Wednesday, April 29, 2009

1859 Revival Hymn: "Lord to Thee I Trembling Fly"

Thanks to Jack Greenald for sending this to me - it was written by the Presbyterian minister Rev Henry Henderson (1820 - 1879) of Holywood, County Down. His church was/is just across the road from Rev Robert Cunningham's old priory church.

The hymn was known as "The Prayer of the Penitent", and sung to the tune Pleyel’s German Hymn’, better known as Children of the Heavenly King.

Lord to Thee I trembling fly
Full of sin afraid to die
Turn o turn and to me give
Saving Grace that I might live.

Long a Sinner – sinning too
While the Gospel well I knew
Should Thy judgements on me fall
Justly I would suffer all

Blessed Jesus! Hear my cry
Ah! Behold my agony
Lord of Glory can it be
That no hope no heaven’s for me

By Thy love so full and free
By Thy passion on the tree
By thy promise all to save
Who to Thee for mercy crave

Lord of glory! I entreat
Now for pardon at Thy feet
Send Thy blessing, grant Thy peace
Bid my heart’s wild terrors cease

Then my soul shall loud proclaim
The honour of my Saviour’s name
And in nobler songs above
Shall I praise Thy wondrous Love

Henderson is a significant character - he wrote columns in the local newspaper "Belfast Weekly News" during the mid 1800s under the pseudonym "Ulster-Scot"!

He wrote a number of books, including "Flora Verner; or, The Sandy Row convert - a tale of the Belfast revival"


Monday, April 27, 2009

Covenanters in Newtownards - Saturday 9 May

If you're in the vicinity, make a point of being at these events. This is the last opportunity to see the drama (at least until further dates and events are planned):

The drama lasts for about 30 minutes, and features Robert Blair, Alexander Peden and David Houston, as well as a fictional couple called Andrew and Sarah.


Exhibition and Drama
Newtownards Town Hall
10.30 am - 4.30pm
Drama performances at 11am, 12.30pm ad 2.00pm
12 Exhibition banners telling the story of the Covenanters in Ulster
Interactive timelines on computer workstations
Admission free

Evening of Psalm Singing
Queen's Hall
Doors open at 7pm for exhibition viewing
Singing commences at 8.00pm
Admission free


The events are being managed by the congregation of Newtownards Reformed Presbyterian Church, and are part of the overall "Covenanters in Ulster" project that I was privileged to be involved in over the past 18 months.

To give you some idea of what it'll be like, photographs of a previous darama and exhibition are available here

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Hillstown Orange Hall

Graeme and I had the great privilege of playing last night at Hillstown Orange Hall, for part of their 1859 Revival Commemoration weekend. The folk there have done a great job - there was a tremendous Revival exhibition provided largely by Rev Stanley Barnes, and a section by the local folk too. The group's chairman, Alec Wallace, recited two poems, one of which was a WF Marshall poem about the Covenanters. We played about 8 pieces, a couple of which the audience joined in with and sang with real power, especially "Victory in Jesus". And you can't do an 1859 Revival night without doing "What's the News" and "Gran Time Comin"!

It was lovely to renew acquaintance with Davy and Edith Reid - I had a great conversation with Davy at the end of the night over a cup o tay. He, Edith and Daryl Close - all from 1st Portglenone Presbyterian - also played about 8 pieces, with Davy on lowland pipes. Beautiful music, and a delight to sit and enjoy it. They're out singing 3 or 4 nights a week now, so keep an eye out for them and go and see them if they're in your neck of the woods.

It was one of those special, simple, rural Ulster nights. In 1625, revival visited Ulster through a group of ordinary Ulster-Scots folk meeting in a simple hall - the "Antrim Meetings". In 1859, revival returned, and again began through a group of ordinary Ulster-Scots folk meeting in a simple hall. And if it returns, the likelihood is it'll be through ordinary folk once again meeting in a simple way.

A lovely evening, it was a joy to be there. Well done to Alan, Gary and Alec for their work and dedication.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Faith Mission logo - where'd the heritage go?

I try to not criticise other designers' work, because 99 times out of 100 I have no idea what their brief was, or what the process was like, how much time they had to work on it, how clued-in the client was - or even if it was actually the client and his GCSE art student daughter that designed it.

Nevertheless, I was very sad to see that the Faith Mission had changed their logo recently, from something with real craft and heritage:

Faith Mission.jpg

to this:

LOGOTYPE_FM Bookshops.jpg

I don't know who did it, or anything about the brief and process, so maybe I'm missing the point with this post. But why go from Faith Mission to the acronym FM? Will the uninformed now think it's a radio station? And why the funky typeface with a swishy go faster stripe at the bottom? Maybe at 37 I'm becoming oul and cantankerous but it saddens me to see an organisation with such a wonderful heritage do this to their visual presentation.

But surely it's just a logo - the message they present hasn't changed. Well, I kinda beg to disagree. The logo should embody what the organisation stands for - and to me this looks pretty trivial compared to what they had before.

The Faith Mission was founded in Scotland in 1886 - it'll be 125 years old in two years time. You don't see big heritage organisations like (for example) the National Trust, or their Scottish counterpart ditch their traditions. Take a huge global company like Shell for example - they carefully developed their logo over the past 100 years, steady, sensible gradual updates but each one solidly connected to its original. That's the way to do it.

Tradition is not a bad thing - many commercial brands crave heritage so much that they even invent one. Look at the big global jeans brands. Go into any clothing shop and the place is coming down with garments made a few weeks ago in some third world country with words like "authentic" "traditional" and "original" emblazoned across them. Don't listen to the siren voices who sing "out with the old, and in with the new" - tradition does appeal to people!

The Faith Mission does wonderful work - I was converted as a wee lad of 10 during a Faith Mission outreach in December 1982 - and it's great to see them open up modern outlets like an online bookstore, a blog, and to carry on with their outreaches in new ways.

It's just a shame that the visual signal that the new logo sends is so bland.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Yet again, the Ulster Scots got there first!

Here's a belated post of something Lee sent me ages ago - proof that it was the Scotch-irish hillbillies that invented beatbox - way before rap was created!

Objections to Ulster-Scots: Part Five

because it's just a politically motivated recent invention

This objection only really applies to those people who are daft enough to fall for the lie that Ulster-Scots was created in a laboratory in the mid 1990s, and was wheeled out of the cultural armaments plant just in the nick of time - a glorious gleaming Supergun-style weapon of tartan-clad retaliation to defend the Prods from the advancing, surging, Irish hordes.

Most people with a titter of wit know fine rightly that that's nonsense.

I'm not sure what politically motivated really means, but it sounds baaaad. I suppose in Norn Irn speak it roughly translates as something that's used to try to do the other side over. Let's have a look at this:

a) If the objection means (to coin a cliché) the sectarian politics of Northern Ireland, well then maybe the objector has a point. After all, it was the Ulster Unionist Party that negotiated the Belfast Agreement that gave birth to the Ulster-Scots Agency. So therefore surely Ulster-Scots is a purely unionist thing? Hmmm... but there are well-known public figures from at least two non-Unionist political parties that have been, or still are, very active in the very small Ulster-Scots world. And that's fine by me. But when presented with this evidence, if the objector retreats a wee bit and is really only in a tizzy about the unionist bit, then the objection itself is politically motivated...

On a more practical level, in the day-to-day political world that's often called bread-and-butter, (and I hope that's the heel of a plain loaf, and good Ballyrashane country butter) everything in Northern Ireland was / is / will be political. We have a massive political class which wields enormous influence, and not all of it good! And thanks to our history we're all quite highly-tuned in to the ongoing political tug of war - we absorb it in every news broadcast of every day. So in Northern Ireland everything has been appropriated by politics - that's just the way it is. The 11 Plus, the stadium, water charges and all the rest - Ulster-Scots is not unique in that regard. Get over it. Find me an aspect of life in Northern Ireland that's never been touched by politics and I'll send you a wee bag of Portavogie dulse as a prize.

Here's nice simple tv ad on the theme from a few years ago:

b) As for part two of the large type statement above - the recent invention bit - well, have a look through the archives of this blog (now sitting at 366 posts!) and you'll find plenty of material to kill that idea off once and for all.

However, the underlying issue is that many people - especially the smarter-than-thou chattering class - are actually very lazy and can't be bothered to take the time to look beyond the stereotype and find out for themselves. And so this particular objection is, for some, a handy cloak to hide behind, which saves them from having to adjust their viewpoints.

There's another angle to this. The point above deals with the usual notion of Ulster-Scots being a contrived reaction to Irishness. However, I also know Unionist folk who see Ulster-Scots as a cynical means of weaning Ulster Protestants away from their Britishness - part of the process to reduce the British identity of Northern Ireland. Personally, I see Ulster-Scots as my true identity, what I always was, and am very thankful for what I've learned about myself and my own history through the growth of Ulster-Scots. Identity is a complex thing.

Previous articles in this series:
> Part Four
> Part Three
> Part Two
> Part One
> Intro
> What is Ulster-Scots?

This'll make you feel smaller

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Expelled - No Intelligence Allowed

Ben Stein is a big star in the USA. He has been a speechwriter for two Presidents, and is an actor, author and presenter. Expelled - No Intelligence Allowed was the No. 1 documentary in the US in 2008 - I don't know if it was released here in the UK, but this trailer is very compelling stuff...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Destroying heritage, Giant's Causeway, 1958

I found this old photograph in an antiques shop on the Donegall Pass in Belfast about 15 years ago, of two workmen with crowbars at work on the Giant's Causeway, clearly dislodging parts of the world famous basalt columns. (click the photo to enlarge)

On the back is handwritten "1958". The Giant's Causeway was acquired by the National Trust in 1961. How much of Northern Ireland's heritage - natural, built and cultural - was destroyed in days gone by?

Monday, April 13, 2009

Propaganda 1700s style?

Hatred of all things Ulster-Scots is nothing new...

Rev Charles Woodmason, a Church of England minister in South Carolina, wrote in his journal on 25 January 1767 that he was due to preach in an area ‘occupied by a set of the most lowest vilest crew breathing - Scotch Irish Presbyterians from the North of Ireland — they have built a Meeting House and have a Pastor, a Scots Man, among them.’. The following year, on 17 July 1768, he wrote that ‘Although [the Chief Justice of South Carolina] was a gentleman of Ireland, yet he abominated these Northern Scotch-Irish and they are certainly the worst vermin on earth.’

Woodmason is also said to have translated one of his sermons into the "Quohee Language". That's not some native American Indian dialect, but the language spoken by the Scotch-Irish! In the footnote on p 150 of his diary, it says 'Quohee or Cohee is of Scotch origin "Quo'he" and is also referred to as an Scotch-irish phrase'. It's a term that also crops up in this recent book too, in which the rural Scotch-Irish are mockingly called "the Cohees". The term is analyzed a bit more here, and a very thorough article on Wikipedia too.

To coin a phrase from a well-know football chant "no-one likes us, we don't care!"

Woodmason's diary is available here

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Easter by St Helen's Bishopsgate

It's just gone midnight, and Good Friday has become Easter Saturday. We'll be rolling eggs with the weans at Grey Abbey tomorrow - Charlie (6) asked the other day if people roll eggs to remind us of the stone that was rolled away from Jesus' tomb. Here's a more grown-up take on Easter, two videos by St Helen's Bishopsgate in London.

THAT'S EASTER Life to Death from St Helen’s Church on Vimeo.

THAT'S EASTER Death to Life from St Helen’s Church on Vimeo.

Thanks to Robin Fairbairn for the tip-off.

Friday, April 10, 2009

"Ulster - The Founding Fathers"

I owe a lot of people a lot of thanks for their help and goodwill over the years. For example, halfway through 2006 most of the Hamilton & Montgomery project was complete.

In the autumn of that year, Cllr Billy Montgomery from Ards phoned me, to get my address so he could send me a document. When it arrived I was amazed. It was a 28 page A4 educational booklet from the early 1980s, written by E.M Griffith BA LLB, entitled "Ulster - the Founding Fathers". The booklet contained seven chapters which highlighted the lives of three men - James Hamilton, Hugh Montgomery and Randall MacDonnell. The cover of the booklet says:

The Ulster-Scots: By the middle of the 17th century there were three distinctive strains of Ulster-Scots in the Province which are traceable to the present day. These families and their ventures have been the dominant factor in shaping the history of Ulster and the character of its people.

It was a big encouragement that year to discover that 20 odd years before, a "proper" historian like Griffith was presenting Hamilton & Montgomery as the Founding Fathers - just as I was doing myself.

• In 1972 (the year I was born), from Thursday 19th - Saturday 21st October to be precise, Griffith helped put together a historical exhibition in the Church of Ireland's McVeigh Hall at the end of our road!

• The full set of Hamilton & Montgomery articles are about to be published in a special edition newspaper (as are the Robert the Bruce articles from 2007, and the Covenanters in Ulster articles from 2008).

• Rev George Hill's epic The MacDonnells of Antrim will be published this summer as a text searchable CDRom, by the Ulster-Scots Agency

Thanks to Colin Maxwell!

I'm unashamedly nyucking this idea from Colin's blog:

1. This is terrifyingly true (have you seen the old movie They Live?):
cartoon from

2. One can but hope:
cartoon from

3. I've been thinking about shutting down my Facebook page as it's utterly pointless - this is another big nail of common sense in the coffin:
cartoon from

4. With three weans, this one hits a bit close to home:
cartoon from

5. Sheer genius!:
cartoon from

Cartoons by Dave Walker. Find more cartoons you can freely re-use on your blog at We Blog Cartoons.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Objections to Ulster-Scots: Part Four

because the whole language / dialect debate is ridiculous

Back to business. For any popular "movement" to succeed it needs to be "bottom-up", ie the people have to take it to heart, build a groundswell and momentum, which eventually, usually slowly, reaches up to the "top" of the social structure where politicians, governments and academics reside. (nb - by the way, I'm not comfortable with the bottom / top metaphor, because it implies that those at the top are superior to the rest, but it's a well-understood model so for convenience sake only I'm going to stick with it in this post). Movements seldom succeed when they are imposed "top-down", unless through fear or force.

When the general public in Northern Ireland hear the term "Ulster-Scots", they immediately associate it with two things - government & language. This is largely due to our friends in the MSM, and the post-Belfast Agreement spotlight which set up an Ulster-Scots government agency as part of a cross-border language body, to the horror and astonishment of many. This perception needs to be smashed - because it is false, it's a distortion of the truth. The shift in association needs to move from what might be called the "false Ulster-Scots" of simply government and language to one of the more complex and interesting "real Ulster-Scots" of community & heritage, of which language is an element.

[NB this shift is something that's been clear to me for years, I first publicly talked about on a Radio Ulster interview for "The Book Programme" that was broadcast back in October 08, and I've repeated it numerous times since then.]

The broad population of Northern Ireland will probably never take Ulster-Scots language to its bosom. Why? Because the general public in Northern Ireland are not just an Ulster-Scots people - there are three main strands - English, Irish and Scots. And of course other strands too. As a result, a sizeable percentage of our population do not hear significant amounts of Ulster-Scots words, phrases and expressions every day, and haven't done so for many generations. And even the folk who are descended from Scottish migrants will have lost huge amounts of the language, and even if they've retained some they'll have very low confidence in its relevance for the modern world. The wee pockets of folk who do use Ulster-Scots regularly and confidently, are wee pockets indeed.

And so, thanks to -

a) this three-way social division,
b) a state education system that did not inform them about Scots,
c) social norms which more or less humiliated the Ulster-Scots out of their vocabularies, certainly when in polite company or formal situations,
d) the tidal wave of mass media influence of the past 60 years or so, and
e) since 1998, outright media hostility and mockery

the linguistic situation may well be terminally weak.

And so up in media-land you get the "is it a language?", "is it a dialect?", "isn't Scots just bad English?" debate - far too much emphasis and even obsession on a very small aspect of the whole Ulster-Scots dynamic. The (purposeful?) effect of this is that huge swathes of the population are just turned off, dismiss the whole Ulster-Scots dynamic as irrelevant and a bit bonkers, and therefore sever the lifeline that connects them to the rest of the Ulster-Scots heritage universe.

I am fortunate. I grew up in an Ulster-Scots speaking household, with parents, grandparents and neighbours who were fairly uncontaminated by social graces, had not endured grammar school or third level education and were not saturated by the mass media. So I enjoy and identify with the linguistic and literary aspect to Ulster-Scots identity. It's part of me - but it's not part of everybody. And so I have to recognise that the disproportionate focus on language has turned many thousands of people off.

And no amount of high-level European recognition, state-sponsored linguistic policies or Section 75 legislation will convince a sceptical grassroots public otherwise. In fact, unthinking "top-down" imposition will create resentment, resistance and ridicule. (there's a good "three r's" sermon in there somewhere!)

You'll sometimes hear political commentators talking about Northern Ireland now being in a "cultural war". If that is so, then with so much emphasis upon language, Ulster-Scots is surely sending its weakest soldier to the front line.

It will only be when Ulster-Scots language interest becomes a truly "bottom-up" momentum, growing from the places where its' roots naturally lie, through people who understand it, care about it and cherish it, that real progress will happen.

Some might think me a heretic with this post, but the shift needs to come.

[ Email me your thoughts, or better still, post a few comments. ]

Previous articles in this series:
> Part Three
> Part Two
> Part One
> Intro
> What is Ulster-Scots?

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Writing the Rapture by Crawford Gribben


Crawford Gribben's new book is definitely worth mentioning here at The Burn. Writing the Rapture - Prophecy Fiction in Evangelical America is available here as a preview on GoogleBooks.

I blogged about his earlier book on the same subject here, so the new one has been added to my Amazon wish list.

I was talking to someone last night who is convinced that due to his meteoric rise, his undeniable charisma, and his influence in what is being reported as the first steps towards a global government and one-world currency, that Barack Obama is the Antichrist (if you Google it you'll get 388,000 returns). And here's an article on the subject from that goofy evangelical conspiracy rag the Financial Times. I've also noticed a real upsurge in dispensational prophecy at mission halls across the country.

We live in interesting times. > Buy the book here on

Monday, April 06, 2009

Comber Abbey and Parish - a short history by Norman Nevin MBE

(this was sent to me a few years ago by David Gabbie - I'm posting it here in case someone in internetland might be looking for this information. Printed in a souvenir brochure to commemorate the opening of a new Church Hall at St. Mary’s Parish Church, Comber on Wednesday 8th June 1983)

I especially like the reference in point 4 to the Covenanted Presbyterians of Comber ripping the shirt off their minister in a near-riot!

1) Christianity Comes to Comber
Tradition has it that Christianity came to Comber about 1500 years ago. Apparently, Patrick having visited his favourite convert, Mochaoi (pronounced Maughee, or by the English – Mahee) of Nendrum (the island of the nine ridges), travelled north on his way to Donaghadee and hence to Scotland. When passing through the Comber district, Patrick was badly abused by Saran, one of the sons of Caelbadh, the local Chieftain of the district. Conla, brother of Saran, hearing with great sorrow, how uncivilly Patrick had been treated, went to apologise for his brother’s behaviour and to venerate Patrick. He consecrated himself and all his property to his service, offering to him a remarkable field called the Plain of Elom, for the purpose of erecting a church thereon.

Conla’s Church flourished and in the course of time became an Irish Monastery with many buildings for its many activities. Its situation was most likely on the plain across the river from the present Cricket Green. It was known locally as the Black Abbey, because of the black habit worn by the monks. The Abbey became obscured in later years by the fame of the Cistercian Abbey sited near the present Square, and it completely disappeared from history, the Cistercians taking over the townlands.

2) The Cistercian Abbey in Comber
The Cistercian Abbeys of the twelfth century are all remarkably alike in layout, as the plan was dictated by the rules of the Order. The architect was to strive for utility and simplicity and all unnecessary decoration was to be avoided. In Comber, the present site of St. Mary’s Parish Church (in the Square) was the site of the Cistercian Abbey. When it was built it was a virgin site with no buildings in the vicinity and it was the angle of two rivers – the Enler and the Glen. These rivers were essential, not only for fishing but also for sanitary purposes, as even in those days they had a crude but efficient type of flush toilet called the reredorter or necessarium. When the foundations of the new Hall were being dug out, traces of the bed of a fairly broad stream, in the form of a smooth damp clay, came to light. This came from the direction of the Glen River, which passes down the side of the Upper Distillery and can be seen from the present Car Park in Killinchy Street.

In the Cistercian Abbeys it was customary for the highest building – the Church – to be built on the north side of the Cloister, which was the centre of the Abbey complex. This enabled the monks to work or read there, profiting from the sun and sheltered from the wind; the Cloister also linked the various buildings that were sited around it. In Comber the present church probably occupies the site of the Nave and Choir of the Abbey Church and beyond the east end of the present church would be the Transepts, each with two chapels and a squat tower in the middle leading to the Presbyter containing the High Altar and the Abbot’s Chair. In the south Transept, that is towards the present graveyard, a doorway led to the Sacristy, where the Holy Vessels were kept and opposite would be the Night Stair leading to the Monks’ Dormitory.

In Comber, an abbey for the Cistercian Order was built in 1199 and it is generally believed that the man responsible for it was Brian Catha Dun, head of the O’Neills of Claneboye (not Clandeboye). In 1201, the founder had the misfortune to cross swords with de Courcy and perish in the conflict. The Abbey was occupied by monks from Caermarthernshire and it flourished until such establishments were dissolved by Henry VIII. In 1543, the last Abbot, John O’Mullegan resigned the Abbey and its possession to the Crown. It has seven townlands – Ballymonster, Carnesure, Cullintraw, Cattogs, Troopersfield, Ballynichol and half of Ballygowan. In previous years, when the Augustine Abbey closed it had taken possession of the townlands of that Abbey and later got possession of Ballyaltikilligan, where there had been a church and also claimed the tithes of the quarter “Kilmud”. So, by 1543 it was quite prosperous and a wealthy foundation.

3) The Abbey is Destroyed / A Church Arises
After 1543 Comber Abbey lay deserted and decaying rapidly. All the treasures had been removed and anything of any value or use had been plundered.

So in 1606 came the Hamiltons to Bangor and the Montgomerys to Newtown to find the place desolate. The only shelter Montgomery could find was the stump of an old Tower House in Newtown and a few vaults in Greyabbey. In Comber about 1610 a portion of the ruined Cistercian Abbey was fitted up as a Church for the increasing population. This is the site occupied by the present Church of Ireland, the Montgomery Church being in use until 1840. Sir Hugh also built a bell tower and provided a bell to call the people to worship.

In 1622 Sir Hugh Montgomery’s eldest son, also called Hugh, married Lady Jean Alexander, daughter of Sir William Alexander, Secretary for Scotland. As a wedding present Sir Hugh built a large Manor House on a gently rising hill outside Comber for the happy couple and called it Mount Alexander. From this we get Castle Street and Castle Lane. The stone for the building came from the ruins of the old Cistercian Abbey. Not all the stones were taken and some of them are in the walls surrounding the present church. One at least has been recognised as it bears a Mason’s Mark and it has been preserved. The same mark is on a stone in Greyabbey, showing that the same band of masons who built Greyabbey from 1193-199 also built Comber from 1199-1220 A.D.

4) Clergy of St. Mary’s
The first minister in the repaired monastery church in Comber was James Fresall, appointed there by Sir Hugh Montgomery, who, as a supporter of James 1st was careful that ministers under his patronage adhered to prelacy. Nothing is known of the Rev. Fresall’s ministry. Sir Hugh Montgomery died in 1636 and his son the second Viscount, who had married Lady Jean Alexander, died in 1642. His son also Hugh was very young when he succeeded to the title as third Viscount and his mother, the Lady Jean, succeeded in getting the Rev. James Gordon, a Presbyterian, appointed to the Church in Comber in 1645. The position of the early ministers of Down was peculiar, in that, while Presbyterian in Doctrine, they were admitted by the Bishops to the Parish Churches and received tithes. This period has been described as “Prescopalian”, for they were not ministers of “Non-Conformist” congregations. The “Form” used for ordination was one that satisfied the Bishops but at the same time enabled the Presbyterians to assert that they had received Presbyterian ordination. Trouble was bound to come and it did over the years until at last in the reign of Charles the second in 1661, the newly appointed Bishop of Down – Jeremy Taylor – gave the ministers the option of conform or suffer ejection. Thirty-six were ejected in one day and among them was James Gordon of Comber. His pulpit was given to William Dowdall and he remained until 1692. He met with much opposition at first, chiefly from women, whose attack on him in the pulpit led to prosecution. At the trial in Downpatrick one of the rioters boastfully informed the judge, “These are the hauns that poo’d the white sark ower his heid!” They were fined for causing a riot in the church.

After Mr. Dowdall, came a succession of ministers. The first was David Maxwell in 1692 and seven years later he was buried in Comber on the 30th July 1699. In 1700 came the Rev. Edmund Bennett. A stone attached to the gable end of the Church, facing the entrance gates, bears this inscription, “Near this place lyeth the body of ye Reverend Mr. Edmund Bennet ye late learned and Pious Minister of this Congregation and Chaplin to the Earle of Mount Alexander; he died the 15th Febry 1710-11 very much lamented”. James Montgomery came in April 1712 and was followed by Patrick Hamilton in May 1716. He resigned in June 1733 and was immediately succeeded by Annesley Bailie who was licensed the same day by Bishop Hutchinson. He died at Innishargie (his birthplace) in 1758 and was “universally lamented by all his parishioners for his many virtues”. It was during his term of office that the Glebe House was built in 1738 and had eleven acres of land attached to it.

The minister to succeed Mr. Bailie was the Rev. Guy Stone M.A. of Barnhill, who had been Curate in Newtownards for five years. He came to Comber in 1758. His daughter, Jane, married Robert Mortimer, Curate of Comber, and he succeeded his father-in-law as Rector in 1783. They had thirteen children and the third son, born in Comber, in 1796 became Incumbent of Magherhamlet. He died in 1876. The Rev. Robert Mortimer and his nephew were killed in the ambush at Saintfield in the 1798 Rebellion. They are buried at York Island in the river near the scene of the ambush. The story is told that the York Fencibles, a cruel, rough half-trained regiment of Militia (they had two weeks training each summer) stationed in the Market House (now Town Hall) in Newtownards, marched under the command of Colonel Stapleton to Comber on their way to Ballynahinch, where the main force of the rebels under Henry Monroe was assembling. When Stapleton’s force reached Comber they did not know which road to take for Ballynahinch, so they enlisted the help of the Rector of Comber, the Rev. Robert Mortimer, as the one they could trust. He saddled his horse and with his nephew conducted them on the way. The Mortimer Plate was lost in this rebellion, but was later found on the top of Scrabo Tower.

The remaining Rectors of Comber with date of appointment are as follows: 1799 – Rev. George Birch and his son in 1828 – George Watson Birch. He died aged 30 years. 1831 – Rev. Robert Ferrier Jex-Blake, an Englishman who resigned in 1851. It was at this time that the church was rebuilt – 1840. 1851 – William Thomas Delacherois Crommelin of Carrowdore Castle, a relation of the last Countess of Mount Alexander. 1868 – The Rev. George Smith. He died in 1911 aged 76. A new Transept to the church was erected as a memorial to him with a Mural Tablet in 1913. IN 1911 came Charles Campbell Manning, followed in 1918 by the Rev. John Sheffield Houston, and in 1954 by the Rev. Richard Clayton Stevenson. 1960 – Rev. Robert Joseph Norman Lockhart, 1962 – Rev. Hamilton Leckey, 1979 – Rev. F.D. Swann and 1984 – Rev. Dr. J.P.O. Barry. The Rev. Manning became a Chaplain to the Forces in 1914-18 War and a new Rectory was built for him.

Comber Parish are most fortunate in having a set of parochial records which go back to 1688. The Registers of Baptisms, Marriages and Burials are frequently consulted by those researching their family history; and contain many interesting facts about Comber families. Perhaps the most unique is the entry for 19th March 1946 when our present Queen, then her Royal Highness The Princess Elizabeth acted as Godmother at a baptism in St. Mary’s.

We are also fortunate in having a set of Vestry records covering a similar period. These make fascinating reading and cast an interesting light on parochial life in a bygone age.

5) The Present Parish Church
By the early 1800’s St. Mary’s was getting beyond repair, so it was decided to build a new church on the same site. This was done in 1840 and is the building that exists today. The bell in the tower was made by Thomas Mears of London in 1840 and is still calling the people to worship today. The clock made by Robert Neill of Belfast, has a pendulum ninety inches long, giving a slow even beat and is driven by two huge weights suspended on cables which take them to the roof of the clock-room and then begin a seven day descent to three heavy wooden beams on the floor. There is a brass inscription as follows “Upon the completion of the new church, this clock and chandeliers were presented to the parish of Comber by Viscount Castlereagh, 1841”. The chandeliers, holding many candles, illuminated the interior of the church in the evenings for many years.

6) Parish School
In 1813, a day school was established in connection with the Church and occupied the site of the present Hall. It functioned from that date until the new Primary School was opened on the Darragh Road in 1938. The school was built jointly by the Countess of Londonderry (her husband did not become a Marquis until 1816), and the executors of the Erasmus Smyth Charity. It was a single storey building, facing The Square and with a small playground in front. It had two rooms, one 40 feet long and the other 30 feet long and both 18 feet wide and 10 feet high. It had accommodation for 126 pupils. In 1837 the school had 233 pupils, 137 boys and 96 girls. They were all Protestant except 8 who were Catholic. The Master received £30 yearly from the Erasmus Smyth Foundation and one half-penny per week from such of his pupils as were able to pay it. In 1832 Lord Londonderry erected a house for the Master at the rear of the school. It has now been re-modelled as a house for the Curate.

John Rea and the Hammer Dulcimer

I've been trying to find an old notebook of mine - about 15 years ago I did a wee bit of research in the BBC Archive down at the Ulster Folk & Transport Museum. I listened to an old radio interview with John Rea, the famous dulcimer player from Glenarm. I can't put my hand on the notebook at the minute, but to paraphrase, John said that all he grew up with was Scottish music and Scottish tunes, "...until the big book of O'Neill's came out and then everything went Irish..."

Here's a very interesting thesis about the hammer dulcimer in Ireland, in which John and some other Co Antrim players are mentioned.

Here's another wee bit of info about John and other Antrim players.

A Myspace page listing some of the Antrim players

Finally, John even has a page on Wikipedia

Here's what a hammer dulcimer sounds like:


UPDATE - I found my notebook!

“The Dulcimer Man – John Rea”

Radio Ulster Broadcast recording from 1977, 40min, held in the recordings archive of the Ulster Folk and Transport Museum. To summarise:

• some dulcimers were known around Glenarm and Ballymena
• in 1924 John Rea’s uncle made a dulcimer
• Rea’s uncle played the dulcimer while his father played the fiddle
• sycamore and oregon pine gave the best tone
• hammers were made from bird cage wire
• played jigs, reels, hornpipes, highland music and strathspeys
• “Scotch music” was the most popular in the North of Ireland before Irish music was popularized “…before O’Neill’s big book came out…”

Partial Transcription:
“Could you tell me what a Strathspey is and what a Highland is?”

John Rea:
“They’re Scotch music. They go something like a hornpipe but they’re very common in Scotland. Years ago it used to be very common music in Northern Ireland – here was Scotch music, but then when the radio came in and tape recorders and one thing and another, and then that big book of O’Neill’s coming out… well I’m speaking for my own part o’ the country where I know, I wouldn’t speak about any other part o’ Ireland, but in the country where I was rared it was mainly Scotch music when I was a young lad. We had Irish jigs and reels right enough, but nothing like what it is now – but you had no other way of learning them unless you knew somebody – some aul hand that had handed the music down…”

About Scotland, especially Renfrewshire, Rea said:
“ …there were some of them said there were dulcimers over there round Scotland but they hadn’t heard them played for a long time. Some of the elderly men were tellin’ me about hearin’ dulcimer players in Scotland…”

Friday, April 03, 2009

"When You See Those Flying Saucers" - the Buchanan Brothers


This song is on the soundtrack to the new kids animated movie "Monsters vs. Aliens". Hope you enjoy it:

Buchanan Brothers - (When You See) Those Flying Saucers
Found at bee mp3 search engine

It was recorded by the brother duet act The Buchanan Brothers in 1947. It was the same year that Kenneth Arnold shot to global fame when he spotted a flying saucer in the skies over Washington state, so I suppose the subject was big news, and the Buchanan Brothers were swept up in it. Either that or they saw an opportunity to make some money! Here are the words:

You’d better pray to the Lord when you see those flying saucers
It may be the coming of the Judgment Day
It’s a sign there’s no doubt of the trouble that’s about
So I say my friends you’d better start to pray

They’re a terrifying sight as they fly on day and night
It’s a warning that we’d better mend our ways
You’d better pray to the Lord when you see those flying saucers
It may be the coming of the Judgment Day

Many people think the saucers might be someone’s foolish dream
Or maybe they were sent down here from Mars
If you’ll just stop and think you’d realize just what it means
They’re more than atom bombs or falling stars

And though the war may be through there’s unrest and trouble brewin’
And those flying saucers may be just a sign
That if peace doesn’t come it will be the end of some
So repent today, you’re running out of time

When you see a saucer fly like a comet through the sky
You should realize the price you’ll have to pay
You’d better pray to the Lord when you see those flying saucers
It may be the coming of the Judgment Day

The Buchanan Brothers seem to have had a fascination with Atomic Power - they recorded two songs "There is a Power Greater than Atomic" and also "Atomic Power" - and they're different songs from the Louvin Brothers' "The Great Atomic Power". Great wee commentaries on the generation in which they were written.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Church of Scotland using yin o' ma sangs!

I received an email the other day to tell me that the Church of Scotland's Scots Language in Worship Group have selected another piece from my Sacred Scotch Solos website. This time they've chosen Linkin Hame by Alexander Halliday, which they've slightly amended for congregational singing for the Lent and Holy Week period. You can find it online here.

It's lovely to know that a wee bit of Ulster-Scots effort can have a productive impact back in Scotland.

(You might remember that just before Christmas the Group chose Dark Afore Dawnin for their Christmas repertoire)