Thursday, February 14, 2019

The 'Border Clearances' and the Graham Reivers in Roscommon

(this was emailed to me by a friend a few years ago)

After the so-called ‘Ill Week’, when the riding clans of the Scottish borders raided deep into England after the accession of James I in 1603 in search of plunder, radical measures were taken to bring law and order to the Borders.

In the crackdown that followed ‘terror tactics’ were used. ‘Clan leaders, were dealt with. Thirty-two Armstrongs, Batys, Elliots, Johnstons and others were hanged. Fifteen more were sent into exile and 140 outlawed and in that year alone a force of 2,000 Scots left the region to fight for the Dutch in their war with Spain’.

The Graham family were singled out for ‘transportation’ or ‘transplantation’ to County Roscommon. They were to be settled together in order ‘the better to conserve their language and manners without mixture’. It proved impossible to keep the Grahams in Roscommon.

There was later a formal proposal to transplant them to Ulster in 1610. In practice, this was to happen unofficially. While keeping the Grahams together did not work in practice, the manner in which so many Scots were planted together in Scottish precincts during the Plantation of Ulster may well have helped to ‘to conserve their language and manners’.

Sources: Calendar of State Papers Ireland, James I, 1603-6, 1606-8, 1608-10; Michael Perceval Maxwell, Scottish migration to Ulster; Robert Bell, 'Sheep Stealers from the North of England': The Riding Clans in Ulster: History Ireland, Vol. 2, No. 4 (Winter, 1994), pp. 25-29

Tuesday, February 05, 2019

Connecting Ulster and Scotland via a causeway to the Copeland Islands, 1832

Saturday, February 02, 2019

Telling stories today

Over the past year or so, I’ve noticed that people now respond to stories in very different ways than they used to.

Stories of victory are now a turn-off. But stories of struggle and suffering really grip people.

Stories of triumph and success bring assumptions of domination and exploitation. But stories of oppression and injustice create empathy and support.

Most stories can be told both ways. If you tell yours the wrong way, you will lose your audience.

John Colter & the Blackfeet escape

When recently watching an episode of Steven Rinella’s brilliant Netflix series Meateater, (some clips on his YouTube channel here) he mentioned John Colter’s remarkable story.  

Born in 1774 in Stuart’s Draft in the Shenandoah area of Virginia, and of Ulster-Scots descent on both sides of his family, his tale is one of heroism in the face of barbarism and brutality. When he was young the family moved to frontier Kentucky and in 1803 he signed up to be one of the “Nine Young Men of Kentucky” who joined the Lewis & Clark expedition which headed into the then unknown West from 1804-1806. The other eight were William Bratton, Joseph Field, Reubin Field, Charles Floyd, George Gibson, Nathaniel Pryor, George Shannon, and John Shields.

In 1808 John Colter and John Potts were attacked by a war party of Blackfeet Indians. Potts was cut to pieces, Colter was stripped naked and Potts’ blood and remains wiped all over Colter's body. The Blackfeet allowed Colter a head start but then pursued him, intending to kill him too. An experienced trapper, he found refuge in a beaver dam which he hid inside and eventually escaped. 

• Wikipedia entry here.

Not for the squeamish!

Saturday, January 26, 2019

Dr Samuel Greenfield (1899–1952) aka Sam Carson - Belfast's Orange, Folk and Sacred singer

I grew up with 1960s reissues of Sam Carson’s Orange songs, on LPs or cassettes which used to knock about around the living rooms of various relatives. There are more recent reissues. To be honest the tacky presentation and design of these greatly diminished my sense of how important the recordings were as cultural artefacts. As you can see from the YouTube clip graphics below. But at least this kept the recordings available - you can now get them on Amazon here.

Carson's real name was actually Dr Samuel Greenfield, born in North Queen Street in north Belfast in November 1899. He went to Queen’s University Belfast, served in the Royal Army Medical Corps during World War I, then was appointed to Purdysburn Fever Hospital before setting up his own GP practice in the house he was born in.

He was also an accomplished singer; in the 1920s he was taking part in and winning folk song singing contests at music festivals. At some stage in the 1930s he began singing on BBC radio broadcasts and soon was recording 78s for a number of record companies, of Orange ballads, Irish folk songs (as either ‘Dan Quinn’ or ‘Barney O’Leary’) and also popular hymns.

He was President of Castleton Male Voice Choir, a member of Fortwilliam Golf Club, Whitehead Golf Lub, and County Antrim Yacht Club at Whitehead. He died at his home at 56 Cable Road in May 1952, with his funeral service being held at St John’s Church, Ballycarry.

His wife was Kathleen Alexander from Whitehead; their children were John, Geoffrey and Mary. Kathleen became the first woman chairman of Whitehead Urban Council, she died in 1967.

I am pretty sure that his original recordings were just a bit earlier than the more celebrated ones by Larne man Richard Hayward (1898–1964) who was probably a more accomplished singer, writer, broadcaster and playwright with broader cultural interests than Greenfield, all of which would have helped keep Hayward’s profile high. This Belfast Telegraph advert from 18 November 1932 includes Carson’s rendition of ’The Hat My Father Wore’.

This web page has a list of Carson recordings for the Regal Zonophone label among others which were issued in October & November 1933. This page has another Regal issued in 1933. There’s another selection here for Regal in 1934 with some as Barney O’Leary. There are some hymns listed here on Columbia in 1936.

PS: His father Robert Greenfield was celebrated in the Belfast Telegraph of 19 December 1946 as ‘our oldest bather’ - aged 86, he was a frequent swimmer in the sea at Whitehead.

• Advert from the Belfast Telegraph, July 1936

• An interesting 1938 article

• 1934 advert from a County Wicklow newspaper

Monday, January 14, 2019

Revival Hymns & Plantation Melodies (1882) - Part Two

As a brief update to this recent post, this website gives a really interesting overview of this important Kentucky hymnbook, compiled by Marshall William Taylor who was mixed-race, part Scotch-Irish. 

It includes an early version of Wayfaring Stranger, (called ‘I’m Just a-Going Over Home) 

“…  as the ancient Hebrews perpetuated the plaintive songs of their captivity, so the freedmen of the South, by this volume, will keep in mind their longings for freedom and their spiritual - joys dominating over their oppressed and afflicted condition. It is a valuable contribution to the history of the colored race in America…"

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

"Live free or die: Death is not the worst of evils."

So said General John Stark whose parents were from Londonderry. He was born in Nutfield, New Hampshire, which was later renamed Londonderry, in 1728. Nutfield commemorates its 300th anniversary this year.  More info here. 


Monday, January 07, 2019

Lyle & Kinahan Belfast - Old Scotch Malt

Spotted these two photos on Facebook - another example of a Belfast drinks firm who also produced a brand of Scotch.

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