrating to the USA in 1912.

We have quite a story about her and the house and how she scratched the name of her aunt in an upstairs window that is still there. We don’t know John Craig’s relationship to James Craig but know there is a connection.

If you have any insights or knowledge of this house and the Craig’s I’d appreciate being pointed to sources. Joye.redfield@icloud.com