Wednesday, September 23, 2020

'A crack' with Paddy O'Neill – James Craig, their wives, and the importance of relationships

If coronavirus wasn't dominating the phone-in shows, the forthcoming centenary / centenNIal of Northern Ireland would be. It manages to squeeze in between the gaps every once in a while. This recent article by Professor John Wilson Foster is excellent. Today, in looking for something else, my eye caught this extract from St John Ervine's Craigavon, Ulsterman, his biography of James Craig the first Prime Minister of Northern Ireland.

Craig and Patrick O'Neill were political opponents, but they were also personal friends. O'Neill was a hotelier in Warrenpoint, and evidently their wives shared a mutual regard too. You can see in the page image below, Craig "liked the man and did not let their differences divide them".

This is an important reminder that relationship can transcend political difference. I hope that in all of the political history we'll get next year, much of which will be divisive and will be deployed by spokespersons to justify century-long events and present-day positions, that there will be also be room to acknowledge that stories like this happened too.

There has not only ever been conflict. Those who insist there was usually benefit in some way from persuading others of that claim.

Tuesday, September 22, 2020

Shamrock, Rose and Thistle – Northern Ireland Parliament Medal – 22 June 1921

Thursday, September 17, 2020

A Dublin view of Ulster-Scots, 1914

Rev. Augustine Dillon Cosgrave (1865–1936) was Dublin born and bred, and a member of the Carmelite order. He was a noted historian and his 1906 volume A History of Ireland in the Nineteenth Century (online here) has lots of very interesting material. It's good to read deeply within your own community, but also to read widely beyond it. His perspectives on key events of that century are quite different to the ones I have absorbed.

The 1914 article below, which is on JSTOR here, looks brilliant, showing his understanding that 'Ulsterisms' are overwhelmingly 'really Scotticisms ... a Scotsman may easily be taken for an Ulsterman, or vice versa, if his place of origin be judged by his speech alone ... to a Dubliner, all Ulstermen, whether judged by speech or character, are like Scotchmen'.  

His observation that there is a 'homogeneity of speech which seems to be shared by Ulstermen of all creeds and politics' I think is still largely true a century later, but with regional variations within.

The Catholic Standard of 1 May 1936 paid tribute to Cosgrave as 'not only one of Dublin's most familiar and best-loved figures, but also one of the foremost authorities on its history and antiquities' and went on to say that he 'specialised in modern languages, in which he was highly accomplished'. So his linguistic observations on the Scots influence on Ulster's speech is significant.

He died aged 72, as a result of an accident, and was buried at Glasnevin Cemetery.

Saturday, September 12, 2020

Thomas Carnduff - "our utter lack of interest in history ... the fault lies with the Government"

"A great failing many Ulster people have is our utter lack of interest in the history and legends attached to almost every strip of land in the North. The fault, perhaps, doesn't lie with the people but with the Government. They have yet to produce a school book giving the reader an outline of Ulster history. A country without history is somewhat like a man without a name; he is born, lives, dies, and is forgotten."

– Thomas Carnduff, from an article entitled "I Think This Stage-Ulsterman Stuff Is About Played Out" in the Belfast Telegraph, 18 November 1942.

From just a few searches in the online British Newspaper Archive I am finding a quite different Carnduff than the standard biographies portray. I have only posted a few here, inspired by his article in The Bell in July 1942 – which it turns out was based on a Belfast Telegraph article from four years earlier on 9 July 1938, which was entitled 'The Literature of Orangeism is No Sham'.

Every editor has either conscious or unconscious bias. With his Blue Plaque on Belfast's famous Linen Hall Library, I think Carnduff has been edited selectively, reduced to a smaller thinker than he was, and a rethink is overdue, by someone capable of doing so. But when you send someone panning for gold, make sure they know what gold looks like.

But his point is key - Northern Ireland was 21 years old, into its second generation, and the Government still had not published a history. 

Thomas Carnduff - 'Ulstermen All' - Belfast Telegraph, 3 August 1923


Thomas Carnduff - 'Wake Up Ulster' - Belfast Telegraph , 6 August 1927

Here Carnduff shows that he must have been drinking from the same fountain as Rev. W.F. Marshall, ticking all the classic boxes - a rallying cry in the early years of Northern Ireland's existence. 

Thursday, September 10, 2020

Thomas Carnduff, 'Belfast' in 1942, and giving yourself room to critique

The photo below is of the home turf of Thomas Carnduff (1886–1956), Belfast's Sandy Row, as famously photographed by Bill Kirk in 1974 (see article on Culture Northern Ireland here). Two years after I was born this is how people there lived. Staunchly unionist, yet utterly neglected by what some would claim was 'their' state.

[An important recent Radio Ulster interview, with a 92 year old lady called Ruby and her son Paul, of the Fountain Estate working class unionist community's experiences in Londonderry in 1968 is similarly shocking and stereotype-shattering – link here

The handful of editions of The Bell that I acquired recently are full of content that is intriguing and stimulating. I have never got around to reading any Thomas Carnduff (1886–1956) until now, but this piece I have posted below is a rich vein of thought. It's 32 years before the photograph above. I'm not on-side with all of Carnduff's perspectives, but he has the guts to praise and stoutly defend aspects of life in Belfast, and also the wisdom to leave space to critique aspects of it too. Kirk's photographs show reason enough why. 

One of the difficulties around the forthcoming centenary/centennial of Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State is that the Ulster-Scots were, and are, on both sides of the line, and have never been unthinking supporters of any state wherever in the world they have travelled. As Carnduff hints here "one long chapter of municipal independence and disagreements with the lawful demands of the King's representatives" – centuries of experiences which have been mined in Scotland and forged in Ulster.

The marking of 2021 poses challenges which need to be thought through, within Northern Ireland and also for our neighbours within today's Republic of Ireland. Having spent some time over the years with the self-described "minority community" on the other side of our presently-soft border, their experiences need to be acknowledged. Those experiences tend to be swiftly glossed over by the establishment-endorsed narratives, but many of those folk will still speak today of "keeping our heads down". I am just an interested spectator and a visitor though, I have no family there. Those who do are key in finding the right and respectful approach. 

These are not the only perspectives that can be viewed for the centenary/centennial. And there aren't just "two sides" to be told – there are thousands, millions even, of stories.

Carnduff is interesting here. I need to read more of his.

Monday, September 07, 2020

"The Realm of Strathclyde"

More information here. "Strathclyde is a serious micronation in western Europe.  She has her own elected King, written constitution, elected government, elected parliament, and is recognised by at least 16 other micronations around the world. She has her own laws and is heavily influenced by and committed to human rights, and to John Stuart Mill's idea of liberty, which is protected through our constitution".

It is very possible that one of my friends is pranking me.  

Sunday, September 06, 2020

"Ninian and Nendrum – Whithorn and the Early Church in east Ulster"

I picked up a booklet recently of this title, being the content of the Tenth Whithorn Lecture given on 15 September 2001 by the late Dr Ann Hamlin O.B.E. (1940–2003), edited by Malcolm Fry, and published by The Friends of Whithorn Trust. Dr Hamlin worked for the Archaeological Survey of Northern Ireland, which was then part of the Department of the Environment.

Nendrum is one of Ireland's most important early monastic sites - it was 'lost' for centuries except for ancient manuscript records. It was finally located by the meticulous antiquarian and historian Bishop William Reeves in 1844, and then was literally uncovered by a team of local archaeologists, farmers and contractors almost 100 years ago, in June 1922. You can read a report of the "repair and preservation" of Nendrum online here, including an interesting list of all of those who donated funds to the project. 

The early Christian communities' connections across the North Channel and Irish Sea were many, thanks to the ancient kingdoms, such as Dal Fiatach, which also had connections on each side. (The sites of Whithorn and Nendrum are marked on the map above).

St Ninian (Wikipedia here) was Scotland's first saint; he began his missionary work at Whithorn in AD397. He died in AD432 (according to some sources he died in Ireland) – which is traditionally given as the year that St Patrick began his work in Ireland. A passing of the baton if you will. Around a century later, St Finnian, who was of the 'royal' family of Dal Fiatach, is best known for his work at Movilla near Newtownards – he studied at both Nendrum and Whithorn. St Columba was one of Finnian's pupils, who of course founded the world famous monastery on the western Scottish island of Iona.