Thursday, July 27, 2017

"Us Boys"

Over the years various Co Antrim folk have told me of this film, shot in the late 1990s. I have found a version on YouTube, with German subtitles. Information from the production company is here

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Isabella Barber Ferguson of Ireland and South Carolina (1754–1823)

Isabella

 

She was a Revolutionary heroine, whose story is featured in the new American Revolution Museum at Yorktown, Virginia.

A Presbyterian Covenanter, born to Samuel Barber and Isabella Starett, she had emigrated to America around 1773. She “sat under the preaching of a learned minister and had been regularly catechised and indoctrinated both in the Scriptures and the political creed of her people”. She married a Samuel Ferguson but Samuel’s sympathies were with the Crown and his brother, Colonel James Ferguson, led a troop of 150 men. The Colonel led his men past the Barber homestead, hoping to impress his brother into joining the British army. It failed. Isabella declared:

I am a rebel, glorying in the name. My brothers are rebels, and the dog Trip is a rebel too. Now, James, I would rather see you with a sheep on your back, than tricked out in all those fine clothes. Rebel and be free, that is my creed!

Samuel listened to his wife and then confirmed to his uniformed brother:

Could Isabella be convinced she might be able to turn the whole lot of Covenanters, for she is never afraid to speak her mind.

Samuel didn’t join up, and James was killed not long after. There are numerous heroines in popular Ulster-Scots history, such as Betsy Gray and Margaret Wilson. You can read more about Isabella Barber Ferguson in this reprinted edition which was originally published in 1848.

Take the Museum online quiz and see which Revolutionary era character is most like you. 

• Her gravestone can be seen here on FindaGrave.com

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Wayfaring Stranger - re-broadcast tonight, tomorrow, Thursday

For the next 3 nights on BBC2 Northern Ireland, ‘Wayfaring Stranger’ is being re-broadcast at 7pm. Set your digiboxes!

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Monday, July 24, 2017

The Ards - 'The Little Holland of the North'

Some photos here from recent drives around my home turf - the newly refurbished Ballycopeland Windmill near Millisle (which now features on a Royal Mail stamp) and the old windmill stump at Knockinelder. It seems from the Montgomery Manuscripts that it was Lady Elizabeth Montgomery who oversaw the construction of watermills in every parish of the Montgomery lands in the Ards in the early 1600s. Initially the Scots used the ‘quairn stones’ hand-ground technique commonly used by their Irish neighbours, but later a ‘Danish mill’ was introduced. There were of course water mills in Ireland prior to the arrival of the Scots - in fact, as the same Manuscripts say (on page 63) water mills can be traced to the 3rd Century:

... It is certain that mills driven by water were known in Ireland at a very early period, and appear to have been at least as generally used in ancient as in modern times. Irish authorities, and with them Irish traditions, are unanimous in representing that the first water-mill ever known in Ireland was introduced by Cormac Mac Art, who reigned during a part of the third century, and that the good king brought his millwright from Scotland ...

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Sunday, July 23, 2017

Rev W. R. Megaw (1885–1953): From Carrowdore to Princeton to Ahoghill: minister, author and naturalist.

Megaw

 

Rev R.T. Megaw was minister of Carrowdore Presbyterian Church in the 1880s. In 1885 his son, William Rutledge Megaw was born. He would have been knocking about Carrowdore in my great-grandparents’ time. He followed his father towards the Presbyterian ministry and after a childhood in Carrowdore he went to RBAI, then Queens University and finally to Princeton in the USA.

He returned to Ulster and took up the role of minister at Trinity Presbyterian Church, Ahoghill in County Antrim in 1910. A local poet wrote this quite superb Ulster-Scots poem just after hearing Megaw’s first sermon, on Sunday 10 April 1910: 

First impressions aft are lastin’

Whither bad ur whither guid,

Pardon, an’ I’ll tell ye my yins

In a simple bit o’ screed;

Born an’ broucht up in the district,

Niver bein’ far frae hame,

Sma’ wunner that my words are common,

An’ ideas awfoo tame

Foo dull this day.

Hooiver, freens, this peacefoo fixture

Minds me o’ lang years ago,

Whun the church wus mair auld-farrent

Baith inside an’ oot ye know;

What the venerable F. Buick

Preach’d the Word tae rich and poor;

Sacred be his name fur iver

Fur flingin’ wide the Gospel door

Foo guid that day.

Whas sturdy henchman an’ assistant,

Mr McConachie o’ fame;

A fearless, faithfoo Gospel preacher,

Regerdin’ whom we think nae shame,

Assisted an’ succeeded later

By him wha cud “catch-his-pals”;

Bit Mr Pyper did “surrender”

Tae the folk o’ “Derry Wal’s”

Foo firm this day.

Revertin’ mair til’ present moments,

Wae expecations reemin’,

Anent Trinity Church o’ hope,

Whar “Love” and’ faith are beamin’,

Becas his Mester sent alang,

His servant, young Mega’,

Noo weel ordain’d as pastor here

By Presbyterian la’,

Foo nice this day.


Son o’ the Manse, wae bright career,

He comes, we trust, fur guid,

Provin’ himself baith in an’ oot

A clargieman indeed;

We wish tae see the “B” degree

Knock’d oot by cubit’s darts,

An’ like the sang replaced ‘fore lang

By “M” atrimonial “A” rts

Foo gled some day.

The prayers an’ expositions, friens,

O’ Young Mr Mega’

Did me a world o’ lastin guid

Afore he preached ava’,

Although his sermon, weel got up,

Wus jist as weel laid doon,

He hurl’d the darts right at our hearts,

An’ no’ up at the moon

Foo heich this day.

His theme wus Christ the Crucified,

Nane else he wants til’ know,

Nur preach til’ plase himsel’ alane,

Nur heich, middle, ur low;

Yit varied as the rainbow’s hues

He show’d this theme til’ be

Heich as the sky, wide as the earth,

An’ like the michty sea

Foo deep this day.

The la’ the Prophets, big an’ wee,

An’ Gospels wur the same,

Epistles sweet, al’ pointed tae

The Crucified’s dear name;

Wae sic’ a theme an’ sic’ a place,

An’ sic’ a time as this,

An’ sic’ a school, an’ sic’ a church?

The hale thing jist means bliss

Foo great this day.

– Randerin’ Rhymer, Cullybackey, 11th April, 1910 (reproduced from this website)

Megaw published at least three books: Nature’s Speech (1930), Ulota (1934) and Carragloon: Tales of Our Townland (1935), and edited the second edition of A Flora of the North East of Ireland with R.L Praeger which was published in 1938. Megaw was a prominent member of Belfast Naturalists’ Field Club, as a specialist algae and moss collector. He became President of the Club, and also became a member of the Royal Irish Academy,

Despite all of his education and erudition, a Carrowdore childhood and an Ahoghill ministry means he would have understood the poem with nae bother.

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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Sankey's hymns - "Scottish and Irish in its construction"

Last week I was up at the annual Keswick at Portstewart convention, with about 1000 people in a big tent. The event has been going for over 100 years every summer. The bookstall people were doing a bargain offer on a book about the American evangelist DL Moody, for just £1. How could I resist?

Moody’s musical partner was Ira D Sankey, of Scotch-Irish ancestry, and their music made a vast impact worldwide. Here’s a few pics of pages from the book, recalling the observations of a Glasgow journalist on Moody & Sankey’s début in Scotland in the 1870s. Now bear in mind that Scotland had never heard this kind of sacred music before. And it was in its own way scandalous as it introduced a 'new' sacred musical style different from the Psalmody tradition. But, like the Wedderburns before in 1520s Scotland, Sankey’s hymnwriting bore the recognisable hallmarks of popular folk music:

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Monday, July 17, 2017

The Ancient Ards: Ballyhalbert motte & standing stone

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SAM 1666 The Anglo-Norman motte at Ballyhalbert probably dates from around the early 1200s; the megalithic standing stone further down the slope could date from around 2000BC. There was another similar stone about a mile away at Ballyhemlin until fairly recently, and some accounts say a third one nearby but I'm not sure of the location. Further down the coast at Millin Bay is a network of burial chambers which is even earlier, around 3000 – 2500BC. It's a great spot for a sunrise breakfast picnic. And near there is Tara Hill, an ancient earthwork. Some geologists have suggested there might have been a 'land bridge' connecting Ireland and Scotland, at around 6000BC (see here).

IrishSights Archaeology has some great drone footage of various local features; Ardquin Abbacy below was where an 'Inquisition' was held to pin down which parcels of land were owned/claimed by local landlords, before King James VI & I approved the Hamilton & Montgomery scheme of 1606.