Tuesday, November 09, 2010

"Home-grown" update

Following on from this recent post, here are two simple examples of the irreplaceable value of local communities, both of which happened earlier this evening:

Tonight Graeme and I were out singing for the PW at 2nd Newtownards. Many of the people who now live in towns will have grown up in the country, and that was the case with the audience tonight. We did nearly a full hour, so we dusted down some old stuff that we hadn't played in a while. One of these was "Running Over / Fu an Skailin" - written by the Glaswegian evangelist Seth Sykes, but taught to us in the 1970s by our Aunt Rhoda when we were wee boys, who had been taught it by another Scottish evangelist called Charlie Mayne during the 1940s. After we'd finished playing, a lady in the audience came up to us to say that she too had been one of the weans who was perched on the long wooden forms at Killaughey Mission Hall (near Ballycopeland Windmill), when Charlie Mayne taught it to them 70 years ago.

#alttext# When I came home I had an email from a man in Bangor - he plays banjo in a five piece group (with accordion, guitar and two fiddles) - and was looking for a specific old Ards Peninsula song. It's one I know as I'd been given it some time ago by a now-deceased friend, so I was able to provide two recordings of it along with the lyrics and history of the tune. They'll add it to their repertoire and carry the tradition on.

These types of connections don't live within textbooks or libraries, universities or museums - they live within people. The de facto Ulster-Scots library and museum is... the Ulster-Scots community itself. And there is much information in libraries and museums which should be returned to the people. In my experience our folk are canny, and won't glibly hand over traditions to outsiders who parachute in - but will share them among ourselves first, and then with others when trust has been established. These people are human beings to build friendships with, not "sources" to be milked dry and then discarded.

So I now have an invitation to meet the 95-year-old mother of the woman mentioned above, who is still as sharp as a pin and still lives out near the windmill, full of history, songs, stories and local Ulster-Scots vocabulary - but on one condition... the mandolin has to come too!