Thursday, June 01, 2023

"Friends of the Ulster-Scots Academy" - a Facebook group worth joining, and the 1631 John Bonar poem.

Digital community is now part of life, and in many ways it has a power far beyond real physical community, in that it can instantly connect like-minded people from around the world. Since the early 1990s at least there has been a community-led ambition to form a scholarly Ulster-Scots Academy. Despite numerous governmental announcements to fund such a thing, 'the system' has not yet enabled that to actually happen. (Over the decades, it transpired that behind the scenes a few, now deceased, individuals had set up private companies awaiting the flow of funding, but these schemes all came to nothing, which was probably the best outcome).

The 'community Academy' concept is still the right one. So, some years ago, a Facebook group of a similar name - Friends of the Ulster-Scots Academy - was set up and ever since it has consistently been the best online 'space' for Ulster-Scots related sharing and discussion. It presently has over 1400 members, from all over the world. One of the things I enjoy most there is where individual researchers post their latest finds and discoveries for others to see and comment upon.

In particular, Dr Philip Robinson is doing outstanding work on the 1631 sea voyage poem by John Bonar and is occasionally posting fresh information about it – the poem is an important discovery that I have some connection with. Just over three years ago, in April 2020, I posted this short article on this blog about Bonar. In October of that year, an academic in Canada contacted me as she had actually found the 'missing' 1631 poem when researching an archive in New Zealand. She Googled it, found my blog post, 'checked me out' via a mutual friend in Scotland who thankfully vouched for me. She then made direct contact with me and supplied pristine digital images of the original manuscript.

On the Friends of the Ulster-Scots Academy group, Philip has described the Bonar poem as “the most important 17th century discovery of our generation”. I'm busting to see his final work on it. 

There are people around the world who understand the importance of Ulster-Scots heritage. Hopefully one day 'the system' here will finally get it.

• Facebook link here