Thursday, January 09, 2020

Mr & Mrs Hall's account of the people of County Down, 1843

(Intro - in 1844 Mr & Mrs Hall visited Ayr to experience and record the events of the major Burns Festival which was held on 6 August - see their account and illustrations here from the Illustrated London News)

"...The people of the county Down as a whole are of Scotch origin. There are of course numerous exceptions but so small a proportion do they bear to the whole that the lowland or Ayrshire dialect was commonly spoken all over the county till about the middle or towards the end of the last century.

At this moment a sort of mongrel Scotch is spoken in and near Ballynahinch, Dromara, Saintfield, Comber, Killinchy, Holywood, Bangor, Newtownards, Donaghadee, Kirkcubbin, Portaferry &c. The nearness of this county to the Mull of Galloway has made the districts on the two sides scarcely distinguishable and the stream of Scottish population can be traced most distinctly from Donaghadee and Bangor upwards to the interior.

In the eastern part of the parish of Hillsborough the Scottish dialect and religion are still preserved its western extremity is among the colonists of James I where the dialect is much more interesting being a mixture of pure English with that of the olden time.

The eastern district of the county about Ardglass lies opposite to the Isle of Man and is one of the nearest points to any English sea port. Hence the settlers there at an early period as well as at present were English as its castles and towers amply prove. The remains of three or four are still in existence and it appears from Harris that they formed part of a long range of booths for the sale of merchandise open towards the land for the purposes of trade and having loopholes towards the sea with a view to defence. The English settlers spread to a little distance round hence in Downpatrick as well as in various other towns of Ireland the three leading streets are the English, Irish and Scotch quarters respectively.

Until about a century ago an extensive Irish speaking population existed near Downpatrick but they have all disappeared and the only traces of the language are to be found in the mountainous districts where the people are almost exclusively Irish or in the neighbourhood of Carlingford Bay at the south.

The English settlers under the various Knights of the Plantation of Ulster spread up the valley of the Lagan meeting the Scotch and Irish on the banks of the Lagan from Belfast to Lisburn then by Hillsborough formerly called Crommelin or the village of the crooked stream and changed by Sir Moyses Hill to Hillsborough, Druibh Mor Dromore, and the bridge of the Bann, Bannbridge.

At various points of this line the people are as distinct in religion dialect habits wealth and other characteristics as their respective nations are on the opposite sides of the border. It is even said that a Down farmer Scotch can be known from an Antrim one English in a fair or market by his hardness in driving a bargain..."

- from Ireland: Its Scenery, Character, &c, Volume 3, 1843