Thursday, June 22, 2017

"It is a new secular religion"

Go to 13 minutes. Outstanding. Alliances of liberty are emerging across the western world, and across people who aren't 'on the same page' on every issue but who see common purpose on some big important themes. (choice language here and there)

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eh-7IcX5wOM&feature=youtu.be

"a hearty Irish Roman Catholic" and "a gentle Scotch-Irish Protestant"

Ronald Wilson Reagan’s parents were described as such in this New York Times obituary (click here).

Reagan

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

John Knox in 'The Orthodox Presbyterian', 1832

Two thistles, a rose and some shamrock. This periodical was published by William M’Comb - known in his day as ‘The Laureate of Presbyterianism’ - for about 10 years.

Knox Orthodox Presb 1832

Monday, June 19, 2017

Multic-Ulster-al (1956) – "the lallans of Antrim and Down"

Sam Hanna Bell (1909–90) was one of our greatest writers, thinkers, folklorist, collector and broadcasters of the 20th century. To understand an Ulster which few today can remember, Sam Hanna Bell’s writing will take you there with a clarity and authenticity that’s hard to find now.

Glasgow-born but reared near Raffrey in County Down before moving to Belfast, I would encourage everyone to get hold of his work and visit a different world. His début collection Summer Loanen (1943) has lovely natural touches of Ulster-Scots vocabulary. The world he presents was not idyllic, but which culturally speaking was far more nuanced and whole than the political perspectives which have come to dominate. An Ulster which seemed to better understand its multiple cultural strands than most do today.

If there is to be a holistic 'Culture Act' in Northern Ireland then Sam Hanna Bell had at least some of the vision for how it could be. He envisaged a ‘Folklore Commission’ and soon after the 'Committee on Ulster Folklife and Traditions’ was set up. It is easy to pass laws. But where are the minds, the hearts, the eyes, the ears, the voices and the pens? Where is today’s “body of trained folklorists”?

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Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Fine Gael badge, 1930s?

So the Republic of Ireland has a new man at the helm, Leo Varadkar from the political party Fine Gael. The badge below is an interesting design choice, as is this flag. I know next to nothing about politics in the south, so other smarter people than I might be able to add comments below to explain this one.

 

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"A Great American Tapestry, The Many Strands of Mountain Music"

A new film by David Weintraub is about to premiere from the wonderfully-titled Centre for Cultural Preservation. It will also be available on DVD soon.

I have written here before on the many positive interactions between Scotch-Irish and African Americans, and music is an arena where this is particularly identifiable - the musical origins of Jimmie Rodgers, Bill Monroe and Hank Williams to name just three have famously strong black influences. It's also excellent to see that the recent BBC Wayfaring Stranger series was tapping in to some of the same contributors, who are therefore recognised and credible practitioners from a US perspective. Many of them were new to me, it is reassuring, but not surprising, that the producers of Wayfaring Stranger were so well-informed in their selecting! This bodes very well for any potential US broadcasts of Wayfaring Stranger in the future. 

Here is the full story, reproduced here from the website Mountain Xpress from Asheville, North Carolina (online here).

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New Mountain Music Documentary’s World Premiere in June
The Center for Cultural Preservation is pleased to announce the world premiere of David Weintraub’s new film on the history of Appalachian Music titled, A Great American Tapestry, The Many Strands of Mountain Music screening at three venues in WNC in June. The documentary tells the story of the southern mountain’s musical birth and evolution through the strands of the Scots-Irish legacy, oft-overlooked African-American tradition and through the longest lived music in the Americas, the indigenous tradition. 

According to Director/Producer David Weintraub,

“Mountain music is often discussed as a Scots-Irish tradition that came over here by the Ulster-Scots and that’s true. It is a fascinating story.  But what often gets overlooked is that the West African banjo was played in this country by blacks for nearly 100 years before it was ever picked up by white musicians. African-Americans also played a key role in developing the syncopated and rhythmic fiddle styles that symbolic of old time and bluegrass music. The blended cultural result is exactly what makes mountain music as beautiful and captivating as it is.”

The film features the leading luminaries of the ballad tradition including balladeer extraordinaires Sheila Kay Adams, Joe Penland and Bobby McMillon as well as Grammy Award winning founders of the world renowned black string band, the Carolina Chocolate Drops including Rhiannon Giddens, members of the Eastern Band of Cherokee, David Holt, and musicologists and historians who tell the story of the great melting pot that became Appalachian music.

According to Phil Jamison, professor of Appalachian Music at Warren Wilson College and a participant in the film, “The reality of the southern backcountry was a diverse mix of Europeans, African-American and indigenous native peoples. Not racially, culturally or economically homogeneous, it was home to wealthy landowners, poor tenant farmers, sharecroppers, merchants, subsistence farms and enslaved African-Americans.” All of them shaped the music and made it special.

In addition to a film screening, several musicians participating in the film will perform at the start of each program. A brief discussion with the filmmaker and participants follows the screenings. Hendersonville’s world premiere will feature performances by Sheila Kay Adams, local old time band Rhiannon and the Relics and rising star Amythyst Kiah.

The world premiere of A Great American Tapestry will be held at the following locations/date/times:
• Blue Ridge Community College, Bo Thomas Auditorium at 7:00 pm on Thursday, June 22nd
• Fine Arts Theatre, Asheville at 7:30 pm on Thursday, June 29th
• White Horse, Black Mountain at 7:30 pm on Saturday, June 30th

Tickets are $10 and $15. Tickets are expected to sell out quickly so it is highly recommended that they be ordered soon on the Center for Cultural Preservation’s website at saveculture.org. For more information about the program and for group sales call the Center at (828) 692-8062.  For more information about future film screenings, online purchases of the DVD and more information about the film, contact the Center for Cultural Preservation at (828) 692-8062 or www.saveculture.org.

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Somebody should bring this film to our side of the Atlantic. In fact there should perhaps be a film festival...

Monday, June 12, 2017

"Convey the complexity"

May Hate DUP

It has been a very odd 48 hours here in Northern Ireland, with the London-centric media in a frenzied state of simultaneous amnesia and horror at the possibility of the weakened Conservative Party striking an arrangement with Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party. (I have to declare an interest here for those who are unaware, they've been a regular client of mine for 20 years). The DUP have just won 10 seats in Westminster, their highest-ever total, and the Conservatives now need them onside.

Amnesia because numerous previous Labour administrations have approached the DUP with similar overtures, horror because Northern Ireland is meant to be kept in the back room like the crazy elderly relative that nobody wants to admit is part of the family but who they’re forced to put up with at occasional awkward gatherings. To the GB population, Northern Ireland is thought to be ‘fixed’ and so has therefore ‘gone away’. Yet here the DUP are, thrust centre stage, in an unprecedented position and with significant influence. Cue outrage from the self-proclaimed ‘progressive’ media talking heads.

The reaction by some mainstream journalists has been pretty appalling. A glance through Twitter will show that. Some whose views I don’t always agree with, but whose professionalism up until now I have admired, have gone far beyond acceptable limits to smear and blacken not only the DUP but by implication the DUP electorate. It is a hairsbreadth from Hillary Clinton’s infamous ‘basket of deplorables’ remarks of last year. And even plenty of non-DUP, and even anti-DUP, folk I know have been taken aback by the barrage. Meanwhile my GB relatives are swallowing all of this up and are messaging my wife with well-meaning expressions of concern!

My mother worked in a factory, my father has worked two jobs his whole life, their parents lived off the land and from their grandparents back all of their ancestors had been tenant farmers for as many centuries as we know about. So I have a fair streak of working class in my bones and my sense of identity. Yes I am now 'white collar' and ‘creative industry’, but I can handle a clawhammer, a handsaw, a shovel and a cement mixer. But this new metropolitan authoritarian Left is a vicious beast - as shown by Emily Thornberry in 2014 and prior to that by Gordon Brown in 2010. Owen Jones, once the defender of England’s underclass in his 2012 book Chavs: The Demonization of the Working Class, and who was in 2015 pro-Brexit, has now turned against both.

Nobody is perfect. Everybody's history will throw up something which today seems at best distasteful. As I type some header on the BBC NI Talkback phone-in programme has alleged the DUP to be anti-Black racists. The madness is contagious.

Ulster is not the only place to suffer from convenient stereotyping. Appalachia is very much the same. Here is an excellent article, by Tom Porter of Bowdoin College in Maine, outlining the endless challenge for Appalachians to present themselves and their region in an authentic manner, and in so doing debunking the metropolitan stereotypes.

… The most important consideration though, said McCarroll, is not whether a film portrays the region she’s from in a positive light, but whether it’s able to convey the complexity of Appalachia and offer a true context...

• PS the excellent Brendan O’Neill, the self-described ‘Libertarian Marxist’ editor of Spiked Online, has just posted this excellent article on the subject. The image above is from that article. 

Saturday, June 10, 2017

Imaging Billy - William III of Orange in bronze, paint and glass around the British Isles

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It is always healthy to look back into the Northern Ireland 'goldfish bowl' from a wider, external perspective. Generally, this helps to expand understanding and challenge existing perceptions.

July is only a few weeks away - a period which has become known as the 'marching season' and in recent years in Belfast, OrangeFest. For me throughout my childhood it was just called 'the bands' and of course 'the Twelfth', and in Scotland is generally the 'Orange Walk' - none of which have the militaristic connotation of 'marching’. King Billy has adorned gable walls and huge Orange banners for maybe 150 - 200 years, with various degrees of artistic skill, some brilliant, some very crude and almost ‘folk art’ in style. There’s a hand-painted wooden example at the Museum of Orange Heritage in Belfast which looks almost like a piece of ancient Shaker furniture.

I remembered that a while ago I looked into the locations of various statues of William of Orange around the UK and Republic of Ireland. There seem to have been 14 in total, most of which still exist, and are listed here in chronological order:

1692 - Preston - Hoghton Tower - unknown if still exists
1701 - Dublin - Dame Street / College Green - blown up 1929, fragments still exist
1718 - Portsmouth - Historic Dockyard - still there
1734 - Hull - Market place - still there
1735 - Glasgow - Cathedral - still there
1736 - Bristol - Queen Square - still there
1754 - Boyle, Co Roscommon - bridge, then ‘Pleasure Grounds' - destroyed 1945 (base still there)
1757 - Petersfield, Hampshire - Market Square - still there
1808 - London - St James's Square - still there
1889 - Belfast - Clifton Street Orange Hall - still there
1889 - Brixham, Devon - quayside - still there
1907 - London - Kensington Palace - still there
1930 - Belfast - King William Park, Lisburn Road - plaque still there
1990 - Carrickfergus - Castle Green - still there

There may be more. And perhaps even further afield there are others, such as the one I tried to locate at William and Mary College in Colonial Williamsburg in Virginia last summer.

So what did William represent or signify to those who decided to commission and install these statues? Some show him on horseback, some are just figures. Some are bronze, whereas the Portsmouth and Hull statues are painted gold. In some he is depicted in classical toga and laurel wreath, Others are the famous long-haired pose with wide brimmed hat and sword. The inscriptions on each tell us something. Maybe some research into the social context, the funders and the sculptors would reveal an interesting story. 

How many art collections include portraits of him? Below is one I photographed at Castle Ward back in Easter of this year, hung high on a staircase wall, directly above Sir James Hamilton. Below this is a photo of the 'William III' stained glass window from the Great Hall of Belfast City Hall

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Below: a few publicity images from the Greenwich Painted Hall, showing a detail of William and Mary from the painting The Triumph of Peace and Liberty over Tyranny by Sir James Thornhill, which was painted from 1708–14. It is currently undergoing major refurbishment. NewImage

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Monday, June 05, 2017

Ards Peninsula tuberculosis 'experiment', 1951

This took place within my parents' lifetime. My father's parents' generation suffered very badly from T.B.. So much for all that supposed privilege eh?. In my generation, there has been a particular effort by SureStart and HomeStart in the Peninsula, I have been told a few times that this was due to 'genetic deficiencies' down here. Of course they'll never say that officially...

The Northern Ireland Tuberculosis Authority was established after WW2, with a reported 14,235 sufferers, 20 dying every week and 60 new cases appearing every week. By 1958 the Authority was deemed to have been a success and its functions distributed to the hospitals and local health committees.

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Moana - "We Were Voyagers"

Moana is one of the better Disney animated movies of recent years. Here’s the scene where she realises that her people - now timid, fearful and detached from their proud history - once had endless vision, ambition, and determination. She finds their long-lost ships and artefacts, buried deep in a cave. She strikes the ancient drum and the cave comes alive with scenes of the past.

We were voyagers. Why'd we stop?