Saturday, July 11, 2020

The forgotten 'Boston Revolt' of the 'Glorious Revolution', 18 April 1689

Here is an earlier story of yet more transatlantic kinship. Not long after King James II had been effectively overthrown in England in November 1688 by the arrival of his Dutch son-in-law, Prince William of Orange, the 'colonies' of New England also revolted against James and in favour of William.

James II's place-man in New England was the authoritarian governor Sir Edmund Andros who had been in post since 1686. Tremors had been felt for some time - James II's brother and predecessor Charles II had revoked the charter of the Massachussetts Bay colony in 1684 because the citizenry refused to obey his decrees. So, when news of William's success reached America, the population of the region around Boston and Ipswich saw their opportunity. They organised themselves into provincial militias and began to arrest government officials.

An orange flag was raised on Beacon Hill; there was a public declaration supporting "the noble undertaking of the Prince of Orange". Regular readers might remember that I've posted before about the support for William and Mary in the fledgling Ulster-Scots settlements of Maryland and their November 1689 Address of the Inhabitants of Somerset County (previous post here).

O 20 May 1689 the people of Boston published their first direct address to William (link here); on 6 June 1689 they published a second (link here). Congregational ministers were to the fore in opposing the Anglican establishment. And on 31 May a similar rising took place in New York State, led by Jacob Leisler (link here).

There is a very big story to untangle here, and to connect with events on this side of the Atlantic. From Brixham to Boston to the Boyne has a certain ring to it.

Discovering forgotten international dimensions to what are usually seen as narrow local events are game-changers in understanding, in lifting our view from our own Northern Ireland goldfish bowl to a far wider ocean.

• Signage pics from

Friday, July 10, 2020

A 1939 curmudgeon - the new "rude contrast' of the "huge red barn of corrugated iron"

Ah, the red shed with a round tin roof, an icon of rural Ulster. We are building a small version at home just now. A landmark of tradition, a magnificent example of built heritage as the two photos here from the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum show.

Well. This brilliant article is from the Larne Times - I've had it for a while but found it again today. One of the writer's targets is my beloved red corrugated tin sheds. Just goes to show that one generation's tradition is a previous generation's new-fangled innovation.

Wednesday, July 08, 2020

Ulster-Scots can be Pro-Orange and Pro-Green at the same time

Complexity in action: Cullybackey Ulster-Scots poet Adam Lynn's "The Twalt O July" is comfortably pro-1690 and in the next verse also pro-1798 'turn-oot'

And below is Adam Lynn's admonishment that to be community-minded "like men", all should "strive tae keep ill-feelin' doon" in order to have a "bricht ... Twalt Day". These are from his 1911 collection Random Rhymes which are online here.

Monday, July 06, 2020

"Galloway Irish" - a confusing name for south west Scots

If you get into Scots and Ulster-Scots language research, you'll soon come across the term "Galloway Irish". Here's a 2012 article from The Herald written by a knowledgable reader from Stranraer. As with the Census of Ireland language question ambiguities that I have referred to here previously, once again you have to be careful with assumptions about what is meant by 'Irish'. It doesn't mean Gaeilge.

And also as with the Census, an understanding of the contextual migrations and demographics is essential in arriving at a right understanding.

"Galloway Irish" refers to linguistic influences from Ireland - Ulster-Scots and Hiberno-English - upon Galloway Scots, giving it a distinct flavour from other dialects of Scots. Due to geographical proximity and frequent migrations from north east Ireland into Galloway over the centuries,  both Ulster-Scots and Hiberno-English have left their mark on the form of Scots that is spoke in Galloway, and it's this which has consequently has been called "Galloway Irish".

Scottish Language, Autumn 1982
An excellent source on this subject is the Autumn 1982 edition of the periodical Scottish Language, which was published by the Linguistic Survey of Scotland. It includes short papers by renowned scholars G.B. Adams, A. J. Aitken and Caroline McAfee.

The late James Milroy's article 'Some Connections Between Galloway and Ulster Speech' is a fine analysis of the term 'Galloway Irish' and how it should be understood. Milroy was born in Portpatrick in 1933 but worked for a time at Queen's in Belfast. His wife Lesley Milroy (link here) is also a respected academic, and has studied the 'social network' of working class communities in Belfast.

• Galloway Gossip (1901)
An earlier, more popular source (which my friend Joe Rae from Ayrshire introduced me to) is Dalbeattie-born and Auchencairn-raised Robert De Bruce Trotter's Galloway Gossip (1901). There are two editions of this, 'Sixty Years Ago' (1877; on here) and 'Eighty Years Ago' (1901) which is the volume that I have. Trotter also recognised that 'Ulster Scotch' itself had variations in dialect, and - as with 'Galloway Irish' - he also observed a 'Glasgow-Irish'. He is on Wikipedia here.

NB – To further confuse things, there was a form of Gaeilge / Scottish Gaelic / Gaidhlig spoken in Galloway.
How much was still evident in the 1600s and 1700s is as you might imagine another area of competing viewpoints and sources. Often this is tied with one's preferred linguistic ideals of the Scots who settled in Antrim and Down after 1606, Donegal after 1607, and then following the 1610 Plantation of the west of Ulster.

Strangely, none of the subsequent migrations of Scots into Ulster get much attention. But those are all different posts for other days.

Sunday, July 05, 2020

Steve Earle - 'Union, God and Country'

The expression 'a return to form' is a music reviewer's standard cliché. But for me Steve Earle had gone off the boil a little in recent years. He's one of my all-time favourite writers and performers, I've seen him solo at least twice, and one awesome night at the Ulster Hall with the Del McCoury Band in support of their 1999 joint Appalachian bluegrass album 'The Mountain', all in three piece suits and a single microphone. He's literally back in that territory again - musically, lyrically and geographically -  with his new album Ghosts of West Virginia.

I love Appalachia in so many ways, having been there four times, and am acutely aware of how the people there have so often been scapegoated, maligned and scorned by the 'metropolitan illiberal élites'. The introduction to this song is great - stoutly defending the ordinary people of West Virginia to his fashionable Californian audience. He says "We are not going to stop this nightmare by believing that everyone who voted for Donald Trump is an a****** or a racist - because it's simply not true." Earle's voice goes very much against the grain of the lazy, orthodox, élite media narratives. He sees the intrinsic value of the people.

The title and the lyrical content of this song are powerful representations of a worldview in which to be working class, to practice faith, and to love your country all sit very comfortably together - a combination which those élites (still) can't understand.


Here he is playing the 'hillbilly murder ballad' Carrie Brown with the Del McCoury Band in 1998 - this was on the soundtrack of our family Appalachian road trip in 2016. My sons and I play it on guitar, mandolin and six string banjo now and again. I can just about hit the high notes!

Whiskey, Temperance, FJ Bigger and the Ulster Public House Trust (1901-1930)

I grew up in a teetotal household (apart from a dusty bottle of Bushmills at the very back of the kitchen cupboard). In our wider family there has been alcoholism in living memory, including an uncle who inherited a farm and drank it all away. The more judgemental would criticise from a high horse. But self-medication takes many forms, as an attempt to find ease from many problems. 

The expansion of massive distilleries in Victorian Belfast also brought social damage. An architect friend who was involved in the regeneration of the Belfast Gasworks site told me a few times that when the Gasworks was operating, wives and mothers would congregate at the gates on a Friday afternoon to act as a human barricade to try to stop their men drinking their wages away at the pubs just across the road.

In 1901, renowned Belfast historian Francis Joseph Bigger was one of the founders of the Ulster Public House Trust Company, supported and funded by various prominent backers. As you can see from the photo above its logo was the Arms of the province of Ulster, with a five pointed Irish crown. The Trust had a number of Temperance aims for the improvement and reforming of the worst excesses of pub culture; its headquarters were at 109 Royal Avenue, Belfast and its Secretary was J. Pim Thompson. The article below explains more –

The famous Crown and Shamrock pub in Carnmoney seems to have been the first to adopt the experiment. A Belfast News-Letter article on 1 June 1901, about the opening, said that 'alcoholic drinks will be sold, but they will not form the main attraction of the establishment; on the contrary, while they will be of the best quality, the manager of the establishment will not profit by the turnover from them, but he will from the consumption of food and non-alcoholic beverages'.

Near me, the Trust bought a pub from William John Askin in Ballywalter, demolished it, and built a brand new Dunleath Arms which operated under the standards of the UPHT (it is currently for sale - estate agents website here). The Templetown Arms in Templepatrick was another, as was The Goat Inn at Milltown.

One year later the UPHT reported that 'the written opinions of local clergymen, magistrates, farmers, artisans and others have been received and they all speak in the highest possible terms of the lines on which the inn is now conducted'.

The 1903 Church of Ireland General Synod in Dublin commended the scheme – 'amid some laughter Bishop Crozier confessed he had been in the Company's public house at Glengormley a couple of weeks ago, and had tried first to get in by the back door because he did not wish it to be generally known that he had been in it'. The manager was amused, and produced a recent newspaper report of a visit to the pub by the Bishop of Down. Interestingly there were some critical voices from the 'total abstinence' lobby at the Synod.

Earl Albert Grey (Wikipedia here) had introduced the GB scheme, known as 'Gothenburg Experiments' based on an earlier success in Sweden, and 'Public House Trusts'. Similar initiatives were tried in Fife in Scotland (at the mining villages of Hill-of-Beath and Kelty)

The Ulster Public House Trust's work and admirable aims seem to have been caught in the crossfire between the opposite objectives of the drink trade and the hardcore 'total abstinence' teetotallers; Prohibition and a global decline in the legal production of spirits may also have had an effect. Perhaps the Great War, and Partition, also played a role. The UPHT was voluntarily liquidated in January 1930.

Love Thy Neighbour - again

In Matthew 22 v36-40, Jesus organises the unkeepable (yet which must be kept perfectly) Ten Commandments of Moses under two broad headings  – the second of which is "thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself". Love your neighbour okay fair enough, but as much as you love yourself? Good luck with that. Loving your neighbour goes further, it also means not believing lies about your neighbour.

But in the absence of relationship, the presence of ideology creates a fertile seed bed for lies to be sown and then flourish. YouTube's algorithms offered me this video during lockdown. I watched it late one night. The description of "Pentecostal cabins at the end of street corners" is beyond bizarre. Is the story true or is it mythical? The vocabulary used in that particular segment has a strong aroma of passed-down nonsense.

This cuts both ways across our traditional 'divide'. When you have no actual relationship with your neighbours, and your impression of them is shaped by untruths and devious ideologues, you can easily be persuaded to believe that those neighbours are emissaries of an Evil Empire.

You're a million times more likely to do so if you make the huge mistake of viewing everyone as a member of a 'group', and not as a sovereign individual with their own agency. 

Friday, July 03, 2020

The Union Foundry, Belfast

Some interesting insignia here - once again the 5 pointed Irish crown, as well as a creative usage of the harp. From the amazing shop called On The Square Emporium in Belfast (click here).

Jean or Jane Watson, the Covenanter widow from Killaughey, and William of Orange

A few years ago I was loaned a notebook containing a typescript of a brilliant story about Jean / Jane Watson from Killaughey (near Ballycopeland windmill). It had been written down by her great grandson, 'A.M.' from Greyabbey.

She was a Presbyterian Covenanter refugee from Scotland, fleeing the "Killing Times" from 1661-88. She was a 33 year old widow with six children. When the Duke of Schomberg arrived at Groomsport in 1689, his troops took horses from local farmsteads, including Jean's two which were her only source of income and survival.

Described as "intrepid in manner" the furious Jane pursued Schomberg all the way to Drogheda. She got an audience with William of Orange, who gave her 6 horses for her trouble, and two letters. One was on paper and guaranteed her safe passage home should any soldiers stop her. The other was on vellum and said –

"As a reward for perseverance and bravery I hereby confirm assign and make ever JANE WATSON widow her heirs male for ever free of rent all that parcel of land she now holds in KILLAUGHEY, DONAGHADEE.
Dated this 15th day of July 1690
William Rex.

Jane Watson was buried at Templepatrick graveyard on the shore between Millisle and Donaghadee. Her gravestone is still there today - "here lieth ye body of Jean Watson who died May ye 4th 1749 aged 92 years".

(PS Belfast historian Jason Burke also found the same story, a few years before me, and from another source).

(PPS the whole story was printed in the Newry Telegraph on 26 May 1842, which in turn had been reprinted from the Derry Standard)

Thursday, July 02, 2020

'Uncorked in America' - a Pennsylvania slogan from 1906

It's a famous slogan - 'Brewed in Scotland, Bottled in Ulster, Uncorked in America'. The earliest version of it I have found is from the Western Pennsylvania Historical Magazine in 1923. It comes from a witty and metaphor-laden speech given to the Pennsylvania Scotch-Irish Society in 1906 by Rev. Dr. William Hamilton Spence, the minister of First Presbyterian Church in Uniontown, Fayette County, Pennsylvania –

"a genuinely Scotch-Irish taste - distilled in Scotland, decanted in Ireland, uncorked in America"

It's on page 88 here. It shouldn't be a surprise that the figure of speech has its origin in the land of the Whiskey Rebellion!

• The full text of the speech is online here. Spence's father was a Donegal man and he throws in some Ulster-Scots expressions. Very quotable material. 

A Huge Gamble? Playing Cards and Partition

To mark the creation of Northern Ireland and the Irish Free State, The Worshipful Playing Card Company printed two sets of beautiful commemorative playing cards. This website describes them –

"Ireland: Commemorating the establishment of the Irish Free State by treaty with England in December 1921. In the centre of the Celtic design is the National Emblem of Ireland with the words Ireland for ever. The border shows historical landscapes together with the Arms of the four Provinces, the centre being filled by the Imperial Crown – emblem of supreme sovereignty. Design by Edward Cunningham of Goodall & Son. 1250 packs issued. (A) White border. (B) Red border. Double packs were sent to His Grace the Duke of Abercorn, who was Governor of Northern Ireland, and to Mr. T.M. Healey, Governor of the Irish Free State."