Sunday, May 15, 2022

Ryan Holiday and Jordan Peterson

Why even bother with a blog? Maybe for these reasons. I really like a lot of Ryan Holiday's outputon his various Daily Stoic channels, even though I have never journalled. Maybe blogging is as close as I'll get to that. 

Thursday, May 12, 2022

Being 50 and the news

I usually avoid the news but occasionally I get drawn back into it. Perhaps it's a symptom of being 50, but it is strange to me to have lived through what is now 'history', to remember it as having been 'real time' life, and to wonder why those whose job it is to commentate upon it appear have such a limited grasp of it, or at least to daily observe that they recite an edited, redacted, version of it. Wikipedia gets criticism but, to understand why Northern Ireland politics is in the news yet again, a quick scan over the period 1998–2007 here would be of benefit. Then go digging and ask why those various suspensions and issues arose. You'll need to dig pretty deep because it seems that hardly anybody explains anymore. Figuring out where you're at is much easier when you retrace how you got there. To co-opt a famous slogan from 1798 and apply it to events two centuries later … Who dares to speak of '98 – 2007?

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Ardal O'Hanlon – Tomb Raider

Three friends have told me about this, and it is excellent. See how ideas of ancient history were selectively mined and appropriated to construct notions of identity in 1930s Ireland. I am delighted that the renowned Estyn Evans' work comes across in it so well. It can't have been easy for him to swim against the well-funded tide. An essential watch, see it here on iPlayer. Much to think about.

Tuesday, May 10, 2022

Community > Nation > State

When you read all the best accounts of the 'colonial' era in America, you soon see a common thread that the people's loyalty was first and foremost to their community. A coalescing and coming together of the common interests of those communities – Charles Augustus Hanna reckoned there were 500 Scotch-Irish communities in the original 13 colonies – then becomes a nation. And a nation which then, after 1776, became a new state. Communities carry values, traditions, continuity - regardless of their geography or who their governing administrators are. We would do well to remember that momentum, when looking at Ireland's past, present and future. A bottom-up community-first perspective is the most effective way to understand. Imposing a top-down, nation-first mould makes little sense.

MartyrMade Podcasts – "reason can justify and rationalise, but emotion motivates"

... So says Darryl Cooper at 1hr 04minutes in this fascinating podcast about the origins and context of what he calls "the conflict between Israel and Palestine". 

Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Turnpike Troubadours are back

The world of Americana music has been very excited by the apparent reformation of the Oklahoma cult band the Turnpike Troubadours. They've been on hiatus for all sorts of rumoured reasons. The unrivalled quality of their music, which has been featured on the TV series Yellowstone, is why there's such excitement –

Monday, April 11, 2022

St Patrick - 'born in Scotland' - National Geographic, November 1935

The Ulster-Scots Agency published a booklet back on St Patrick's Day which I authored, the culmination of many years of assembling scraps and references to the once-familiar orthodox story of Patrick's Scottish origins. Here is another reference that I found over the weekend. So much of the past generation of Ulster-Scots growth has been about recovering almost-lost knowledge and traditions. For two generations the community had neglected its own heritage, abandoned much of it, saw little value in it – but also, Northern Ireland's 'officialdom' had decided to marginalise and deride it.  Hopefully the forthcoming generation will put it all to good use.

Saturday, April 09, 2022

Progress at Glasgow School of Art

When visiting our oldest son in Glasgow last weekend, I took off on a walking tour while he was doing some work, and made my way along Sauchiehall Street and up to Glasgow School of Art to see how the refurb and rebuild is going, following its two devastating fires of 2014 and 2018. My recent post from back in February tells some of the story of how I was offered a place there back in 1991, and even though I didn't take up the offer, those magical weeks when it nearly happened will always have a special place in my heart and memories. Some pics below.

As with Belfast, Glasgow is frequently pigeonholed as a place of heavy industry and working class blue collar attitudes. These are true, but the ease of that stereotype disguises the diversity, creativity, artistic and craft traditions of both cities.

Tuesday, March 29, 2022

Graham Little's 'Danders Aroon'

These short videos are a great way to explore the history of our landscapes. The clear evenings are back, so why not get out there? Graham has done a great job here, and it's always brilliant to see and hear Charlie Gillen.

"It's a bad day for love, but a good day for flower shops" - the sweetest harmonies this side of the Everly Brothers

Friday, March 18, 2022

Language Map of the British Isles, 1881

This map was posted on Facebook this week, on the We The Irish - Podcast page (click here). No source is given for the atlas this is from, but the key bottom left says that stats are from the 1881 census, and also the 1897 work of EG Ravenstein in On the Celtic languages in the British Isles: a statistical survey, Journal of the Royal Statistical Society (1879). As has been mentioned here over the years a few times, the language answer as self-completed by respondents on the 1901 and 1911 census, which has been quite recently visualised and mapped by Barry Griffin, is way out of kilter in east Ulster.

None of these historical administrative ventures or mapping projects allowed for Scots being distinct from English, so its linguistic existence gets lost, divided, or even misinterpreted. We have a trilingual society, but for centuries we've only had a bilingual bureaucracy.

This map of a decade earlier is from Wikipedia Commons, dated 1871.

Thursday, March 17, 2022

Re-telling Hamilton & Montgomery and 1606

Check this new video out, a creative and informal retelling of James Hamilton, Hugh Montgomery and Con O'Neill –

The presenter is Bruce Fummey – here's his video about the Bruces in Ireland in the 1300s:

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

From St Patrick to Martin Luther – in Tennessee in 1889

"Thus, by easy steps, we go from St. Patrick to lona and the Culdees and Knox in Scotland, and to Switzerland, with its Zwingli and Geneva, and to Germany and Luther. Germany, which now leads the world in scholarship, was content to receive its first schools from humble Scotch-Irish itinerants."

– Prof George Macloskie D.SC, LL. D. (1834-1919) was Professor of Biology in Princeton College. This quote is from his address 'What the Scotch-Irish Have Done For Education', which was given at the first Congress of the Scotch-Irish Society of America in Columbia, Tennessee in 1889. He was born at Castledawson, and was ordained as a Presbyterian minister in 1860. He was minister of Ballygoney near Magherafelt from 1861–1873. Pic below of Macloskie is from this website

Monday, March 14, 2022

A Methodist view on the the language of the Ards Peninsula

Presbyterians get almost all of the Ulster-Scots attention. But the story and sources are much wider than that. A biography of Rev Hans Morrison (1836–1898) was published in 1899, written by Rev John Coulter of Glastry Methodist Church between Ballyhalbert and Kircubbin. Morrison's ancestry was at Killinchy on his father's side, and Cloughey on his mother's. Hans was born at Echlinville townland near Rubane in 1836. The colourful introduction is a brilliant social study of the area at the time, which includes another description of the language spoken, from Donaghadee to Portaferry which was where Morrison toiled –

"... the Ards is a thickly-populated district of country. Scottish characteristics in dialect, &c, prevail amongst the inhabitants, chiefly around the eastern coast ..."

If I recall correctly, there's a reference in John Wesley's diaries to him trying to preach in east Down in the mid 1700s, but struggling to do so effectively because the people spoke 'Scotch'.

Sunday, March 13, 2022

Author May Crommelin of Carrowdore Castle, America and Ulster-Scots

Anyone with a genuine interest in the local heritage of my part of the world will inevitable, naturally, encounter Ulster-Scots. I've mentioned May Crommelin (1848–1930) here before. I picked up a rare original edition of her 1887 novel Dead Men's Dollars last year, a story of a famous Copeland Islands shipwreck and the recovery of its gory booty.

Her recently-reprinted 1880 novel, Orange Lily, is largely autobiographical (online here) with characters who she says 'spoke as broad Scotch as their ancestors did'. This is almost identical to Alice Milligan's 1898 description of Donaghadee, just a few miles up the coast, where the locals spoke 'broadest County Down Scotch'. These two extracts are from an 1893 interview with May Crommelin, in a book entitled Notable Women Authors of the Day –

Below is a circa 1930 photo of my grandfather William Wilson's childhood home at Ballyraer / Ballyrawer (today the Woburn Road), viewed from within the Crommelin's 'plantin'. His brother Henry and sister Rhoda are the weans.

Wednesday, March 09, 2022

County Down language in 1924 – "purely lowland Scotch"

Here's another excellent, mainstream, source for the degree of Scots language usage in County Down just about 100 years ago. There are so many similar sources, someone really should collate them all. In 1924 my grandfather William Thompson was 23, my grandmother Madge Coffey was 13 (they married in 1937); my grandfather William Wilson was 18 and my grandmother Molly Hamill was 6 (they married in 1938).  The linguistic world they all grew up in was 'purely lowland Scotch'.

Tuesday, March 08, 2022


There are umpteen different theologies within Christianity. Being open to learning new perspectives from other traditions is very important, what some of my Presbyterian friends have called "light from any quarter". Over the past while I've been listening/watching Theocast, a podcast style discussion between two Reformed Baptist pastors in greater Appalachia – Jon Moffit and Justin Perdue – which has an orthodox Lutheran twist and natural connections with the fine work being done at 1517. Even though these guys are American, their social-cultural context is very relevant to a Northern Ireland evangelical audience who might be looking for something deeper and truer. Their content is excellent – highly recommended if you want to find a theological framework which has assurance, peace and rest at its core. Their website is here, and here's one recent example –