Monday, March 23, 2020

When a software tutorial becomes reality, or when reality informs a software tutorial?

Facebook offered me an online tutorial from a thing called Udemy to learn an architectural software package called Autodesk Revit. The image is below. Which looks amazingly similar to Seamus Heaney Homeplace. Perhaps there is some kind of collaboration. Check it out here.

Sunday, March 22, 2020

"It Is Well With My Soul"

A superb version of the Horatio Spafford classic hymn, which was born out of unspeakable tragedy. Google his name for the full story; context is meaning.

Martha (Mattie) Mulholland of Carrowdore – "the first Orangewoman in the world"

Image result for bangor spectator 1935
One benefit of the unexpected break in normal busyness just now is that it creates an opportunity to pause and go through various piles of info that have gathered up. An octogenarian former school principal gave me a box of his books and researches last year and I've finally had a chance to work through it.

The story of Martha 'Mattie' Mulholland of Carrowdore was reported in the County Down Spectator on Saturday 2 February 1935. Clippings below. Her son Thomas (erroneously named 'Robert' in the subtitle) can be found here on the 1901 Census of Ireland, then living at Ganaway just south of Millisle, and with a daughter named after his legendary mother. Another version of her story is also on the lodge's website here.

Maybe the graves, and homestead, of the Mulhollands exist somewhere still today.

Psalm 23 in Braid Scots, by Rev TT Alexander, Leith (1930)

Wednesday, March 18, 2020

Patti Smith – 'People Have the Power'

Jane Johnston / Bamewawagezhikaquay (1800–42), "one of earliest American Indian literary writers"

There are various problems with 'colonialism' as a framework through which to view the past. Here are some that come to mind –

1) it corrals people into 'people groups' and in doing so it eradicates the sovereignty of the individual, the uniqueness of communities,  the particularity of circumstances.

2) it assumes, or implies, that the relationship between these 'people groups' has only ever been one of conflict, oppression and 'power'.

3) it implies that those 'people groups' themselves were always harmonious and peaceful until they came into contact with the 'others'.

4) it fosters a mindset of grievance – whether real or perceived; whether personally experienced, or just emotionally acquired via one's perceived group affiliation.

5) it removes any distinction between politically powerful decision-making élites and the wider population, failing to acknowledge that populations are often opposed to, and have often risen up against, their own élites. And of course even today, we wisely disregard our society's 'leaders' and make our own decisions. People aren't pawns.

6) it poses as 'fight the power', but actually it turns people against people, neighbour against neighbour


And so it clouds our understanding. Hence you might not expect that one of the earliest American Indian literary writers was called Jane Johnston. Her father, John Johnston (Wikipedia here), was from Ulster; a family tree is online here, linking the family back to Scotland and then to either Glynn near Larne or else Ballintoy.

John emigrated to North America and became a fur trader and eventually a prominent citizen in Michigan, in the USA/Canadian border town of Sault Ste. Marie, on the Great Lakes. He married Ozhaguscodaywayquay (Wikipedia here) the daugher of an Ojibwe Native American tribe leader. It's a complex and fascinating story. Here is their homestead as pictured in 1909. If it were made of whitewashed stone and grey slate you can easily imagine it in an Ulster landscape.

Their daughter Jane / Bamewawagezhikaquay (which magnificently translates into English as 'The Woman of the Sound the Stars Make Rushing Through the Sky') was bicultural and bilingual, and her storytelling skills were both in English and in Ojibwe. There is a tantalising reference that says that John brought the family to Ireland for a while in 1809.

Jane married an Englishman, Henry Rowe Schoolcraft (Wikipedia here). After Jane died, Henry was commissioned by the US Congress to write what became a six volume account of The Indian Tribes of the United States (on here).

History is not just an endless tale of exploitation and power. Courage, migration, co-operation, love and creativity are just some of the other dimensions of the human experience too.


• John Johnston features on the Dictionary of Canadian Biography here
• The Johnston family homestead still stands today and is a Michigan State Historic Site.
• Jane's biography is on here
• A 2008 edition of Jane's work was published by the University of Pennsylvania Press and is available on Amazon here
This website has some superb photos of sites associated with the Johnstons

Sunday, March 15, 2020

Echoes of Coronavirus - Martin Luther on 'Whether One May Flee From a Deadly Plague', 1527

"I shall ask God mercifully to protect us.

Then I shall fumigate, help purify the air, administer medicine and take it. I shall avoid places and persons where my presence is not needed in order not to become contaminated and thus perchance inflict and pollute others and so cause their death as a result of my negligence.

If God should wish to take me, he will surely find me and I have done what he has expected of me and so I am not responsible for either my own death or the death of others.

If my neighbour needs me however I shall not avoid place or person but will go freely as stated above. See this is such a God-fearing faith because it is neither brash nor foolhardy"

– Luther writing to his friend Pastor Hess, 1527

Wednesday, March 11, 2020

"It's often what we want to believe happened, than what really happened..."

... you may have the truth on your side, but if your story is dull no-one will want to read it'*.

Seemingly ancient monuments of stone formed in the 1850s, but perhaps even worse are the monuments of perception we all have in our heads which were formed around then too. Ian Hislop's new BBC series Olden Days is a must-see for anyone interested in history, and in particular, to consider how every era re-tells and manipulates the past to suit its present day needs.

In particular I was pleased to see a detailed segment about the remarkably convenient 'discovery' at Glastonbury of the graves of King Arthur and Queen Guinevere in 1189. As Hislop says –

By an extraordinary coincidence in their darkest hour of need, one of the monks had a vision. It told him that King Arthur himself was buried nearby...

I've blogged about Glastonbury here before because the 'discovery'  happened at the same era and in remarkably similar circumstances as the 'discovery' of the triple grave of Patrick, Brigid and Columkille at Downpatrick in 1184.

Very interesting that King Alfred translated passages of the Bible into English in the 9th century, over 600 years before William Tyndale and the Reformers.

On BBC iPlayer here.

* Go to 08:30 for that gem of understanding.

Tuesday, March 10, 2020

Shock in Dublin, 1908 – "there exists within the borders of our island a country population which is not West British ... but Lowland Scotch."

I was reminded of this post the other day, a review of a collection of poems by James Connolly's friend Ernest Milligan (1879–1954). They were Ulster-Scots flavoured due to Ernest spending time at the Milligan family's holiday cottage at the end of the Stockbridge Road in Donaghadee over many summers, getting to know the locals. His sister Alice wrote that they spoke 'broadest County Down Scotch'. This illuminating review was published in the Dublin daily newspaper the Freeman's Journal and National Press on Burns Day, 25 January 1908 –

...In these days, when the chief city of Ulster and many towns and country districts all over it are become working centres of the Gaelic revival, a book of verse like this will almost come as a shock to the Irish-Ireland reader. 
He has been busily working for the de-Anglicisation of the Irish nation, looking forward to an era when the West British shoneen will be extinct, end behold here is reminder that there exists within the borders of our island a country population which is not West British nor shoneen, which has not got to be de-Anglicised, for the simple reason that its speech is not English, as we know it, but Lowland Scotch.
The people speaking this tongue are to found mainly Antrim, Co. Down, but also on extensive tracts of land in the North-West, coming right against the Gaelic frontier of Tir-Conal, in the Laggan district, it is called, in Donegal.
But let not the Irish-Irelander brand those survivors of the Ulster Plantation as aliens and foreigners. This Scotch-Irish dialect, so ragged and almost distasteful to our hearing, was the speech of men who stood side by side with the Northern Catholic Gaels on the battlefields Antrim, who camped on the wooded height of Ednavady, and lined the ditch behind “Saintfield Hedge in the County Down.” was the mother tongue James Hope, and the congregations of those United Irish Presbyterian worthies, Porter, and Steele, Dickson, Kelburn, and Warwick. 
It a pity that there is nothing in the little volume before us to recall the patriotism the men of Down, not a single verse echoing the spirit of fine old street-ballad that might well have served as a model. 
"Oh were you at the Battle of Ballynahinch
Where the country arose to make its defence
Where the country arose to prove their overthrow
When led on by that hero called General Munro..." 
All the same we welcome this volume as evidence of the fact that the Scotch-Irishman has not lost the gift of song. The subjects are homely and natural; the verses fluent and tuneful. The satire in “The Ministers Call” and “The Six Road Ends” will be appreciated in Presbyterian circles. There are local poems for many of the North Down villages – Carrowdore, Comber, Donaghadee, Ballylesson and Bangor...

That was 1908. In 2020, if you dare to jump onto Twitter and follow almost any current affairs discussion about Ireland, you'll soon find that it rapidly descends into often vicious, tribal, two-dimensional, fevered rows about politics, nationality and 'power', all freshly-propelled by Brexit-related issues and the thrilling online pastime of 'offence archaeology'.

Some of it is by anonymous accounts. But perhaps of even more concern is that some of the entrenchment comes from public figures of some importance. As Neil Mackay wrote in this article in The Herald just yesterday – “We may not be lunatics in our real lives but once we get online we self-radicalise.”

The shock expressed by the Dublin press in 1908 – astonished to find that there are people whose story doesn't easily fit into the 'two tribes' stereotype – is still relevant today. But over a century later it also makes you wonder if it's so deeply hardwired conceptually that we are destined to keep making the same mistakes over again.

(I hope one of my FB friends doesn't mind me borrowing the photo below. I'll re-shoot one of my own to replace it soon)

This famous poster from 1913 is therefore a simplification. There are not two tribes / communities / language traditions on this island. But it is a powerful trope. and the daily reiteration that there are, has embedded the concept very deeply, to a point that people struggle to perceive anything different.

Monday, March 09, 2020

2006 Irish Times interview

Found this online. A bit dated now, and I'd phrase some things differently, but I think this is probably still the key point –

"Thanks to the high profile of my predecessor, probably everyone on the planet knows of Ulster Scots. Having said that, what do they know about Ulster Scots? I see that as my role: starting to fill in the blanks and bring some credibility."

Full article is online here.

An online hame for "Hame"

Here's a still of yours truly and Ruth from the new intro sequence for the recently-aired second series of Hame. We started filming them in September 2017 and the first series of 6 episodes was broadcast in early 2018. Two years later in early 2020 the next three episodes were aired.

• All nine episodes are now available on BBC iPlayer here.

Another series is being planned just now, and at the end of those we'll hopefully have covered all nine of Ulster's counties at least once, and maybe a bit beyond. Lots of talented, committed and experienced tv professionals have made Hame possible. I plan to watch the first 9 again soon just to see them with fresh eyes, to cringe at myself, but more importantly to see the Ulster-Scots community contributors in action on-screen, sharing their places and stories. I have emphatically believed from the very start that Hame is all about them.

In two years I'll be turning 50, having spent a fair chunk of the past 20+ years semi-obsessed with Ulster-Scots and on a voyage of personal rediscovery, and to share almost-forgotten stories with as many other people as I could. My first Ulster-Scots Agency function as Chair in 2005 was at Bready Jubilee Primary School in west Tyrone, geographically it’s nearly as far from “my ain hame” as it’s possible to be, but among folk whose world is so like mine. I remember seriously suggesting that at least one Agency board meeting should be held in a country church hall, not in a boardroom or a swish hotel. I've travelled all over the place to meet folk, to play music and sing, to give talks, and now a bit of broadcasting off and on. Where the folk are.

But I'm now wondering about what has actually been achieved by the contemporary Ulster-Scots effort more widely – do the general public just 'enjoy it' as spectators, have they learned something about themselves, has it enhanced and deepened their sense of place, or do they ‘embrace it' as part of who they themselves are and as a major part of what “this place we call Hame” is? And if I'm spared for another 20+ years, what will be the best use of that time?

• I'd be happy to hear your own thoughts on the series, but also on where our society and community is with understanding the whole notion of Ulster-Scots.

Saturday, March 07, 2020

Status Quo advert for Australian retailer Coles - "Look for the Big Red Hand"

Thursday, March 05, 2020

Ralph Dobson (1930-2011) and degrees of separation

When I did my BA Hons Design degree at (a then very dingy and grungy yet characterful) Belfast Art College from 1991-94, my main tutor was a well-spoken English gent called Ralph Dobson. He was an absolute gentleman, but quite absentee, and seemingly to us students with an eye on retirement. A few in our year claimed that he'd been in the RAF. I remember him getting frustrated with me as he often said my work was "too finished' - he wanted to see a lot of looser, more exploratory sketchbooks, whereas I was all about creating the best and cleanest end result that I could. I wanted to get a job at the end of it all!

I had no idea of just how pioneering, accomplished and important a commercial artist he was in his generation. The Arts Council booklet above from 1986, featuring Seamus Heaney, Michael Longley and David Hammond, was illustrated by Ralph Dobson. A bit of digging shows that he set up a design business in Belfast in 1962 called Kinney-Dobson Associates with Desmond Kinney (obituary here).

Ralph created the famous Farm Week newspaper cartoon character Wully John; the Roamer from the News Letter; he collaborated with Richard Hayward's illustrator Raymond Piper (bio here). He also worked on Frederick Gamble pseudonym John Pepper's various Ulster phrasebooks - very popular in themselves, but which at the same time did much to position Ulster-Scots vernacular in the comedy genre in the public mind.

Among other work Dobson and Kinney created a mural for St Molua's church in east Belfast in 1962; illustrated a quite racy series for the Belfast Telegraph that year on teenage 'morals', and logos for the Ulster Orchestra, the Northern Ireland Arts Council, Londonderry Chamber of Commerce and a new red hand of Ulster design for a 'Building a New Ulster' exhibition in 1967 which, according to the Belfast Telegraph, was adopted by BBC Northern Ireland.

He also designed the 'Ulster '71' logo, and was also involved in issuing the first day covers of the special 'Ulster 71' postage stamps (link here).

I wish I'd known all this when I was one of his students in the early 90s. I could have learned so much more. But by the looks of it he was far too busy to talk to us much!

• Ralph died in 2011; his obituary is here.

Wednesday, March 04, 2020

The Sixmilewater Revival of 1625-30 – from "the scum of both nations" to spiritual salvation

Rev Andrew Stewart, minister of Donaghadee from 1645-1671, was probably the first historian of the Ulster-Scots. His father and namesake had been minister at Donegore, overlooking the Sixmilewater Valley in south Antrim, from 1627–1634. His gravestone is set into the exterior side of historic St John's Church there. 

One quotation from Stewart Jr's renowned History of the Church of Ireland is now almost notorious, because it has been so frequently, but selectively, used to comically 'smear' the Ulster-Scots and Ulster-English settler communities of the early 1600s.

Over the years I've seen it in print by various authors and also spoken by various broadcasters. But only half of the original quote, and none of the spiritual context, is ever used.

As a Presbyterian minister, Stewart's purpose in using this stark form of words was to reinforce to his reader the visible social and personal effects of the transformative religious revivals which were then experienced in south Antrim and north Down (and which was also happening at the same time around Stewarton and Shotts in the west of Scotland in the communities they had migrated from but maintained constant contact with). The quote is :

"... from Scotland came many, and from England not a few, yet all of them generally the scum of both nations, who, for debt, or breaking and fleeing from justice, or seeking shelter, came hither …"

Often that's all you get. Nasty people. Dregs of society. Quoting that is a great way get away with saying that they were all just "scumbags". But what follows explains the story and context more fully.

"... who seemed rather to flee from God in this enterprise than to follow their own mercy. Yet God followed them when they fled from him — albeit, at first it must be remembered that they cared little for any church…
... Thus, on all hands Atheism increased, and disregard of God — iniquity abounded, contention, fighting, murder, thieving, adultery ...

And here comes the change –

... While thus it was, and when any man would have expected nothing but God's judgment to have followed the crew of sinners, behold the Lord visited them in admirable mercy, the like whereof had not been seen anywhere for many generations. 

What did that bring about? –

…fell into such anxiety and terror of conscience, that they looked on themselves as altogether lost and damned, as those of old who said, " Men and brethren, what shall we do to be saved ;" and this work appeared not in one single person only, or two, but multitudes were brought to understand their way, and to cry out, " What shall we do?”

... I have seen them myself stricken,* and swoon with the Word — yea, a dozen in one day carried out of doors as dead,so marvellous was the power of God smiting their hearts for sin ...

A personal testimony follows –

... Yea, I have heard one of them, then a mighty strong man (now a mighty Christian), say that his end in coming to church was to consult with his companions how to work some mischief, and yet at one of those sermons was he so catched, that he was fully subdued. 
But why do I speak of him? We knew, and yet know, multitudes of such men who had no power to resist the word of God ; but the heart, being pricked and smitten with the power of God, the stubborn, who sinned and gloried in it, because they feared not man, are now patterns of sobriety, fearing to sin because they fear God 
and this spread through the country to admiration, so that, in a manner, as many as came to hear the word of God, went away slain with the words of his mouth, especially at that river (commonly called the Six-Mile Water), — for there this work began at first ..."

Stewart was describing events that he had witnessed as a boy and which his father had participated in as a minister. The Scottish historian Robert Fleming (1630–94) wrote that Stewart was 'a great observer of confirmations of the truth'.

Context is everything. Sources rapidly cherry-picked for 'content', and then unquestioningly repeated, is a dangerous approach. Always check the primary sources.

• You can see Stewart's History for yourself here on the edition.

Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Michael JF McCarthy (1864–1928)

Having mentioned Cormac Mac Cárthaigh in yesterday's post, I was reminded of Cork-born TCD graduate Michael JF McCarthy who I touched on in this post from last year.

Here's a magnificent cover of one of his popular paperbacks. A visually superb illustration, conveying the might and wealth of the church that McCarthy saw as dominating the people. It's a graphic version of a primitive, but quite convincing, cut-and-paste using actual photographs which appeared in his 1902 hardback edition. In the author's note he explains the choice of imagery –

"... the frontispiece is an ideal picture ... the church is a real church, expensive and ostentatious ... the village is a real one not many miles away from the church ... but a reluctance to hurt the feelings of the inhabitants of any stated locality induced me to adopt the idea..."

In his 1905 Catholic Ireland and Protestant Scotland - A Contrast he observed that –

... Ireland and Scotland are in come respects like Siamese twins. Scotland overlaps into Ireland, and Ireland overlaps into Scotland. There is a Scotch settlement in Ireland and there is an Irish settlement in Scotland. Ireland is more than leavened with Scotchmen; and its most prosperous province, Ulster, is ruled by men who are proud to own their consanguinity with the Scot ... yes Ireland and Scotland are sisters ...
100+ years on, religion is diminished. In today's largely secular Ireland, you might have expected the old tribalisms to have receded. But sometimes cracks appear in the veneer. Various stories on the news cycle on this island over the past while, and of course various social media furores, might suggest that tribalism is still very much with us. It now wears less-religious clothes.

McCarthy's final chapter in Priests and People in Ireland is entitled 'Is Christ Responsible?'.
You don't need religion to have tribes.

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

The five pointed Crown of Ireland

This motif crops up all over the place, it's one of those things that once you notice it you see it everywhere. It can be found on early Irish documents (there's one on Wikipedia from 1651) and is a detail on a thirteenth-century crosier which was found in the Rock of Cashel Cathedral.

The crosier is said to have belonged to a bishop called Cormac MacCarthy, King of Munster (d 1138) and that it was found during excavations at the cathedral around his grave around 1730. It passed through various people's hands before its origin story was written down by a Joseph Cooper Walker, who put it on public display via the Royal Irish Academy in 1786. The photo above is of a 19th century replica (from this website).

It appears to symbolise the era before the arrival/invasion of the Anglo-Normans in 1169. Which of course is an era far more complex than the 19th century nationalistic interpretations of the story that still hold such a grip on perceptions here.

The five-pointed side view of the crown (therefore 8 or 10 points in total?) famously features on the Munster coat of arms but its usage reaches far beyond that province, with many in Ulster. Various depictions of it are shown below, from Brian Boru to Edward Bruce to the Ulster Bank and the Ulster Women's Declaration and a pavement mosaic outside an old chemist's shop, now The Central Hotel, in Donegal town.

The 'Éirinn go Brách' Lisburn postcard c. 1905 shown below is from my own collection. I'm sure there are umpteen other usages of this out there.

John Macoun (1831–1920) : from Magheralin to Manitoba and beyond

John Macoun (1831–1920) lived in relative poverty at Magheralin in County Down for the first 19 years of his life, but emigrated to Canada in 1850. In his autobiography he wrote that his paternal 'family was Scotch' and his mother's people were 'Scotch immigrants of the usual fighting clans'. He plotted their story from Scotland to the Siege of Derry. Even though Macoun was pro-Orange, his grandfather had built a Catholic church on his own land; the Macouns were even visited by Father Mathew the renowned Catholic temperance campaigner.

An Ulster Presbyterian of Scottish descent, his new life in Canada began as a farmer, then a teacher, and eventually he began to correspond with world-famous botanists and naturalists. He made epic explorations of western Canada and was eventually appointed the Canadian Government's official 'Explorer of the North West Territories'. Over 100,000 of his collected flora samples are in the Canadian Museum of Nature.

From the Dictionary of Canadian Biography

"...John Macoun (pronounced Macown) was raised on family land that had been granted to one of his father’s ancestors almost two centuries earlier for military service. It was an ideal setting for a boy with an insatiable curiosity, and he developed a great passion for the outdoors and the natural world. Fatherless from the age of six, he became independent and exceedingly stubborn, almost self-righteous, in his determination to succeed. His education at the parochial school of the Presbyterian Church strengthened this faith in his capabilities. 
Macoun was a pompous young man who considered himself morally superior, because of his virtues, and seldom wrong. As well, he was prepared to fight for his beliefs, confident that he would prevail. 
By the time he had assumed a clerk’s position in Belfast, in his teens, he also held the same values as his fellow Ulstermen: allegiance to the crown, dedication to union with Britain, and support for the Conservative party and the Orange order..." (link here)

From Craigavon Historical Society

"... John Macoun's ancestors settled in Maralin, or Magheralin, in the seventeenth century and probably came from Linlithgowshire in Scotland where the name exists in burial and marriage registers up to 1672. His son, William Terrill Macoun, searched the Linlithgowshire records in Edinburgh in 1905. He sent a summary of his records to various members of the Macoun family. He states that James Macoun, born in Linlithgowshire in 1639, married Elizabeth Montgomery and emigrated to Ireland in 1672, and was killed at the Boyne in 1690. This is also stated on the Macoun pedigree constructed by Reginald Blackwood, who was Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Linenhall Library, Belfast. 
However, the first Macoun may have come to Ireland before 1672. The name of Ens. James McEwne appears in the list of the "Forty-nine" officers, along with that of several members of the McGill family from whom the Macouns later held leases for land in Maralin. 
In the old graveyard at Maralin there is a tombstone with the inscription "Here lyeth the body of James Macoun who was departed this life the 15th of March anno Dom 1706 aged 105 years also his wife departed this life the 6th of March 1706." This James may have been the father of the James Macoun who was born in Linlithgowshire in 1639, and died at the Boyne in 1690, and had sons Samuel and James. The descent of the John Macoun with whom we are concerned from Samuel Macoun is shown in the accompanying pedigree. John had two sons and three daughters and the sons had issue in Canada..." (link here)

Hans Sloane rightly gets a lot of attention, but it is lazy to not think and look further. Macoun is perhaps just one of a range of similar Ulster botanists and naturalists. Yet more work to be done.

Wikipedia entry here

Image result for "john macoun" ontario

Friday, February 21, 2020

A Scots language toast – "Here's Tae Ye"

This expression pops up now and again on old Scotch whisky ephemera, and seems to be the Scots language equivalent of the more familiar Gaelic toast 'Sláinte' which is widely used today across the world.

The firm of Gilmour, Thomson & Co. Ltd. of Glasgow used "Here's Tae Ye" frequently as an advertising slogan. It is probably an abbreviation of the expressions "here's tae ye, wha's like ye", and of course "Here's tae ye! Here's tae us, wha's like us? Gey few, an' they're a' deid".

Sunday, February 09, 2020

The Ulster Overcoat - invented by John McGee, Belfast

Sherlock Holmes made it world famous but the Ulster overcoat was a Belfast invention. Wikipedia here. Another story to be uncovered. The late Jack McCoy's article is online here.

NB: Note the five pointed crown. More on that to follow.

Friday, January 31, 2020

"They are unworthy of freedom who expect it from other hands than their own" - the Calton Weavers, 1787

(image above from this blog)

In Burns-era Ulster and Scotland there were tremors of social revolution emerging from weavers' looms, shuttles and pens. Our own 'Weaver Poets' captured the mood of the country of the 1798 Rebellion and some of them were personally involved. In our modern day land-locked mentality we forget that, just across the water, the simultaneous 'United Scotsmen' movement and the weavers of Scotland had similar experiences and convictions.

Calton today is part of Glasgow but in the 1780s it was a small weaving village. The Calton Weavers went on strike in 1787 and on 2nd September six of the weavers were killed by soldiers of the 39th Regiment who opened fire on a crowd of several hundred. Three of them - John Page, Alexander Miller and James Ainsley, were killed instantly. Three more died later of their wounds. A crowd of around 6000 people attended the funerals.

Fifty years later, a memorial at Abercromby Street in Bridgeton was erected, with the inscriptions:

"They are unworthy of freedom who expect it from other hands than their own"
"They Though Dead Still Liveth. Emulate Them." 

(Given what day it is, this post is not a Brexit-related metaphor, but Brexit will not be the last of the changes ‘these islands’ will experience...)

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Alexander Ales / Alane / Alesius and the Bible in the 'Scotish Language', 1500s

I have posted about Edinburgh-born Alexander Ales / Alane / Alesius (1500–65) before (see 2016 article here) an early Scottish reformation convert who sought refuge in Luther's Germany in 1530, where he changed his surname and where he is still today remembered through a street name in Leipzig. From Germany he wrote to the then King of Scotland –

"in two eloquent Latin epistles, indited and printed in Wittenberg itself, in behalf of liberty to his Scottish countrymen, to read and to teach the Word of God in their mother tongue" – Peter Lorimer, Precursors of Knox, p168 (1857) 
Interestingly he addressed the King as "To the renowned King of Scots, James the Fifth, Duke of Albany, Prince of Ireland and the Orkneys". These two letters were entitled Alexandri Alesii Epistola contra Decretum quoddam Episcoporum in Scotia quod prohibet legere Novi Testamenti libros lingua vernacula (1533) and Alexandri Alesii Scott Responsio ad Cochlaei Calummas (1534). This chapter on seems to include translations of each; his aim seems to be to bypass the bishops and appeal directly to the King to campaign for religious liberty for the people of Scotland.

Alesius' great opponent Johann Cochlaeus, claimed that Alesius was about to produce a bible in the 'Scotish language', to be translated from Luther's German edition, but Alesius pointed out to the King in one of the letters that 'I do not know the German' (p 460 in this book).

I do wonder if, someday in an archive somewhere in Germany, an unpublished manuscript of an Alexander Alesius Scots language Bible translation might be found.

Dictionary of National Biography entry here
• 62 original Alesius manuscripts are listed here
• 98 original Alesius manuscripts are listed here
• This biography by the Tudor Society is succinct
• A chapter about him in The Scots in Germany (1902) is online here
This short reference is also interesting:

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Robert Burns and Portaferry - the friendship of James McManus and James Shanks

Patrick McManus (1863–1886) was a poet from Kearney, a small coastal clachan between Cloughey and Portaferry, shown in the pics above. It is now owned by the National Trust.

He had attended Ballyphilip National School on the outskirts of Portaferry. Politically speaking was an Irish Nationalist. His poems appeared under the pseudonym 'Slieve Donard', the highest mountain of the Mournes. Culturally though he had a strong Ulster-Scots influence from living in the Upper Ards. His father James McManus was described as 'the staunchest of Catholics' but was also huge Robert Burns fan, who once said that ‘had Burns been a Catholic, he would have been a saint’. This cultural overlap and intermingling is very reminiscent of the Lynn C Doyle story I posted here recently. Patrick arrived in Philadelphia in April 1886 but tragically he died there just a few months later in August of that same year, aged just 23.

This story was written down by another Portaferry man, John McGrath (1864–1956) in an 1890 article in The Irish Monthly of March 1890 (see below). McGrath was the literary editor of the Irish National Land League publication called United Ireland from 1891–1902 and a friend of WB Yeats.

Their contemporary, the Portaferry Presbyterian farmer, botanist, geologist and antiquarian James Shanks (1854–1912), was a close friend of James McManus. Shanks attended Portaferry National School in the village opposite the Presbyterian church (which in recent years has been refurbished and rebranded as Portico Ards). Like McManus and McGrath, Shanks was also in favour of land reform and he became a leading light in the local Tenant Right Association. In a biography written by James C Rutherford, this scene is recalled –

"... one day I spent several hours behind the quay were James McManus was repairing a boat, listening to his talk. He ranged over the whole gamut of knowledge from navigation to Bobby Burns; but he left on my mind the impression that if anything in the world were compared to Burns, it would be 'as moonlight unto sunlight and as water unto wine'... Burns threw light upon navigation, mathematics, classics, religion, everything. No matter what formed the body of a subject, Burns formed the tail, and the tail always wagged the body... in my boyish enthusiasm I believed that Burns was the short cut to everything, and the open sesame to the doors of knowledge..." 

James Shanks and James McManus were of different religious backgrounds but yet were in many ways cut from the same cloth, with similar convictions and interests. They are described in the Rutherford biography as "literary comrades", a David and Jonathan combination, who would spend hours talking to each other in the streets of Portaferry. When McManus died "Shanks was left for a time companionless and disconsolate". Rutherford quoted a verse of a poem that Shanks wrote for McManus, which was written in the 'standard habbie' format made famous by Burns.

• McGrath's entire article 'An Ulster Poet' on the life and writings of Patrick McManus can be read here