Thursday, January 21, 2010

The blog as a bridge to Scotland

(NB: If you're reading this on Facebook, the original post is from my blog) In August 2007, the Centre for Cross Border Studies proposed that a bridge should be built linking Ulster to Galloway (BBC report on the story here). While we wait for that to happen, I'm finding that this blog is making connections across the water too. Just over the past few months quite a few folk from west and central Scotland have been in touch with me directly - local Scottish historians who are interested in the Ulster-Scots links from the other side of the narrow sea.

Recently, William Kerr from Irvine on the Ayrshire coast (whose great grandmother was a McGowan from Armagh) sent me a clatter of brilliant information:

- a photo of the memorial to Rev Robert Cunningham (first Presbyterian minister in Holywood) which I never even knew existed! The inscription reads:

"Erected Anno Dom 1824
the memory of
The Rev Robert Cunningham
Sometime Minister of the Gospel
at Holywood in Ireland, who for
his faithfulness to the cause of
CHRIST, was expelled from his
charge by the Bishops and died
in exile at Irvine on the 27th of
March 1637
He was eminently distinguished
for meekness and patience and
zeal in his ministry"

It also has a few lines of Latin that I'm going to get translated, or find a translation for. Here's William's photo:
Rev R Cunninghame stone.JPG

He also sent me:

- information about Rev Robert Blair (first Presbyterian minister at Bangor, and leader of the early Ulster-Scots)

- an Agnes Ferguson buried in Irvine (who as a child was at the Siege of Derry)

- a Lisburn man, William McKnight, who became minister at Irvine in 1709

- the school in Irvine that Edgar Allan Poe attended (he was of Ulster-Scots descent as well)

So I'll let you all know when the Northern Ireland museums sector get in touch to discuss how they might be able to incorporate these kinds of simple, culturally authentic "east-west" stories into their interpretations, replacing the politically-based Anglo-Irish (Scotophobic?) stuff that's presently filling up far too many of their galleries, and subsequently the minds of their visitors. However I suspect we'll be waiting a looooooong time for that particular phone call - in fact, the North Channel road bridge may well be up and running first.

Ultimately, leaving aside the "great and the good" and public institutions for a minute, it's far more important that ordinary folk on baith sides o the Sheugh continue to recover our cultural heritage, learn from each other and share our histories with one another - it's all one story anyway, of kindred people with a wee bit of water in the middle.